AMD’s Kabini Laptop Prototype

AMD shipped hardware sites special prototype laptops, similar to what we’ve seen in the past with Sandy Bridge, Llano, Ivy Bridge, and Trinity. These systems typically aren’t intended to hit retail outlets, though in some cases they may be very similar to production laptops; I’d guess that’s not the case with the Kabini prototype.

The laptop is actually very interesting in some areas, but it has major flaws in others—chiefly the build quality, keyboard, and touchpad. There’s more flex in this keyboard than in a steroid laced bodybuilding contest, and the feel of both the keys as well as the touchpad is poor at best. Those are areas that are easy to address, and given we’re not looking at hardware intended for retail sales it’s not too much of a problem; we only need the laptop for benchmarks right now.

If that’s the bad news, what’s the interesting aspect? The display. It’s the first high quality 1080p 14” LCD I’ve personally encountered. It’s an AU Optronics AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle) panel, model AUO B140HAN01.1. I’m hopeful that with AMD using such a panel in a prototype laptop, we may finally be nearing the end of the horrible 1366x768 panels…but don’t hold your breath.

Here’s the short rundown of the laptop’s hardware.

AMD Kabini Prototype Specifications
Processor AMD A4-5000M
(Quad-core 1.50GHz, 2MB L2, 28nm, 15W)
Chipset Yangtze
Memory 4GB (1x4GB) DDR3L-1600 (11-11-11-28?)
Graphics AMD HD 8330
(128 cores, 500MHz)
Display 14.0" Anti-Glare 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AUO B140HAN01.1)
Storage 320GB Toshiba HDD (MQ01ABD032)
Optical Drive DVDRW (HL-DT-ST GU70N)
Networking 802.11n WiFi (Broadcom BCM43228)
(Dual-band 2x2:2 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Broadcom)
Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8161)
Audio Conexant HD (R600)
Stereo Speakers
Headphone/Microphone combo jack
Battery/Power 6-cell, 15V, 3000mAh, 45Wh
65W Max AC Adapter
Front Side Flash Reader (MMC/SD)
Left Side 1 x USB 3.0 (Powered when Sleeping)
1 x Mini-HDMI
1 x VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
Exhaust Vent
AC Power Connection
Right Side Headphone and Microphone
2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive
Kensington Lock
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 13.34" x 9.47" x 0.88" (WxDxH)
(339mm x 241mm x 22.4mm)
Weight 3.81 lbs (1.73kg)
Extras Webcam
86-Key Keyboard

Just to call out a couple noteworthy items, first is the single-channel memory configuration. In theory that could be hampering performance somewhat, but we have no real way of knowing. While the laptop does support two SO-DIMMs, Kabini only supports a single-channel interface, so adding a second SO-DIMM wouldn't help.

The other configuration item I want to call out is the storage device, specifically the Toshiba HDD. Hard drives are slow, we all know this, but our experience over the past several years suggests that Toshiba’s 5400RPM hard drives are even slower than other offerings. Anand installed an SSD to run PCMark 7 for comparison, and that certainly helps with overall responsiveness. Realistically, though, we’re not at the stage where I expect laptops using Kabini to ship with SSDs—even an inexpensive 128GB SSD will increase the total BoM by 15% or more, which isn’t going to fly in the budget sector Kabini is destined to compete in.

Before we get to the actual benchmarks, let me go over the general impression of the system in day-to-day use. For much of what you might do (e.g. surfing the web, watching streaming videos, emailing, and office use), Kabini works well. Technically even Atom and Brazos can handle most of those tasks, but there’s a noticeable speed up in typical use. However, there are also occasions where the system really bogs down; some of that may be thanks to the slow HDD, or (less likely) the single-channel memory, but while Jaguar cores are a step up in performance from Brazos cores (never mind Intel’s Atom variants), they’re still nowhere near as fast as a Trinity or Ivy Bridge core.

What Kabini really brings to the table is ultra low power requirements with performance that’s a great match for ultraportable devices. We’ll see the Temash APUs (basically a lower power Kabini) in tablets, but Kabini may find its way into a few larger tablets as well as hybrid devices. At 9W and 15W TDPs, basically anywhere we’ve seen Intel’s ULV cores show up is a place that Kabini can go as well. There are compromises you’ll have to make one way or the other (faster CPU, faster GPU, battery life, drivers, features, etc.), and I don’t think there’s going to be a single “correct” solution for every device out there. Choice is the name of the game, and even if you decide Kabini may not be right for you at least it’s good to have an alternative.

Introducing AMD's 2013 Mainstream APU Platform, aka Kabini Kabini vs. Clover Trail & ARM
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  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Given AMD's traditional design wins and how those systems end up, I suspect this is not going to matter much. I have more hope of Bay Trail providing a solid deal for once than I do this.

    It's a shame because this really should be AMD's niche to dominate, but I doubt any OEM'll give them a serious try.
    Reply
  • Desperad@ - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    On competitive positioning, is it even near IB Pentium? Reply
  • brainee - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    I think so, yes. IB Pentium 2117U (17 Watt TDP) should be around 33 % faster in legacy Intel-optimised CPU benchmarks doing the math and according to say Techspot. I would think ULV Pentiums are more expensive for OEMs, notebooks is a different story. Not to mention Kabini should cost a fraction to make for AMD compared with even crippled 2C Ivybridges aka Celeron / Pentium. Kabini wins in games and Open CL, and in AVX-enabled applications it should eat the Pentium alive since the latter doesn't support AVX extensions (should be mentioned at least). I'd prefer AVX extensions to Cinebench but this site seems to suggest I am a minority... Reply
  • yhselp - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    Comparing a 3W SoC (Z2760) to a 15W SoC (A4-5000), and calling the former laughable... not really fair.

    Sure, Kabini is definitely faster than the old Atom architecture and, yes, I understand this is not a definitive comparison; nevertheless - it seems misleading.

    What would happen if we compare a 3W Kabini to a 15W Haswell? Laughable wouldn't even begin to describe the performance difference.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    But... an A4-5000 doesn't use anywhere near 15W, as far as I've heard. Still, let's consider the evidence - the Z2760 is a 32-bit, dual core, hyperthreaded CPU at 1.8GHz with a low powered graphics unit and 1MB of L2. The A4-5000 is a 64-bit, quad core CPU at 1.5GHz with a far stronger graphics unit and 2MB of dynamic L2. Temash would be a different proposition I expect as the A4-1200 is only clocked at 1GHz. Reply
  • yhselp - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    Yes, absolutely, I agree - it's just that the direct comparisons and conclusions made are a bit stark.

    There's always another side to an argument; in your case, I could argue that comparing the brand new Jaguar to a terribly old Atom architecture isn't the way to go. Consider the following evidence - Silvermont is 64-bit, quad-core, 2MB L2 cache, OoO, 2GHz+, 22nm, far more energy efficient, supports 1st gen Core instructions and Turbo Boost; it would decimate Jaguar.

    In the article, I also discovered that the 2020M is referred to as a 1.8GHz 35W part, when it's actually 2.4GHz. Are the benchmarks done on a underclocked 2020M or was that simply a typo?

    That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about, not AMD vs. Intel.
    Reply
  • jcompagner - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    So this is the core that will be in the next 2 big consoles?
    Am i the only one that think that these are quite weak, even if you have 8 of them?

    That does mean now that if one of those 2 consoles are the lead in the development that the games will be forced to be really good multi threaded. (So i guess the next games for the pc will also be using multiply cores way more)

    Why did they go for the jaguar core thats really targetted for ver low end or mobile stuff?

    Why didn't they just go for a Richland 8 core system with a very good gpu that lets say is a 100W part?

    What is the guess that the TDP is of the xbox one or ps4? A console can take 100W just easily that doesn't matter, so why choose for a core that is dedicated for mobile?
    Reply
  • yhselp - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    Yes, the Jaguar core is 'weak', but what does 'weak' mean? That is such a vague definition. For one usage scenario Jaguar might be unacceptable, for another it might be overkill. Remember, Sony/MS are not building a contemporary PC. Jaguar might seem slow to us, and in a gaming desktop it would be, but that's not the point. Think of consoles, in this case the PS4 and the Xbox One, as non-PC devices such as tablets. Would you say the latest Samsung/Apple running on a Cortex A15 is slow? No, you would say it's super fast. Well, Jaguar is even faster. Yes, a console has to deal with different workloads than a tablet, but that's why it has very different hardware.

    Why did Sony/MS choose Jaguar? Jaguar is easier to integrated, more power efficient and most importantly cheaper than Richland. It's a far simpler architecture than Richland, and probably easier to work with in a console's life. Also, it's very important to note that Sony/MS wanted an integrated solution - they weren't going to build a system with a dedicated video card like a gaming PC.

    Cost, cost, cost - everything is about the cost. A console cannot be expensive (the way a gaming PC is) - it has to sell very well in order to establish an install base to sell games to. Sony/MS will probably sell their 8th gen consoles at a loss initially - AMD's Jaguar/GCN was their best/only choice. What else could they do at the same price or even at all? Silvermont isn't ready yet and NVIDIA probably wouldn't be willing to integrate a GPU of theirs the way AMD did, and both of those would be more expensive than Jaguar/GCN. Not to mention, MS has had a ton of trouble with NVIDIA in the original Xbox - they are probably not willing to go down that road again.

    It's not really an 8-core solution - it's two quad-core modules and communication between the two might be problematic; so games on the new PS/Xbox would probably run on four Jaguar cores at 1.6 GHz. However, don't forget that neither of the two consoles has a ton of raw graphics power under the hood - the Xbox GPU is roughly equivalent to an HD 7770 (but with better memory bandwidth), and the PS to an HD 7850. Games would be specifically developed for this kind of hardware (unlike PC games) and would most probably be GPU limited so the Jaguar cores would really be sufficient.

    I hope this answers your questions.
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    A Pile Driver module is much larger than a Jaguar core. For die size concerns, it going with Jaguar made sense if core counts are the same. Steam Roller cores are due out in 2014 which are expected to bring higher IPC and a slight clock speed increase compared to Pile Driver.

    Power consumption is also an issue. The bulk of the power consumption from the XBox One and PS4 SoC's will come from their GPU's. Adding a high power CPU core like Pile Driver would have ballooned power consumption close to 200W which makes cooling impractical and expensive. Jaguar still adds power but it is far more manageable in comparison.

    In addition, Steam Roller is tied to processes from Global Foundries (though IBM could likely manufacture them if need be). TSMC is the preferred foundry for bulk processes due to cost and a slight edge in density. Jaguar has been prepared to be manufactured at TSMC from the start. AMD could have stuck with GF but it would have had to port GCN functional units to that same process. Such efforts are currently underway for Kaveri that is looking to be a 2014 part. So for any type of 2013 launch, going that route was not an option.
    Reply
  • aikyucenter - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Great OpenCL performance ... love it ... just make it faster launch and decrease TDP too = PERFECT :D Reply

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