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Introducing Mobile Llano

Anand has provided our coverage of Llano’s architecture and he’ll have a preview of desktop performance, but he’s leaving the mobile coverage to me (Jarred). At a high level, the breakdown of Llano is really quite simple: take a K10.5 series CPU core (dual- or quad-core), pair it up with a DX11 capable GPU core similar to AMD’s Redwood line (5600/5600M or 6500M), and then mix in power gating and Turbo Core; bake everything in a 32nm process and you’ve got Llano. Easier said than done, of course, as K10.5 parts previously used a 45nm process while Redwood used 40nm, so AMD had plenty of work to do before they could realize the simplistic overview I just described; the result is what matters, though, so let’s break out our spoons and see how the pudding tastes. Here’s the overview of the mobile A-series APUs launching today.

AMD A-Series Fusion APUs for Notebooks
APU Model A8-3530MX A8-3510MX A8-3500M A6-3410MX A6-3400M A4-3310MX A4-3300M
CPU Cores 4 4 4 4 4 2 2
CPU Clock (Base/Max) 1.9/2.6GHz 1.8/2.5GHz 1.5/2.4GHz 1.6/2.3GHz 1.4/2.3GHz 2.1/2.5GHz 1.9/2.5GHz
L2 Cache (MB) 4 4 4 4 4 2 2
Radeon Model HD 6620G HD 6620G HD 6620G HD 6520G HD 6520G HD 6480G HD 6480G
Radeon Cores 400 400 400 320 320 240 240
GPU Clock (MHz) 444 444 444 400 400 444 444
TDP 45W 45W 35W 45W 35W 45W 35W
Max DDR3 Speed DDR3- 1600
DDR3L- 1333
DDR3- 1600
DDR3L- 1333
DDR3- 1333
DDR3L- 1333
DDR3- 1600
DDR3L- 1333
DDR3- 1333
DDR3L- 1333
DDR3- 1333
DDR3L- 1333
DDR3- 1333
DDR3L- 1333

There are two different power envelopes for Llano right now: 35W and 45W. The former models end with an M while the latter end in MX. Don’t let the relatively high TDPs fool you, as similar to Intel we’re looking at maximum TDP while idle and low-load TDP will be far lower. Based on battery life, it appears that the entire test notebook consumes around 7.42W at idle. By comparison, a slightly larger dual-core SNB notebook consumes around 7.68W when idle, so we’re very close to parity at idle. As noted earlier, all APU models come with 1MB L2 cache per core, and Turbo Core allows for cores to clock up to higher values under the right circumstances. That could prove important, as clock-for-clock K10.5 cores can’t hope to keep up with Sandy Bridge, and Sandy Bridge parts are already clocking significantly higher.

On the CPU side of the equation, there are currently only dual-core and quad-core parts, so tri-core appears dead (or at least MIA for now). The other part of the APU is the GPU cores, and here there are three options. The A6 and A8 APUs are both quad-core, but A6 has 320 Radeon cores clocked at 400MHz compared to 400 cores at 444MHz—so the 6620G is potentially 40% faster. A4 APUs trim the GPU further, with 240 cores clocked at 444MHz, and they’re the dual-core parts. The 6620G could be up to 67% faster than 6480G, under the right circumstances. As Anand mentioned, right now all of the A-series APUs are coming from the “big Llano” die, but in the future we’ll see the A4 production shift to “little Llano” instead of using harvested die.

Vision and Radeon Branding

For 2011, AMD is simplifying their Vision branding with Llano, skipping the Premium, Ultimate, and Black modifiers and instead referring to the APU. Vision E2 refers to the dual-core E-series APUs, while the A4, A6, and A8 lines correlate directly with the A-series APUs. The Radeon brand continues as an important asset, so there will be sticker options to promote quad-core and dual-core CPUs with Radeon graphics. What about the Dual Graphics, though?

With the integrated GPU finally able to approach the performance of midrange mobile GPUs, AMD is making a return to hybrid CrossFire (IGP and a dGPU working together), though the official name is now apparently “Radeon Dual Graphics” or just "Dual Graphics"; we’ve also heard it referred to as “Asymmetrical CrossFire”, and we’ll use any of these terms throughout this article.

We first saw an attempt at hybrid CrossFire with the HD 2400 and the 790 chipset, and later that extended to HD 3400 cards, but it never really impressed as it was limited to desktops and you could still get far better performance by spending an extra $10 to upgrade from a 3400 to a 3600 dGPU. The 6620G fGPU is several times more powerful than the old HD 4250 IGP, making CrossFire potential useful, especially on laptops where the power savings from shutting off the dGPU are very significant.

With Radeon Dual Graphics, AMD introduces more brands. The various Fusion GPUs (fGPUs) only work in CrossFire with specific discrete GPUs (dGPUs)—nearly all of the 6400M, 6600M, and 6700M line are eligible—giving rise to several new Radeon names. If you start with a base of a Radeon HD 6620G and add a Radeon HD 6770M to it, the resulting combination is now called a Radeon HD 6775G2. Pair it with a 6750M and you get a 6755G2. The entirety of the list is depicted in the slide from above. For now these names are just going to be listed on the notebook spec sheet, the drivers themselves will report the actual GPU you have driving the panel you're connected to. AMD is still working out the right way to expose these names through software to avoid confusion.

Power Gating & Turbo Core AMD’s Llano Mobile Test Platform
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  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    I'm honestly sick of the fact I can't play TF2 on high settings on my laptop AND I cannot find an affordable computer to do so while I'm not paying attention during class. Several people I know feel the same way. Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    The GPU performance hits dues to the shares bus is very low. Getting NV 540 /ati 5650 performance is far better than most expected.
    Battery life is simply amazing. Far better than expected.

    The OEM is standing at a very long line for this.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    That battery life is incredibly impressive. That AMD will finally have a competitive mobile offering is huge news; their engineers definitely deserve a pat on the back. Let's just hope that OEMs don't mess things up by cutting costs and shipping Llano laptops with tiny batteries.

    Unfortunately AMD will almost certainly struggle to get the message across that their CPU performance deficit is pretty much irrelevant for the vast majority of mobile usage models. It'll be especially difficult to get across to the huge number of consumers that think a 2GB 6570 is better than a 768MB GTX 460, but I wish AMD's marketing department the best of luck.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    They'll struggle because cpu performance deficit does matter, cpu performance matters more then gpu performance for most of us. While llano might be *enough* today everyone buys a notebook and expects it too last several years.

    If llano currently only has the performance of a notebook several years old (core 2 intel) then you can bet in 3 years it'll be dog slow.

    Really its only a winner for a pretty small margin of people. If you don't really care about gaming you go intel because cpu's are faster, if you really care about gaming you go intel + discrete. That leaves those who really care about gaming but are on an extremely tight budget.
    Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I think that you underestimate the effect of price. If you really care about gaming you go desktop, anyway. If you want a reasonable size laptop with good battery life and capable of some gaming, Llano will fit the bill, and if it sells considerably lower than the competition, then I'm sure a lot of people will buy it. It won't be anyones main gaming rig, but it will surely serve many as a secondary one.

    I agree that Llano is disappointing at the CPU level, but it really should be enough for most people. How well it sells will depend on pricing. There are big E-350 laptops being sold, which boggles the mind, and there wouldn't be if all people really cared or had any clue about performance.
    Reply
  • ppeterka - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I strongly disagree with you. My first notebook was exceptionally crappy in terms of raw CPU power. Desktop P4 Celeron 2.6GHz was used to power it. Yet I could use it for more than 4 years, after which I changed the CPU to a 2.8GHz P4, only to discover that the "user experience" was left unchanged except of the rare cases when I used the computer to work on it. Compile times were not left unchanged...

    But even with the Celeron in, the casual usage was just fine. Why? Because of the quite nice VIA IGP in it. I could actually play GTA San Andreas on the poor thing - even though there were times it was not very much fun, but it did work. Swapping the CPU didn't make it much better, only considering work duties.

    Today "everything" is about multimedia. By "everything" I mean 80% of what the people are doing. Youtube, Facebook, who-knows-what, all. None of my friends ever regretted heeding to my advice to choose a notebook with a reasonable graphics solution even when there would be an altenative type with a stronger CPU. (of course not to the extremities). Granted, they were not primarily interested in scientific calculations, or heavy duty software development.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Multimedia doesn't need llano's gpu - SB graphics accelerates video just fine. Hence why you are recommending something that has better 3D graphics performance they'll never use, over something with a faster cpu which they will use all the time? Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    You claim that CPU performance matters. That's true, but can you answer the following -

    1) Consider two laptops side by side. One has a ~2.5GHz C2D, one has a quad-core Sandy Bridge. Name a single task more than 5% of mobile users run that would allow you to definitively tell which laptop is running the C2D and which has the SB. (Task Manager doesn't count, I'm talking actually using an application.)

    2) Name a single task or application that theoretically might let you do the above once it's widespread in the next 3-5 years.

    3) What percentage of laptops are sold for <$1000 with roughly Llano or below levels of graphics?

    4) What percentage of laptop buyers care about battery life?

    My answers are -
    1) No clue
    2) No clue
    3) Most of them
    4) Most of them

    That's why I say that Llano's battery life is huge and its CPU performance really doesn't matter. Even Intel agrees, which is one reason why you're seeing them move towards lower-power CPUs. Ivy Bridge will have "configurable" TDP, and Haswell will move from 35-35W to 10-20W:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4378/ivy-bridge-a-ti...
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    3) The fact is you can get a laptop with better GPU performance and faster CPU performance for $700-750 on the Intel side:

    i5 480 + HD5730 for $700:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    i5 480 + GT 540M (which beat 6620 in almost every gaming benchmark in this review) for $700:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    i5 480 + HD6550M for $700:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    i5 2410 + GT 540M for $750:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Every single one of these provides faster CPU & GPU performance (http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards...

    So Llano A-8 would need to be less than $700.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Can you find faster GPUs for <$1000? Sure, but that wasn't the question. Go to Dell or HP's website and look at the number of laptops priced under $1000, then look at the percentage of those that come with significantly better than Llano-level graphics.

    There's much more to determining the value of a laptop than raw CPU and GPU performance; you could easily pay more than $700 for a Llano laptop and still be getting a very good deal.

    I'm not saying whether or not Llano should target this or that price point, though - I'm just trying to give a little perspective.
    Reply

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