Kabini vs. Clover Trail & ARM

Kabini is a difficult SoC to evaluate, primarily because of the nature of the test system we're using to evaluate it today. Although AMD's Jaguar cores are power efficient enough to end up in tablets, the 15W A4-5000 we're looking at today is a bit too much for something the size of an iPad. Temash, Kabini's even lower power counterpart, will change that but we don't have Temash with us today. Rather than wait for AMD to get us a Temash based tablet, I wanted to get an idea of how Jaguar stacks up to some of the modern low-power x86 and ARM competitors.

To start, let's characterize Jaguar in terms of its performance compared to Bobcat as well as Intel's current 32nm in-order Saltwell Atom core. As a reference, I've thrown in a 17W dual-core Ivy Bridge. The benchmarks we're looking at are PCMark 7 (only run on those systems with SSDs), Cinebench (FP workload) and 7-Zip (integer workload). With the exception of Kabini, all of these parts are dual-core. The Atom and Core i5 systems are dual-core but have Hyper-Threading enabled so they present themselves to the OS as 4-thread machines.

CPU Performance
  PCMark 7 Cinebench 11.5 (Single Threaded) Cinebench 11.5 (Multithreaded) 7-Zip Benchmark (Single Threaded) 7-Zip Benchmark (Multithreaded)
AMD A4-5000 (1.5GHz Jaguar x 4) 2425 0.39 1.5 1323 4509
AMD E-350 (1.6GHz Bobcat x 2) 1986 0.32 0.61 1281 2522
Intel Atom Z2760 (1.8GHz Saltwell x 2) - 0.17 0.52 754 2304
Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz IVB x 2) 4318 1.07 2.39 2816 6598

Compared to a similarly clocked dual-core Bobcat part, Kabini shows a healthy improvement in PCMark 7 performance. Despite the clock speed disadvantage, the A4-5000 manages 22% better performance than AMD's E-350. The impressive gains continue as we look at single-threaded Cinebench performance. Again, a 22% increase compared to Bobcat. Multithreaded Cinebench performance scales by more than 2x thanks to the core count doubling and increased multi-core efficiency. The current generation Atom comparison here is just laughable—Jaguar offers more than twice the performance of Clover Trail in single threaded Cinebench.

The single threaded 7-Zip benchmark shows only mild gains if we don't take into account clock speed differences. If you normalize for CPU frequency, Jaguar is likely around 9% faster than Bobcat here. Multithreaded gains are quite good as well. Once again, Atom is no where near AMD's new A4.

The Ivy Bridge comparison is really just for reference. In all of the lightly threaded cases, a 1.7GHz Ivy Bridge delivers over 2x the performance of the A4-5000. The gap narrows for heavily threaded workloads but obviously any bigger core going into a more expensive system will yield appreciably better results.

For the next test I expanded our comparison to include an ARM based SoC: the dual-core Cortex A15 powered Samsung Exynos 5250 courtesy of Google's Nexus 10. These cross platform benchmarks are all browser based and run in Google Chrome:

Mozilla Kraken Benchmark (Chrome)

Here we see a 14% improvement over Bobcat, likely closer to 20% if we normalized clock speed between the parts—tracking perfectly with AMD's promised IPC gains for Jaguar. The A4-5000 completes the Kraken benchmark in less than half the time. The 1.7GHz Ivy Bridge part is obviously quicker, but what's interesting is that if we limit the IVB CPU's frequency to 800MHz Kabini is actually a near identical performer.

Jaguar seems to be around 9-20% faster than Bobcat depending on the benchmark. Multithreaded workloads are obviously much better as there are simply more cores to run on. In practice, using the Kabini test system vs. an old Brazos machine delivers a noticeable difference in user experience. Clover Trail feels anemic by comparison and even Brazos feels quite dated. Seeing as how Bobcat was already quicker than ARM's Cortex A15, its no surprise that Jaguar is as well. The bigger problem here is Kabini needs much lower platform power to really threaten the Cortex A15 in tablets—we'll see how Temash fares as soon as we can get our hands on a tablet.

AMD’s Kabini Laptop Prototype Kabini vs CT/ARM: GPU Performance
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  • takeship - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    True, price will keep most budget buyers out of Haswell powered ultrabooks. Not so for the now-on-clearance-sale Ivy Bridge Dell & HPs though. And in that market Kabini loses most of it's price advantage, while still giving worse performance & marginal battery life improvements. There it's the new $500 plastic Kabini laptop, vs. the $600 aluminum IVB Lenovo. I just don't see that being a win. Reply
  • Gaugamela - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    The HP Pavilion 11 Touchsmart costs 400$. It has a 10-point touchscreen. So, the 400$ touch enabled Kabini seems mighty atractive compared to the 600$ Lenovo now. Reply
  • axien86 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link


    Touche! Thanks to AMD for providing alternatives to Intel's Atoms and higher priced CPUs.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Besides the price issue, you seem to be quite missing the point of a low-power architecture like Jaguar. Let me know when ULV Ivy Bridge can scale down to 3.9W.

    Also, a lot of people seem to have trouble comprehending the fact that TDP doesn't really have much in common with the actual power draw of the chip (or the heat output). We've already seen what happens when you try to cram even the lowest wattage Ivy Bridge into a modern tablet form factor: high temperatures w/ fans, low battery life, high price.
    Reply
  • Gaugamela - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    It competes with an Sandy Bridge ULV i3 and it gets quite close to a i3 Ivy, while offering better battery life.
    Seems like a clear proposition to me: if Pentium like performance is what you need this offers you that and better GPU performance. Perfect for the low-end of the ultrathin/ultrabook market.
    Reply
  • andrewaggb - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    yeah, pretty much how I read it as well. Assuming you can afford to pay an extra $200 dollars there's not much reason (other than possibly graphics drivers) to not get haswell instead. Reply
  • aryonoco - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Very interesting article. Just a few notes:

    I'm not sure that Exynos 5250 is the best representative of Cortex A15. For one, it's dual core without any HT so at a massive disadvantage in a test like Kraken. Secondly, it came out in actual device in the market about 7 months ago. By the time Kabini shows in products, it will probably be over 8 months later. We'll have other Cortex A15 parts by then, and if the Tegra 4 Kraken scores that I'm hearing (~6000) is right, and if something Tegra 4 is using about half as much power as this 15W Kabini, then Kabini suddenly doesn't look that competitive.

    Of course as you say, the success of Kabini will depend on what OEMs do with it, but traditionally these cheap AMD parts find themselves in devices that are compromised in everyway. Even if we get a 1080p screen this time around (which I'm hopeful), we'll still have to deal with sub-optimal keyboards, trackpads that work only half the time, and other cost-cutting measures we are familiar with. For this to succeed, someone needs to put it in a Ultrabook-style laptop, with good display, good keyboard and no software glitches, and price it under $500. That's a tall task.

    HP just announced a very interesting Slatebook X2 running Android (not skinned) on Tegra 4 with 1080p IPS screen and a Transformer-style detachable dock for $479, including the dock (sidenote, I was disappointed there was no coverage of this on AT). If the performance claims for Tegra 4 (and other future more optimized Cortex A15 parts) are accurate, with such devices on the horizon, will there even be a cheap Ultrabook-style market left for Kabini to compete in? Can Kabini find its way into similar designs by major OEMs? I hope, for everyone's sake that AMD can succeed, but I am doubtful.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I certainly think Kabini can go into the same designs that we're seeing Tegra 4 target. Which will end up being faster? That's a different question, and I'm not sure we have enough information to come to a conclusion right now. If Kabini/Temash can get into tablets sooner rather than later, they've got a chance. If it takes 6-8 months, you're right: it may not matter at that point. Reply
  • Gaugamela - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    HP just announced their back to school products and there is a successor to the HP dm1 that will cary A4's and A6's. Reply
  • Exophase - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    No Cortex-A15 has HT, and Kraken is single threaded anyway. I think Kraken just isn't a great benchmark. Although its makers say it's a lot better than Sunspider it shares a lot of the same sorts of problems:

    1) It's Javascript which has its own unique (pretty severe) overheads which can dominate run-time to the extent that it drowns out a lot of the variation from the type of JS code you're running. JS is used and it's important, but even today on good JITs most JS code is several times (think 5 times) slower than an equivalent written in something like C++ or even Java, making it a bad representation of performance of more efficient software.
    2) Much of what it does - path finding, signal processing, and crypto - is not the kind of stuff Javascript is usually used for.
    3) Its test durations are really short, which is bad for benchmarks in general but can be especially bad for JITs where it
    4) The variation in current browsers is extreme (http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=8&... where you can see some tests are substantially faster and others substantially slower. This again highlights the big overheads of Javascript and the impact of different JIT strategies, but also that the state of performance is still pretty volatile. A similar sort of variation could manifest between different backends (ie, x86 vs ARM) even for the same browser.

    Cross-architecture comparisons are hard and I don't blame people for using JS when there's not a lot else available (although at least some other inclusions would be nice).. but you shouldn't draw a very broad conclusion from a Kraken comparison alone. And if you did that it'd also make the Kabini vs i5 comparison look a lot worse than a lot of other tests show.
    Reply

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