AMD 6th Generation Carrizo APU Unveiled: Taking On Intel At 15 Watts

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Carrizo's Excavator Core, HSA and UVD

AMD's Excavator cores, that power Carrizo's CPU engine, are essentially buffed-up Bulldozer CPU architecture, but with some substantial improvements. The net result is increased CPU throughput and lower overall power consumption. To get there, AMD didn't make a costly migration to the next manufacturing process, but instead optimized the architecture in workhorse, high-volume 28 nanometer technology. This offers AMD the ability to keep economies of scale in a mature process node, as well as minimize yield loss in a more costly high density geometry.

All told, Excavator is as optimized as the company's current CPU architecture is going to get for now, and with some of the enhancements made, that's certainly not a bad thing.

AMD Carrizo Architecture Enhancements

AMD Carrizo Performance Lift

AMD offers a lot of meat with these two slides. First we see the arch enhancements made. Larger and lower latency L1 data caches, an enhanced branch predictor, and support for the latest instructions like AVX2, combined with a clock speed boost, all combine for solid gains, while offering claims of still lower power consumption. From an IPC standpoint, Carrizo reportedly offers a 4 - 15 percent increase in raw IPC (Instructions Per Clock). This is significant, when magnified by a higher clock speed as well - again "without increasing power consumption." Further, in the Cinebench performance graphs above, AMD is claiming a 55% increase in performance for Cinebench MT, with 15W Carrizo SKU, 45% of which is due to clock speed increase. These are not our internal testing results, but rather AMD's, obviously, so we'll have to see how things pan out once we get a Carrizo based notebooks in for testing.

Carrizo HSA Arch

Carrizo UVD Arch

Beyond the CPU there are other notable updates to Carrizo over the previous generation AMD Kaveri APU architecture. Carrizo is the first processor on the market to support the full HSA 1.0 specification for heterogeneous computing and communications between its CPU, GPU, and memory. Specifically, Carrizo's CPU and GPU have full visibility to the entire system RAM memory pool, up to 32GB and both CPU and GPU both have equal capability to dispatch work to the others' queues. Essentially, when apps are coded to take advantage of this architecture, especially in GPU-accelerated workloads like OpenCL-enabled apps and games, both the CPU and GPU engines can process instructions more efficiently and with lower latency than traditional, non-HSA architectures.

AMD has also enhanced the UVD (Unified Video Decoder) block in Carrizo, such that it offers a claimed 50 percent power reduction when playing back HD video, which reportedly doubles battery life under an HD video playback workload. AMD is specifically citing 9.5 hours of HD video playback will be possible in mainstream notebook designs. Again, we'll have to see how things shake out in retail product, but remember this metric is also dictated by battery capacity as well, of course.

carizzo h265playback
Left: Intel Core i5 notebook struggles with 4K H.265, Right: AMD Carrizo prototype sails smoothly

Finally, AMD has also stepped out with the world's first processor with on board hardware decode processing of HEVC or H.265 encoded content. HEVC stands for High Efficiency Video Coding which allows video files to be compressed to half the size of AVC video while maintaining full fidelity, or the same size as a comparable AVC file with higher visual fidelity. It's an emerging format and AMD is a bit ahead of the curve here, but Carrizo's UVD block now supports native 4K video as well and specifically with H.265 encoded content, is dramatically more efficient than Intel's latest Broadwell CPUs. At a recent tech day in San Francisco, the company had current Intel-powered laptops on hand, demonstrating stutter free and smooth HEVC (H.265) playback of 4K video on Carrizo, while the Intel notebooks choked and struggled.
Tags:  AMD, APU, (nyse:amd), carizzo

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