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Feature Articles

AMD Kabini APU Preview - Combating a Changing Computing Landscape

By Kenny Yeo - 23 May 2013

A Changing Computing Landscape

A Changing Computing Landscape

The computing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Before the iPhone, computing was by and large limited to desktop systems and notebooks. Mobile phones did not register in the general computing landscape and tablets for mainstream consumption were no where to be seen.

However that all changed now that the iPhone has heralded the era of mobile computing. Henceforth, traditional chipmakers like Intel and AMD have had to adopt their strategies to accommodate a shrinking desktop and notebook market, and also make plans to venture into the mobile computing space by having their products in ultra-thin notebooks, smartphones and tablets.

AMD illustrates the difference between the pre-iPhone era and now.

AMD has always competed from a value perspective and prides itself on offering bang for buck processors. Additionally, thanks to their acquisition of ATI Technologies in 2006, AMD offerings (chipsets back then) have traditionally offered better graphics performance than the competition from Intel.

The purpose behind the acquisition of ATI was always to create a processor that merges both CPU and GPU processing elements on a single chip and it was not until 2011 with the arrival of the Llano APU and Sabine platform that we finally saw the fruits of this acquisition. The Llano APU uses K10 processing cores and an integrated Radeon HD 6000 series graphics core. Although it was a viable alternative to users who did not require Ivy Bridge’s computing or a discrete graphics cards, the Llano APUs failed to make significant inroads in the desktop computing market.

Fortunately, the Brazos platform, which was targeted at low-power was much more successful. In fact, Brazos is AMD’s best-selling notebook platform ever. And at last year’s Computex, AMD further refreshed the Brazos lineup with two new E-Series APUs - the E2-1800 and E1-1200.

Just last year, AMD followed up with the "Trinity" APU which uses the new Piledriver architecture processors and integrated Radeon HD 7000 series graphics. We reviewed the flagship desktop processor, the A10-5800K “Black Edition” as well as the A10-5700 APUs and found them to be decent products for mainstream users. In fact, before these desktop parts were made available, we tested the AMD Trinity mobile processor on a reference platform which we found to be quite promising.

Along with the APUs, AMD also introduced their HSA (heterogenous system architecture), an architecture which leverages both CPU and GPU components in their APUs to execute tasks in parallel. The idea is to distribute workloads as evenly and as efficiently as possible between both CPU and GPU.

AMD has identified growth in these areas and will be focusing the bulk of their efforts here, releasing APUs that will benefit users of performance tablets, hybrids and ultra-thin touchscreen notebooks.

Although, AMDs APUs and HSA have not quite caught on in a big way, the signs are there that AMD do have the foundation in place to succeed. Mobile computing, tablets in particular, are driving growth for the computing industry and these devices have completely different requirements from your traditional processors. AMD’s strengths in integrating both traditional CPU processing elements along with graphics processing elements can give it the edge against its competitors.

Which brings us to today.

Today, AMD is officially lifting the wraps off its new Temash and Kabini platforms. These are the world’s first quad-core SoCs and are specifically targeted at low-power computing applications. Specifically, the Temash platform will be marketed at the performance tablets space, while Kabini, as the successor to Brazos, will be powering ultra-thin touchscreen notebooks and entry-level AIO (All-in-One) systems.