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The First Inklings Of Fusion: On-Die Video Decoding Via UVD3

ASRock's E350M1: AMD's Brazos Platform Hits The Desktop First
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We had the opportunity to preview the Zacate APU late last year at AMD’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. Now we have the first retail motherboard based on the Brazos platform in ASRock’s E350M1. Today we’re asking: what can the Fusion initiative really do?

Equipped with a modest 80 stream processors, graphics performance will never be Zacate’s flagship feature. However, the addition of AMD’s UVD 3 fixed-function decoding block makes it possible to watch high-bit rate content without taxing the lightweight Bobcat cores.

As mentioned previously, the UVD 3 we have here isn’t exactly like what you’d find on a Radeon HD 6000-series discrete board, though. On the downside, Multiview Video Coding is not accelerated, meaning you don’t get Blu-ray 3D support. That won’t be a deal-breaker for most, since Blu-ray 3D has been very slow to catch on in light of the expensive, battery-powered, heavy glasses required for each viewer. But it might become more of a detractor if the technology gains momentum in 2011.

However, the Zacate APU also introduces MPEG-2 hardware decode at the VLD (variable-length decoding) level. MPEG-2 is a fairly easy codec to decode, so nobody really gave it much thought that AMD wasn’t accelerating the entire pipeline (iDCT- and motion comp-only). And from a performance standpoint, the Brazos platform wouldn’t have had any problems. But by building in a more complete MPEG-2 decode solution, more of the workload is handled by efficient fixed-function logic, keeping the Bobcat cores as idle as possible, and extending battery life. Naturally, this is more of a consideration for mobile machines that will center on Brazos.

Of course, we wanted to double-check that AMD’s fixed-function logic was doing its share of the heavy-lifting, so we fired up Quantum of Solace (AVC) and The Book of Eli (VC-1) using a recently-optimized copy of CyberLink’s PowerDVD 10:

Celeron SU2300, H.264Celeron SU2300, H.264Athlon II X2, H.264Athlon II X2, H.264E-350, H.264E-350, H.264

Celeron SU2300, VC-1Celeron SU2300, VC-1Athlon II X2, VC-1Athlon II X2, VC-1E-350, VC-1E-350, VC-1

Though the Athlon II and Celeron see the lowest utilization numbers, remember that the Athlon II-based machine centers on AMD’s 880G chipset, which includes UVD 2 and is driven by a 2.8 GHz desktop processor, while the Celeron benefits from Nvidia’s Ion, armed with third-generation PureVideo.

The simple fact that AMD’s E-350 hovers around 20% utilization in H.264-based video and 30% utilization decoding VC-1 is pretty impressive. Also, these numbers include audio decoding, which happens on the CPU. If you were to bitstream Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio over HDMI, the two Bobcat cores would have even less work to do.

I spend some time talking about my findings with Louis Chen, CyberLink’s director of business development, who shared the performance numbers his technical team had recorded. Although we don’t have access to the single-core version of Zacate or either Ontario SKU, CyberLink says even the C-50 (Ontario, 1 GHz, single-core) should be capable of Blu-ray playback using any of the three accelerated codecs. You’ll see utilization in excess of 70% in H.264 titles, but the requisite performance is there.

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  • 16 Hide
    cangelini , January 14, 2011 6:35 AM
    johnbilickiBiased; it's awesome all-around. Netbooks aren't going to sport 1680x1050 displays. I'd refer people to the site though they don't understand how to objectively interpret biased reporting.


    Netbooks != nettops. This is a motherboard, which goes into a system on a desk/in an entertainment center. Sorry, your princess is in another castle...
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , January 14, 2011 4:18 AM
    now they need some devs to take advantage of that apu to see its full potential as a processor.
  • -2 Hide
    reprotected , January 14, 2011 4:27 AM
    Ironic of how Nvidia quality is worse than AMD.
  • 6 Hide
    Reynod , January 14, 2011 4:27 AM
    This is an awesome processor ...

    Chris ... did you manage to overclock it at all?

    Give it your best shot ... call crashman in with the liquid nitrogen if you need to mate !!

    Really impressive stats for such a small piece of silicon.
  • 0 Hide
    dogman_1234 , January 14, 2011 4:29 AM
    So the Brazo is great for media and hard processing I assume. If someone came to me and asked for a good platrom to watch Blu-Ray...I would say get the Brazo APU for them, right?
  • 3 Hide
    sparky2010 , January 14, 2011 4:38 AM
    Nice, things are starting to look good for AMD, and i hope it stays that way as they start unveiling their mainstream and highend processors, because i'm really fed up with intel dictating crazy prices.....
  • 6 Hide
    cangelini , January 14, 2011 5:03 AM
    reynodThis is an awesome processor ... Chris ... did you manage to overclock it at all?Give it your best shot ... call crashman in with the liquid nitrogen if you need to mate !!Really impressive stats for such a small piece of silicon.


    Didn't get a chance to mess with overclocking. If this is something you guys want to see, I might try to push it a little harder over the weekend.
  • 7 Hide
    joytech22 , January 14, 2011 5:08 AM
    cangeliniDidn't get a chance to mess with overclocking. If this is something you guys want to see, I might try to push it a little harder over the weekend.


    Yeah that would be much appreciated, these little chips are so much faster than Atom, let's see if you can get them to perform similarly to a Dual-Core CPU at 1.8GHz
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , January 14, 2011 5:10 AM
    Alright, I'll see what I can do. A shiny new video card landed this afternoon, so that's going to monopolize the bench for much of the weekend ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    dEAne , January 14, 2011 5:15 AM
    Yes integration is the key to higher performance, lower power consumption and lower price (affordability this is what people really wanted).
  • 0 Hide
    haplo602 , January 14, 2011 5:23 AM
    can you also run gaming benchmarks with a 5670 or similar plugged into the PCIe slot ? Just to have a look how the limited memory interface will bottleneck ...

    also what happens with the intgrated graphics core when you plug in a discreet GPU ? you gave so much detail about this in the sandy bridge review but totaly skip it for Fusion ...

    the board got me interested. I am trying to buy a small "workstation terminal" ... something to code OpenGL/OpenCL on a budget. Seems this is what I am looking for.
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , January 14, 2011 5:29 AM
    haplo602can you also run gaming benchmarks with a 5670 or similar plugged into the PCIe slot ? Just to have a look how the limited memory interface will bottleneck ...also what happens with the intgrated graphics core when you plug in a discreet GPU ? you gave so much detail about this in the sandy bridge review but totaly skip it for Fusion ...the board got me interested. I am trying to buy a small "workstation terminal" ... something to code OpenGL/OpenCL on a budget. Seems this is what I am looking for.


    Clearly the focus here was on Brazos' place in the Fusion infrastructure (hence the effort to test video decode/encode). Again, I'll look into adding more performance data with discrete graphics as well, though!
  • 1 Hide
    apache_lives , January 14, 2011 5:59 AM
    about F*** time AMD, good show
  • 1 Hide
    lashton , January 14, 2011 6:01 AM
    yeah overclocking would be good and see how it compares with overclocking of similar playforms
  • 16 Hide
    cangelini , January 14, 2011 6:35 AM
    johnbilickiBiased; it's awesome all-around. Netbooks aren't going to sport 1680x1050 displays. I'd refer people to the site though they don't understand how to objectively interpret biased reporting.


    Netbooks != nettops. This is a motherboard, which goes into a system on a desk/in an entertainment center. Sorry, your princess is in another castle...
  • 2 Hide
    Reynod , January 14, 2011 8:11 AM
    Good point about the mobo Chris.

    Yes we would ove to see some overclocking if possible ...

    This kinda takes me back to the days of Dothan ... remember this landmark article Chris ...

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/dothan-netburst,1041-6.html
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , January 14, 2011 8:19 AM
    Sure do reynod--those were the days, weren't they?
  • 1 Hide
    i_am_aronman , January 14, 2011 8:35 AM
    sparky2010Nice, things are starting to look good for AMD, and i hope it stays that way as they start unveiling their mainstream and highend processors, because i'm really fed up with intel dictating crazy prices.....

    More like ridiculous prices, i understand them having "top" processors but i don't understand their pricing scheme. I am hoping AMD can pull it together with these processors as well because it will mean Intel will have to get it together as well.
  • -3 Hide
    nevertell , January 14, 2011 8:41 AM
    I was hoping for better performance per watt :( 

    I really would like a tegra 2 notebook with a proper and supported OS.
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