AMD has a bit of a lonely year ahead for their CPU lineup, with only a refresh for Kaveri promised and most of the action taking place in their GPU departments behind the scenes. They are setting the stage for a big launch and change of direction for 2016, but for now things go as planned. Today, AMD will launch their lineup of Carrizo APUs for the mobile market. Mobile is traditionally a space that AMD has never gained much of a foothold in, but Carrizo looks set to bring a bit more firepower to their lineup.
I won’t be showing off all the slides here because they aren’t of a really good quality. The slides were leaked early by Videocardz and avoid any mention of performance, but energy efficiency is really the main thing underpinning Carrizo’s capabilities. AMD claims a performance improvement of around 5% with a die size reduction of 23%, together with a massive power consumption reduction of 40% or more, depending on the workload. Carrizo is also AMD’s first fully compliant HSA product. Though Kaveri is technically HSA compliant, it doesn’t support all the new tricks that the HSA 1.0 standard requires.
One factor in the power consumption stakes that works in AMD’s favour is a better form of power gating, where they can selectively disable parts of Carrizo that aren’t needed on the fly to reduce consumption. This is similar to Intel’s power gating technology in Bay Trail and Broadwell, although AMD’s implementation also includes the resonant clock mesh stuff they were working on with Richland (A-6000 generation), which would selectively alter the TDP of individual components to increase power delivery to other components while staying under the chip’s TDP.
Like the Geforce GTX 960, Carrizo carries with it hardware-accelerated H.265 decode support, which is necessary for UHD4K video playback. There’s transcoding support as well, so if you’re working with 4K video shot with your GoPro on your Carrizo-based notebook, the process of exporting it won’t require you to wait a million years for it to finish. AMD continues to reference its APUs as being composed of Compute Cores, which covers actual CPU cores and the separated SMX units which make up the GPU, so don’t get hyped when they call their top-end chip an “eight-core” APU.
Looking to the future, Carrizo doesn’t change the status quo. Mullins is still the chip for low-power use, coming in with a 2W Scenario Design Power (SDP). Carrizo-L displaces Beema but will feature refreshed Puma cores, not Excavator as many originally anticipated. The table also implies that neither Mullins nor Carrizo-L will get H.265 decoding, because AMD lists Carrizo as shipping with “Next Generation GCN” graphics, however the chips themselves will be newer because they use a different socket – BGA FP4.
Silicon-wise, it may be closer to AMD’s design for Tonga than anything else and will probably include the colour compression tricks we’ve seen before in Tonga and Maxwell to increase performance with the limited memory bandwidth. Overall I expect Carrizo to continue to spank Intel in GPU performance tests, but CPU performance should largely fall in line with Haswell Core i3 processors.
AMD’s Carrizo officially launches on 23 February 2015 in the US and Canada at 4:45PM Pacific Time, which translates to about 2:30AM on 24 February locally. Tune in tomorrow to read up on all the juicy bits and start imagining what kind of notebooks get shipped with AMD’s latest chips.