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The History Of AMD CPUs

AMD K10: Fusion/Llano

AMD's Fusion project came to fruition in July 2011, when the company released its first APUs, code-named "Llano." The design combined a large number of AMD's Radeon Stream Processors based on the TeraScale 2 architecture with the company's K10 CPU cores. The underlying concept was similar to AMD's Geode line, which hadn't been updated in years. But where the Geode was designed as a low-power/performance solution, Llano was meant to be a higher-performance product.

It was never meant to compete in the high-end, but the idea was to create a SKU that could give reasonable CPU and graphics performance all in one. Llano suffered from a lack of L3 cache, and the iGPU was far too slow to keep most gamers happy, but for casual gamers that didn't mind lower graphics settings, it performed well enough.

AMD Llano

Code NameLlano
DateJuly 2011
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Core)64 KB + 64 KB
L2 Cache (Per Core)1 MB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)None
Clock Speed2.1 - 3 GHz
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3-1866
Core Count2, 3, 4
SIMDMMX, Enhanced 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4a
Fab32 nm
Transistor Count1,178 Million
Power Consumption65 - 100 W
Voltage0.45 - 1.4125 V
Die Area227 mm²
SocketSocket FM1
iGPUTeraScale 2 (Radeon HD 5000, rebranded as Radeon HD 6000)

AMD Bobcat

To be more competitive with Intel's Atom and ARM's low-power microprocessors, AMD introduced its Bobcat architecture in 2011. Since Bobcat was designed to be efficient, it ran at fairly low clock speeds; the highest-performing model reached 1.75 GHz. Bobcat is technically an APU, and it contains an iGPU with 80 Stream Processors based on the TeraScale 2 architecture. The iGPU is clocked rather conservatively as well in order to keep power consumption low.

AMD Bobcat

Code NameDesna, Ontario, Zacate
Date2011
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Core)32 KB + 32 KB
L2 Cache (Per Core)512 KB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)None
Clock Speed0.8 - 1.75 GHz
Memory ControllerSingle-Channel DDR3L-1333
Core Count1 - 2
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
Fab40 nm
Transistor CountN/A
Power Consumption4.5 - 18 W TDP
Voltage0.5 - 1.4 V
Die Area107 mm²
SocketAM1
iGPU ArchitectureTeraScale 2
iGPU Shader Count80

AMD Bulldozer: Zambezi

In October 2011, AMD introduced the successor to its K10 architecture, code-named "Bulldozer." With Bulldozer, AMD attempted to use high core count and clock speed to outperform Intel's recently-released Sandy Bridge. The cost of this clock rate-focused design, however, was a marked drop in IPC compared to the K10 architecture, and the design has been plagued with problems. The first Bulldozer chip, code-named Zambezi, was not able to cleanly out-perform Thuban Phenom II X6 CPUs, let alone beat Sandy Bridge. Part of the problem came from the use of a Multi-Core Module (MCM) that contains two integer cores and one FPU. As the two integer execution units have to share the FPU, this can lead to stalls in the pipeline.

The design has also been criticized for being power-hungry and running too hot, though that stems from direct comparisons between Bulldozer and Sandy Bridge.

AMD Bulldozer Zambezi

Code NameZambezi
DateOctober 2011
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Module)64 KB + (2 x 16 KB)
L2 Cache (Per Module)2 MB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)8 MB
Clock Speed2.8 - 4.2 GHz (4.3 GHz Turbo)
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3-1866
HyperTransport2600 MHz
Core Count4, 6, 8
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
InstructionsAES, FMA4, XOP
Fab32 nm
Transistor CountN/A
Power Consumption95 - 125 W
Voltage0.95 - 1.4125 V
Die Area316 mm²
SocketAM3+

AMD Piledriver: Trinity And Richland

A year after Bulldozer debuted, AMD released a revised architecture known as Piledriver. Piledriver was initially released with Trinity, the company's second-gen APU. It saw clock speed increase by about 10 percent, and that, in conjunction with architectural enhancements, pushed performance up by roughly 15 percent without increasing power consumption.

On the iGPU side, Trinity moved to the TeraScale 3 architecture used inside of AMD's Radeon HD 6900-series GPUs. This helped to increase graphics performance over Llano.

Richland, in turn, was a slightly improved Piledriver part. It performed just slightly better than Trinity due to higher clock speeds. It also managed to reduce power consumption and heat somewhat. The performance gap between mobile Trinity APUs and mobile Richland APUs was greater than on the desktop, owing to the improved thermals and power consumption.

AMD Trinity And Richland APUs

Code NameTrinityRichland
DateOctober 2012May 2013
Architecture64-bit64-bit
Data Bus64-bit64-bit
Address Bus64-bit64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Module)64 KB + (2 x 16 KB)64 KB + (2 x 16 KB)
L2 Cache (Per Module)2 MB (Full Speed)2 MB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)--
Clock Speed2.9 - 3.8 GHz (4.2 GHz Turbo)2.1 - 4.1 GHz (4.4 GHz Turbo)
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3-1866Dual-Channel DDR3-2133
Core Count2 - 42 - 4
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVXMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
InstructionsAES, BMI1, F16C, FMA3, FMA4, TBM, XOPAES, BMI1, F16C, FMA3, FMA4, TBM, XOP
Fab32 nm32 nm
Transistor Count1,303 Million1,300 Million
Power Consumption65 - 100 W45 - 100 W
Voltage0.825 - 1.475 VN/A
Die Area246 mm²246 mm²
SocketFM2FM2
iGPUTeraScale 3 (Radeon HD 6900)TeraScale 3 (Radeon HD 6900 - Rebranded As Radeon HD 8000)

AMD Piledriver: Vishera

AMD also applied its Piledriver architecture to the FX family, displacing Zambezi in favor of Vishera.

AMD Bulldozer Vishera

Code NameVishera
DateOctober 2012
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Module)64 KB + (2 x 16 KB)
L2 Cache (Per Module)2 MB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)8 MB
Clock Speed3.3 - 4.7 GHz (5 GHz Turbo)
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3-1866
HyperTransport2600 MHz
Core Count4, 6, 8
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
InstructionsAES, BMI1, F16C, FMA3, FMA4, TBM, XOP
Fab32 nm
Transistor CountN/A
Power Consumption95 - 125 W (220 W)
Voltage0.875 - 1.425 V
Die AreaN/A
SocketAM3+

AMD Steamroller: A GCN APU

In 2014, AMD updated its APU line again with the new Steamroller architecture. AMD shifted to a new 28nm process that favored chip density over clock speeds in order to be more compatible with its graphics technology. The CPU demonstrated a reasonable increase in IPC over its predecessor, thanks in part to a larger L1 cache and additional internal registers. It wasn't able to hit the same clock speeds as Richland though, so overall performance didn't increase much.

The graphics side of the APU improved drastically, however, owing to the new transistor technology, an increase in shader count, and a move to AMD's GCN GPU architecture. The APU featured a number of other enhancements, such as being the first HSA-compatible APU, the addition of AMD's TrueAudio DSP technology and support for PCIe 3.0.

The first Steamroller APUs use a configuration known as Kaveri. The APU line was later refreshed with Godavari, which benefits mostly from higher clock speeds.

Code NameKaveriGodavari
DateJanuary 2014May 2015
Architecture64-bit64-bit
Data Bus64-bit64-bit
Address Bus64-bit64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Module)96 KB + (2 x 16 KB)96 KB + (2 x 16 KB)
L2 Cache (Per Module)2 MB (Full Speed)2 MB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Per Module)NoneNone
Clock Speed3.1 - 3.7 GHz (Turbo 4 GHz)2.9 - 3.9 GHz (Turbo 4.1 GHz)
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3-2133Dual-Channel DDR3-2133
Core Count2 - 42 - 4
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVXMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
InstructionsAES, BMI1, F16C, FMA3, FMA4, TBM, XOPAES, BMI1, F16C, FMA3, FMA4, TBM, XOP
Fab28 nm28 nm
Transistor Count2.41 BillionN/A
Power Consumption65 - 95 W65 - 95 W
VoltageN/AN/A
Die Area245 mm²N/A
SocketFM2+FM2+
iGPUGCN Radeon R5/R7GCN Radeon R5/R7

AMD Jaguar

AMD introduced its Jaguar architecture in 2014 to replace the aging Bobcat core. Jaguar increased the CPU core count to four and moved to a faster GCN-based graphics processor with 128 shaders. IPC shot up by roughly 15 percent as well, alongside a boost in clock speed. Overall, Jaguar is significantly faster than Bobcat in every way.

The Jaguar architecture in also used inside of the Xbox One and Playstation 4. The models inside of these game consoles have significantly higher core counts on both the CPU and iGPU, however, and Jaguar-based products available in other devices are considerably slower.

AMD Jaguar

Code NameKabin, Temash
DateApril 2014
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Core)32 KB + 32 KB
L2 Cache (Per Core)512 KB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)None
Clock Speed1.3 - 2.05 GHz
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3-1600
Core Count2 - 4
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
Fab28 nm
Transistor CountN/A
Power Consumption3.9 - 25 W TDP
Voltage0.5 - 1.4 V
Die Area107 mm²
SocketAM1
iGPU ArchitectureGCN Radeon R3
iGPU Shader Count128

Excavator: The End Of Bulldozer

The last architecture that AMD plans to produce based on Bulldozer is known as Excavator, which is used inside of AMD Carrizo-based APUs. Relatively few of these products have been released thus far, so we can't be sure what the clock speed limit will be on these parts. Carrizo is designed to have significantly higher transistor density (than prior Bulldozer-based processors), which helps to reduce the die area and lower power consumption. AMD reworked the cache inside of Excavator, too.

The processor has less L2 cache, but twice as much L1 cache when compared to Steamroller. Because the L1 cache is several times faster than the L2 cache, this helps to boost IPC performance. The branch prediction target buffer was increased by 50 percent as well, to 768 KB, which further helps to improve performance. The graphics processor also gained 512 KB of dedicated L2 cache to increase graphics processing power. Rearranging the cache on the APU also helped to lower the power consumption, as cache tends to be fairly power hungry, and this new configuration has less overall cache on die.

AMD Excavator

Code NameCarrizo
Date2015
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache (Per Module)192 KB + (2 x 32 KB)
L2 Cache (Per Module)1 MB (Full Speed)
L3 Cache (Shared)None
Clock Speed3.5 GHz (Athlon X4 845, Carrizo clock speed range unknown)
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR3
Core Count2 - 4
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
Fab28 nm
Transistor CountN/A
Power Consumption65 W TDP (Athlon X4 845, Carrizo power consumption range unknown)
VoltageN/A
Die AreaN/A
SocketFM2+
iGPU ArchitectureGCN Radeon R3
iGPU Shader Count512

Ryzen: AMD Reborn

AMD lost ground to Intel in essentially every area of the CPU market during the Bulldozer years. The company lost significant financial resources and had to sell its silicon fabs. With an uphill battle to remain in the processor market, AMD put its hopes on Ryzen.

The top end Ryzen processor, Ryzen 7 1800X, has eight CPU cores clocked at 3.6 GHz. The CPU can also accelerate up to 4.1 GHz in certain work loads. The eight cores are organized into two partitions. Each partition has 8MB of L3 cache, and each core has a dedicated 512KB L2 cache, a 64KB L1 instruction cache, and a 64KB L1 data cache. This gives the Ryzen 7 1800X a total of 16MB of L3, 4MB of L2, and 1MB of L1 cache.

In Ryzen, AMD implemented its first micro-op cache, which can store recently used instructions, improving performance and reducing pipeline stalls. Ryzen processors also support Hyper-Threading, which allows cores to handle two threads simultaneously. The company's processor debuts alongside the new AM4 socket, adding support for DDR4 RAM.

Ryzen 7 was closely followed up by its Ryzen 5 processors, which are created from semi-defective Ryzen 7 cores. Ryzen 5 is available in quad- and hexa-core variants and at similar clock speeds to Ryzen 7.

AMD Ryzen

Code NameRyzen
Date2016
Architecture64-bit
Data Bus64-bit
Address Bus64-bit
Maximum Memory Support1 TB
L1 Cache64KB L1 I + 64KB L1 D
L2 Cache512KB
L3 Cache (Shared)8MB
Clock Speed3.6GHz
Memory ControllerDual-Channel DDR4
Core Count4 - 8
SIMDMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4a, SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
Fab14nm
Transistor CountN/A
Power Consumption95W TDP
VoltageN/A
Die AreaN/A
SocketAM4
iGPU ArchitectureNone
iGPU Shader CountNone

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  • blackmagnum
    The eternal underdog will once more have his day.
    Reply
  • wurkfur
    The eternal underdog will once more have his day.

    How can you say eternal? For a good while AMD was actually making faster and more innovative stuff than Intel.

    AMD launched dual cores for consumers
    AMD integrated memory controllers on die
    AMD created x64 versus Intel pushing the move to a new architecture that only they could make
    AMD also pushed APU's mainstream

    Intel adopted all these practices after the fact while engaging in illegal monopolistic behavior in an international stage that stifled innovation, cost jobs, and caused consumers to pay more.

    One could argue that if Intel had simply played by the rules locally and abroad, AMD would have had enough cash flow to maintain their position through better R&D instead of playing catch up.

    For that very reason I look forward to AMD's upcoming products to replace my 1090t that's clocked within an inch of its life.
    Reply
  • vern72
    AMD launched dual cores for consumers
    AMD integrated memory controllers on die
    AMD created x64 versus Intel pushing the move to a new architecture that only they could make
    AMD also pushed APU's mainstream

    And one more thing: AMD was the first to ship a 1Ghz x86 CPU to the masses.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    Old CPUs are so much... cooler than new ones.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Fantastic article! Especially loved seeing the early chips; I had no idea that they were in the game pre 286 generation. I was a kid at the time and my understanding was that the law suits at the time were what allowed AMD (and Via... don't forget the 'true underdog' lol) to ENTER the market, not remain in it.

    Also, I remember endless debates when I built my first PC for college ~2001. I wanted an AMD XP chip... but my video editing software had issues with it (some sort of audio processing bug. Then it was between the Pentium 4 which had great burst performance, but terrible sustained performance due to RDRAM that could not keep up; and the Pentium 3 which looked terrible on paper and was 'old', but had fantastic sustained performance (and much healthier thermals!). In the end I decided on the Pentium 3, but (noob build mistake) because I bought a crap PSU it died within a year and I moved to my one and only AMD build which was a 2GHz Barton. That was a great PC that lasted a solid 3 years.

    I was really sad to watch Bulldozer fall apart. After the Core2Duo AMD was falling behind and bulldozer was supposed to bring them back into relevance. But then the marketing department thought that nobody would buy a high-end $500+ CPU, so they slashed the cache to make it more affordable. Sadly that cache was needed to prevent the CPU from constantly going back to the system memory for instructions and it literally killed the product. And Intel happily sold several $400-1000 i7 chips while AMD could not even hold onto the budget market. Sad times. It is a shame that they were not able to sell the full chip as originally designed, and then cut down a cheap version for 'consumers'.

    But now it looks like AMD is starting to play ball again. Next 3 years will be interesting to watch, and if they make a winner then I might throw my hat in their ring again when I do a rebuild 2-4 years from now. I would love to see something blow my 4.2GHz Sandy Bridge out of the water!
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Old CPUs are so much... cooler than new ones.
    you kidding? Those old chips ran meltingly hot! And with tons of power! when those old chips were OC'd they could drink down nearly 200W and easily heat a dorm room on cold winter nights!
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    17879424 said:
    Old CPUs are so much... cooler than new ones.
    you kidding? Those old chips ran meltingly hot! And with tons of power! when those old chips were OC'd they could drink down nearly 200W and easily heat a dorm room on cold winter nights!

    To be fair we have current GPUs on the market above 300W.

    But by "cool" I just meant "cool" as in "vintage".
    Reply
  • gondor
    Nice stroll down the memory lane!
    Reply
  • SinxarKnights
    It is amazing to think that my old 433Mhz Intel processor was pretty good at the time. With 256MB of RAM the OS (Win98SE) was very responsive. The motherboard didn't have an AGP slot so I had to settle for a Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 from Wal-mart. Still have lots of fond memories of Diablo and Ultima Online.

    I built a PC with an Athlon 64 X2 5600+. Due to the larger cache, it gave a significant performance increase over the other lower tiered CPUs. This was right at the time Intel came out with the Core architecture. While the top end 64 X2 series (6000+ and up) outperformed the first Core CPUs that were released, everything went downhill from there for AMD.

    15 years ago my awesome 433mhz CPU was awesome, today it cannot perform the most basic of task in a timely manner. I imagine 15 years from now my current 4790k will be in the same boat.
    Reply
  • Zachary Singer-Englar
    I still brag about my Athlon II x250 Regor. That was a great processor for an underfunded enthusiast, It shipped at 3.0 and i had it clocked to 3.5 for about 2 years on a stock cooler before I replaced the whole set-up because my motherboard gave out (probably unrelated to my overclocking). That was 5 years after I had purchased the processor. My FX-6350 is not holding up quite as well.
    Reply