AMD Meetings: APUs Make a Big Splash

We also had a visit with AMD at their meeting rooms, which were filled with product demonstrations. Brazos laptops and netbooks occupied a large area just inside the door—we counted at least 20 different laptops of varying sizes and capabilities. The vast majority of there were running an AMD APU, in this case Brazos. There were 10” E-350 netbooks, 11.6” E350 ultraportables, and even 14” to 15.6” solutions all using the power friendly APU. A few of the systems also had K10.5 CPUs with the new 6000M GPUs (we’ll get to those next). Browsing around the show floor, though, Brazos looks to be making some real waves, providing a compelling alternative to Atom in the sub-$500 netbook market. In the next couple of months, we should see a lot of Brazos systems, from small nettop/desktop systems to netbooks… and yes, tablets as well. AMD reports battery life of up to 12 hours on some of their test netbooks; the reason they’re able to get such long battery life is pretty simple:

Intel’s Atom is a fairly tiny chip, but even though it manages to sip power, it’s not a very attractive performer. Brazos is even smaller than Atom, in part thanks to the use of 40nm (Brazos) vs. 45nm (Atom), and while raw CPU performance may not be that much higher than the current Atom options, the DX11 GPU is an order of magnitude more powerful than the GMA 3150 found in Pine Trail. AMD mentioned at one point that the Brazos APU is rated at up to 90GFLOPS of compute performance; to put that in perspective, the new quad-core Sandy Bridge CPU (no word on the GPU in SNB) provides a similar 87GLOPS of compute potential. GFLOPS isn’t the most useful of measurements, but it does help to put things in perspective: similar compute potential in a package that has an 18W TDP (E-350), where i7-2600K is specced at 95W.

AMD is aiming the new E-series Zacate parts at Intel’s P6000 processor, while the C-series is gunning for Atom. You need to consider the source when looking at the above slides—and note also that most of the graphs don’t start at 0—but if AMD can deliver 10.5 hours with an 18W Zacate chip that puts them in the same ballpark as Atom. We’ve never been super positive about the performance of Atom netbooks, so better performance and a similar price would be a great starting point, but what will really make or break the laptops is the design. Here’s what we saw:

Sadly, not a single netbook or laptop stands out as being clearly superior to anything else out there. Performance looks good, aesthetics vary from okay to great depending on your point of view, but the LCDs are all same-old, same-old. It would be awesome to see ASUS or HP or some other manufacturer step up to the plate and deliver a Zacate ultraportable with a beautiful screen—you know, like the IPS stuff they're putting into $400 tablets? After all, the APU is now able to provide all the multimedia prowess you could ask for; why not give us a display that can make the content shine?

To drive home the point about the superiority of the Brazos platform compared to Atom, AMD had one more demonstration for us. This involved a set of four netbooks/ultraportables from several (undisclosed) manufacturers. On the far left is an Atom N550 netbook; next in line was an E-350 laptop, then C-50 and last C-30. All four netbooks were running a looping 1080p H.264 video with no apparent problems. Then AMD pulled out a $6000 thermal imaging device—and yes, I really want one! You can see the results in the gallery above, for the Atom N550, C-50, and C-30 (we didn’t get a good shot of the E-350 top temp, but it was ~97F I think). The bottom of the netbooks was even warmer, hitting ~97 on E-350 and ~98 on C-50, compared to 112F on N550. The results weren’t too much of a surprise, as the Atom CPU lacks any form of HD video decoding acceleration and thus ends up hitting the CPU quite hard. Mostly it was a confirmation of the fact that decoding H.264 on a GPU is a lot more efficient than doing it on a CPU, even if the CPU is a low power Atom dual-core.

GlobalFoundries – Expanding to Meet Demand More AMD Demos and Future Roadmap


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  • Lolimaster - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    And with less bias of course.

    Anandtech Your source for hardware biased analysis and news.
  • bennyg - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    I don't care about four + years ago. I look around now and get a lot more info from AT's reviews and analysis than I do from 95% of other reviews which are just regurgitated press release, rehashed marketing lines, a couple of dodgy graphs and a graphic that takes up half a page with a "Gold Award" or "Editors Choice" or some such rubbish.

    I think you're misinterpreting criticism of crap for "bias".

    If you don't like the product, you can always ask for your money back. Oh wait...
  • mino - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    1) a quality spin is the most dangerous because you do not recognize it ... (it is the same as with good lies)
    2) AT has, as a matter of fact, tendency to get spiny here and there, (but i do not believe it is paid for it)
    3) This specific article is just a news summary of CES. Accusing it of spin is stupid because its primary purpose is REPORTING about (what companies are) spinning at CES!
  • bennyg - Saturday, January 8, 2011 - link

    yeah, I forgot too, Intel's marketing dollars mustn't be enough to stop AT bagging the crap out of Atom every time it's mentioned.


    I also think Intel - especially it seems with SB - are far ahead of AMD's CPUs as well - jeez, I'm biased - where the hell are my Intel Dollars?!
  • srp49ers - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    It seems like you are purposely misleading the readers by saying that bulldozer is coming later this year. When AMD themselves said Q2 at analyst day. Reply
  • Abwx - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    Such innaccuracies are so big that it s not by chance.... Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    It's entirely possible that AMD have purposefully gone quiet on the entire subject for fear of promising something that may yet be delayed yet further. Bulldozer not only caters for the enthusiast segment of the market, but pretty much their entire server roadmap... so it would be good for us to be told sooner rather than later if it's going to be delayed or indeed come in early Spring.

    The server market is their bread and butter, so it's really in their best interests to let their potential customers know the score rather than risk letting them all move over to Nehalem and Sandy Bridge based Xeon servers.
  • tipoo - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    Err, Q2 IS later this year, is it not? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 7, 2011 - link

    I have to admit that the complete and utter lack of Bulldozer stuff at CES is rather shocking to me. Dual-core Sandy Bridge isn't going to be immediately available for purchase, but such laptops were everywhere. More to the point, we're seeing a lot of stuff that won't come out officially until Q3'11, so that's why I'm wondering where Bulldozer/Orochi/Zambezi are. If they're launching at the start of next quarter, why not a single sample system at the AMD meeting room?

    Now, to give you the other side of the story, AMD is about at the "quiet time" of the year right before they report earnings. I'm not sure of all the specifics, but basically companies aren't supposed to talk about much at all in such situations, and perhaps that's why Bulldozer isn't at CES. As I mentioned above, AMD did inform me that Llano and Bulldozer would come out within ~1 month of each other, and I believe they were suggesting ~May for Llano which would mean ~June for Bulldozer.

    Anyway, those of you who haven't ever tried to cover a trade show like this can't imagine the difficulty of keeping everything straight. There were several inaccuracies in the initial text, which I have now corrected. however, I got about two hours of sleep Tuesday night before running around all Wednesday. That was followed by ~5 hours of sleep, then more running around like crazy (from ~8:30AM to 6:30PM that night). At the end of all the meetings, you then get to try and put together an article discussing everything you saw that might have been interesting, and lack of sleep certainly comes into play. I thought it would take about an hour to finish up this article when I started at 7PM. It ended up posting at around 12:30AM. It's not that the article took a lot of time to write, but when your brain is fried after a couple hard days it's difficult to focus and get things done--for me at least.

    I've got some other updates regarding AMD to post, but overall I'm quite pleased with what they're releasing right now and I figured most people would accuse me of being too positive. Apparently not.
  • techworm - Saturday, January 8, 2011 - link

    i don't undrstand why you are insisting to put bulldozer later than what is scheduled to be;i mean it has been clarified by AMD that bulldozer will launch prior to Llano which puts it exactly in late april timeframe as was mentioned by some comments Reply

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