Despite major layoffs last year, AMD is stepping forward with an impressive portfolio of initiatives and products for the next few years. Perhaps the most exciting initiative is the company’s Heterogeneous System Architecture plan.
For an in-depth look at AMD's new roadmap, see the gallery at the bottom of this page
HSA will eventually erase the line between the CPU and GPU and remove such painful tasks for programmers as juggling data between the CPU and GPU. That will happen by first allowing the GPU to access the CPU’s main memory. Eventually the CPU and GPU will use the same address space for memory too, making it easier still. That’s is the key promise behind HSA though—making it easier for programmers to access the parallel capabilities of a GPU. Another interesting aspect of HSA will be the ability to add third-party intellectual property or accelerators on an APU with HSA. AMD will try to garner industry support for HSA by making it an open standard and is inviting is competitors to adopt it as well.
AMD said its Brazos and Llano APUs were smash hits with 20 million Brazos chips and 10 million Llano chips shipping last year. The company says Brazos has been its most successful mobile processor to date. As such, the company has high expectations for its Brazos 2.0 and Trinity chips.
Brazos 2.0 will bring native USB 3.0 and improved performance-per-watt. E-series Brazos will come in at 18 TDP, C-series at 9 TDP and a new ultra low power chip called “Hondo” consuming 4.5 watts.
Trinity will use the company’s new Piledriver cores and is expected to increase performance 25 percent over an equivalent Llano processor with a new graphics core offering a 50 percent performance increase. AMD says Trinity will offer twice the performance-per-watt and promises “all day” use with more than 12 hours of battery life. It is a mobile versions of the Trinity that AMD is pushing for its Ultrathin initative – an alternative to Intel’s Ultrabooks. AMD says Trinity will allow notebook makers to push out quad-core APUs with 50 percent better graphics and better battery life than even Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processor in a notebook just 18mm thick. To do that, AMD is now introducing a ball grid array or BGA version, instead of the traditional socket and pin design.
If you’ve wondered what AMD was doing pushing an alterantive to Intel and Apple’s Thunderbolt, the company made it clear with a demonstration of Lightning bolt. A Trinity-equipped notebook will let you plug in multiple monitors using a single DisplayPort 1.2 interface and play a Blu-ray movie across the integrated USB 3.0 interface.
Next year, AMD will introduce its “Sea Islands” GPU lineup. Fusion APU’s will see “Kaveri” on the performance segment with new Steamroller cores. We’ll also see low power “Kabini” using a new Jaguar core and a sequel to Hondo codenamed “TemasH’ will also be introduced. All will be based on a 28nm process. All of APU’s except Temash will feature HSA as well.
Notably absent was any announcements over the traditional meat-and-potatoes performance desktop processors. Officials mostly ignored AM3+ chips but did casually add that performance desktops will be fulfilled by Opteron. That means performance AMD fans will likely see the Opteron’s Piledriver, Steamroller and Excavator cores over time but it’s clear where AMD is putting its focus these days: APUs.