AMD has this week released more details of their new silicon number crunchers, all based on the now famous Jaguar micro-architecture.An architecture that is soon to be at the heart of both next generation consoles, the PS4 and Xbox 720.
AMD’s latest generation of power miser hopes to redress the dilemma of mobile computing. How to provide enough grunt to run the full blown version of Windows 8 Pro, allowing casual gaming and desktop applications while running on only a few watts of power. The Jaguar architecture embodies every trick AMD has up its sleeve to achieve this difficult balance, will it be enough?
While ARM processors have come to dominate the tablet and smartphone world a sleeping giant is waking up. With the release of the Windows 8 operating system has introduced a new class of Windows device, the Windows tablets.
The Jaguar Micro-Architecture
The Jaguar architecture has quickly become an extremely popular topic, especially since the announcement of the PlayStation 4 and its use of an 8 core Jaguar APU. The architecture itself is more like a mechano set than it is a standard design. AMD is able to quickly customize the design for their customers’ needs. Both of the PS4 and Xbox 720 APU designs are a result of this flexibility.
The Jaguar core improves on every aspect of the Bobcat generation that it is replacing. More powerful floating point, higher IPC (instructions per cycle), higher clock speeds and the latest generation Southern Island (HD 7000) graphics processor, on paper the Jaguar micro-architecture is looking to impress.
Each of the quad core processors are separate cores, unlike AMD’s other micro-architecture, Bulldozer, which groups cores into pairs. The four cores share 2MB of L2 cache that is split into 4 512Kb blocks, each able to be powered down individually to conserve power.
The 128 bit wide Floating Point Unit’s doubles the FPU power over the previous Bobcat generation. Internal changes to the schedulers and improvements to out of order execution of commands should allow the Jaguar to provide 15% IPC improvement over Bobcat.
All of the new standards are now supported by Jaguar, all of the ISA instruction sets found on mainstream desktop CPUs; AVX (advanced vector extensions), SIMD instruction sets such as SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4.2, and SSE4A. While the acronyms may not be day to day they do have a tremendous impact on media and graphics applications. Also giving the new Jaguar APU’s the ability to compete with Intel’s i3 and i5 desktop CPU’s.
“With a groundbreaking new APU line-up in 2013, AMD is poised to win in high-growth consumer segments,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager, AMD Global Business Units. “We are developing technologies with end users in mind – to bring true surround computing and immersive experiences to our everyday lives. It is exciting to bring our industry-leading APU technologies to market, including the industries first x86 quad-core SoC, while building on our leadership in graphics and gaming.”
The Jaguar Family: Temash, Kabini, Richland and Kaveri…
Within the Jaguar family AMD has a chip for every segment of the market. Temash is for tablets and eventually (possibly) smartphones. Kabini is for slim ultrabooks and notebooks with higher power limitations while Richland is for the desktop, but it will quickly be superseded by Kaveri in late 2013. TMSC is now ramping up the production of chips using their 28nm process; products using these chips should begin to appear mid 2013.
AMD takes great pride in announcing that Temash is the first quad core x86 System on a Chip (SoC) design in the world. A claim they can safely make, Tamesh has been designed from the outset for the tablet market where they tend to integrate the southbridge functionality (which performs mostly I/O duties) into the APU or CPU. Creating an entire system on a chip through total integration is the name of the game; saving cost, space and power. Temash is the only CPU in the range that takes this approach as laptop and desktop manufacturers often like to choose their own southbridge to include on the motherboard.
The Temash tablets demonstrated recently also included the catchy new Turbo Mode, yes the return of Turbo! Sadly though no Turbo Button is included. Turbo Mode is engaged by simply dropping the tablet into its cradle which allows the Tamesh tablets to bump up to a higher speed.
The dock not only provides the extra power required but also includes a cleverly designed integrated fan to provide extra cooling, adding up to a performance increase of 40%. Enough to play the driving game Dirt at 1920×1080 while staying at a decent frame rate (over 30fps).
The APU models that have been announced so far include the A6-1450 Temash APU, the A6-5200 Kabini APU, the Richland based A8-5545M and A10-5750M, all of which are quad core parts. Information on the clock speeds for the new chips is a little thin on the ground; expect a 10% improvement over Bobcat’s speed which finished at 1.7GHz, 1.9GHz might be possible. The 1450 Temash for tablets is expected to run at 1GHz on battery and 1.4GHz in Turbo Mode.
It’s not all about quad cores either; the A4-1200 dual core APU also joins the new Jaguar family. Clocked at 1 GHz it also integrates a Radeon HD 8180 graphics chip.
Surface Pro 2 to use Temash
Even Microsoft has been impressed by the Temash demonstration systems that have been doing the rounds. The video of a Kabini Ultrabook performing Xbox Kinect like functions might have caught their attention as well.
Rumours are suggesting that the upcoming refresh to Microsoft Surface tablets, the Surface Pro 2, will be powered by an up rated Temash chip. Microsoft may be employing some of the technology found in the PS4. Will the quad core chip use 4GB of DDR5 instead of the more typical DDR3 memory? Up front the Surface Pro will continue to use a spectacular 11.6 inch Full HD LCD.
AMD has a mobile processor refresh underway and it looks like Windows tablets are about to get very interesting. Has this also raised the possibility of no compromise applications, full blown desktop applications in the palm of your hand? Or will we forever be left at the mercy of half finished looking applications and games that remind us of the Volkswagen Golf? It looks like a Golf!