AMD Kaveri A-Series APU

AMD Kaveri A-Series APU 4

AMD is launching their new lineup of APUs codename “Kaveri” and this isn’t typical APU fashion has promised to deliver some good CPU performance and some very impressive graphics performance to go along with it. These APUs aren’t designed to go head to head against Intel‘s high end Haswell parts but the reality of it is, they aren’t designed to do necessarily the same things. These are different processors so they come in right around the 200 dollar mark and the aim is to provide decent frame rates (FPS) in games without the need for dedicated graphics card as well as being able to provide truly next-generation compute performance using that onboard graphics.

There are two main code words for the series APUs are Steamroller and GCN . Steamroller is AMD’s NextGen CPU architecture for the 4 CPU cores and GCN are Graphics Core Next is the codename for their Hawaii architecture.

So the same GPU technology on their R9-290 series. So got things like DirectX 11.2 support, true-audio support and support for AMD’s mantle API. Actually something that’s interesting to note is; in this processor actually uses almost half up the entire die area for the GPU, which is going to be focused on gaming performance and compute performance. That amount of space means that there’s not a whole lot of room for the CPU cores in so Kaveri is actually a pretty mundane affair on the CPU side. It got 4 cores with a high end hitting 3.7 gigahertz or turbo-up to 4.0 gigahertz and the low end part clocking at 3.3 and turbo-up to 3.8.

AMD Kaveri A-Series APU 1

But the interesting about this, is the way that AMD is now calculating that core count. They don’t go around say ‘Quad-core processor with GPU’, now what they say ‘4 CPU Cores and 8 GPU Cores for a max number of compute cores totalling 12’ (A10-7850K). And the way the AMD is dividing this up is how many separate threads the processor can work on at a time given a sufficiently optimized workload.

Because the CPU is not that exceptional but the GPUs are awesome, the actual performance boost is coming from HSA and OpenCL and other kinds of GPU compute.

The reason the idea works so well is that on a normal processor even a previous APU, the CPU part and the GPU part would need to work on things kinda separately and then send data back and forth to each other would normally be done over the PCI Express bus.

AMD Kaveri A-Series APU 3

Kaveri features HSA which instead allows the CPU and GPU to share memory and work on the same single task without communication overheads.

It’s kinda like a group essay to write and everyone would kinda right partnered it and then send it to each other for revisions by email and they would make revisions and send it to everyone else, there’s a lot of overhead and a lot of time wasted. HSA on the other hand is more like using Google Docs with everyone making changes at the same time and getting the task done all the same time. The only issue is that the software needs to re-written to take advantage of this so users won’t see wide application support until developers patch it in but there is good news – anything coded with OpenCL 2.0 in mind will support HSA  and coding for OpenCL 2.0 according to AMD is actually going to be easier than implementing OpenCL was in the past.

AMD Kaveri A-Series APU 1

There’s actually one more interesting feature of the low end A8-7600 is a configurable TDP so AMD hasn’t just going to target performance, they’re also doing some interesting things with power consumption. So the A8-7600 has an unlocked, a 65 watt or of 45 Watt TDP. Early testing shows the unlocked one acts similar to 65 Watt. Not sure how overclocking will affect that and GPU overclocking looks like it might be pretty impressive on these APUs. That’s a very interesting feature because the ability to limit power consumption and silence the system at the Cost of CPU clock speed is great for certain applications like a Home Theater PC (HTPC) for an instance.

It should be noted that GPU clocks remain untouched so gaming, multimedia and GPU compute asks should run as they normally would regardless of what TDP you have it set to.

The Kaveri platform will use the FM2+ socket unlike the old APUs which used FM2 socket motherboard. Note this: the old FM2 processors will work just fine in the new FM2+ boards but the new FM2+ chips are going to require FM2+ motherboards to go with them, no backwards motherboard compatibility if user want Kaveri.

The GPU cores or GCN will get Mantle support. But it still remains to be seen exactly how much of a boost this will provide and how it affect the gaming landscape. Based on some demos seen, it could be incredibly impressive but for now user can really do is test it with OpenGL or DirectX and the good news is that Kaveri is also powerful even without Mantle.

AMD Kaveri A-Series APU 2

On Battlefield 4 at 1080P Low/Medium details – the A8-7600 for the low end part achieved 29FPS while the A10-7850K achieved 39FPS.

Basically, if users are looking for a rig that can provide a very comfortable gaming experience at Low and Medium settings in modern games, Kaveri offer is pretty tough to beat, with 200 dollar processor and some hundred dollar motherboard user can have a very solid mid-range system for not a whole lot of money and user can upgrade in the future.

Here’s video of Oxide’s 3D Engine – Nitrous. A tech-demo using Star Swarm benchmark game by Oxide Games harnessing Mantle API technology.

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