AMD debuts Griffin mobile processor

Chipmaker's Griffin mobile processor and Puma platform will add power-saving and performance gains when it is incorporated into new products in 2008

AMD has revealed its new mobile microprocessor and platform, which will be incorporated into new products from the middle of 2008.

Griffin, the CPU chip, is AMD's first microprocessor designed specifically for mobile usage, as the manufacturer's earlier chipsets were scalable from notebooks to servers. The mobile platform using the Griffin microprocessor will be called Puma.

"Our current-generation chips based on the same architecture are scalable but now we can take it to the next level," Maurice Steinman, the lead architect for Griffin, told ZDNet UK. "What we've done is optimise on the platform level — this does not have support for big servers."

Steinman suggested that Griffin had "taken a cue" from system-on-a-chip (SOC) designs, used to embed intelligence in appliances, for the power savings that could be gained by optimising memory for one type of system, and for the way in which that approach speeds up design and integration. He said the 65nm microprocessor differed from previous versions by having enlarged L2 caches, "some improvements on virtualisation", and greater power-saving techniques.

"Each core is on its own voltage plane [in line with our] philosophy of not spending power that's not being used," said Steinman. "Vista's power management is much faster than XP, and we need to be able to respond quickly and match the performance that is requested." He also said that Griffin had much finer control over its operating frequency, including new minimal levels and ease of transition between speeds, and AMD had "real evidence" that the microprocessor could "do standard-definition DVD playback at the one-eighth frequency power level".

"Software doesn't do the best job at managing low-level frequency changes", he said, adding that more intelligence in the hardware made for more efficient control of power.

The new RS780M chip talks to the Griffin processor over the latest variant of AMD's bus, Hypertransport 3. This has a power-saving mode whereby it can reduce bus width by dynamic scaling all the way down to zero. It will also include support for DirectX 10 and a technology called PowerXPress to switch seamlessly between integrated and off-chip graphics depending on whether or not the notebook is plugged in, leading to further power savings. It will have a built-in universal video decoder, supporting BluRay and HD DVD formats. With the Puma platform, it should theoretically be possible to support three displays simultaneously, Steinman said.

The lead architect added that it had been "tremendously educational" for him to meet the engineers who had joined AMD from ATI. "We're getting a mindshare on the CPU side, such as understanding how memory bandwidth and latency characters exchange with realtime audio."

In the future, said Steinman, the knowledge gained from the AMD-ATI merger would result first in more closely-integrated GPUs and CPUs, then in what AMD is calling "Fusion" — the optimised integration of the two into a single chip without hypertransport.