I’ve reported about the release of Trinity CPUs for the desktop market that are already out in OEM machines, using the new FM2 socket and bringing a 10-15% performance improvement over the previous generation while also increasing things a lot more in the graphics department. Piledriver is the same chip inside as Trinity, but lacks a GPU component and uses the extra die space to beef up the internals elsewhere. While the 15% performance improvement for Trinity is welcome, for some it may not be a worthy upgrade even from an older Phenom or Athlon II rig.

Launching in Q3 2012 this year, AMD’s four-module, eight-core FX-8350 promises higher clock speeds and more performance at the same 125w TDP. Currently the preceding FX-8150 maxes out at a clock speed of 3.6Ghz with a Turbo speed of 4.2Ghz for single or lightly-threaded applications. That chip retails somewhere in the region of R2600 and is still outclassed by the cheaper and faster Core i5-3450. While Bulldozer may not be the bargain chip we had hoped at launch, Piledriver may improve things a little bit. But what I’m more looking forward to is the family launch after this one – Steamroller. 

Currently AMD’s Steamroller family is shrouded in secret. There’s no telling what process its made of or how fast its going to be apart from AMD’s promised 15% improvements over the previous generation. As I’ve mentioned before, the company has said that they’ll no longer be competing with Intel on the performance front, focusing rather on lower price points, heterogeneous computing and getting TDPs down and speed and efficiency up. But as I’ve seen over the last few weeks with a greater push by companies into cloud computing, especially with Sony announcing that they’re buying out Gakai and Nvidia making a solid commitement to online game streaming using Quadro cards in servers, there’s a shift in focus to what the market believes the consumer needs and wants.

The roadmap above was shown to journalists and attendees of AMD’s Financial Analyst conference where the company made a number of announcements and plans for the future, especially where profitability was concerned as well as their Heterogeneous Software Applications and their use in the current desktop market. The company’s plans moving forward from 2012 is to move to a more unified APU platform and implement quality of service in 2014 – that has applications ranging from online game streaming to putting AMD chips inside mobile phones and tablets, just as Nvidia is doing with their Tegra platform and trying to integrate baseband radios for use on 3G networks.

AMD’s focus on heterogeneous computing is also evident in the mentions of GPU Compute support for C++ code running natively, just like we’ve had since the release of Nvidia’s Fermi. We’ll see that in more detail hopefully when Trinity chips hit the retail market and we get proper reviews of how they function in various environments. The GPU context switching is another interesting bit, suggesting that in future AMD will calculate TDP according to which part of the processor is active at any given time, possibly heavily underclocking the CPU for GPU-intensive applications and vice versa, giving it more muscle for different scenarios. That’s already possible in today’s APUs, but it doesn’t make sense for AMD to give those customers features that the company would rather they pay for in future.

In that regard, perhaps Steamroller will improve both performance and AMD’s new focus into cloud computing and consumerisation. The family after that, Excavator, might bring us into the APU-dominant era where heterogeneous computing wins out over raw muscle. Whatever the case may be, at least its a little refreshing to know that the company does have something planned for its fans and consumers in the months that lie ahead on a road to profitability and success once more. If Steamroller delivers as planned, it makes far more sense for Sony to use AMD chips and graphics cards in the next generation of consoles to complement its purchase of Gakai. Interesting times ahead.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

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