It's tradition for AMD to have an off-site meeting place during IDF week and this year is no exception. I headed over to AMD's suite to talk about servers, desktops and the imminent mobile Fusion launches. We've talked about AMD's three new microprocessors in great detail before. Bulldozer is targeted at the high end desktop and server markets, due out sometime in 2011 (sampling in Q4). Llano will arrive at the end of Q2 2011 and feature multiple 32nm Phenom II derived cores paired with a very beefy AMD DX11 GPU. What I'm most excited about however is the parts that will begin shipping in Q4 2010: Zacate for mainstream notebooks (18W TDP) and Ontario for netbooks (9W TDP).
Both APUs will have a pair of low-power Bobcat cores and an AMD DX11 GPU. AMD isn't publicly confirming how many cores the GPU side will have but both will share the same die manufactured on TSMC's 40nm process. The package is extremely compact:
The die area is very small. We've seen estimates as low as 74mm^2. On the flip side you'll see there aren't many balls on the package either:
The simple package is designed to make manufacturing as easy as possible. The relative lack of balls on the package seems to imply a single channel 64-bit DDR3 memory interface. Although AMD's 9W Ontario part clearly goes after Atom in the netbook space (and Bobcat's out-of-order architecture should ensure performance success), Zacate is going to go after the ~$500 mainstream notebook market. To prove its point AMD setup a Core i5 notebook and a Zacate test platform running City of Heroes at the same settings (1024 x 768, low quality):
The Core i5 notebook pictured above managed 14 - 19 fps while running around in the level. The Zacate platform did much better:
I saw performance in the 27 - 34 fps range on Zacate. At almost 2x the performance of Intel's HD Graphics, Zacate seems to provide the same performance boost that we saw with Sandy Bridge in our preview. Granted this isn't in a benchmark we've tried on Sandy Bridge, but the initial performance advantage is promising.
The Zacate test platform
For more GPU benchmarks check out our follow-up here.
AMD confirmed that we'll see hardware ready by the end of the year, with systems going on sale in early Q1. We may see mini-ITX boards at some point but initially the focus will be mainstream netbooks and notebooks priced at ~$500 all the way down to value netbook segments. AMD also promised 8+ hours of battery life on some of its designs, however that's a MobileMark figure - load use would be lower.
The performance is extremely promising. If we see this sort of graphics performance in a netbook, I think it may just reinvigorate the form factor.
In addition to Zacate we got brief updates on Bulldozer and AMD's upcoming Northern Islands GPU launch, the latter we'll be hearing about before the end of the year. That's all for now, expect to see more coverage from IDF later tonight.