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

The First APUs With AMD's GCN Architecture, Plus Power Management

In addition to a redesigned x86 core architecture, Temash and Kabini are also AMD's first APUs sporting the Graphics Core Next architecture.

Insofar as it applies to API support, the GCN-based logic built in to Kabini and Temash is identical to AMD's discrete parts. DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.3, and OpenCL 1.2 are all supported. The fixed-function Video Codec Engine is present, accelerating video decode and H.264-based encoding. Of course, this feature requires third-party developer support, and adoption has been slow thus far.

A new component of the VCE is called scalable video encoding, or SVC. This is able to encode multiple streams in one output pass, creating content that can be pushed to backwards-compatible devices. In other words, you're able to scale temporally and spatially, enabling playback at less demanding bitrates on lower-end hardware.

Like the Zacate-based APUs with the Cedar graphics core, this APU's graphics engine is identical across the line-up, differentiated only by clock rate. Every Kabini and Temash processor comes equipped with two compute units, each with four texture and four vector units. As you can see in the visualization above, a vector unit contains 16 ALUs and a register file. All told, one APU plays host to 128 ALUs and eight texture units. A single render back-end facilitates four full-color raster operation pipelines. Put more simply, think of this as one-fourth of a Radeon HD 7750, with lower clock rates and less memory bandwidth.

There are some notable differences between these APUs and AMD's discrete GPUs, though. For example, the GCN-based GPUs we've reviewed thus far all employed two asynchronous compute engines, which dispatch work to the compute units. In Tahiti, two ACEs served 32 CUs. Here four ACEs serve two CUs. Also new is a set of flat instruction accesses that allow an address to be issued in a load/store operation. This purportedly makes function calls simpler.

AMD says the new APUs support Ultra HD (2160p) output over HDMI and DisplayPort, Wi-Fi-certified Miracast, DisplayPort panel self-refresh to cut power consumption on compatible displays, dynamic refresh rates to save power when screen updates aren't necessary, and dual-display Eyefinity.

Power Management

Temash and Kabini use logic in each x86 core to calculate instantaneous power based on weight events and leakage. That result is fed into a power control unit called the Turbo Core Manager, along with GPU power and the on-die Fusion Controller Hub's consumption. A fourth input from the display interface yields a pretty complete picture of what each APU subsystem needs from the total available TDP. Using a credits-based system, Turbo Core can then change the chip's P-states, optimizing performance within a thermal ceiling.

AMD adds even more practicality to its power monitoring capabilities with the Turbo Dock concept. This hybrid form factor leverages active cooling inside a detachable keyboard to increase cooling performance and potentially double the platform's thermal ceiling.

As a result, you can use an APU-powered tablet on its own and still get a reasonably-fast experience, or dock with the keyboard to improve performance substantially.

  • zeek the geek
    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!
  • slomo4sho
    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.
  • dragonsqrrl
    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.
  • BringMeAnother
    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.
  • mcx2500
    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).
  • dragonsqrrl
    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.
  • cleeve
    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.
  • amdfangirl
    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.
  • amdfangirl
    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.
  • ta152h
    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.