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AMD's Demos Zacate Integrated Fusion CPU: Updated

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News Posted: Tue, Sep 14 2010 8:24 PM
AMD always hosts an event in the shadow of Intel's Developer Forum, so it wasn't surprising to hear the company was demoing its upcoming Zacate processor this week. Zacate is the codename associated with AMD's 18W dual-core APU and will target the $500 notebook market. The second chip, Ontario, is a 9W APU that'll chase after Atom's business. According to AMD's Director of Fusion Marketing, John Taylor, Zacate-class APUs are ideal platforms for what he calls "no-compromise cloud computing." Why's that? He's glad you asked.
Increasingly, we go online for collaboration and social interaction...Nowhere is this more evident than on social networking sites. These sites...often requirEmail quite a bit of processing power both in the cloud and on the client. The client-side processing is in fact increasing as the experience becomes more visually engaging, in the browser and the internet applications, and in the media players.

It is because of that balanced cloud computing need: low power to stay connected longer, with enough local visual compute power for media rich activities, that “Zacate” is poised to be a fantastic no-compromise mainstream platform and ideal for cloud computing with highly-mobile form factors.
Taylor isn't just talking about Zecate as a client-side APU; he's coyly hinting that AMD's new low-power wunderkind will perform quite effectively in cloud server clusters. The IDF demo, however, wasn't just about words; AMD had testbeds ready to demo Zecate's performance against Intel's Core i5. Here's where things get...questionable.


First, there's AMD Space Command, an unreleased HTML5-based title written by AMD. According to this gem of a title, the Core i520M maintains 23 fps while the Zacate consistently delivers 38-40 fps. There's every reason to stare dubiously at this benchmark, but the performance gap isn't crazy. Intel's integrated GPUs have long been the ill-fated henchmen to AMD's tank of ill-tempered sea bass, so there's nothing all that strange about Zacate's GPU outperforming Intel's Core i5.

AMD also includes comparisons between Zacate and Core i5 in City of Heroes: Going Rogue and in the psychedelic browser benchmark. According to AMD, Zacate is ~10x faster in Psychedelic and substantially faster in CoH:GR. The problem here is that the Core i5's browser benchmark score is exceedingly low relative to what other individuals have seen using the same test on older Intel hardware. As for Going Rogue, earlier AMD blog posts specifically note that the game has been optimized to run on ATI graphics hardware. That doesn't change the fact that Zecate may genuinely outperform Core i5, but we'd have preferred to see a neutral title as well.


While there's no proof that AMD sabotaged the Intel system (there could be an issue with the IE9 preview platform), the specialized nature and limited scope of the tests the company did show leaves us unable to conclude much of anything about Zacate. One thing we'd love to know is the extent to which the various tests rely on CPU performance. None of the tests AMD demonstrated were overtly CPU-centric. AMD has a history of skirting such tests with its existing products; omitting numbers for Zacate could be an early sign that new chip lags the Core i5 in CPU performance. That said, AMD seems to be driving the graphics point home firmly with respect to Zecate.

Update:  Anand of Anandtech also thought the Core i5's numbers were a tad strange and revisited AMD's suite. The problem turns out to be the OEM's fault; the latest set of Intel drivers that will automatically install are dated 3/31/2010. Forcing a manual driver updated fixed Intel's low scores in the Psychedelic benchmark--but Zacate's lead in all of the existing benchmarks (plus a few more Anand installed and tested) held firm.

We also spoke to AMD, who highlighted the fact that the Zacate hardware is aimed at a $500 price point while the specific Core i5 laptop tested sells for $800-$900. AMD didn't avoid CPU benchmarks to hide a performance weakness on Zacate's part, but simply wanted to highlight the platform's strengths. We still don't know how Zacate compares to Core i5 in terms of CPU performance, but given the two different price points, the two may not compete much.
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Schmich replied on Tue, Sep 14 2010 9:27 PM

"AMD has a history of skirting such tests with its existing products"

That's a shame. AMD shouldn't try to look like douches, that's more big Intel's job.

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Joel H replied on Tue, Sep 14 2010 10:00 PM

Schmich,

This is a very fine tightrope. AMD's marketing/PR team has to make the product look good.That's easy when you've got a product that absolutely kicks ass--back in the Prescott vs. Athlon 64 days, you had to search to find tests AMD *didn't* win. It's harder when you've been competing with Shanghai and Phenom II against Core i7.

AMD highlighted tests it presumably did very well in. There's nothing wrong with that and it doesn't make them douches. It's just worth noting that we saw a very small and particular set of tests.

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HyBry replied on Wed, Sep 15 2010 5:33 AM

But it is hard to compare the CPU power when i5 is 35W TDP and Zocate is only 18W and icludes a more powerful graphics.

But I must admit that i am looking forward to seeing the CPU performace numbers.

On a sidenote, does this incorporate the chipset as well?

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crowTrobot replied on Wed, Sep 15 2010 10:22 AM

Yeah AMD always likes to keeps things close to their chest, they don't like talking specifics about upcoming products either! Just look at the info they released for the Bulldozer and Bobcat which is basically was as much info as Intel showed last year for Sandy Bridge and a lot of the stuff is still ambigious.   

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Joel H replied on Wed, Sep 15 2010 11:45 AM

CrowT,

That's a strategy. Scooping yourself rarely works well.

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lonewolf replied on Wed, Sep 15 2010 2:26 PM

That is on par with what I though. AMD had the GPU crown but Intel had the CPU crown. It comes down to what you use your PC for. In a media rich world we live in today I would say the GPU will play a more important factor than the CPU.

It is this reason I think AMD is sitting nicely in the driver seat going forward, although if Intel can pull something out of the hat this could get interesting.

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Joel H replied on Wed, Sep 15 2010 3:40 PM

Intel's integrated GPUs have gotten much better over the past few years. The question isn't whether or not AMD's are superior, but whether or not consumers will care once Intel's offer all the consumer features AMD's do.

The only thing Intel's current integrated GPU is missing that your average notebook buyer might care about is hardware decode. That already limits AMD's appeal to a certain small segment of the market. I don't think Intel's actually going to catch AMD anytime soon, but I also don't think the consumer market is going to particularly care.

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realneil replied on Wed, Sep 15 2010 8:25 PM

If the performance between products is close, then I would probably buy the AMD part. We need to keep them around for a long time because they keep Intel's prices a little more grounded and out of the stratosphere. (yeah, I know that they sell $1,000.00 CPU's)

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For more on ati radeon 6000 series release date http://lensfire.blogspot.com/search/label/ati%206000%20series%20evolved

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Sep 16 2010 9:17 AM

My take is that AMD will have a superior graphics core and will likely score some solid design wins with this chip. Market acceptance can also be a funny thing some times. If the OEMs are offering certain builds at the right price, it might not be a question of whether or not the customer cares but what is marketed to them and what they're informed about. And the beat goes on, as they say...

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Joel H replied on Thu, Sep 16 2010 10:42 AM

I expect Zacate and Ontario will both score some solid design wins, but I think Ontario's superior graphics core will shine much more effectively against Atom than Zacate's will against Core i3. We might have to wait awhile for mobile Llano--rumors off the grapevine suggest that part may not be available until next summer.

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Well the difference with this is AMD NEEDS to create a buzz about this and they aren't going to get it just sitting back because Intel sure as hell will not stop promoting their Sandy Bridge before it comes.   How long have we been hearing about Sandy Bridge? We even know so much of how its going to be and lets be honest here, AMD is playing catch up as Bulldozer is really late and was supposed to be here by now. They don't have to reveal trade secrets but what they did reveal really isn't much (and barely exciting) compared to what Intel has shown and demonstrated.  If they limit the exposure too much people will think they don't have the confidence in their own product and in turn investors and buyers will not have confidence in them as well.

 

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lonewolf replied on Thu, Sep 16 2010 2:27 PM

I agree Dave I have herd the term "marketecture" used before and this sounds like a perfect example.

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Joel H replied on Thu, Sep 16 2010 6:13 PM

Lonewolf,

Marcitechture is a term invented by Mike Magee (of the Inquirer and Register). It refers to a situation where a product has been specifically designed to emphasize marketing over product sales. The Pentium 4 is the classic example of a marchitecture product.

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AMD began sending samples of cayman, so radeon fans won't be buying entry level zacate http://lensfire.blogspot.com/2010/10/amd-began-sending-samples-of-cayman-xt.html

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