In our second-day coverage of Intel's Developer Forum, we see Sandy Bridge's graphics engine handle 3D Blu-ray on the PC, AMD's forthcoming Zacate processor in action, SSDs help improve gaming performance, and Boxee shift away from Nvidia's Tegra.
Bobcat is the code name for AMD's architecture targeted at mainstream applications. It’s the first fruit of the company’s long-awaited Fusion program, which builds a fully DirectX 11-compliant GPU onto the CPU core. The first actual processors to ship will be Ontario and Zacate, aimed at the 9 W (netbook) to 18 W (mainstream thin and light) thermal design envelopes. Zacate will be a dual-core design, and the on-die graphics use the same architecture as AMD's existing Radeon 5000-series, though the company didn’t disclose shader unit counts or clocks.
A Zacate development system was on hand, running several demos against an Intel Core i5 system with integrated graphics. One demo showed City of Heroes running using “performance” settings at 1024x768, with the Zacate system clearly outpacing Intel’s HD Graphics on the Core i5. The other demo featured HTML5 running on Microsoft’s Internet Express 9 tech preview. The “psychedelic” demo posted frame rates 15x faster than the Intel version.
Of course, these are demos on a development system versus shipping systems, and the problem AMD faces is that Sandy Bridge laptops are likely to be shipping about the time Zacate-based products actually hit the streets. AMD is betting that initial Sandy Bridge laptops will be premium priced laptops, while AMD is aiming at mobile PCs in the $500 range.
Llano, the first quad-core Fusion-enabled chip, will be based on more traditional K8 architecture on the CPU side, but won’t be shipping until mid-2011.
One of the most interesting aspects of Zacate, however, is how it will be built. The new APU will be manufactured by TSMC, rather than Global Foundries, and will center on the foundry's 40 nm manufacturing process--the same process used to build current-generation AMD Radeon HD 5000-series GPUs.
Speaking of graphics, AMD’s Dave Hoff also alluded to its next-generation graphics, code named Northern Islands. Little actual data was forthcoming, but the magic eight-ball says “sooner than you think.”