AMD launches A-Series APUs for Notebooks
AMD yesterday announced new 2011 AMD Notebook Platform, that includes seven dual-core and quad-core A-Series microprocessors, codenamed "Llano". The new processors are marketed by AMD as Accelerated Processing Units (APU), and, in addition of retaining the full functionality of CPUs from previous generation of mobile AMD "Danube" platform, add extensive video and graphics processing capabilities. Video processing unit on A-Series chips speeds up video decoding of a variety of video formats, including MVC format, used in Blu-Ray 3D movies. Graphics processing unit in the APUs has up to 400 Radeon (shader) cores, and it matches performance of discreet-class 3D graphics cards. The GPU also supports a number of image enhancement techniques. CPU cores on these models feature a handful of enhancements as well. The APUs are manufactured on more modern 32nm technology, than previous generation of Athlon II and Phenom II microprocessors. Also, all A-Series models support faster DDR3 memory up to 1333 MHz (up to DDR3-1600 for selected models) data rate, and incorporate Turbo Core feature, main purpose of which is to improve CPU performance in single-threaded applications. For more detailed specifications of all A-Series mobile chips please see our previous story on A-Series APUs, that was published three weeks ago.
One of the most heavily marketed features of announced APUs is their ability to use shader cores for parallel data processing, and that doesn't mean graphics applications. Using frameworks like OpenCL, it is possible to write new kind of programs, that offload certain types of calculations to graphics cores. While each Radeon core operates at 5 - 10 times lower frequency than CPU cores, combined performance of hundreds of shaders far exceeds performance of 2 or 4 main CPU cores. Unfortunately, the applications must be partially re-written to use that extra processing power. According to AMD, more than 50 leading applications were updated to make use of shader cores, but most existing applications still utilize only CPU cores.
While parallel processing capabilities are definitely a way of the future, at this time they are not as important as the ability to run x86 programs and maintain adequate graphics performance. Good news about A-Series APUs is their decent level of CPU and GPU performance, which should be comparable to the performance of current Athlon II processors, paired with HD 6000-series graphics card. Good overall performance, combined with competitive prices, could help AMD to grab a bigger portion of mobile market share. That, of course, remains to be seen.
Sep 07: New AMD A-Series mobile APUs sighted
Jun 12: Details of mobile Llano A-Series CPUs surface on AMD website
May 25: Details of AMD Llano mobile CPU lineup
May 17: Details emerge on AMD A8-3530MX Llano CPU