SAN JOSE, Calif. — Advanced Micro Devices announced Tuesday its latest and best PC processor using a combination of x86 and graphics cores, claiming it out-performs mid-range chips from archrival Intel. Analysts praised AMD's Kaveri chips but noted they currently are limited to desktop versions and Intel has higher-end products.
The Kaveri, a.k.a. A10, chips use up to four Steamroller x86 cores and up to eight AMD GCN-class graphics cores that AMD claims out-performs GPUs in Intel's Haswell. Kaveri scores 87% higher on the 3DMark and 61% higher on the Basemark CL graphics-oriented benchmarks than Intel's Core i5 4670K version of Haswell, AMD claims.
A half dozen games use the OpenCL standard, tested by the latter benchmark, to deliver some of their features on GPU cores, AMD said. The company's new Mantle API also boosts performance over Microsoft's DirectX API on Windows, something at least one shipping PC game now uses.
"It looks like AMD has improved its competitive position versus Intel with these latest products," competing with Intel's Core i5 rather than the lower-end i3 line, said Nathan Brookwood, principal market watcher at Insights 64 of Saratoga, Calif.
However, Intel's "Haswell is available for both notebooks and desktop configurations," Brookwood noted. "AMD plans to introduce notebook versions later this year in time for the next OEM refresh cycle, but for now Kaveri is desktop only."
Nevertheless, Brookwood called Kaveri's graphics benchmarks "an impressive achievement, given that Haswell is using 22nm tri-gate transistor technology, while Kaveri uses 28nm HKMG devices, almost a generation behind Intel's technology."
"The A10 is the finest [hybrid SoC] AMD has built," said Jon Peddie, principal of market watcher Jon Peddie Research of Tiburon, Calif. "AMD decided to commit 40% of Kaveri to graphics; that's a very clear message that graphics is where the user meets the system, and if you don't get it right with the graphics, nothing else really matters."
"Kaveri provides a more complete multimedia platform than Haswell, by virtue of its combination of multicore GPU, Tensilica HiFi-based TrueAudio DSP and video-coding engine," said Mike Demler, a senior analyst at The Linley Group of Mountain View, Calif. However, the chips will be less competitive against Intel's Iris Pro graphics and i7 CPUs, he said, noting "AMD will compete on price by manufacturing in a 28nm process."
Overall, the Kaveri chips deliver up to 856 GFlops, sport 4 Mbytes L2 cache, and run at 3.3 GHz or faster. Thanks to AMD's work on the Heterogeneous System Architecture they enable GPUs and CPUs to share external memory in a standard way.
The chips support AMD-specific directional audio and noise reduction techniques. They also support PCI Express Gen 3 and can also drive 4K resolutions screens. They consume 45 to 95W TDP.
It's not clear when AMD may have versions of Kaveri suitable for tablets, the most rapidly growing segment in client computing today. Notebooks were expected to be the core of the client computing market 10 years ago. At that time AMD bought graphics specialist ATI Technologies, realizing x86 processors alone would not be ideal to power those systems.
Today Qualcomm, not Intel, is the client processor vendor to beat. Qualcomm's homegrown Adreno GPU cores get high marks and come in second in use in smartphones and tablets, next to merchant cores from Imagination Technologies.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times