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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  • jtd871 - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link


    AMD also announced new FirePro dGPUs today. Are these based on GCN/Southern Islands? I looked at the specs on AMDs site for the low-end card W5000. From the 75W TDP, I would have suspected the workstation equivalent of HD7750, except that the card has double the RAM (2GB vs 1GB) and twice the interface width (256-bit vs 128), which could make the $500-ish MSRP more palatable, especially as they also apparently support CrossFirePro (!).

    (As an aside, I have been waiting to upgrade my SFF work machine to a workstation card, and had hoped that AMD might put GCN on a half-height card at the low end of their new lineup. Rats.)

    I look forward to AnandTech's comparison of the new workstation cards with the older Northern Islands variants.
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    Hi jtd;

    They're based on GCN. We're working on a review of W9000 and W8000 right now but it is taking far longer than originally planned (otherwise it would have been up at midnight).

    As for the W5000, it's a very low clocked Pitcairn card, hence the reason it has the larger memory bus.
  • jtd871 - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - link

    W5000 is Pitcairn, eh? That does explain the $600 MSRP a bit more. Interesting. Thanks, Ryan.
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    Oh gawd.

    AMD aren't junk, I'm using a Core i7 3930K currently and at 5760x1080 resolution I can't tell the difference in games to the old Phenom 2 x6 1090T, you are always GPU limited at such a resolution anyway.

    Hardware is sooo far ahead of software that a Phenom 2 or AMD FX will handle everything you throw at it.
  • Roland00Address - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    What price is this going to retail at? I just can't see much market for these. Either AMD is going to price them so low they barely will make any money off the chips, or the buyers of the chips (either oems or final buyers) will just go with intel for the intel is much faster.

    A Firepro V3900 (turks based professional graphic card with 480 stream processors, will get you the same feature set as these new professional apus) goes for $105 online
    i5 2310 quad core goes for $180
    h61 motherboards go for $50
    Total is $335

    We don't know the price of the A300 or A320 hell trinity hasn't been released yet for non oems, but consider a
    a8 3850 goes for $100
    FM1 motherboards go for $55
    Total is $155

    Thus AMD has a $180 savings compared to the intel quad core system, thus AMD has less than $180 to price the firepro professional graphic "tax" (or from AMD perspective profit.) Thing is the intel system will dominate trinity or llano in both cpu and graphic card related tasks.

    Even if you only pay your workers $3000 a year, if your workers are at minimum 6% more efficient due to the much higher computing power of the intel system (in both cpu and graphic card tasks) then you paid for the difference of $180 due to the fact $180/$3000=6%.
  • silverblue - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - link

    I'm not sure as concerns the V3900. It has a single precision rating of 624GFLOPS; the A300 rates at 693 and the A320 at 736. FP64 rate is 1/4 FP32. The V3900 is clocked at 650MHz with 900MHz of DDR3 on a 128-bit bus, whereas the A300 and A320 are clocked at 760MHz and 800MHz respectively on a similar bus - perhaps, even with fast RAM, it could be a slight hamstring for the APU considering it has a CPU to feed. I don't have any info on V3900's FP64 capabilities (if, indeed, it has them).
  • unclewoja - Saturday, August 11, 2012 - link

    There's so much focus on SOC and integrating more features into the one chip. One thing that I'd like to see is integrating an entire system on a board.

    These days, a low end system will handle the needs of 90% of consumers. And 99% of those consumers will never upgrade specific components. In fact, the biggest performance upgrade anyone can do to their system is an SSD. Unfortunately, it's usually only higher end systems that have SSD options.

    What I'd like to see AMD do, now that they're in the memory game, is to produce mATX boards with an APU, 4 or 8GB RAM and a 128Gb SSD soldered directly onto the board. Literally, a complete system that all you need to do is screw it into a case, plug power in and install an OS.

    Consumers care about how fast their computer is to do the tasks they want it to do. An SSD is the only piece of hardware that has a tangible effect on that. Focus on low end hardware for the consumer market with high performance storage all on one board and carve a new product niche.

    It mightn't be where the big bucks are, but AMD has shown in the past that a good product at a budget price that is well accepted by system builders can lead to a higher adoption rate of higher end hardware.
  • UrQuan3 - Thursday, August 16, 2012 - link

    Why AMD instead of Intel GPU if you have to go integrated?

    Well now, drivers.

    I have a SandyBridge ULV system. Intel requires that the OEMs release the video drivers for moble chips much like nVIDIA did years ago. End result? The driver the system has when you buy it is the only driver you will ever have. Intel has put out new drivers about twice a year, but my system is still stuck with a driver from 2010 because the OEM never released a new one.

    We have much better luck with AMD IGPs.

    That said, I have seen the HD3000 on the list of certified GPUs for SolidWorks (CAD package), so AMD is already late to this game.
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    If oblivion hits AMD, we can't thank all the rabid amd fanboys who never saw a price they liked unless it was lower - so dire is their need, they beg for nVidia (whom they hate for making a profit) to release so they can get a cheaper amd...

    LOL - with those kinds of fans...

    Traditionally, fans showered their love with extra money, showing their support...
    Amd fanboys are poor, tightwad, self defeating, fools. They will crush amd, not much longer... then they will blame everyone but themselves.
  • Rhah - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - link

    I know this has been inactive for a while, but thought it worth my input.

    Everybody seems to lose track of target market, if it isnt going to be the fastest or the best a lot of companies will not look at it or build it. AMD has risked that the SMB group which has limited financial support would be interested in pushing existing systems which would not normally be capable of worthy CAD/CAM operation and give them a taste of that ability. Of course this is not meant to replace a pure CAD/CAM system which would obviously run a dedicated graphics card regardless of AMD or NVidia, it just meant for the small business owner which needs decent enough CAD/CAM driver support.

    I do CAD/CAM (Engineering 5+ years) work, I also work in the IT (10+ years) industry and have built many custom CAD machines, ran benchmarks for different systems for different applications. And in my experience and professionals will agree, each generation of graphics cards, drivers and processors have different impact on CAD/CAM applications and each application utilizes the GPU, CPU and RAM resources differently.

    This processor is strictly designed for the users not capable of shelling out $300-$4000 for a good professional graphics card, it is designed for the people that are willing to spend $20 more to get a low end processor which has professional graphics driver support and it capable of 2D/3D GPU rendering of small part and assembly CAD files, likely not even editing, just viewing.

    I would be very interested in seeing some Solidworks, Catia, Inventor, 3ds and SolidEdge benchmarks. Likely it competes well with low end workstation graphics cards, which would have been the entire goal. Note: Intel HD3000 is supported with some CAD/CAM packages now, however, not even close to all and not nearly as closely supported as FirePro and Quadro drivers. In the end, you can run CAD/CAM on any gpu, the issue is unsupported drivers lead to odd random program and graphics errors, which are costly in the machining/engineering field. Line disappears, the programmer cant tell the machine to cut that profile.

    I am a big fan of Intel Xeon based processors and NVidia Quadro cards, however, also understand cost, and I can definitely see the market. Personally, if these were available and usable on any FM2 board, I would buy it, for $250 board and processor combined, it would be nice to do some reliable, quality CAD/CAM from time to time without the excess cost. CAD/CAM software is very expensive by itself.

    AMD has taken an interesting direction, and at the very least creates a new area of competition for Intel and NVidia both of which tend for forget the price point advantage regarding the SMB group in favor of large business. I applaud the concept.

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