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Introducing AMD's Mobile Kaveri APUs

A couple weeks back, AMD flew us out to San Francisco for a briefing on their upcoming Mobile Kaveri APUs. Along with the briefing, we were given some time to run benchmarks on a prototype Kaveri laptop, though I'll note up front that the laptop isn't intended for retail and is merely a demonstration of performance potential. A funny thing happened about a week after the briefing, which some of you likely saw: AMD's web team accidentally posted all of the specs for the upcoming mobile Kaveri APUs ahead of schedule (for about half a day). We removed our coverage of the Mobile Kaveri APUs when AMD corrected the error, but we might as well jump right into things with the overview of the new mobile APUs.

Kaveri is AMD’s latest generation high-performance APU, and appeared first released on the desktop back in January of this year. We were a bit surprised – perhaps even perplexed – about the desktop first launch, considering AMD's "we're not going after the highest performance CPU market" stance. Then again, AMD-equipped laptops haven't been as strong as Intel-equipped laptops – not that the APUs aren't fast enough, but getting OEM partners to make a compelling AMD laptop seems rather difficult. As the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." AMD has provided a compelling APU and platform solution for a couple years, but the perception is that AMD platforms are budget platforms, so basically almost every corner gets cut. I'll have more to say on that later, but it's still a major concern in my book. Regardless, since the desktop Kaveri launch we have been eagerly awaiting the release of the mobile incarnation.

The launch has been scheduled for H1 2014 for some time now, and with AMD able to offer significant GPU performance with their APUs coupled with the space benefits of an integrated GPU versus a discrete GPU, it should be an easy sell. Mobile of course is not without its challenges. Power use is paramount, and while AMD has always been able to meet the desired TDPs, there is often the matter of performance tradeoffs required to hit those TDPs. Mobile is also a highly contested market right now; Intel of course has their Bay Trail and Haswell parts, but we're now seeing tablets and ARM-based Chromebooks pushing into AMD territory.

Despite the somewhat questionable decision to launch first on desktop – particularly odd given both Llano and Trinity launched more or less simultaneously on laptops and desktops – it's now time to pull the wrappings off Kaveri for the second time and see what AMD has created. We're now almost exactly a year after the launch of mobile Richland, which was really just a minor tweak of Trinity that launched about two years back. This is the first major architectural upgrade for AMD laptop APUs in two years, and expectations and hopes are high.

Kaveri brings a number of improvements, including the higher performance Steamroller based CPU cores and modern GCN based GPUs. We've previously covered this material, so rather than rehash things on the mobile side I'll simply refer back to the desktop Kaveri launch information. (You can also view the full presentation deck in the above gallery if you're interested.) AMD's Kaveri will be going up against Intel’s existing Haswell products, and this is AMD’s best chance to claw back market share from the Haswell family. Of course AMD has other APUs as well – specifically, Beema/Mullins will target the ultra-low power and tablet markets – but those compete in an even lower price bracket and go up against Intel's Bay Trail offerings. For now, let's start with an overview of the new Mobile Kaveri APUs.

AMD Mobile Kaveri SKUs
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  • Roland00Address - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    It turbos but not as well as Intel Reply
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    And because Intel is able to implement a better turbo they are somehow cheating? I mean it still is a advantage for the consumer in the end. Race to idle and all. Reply
  • zaza991988 - Thursday, June 05, 2014 - link

    Actually sometimes Turbo helps with the overall energy efficiency. Turbo enable to push the CPU to the limit and finish the high demanding task quickly so it can return into a lower power state afterwards. So you are temporarily increasing the instantaneous power to get a better an overall energy efficiency. Reply
  • sspiff - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    The TDP of AMD's offering includes the much more powerful GPU (compared to Intel's HD4400 in the i7). For the benchmark results, the Intel was paired with a discrete nVidia card (750M), which also guzzles power NOT included in the 15W TDP of the i7.

    I'm not familiar with what other parts are on-/off-die for these CPU's, but it's not fair to compare the power envelopes on a spec sheet like you're doing. The fair test would be to measure full-system power consumption of two comparable devices, which is sadly not possible at this time, as no Kaveri laptops have shipped yet.
    Reply
  • Torashin - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    Remember power consumption increases exponentially with frequency, and this phenomena is even more accentuated with Kaveri because of the process used. So what I'm saying is that the 19W APU's likely wouldn't be that much slower than the 35W one. Reply
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    Maybe its also true of frequency, but I believe you're looking for voltage. Power consumption for two different frequencies at the same voltage is much different than two voltages at the same frequency.

    I could be wrong, though.
    Reply
  • JumpingJack - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    Buzzzzz, wrong. Power = C*f*(V^2), power is linear with respect to frequency and quadratic with respect to voltage. (C is effective capacitance). Google "Power CMOS Circuits". Reply
  • zaza991988 - Thursday, June 05, 2014 - link

    Actually the relation between power and frequency is linear. The relation between the power and voltage is quadratic. p = c*f*v^2. and a higher TDP allows the CPU to stay at a higher performance state for a larger amount of time. you can compare the performance between a 15 watt TDP and 28 watt TDP in the following link. (rMBP 13 has 28 TDP ship and air has 15 or 17)
    http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Apple-MacBook-...
    Reply
  • eanazag - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    Close compared to the i7 ULV and GT 750. Often better than the i5. It is good against what will likely cost at least $100 to $200 more. Battery life that is 80% and weight that is 110% of those Intel machines might be a reasonable trade off saving $200. Reply
  • Dan Ritchie - Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - link

    On other sites (with slides) they're comparing the 19 watt part against the 15 watt part, not the 35 watt part. Reply

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