AMD Beema And Mullins Processors Debut Taking Intel’s Bay Trail To Task With … – Forbes
AMD has officially lifted the embargo veil today on its latest iteration of low power integrated processors or APUs (Accelerated Processing Units), as they call them, targeted for notebooks, tablets, small form factor PCs and hybrid devices. The family pair, code named “Beema” and “Mullins” may sound like a couple of Irish Rugby players and that’s probably fitting, given the stiff competition these devices could offer Intel’s Intel’s Bay Trail Atom chip in the coming months. And interestingly enough, they also comprise both standard X86 compute engines and AMD Radeon graphics, as well as an ARM core.
Starting with the standard CPU cores, AMD is rolling out its Puma+ core architecture, which is a follow-on optimization of the Jaguar cores found in their previous generation product (I know more code names, sorry). The net-net of AMD’s new low power CPU arch is that they can attain higher clock speeds at lower total power consumption due to better efficiencies and lower leakage current. These chips are still built on a 28 nanometer manufacturing process but AMD was able to wring out these improvements via both design and manufacturing tweaks.
Moving on to the graphics blocks, AMD’s GCN (Graphics Core Next Next) engines are employed in these chips and they’re clocked some 100 – 200MHz higher than the previous generation Kabini family, along with a 38% reduction in leakage current, again for better performance at lower power envelopes. Incidentally, AMD also tweaked the memory interface on the new chips such that they support low power DDR3-1333 memory now, which supposedly offers a half-watt reduction in power overall. On the higher ends SKUs, the family will also support DDR3-1866 speeds as well.
In short, almost everything about AMD’s Beema and Mullins CPU and GPU architecture has been optimized, buffed-out and enhanced, such that performance gains should be realized across the board and performance-per-watt should definitely scale higher. More on this later. What’s perhaps most interesting about these new chip designs is the fact that AMD actually also employed an ARM-based Platform Security Processor in the design, indicating the first time AMD has dipped their collective toe into integrating their X86 and GPU architectures with ARM core architectures.
To me it seems like a safe bet and an easy layup for AMD to start working with mixed integrations like this security engine block. The Platform Security Processor or PSP block is based on a 32-bit ARM Cortex-A5 implementation with its own on-chip ROM and SRAM such that it can function autonomously from the rest of the processor. It basically offloads the CPU from crypto-processing and compression-processing requirements associated with security processing workloads. It’s compatible with ARM’s mature “TrustZone” system framework and provides offload for RSA, SHA, ECC and AES AES workloads. Again, I think it’s a smart move by AMD to take a mature ARM core like this and work it into the platform. It also shows the company isn’t too proud that they have to reinvent the wheel, building certain blocks from the ground-up. And when you’re not limited by your own fab resources and process technologies, you have the opportunity to pick the best IP you can for a design and run with it. This is one area where the fabless semiconductor model AMD moved to year ago, can pay dividends.
Finally, when it comes to performance, early reports of the new quad-core “Mullins” A10 chip performance is that it gives Intel’s quad-core Bay Trail architecture a run for its money, both in standard compute performance and of course where AMD is strong in graphics and gaming. It’s a bit surprising, where a 2.2GHz quad-core A10 micro-6700T chip actually bests an Intel Atom Z3770 quad-core Atom chip at 2.4GHz, even in CPU-centric testing, not just graphics.
The real kicker is going to be AMD’s ability to bring down design wins with this new family of low power processors. The last time AMD made a significant dent in mobile market share was with their Brazos platform and Llano APUs a few years back. These new integrated processors the company is announcing today will place well in ultra-light, low cost notebooks, small form factor PCs, all-in-ones and tablets.
The question remains how much traction they’ll get with Beema and Mullins. AMD has been fairly vocal that they don’t intend to limbo down to the bloodletting levels Intel is currently engaged in, in the mobile space. The company doesn’t have the means to support a loss leader in exchange for market share like Intel can. Personally, I think this could be one of the better selling architectures to come out of AMD in a while and it shows the company is making strides in architecting silicon designs that take advantage of the latest technologies and core integrations on the market currently. It should be an interesting Q2 and Q3 for AMD and the feisty Beema and Mullins brothers could offer a bit of a scrap.