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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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Totally agree with the pricing. The highest performance A8 laptops are going to need to be $700 with fGPU only, and maybe $800 with dGPU, because that's where dual-core i5 + Optimus laptops are currently sitting.

    Of course, I'd still pay more for good build quality and a nice LCD and keyboard.

    Oh, and the people saying CPU is the be-all, end-all... well, even though I have a couple Core i7 Bloomfield systems in my house (and many Core i5/i7 laptops), my primary work machine is running... Core 2 QX6700 (@3.2GHz) with an HD 5670 GPU and 4GB RAM. The area I want to upgrade the most is storage (currently using RAID0 Raptor 150GB), but I have no desire to reformat and start transferring apps to another PC, so I continue to plug along on the Raptors. This CPU is now over four years old, and yet the only thing I really don't like is the HDD thrashing and slow POST times.
    Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    None of those GPU's match the power of the 6620, which you can find in even the A6 series, so your point is invalid. Reply
  • Dribble - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Actually you can normally tell quite easily which laptop has the slower cpu. It's the one with the fan whining away. With laptops having a more powerful processor that isn't having to work so hard is important just to keep the thing quiet.

    As for cpu power - well windows and it's software just isn't that efficient. Even a fairly complex word 2010 doc (few pictures/charts/etc) can start to feel slow on a 2.5Ghz C2D (I should know my laptop has a 2.4Ghz C2D). The flash games my kids seem to be forever finding are also cpu only and will run it flat out and the game won't seem as smooth as it would on a faster machine.

    Sure you can get by with a slower machine, but it doesn't make for such a pleasant experience.

    It has been the case since PC's arrived that over time software needs more and more power. e.g. I could run word 6 on a 486, I now really need a dual core 2Ghz machine to even run word 2010. I don't see that changing hence the faster your cpu the longer your pc will remain usable.
    Reply
  • lukarak - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    I've been using a 2007 tech MacBook white up until a few months ago with a 2.0 GHz C2D. Over time i upgraded it to include 6 GB of memory, a 64 GB SSD + 500 GB HDD, and then i transitioned to a 2011 MPB 13 with a SNB CPU and 4 GB of memory. Aside from a better screen, once i put in the SSD, i couldn't see the diference in speed. I usually use a lot of VM, use Eclipse and XCode, and most of the time watch 720p and the more than 3 years newer CPU isn't all that revolutionary. Sure, it may not use 30ish % of the CPU to play movies, but only 20ish, but until that's 50ish% when the fan gets louder it doesn't really matter for me. Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    The CPU looks relatively slow to the i5/i7, but its really not that slow. Seriously. Compare it to an atom and see that its not that bad. Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    The CPU isn't even bad. I don't know what you guys are all on but A8 cores are improved phenom II x4 cores... I would say its about the same performance as the i5 series. All the benchmarks online are measured on the WORST A8 chip, which has the worst CPU performance. All of the reviews are on A8-3500M. Just wait until the A8-3850 gets benchmarked.

    All I'm saying is that its not fair to compare the worst A8 to the best i5 or best i7, plain and simple.
    Reply
  • sundancerx - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    for most of the charts, yellow bar is assigned to INTEL asus k53e(i5-2520m+hd3000), but on asymetrical crossfire, this is assigned to AMD llano (18-3500m+crossfire). kind of confusing if you dont pay attention or am i the one confused? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Dark yellow = K53E, bright yellow = CrossFire. If you have a different color you think would work, I'll be happy to change it. Purple? Brown? Orange? Reply
  • adrien - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I agree Brazos looks less interesting now but it still has one huge advantage: price. If Llano notebooks are going to sell for $600 (or $500), Brazos are 40% less expensive. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Brazos E-350 (which is already 60% faster than C-50) start at around $425. They come with 2GB RAM and a 250GB HDD. AMD is saying $500 as the target price for A4, $600 for A6, and $700 for A8, but I suspect we'll see lower than that by at least $50. So if your choice is Brazos E-350 for $425 or Llano A4 for $450, and the Llano packs 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD, there's no competition--though size will of course be another factor. I figure Llano will bottom out at 13.3-inch screens where Brazos is in 11.6" and 12.1". Personally, I'd never buy a 10" netbook; I just can use them comfortably. I'm happiest with 13.3" or 14" laptops. Reply

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