AMD Shows Off Highly-Anticipated Llano Chip

AMD's Llano Chip Works - Company Demo Shows

by Anton Shilov
10/19/2010 | 02:22 PM

Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday demonstrated a result that of its acquisition of ATI Technologies back in 2006: a mainstream accelerated processing unit (APU) that features up to four x86 processing cores as well as an integrated DirectX 11-class graphics processing unit. While the chip does obviously work, AMD decided to omit revealing additional technical details about the product that will be available sometimes in mid-2011, if everything goes well.


The first ever public demonstration of Llano chip, the higher-end APU from AMD, showed three compute-intensive workloads simultaneously on Microsoft Windows 7, including calculating the value of Pi to 32 million decimal places, and decoding HD video from a Blu-ray disc. Running concurrent to the CPU and HD video playback applications, Microsoft’s nBody DirectCompute application is shown achieving over 30 GFLOPS (as reported in the application).

The demonstration itself looked quite impressive as it clearly demonstrates ability of one chip to simultaneously do a number of tasks. One thing that the demo does not cover is relative performance of four AMD Athlon II-class x86 cores with advanced power management capabilities compared to modern Intel or AMD microprocessors. Another thing that the public show off did not reveal was relative performance of integrated graphics core compared to a modern standalone graphics card. The last decision is quite strange, given the fact that the company did show 3D video games when it demonstrated its first code-named Ontario low-end APUs earlier this year, but this time it decided to skip video games despite of the fact that Llano is aimed at mainstream consumers interested in gaming.

AMD believes that the combination of x86 cores, DirectX 11-class stream processors as well as specifically developed software that can take advantage of the former will be able to deliver leading-edge user experience.

“The serial and powerful parallel processing capability of the Llano APU has the potential to make OEMs and consumers re-think their computing experience. The experience potential of Llano is truly incredible, and the demos we showed today on stage provide a glimpse of what this processor is capable of delivering in sleek form factors with long battery life. Everything consumers love about their digital lifestyles today – social networking, gaming, consuming and creating media – can be enhanced with Llano, enabling a more interactive, vivid and immersive experience," said Chris Cloran, corporate vice president and general manager of client division at AMD.

Based on the fact that AMD shows its Llano chip about four months after the first public demo of Ontario APU that is supposed to be shipped to consumers in late 2010 and emerge on the market in early 2011, it is logical to assume that Llano is at least six month behind its original schedule. This means that Llano will reach consumers months after Intel Corp.'s competing code-named Sandy Bridge microprocessor - that features more advanced x86 cores as well as an integrated DirectX 10.1-class graphics engine - hits the market. Nonetheless, the chip is still a huge milestone for AMD and its manufacturing partner Globalfoundries since this is the world's first quad-core microprocessor with integrated DirectX 11 graphics processor that is made using 32nm silicon-on-insulator process technology with high-K metal gate (HKMG).

"This is an important milestone for Globalfoundires because it is the industry’s first demonstration of a foundry product with HKMG technology. Llano is being manufactured at Fab 1 in Dresden on our next-generation 32nm process technology with gate-first HKMG transistors. We are implementing the gate-first approach to HKMG at the 32/28nm node because it maximizes power efficiency and transistor scaling while minimizing die size and design complexity for our customers. Our 32nm HKMG technology ramp is currently in early production at Fab 1 and we are making continued progress on ramping the process in support of AMD’s 2011 customer commitments," said Jason Gorss, a spokesman for Globalfoundries.