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AMD's New APUs: Hype or True Breakthrough?

AMD's New APUs: Hype or True Breakthrough?
By Jennifer LeClaire

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The real measure of AMD's Kaveri chips will come in the field. Early benchmarking commentaries -- from AnandTech, for one -- have been cautiously optimistic. Though the CPU performance of the new Kaveri processors is adequate, the graphics performance -- based on AMDs ATI technologies -- is extremely robust, said analyst Charles King.
 

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AMD
APU
Chips
Processors
Gaming


AMD has rolled out what it is calling its most advanced and developer-friendly performance accelerated processing units (APUs) to date. The company said its A-Series APUs with AMD Radeon R7 graphics, codenamed “Kaveri,” are designed with “industry-changing” new features that deliver “superior” compute and heart-pounding gaming performance.

Is this a true breakthrough or just hype?

The AMD A-Series APUs include up to 12 compute cores -- 4 CPU and 8 GPU -- as well as heterogeneous system architecture (HSA) features. The new intelligent computing architecture lets the CPU and GPU work in together by streamlining right tasks to the most suitable processing element.

“AMD maintains our technology leadership with the 2014 AMD A-Series APUs, a revolutionary next-generation APU that marks a new era of computing,” said Bernd Lienhard, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD’s Client Business Unit. “With world-class graphics and compute technology on a single chip, the AMD A-Series APU is an effective and efficient solution for our customers and enable industry-leading computing experiences.”

The Look and Sound

Again, is it a true breakthrough or just hype?

AMD A-Series APUs do offer the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture with AMD Radeo R7 Series graphics for performance with support for DirectX 11.22. also boasts Mantle, an API that promises to simplify game optimizations for programmers and developers to raise gaming performance to unprecedented levels when unlocked.

The new processing units also offer AMD TrueAudio Technology, 32-channel surround audio and support for UltraHD (4K) resolutions and new video post processing enhancements that will make 1080p videos look better when upscaled on UltraHD-enabled monitor or TV5. Finally, the processing units offer FM2+ socket compatibility for a unifying infrastructure that works with APUs and CPUs.

Realizing a Vision

We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his take on the innovation. We asked him if it’s truly a breakthrough or just hype. He told us he qualifies AMD’s new Kaveri chip as a breakthrough -- the result of some four years of work by the company to realize its HSA vision.

“In essence, Kaveri contains four CPU cores and eight GPU cores which can be programmed individually and all share common memory resources,” he said. “That’s in contrast to traditional environments in which CPUs/GPUs leverage separate memory resources and programming functions are far less flexible.”

As King sees it, the real measure of Kaveri will come in the field and early benchmarking commentaries -- from AnandTech, for one -- have been cautiously optimistic. Though the new processors’ CPU performances are adequate, he said the graphics performance -- based on AMDs ATI technologies -- is extremely robust.

“Combine that with aggressive pricing and Kaveri looks like a solid solution for consumer gaming and/or graphics-intensive laptops and other products,” King said. “If AMD can ramp-up CPU performance significantly, HSA solutions could become increasingly competitive in many consumer computing scenarios.”
 

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