|Introduction, Specs, and Features|
AMD has been pretty open about discussing certain products in the roadmap. In fact, we’ve disclosed a number of details regarding the main products we’ll be talking about in this article--Kabini, Temash, and Richland--over the last few months.
Above is a shot of a quad-core Kabini die. Kabini is the follow-up product to AMD’s very successful Brazos line of products. How successful was Brazos, you ask? According to the most recent information provided by AMD, the company sold upwards of 48 million units, and if you ask them, they’re expecting greater success from Kabini.
We’ll dive a little deeper on the pages ahead, but to give you some high-level guidance, Kabini is an x86 quad-core SoC (system on a chip) targeted at entry-level and small form factor touch notebooks. Officially, AMD will be referring to Kabini as their “2013 AMD Mainstream APU”, and it is one of these products that we’ve been able to test drive for the last couple of weeks.
Also arriving alongside Kabini is Temash. Temash and Kabini are based on the same microarchitecture and share essentially the same feature set, but Temash targets small form factor notebooks, tablets, and hybrids 13-inches and smaller. AMD puts Temash-based products under the “2013 AMD Elite Mobility APU” umbrella, and the SoCs will come in dual (A4) and quad-core (A6) configurations.
|Temasha and Kabini Architectures|
Kabini and Temash were designed from the ground up to improve overall performance and power efficiency over previous-generation products. The APUs will be offered in dual- and quad-core varieties and are manufactured using TSMC’s 28nm process node. Unfortunately, as of this writing, AMD hasn’t disclosed exact transistor counts and die sizes, but we should have that information soon.
AMD’s previous-gen Brazos-based products featured the company’s Bobcat CPU core design. The Jaguar cores in Temash and Kabini improve on Bobcat with better IPC performance, the ability to run at higher frequencies at a given voltage, and improved power efficiency though finer-grained clock and power gating and unit redesigns. AMD wanted to preserve the throughput of Bobcat and save on power but ultimately ended up with a much higher-performing part (relatively speaking), as well.
The new Jaguar cores in Kabini and Temash are also outfitted with enhanced Out-of-Order resources, including a redesigned scheduler, and buffers that are 30% - 70% larger than Bobcat. The FPU was totally redesigned, and increases from 64-bits to 128-bits wide. And the Load Store Unit and Data Cache have redesigned queues, with a matrix-style picker and store data FIFO.
Moving on from the cores, Kabini and Temash feature an integrated 64-bit wide memory controller / Northbridge, with official support for frequencies up to DDR3-1600. The memory controller also supports 1.25v, 1.35, and 1.5v DIMMs. Also present is a Fusion Controller Link, or FCL, which is how the IO subsystems interface with the on-die Northbridge and allows the CPU to access the GPU frame buffer (and vice versa). The FCL is 128-bits in each direction, while the graphics memory bus is 256-bit in each direction.
|2013 Mobile APU Product Positioning|
As we’ve mentioned, AMD’s got a few series of products launching today, that, while similar, target different form factors and market segments. There are new A-Series APUs, E-Series APUs based on Kabini, and A-Series Elite Mobility APUs based on Temash, all on the way.
We had a chance to test out an A4-5000 15W Kabini APU, and have some numbers to share with you on the proceeding pages. Before we get to the numbers, though, we should point out that the A4-5000 will be accompanied by a higher clocked A6-5200 and an array of E1 and E2 series parts as well. The respective core counts, frequencies, GPU configurations, and TDP’s, among some other details, are outlined in the chart above.
These new A-Series and E-Series parts are going to target mainstream and entry-level price points and go head to head with Intel’s more affordable Pentium and Celeron-class products in notebooks and small form factor systems. The somewhat higher-end A6-Series parts are poised to do battle with Core i3-class products in similar form factors. As you’ll see in the pages ahead, these targets seem realistic, at least as far as the performance of the A4-5000 is concerned.
AMD’s A-Series Elite Mobility APUs, which are built around the Temash SoC, have much lower thermal / power envelopes than their more mainstream counterparts. The high-end A6-1450 is a quad-core part with 1.0GHz/1.4GHz base/boost clocks and a TDP of only 8W. Coming in at the low-end is the A4-1200, a dual-core SoC clocked at 1GHz with a TDP just under the 4W mark.
You'll notice that all of these Kabini- and Temash- based products feature the same number of Radeon Cores—128 to be exact. GPU performance between the parts is differentiated by frequency. The lowest-clocked part has a GPU frequency of 225MHz, while the highest-clocked part has a 600MHz GPU clock. As we mentioned earlier, the GPUs fused with Temash and Gabini are based on AMD’s GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture and offer all of the features of higher-powered Radeon HD-branded discrete GPUs.
And here we have the list of Richland ULV-based A-Series APUs due to arrive soon. These parts fall under the 2013 AMD Elite Performance A-Series APU umbrella and target higher performance (and higher power) thin and light mobile platforms.
|The Test Platform|
For the purposes of this article, AMD supplied us with a Kabini-powered whitebook, running Windows 8 Enterprise 64-bit. The machine had no particular markings, and won’t be made available at retail, but we thought you’d like to see what we used to test AMD’s new mobility platform anyway.
The machine you see pictured here is powered by an AMD A4-5000 quad-core APU, paired to 4GB of DDR3-1600 system memory set up in a dual-channel configuration. The system features a 14” screen with a full HD resolution of 1920x1080, a multi-touch capable Touchpad, a built in SD card reader and optical drive, and a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive. All of the other typical accoutrements are present as well, such as built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, audio, and so on.
The keyboard sports standard chiclet-type keys and the mid-sized touchpad—which featured independent right and left buttons—is centered right under the space bar. The machine’s power switch is at the top left of the keyboard and at the bottom left, just above the card reader, are four indicator LEDs for power, drive activity, Wi-Fi status, and Cap Lock status.
Although this particular machine won’t be made available at retail, we want to give some general impressions after using it for the last week or so. Generally speaking, we found the machine to be responsive and particularly adept at video-related tasks. The slow hard drive in the system meant it didn’t have that snappy SSD-like responsiveness, but for CPU- and GPU-bound workloads, the machine felt surprisingly smooth.
|CPU and System Level Performance|
We didn't have many comparable notebooks on hand to match head-to-head with the Kabini-based test platform featured on the previous page, but we've pulled together some numbers from an Intel CloverTrail-based tablet and similarly-clocked Core i3-2377M to at least begin to paint of picture of where the AMD A4-5000 performance lands in comparison to some competing platforms. All of the machines were running Windows 8. Please note, the Core i3-2377M features integrated Intel HD 3000 series graphics. First up, some system level metrics with PCMark 7...
The PCMark test is a collection of workloads that measure system performance during typical desktop usage. This is the most important test since it returns the official PCMark score for the system
We left the Core i3 out of the mix here because the machine had 8GB of memory and a fast SSD--needless to say, it would have taken a clear lead here. With that said, the A4-5000 had no trouble dispatching the Atom Z2760, despite the Atom processor's significantly higher frequency.
In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content. LAME is an open-source MP3 audio encoder that is used widely in a multitude of third party applications.
The AMD A4-5000 finished well ahead of Atom in our audio encoding test as well, but the Core i3 had a clear advantage. Though the Jaguar cores used in Kabini offer higher IPC performance than AMD's previous-gen Bobcat low-power cores, clock-for-clock they can't keep pace with Intel's Core processors in terms of single-threaded performance.
The quad-core A4-5000 is able to overtake the dual-core Core i3 here in the multi-threaded benchmark. And makes mincemeat of the Atom processor, but in terms of single-threaded performance, Intel still rules the roost.
According to the SunSpider website:
All of the systems were tested using the latest version of Internet Explorer 10, with default browser settings, on a clean install of Windows 8.
The A4-5000 once again handily outruns the Atom-based Z2760 in the Sunspider benchmark, but the similarly-clocked Core i3-2377M puts up the best score of the group by far.
We see the same performance trend in the BrowserMark test (please note, all systems were tested with IE 10 in desktop mode). The A4-5000 is much faster than the Atom here, but the Core i3 once again takes the top spot.
|GPU Performance and Power|
Next up we have some GPU benchmarks using Cinebench’s OpenGL test and 3DMark 11. The GPUs at the heart of the A4-5000 and low-end Intel platforms we’ve tested here aren’t particularly powerful, so don’t expect playable framerates in any cutting edge games. But gauging relative performance can at least speak to one platform's graphics superiority over another.
You’ll notice a few red bars in the graphs above. Those indicate tests that wouldn’t run on the Intel platforms. In the tests that did run, the A4-5000’s integrated Radeon HD 8330 GPU was roughly twice as fast as Intel’s HD 3000 engine in Cinebench’s OpenGL test. The A4, however, was the only one capable of running 3DMark 11. The A4-5000’s score of E967 (this was the entry level benchmark) isn’t particularly high, but at least the platform is capable of running DX11-class content.
What you see pictured here is the official Iron Man 3 trailer in 1080p, streaming from YouTube, running in full screen mode on the A4-5000-based white book we used for testing. As you can see in the overlay, CPU utilization occasionally peaked at about 40%, but typically hovered in the 5% - 25% range.
Since the notebook we used for testing won't be make available at retail, we didn't do any formal battery tests, but we did monitor power on the machine to see how much juice the platform used under various workloads. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power the system used while idling and while under heavy CPU and GPU workloads. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the processor alone--all of the notebook's components are factored into the numbers here.
Under the absolute worst case scenario, with the notebook’s screen powered on (at 50% brightness) and full CPU and GPU workloads, the machine consumed only 23 watts total. As we stepped down the workload and focused only on the CPU or GPU, power consumption decreased.
|Our Summary and Conclusion|
The PC market is changing rapidly, as tablets and other ultra-mobile / convertible form factors continue to eat away at traditional desktop and notebook PC sales. AMD hopes that its new mobile A-Series and E-Series APUs put the company in a better position to capitalize on the myriad opportunities offered by the burgeoning ultramobile market. And in all likelihood, they have.
As was the case with the previous generation Brazos, AMD’s low-power processor cores offer competitive, or much better, performance in the entry-level mobile space. AMD’s graphics performance, however, is simply on another level. Intel has BayTrail coming down the pipeline, but it won’t hit the market for a few more months at least. AMD is ready now with a new, more power-efficient architecture than its previous gen, which improves performance across the board. If Brazos was an unmitigated success for AMD, the prospects for its 2013 mobility platforms are good considering they offer much better CPU and GPU performance, at lower power.