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

Temash And Kabini: AMD's Mobile Future

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.

  • 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.