AMD's Low Power Fusion APU: Zacate Unveiled

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"Fusion." We've heard that word from the good folks at AMD for what seems like an eternity, to be perfectly honest.  Fusion is AMD's marketing moniker for the company's next generation of integrated processors with on-board graphics -- a "fusion" of the CPU along with the GPU into what AMD now affectionately calls an "APU" or Accelerated Processing Unit.  Fusion has been a long time coming for AMD but it looks as if they may well have chosen the perfect entry point to release their first generation APU from the starting block.  The market is currently in what seems like a complete frenzy for anything to do with ultra-portable computing, from ultra thin and light notebooks, to netbooks and tablet PCs.  Consumers can't seem to get enough of the thin and sexy stuff and with AMD's first Fusion release, they've certainly chosen the right product segment to attack with a new low power processor.

Back in the September time frame, we gave you a quick look at AMD's upcoming processor codenamed Zacate.  Targeted at light mobile platforms, Zacate is a dual core processor with an on board DX11 capable graphics core and from the early look we got back then, it was shaping up to make a splash.  More recently, AMD invited us down to their Austin Texas facility to spend some quality hands-on time with Zacate.  Though we can't quite share performance details with you yet (still under NDA lock and key), we can give you a bit more detail and a first hand look at Zacate, its even lower-power sibling "Ontario" and the hyper-mobile platform that accommodates these new AMD processors that goes by the codename "Brazos."


Far Left: AMD's Zacate E-350 APU
Middle and Right: AMD's Previous Generation V105 Geneva Discrete Solution


At first glance of AMD's new silicon, you can see that Zacate is a single, monolithic die that is actually quite small when you consider the size of AMD's previous generation discrete processor architecture.  What you see here is an AMD E-350 dual core Zacate processor with a die size of 75mm2.  The chip is built on TSMC's 40nm process technology and it's actually smaller than a dual core Intel Atom processor, which measure at 83mm2.







These were part of the slide deck that AMD presented to us the day we paid a visit to their Austin Lone Star location.  As you can see, the Brazos platform will be home to both AMD E-Series and C-Series APUs.  Zacate, or the E-Series that we tested that day, is an 18 Watt TDP (thermal design power) chip and Ontario, or the C-Series, operates in a 9 Watt power envelope, if you can believe that.  As you'll also note here, Zacate is targeted to compete with Intel's low power CULV processors for thin and light notebooks, while Ontario is targeted at competing versus Celeron and Atom designs.  The kicker here is that AMD is claiming a "more balanced" architecture with a more robust graphics engine versus current Intel solutions on the market.

Additionally, we also see where AMD's product segmentation will fall in both the notebook and desktop space.  Sabine will be the next platform to incorporate AMD's Fusion-based Llano integrated APU and it is targeted to compete with Intel's Core i3,5, and 7 lineup of Arrandale processors with integrated graphics. Again the suggestion here is that with AMD's more robust DX11 graphics core under the hood, a stronger multimedia experience can be delivered.   Obviously, until we have product in hand, that remains to be seen.  Finally, we see Llano-based APUs for the desktop and, of course, Bulldozer showing up in the Scorpus platform, which will be AMD's next big iron processor for the high end.

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