At its Computex press conference, AMD announced the mobile version of its Kaveri mainstream processor and claimed it was now prepared to go “toe-to-toe” with Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors. Along with the new mobile APUs (Accelerated Processing Units), AMD announced new branding and rolled out a Pro Series for business systems.
AMD first demonstrated Kaveri desktop APUs at last year's show and they began shipping earlier this year. The basics of the architecture are the same: an enhanced Steamroller CPU core combined with AMD’s Graphics Core Next Architecture with Radeon R7 series graphics. Borrowing a page from Nvidia’s "192-core" Tegra K1, AMD said that the mobile version of Kaveri has up to 12 "compute cores," which translates to four general-purpose CPU cores and eight GPU cores. Combined, these compute cores can deliver up to 818 gigaflops of performance, according to AMD. Laptops using the mobile Kaveri APUs will be available this year from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba and others.
Kevin Lensing, the senior director of AMD’s Mobility Product Line, said Kaveri is AMD’s first mobile chip that couples the CPU and GPU together using its HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture). In short, this means that the system can more easily offload some computing tasks from the CPU to the GPU to boost performance. For example, AMD demonstrated how a Kaveri system could apply a filter in Adobe Photoshop much faster than on an Intel Core-based system using Open CL hardware acceleration.
AMD has a separate FX Series brand for its high-performance CPUs targeted at gamers and enthusiasts, but its future has been a bit uncertain ever since the company removed it from the product roadmap. Whatever happens to the CPU, the brand will apparently live on since AMD is extending it to the fastest mobile Kaveri APUs. Lensing showed an HP gaming laptop that he said will be one of the first to use the FX Series APUs.
Aside from 3D graphics, AMD has generally shied away from performance comparisons with Core processors because the CPU performance has fallen short. That no longer seems to be the case. "Across the board on benchmarks we actually go toe-to-toe, and in many cases beat the Core i7," Lensing claimed. As with all benchmarks supplied by vendors, you need to take these with a grain of salt, and wait for independent, real-world tests. But it is nonetheless interesting to see AMD directly challenging Intel on CPU performance once again.
AMD is also looking to challenge Intel in business laptops — an area where it has a long way to go to catch up with vPro. The new AMD Pro Series has three features that separate it from the consumer version. First, at any given price, the Pro APU will outperform its consumer counterpart. Second, the same Pro models will be available longer. Finally, AMD is promising a more stable software image with few changes to the BIOS or drivers. Lensing said the Pro Series is helping AMD crack commercial systems such as HP’s EliteBook line.
AMD said it has shipped more than 150 million APUs since it launched the first ones in early 2011.