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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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  • Braincruser - Tuesday, September 04, 2012 - link

    True that it losses from a straight performance viewpoint in both gpu and cpu, but you are forgeting the pricerange these two are aimed at,
    Slowest intel+nvidia combo starts at 800$ and things go up very fast.
    Lower ends duck under 500$.
    A10 AMD maxes out at 750$ and that is with 1600x900 screen + 750 GB hdd. The same thing in intel+nvidia will cost you 1000+$ At least.
    Reply
  • chavv - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    Yup, many similarities :(

    Last attempt of Cyrix was CyrixGX - an integrated all-in-one chip, one of first in pc industry (100% FIRST X86!), that had cpu+audio+gpu in one chip
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    I hope their shell sues the crap out of amd the copycat ip theif. Reply
  • artk2219 - Tuesday, September 04, 2012 - link

    You mean Intel? The copycat IP thief? Seriously if its a good idea it will be copied, end of story. How good of an implementation it is and whether or not it improves on the idea at all are the important parts. Only ass hat companies like apple are willing sue somebody for an idea that they copied from someone else and claim it as their own. Companies like that are the ones holding back progress and are the reason why much of the IP system in the U.S. needs an overhaul. And seriously Cerise, I dont see why you need to throw so much hate towards AMD, is that the only way for you to get your kicks? Are you that small? Reply
  • phatboye - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    "The FirePro APUs are aimed at workstations that need professional quality graphics drivers but are fine with entry level GPU performance."

    I would figure that anyone needing professional quality graphics drivers would also require a high end CPU in which case it would be better to go with an Intel CPU/APU.

    I have not seen the benchmarks on this APU yet, but I doubt it will be able to compete with a Intel CPU paired with a discrete GPU, especially since this is targeted toward professional workstations where price isn't as big of an issue as compared to the consumer market. Unless this APU is substantially lower in total cost and/or has comparable performance to an Intel/dGPU solution I don't see this new FirePro APU being a big seller. Even then it's still doubtful.
    Reply
  • satai - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    What about chipset and ECC support? Reply
  • Arnulf - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    Precisely, what advantages does this APU offer to professional users in comparison to desktop A10 Trinity APU ? Reply
  • Merkerntish - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    It has the exact same CPU, it's the GPU that they changed. There are 2 kinds of graphics: Professional and Consumer.

    Nvidia has GeForce for consumer, and Quadro for pro.
    AMD has Radeon for consumer and FirePro for pro.

    This APU has a GPU with slight changes that make it a FirePro chip rather than a Radeon chip... That means it can run CAD applications, 3d rendering software, cad, movie editing/rendering etc software a lot faster than a consumer card, but at a way lower price than a $2000 quadro card.

    This wont match a quadro or FirePro, but it will give a whole new minimum price for most of the CAD world that just needs a new and cheap Pro GPU.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    The companies will just outsource to India where amd's crappy cheap junk for free steals good US jobs - and where the hackable / defense risk / amd drivers won't make so many uneasy.
    Yep, amd, the outsource company, cheap crap for cheap labor in a cheap nation, bye bye living wage USA.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    It probably enables OpenGL features/extensions that enable these apps to work, or to work better/faster. Reply

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