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AMD has shared some information about the development of semi-custom embedded accelerated processing units in general as well as about creation of APUs for new-generation game consoles in particular. Apparently, AMD started talks about the chips for next-gen consoles on the architectural level four years ago, when no parts of the current chips even existed. Surprisingly, none of the platform holders knew that AMD also developed chips for competing devices.

“With semi-custom [APUs] we talk to our customers at an architectural level about the solutions, not actual products. The engagement that we have with game console customers started many years ago at ‘what if stage’. […] Then architects from our side and architects from their side sat down to decide what they wanted [in general], what did they want in silicon and what did they want in software. Then we developed a solution that is specific to our customer,” said Saeid Moshkelani, vice president of AMD and the general manager of the company’s semi-custom business unit, in an interview with Engadget web-site.

Since semi-custom APU agreements are very confidential, neither of the platform holders – Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony – was aware that AMD is developing chips for competing game consoles. While Nintendo preferred to design a very cost-efficient chip for the Wii U, both Sony and Microsoft wanted higher performance and both chose the same technology: semi-custom AMD Fusion system-on-chips with eight Jaguar general-purpose x86 cores, AMD Radeon HD GCN architecture-derived graphics processors and so on. Nonetheless, it does not mean that the chips inside Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 are not exclusive. Both APU feature unique technologies developed particularly for them.

“There was some intellectual property that came in from the customer side to put inside the chip. There was some stuff that they would specify to develop exclusively for that product and we developed that. There was, of course, IP that is used by other products from AMD, e.g. microprocessor Jaguar cores, the graphics engines, display and high-speed I/Os that are common for our products. But there were [also] specific blocks that either came from that customer or were exclusively build for that customer,” explained Mr. Moshkelani.

Since ATI and then AMD has collaborated with both Microsoft and Nintendo for many years now, they discussed technology opportunities for next-gen on relatively regular basis. When it comes to collaboration with Sony and development of the APU for the PlayStation 4, then it took around four years to define, design and build the product.

“With Sony, the relationship started about four years ago from “what if” analysis and business models to specification about two years ago to implementation and actual launch of the product,” said the vice president of AMD.

Neither Microsoft, nor Sony, detailed the hardware inside the chips that power Xbox One and PS4 completely, but only generally mentioned eight x86 general-purpose processing units as well as custom AMD Radeon HD graphics core. According to Mr. Moshkelani, the APUs are rather extremely feature-packed and contain “just about every kind of media processing that you could imagine in there” (for CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, incoming Blu-ray 4K format with HEVC codec, streaming music/video and various other purposes), special blocks for video streaming or accessing content on the Internet (security capabilities required by content owners), video upscaling hardware (presumably, to upscale full-HD/1080p videos to 4K screens) and other blocks.

“It took less than two years, from the time that we started [designing chips] to see them [consoles] on the floor at E3. [...] From the design and implementation perspectives, they [APUs for next-gen consoles] are very-very challenging, but at the same time there are only a few companies in the world that can actually design, implement and execute projects this complex,” concluded Saeid Moshkelani, vice president of AMD and the general manager of the company’s semi-custom business unit

Tags: Microsoft, Sony, AMD, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Playstation, Xbox, Jaguar, Radeon, GCN, Fusion, Business


Comments currently: 20
Discussion started: 06/14/13 12:38:14 AM
Latest comment: 06/15/13 07:32:19 AM
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neither of the platform holders - .. - were unaware that AMD is developing chips for competing game consoles

Double negation that leads to positive context.
Either "neither were aware" or "all were unaware" according to the whole article.
6 1 [Posted by: mathew7  | Date: 06/14/13 12:38:14 AM]
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show the post
3 8 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 06/14/13 01:01:57 AM]
In fact, I am pretty much grateful for corrections. Stories should look good.
6 0 [Posted by: Anton  | Date: 06/14/13 01:36:36 AM]
Unlike other languages (I speak more than one), English is such a widely spoken language that mistakes are just par for course in both written and oral form. Native English speakers should well be accustomed to this and be prepared to interpret correctly. I don't believe this forum should be the place for correcting your editorials, unless some language creates a confusion. On this occasion it did not.

BTW Anton, I have been trying to research which 28nm die process Kaveri will be manufactured on. Some suggest bulk-Si. But the rumour is that it could be manufactured on ST-Microelectronics FD-SOI 28nm, which would bring huge power saving and performance leaps over conventional bulk (30%-50%). And this is also the reason why it has been delayed until Q4 2013 in order for Global Foundries to tool up. Do you happen to know or is there any way for you to confirm which 28nm process it will be manufactured on?
3 2 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 06/14/13 04:33:52 PM]
It has never been delayed, that's the problem with the first set of rumors in the first place. And a few changes 1-2 months here and there never needs to show up on the road-map also never gets told to anyone outside especially the press.
1 0 [Posted by: vanakkuty  | Date: 06/15/13 01:04:14 AM]
According to Lisa Su, "we have been sampling parts (Kaveri) over the past several months"


So that's correct. The execution is on time. But still I don't know which manufacturing process AMD will end up ultimately utilising. Global Foundries were beginning to tool up mid 2012 for ST-Micro Planar FD-SOI with estimated on-line time of Q3 2013. So the rumour is that AMD adjusted their ramp up for GloFLo FD-SOI. Do you know if there is any truth in the FD-SOI rumour?
1 0 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 06/15/13 04:06:30 AM]
That finer details/info on process is still under embargo, so you will have to wait a bit longer.
1 0 [Posted by: vanakkuty  | Date: 06/15/13 06:03:07 AM]
Ok. Thanks for the answer.
1 0 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 06/15/13 07:32:19 AM]
Thank you! It has already been corrected, though
6 0 [Posted by: Anton  | Date: 06/14/13 01:35:24 AM]
nothing, frnd you r doing very nice.
you posts news in such lucent way impossible to find anywhere.
i like your news more than anandtech
2 2 [Posted by: mudi1  | Date: 06/14/13 04:42:11 AM]

show the post
0 4 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 06/14/13 03:40:06 AM]
- collapse thread

All of this is pure marketing! Not only that AMD didn't developed a special hardware for console maker's bat neither did they (console maker's).

Hm? That APU is definitely a special design, we won't see them in the consumer market outside the Xbox and Playstation, AMD might make some cut down versions eventually, but these two APU's would not have been, had it not been for MS and Sony requesting them.
4 0 [Posted by: Medallish  | Date: 06/14/13 04:02:52 AM]
Yes they are bat gpu & cpu part's that are integrated are common! Af corse AMD offered the very last generation of common developed part's & they integration! Bat the point is they didn't developed nothing really new or explosive for consoles!

You are probably right that we will not see those apus in a PC market!
Theoretically if you had 500M$ & goo to the AMD with request to make you an apu with let's say 12 jaguar cores & 1280 gnc cores with 256 bit gddr 5 controller routed & optimized for 28 nm manufacturing process they would probably say that it will be ready for you in the 6 month's. They would use the cpu layout from the last generation of K10,5 based optetrons & the gpu & mem controller from 7xxx part. Bat that is nothing new! Af corse if you tell them that they can earn series $$ if they obligate not to sell this on the free market they will!
0 0 [Posted by: Zola  | Date: 06/14/13 05:55:57 AM]

There is always a few clueless people looking to hate on AMD for being an industry leader. Some times it due to technical ignorance and other times it's just personal bias. It's particularly evident here at X-bit Labs from reader reviews and often as part of the stories themselves.

Congrats to AMD for thinking years ahead and delivering unique, outstanding products to consumers. Had they not have decided 10 years ago to merge graphics with CPU performance and bought ATI, we'd have never seen the many benefits of APUs which is just starting to be tapped. Kaveri will be the first big unification of CPU/GPU performance with hUMA. It's all good for consumers.
6 3 [Posted by: beenthere  | Date: 06/14/13 05:49:05 AM]
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To correct you, there are evidently a lot of clueless people out there. But here's a gem of knowledge that you're smart enough to look up. Go see the performance improvements GPU's have experienced over the last 8-10 years, then think about combining that with a high performance CPU ( not an energy hungry overpriced Intel one mind you). And I'm confident you'll figure out which direction computing is heading...
5 3 [Posted by: Michael Hays  | Date: 06/14/13 08:24:54 AM]
When you put energy hungry and Intel in the same sentence, you gave away the fact you don't know what you're talking about.
2 0 [Posted by: AnonymousGuy  | Date: 06/14/13 07:03:21 PM]
Yes, Intel CPUs are a rip-off compared to AMD but they are not power hungry. They are class leading in computation per watt. AMD is betting on HSA to change this, as well as superior ST-Mircorelectronic FD-SOI manufacturing process at Gloflo to counter FinFET.
6 0 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 06/14/13 08:28:59 PM]

Now thats news, thats unbelievable and very forvard thinking from them and but also so obvious thing to do.
0 0 [Posted by: kingpin  | Date: 06/14/13 10:01:34 AM]

Neither Microsoft, nor Sony, knew that AMD was developing APUs for the others products! Microsoft and Sony probably both had knowledge of AMD's relations with their competition, and did not care! M$ and Sony only really cared about getting as much gaming power for as little cost as possible, and Intel was a nonstarter in this equation. AMD probably priced their product on a Per CPU Core(4,6,8) and Per GPU execution unit basis, with some AMD bus/other options, all paired with AMD providing the overall integration of the M$ and Sony custom IP for their respective products! AMD in this case operated more like a design/build building general contractor would, while providing some customization services as well, through AMD, other third party contractors, and AMD's fab partners! AMD's APU IP part of the equation is AMD's IP to do with as it wishes, sans the M$ and Sony and Third party IP! AMD can offer, with its x86 license, a similar customization service, but not the exact method that ARM does with its IP, as the x86 part must be done by AMD, because AMD only has a restrictive use of the x86 license with Intel!
3 0 [Posted by: BigChiefRunAmok  | Date: 06/14/13 11:51:42 AM]
- collapse thread

I agree. Of course they knew. Both consoles have ended up about the same in ability and that's no coincidence. It would not be good for the industry if the gulf between PS4 or Xbox1 were too great - game developers don't want to give too much power to one platform a la Microsoft Windows (and look what happened when Windows 8 failed). I would suggested that Sony and MS had a bit of a gentleman's agreement.
1 0 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 06/14/13 08:39:27 PM]


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