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AMD Shows Off APU Power And Performance

CeBIT 2011: AMD Demos Llano Behind Closed Doors
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The final test was meant to put performance and power consumption in perspective. Step one was to establish a baseline by looking at idle power. The Intel system was sitting at about 12.5 W, while the AMD machine was more power-hungry at 26 W. John was quick to remind us that this was not a final product, and that power should come down significantly with BIOS tweaks and other improvements (though we're honestly not sure how much more AMD can cut power so close to launch).

For this part of the presentation, AMD used a script that added a workload each time the return key was pressed. Workload number one was the Final Fantasy XIV benchmark, workload two an Excel spreadsheet with automated calculations, number three consisted of a 1080p video (Big Buck Bunny), and workload four had SPECviewperf rendering the wireframe model of a car. The final step was to use Windows 7’s Flip 3D to cycle through these programs.

Intel's Sandy Bridge-based system in ExcelIntel's Sandy Bridge-based system in ExcelAMD's Llano-based system in ExcelAMD's Llano-based system in Excel

Starting out, the Llano system was running pretty smoothly and drawing about 52 W in Final Fantasy XIV, while the Core i7 was closer to 61 W with frequent dips to 44 W. Why the dips? This happened whenever the integrated graphics engine was no longer keeping up with rendering, basically going idle, then getting back to work. Adding the Excel spreadsheet caused power consumption to climb to about 54 W on the Llano-based machine, pushing Sandy Bridge to between 52 and 68 W (with the pronounced dips, again). However, as soon as Excel was the top window, the frame rate in Final Fantasy tanked even more (because the system was having a hard time prioritizing the tasks, as John explained). Conversely, bringing the game benchmark to the front caused Excel to slow down. The same didn’t apply to Llano.

HD video on the Sandy Bridge machineHD video on the Sandy Bridge machineHD video on the Llano machineHD video on the Llano machine

Playback of the 1080p video using CyberLink’s PowerDVD 10 did nothing to AMD's power consumption, which hung steady at around 54 W. Sandy Bridge, on the other hand, was now up to 70 W and stuttering in the two other workloads. The video remained smooth throughout, though.

Finally, SPECviewperf caused the Llano system to top out at 55.5 W, while Sandy Bridge plateaued at 70 W. However, both the game benchmark and SPECviewperf were basically reduced to slide shows on the Intel platform. AMD’s system wasn’t as fast as it had started out, but was still definitely smoother on all workloads.

SPECviewperf on the Sandy Bridge machineSPECviewperf on the Sandy Bridge machineSPECviewperf on the Llano machineSPECviewperf on the Llano machine

Less of an objective yardstick, but definitely interesting as well, was the final twist AMD put on this part of the demo. With all four workloads chugging along, the script then told Windows 7 to use Flip 3D to cycle through application windows after a certain amount of work had been completed. The result here follows the pattern established above: during the time Intel's system managed to “flip” once, Llano did so three times, looking much smoother while doing it, too.

The point to take away here, according to AMD, is that benchmarks focusing on a specific component like the CPU or GPU, will be less relevant with parallel workloads and highly integrated processors like Llano. It won’t matter as much if one system is 20 percent faster in one specific benchmark running on its own because the user will be doing many things in parallel. And when it comes to juggling GPU and CPU workloads, an APU does better. Stepping back, we'd agree, with caveats. But the extent to which AMD's demo might map to the real-world is also fairly unrealistic, too. This is of course something we'll keep in mind for benchmarking moving forward, and if you want to share some of your own multi-tasked workloads with us in the comments section, we'd be glad to put together real-world examples of testing these parts running concurrent metrics.

Asked about the time frame for the introduction of the A-series parts currently known as Llano, John said they would be shipping between May and July, hinting very strongly that we should expect to see a launch sometime around June. Or maybe that was just our interpretation. At any rate, we were shown one more interesting demo from AMD to showcase the strengths of the Fusion architecture and specifically its Llano APUs.

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  • -1 Hide
    nforce4max , March 3, 2011 11:05 PM
    Not bad but still wanting more.
  • 4 Hide
    amk09 , March 3, 2011 11:13 PM
    APU's are cool especially for cheap mobile gaming but I'm still looking forward to the more powerful CPU's AMD will be offering WITHOUT integrated graphics.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 3, 2011 11:47 PM
    Cool, me i encode a lot.. so what about ENCODING... with handbrake ?! can't wait to see the results.

    gj AMD... i was losing hope but its back now!
  • -1 Hide
    sabot00 , March 3, 2011 11:51 PM
    Seems to be pretty good, but the price matters dramatically, for a $600-700 laptop this would be very good performance, but if the Phenom cores have not changed much then the clock speed really does need to go up to say 2.4GHz at least, with 2.8GHz+ being more ideal.
    For a quad-core 2 GHz will probably be OK, but not that many applications really benefit, and for multitasking AMD will need to pull through with the software.

    For the GPU, I would say 200SP's should be the minimum, and from the HD 3000 to Llano comparison I would peg the GPU at that. At 200 SP's it would be very decent for mainstream gaming at lower resolutions, playing most games quite smoothly at low-mid settings. However Llano could take a larger and higher chunk out if it gets a few versions with 300 or 400SP's.

    All-in-all, this current 4 core, 1.8GHz, ~200SP version is very respectable and has a lot of potential, but AMD needs marketing, deals with OEMs, and more marketing.

    What would I prefer? A 2 core, 2.6Ghz over this CPU, and maybe just a bit more SP's.
    Oh! And overclocking support.
  • 1 Hide
    epdark , March 4, 2011 12:17 AM
    In regards to your guys request for information about how we are using our systems. I am probably a horrible case...


    I almost always choose to run games in windowed mode (FFXIV for example) and am often surfing the fan sites, youtube, etc while I am also running the game in the background and quickly switching back and forth. I've also began using Office to write papers at the same time and as well sometimes have a 1080p or 720p movie playing pinned to top while I'm doing so...

    So yes, those sort of uses are growing increasingly appealing to me. I find that we don't even realize it sometimes but as the technology allows we are beginning to multitask with it in a natural and almost unconscious manner.

    I don't do those things because I know I can and I should. I do those things because I now can and they seem natural progressions for my usage.
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , March 4, 2011 12:27 AM
    I'm with you epdark. Even when I'm playing WoW, I'm often looking at YouTube to research upcoming fights and WoWwiki for info on various abilities. You're not a horrible case at all :) 

    Chris
  • 1 Hide
    bugo30 , March 4, 2011 1:05 AM
    I sometimes render an animation in Blender, listen to music, have Firefox open on one monitor and a full screen game open on the other. This doesn't work very well on my Athlon X2 4800. I'd be interested to see how it would work on a modern CPU.
  • 0 Hide
    drakefyre , March 4, 2011 1:26 AM
    What does Quick Sync do for HD vid playback? Shouldn't it almost eliminate processor and graphics workload, or do I misunderstand it?
  • 0 Hide
    joytech22 , March 4, 2011 1:42 AM
    I normally play RS in resizeable mode while watching youtube video's, RS is very CPU-intensive (Grand Exchange) as well as quite graphics hungry in some areas.

    GPU does the rendering (RS graphics and Youtube video processing) while the CPU cores also do rendering for RS, as well as animation processing.

    Can be quite taxing on a system, especially my laptop with a Radeon 4530 and a C2D 2.2GHz.
  • -2 Hide
    dmytty , March 4, 2011 3:16 AM
    Idle power consumption is once again dominated by Intel...why?

    My priorities for laptops are such:
    1. As light and durable as possible for the given size
    2. Good Screen (non-glossy, high resolution, outdoor viewable, high gamut)
    3. Long battery life - 8 hrs seems a reasonable compromise

    If I'm doing something resource-intensive, I'll sit behind a desktop.

    Given that most multi-tasking still results in an idle state most of the time, I can't see how AMD is competitive on point #3 while having double the idle power consumption of Intel.

    2x more idle?...AMD is really doing something wrong.
  • -1 Hide
    dmytty , March 4, 2011 3:21 AM
    I forget one other element...must have trackpoint. Trackpads bring on carpal tunnel...
  • 0 Hide
    alextheblue , March 4, 2011 3:26 AM
    sabot00For a quad-core 2 GHz will probably be OK, but not that many applications really benefit, and for multitasking AMD will need to pull through with the software.
    That used to be the case. Welcome to 2011. ;) 
    sabot00What would I prefer? A 2 core, 2.6Ghz over this CPU, and maybe just a bit more SP's.
    Ah, but in many cases, the 2Ghz part would be faster, more efficient, support better multitasking, and be more future proof. Also, they might implement Turbo, so if you're only taxing two cores, it could very nearly match the dual core part even in worst-case scenarios. Overall, the lower clocked quad core part is just a much better CPU.

    For those rare cases in which a dual core makes sense (or if you can't afford the quad core version but still want Llano APU for lappy) they will have dual core models. But clock speeds are unknown. I don't think 2.6Ghz is an unreasonable target, though!
  • 1 Hide
    sudeshc , March 4, 2011 6:03 AM
    point well presented here by AMD its indeed not the performance of one component but the whole system working in harmony to give best out of each individual component.
  • 0 Hide
    andrewcutter , March 4, 2011 6:44 AM
    there is a scenario that i use a lot.
    put a file to copy in the background. generally a 1 g file. I then play a movie.

    another one is playing a movie while encoding is going on in the background.
  • 0 Hide
    Dresdenboy , March 4, 2011 12:05 PM
    Guys, remember that Llano will not only have turbo, but a better variant than Thuban. So depending on workload it surely won't behave like a 1.8 GHz quad core Phenom II.

    I also think that idle will go down. The CPU in the demo notbook has production been started maybe 4 months ago -> wafer processing, packaging, test (1Q), delivery to sample customer (1Wk), inclusion in prototype NB (1Wk), system preparation for CeBit (1Wk).
  • 0 Hide
    pcman911 , March 4, 2011 12:33 PM
    At work my workload looks like this:
    Always open -
    Internet Explorer - two tabs - helpdesk that refreshes every 30 seconds and our corporate intranet that refreshes when updated
    Google Chrome - one to four tabs - my yahoo with RSS feeds from all kinds of security and tech sites, CDW for price checking, Dell premier page for pricing and tech support
    RadioReference live Emergency services radio (scanner) stream for the county (usually in a web player window)
    Outlook 2010 for corporate e-mail
    Symantec Endpoint Protection
    Printkey screen capture
    UltraVNC Server
    iTunes for iphone sync, podcast and application updates

    Apps launched throughout the day to add to the load
    Word, Excel, and Access 2010 - Word usually 1-2 documents at a time, Excel usually always 2 sheets at a time, and Access one database with 10 tables, usually 1-2 open at a time
    Adobe Reader for PDF
    Paint, Notepad
    VNC Viewer
    CDBurnerXP for CDs and DVDs
    Windows Virtual PC -- 10GB Image of WIndows XP Pro
    I am sure there are other apps i am missing
    Wolfdale E8400 3Ghz Dual Core
    8GB DDR2
    500GB WD Caviar
    ATI Fire Pro PCI-e 16x running 22" 1920x1080 & 19" 1600x1200 LCD
    ATI Fire MV PCI-e 1X running 19" 1600x1200 LCD
    Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , March 4, 2011 12:46 PM
    Why didn't AMD test it against Sandy Bridge?
  • 0 Hide
    benkraft , March 4, 2011 12:49 PM
    @rav555 - They did. Core i7-2630QM is a Sandy Bridge part, as the article frequently mentions.
  • 4 Hide
    cknobman , March 4, 2011 1:15 PM
    rav555Why didn't AMD test it against Sandy Bridge?


    Why didn't you read the article?
  • -1 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , March 4, 2011 1:26 PM
    fk fusion..Give us a good goddamn CPU that can take on SB :@
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