AMD Spills New Details on Bobcat, Brazos Mobile Platform

In the wake of AMD's architecture discussions at Hot Chips last month, eyes have increasingly turned towards the company's upcoming Bobcat processor. Now, AMD's director of Fusion marketing, John Taylor, has written a blog post with additional details on the diminutive chip, including several photos.

We know the unveiling of this info was in Europe, but would it have killed someone to plunk down a quarter?

We've covered much of the company's plans before, so we'll skip straight to the new stuff. Taylor notes that the upcoming Fusion processor will include a "new" UVD block, though we're guessing this term refers more to the need to redesign a block for the APU as opposed to a new set of features/capabilities. AMD will introduce two new APU products this year, including:

"An 18-watt TDP APU codenamed “Zacate” for ultrathin, mainstream, and value notebooks as well as desktops and all-in-ones. And a 9-watt APU codenamed “Ontario” for netbooks and small form factor desktops and devices."

AMD notes that "Both low-power APU versions feature two “Bobcat” x86 cores and fully support DirectX11, DirectCompute (Microsoft programming interface for GPU computing) and OpenCL (cross-platform programming interface standard for multi-core x86 and accelerated GPU computing). Both also include UVD dedicated hardware acceleration for HD video including 1080p resolutions."

So, now that we know the TDP of these new devices, we can compare them to Pineview and Moorestown, right? No. AMD and Intel continue to define TDP (Thermal Design Power or Thermal Dissipation Power) two completely different ways. Intel's TDP is meant to represent average power consumption in a representative workload; Santa Clara's TDP values are the amount of power a heatsink+fan must be able to dissipate without the processor overheating. AMD's values are theoretical maximum power consumption, even if said value is much higher than any real-world workload can create.

What we can do, however, is compare the upcoming Zacate and Ontario to current AMD solutions. Presumably the TDP values quoted above refer to both the CPU and GPU cores; Taylor refers to both the power consumption of the "APU" and uses the APU codenames. At present, AMD offers the following 45nm mobile parts:

K665: (1.7GHz, dual-core, 15W)
K325: (1.3GHz, dual-core, 12W)
V105: (1.2GHz, single-core, 9W).

Keep in mind that the CPU TDPs above don't reflect the additional power consumption of a GPU. Based on what we know now, Bobcat looks as though it'll deliver improved performance performance per watt compared to current ultrathin parts. An absolute performance gain, however, is far from guaranteed. The current crop of ultrathin CPUs offer 1MB of L2 cache per core and run that cache at full processor speed—Bobcat, in contrast, will offer just 512K of L2 per core and will use an L2 clocked at 50 percent of core clock. (Note: While the half-clock cache was listed as a feature of the Bobcat architecture, there's no inherent reason we're aware of why AMD couldn't accelerate the cache to full speed, either in higher-power designs or as part of a later die shrink.

Considering Ontario's dual performance advantages compared to Atom, AMD will almost certainly target a sweet spot between power efficiency and performance relative to Intel's netbook processor as compared to its own product lines. The higher-end K-series chips referenced above are in a similar power envelope to Zacate once their own GPUs are added to the mix, which indicates it'll be Zacate that's more concerned with improving performance vis-à-vis mobile Shanghai hardware.

AMD only identifies this as a Fusion APU, but it's presumably Bobcat as opposed to Llano. AMD has taken to Photoshopping dies to mask certain features from snoopy Intel spies; for all we know this is a Sim City screenshot with rainbow colors and a big empty downtown.

Unless the chip manifests a heretofore-unknown design disaster, AMD should have no problem positioning Ontario across part of Atom's path. At the risk of sounding like broken records, we want to again emphasize the fact that Atom is designed to fit into devices and power envelopes that Ontario isn't. Remember, Intel's original design vision for Atom saw netbooks and nettops as little more than a stepping stone towards smaller and more powerful MIDs/UMPC's. Even if Ontario becomes a preferred consumer option, it'll still be taking market share in a space Intel never expected Atom to explosively populate.

AMD doesn't much care about this—when you've got around 11 percent of the mobile market, the 15-20 percent Atom currently populates looks pretty darn good. We're very optimistic about these new chips, but Ontario won't actually challenge Pineview / Moorestown in the chip's (intended) primary markets. Taylor states that AMD plans to ramp production in late 2010 with delivery in 2011—guidance that's on track with what we've heard before.