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AMD reveals Kaveri APU series

AMD Kaveri
AMD Kaveri
Kaveri launch: AMD's new 28 nm APU succeeds the previous Richland architecture with a substantially upgraded integrated GPU. Initial models will be available for desktops only as the A10-7850K and 7700K, but mobile models will soon follow

Welcome to the revolution. AMD hypes its latest APU generation, codenamed "Kaveri", with powerful promises to keep. Even if today's launch revolves around desktop models only, we are still eager to take a quick look at some of the changes and new features that the new chips will bring.

We begin with the first two announced models: the A10-7850K and A10-7700K. A third model, the A8-7600, is expected to follow later in the first quarter. The official technical specifications for these models are as follows:

A10-7850K A10-7700K A8-7600
Cores (Module) 4 (2) 4 (2) 4 (2)
CPU Speed 3.7 GHz 3.4 GHz 3.1 GHz / 3.3 GHz
CPU Turbo 4.0 GHz 3.8 GHz 3.3 GHz / 3.8 GHz
GPU Cores 8 (512 Shaders) 6 (384 Shaders) 6 (384 Shaders)
GPU Speed 720 MHz 720 MHz 720 MHz
TDP 95 W 65 W 45 W / 65 W
MSRP 173 $ 152 $ 119 $

Like its predecessors Trinity and Richland, Kaveri builds upon the Bulldozer design. A maximum of two modules are available with two cores, though AMD mentions four compute cores in its PR. The new architecture is expected to outperform Steamroller and Piledriver (Trinity/ Richland) by about 10 percent in terms of performance-per-watt due to improved branch prediction, additional decoders and a higher L1 cache.

Despite these optimizations, final CPU performance is only barely above its predecessor; The base and Turbo clock rates of Kaveri are slightly lower than Richland.

The reason for this lies in the new 28 nm SHP process at GlobalFoundries. This process was developed specifically for Kaveri to satisfy the different demands of the CPU and GPU portions of the APU. By allowing both very high clock rates in one area and a denser packing in another, AMD claims to have been able to fit 2.41 billion transistors in an area of just 245 mm2. In contrast, a typical 32 nm Richland APU was of a very similar size made up of "only" about 1.3 billion transistors.

The increased transistor budget was heavily invested in the integrated GPU. Kaveri has upped the number of VLIW4 ALUs from 384 shaders in Trinity/ Richland to 512 shaders and 8 Compute Units, all based on the GCN architecture with cues from the Radeon R9 290X GPU. In addition to the DirectX 11.2 and Mantle API feature sets, raw GPU performance has increased noticeably. The 45 W A8-7600, for example, returned results that were about 30 percent higher than the previous A10-6800K leader in 3DMark Fire Strike, according to AMD.

Another major feature of Kaveri is the HSA (Heterogenous System Architecture) concept. Various monitoring tools will help ensure that the entire APU and GPU can be used as efficiently as possible for general calculations. Meanwhile, HUMA (Heterogenous Uniform Memory Access) will allow for data that can be more easily shared and addressed between the CPU and GPU for reduced latency and power consumption. A similar technology can be found in the XBox One and Playstation 4 consoles which, perhaps unsurprisingly, are powered by AMD APUs.

Beyond the Kaveri reveal, we are particularly excited about the eventual notebook APU models. Though AMD has remained mum, users should expect Kaveri to appear in the low-power segment for notebooks. DDR3-2400 support is not expected, but performance gains are expected followed by increased battery life in S3 mode. Depending on Intel's roadmap, Kaveri may very well be face-to-face with Broadwell soon after its launch instead of the current Haswell generation.


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Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - Lead Editor U.S. - 4846 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2011
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.
contact me via: @AllenNgoNBC
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Till Schönborn/ Allen Ngo, 2014-01-14 (Update: 2014-01-15)