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AMD CES 2014: Kaveri APU Is Imminent
Date: Jan 06, 2014
Author: Marco Chiappetta
AMD Unwraps Kaveri
Today is a big day for AMD. If you follow the company at all, you're probably aware that there's a new APU from AMD waiting in the wings. Today, AMD is disclosing more information about Kaveri, the first APU to support heterogeneous computing. Kaveri also includes a new CPU core, codenamed Steamroller, and the largest GPU we've seen in an integrated processor to date. This chip is particularly important for AMD because its the first major architecture update for AMD's big core program since Bulldozer launched in 2011.

This new APU includes the TrueAudio technology that AMD launched earlier this year with its Hawaii graphics cards, up to four Steamroller cores, and a total of 512 GPU cores. It also adds support for critical heterogeneous computing capabilities that AMD baked into the HSA Standard. Previous AMD APUs could execute OpenCL on the GPU and shared some data between the CPU and its caches, but Kaveri is the first chip to be fully HSA-compatible.

HSA gives the APU the ability to pass data between the CPU and GPU directly in order to execute each workload where it makes the most sense to do so. Older chips could perform this kind of work, but the process of moving data between the two types of cores could consume hundreds of CPU cycles. Now the two cores can share data with a much smaller penalty. AMD has talked about this kind of capability ever since it unveiled its plan for the original "Fusion" products back in 2007. Kaveri is designed to deliver on a promise that's now nearly seven years old.

The tricky thing about HSA, though, is that compatible software isn't available yet. Programs written for older APUs won't automatically take advantage of HSA until they are reprogrammed to do so. This could take some time, and there's no firm timeline on when we should expect to see major applications taking advantage of the new communication ability. AMD is also leaning on the Steamroller core optimizations and the superior performance of the 512 GCN cores to boost the chip in the short-term.

So what kind of performance is AMD claiming for the new chip? Let's look and see...
APU Performance
All the usual caveats apply about vendor-supplied benchmarks; we'll confirm these results when we have the chip in-house shortly.

PCMark 8 shows the A10-7850K beating past last year's Richland APU by 9%, even though the Richland core has a faster Turbo Mode of 4.4 GHz compared to 4 GHz for the new APU. AMD claims both cores are faster than the Intel Core i5-4670K, which is surprising given that Intel cores have often had an advantage over AMD chips in recent years.

The GPU performance from the new APU should be excellent, and AMD's middle benchmark implies that this is so. The new Kaveri chip is nearly twice as fast as Intel in 3DMark and 50% faster than AMD. Similarly, the OpenCL test shows Kaveri outperforming Richland by over 50%.

We'll have a full suite of tests up in a matter of days, so stay tuned for the full review. For an example of just how fast Kaveri can be, check this next slide. It shows a workload accelerated for HSA, and run through the standard CPU.

Clearly in the right markets, HSA can make a huge difference. AMD is already shipping the chip to system builders and computers should be available on preorders. Features like Mantle will also be supported on the new APU, so customers can look forward to an additional graphics performance increase thanks to the new API. Rumored price on the new chip is $173, so AMD is positioning this as a more expensive option than the older A10-6800K chip was.

As with previous cores, the K-class chips are fully unlocked and can be overclocked. Both CPU and GPU can be pushed independently. Kaveri's performance is stronger than Richland's overall, even though the chip runs at 3.7 GHz base / 4.0 GHz Turbo, compared to 4.1GHz / 4.4GHz for the Richland APU.

If the new Kaveri can actually hit the 6800K's clock speeds, the performance difference should be even higher. We'll have more details to share soon.

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