AMD's Fusion Processors Are Designed to Be as Fast as Discrete GPUs - Company

Fusion APUs Will Rise Low-Cost Graphics Performance Bar, But Will Not Kill the GPU

by Anton Shilov
08/06/2010 | 04:58 PM

A high-ranking executive of Advanced Micro Devices said Friday that while the so-called accelerated processing units (APU), which combine x86 cores, memory controller and graphics processor on the same piece of silicon, will tangibly rise the bar for performance of built-in graphics, they will not destroy the market of discrete graphics processing units (GPUs).


"AMD’s APUs are designed to deliver exceptional performance – and we believe this will be readily apparent when compared to integrated graphics products available from the competition. Some of our APUs, by sheer performance alone, are expected to be faster than some discrete GPUs on the market. As our GPU cores improve, you can expect our APU graphics performance to similarly improve," said Godfrey Cheng, the director of client technology unit at AMD.

In the first half of next year AMD plans to launch the code-named Llano accelerating processing unit (APU) with up to four Phenom II-class x86 cores and with up to ATI Radeon HD 5000-class 480 stream processors. Potentially, Llano offers higher computing performance than code-named named Redwood chip (which has up to 400 SPs), which means that AMD will have to refresh entry-level lineup otherwise Llano will likely stop sales Cedar-based products.

The Redwood chip that powers ATI Radeon HD 5500-series graphics solutions has up to 400 stream processors, meanwhile, Cedar chip that is featured on ATI Radeon HD 5400-series boards only has just 80 stream processors. Underperforming Cedar, incoming Llano and inexpensive Redwood-based graphics cards clearly show that performance bar for low-end and affordable graphics either has to be increased or the low-end graphics will cease to exist.

AMD's Fusion APUs have a substantial caveat in the form of relatively low memory bandwidth. Thanks to the fact that APUs combine CPUs and GPUs on a single piece of silicon, memory and bus bandwidth will not be required for communication between the two types of cores and some other overdraws will be reduced. Still, discrete graphics processing units will continue to exist for quite a while: there is a number of APU and GPU generations in development.

"One of the main reasons people want a discrete GPU is  to improve gaming performance.  Gamers have remained loyal to AMD and ATI for more than a decade – a decade that has seen some pretty incredible changes in the industry. This segment shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon and we intend to continue to provide enthusiasts with leading discrete graphics solutions.  In fact, we have several generations of APUs and GPUs in development right now," stressed Mr. Cheng.

Given the fact that video games for personal computers remain pretty demanding towards performance of graphics cards, it is pretty clear that there is a long life for ATI Radeon GPU ahead. Moreover, there is professional graphics segment that demands cream-of-the-creams and which is willing to pay thousands of dollars per graphics card. Nevertheless, there is a question whether the research and development of future hardware graphics technologies will be funded from dedicated budgets or from convergent CPU-GPU-APU budgets, given the fact that sales of discrete graphics chips will inevitably slowdown once proper integrated solutions emerge.