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7. AMD Displays Llano Die: 4 x86 Cores, 480 Stream Processors

AMD has been talking about integration of graphics processors into central processing units ever since it acquired ATI Technologies back in 2006. However, since company has delayed the code-named Fusion project for many times in the past, it was definitely a good news that the firm finally demonstrated the design of its code-named Llano processor for notebooks in November, 2009, which meant that the firm had finalized the actual design.

Based on the die shot displayed by Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s products group, the first Fusion processor from AMD will feature 4 x86 cores that resemble those of Propus processor (AMD Athlon II X4) as well as 6 SIMD engines (with 80 stream processors per engine) that resemble those of Evergreen graphics chip (ATI Radeon HD 5800), PC3-12800 (DDR3 1600MHz) memory controller, possibly, with some tweaks to better serve x86 and graphics engines. The processor lacks unified L3 in order to reduce manufacturing cost, but will have 2MB of L2 cache (512KB per core).

According to another report, AMD Llano features many innovative circuit techniques the company uses to lower power consumption and leakage of the core. For instance, the core's L1 cache uses 8T memory cells to support low supply voltages, the processor also uses a power gating ring that takes advantage of isolated substrates used in the company's silicon-on-insulator technology to provide a near-zero power off state.

AMD’s Llano will feature around 1 billion of transistors, which is logical since AMD’s Propus processor has around 300 million of transistors, whereas 480 stream processors and additional special purpose logic includes around 600 million of transistors. The chip will be made using 32nm silicon-on-insulator fabrication process.

AMD Llano accelerated processing unit (APU) is a part of AMD’s Sabine platform that features AMD 900-series core-logic, USB 3.0, Serial ATA-600 and so on.

With Llano design finalized, we hope that the chip will be released on time in 2011. For AMD it will be much better if the chip is released in the first half of the year since the company just needs its badly to boost its market share in notebook market. Even though Llano does not seem to be too advanced from x86 point of view, since it is generally a highly-tweaked K10.5 (which will have rather low performance in single-threaded applications due to 512KB of L2), the chip does support DirectX 11 and GPGPU. Since many applications can now take advantage of graphics processors’ raw computing power, 480 ATI Radeon HD 5000-class stream processors will be able to offset moderate horsepower of four x86 cores.

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