Brazos 2.0 the newest member of AMD’s Fusion APU platform, Application Processing Unit. A new blend of graphics chip and traditional CPU, reducing an entire computer to a single chip.
AMD’s APU technology is about to be fully refreshed with it’s second generation Fusion APU’s being released, first to arrive is Brazos 2. This sub-notebook low power computing chip, Brazos 2, is now being delivered to manufacturers, technically already released as all of its customers are laptop manufacturers. Expect hardware using Brazos 2 to start appearing in early May, while the Trinity APU’s will be released on May 15.
This is the first of AMD’s next generation silicon that it hopes will take the battle to Intel. Aiming squarely for the googlies AMD hopes to take over the Ultrabook market before Intel even has it’s hardware released. This will of course require AMD to execute their plan without unexpected hold-ups or cancellations.
Brazos 2 is the basis of the Z-Series Platform, aimed at the ultra low power end of the market, AMD will have a strong competitor to battle Intel’s Atom CPU’s. Brazos 2 will support APU’s with power requirements as low as 4.5 watt’s, with better graphics and CPU performance than the Atom APU’s.
The Brazos 2 platform is based on an APU with up to two Bobcat-class x86 cores, next-generation Radeon HD 7000 graphics core, and a single-channel DDR3 memory controller. The new A68 Fusion controller hub (FCH) input/output controller (Hudson D3L) provides support for USB 3.0 as well as Serial ATA-600.
Two models have been made available initially, the E1-1200 and E2-1800. Both APU’s provide dual core CPU’s with next generation graphics power. The E1-1200 includes two cores at 1.40GHz, 1MB cache, Radeon HD 7310 graphics engine with 80 cores at 500MHz, that requires 18W. The E2-1800 includes two cores at 1.70GHz, 1MB cache, Radeon HD 7340 graphics engine with 80 cores at 680/523MHz and also required 18W or power. Technically the chips are available now, their customer base being OEM manufacturers can leed to underwhelming product releases.
Produced using TSMC’s 40nm process technology, a rock solid reliable technology the ramp up should be fast. The 40nm process makes the low power ability of the Brazos 2 chipset even more impressive. It is keeping pace with, and in some cases beating Intel at the power efficiency game, even though it’s competing with Intel’s far superior 32nm process and soon the 22nm processes, the 3D chips.
“The introduction of Brazos 2 this quarter builds on the momentum. Thanks to many new features and improved performance and extended battery life, we have made it easy for customers to take advantage of these advancements by simplifying platform transitions and reducing their time to market. Trinity and Brazos 2 systems will be available globally this quarter and we expect broad availability for the key back-to-school period,” said Rory Read, chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices, during quarterly conference call with financial analysts.
The A8 and A10 Series desktop and laptop chipsets will address the hotter ends of the market. With this new Trinity generation having models ranging from 18wats to 100watts. Utilising the new second generation Bulldozer CPU core, Piledriver. along with the latest 7000 GPU technology AMD will be aggressively targeting the Ultrabook and Desktop markets.
Cheaper than Intel’s current equivalent Sandy Bridge based APU but with far superior graphics and equally low power CPU cores AMD may have a lead in Intel’s brand new sand pit, the Ultrabook market. Until Intel can get its next generation Ivy Bridge CPU’s out, at which point all bets are off.
Trinity APU’s and CPU’s are also shipping to manufacturers at the moment, expect new hardware on May 15.
Second Generation Impact
Expect pressure to continue to force the prices for sub notebooks to drop. There may not be much more room to fall but competition will be fierce for this high volume market. As the rest of the Fusion family is rolled out the competition in the middle of the laptop market should be build up for the US back to school sales and then Christmas. Prices on the more powerful Trinity should see ultra thin notebooks aka Ultrabooks priced as low as $500 USD, while Intel based Ultrabooks will still be hung up high at $800 to $1,000 USD.
Netbooks were the dominant compact laptop format when Brazos was first released, and it made tremendous inroads into the market with many ultra-low power and ultra cheap models released. This chipset helped to establish the $300 price point for sub notebooks. AMD has shipped over 30 million Brazos chipsets so far, Brazos even appeared in a number of full size notebooks, low power desktops and sub-notebooks.
Brazos 2 represents a level of performance that has never been available at the $300 sub-notebook price point. Capable of casual gaming while the Atom CPU is turning Call Of Duty into a slide show. The Brazos 2 also brings greatly enhanced media playback functionality, making the sub-notebook a very interesting media center option for your living room. Low power, silent, 100% codec coverage, standard browser, HDMI out and numerous USB ports for USB storage devices. Load a copy of XMBC for that full home theater experience.
The new Brazos will also help AMD to dip it’s toes in new markets such as tablets. AMD has denied plans to produce a Medfield style mobile phone chipset, tablets on the other hand they are openly targeting. The Acer A500 Wind is the only good news for AMD on the tablet front so far, it is getting a little long in the tooth though, having been released last year.
The new Brazos 2 based netbooks and notebooks will be powerful enough for casual gaming and media center duties with the dual core CPU and new Direct X 11 graphics core. While this class of laptop will never be considered a piece of high power computing hardware, Brazos 2 should bring a new level of power and usability never before available to this class. Remembering these sub-notebooks are generally well under 2.2 pounds (1kg) light and have 8+ hours of battery life.
The next six months should see both AMD and Intel refresh their APU and CPU line-ups. Intel will begin the roll out of it’s already famous Ivy Bridge with 3D transistors. AMD will have it’s second generation Fusion and Trinity chips lined up ready to do battle. All representing a substantial performance improvement over previous generations and an improvement to the value versus performance equation for everyone in the market for a new computer. Happy next generation shopping.
Reference: Wikipedia AMD Fusion
Related Article: They Call Me Trinity