At its Financial Analyst Day earlier this year, AMD laid out its vision for the future of the company. For the most part the strategy sounded a lot like what AMD was supposed to be doing all along, now with a strong commitment behind it. One major theme of the new AMD was agility. As a company much smaller than Intel, AMD should be able to move a lot quicker as a result. Unfortunately, in many cases that simply wasn't the case. The new executive team at AMD pledged to restore and leverage that lost agility, partially by releasing products targeted to specific geographic markets and verticals where they could be very competitive. Rather than just fight the big battle with Intel across a broad market, the new AMD will focus on areas where Intel either isn't present or is at a disadvantage and use its agility to quickly launch products to compete there.

One of the first examples of AMD's quick acting is in today's announcement of a new FirePro series of APUs. On the desktop and in mobile we have Trinity based APUs. The FirePro APUs are aimed at workstations that need professional quality graphics drivers but are fine with entry level GPU performance.

At a high level the FirePro APU makes sense. Just as processor graphics may eventually be good enough for many consumers, the same can be said about workstation users. Perhaps today is a bit too early for that crossover, but you have to start somewhere.

Going up against Intel in a market that does value graphics performance meets the agile AMD requirement, although it remains to be seen how much of a burden slower scalar x86 performance is in these workstation applications.

AMD's motivation behind doing a FirePro APU is simple: workstation/enterprise products can be sold at a premium compared to similarly sized desktop/notebook parts. Take the same Trinity die, pair it with FirePro drivers you've already built for the big discrete GPUs, and you can sell the combination for a little more money with very little additional investment. Anything AMD can do at this point to increase revenue derived from existing designs is a much needed effort. 

There are two FirePro APUs being announced today, the A300 and A320:

AMD FirePro APUs
APU Model A300 A320
“Piledriver” CPU Cores 4 4
CPU Clock (Base/Max) 3.4GHz / 4.0GHz 3.8GHz / 4.2GHz
L2 Cache (MB) 4 4
FirePro Cores 384 384
GPU Clock 760MHz 800MHz
TDP 65W 100W

The chips are effectively rebranded "quad-core" Trinity APUs with fully featured, 384 core VLIW4 Northern Islands/Cayman derived GPU. There's no indication of GPU boost support, with max GPU frequencies set at 760MHz and 800MHz for the two parts. There's a pretty sizable gap in TDP between the two chips, telling us a lot about how much it takes to reach the A320's higher clocks.

The competition for these FirePro APUs is Intel's Xeon with P4000 graphics (P4000 is the professional version of the HD 4000 we have on the desktop IVB parts). I haven't personally done any comparisons between AMD's FirePro drivers and what Intel gives you with the P4000, so I'll hold off on drawing any conclusions here, but needless to say that at least from a performance standpoint AMD should have a significant advantage. Given the long history of producing professional graphics drivers, I would not be surprised to see some advantages there as well. 

AMD hasn't released any pricing information as the A300/A320 won't be available in the channel. The FirePro APUs are OEM only and are primarily targeted at markets like India where low cost, professional graphics workstations are apparently in high demand. 

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  • mevans336 - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    I can't help but think of Cyrix in the 90's?

    AMD has a dying CPU brand, outshined in every way by Intel. Intel will reach low-power CPU and high performance GPU long before AMD will do the same.

    So that leaves Radeon and nVidia. They are already being beat my nVidia, with Intel nipping at the heels of both at the entry level, especially with Haswell. What is AMD to do?
    Reply
  • phatboye - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    "AMD has a dying CPU brand, outshined in every way by Intel."

    Can you please explain in what way Intel's GPU "outshined" AMD's GPU? Link to benchmarks, I've never heard anything remotely close to this.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    He said "CPU" and you challenged him about "GPU". Intel has been outshining AMD with CPUs since Core (technically a revision of Pentium M). Single core performance, multi-core performance, thermals, power consumption, etc. It's been a clean sweep for 6 straight years.

    It's no secret AMD wins with IGP... for now, but Intel is picking up their game. HD3000 was tolerable in several games, HD4000 makes almost any game playable. HDx0000 on Haswell will likely be a force to be reckoned with, assuming it gets proper driver support.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    I think anyone reading this article fully knows that Intel cpus' have consistently been higher performers than AMD's for some time. There's no doubt about it. They also know that Intel GPU's have a long history of substandard performance.

    I think the key point is to remember what market segment AMD has chosen to focus on. As many consumers are oblivious to the internals of a computer...they just want it to work and do what then need. Typically today's general consumers use their computers for surfing, email, FB, etc. I'm sure you will agree that most consumers systems are never really under load for more than a minute. Gaming consoles are the most common tool they turn too when they want to play games.

    AMD has always been the price leader when it comes to reasonable performance at a reasonable cost.

    It's one thing to say you have the fastest CPU's but when it comes down to purchase time....most consumers are not willing to fork out the big bucks. It's like buying a Ferrari when you only drive to the grocery store and never on the highway. The exception to this is the fashionable hardware that Apple produces. Those consumers (aka Fanboys) would buy an Apple even if it was powered by an AMD APU. They are not aware of the specs or focused on them. They only care that its an apple product and looks cool. They don't care/consider that it costs more than a similarly spec'd PC.

    In the end...there are people who research and buy what meets their needs....and then there are those who are followers of the current trends. Intel has better branding, but AMD would also meet the needs of most consumers. IMO.

    Best wishes choice.
    Reply
  • parkerm35 - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    @ nathanddrews

    AMD wins on IGP for now? are you for real? Haswell will be an improvement, no doubt, but AMD will have GCN 2.0 cores in Kaveri with a 256 bit wide memory bus. Combine that with Steamroller cores and HSA support. Watch this space!

    HSA is the future, please feel free to educate yourself, if you haven't already.
    1TFLOPs of single precision compute performance from an APU! AMD a dying brand? don't be silly, its just making the transition to the future.

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/130939-the-fu...
    Reply
  • Merkerntish - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    Let him dream. He doesn't know about Kaveri at all.

    Haswell: Adding somewhere for the GPU to store its data alone
    Kaveri: Adding something that the CPU and GPU can share together

    Everyone knows that the Kaveri will be faster if designed properly, the problem is that AMD sometimes doesnt design properly.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    Oh please, you guys are acting like I'm some Intel fanboy. I also never said AMD was a dying brand, so I'm not sure where that came from. Truth is that we don't know anything concrete about Haswell or Kaveri's performance yet. What we do know right now is that HD4000 beats Trinity in some games while being trounced by Trinity in others (see AT's review of Trinity).

    Estimates of Haswell GT3 say up to 2.5X improvement over HD4000, estimates of Kaveri say 2.5X improvement over Trinity. So, as you said, if AMD build it properly, it will triumph. Either way, "entry-level" graphics are going to be very impressive compared to today.

    HSA is very impressive on paper, so we'll see how well it gets carried out IRL. By then, Haswell and Kaveri will be old news.
    Reply
  • karasaj - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    The HD4000 beats/ties the mobile version of Trinity. (The mobile and desktop HD4000 are the same). The desktop version of Trinity will probably absolutely stomp all over the HD 4000. Reply
  • KitsuneKnight - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    Shame for AMD that desktops have long since been eclipsed by notebooks. Maybe if they could fit their desktop iGPU into their mobile part (without causing it to burst into flames) they could make some progress. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    ROFL
    While amd is pushing apu, they're getting STOMPED by nVidia's optimus technology - which pairs up with a SB or IB, since amd's mobile cpu side is so blow.
    So amd loses the mobile graphics sale, and the cpu sale since their apu sucks.
    That's two refreshes of loser for amd...
    I suspect the 4th or 5th may be "playable".
    Reply

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