CeBIT 2011: AMD Demos Llano Behind Closed Doors

Apparently, Fusion technology demos behind closed doors are becoming an AMD tradition. At this year's CeBIT, the chip maker demoed its upcoming (and highly-anticipated) Llano APU. Naturally, the Tom's Hardware team was on-hand to take a closer look.

At its booth at CeBIT 2011, AMD showed off the mobile version of its upcoming Llano APU. But whereas last year’s demo system still looked very improvised (it definitely screamed "engineering sample"), this Llano-based system actually looked like a notebook you might find in a store. It wasn't an attractive notebook, mind you, but it certainly seemed ready to ship, aside from some final design touches.

The company had an explanation for demonstrating its mobile part, rather than the desktop version we'd all probably rather see in action. Similar to the Brazos platform, it intends to launch the new APUs in the mobile space first. As a quick reminder, Llano will be AMD's mainstream APU, combining two to four Phenom-style x86-64 cores and a GPU on one die.

The demo system was running an as yet-unnamed quad-core Llano part with a 1.8 GHz clock, 4 GB of DDR3-1333 memory, Crucial’s C300 SSD, and Windows 7. For comparison, AMD picked an off-the-shelf notebook with identical specs, but built around Intel’s Core i7-2630QM at 2.0 GHz (plus Turbo Boost, obviously). Both systems relied on their respective integrated graphics solutions. AMD's argument there was that Intel is selling its HD Graphics 3000 solution as a mid-range part that can also handle gaming. We would love to show you photos, but we were only allowed to take pictures of the machines’ screens.

Sandy Bridge running Final Fantasy XIVSandy Bridge running Final Fantasy XIV

Llano running Final Fantasy XIVLlano running Final Fantasy XIV

There were three parts to the demo. First, AMD wanted to make an image quality comparison, leaving speed out of the equation for a moment. So, AMD’s John Taylor, director of global client product and software marketing, who was running the demo, started up 3DCenter’s Filtering Tester, a tool that shows how anisotropic filtering is handled. While AMD's implementation looked very close to ideal, Intel was obviously taking a performance shortcut by using angle-based optimizations.

Next up was a simple FurMark test to show the two integrated GPUs' rendering performance. Here are the results in table form:

FurMark Settings
Intel Core i7-2630QM
AMD Llano Quad-Core
1024x768, No AA
10/9/14 FPS

16/15/30 FPS

1024x768, 4x AA

2/2/2 FPS

8/7/14 FPS

1024x768, No AA, Displacement Mapping Enabled

2/2/3 FPS

6/5/10 FPS

The first thing you’ll note is that Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 struggles from the get-go, even at the least-taxing settings. Meanwhile, AMD certainly isn’t generating smooth frame rates. However, its on-die Radeon implementation takes less of a hit than Intel. What you can’t see is that, in the last run, with displacement mapping turned on, the “furry donut” in the middle of the scene failed to render completely on the HD Graphics 3000 engine, meaning that the Intel solution failed this iteration. At this point, John pointed out that not only was Intel taking shortcuts with image quality, but they weren't even helping the performance. Put another way, graphics hardware is only one part of the equation; you also need a fully-functional driver to actually play games.

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  • nforce4max
    Not bad but still wanting more.
  • amk09
    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.
  • 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!
  • sabot00
    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.
  • epdark
    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.
  • cangelini
    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 :)

  • bugo30
    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.
  • drakefyre
    What does Quick Sync do for HD vid playback? Shouldn't it almost eliminate processor and graphics workload, or do I misunderstand it?
  • joytech22
    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.
  • dmytty
    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.
  • dmytty
    I forget one other element...must have trackpoint. Trackpads bring on carpal tunnel...
  • alextheblue
    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!
  • sudeshc
    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.
  • andrewcutter
    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.
  • Dresdenboy
    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).
  • pcman911
    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
  • Why didn't AMD test it against Sandy Bridge?
  • benkraft
    @rav555 - They did. Core i7-2630QM is a Sandy Bridge part, as the article frequently mentions.
  • cknobman
    rav555Why didn't AMD test it against Sandy Bridge?

    Why didn't you read the article?
  • hardcore_gamer
    fk fusion..Give us a good goddamn CPU that can take on SB :@
  • @hardcore_gamer
    i7-2630...... guess that dont qualify as sandy bridge in your books

    you want 8 hours battery and dont care for horse power then your looking at the wrong platform, Brazo should be in your sights not Llano
  • pelov
    Fusion looks great for the mobile sector. I would almost certainly buy a fusion AMD CPU over a SB CPU for a netbook / lappy.

    You have to think that it would be a good idea for the desktop crowd as well. Those that use their PC for gaming, though, would probably steer clear of the fusion and opt for a BD or SB. But there are many many people out there that want good rig that can deliver high quality video playback and be stressed in background apps without hiccups and the need to invest in a discrete GPU (or crappy integrated GPU).

    Does AMD plan on bringing the fusion tech to desktops? And if they did, would it be possible to enhance and boost performance of any ATi/AMD graphics card in the system? that would be /drool
  • benkraft
    pelov - Excellent questions!
    John Taylor mentioned that retail laptops will support some kind of hybrid Crossfire if companies choose to equip their products with a dedicated (AMD) GPU.
    It's certainly possible that we will see a similar tech on the desktop. And yes, Llano is most definitely coming to the desktop, it will just be appearing a little later there.
  • pelov
    For the gaming crowd, APU would be an absolute god-send then. If the power of the integrated GPU can be crossfired with an already powerful discrete GPU -- and with proper scaling, namely what AMD claims to achieve in the 6990 -- you would have an amazing gaming rig! :D

    From what I'm reading on the web, Llano isn't based on the bulldozer cores (actually based on stars cores) and nor does it have any l3 cache. For the desktop I'd assume it would see a boost in l2 and a chunk of l3 cache, but does AMD plan on releasing an APU with BD cores for the desktop like we've seen in the videos?