AMD has been having a good year of late. Despite new releases by Intel and Nvidia, the company’s products still hold their own quite well and the HD7970 GHz Edition in particular is still a worth consideration even when you have the new Geforce GTX770 on the table next to it. It was expected that AMD would be talking shop about the new Richland family and some other small refreshes to their graphics family, but no-one was expecting Kaveri details… especially the announcement that Kaveri is set for a Q4 2013 launch.
At AMD’s conference held at Computex Taipei today, the company officially announced general availability of their Richland APU family (currently selling in the US, Canada and Europe) and showed off a new tech demo featuring Ruby. If you haven’t been here that long or have only just dived into computers and gaming, Ruby is, or rather was, AMD’s fiery-haired heroine mascot and was first introduced to Computex goers back in 2002 – just over ten years ago. She started out with a single Katana and later started dual-wielding when ATi brought out CrossfireX. For the tech demo AMD’s releasing today, she now has a larger array of weapons, a bionic arm and knows Kung-Fu.
AMD says the demo was powered by the Radeon HD7990 and it looks impressive, aside from the obvious frame rating issues which you can see as stutter or screen tearing. Still, Ruby’s hair is looking much better these days now that she’s using TressFX. But because we already knew these things were coming, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. What really hit everyone in the room was the talk of Kaveri. Kaveri is AMD’s next-generation of processors that iterate and improve on the design we first got to see in Bulldozer.
Bulldozer itself wasn’t too well-received but the architecture had its merits and it was improved with Piledriver. Kaveri is based on Steamroller, which AMD promises will solve many of the performance issues users and reviewers have been pointing out, as well as offer a new generation of APUs with the same GCN graphics found in the HD7000 GPU family.
Kaveri is the first Steamroller-based product and will be built on the 28nm process, offering better power consumption right off the bat. It will be the first processor of its kind to house a quad-core processor with a more modern graphics core based on the Bonaire architecture recently introduced to market in the form of the HD7790. Bonaire offers better boost clocks and lower power consumption as a result of some tweaking and a reworked architecture and, as a bonus, is already made on the 28nm process.
Along with that, AMD also announced that Kaveri will launch with socket FM2+. FM2+ is pin-compatible with socket FM2, so all Trinity and Richland processors will work on the new boards. Kaveri is not able to go backwards to FM2, however, as some power circuitry has been re-worked and would result in the system not booting. AMD has no plans to add compatibility, either.
The socket dashes a few rumors that have been doing the rounds that Kaveri will be sold in a BGA package much like Intel’s Iris Pro-packing Core i7 R-series processors. Well, clearly we see a socket here, so that doesn’t work. In addition, many wondered if there would be soldered-on RAM to the processor in the form of eDRAM to help with possible memory bottlenecks – that’s still a possibility now, but there’s very little die space to accommodate eDRAM.
Yes another juicy detail coming out of that conference was the first prototype socket FM2+ board made by ECS. Its based on the upcoming A78 chipset and conforms to the thin-ITX form factor pioneered by Intel. Thin-ITX is a necessary standard for those D.I.Y. all-in-one computers that companies like ECS make for customers and it sucks that up to now it’s a market cornered solely by Intel. AMD stepping up to the plate means that we will see cheaper all-in-0ne computers that can also play most games nicely. That’s something Intel still can’t do, even with Iris graphics.
AMD’s roadmap for 2013 now looks a lot more solid. If Kaveri is on its way for a Q4 2013 release, we can reasonably expect it to launch in the same time frame as the PS4 and Xbox One in the US, Canada and Europe. If they can get Kaveri out the door and selling, they can then concentrate on replacing Piledriver on the Am3+ socket with Steamroller.
On a side note, AM3+ is the elephant in the room here. If FM2 required an upgrade to the socket and the pin layout (904 to 901 pins) for Steamroller, would AM3+ need replacing as well? It’s been out for two years now and the chipset is in need of a revamp. If Steamroller has enough game to take AMD back into the fight with Intel, starting afresh with a new high-end desktop socket and a new chipset would be a good way to do it.