Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday finally formally introduced its code-named Llano A-series accelerated processing units (APUs) that feature the company's current-generation processor cores as well as desktop-class DirectX 11-compatible graphics processing unit (GPU). The new chips will enable never-before-seen multimedia experience on inexpensive solutions. Besides, the new APUs are AMD's first 32nm solutions.
“The AMD A-Series APU represents an inflection point for AMD and is perhaps the industry’s biggest architectural change since the invention of the microprocessor,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager of AMD products group.
AMD A-series desktop APUs have either four K10.5+/Husky x86 cores (1.40GHz – 1.90GHz clock-speed for mobile chips) as well as Radeon HD 6000-class "BeaverCreek" (320 or 400 stream processors) graphics core or two x86 cores (at 1.9GHz – 2.10GHz for mobile chips) and "WinterPark" (160 stream processors) integrated graphics engine. The chips support dual-channel DDR3 memory controllers, up to 4MB of cache, select processors also feature AMD Turbo Core dynamic acceleration technology as well as a special multi-GPU graphics support.
Given the fact that Llano APUs sport code-named K10.5+ x86 CPU cores, it is unlikely that they will offer leading-edge performance in applications that rely on performance of microprocessors. Clearly, the A-series APUs are not about enthusiast-class of performance, but are tailored to offer maximum possible multimedia - gaming and video - experience at a moderate cost today. Once AMD's Fusion initiative, which is designed to popularize acceleration of consumer application using GPUs, AMD's A-series as well as previously introduced Ontario/Zambezi (Brazos) will get a speed bump in programs that take advantage of massively parallel graphics cores. Therefore, the new chips are somewhat future-proof. AMD claims that built-in Radeon HD 6000-series graphics cores with up to 400 stream processors provide up to 400GFLOPS peak performance for notebook, and up to 500GFLOPS for desktops. More than 50 applications now are accelerated by the family of AMD Fusion APUs, according to AMD.
The code-named Llano family of APUs will help AMD to maintain its share on the market of desktops or will even expand its share in the segment where performance of integrated graphics matters. But what AMD definitely hopes to do is to increase its share inside growing segment of laptop computers since thanks to high integration and new technologies to reduce power consumption the A-series should be more competitive than Intel's Core i-series "Sandy Bridge" when it comes to mainstream consumer notebooks. According to AMD, notebooks powered by the A-series APU will deliver up to 10.5 hours of battery life.
“The battery life of the AMD A-Series APU is a huge leap forward and will surprise many consumers and commercial customers. And the supercomputer-like performance will give people some revolutionary capabilities, like real-time image stabilization –taking out all the shakes and jitters in those hand-held videos on the fly, while you’re watching,” said Chris Cloran, vice president and general manager of client division at AMD.
Additionally, AMD dynamic switchable graphics optimize battery life on PCs featuring AMD dual-graphics solutions by intelligently managing power states on the APU and separate discrete AMD Radeon GPU.
The new breed of Llano chips is AMD's first line of microprocessors made using 32nm silicon-on-insulator process technology. The fabrication process appeared to be a pretty tough nut for AMD's manufacturing partner Globalfoundries to crack. The 32nm chips are late to market compared to their original schedule because of insufficient yields at the early stages of manufacturing and at present it is unknown how fast will AMD transit its product lineup to new 32nm designs. Still, AMD has been shipping the new processors for months now, which is why they should be available pretty widely.
According to AMD, the A-series APUs are scheduled to appear in more than 150 notebooks and desktops from leading OEMs throughout the second quarter of 2011 and beyond.