AMD Introduces FirePro A300 & A320 APUs: Trinity for Graphics Workstationsby Anand Lal Shimpi on August 7, 2012 1:28 AM EST
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|
|“Piledriver” CPU Cores||4||4|
|CPU Clock (Base/Max)||3.4GHz / 4.0GHz||3.8GHz / 4.2GHz|
|L2 Cache (MB)||4||4|
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.