Piledrivers are elegant in comparison to Bulldozers

Subject: Processors | October 23, 2012 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: vishera, Steamroller, piledriver, FX-8350, fx-8150, FX-6300, FX-6200, bulldozer, amd

The FX-8350 Vishera processor from AMD has finally arrived with 8 fully unlocked cores of polished Piledriver processing power.  With Piledriver there are no huge changes to the existing Bulldozer architecture, this is more of a polishing and optimizing the existing architecture and [H]ard|OCP's testing bears that out.  While faster than the previous generation FX-8150 it still lags behind Intel's Ivy Bridge processors, disappointing but certainly expected.  The unlocked cores do lend themselves somewhat to overclocking, with [H] hitting a stable 4.6GHz with all cores enabled, a 10% jump in frequency.  At that speed it does better when competing with Intel's offerings, until you overclock them as well at which point the comparative performance suffers somewhat.

Make sure to catch Josh's review, covering both the 8 core FX-8350 and the $132 FX-6300 which has a disabled module; bringing back memories of older AMD chips whose modules could be brought back to life.


"AMD's new Piledriver core technology should not be a surprise to any enthusiast as much of its "embargoed" information has already been exposed on the Net. Today we take the AMD FX series model 8350 desktop variant, code named Vishera, and look at it in an enthusiast way as we expose its IPC at 4GHz, and a bit of overclocking."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Bulldozer to Vishera


Bulldozer is the word.  Ok, perhaps it is not “the” word, but it is “a” word.  When AMD let that little codename slip some years back, AMD enthusiasts and tech journalists started to salivate about the possibilities.  Here was a unique and very new architecture that promised excellent single thread performance and outstanding multi-threaded performance all in a package that was easy to swallow and digest.  Probiotics for the PC.  Some could argue that the end product for Bulldozer and probiotics are the same, but I am not overly fond of writing articles containing four letter colorful metaphors.


The long and short of Bulldozer is that it was a product that was pushed out too fast, it had specifications that were too aggressive for the time, and it never delivered on the promise of the architecture.  Logically there are some very good reasons behind the architecture, but implementing these ideas into a successful product is another story altogether.  The chip was never able to reach the GHz range it was supposed to and stay within reasonable TDP limits.  To get the chip out in a timely manner, timings had to be loosened internally so the chip could even run.  Performance per clock was pretty dismal, and the top end FX-8150 was only marginally faster than the previous top end Phenom II X6 1100T.  In some cases, the X6 was still faster and a more competent “all around” processor.

There really was not a whole lot for AMD to do about the situation.  It had to have a new product, and it just did not turn out as nicely as they had hoped.  The reasons for this are legion, but simply put AMD is competing with a company that is over ten times the size, with the resulting R&D budgets that such a size (and margins) can afford.  Engineers looking for work are a dime a dozen, and Intel can hire as many as they need.  So, instead of respinning Bulldozer ad nauseum and releasing new speed grades throughout the year by tweaking the process and metal layer design, AMD let the product line sit and stagnate at the top end for a year (though they did release higher TDP models based on the dual module FX-4000 and triple module FX-6000 series).  Engineers were pushed into more forward looking projects.  One of these is Vishera.

Click here to read the rest of the Vishera Review!

Finally, the real Trinity reviews arrive

Subject: Processors | October 2, 2012 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: vishera, trinity, Steamroller, piledriver, bulldozer, amd, a8, a6, A4, a10, 5800K, 5600K

The NDA is over and we can finally tell you all about the new generation of Trinity, especially the compute portion which we were not allowed to discuss in the controversial preview.  Part of the good news is the price, Legit Reviews found the highest MSRP is $122 for the A10-5800K and it is currently available, though at $130.  The performance increase from the previous generation is decent for multicore applications though not so much for single threaded applications, overall you can expect general computing performance in line with Core i3 but not Core i5.  Gaming on the other hand did show much improvement, especially with you compare the built in HD7660D to Intel's current HD4000 and HD3500.  You can catch Josh's review right here.


"The internal testing from AMD that we can see above shows a 37% increase in the 3DMark 11 score between the first generation A-Series Llano and this generation of A-Series Trinity. While our numbers don't match their numbers exactly, our Llano system scored 1115 3Dmarks while the AMD internal testing showed 1150 3DMarks. Our AMD A10-5800K scored 1521 3DMarks while they scored 1570. The overall difference was remarkably similar, AMD is boasting an increase of 37% and we saw a difference of 36.4%..."

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Trinity Finally Comes to the Desktop

Trinity.  Where to start?  I find myself asking that question, as the road to this release is somewhat tortuous.  Trinity, as a product code name, came around in early 2011.  The first working silicon was shown that Summer.  The first actual release of product was the mobile part in late Spring of this year.  Throughout the summer notebook designs based on Trinity started to trickle out.  Today we cover the release of the desktop versions of this product.


AMD has certainly had its ups and downs when it comes to APU releases.  Their first real APU was Zacate, based on the new Bobcat CPU architecture.  This product was an unmitigated success for AMD.  Llano, on the other hand, had a pretty rocky start.  Production and various supply issues caused it to be far less of a success than hoped.  These issues were oddly enough not cleared up until late Spring of this year.  By then mobile Trinity was out and people were looking towards the desktop version of the chip.  AMD saw the situation, and the massive supply of Llano chips that it had, and decided to delay introduction of desktop Trinity until a later date.

To say that expectations for Trinity are high is an understatement.  AMD has been on the ropes for quite a few years in terms of CPU performance.  While the Phenom II series were at least competitive with the Core 2 Duo and Quad chips, they did not match up well against the latest i7/i5/i3 series of parts.  Bulldozer was supposed to erase the processor advantage Intel had, but it came out of the oven as a seemingly half baked part.  Piledriver was designed to succeed Bulldozer, and is supposed to shore up the architecture to make it more competitive.  Piledriver is the basis of Trinity.  Piledriver does sport significant improvements in clockspeed, power consumption, and IPC (instructions per clock).  People are hopeful that Trinity would be able to match the performance of current Ivy Bridge processors from Intel, or at least get close.

So does it match Intel?  In ways, I suppose.  How much better is it than Bulldozer?  That particular answer is actually a bit surprising.  Is it really that much of a step above Llano?  Yet another somewhat surprising answer for that particular question.  Make no mistake, Trinity for desktop is a major launch for AMD, and their continued existence as a CPU manufacturer depends heavily on this part.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Trinity A10 APUs!!

Come on AMD, spill the beans on Steamroller already

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2012 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: vishera, trinity, Steamroller, piledriver, hot chips, bulldozer, amd, Abu Dhabi

You've seen the slides everywhere and read through what Josh could observe and predict from those slides but at the end of Hot Chips will still know little more about the core everyone is waiting for.  The slides show a core little changed from Bulldozer, which is exactly what we've been expecting as AMD has always described Steamroller as a refined Bulldozer design, improving the existing architecture as opposed to a complete redesign.  SemiAccurate did pull out one little gem which might mean good news for both AMD and consumers which pertains to the high density libraries slide.  The 30% decrease in size and power consumption seems to have been implemented by simply using the high density libraries that AMD uses for GPUs.  As this library already exists, AMD didn't need to spend money to develop it, they essentially managed this 30% improvement with a button press, as SemiAccurate put it.  This could well mean that Steamroller will either come out at a comparatively low price or will give AMD higher profit margins ... or a mix of both.


"With that in mind, the HDL slide was rather interesting. AMD is claiming that if you rebuild Bulldozer with an HDL library, the resulting chip has a 30% decrease in size and power use. To AMD at least, this is worth a full shrink, but we only buy that claim if it is 30% smaller and 30% less power hungry, not 30% in aggregate. That said, it is a massive gain with just a button press.

AMD should be applauded, or it would have been, but during the keynote, the one thing that kept going through my mind was, “Why didn’t they do this 5 years ago?”. If you can get 30% from changing out a library to the ones you build your GPUs with, didn’t someone test this out before you decided on layout tools?"

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Tech Talk

Source: SemiAccurate
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

HotChips 2012


Ah, the end of August.  School is about to start.  American college football is about to get underway.  Hot Chips is now in full swing.  I guess the end of August caters to all sorts of people.  For the people who are most interested in Hot Chips, the amount of information on next generation CPU architectures is something to really look forward to.  AMD is taking this opportunity to give us a few tantalizing bits of information about their next generation Steamroller core which will be introduced with the codenamed “Kaveri” APU due out in 2013.


AMD is seemingly on the brink of releasing the latest architectural update with Vishera.  This is a Piledriver+ based CPU that will find its way into AM3+ sockets.  On the server side it is expected that the Abu Dhabi processors will also be released in a late September timeframe.  Trinity was the first example of a Piledriver based product, and it showed markedly improved thermals as compared to previous Bulldozer based products, and featured a nice little bump in IPC in both single and multi-threaded applications.  Vishera and Abu Dhabi look to be Piledriver+, which essentially means that there are a few more tweaks in the design that *should* allow it to go faster per clock than Trinity.  There have been a few performance leaks so far, but nothing that has been concrete (or has shown final production-ready silicon).

Until that time when Vishera and its ilk are released, AMD is teasing us with some Steamroller information.  This presentation is featured at Hotchips today (August 28).  It is a very general overview of improvements, but very few details about how AMD is achieving increased performance with this next gen architecture are given.  So with that, I will dive into what information we have.

Click to read the entire article here.

Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Less Risk, Faster Product Development and Introduction

There have been quite a few articles lately about the upcoming Bulldozer refresh from AMD, but a lot of the information that they have posted is not new.  I have put together a few things that seem to have escaped a lot of these articles, and shine a light on what I consider the most important aspects of these upcoming releases.  The positive thing that most of these articles have achieved is increasing interest in AMD’s upcoming products, and what they might do for that company and the industry in general.


The original FX-8150 hopefully will only be a slightly embarrasing memory for AMD come Q3/Q4 of this year.

The current Bulldozer architecture that powers the AMD FX series of processors is not exactly an optimal solution.  It works, and seems to do fine, but it does not surpass the performance of the previous generation Phenom II X6 series of chips in any meaningful way.  Let us not mention how it compares to Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge products.  It is not that the design is inherently flawed or bad, but rather that it was a unique avenue of thought that was not completely optimized.  The train of thought is that AMD seems to have given up on the high single threaded performance that Intel has excelled at for some time.  Instead they are going for good single threaded performance, and outstanding multi-threaded performance.  To achieve this they had to rethink how to essentially make the processor as wide as possible, keep the die size and TDP down to reasonable sizes, and still achieve a decent amount of performance in single threaded applications.

Bulldozer was meant to address this idea, and its success is debatable.  The processor works, it shows up as an eight logical core processor, and it seems to scale well with multi-threading.  The problem, as stated before, is that it does not perform like a next generation part.  In fact, it is often compared to Intel’s Prescott, which was a larger chip on a smaller process than the previous Northwood processor, but did not outperform the earlier part in any meaningful way (except in heat production).  The difference between Intel and AMD in this aspect is that as compared to Prescott, Bulldozer as an entirely new architecture as compared to the Prescott/Northwood lineage.  AMD has radically changed the way it designs processors.  Taking some lessons from the graphics arm of the company and their successful Radeon brand, AMD is applying that train of thought to processors.

Continue reading our thoughts on AMD, Vishera, and Beyond!!

Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Get Out the Microscope

AMD announced their Q1 2012 earnings last week, which turned out better than the previous numbers suggested. The bad news is that they posted a net loss of $590 million. That does sound pretty bad considering that their gross revenue was $1.59 billion, but there is more to the story than meets the eye. Of course, there are thoughts of “those spendthrift executives are burying AMD again”, but this is not the case. The loss lays squarely on the GLOBALFOUNDRIES equity and wafer agreements that have totally been retooled.


To get a good idea of where AMD stands in Q1, and for the rest of this year, we need to see how all these numbers actually get sorted out. Gross revenue is down 6% from the quarter before, which is expected due to seasonal pressures. This is right in line with Intel’s seasonal downturn, and in ways AMD was affected slightly less than their larger competitor. They are down around 2% from last year’s quarter, and part of that can be attributed to the continuing hard drive shortage that continued to affect the previous quarter.

The biggest news of the quarter was that AMD is no longer constrained by 32 nm availability. GLOBALFOUNDRIES was able to produce as many 32 nm parts for AMD as needed with yields continuously improving over the past two quarters. AMD seems very comfortable about where they are at in terms of yields and availability for both Bulldozer and Llano based product lines. AMD has in fact been ramping production of the upcoming Trinity based processor and has been shipping finished products to customers since mid Q1. They have also started shipping Brazos 2.0 parts to customers, and both Trinity and Brazos will be launched in mid Q2 of this year.
The CPU/APU World According to AMD
The mobile area has been one of tremendous growth for AMD and Q1 saw 100% of all mobile shipments be APU products (both Llano and Brazos 1.0). AMD is very bullish about Trinity. They say that it offers around 50% more performance at the same TDP as the earlier Llano based processors. This 50% is a combination of both CPU and GPU performance, so do not expect massive jumps in CPU performance alone from current Llano based products at those TDPs. The big jump does appear to be in graphics, and AMD is certainly more than willing to hang their hat on that portion. With the latest Ivy Bridge IGPs still not able to match last year’s Llano, AMD feels that Trinity will truly leave Intel behind in terms of overall graphics performance. Trinity features a totally redesigned graphics portion which combines the VLIW4 architecture of the HD 6900 series with aspects of the new 7000 series of products.
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

More MHz for the Masses

AMD has had a rough time of it lately when it comes to CPUs. Early last year when we saw the performance of the low power Bobcat architecture, we thought 2011 would be a breakout year for AMD. Bulldozer was on the horizon and it promised performance a step above what Intel could offer. This harkened back to the heady days of the original Athlon and Athlon 64 where AMD held a performance advantage over all of Intel’s parts. On the graphics side AMD had just released the 6000 series of chips, all of which came close in performance to NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture, but had a decided advantage in terms of die size and power consumption. Then the doubts started to roll in around the April timeframe. Whispers hinted that Bulldozer was delayed, and not only was it delayed it was not meeting performance expectations.


The introduction of the first Llano products did not help things. The “improved” CPU performance was less than expected, even though the GPU portion was class leading. The manufacturing issues we saw with Llano did not bode well for AMD or the upcoming Bulldozer products. GLOBALFOUNDRIES was simply not able to achieve good yields on these new 32 nm products. Then of course the hammer struck. Bulldozer was released, well behind schedule, and with performance that barely rose above that of the previous Phenom II series of chips. The top end FX-8150 was competitive with the previous Phenom II X6 1100T, but it paled in comparison to the Intel i7 2600 which was right around the same price range.

Read the entire review here.

How efficiently do Intel and AMD's latest architectures handle virtualization on Ubuntu?

Subject: Processors | April 3, 2012 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: virtualization, ubuntu 12.04, Sandy Bridge E, Intel, FX 8150, Core i7 3960X, bulldozer, amd

Phoronix is taking the latest Ubuntu release and testing the performance on AMD's FX 8150 against Intel's Core-i7 3960X to see their relative performance in a virtual environment.   Both machines had issues, Xen had critical issues which prevented it from running on the Bulldozer and ASUS motherboard system, while the Sandy Bridge chip had issues with Virtualbox.  The testing was not so much a comparison of the performance difference between the two chips as it is a test of efficiency of these processors running tasks when virtualized.  As both chips averaged 90%+ of base performance when virtualized you can see that both architectures have come a long way in this particular usage.

Also, keep your eyes out for a CPU review from Josh which should be arriving soon.


"With the upcoming availability of Ubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" being a Long-Term Support (LTS) release that will be quickly making its way into many enterprise environments, here's a look at the virtualization performance of this popular Linux distribution. In particular, being looked at is the Linux virtualization performance of KVM, Xen, and Oracle VirtualBox compared to bare metal when using Intel Sandy Bridge Extreme and AMD Bulldozer hardware."

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Source: Phoronix