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AMD goes all in with AI with the launch of its new Ryzen 8040 series of mobile processors

By The Count - on 7 Dec 2023, 6:54am

AMD goes all in with AI with the launch of its new Ryzen 8040 series of mobile processors

AMD's current-gen Ryzen 7040 mobile processor. Photo Credit: AMD

At the Advancing AI event, AMD unveiled its Ryzen 8040 series of mobile processors, highlighting on-chip AI acceleration as a key feature. But on-chip AI isn’t exactly new to AMD, with its current-gen of 7040 series being the first x86 processor to feature neural processing units (NPU) that power these AI accelerations. But away from the usual clock speed and core count battles, the advancement of NPUs is set to be the new frontline for chipmakers like AMD and Intel.

But why is having an NPU in CPUs a game-changer, especially for mobile devices? For one, it addresses the perennial issue of battery drain associated with continuous AI processing. Local processing, as opposed to cloud-based solutions, emerges as both a cost-effective and environmentally conscious choice. The data centres required for cloud AI are not only energy-intensive but also expensive to operate. The new accelerators focus on managing memory for vector calculations of compact, pre-trained models directly on the device.

It's interesting to note that almost all major chipmakers are now incorporating, or already have, an NPU tile on their flagship processors. Besides AMD, Qualcomm introduced this with its Snapdragon X Elite, Intel in its upcoming Meteor Lake architecture, and Apple has long integrated its Neural Engine into the M series of processors.

Image Credit: AMD

AMD's latest Ryzen 8040 series (codenamed Hawk Point) continues to use the XDNA architecture found in its predecessor, the Ryzen 7040 series (Phoenix). However, it promises enhanced performance. For instance, while Phoenix achieved 10 trillion operations per second (TOPS), Hawk Point boasts 16 TOPS.

The first wave of laptops equipped with Hawk Point chips is expected by the end of next year’s March. But AMD isn’t resting on its laurels, as the company is already planning ahead with its next-gen XDNA 2, targeting a 2024 release. Codenamed Strix Point, these Ryzen processors are touted to triple the performance for generative AI tasks compared to Hawk Point. So this begets a question for prospective buyers: do you purchase now or wait?

Image Credit: AMD

However, not all 8040-series CPUs include the NPU. The more affordable options at the bottom of the range lack this feature (see chart), potentially excluding budget-conscious consumers from accessing NPU capabilities.

Among the partner products announced at the event, the updated 16-inch Acer Nitro V 16 gaming laptop stands out. It will feature up to a Ryzen 7 8845HS and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060. The base model, starting at US$1,000 is slated for a March 2024 release, although not much else is known about the laptop.

Image Credit: AMD

The concerted push towards AI integration also aims to spur software developers to leverage new application programming interfaces (APIs). This is intended to offload inferencing and generative tasks for a smoother user experience, akin to how graphics accelerators are used in interactive graphics. Many developers like Adobe, Zoom, OBS (for streamers), and Microsoft are already harnessing custom AI models into their own applications, utilising various APIs like WindowsML, Intel OpenVINO, and NVIDIA's software integrations, including DLSS in graphics drivers and Broadcast.

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