AMD strikes back at Intel with Kaveri processor line

Can the new generation of AMD chips stand up to Intel?


AMD introduced products based on the Kaveri chip architecture this week, claiming better price and performance than the Intel Core i5 chips based on the Haswell architecture. The company faces plenty of headwinds: a powerful foe and a PC market in decline give it a lot to work against.

AMD was the first of the chip companies to adopt the concept of merging graphics technology with core x86 CPU technology when it acquired ATI Technologies in 2006. Since then, it's been a long, painful process for the company. Intel created its own GPU and adopted a similar strategy with the Sandy Bridge generation of chips in 2011.

However, AMD beat Intel to the punch when it comes to fully integrating the cores. AMD announced at last week's Consumer Electronics Show that the Kaveri architecture would integrate the compute and graphics capabilities and no longer distinguish between the two.

This means no more separating the memory between CPU and GPU. They have fully coherent memory between the CPU and GPU, and the GPU can now access and cache data from the system memory. This means pageable system memory can now be referenced directly by the GPU instead of having to copy it from the CPU and moving it across busses.

Up to now, AMD and Intel have defined the number of cores on their CPUs by just the x86 cores. A "quad-core" Haswell CPU, for example, had four x86 CPUs and two Intel GPU cores. But with AMD's new A-Series APUs (its brand name for the new chips) AMD just says it has 12 "compute cores" -- 4 CPU cores and 8 GPU cores.

All told, AMD introduced three chips this week: The A10-7850K, clocking in at 3.7GHz and $173; the A10-7700K at 3.4GHz and $153 and the low power A8-7600, which has clock speeds of 3.1 and 3.3Ghz for $119. Those prices are about on par with the Haswell generation. Intel will release the “Broadwell” architecture later this year but that's primarily a process shrink, from 22nm to 14nm, so the gains will be minimal.

The A10-7700K and A8-7600 contain only six GPU cores, as well as 4 CPU cores, while the A10-7850 has eight GPU cores. All three use the Radeon R7 core, which AMD recently introduced. The chips also support AMD's TrueAudio technology with 32 channels of audio, and AMD's gaming API, called Mantle.

I'll let the pros at Tom's Hardware Guide, AnandTech and ExtremeTech handle the reviews and you can make up your own mind about the Kaeveri chip.

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