AMD officially launched their next generation Kaveri processor today finally realizing a long term vision of the company to fully integrate CPU and GPU resources on a single, monolithic chip architecture with a shared memory resource. Kaveri marks a number of firsts for AMD, though they’ve released many integrated APUs (Application Processing Unit) in the past. For starters, Kaveri is the first APU from AMD to incorporate the company’s GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture that is found in their “Hawaii” series of GPUs for desktop gaming (Radeon R9 290 series).
Specifically, there is a 8-core GCN implementation in Kaveri that consumes a substantial 47% of the 2.41 billion transistor die. Each of those 8 GCN cores has 64 stream processors, for a total of 512. That’s a lot of graphics resources and of course AMD is highlighting their strength over competing Intel integrated graphics solutions. There’s little question AMD’s strength will remain on the graphics side but the company is also introducing there new ‘Steamroller’ CPU architecture with Kaveri, which is expected to offer performance improvements of 10-percent or so, clock-for-clock versus the previous generation Piledriver architecture.
In total, AMD is calling Kaveri a 12 “compute core” chip with 4 Steamroller CPU cores and 8 GCN graphics cores connected to a shared, unified memory architecture that AMD calls “hUMA,” which stands for “heterogeneous unified memory access.” Essentially, the new architecture offers a tighter coupling of compute and graphics engines with the chip’s memory DDR3 memory controller interface that now operates up to DDR3-2400 speeds. The chip allows both CPU and GPU cores to have coherent access to memory with additional system-level atomic operations to synchronize workloads across different core types. Finally, Kaveri also integrates PCI Express Gen 3 serial links for faster discrete graphics and CrossFire multi-GPU graphics performance.
Kaveri’s total architecture package furthers AMD’s efforts in HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture), though software developers will have to optimize for such an architecture in order to capitalize on its inherent advantages (lower latencies, more efficient workload distribution etc.). In the meantime, Kaveri will have to rely on its CPU core optimizations and stronger graphics core engine to compete out of the gate.
Today AMD launched three SKUs – the A10-7850K, A10-7700K and A8-7600. The A10-7850K is the top-end part with a 95 Watt TDP, 4GHz max turbo with a 3.7GHz base clock and a full 8-core GPU (512 stream processors). The 95 Watt A10-7700K offers a base 3.5GHz clock, top-end 3.8GHz speed and a 6-core GPU (384 stream processor) implementation. And finally, what AMD feels is their performance-per-watt sweet spot, the 65 Watt A8-7600 offers a 3.3GHz base clock, max turbo of 3.8GHz and a 6-core GPU (384 SP) implementation. The A8-7600 is also configurable in system BIOS for a 45 Watt TDP as well. All of these Kaveri APUs have two Steamroller modules affording 4 processing cores with 4 threads of execution.
In terms of performance, AMD still hasn’t caught up to Intel’s CPU architecture, with Core i3 dual-cores competing favorably still versus the 65 Watt A8 Kaveri quad-core and even the 95 Watt A10 Kaveri chip for CPU-intensive tasks. However, as expected, AMD’s value proposition in multimedia, gaming and graphics processing is strong. AMD’s GCN architecture offers sizable performance gains over the previous generation architecture and in certain game tests even the lower-end A8-7600 offers almost 2X the performance of a 4th generation Intel Haswell-based Core i5-4670K with integrated HD 4600 graphics.
AMD’s initial go-to-market strategy for the new Kaveri APUs that were launched today is the elegant, low power and quiet computing arena. Applications like Home Theater PCs, All-In-Ones and other low profile form-factors, that need strong graphics and multimedia performance, make a good use case for these SKUs from AMD. The AMD A8-7600 will be priced at $119 and will be available in Q1. The higher-end A10-7700K and A10-7850K are slated for immediate availability at $152 and $173 price points, respectively.
Kaveri might not be a huge gain for AMD in terms of CPU architecture but it’s a strong advancement in graphics performance and the introduction of a true Heterogeneous System Architecture. With ISV support for HSA, in addition to AMD’s Mantel API for game development, the incremental hardware advancements of Kaveri could show even stronger in future generation products, as AMD drives the Kaveri architecture down through their product stack in to mobile.