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AMD's Kabini: Jaguar And GCN Come Together In A 15 W APU

AMD's Kabini: Jaguar And GCN Come Together In A 15 W APU
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AMD is ready to talk about the Temash and Kabini APUs, based on its Jaguar x86 architecture and Graphics Core Next design. We even have a reference Temash-based notebook here in the lab for benchmarking. How does it compare to Pentium and Core i3?

A little over a year ago, we sat in an auditorium in AMD's Sunnyvale, CA office to hear Rory Read and his executive team explain how the company planned to stay competitive, despite what we saw as lagging positions in the client and server computing segments. At no point did he mention taking back the high-end x86 CPU crown from Intel. Rather, the rallying cry revolved around APUs: deliver a compelling user experience across device categories using what was lauded as disruptive APU technology, and propel these devices into ultra-low-power markets.

The three keys to executing this vision were listed as the reuse of SoC IP, an improved design methodology, and better time-to-market. Based on the roadmap AMD showed off at that event, it hasn't quite found its stride yet. Most notably, Sea Islands didn't become the new architecture with HSA-oriented features we were expecting, so it looks like we'll be testing with GCN-based boards for the rest of 2013.

But AMD is delivering on the Temash and Kabini designs it outlined at that analyst day, the former a low-power APU powering notebooks and the latter an ultra-low-power APU diminutive enough to drive tablets. Both feature AMD's Jaguar x86 core design and the already-familiar Graphics Core Next GPU architecture. 

These aren't the only Jaguar-based SoCs being talked about lately. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One center on eight-core Jaguar-based APUs, too. Reuse IP? Leverage the company's GPU architecture in new markets? Deliver a compelling experience across device categories? Check, check, and check. Although Rory's team looks a little different today than it did in 2012, the company appears to be satisfying some of the important goals it set forth. 

The fact that Microsoft and Sony are leaning on AMD's Jaguar design is pretty telling. But of course, we don't have have access to the next-generation PlayStation or Xbox. We do, however, have a prototype notebook powered by Kabini in our possession. We can also talk about the details surrounding AMD's Temash SoC.

To give you an idea of the range we're talking about, the highest-power Kabini APU is a 25 W part, while the lowest-power Temash-based chip uses up to 3.9 W.

These processors are destined for tablets, convertibles, and ultra-thin notebooks. AMD intends to fill the gap between low-power ARM-based tablets and high-performance laptops with silicon that seems to slot in between the Silvermont-based Atom architecture Intel just announced and mid-range mobile CPUs based on the same company's Ivy Bridge design.

If you ever wanted a decent Windows-based tablet, and hoped to pay less than the $1,000 Microsoft charges for a Surface Pro, Temash could be promising. How about a desire for a low-cost ultra-thin notebook with great battery life and graphics performance that shames Intel's Atom? If AMD's claims are to be believed, Kabini is the answer there.

Let's have a look inside both APUs to see if the specs tell us a compelling story.

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    zeek the geek , May 23, 2013 9:09 PM
    This is was we expect on the new consoles, I sure as heck can't wait to see what improvements we'll have on games ported over to PC are. I'm tired of these makeshift ports... Glad to see AMD has their hands in the console field, now maybe we'll see a huge influx of cash on their end to help improve their line and drivers that will give Nvidia a good run for so we can see "OUR money" go to good use. To better technology and innovation!
  • 19 Hide
    ta152h , May 23, 2013 11:23 PM
    Comparing Kabini with SB/IB is like comparing a four cylinder car with an eight cylinder car. It's plain silly, and kind of obnoxious.

    This was a poor review because of the choice made there. I think a lot people were curious about how improved it was over the Bobcat. No data. How about the Atom? No data. Let's just compare it with chips the Piledriver competes with, instead of those it does. It makes no sense.

    In case you guys haven't figured it out, Piledriver is the competitor for SB/IB, not Kabini. Two different markets. That you justify this so poorly by saying one particular notebook would cost x amount of dollars, is borderline insane. From one notebook, which are based on things other than the cost of the processor as well, you would assume all will cost the same? Strange.

    The comparisons with SB/IB aren't worthless, but they should have been in addition to the processors in their market, and also with AMD's Trinity line. Maybe four or five processors, instead of just two that are addressing a higher performance market, and architecturally quite close.

    You lost this one to other sites. Normally, especially when Chris writes them, Tom's ends up having the best information. Not this time. Not even close.
  • 17 Hide
    amdfangirl , May 23, 2013 11:02 PM
    AMD Kabini follows the idea of a tablet - people buy them because they are good enough. That's what is causing the downturn in the PC industry. With the performance advantage over ARM chips and Intel Atom, I really see this as a viable alternative in netbooks and Windows tablets.

    AMD Kabini sleekbook. I am just drooling at the idea of that.
Other Comments
  • 23 Hide
    zeek the geek , May 23, 2013 9:09 PM
    This is was we expect on the new consoles, I sure as heck can't wait to see what improvements we'll have on games ported over to PC are. I'm tired of these makeshift ports... Glad to see AMD has their hands in the console field, now maybe we'll see a huge influx of cash on their end to help improve their line and drivers that will give Nvidia a good run for so we can see "OUR money" go to good use. To better technology and innovation!
  • 12 Hide
    slomo4sho , May 23, 2013 9:10 PM
    With Haswell around the corner claiming models with TDP of 15, 13.5, and 10 watts, the lack of performance in this chipset is discouraging to say the least.
  • 6 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , May 23, 2013 9:28 PM
    This is the best CPU architecture to come out of AMD in a very long time. It has so many things going for it in comparison to the current competition from Atom. Far superior overall performance, improved power consumption and FP performance over its predecessor (weak points of Brazos), much better graphics performance, broader x86 instruction support, and an actual process advantage (28nm vs 32nm). AMD has a huge opportunity here, and I sure hope they capitalize on it quickly because it won't last long. Atom's based on Intel's upcoming Silvermont architecture will likely outperform Jaguar and reverse most of the advantages AMD currently has.
  • 11 Hide
    BringMeAnother , May 23, 2013 9:31 PM
    Its performing well in all the wrong areas. If I'm going to play games, I'd rather play with at least high settings with decent resolution. I'm perfectly willing to give up mobility for a gaming machine.
  • 5 Hide
    mcx2500 , May 23, 2013 10:00 PM

    Given that the AMD Temash and Kabinis are priced in the range of Atoms, it is illustrative that the Tom's reviewer used two Pentium and i3 CPUs that cost over $130 and $200 respectively.

    To see the Intel chips utilizing dramatically more watts than the Kabini brings up issues discovered by other reviewers. Just look at the graph of the i3-3217u rated at "17 watt TDP" playing F1-2012 at what is 100% or nearly 35 watts! This means that AMD Kabini A6-5200 which is being released in June will outperform Intel's $225+ i3-3217u for price-performance per watt, you can be on it.

    While running the range of applications, the AMD Kabini remained cool while the Intel chips heat up dramatically. This heat has to be dissipated from the laptop and it takes a toll on both the machine and user.

    HP just announced 10 point touchscreen laptops that utilize AMD Jaguar Kabinis for a breakthrough price of $399 and that is just a start of a flood of good old competition (hello AMD Kaveri APU Xmas).
  • -6 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , May 23, 2013 10:32 PM
    mcx2500To see the Intel chips utilizing dramatically more watts than the Kabini brings up issues discovered by other reviewers. Just look at the graph of the i3-3217u rated at "17 watt TDP" playing F1-2012 at what is 100% or nearly 35 watts!

    This is because the i3-3217u is not an SOC, it's just an ULV dual core Ivy Bridge. Many of the controllers and other supporting hardware are located off die on the mother board, which increases power consumption over the CPU/GPU's rated 17W TDP.

    Kabini will have to compete with Intel's upcoming ULV Haswell, which will go as low as ~10W TDP and will be an SOC. This is why I said in my previous comment that I feel AMD has a rare advantage right now and a narrow window of opportunity to make an impact. Jaguar will overlap Silvermont on the low end of its TDP range, and Haswell on its upper end. Both will likely outperform it in their given segments.
  • 12 Hide
    cleeve , May 23, 2013 11:00 PM
    mcx2500Given that the AMD Temash and Kabinis are priced in the range of Atoms, it is illustrative that the Tom's reviewer used two Pentium and i3 CPUs that cost over $130 and $200 respectively.


    AMD told us the Kabini laptop they gave us would be priced $500 on the market, and that cheaper versions would be as low as $350.

    We used the cheapest comparison laptops we could find. The only thing it illustrates is that we were trying to give Kabini the best chance of strutting its stuff.
  • 17 Hide
    amdfangirl , May 23, 2013 11:02 PM
    AMD Kabini follows the idea of a tablet - people buy them because they are good enough. That's what is causing the downturn in the PC industry. With the performance advantage over ARM chips and Intel Atom, I really see this as a viable alternative in netbooks and Windows tablets.

    AMD Kabini sleekbook. I am just drooling at the idea of that.
  • 7 Hide
    amdfangirl , May 23, 2013 11:07 PM
    dragonsqrrl Kabini will have to compete with Intel's upcoming ULV Haswell, which will go as low as ~10W TDP and will be an SOC


    No, Kabini competes in the Intel Atom price range like its predecessor, AMD Brazos.

    Sure they compete in a similar TDP range, but you wouldn't expect people to compare the chips that go into $999 ultrabooks with chips that will (ultimately) go into the same form factor as them, but are priced at <$400.

    ULV processors from Intel are priced at a premium - because Intel is unchallenged in that space. AMD would be insane to try and price Kabini anywhere near IVB or Haswell ULV parts, because AMD will never win by overpricing their products.

    "There's no such thing as a bad product, just a bad price point"

    Edit: Not entirely sure why my comment got cut off, but here it is. Please note this comparison was made about the ultraportable area of the market, where the main concerns are weight, screen size and battery life. If we start comparing a CPU designed for primarily 11.6" or 10.1" screens with say 35W CPUs in a 15" form factor, you've lost the whole point of the comparison you're doing ultraportable vs. desktop replacements. Sure, if a manufacturer wants to put Kabini in a 15" form factor then it's fair game, but for the majority of Kabini chips, we'll see them in ultraportables, not desktop replacements.
  • 19 Hide
    ta152h , May 23, 2013 11:23 PM
    Comparing Kabini with SB/IB is like comparing a four cylinder car with an eight cylinder car. It's plain silly, and kind of obnoxious.

    This was a poor review because of the choice made there. I think a lot people were curious about how improved it was over the Bobcat. No data. How about the Atom? No data. Let's just compare it with chips the Piledriver competes with, instead of those it does. It makes no sense.

    In case you guys haven't figured it out, Piledriver is the competitor for SB/IB, not Kabini. Two different markets. That you justify this so poorly by saying one particular notebook would cost x amount of dollars, is borderline insane. From one notebook, which are based on things other than the cost of the processor as well, you would assume all will cost the same? Strange.

    The comparisons with SB/IB aren't worthless, but they should have been in addition to the processors in their market, and also with AMD's Trinity line. Maybe four or five processors, instead of just two that are addressing a higher performance market, and architecturally quite close.

    You lost this one to other sites. Normally, especially when Chris writes them, Tom's ends up having the best information. Not this time. Not even close.
  • 4 Hide
    sarinaide , May 23, 2013 11:28 PM
    Kabini and Tamesh make perfect sense in worlds of low powered devices where a end user is less interested in a super computer and more concerned with features and power efficiency. Since this was not designed to be a high end part to compare it against full on Intel x86 processors is a bit silly when Richland APU's mobile and desktop are more the comparison for the i3 and Pentium. This part in a tablet would be quite impressive.
  • -4 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , May 23, 2013 11:31 PM
    amdfangirlNo, Kabini competes in the Intel Atom price range like its predecessor, AMD Brazos. Sure they compete in a similar TDP range, but you wouldn't expect people to compare

    TDP defines the possible form factor's a processor or SOC can occupy. In this upcoming generation both Intel and AMD will share many of the same mobile form factors, from tablets to ultrabooks. They will be competing. AMD might be forced into lower price points by Intel's upcoming products, but that doesn't change the fact that they're competing for the same market. And as Don pointed out, price points can overlap more than you might assume.

    And umm, what were you going to say?
  • -2 Hide
    cleeve , May 23, 2013 11:37 PM
    amdfangirlNo, Kabini competes in the Intel Atom price range like its predecessor, AMD Brazos. Sure they compete in a similar TDP range, but you wouldn't expect people to compare


    No, Kabini competes with what it's priced similar to. That will be low end pentiums and Core i3s. This is by AMD's own admission.

    Temash will be priced lower, in the Atom/Brazos and Tablet range.
  • 4 Hide
    ingtar33 , May 23, 2013 11:43 PM
    surprise surprise. AMD releases a part that's designed to compete with the crappy atom, and toms review it in comparison to the flipping IB chip.

    I know lets compare this low powered cpu vs the flagship intel architecture. that makes all the sense in the world.
  • 11 Hide
    de5_Roy , May 23, 2013 11:52 PM
    nicely done, amd. full soc, cpu and igpu, in a prototype laptop is delivered instead of promo slides of just cpu cores (you know who i am talking about).
    this seems like the worthy successor of the successful brazos socs. power efficient and well-performing.
    now it's up to amd to push the arch to oems for competing in the portable computing arena.
  • 7 Hide
    sarinaide , May 23, 2013 11:56 PM
    Since the A4 5000 is the baseline model in synthetics its rather good but where it is impressive is in the power consumption sweepstakes; we also need to consider that the Pentium is clocked at over 2ghz and has a graphics core at 350-1300+mhz and the i3 has a core clock at 1.8ghz and HD4000 (intels top line) clocked at 350-1300+mhz, since core speed is essential to gaming performance particularly the 60% higher graphics core clocks the Intel parts use is rather impressive that a 500mhz/1.5ghz part consumes half the power the robust i3 uses and delivers around similiar performance. If you want parity lock the intel clocks to similar and the i3 will lose around half its performance (gaming) so yes its better on the basis of having a more aggressive clock rate.

    I don't see what is so mediorce about it. How will the same i3 fair against A8 and A10 Richland APU's when they are released (Mobility only).
  • 3 Hide
    esrever , May 24, 2013 12:03 AM
    Would be more interesting with a few more laptops. Maybe a llano/trinity and maybe brazo, the product its replacing.
  • 9 Hide
    cleeve , May 24, 2013 12:05 AM
    ingtar33surprise surprise. AMD releases a part that's designed to compete with the crappy atom, and toms review it in comparison to the flipping IB chip.


    Once again, please read carefully: ****AMD*** TOLD US TO COMPARE IT TO $300 - $500 LAPTOPS.
  • 2 Hide
    de5_Roy , May 24, 2013 12:11 AM
    Quote:
    ingtar33surprise surprise. AMD releases a part that's designed to compete with the crappy atom, and toms review it in comparison to the flipping IB chip.


    Once again, please read carefully: ****AMD*** TOLD US TO COMPARE IT TO $300 - $500 LAPTOPS.

    +100. :lol: 
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