AMD begins its Brazos unveiling

No benchmarks for now

WE’RE FINALLY GETTING close to AMD’s official unveiling of the Brazos platform and some selected media has already been given a hands-on briefing by AMD, although it seems like we’ll have to wait another week until we get to see any benchmark figures. Even so, it looks like Intel is in for an ass kicking, well, at least at the entry level of the market.

So what we’re looking at here is AMD’s first two Bobcat APU (Accelerated processing units), namely Ontario and Zacate. AMD will offer two new models based on each core and all four models feature 512KB of L2 cache per core, support for 1066MHz DDR3 memory and UVD3. Starting with Ontario we have the entry level single core C-30 APU which is clocked at 1.2GHz. It’s dual core sibling is the C-50 which is clocked at a mere 1GHz, but bear in mind that unlike Intel’s Atom processor, AMD’s Bobcat APU’s feature an out-of-order CPU design, so the low clock speed might not translate into low performance. Both of the Ontario APU’s feature Radeon HD 6250 graphics with 80 ALUs and a GPU clock speed of 280MHz. These are AMD’s 9W TDP models and are expected to end up in sub 12-inch notebooks/netbooks.

For those wanting a bit more performance AMD will offer its Zacate models which are clocked a fair bit higher, with the downside being an 18W TDP. As such we’d expect Zacate to be reserved for notebooks ranging from 11.6-inches and up, although in our opinion (man-sized hands) anything below 11.6-inches is simply just too small. The first Zacate model is the single core E-240 which has a 1.5GHz CPU clock speed while the dual core E-350 is clocked at 1.6GHz. We would expect that AMD could produce faster single core models, but has decided not to do so for whatever reason. The two Zacate APU’s features Radeon HD 6310 graphics, again with 80 ALUs, but with a fair bit faster GPU clock of 500MHz which should prove to beat just about all of Intel’s current IGPs.

The C-series of APU’s will be directly competing with Intel’s Atom and Celeron processors, but for whatever reason AMD has decided not to give Ontario its Vision branding and has instead come up with yet another logo, namely “HD Internet” as apparently Ontario offers “Amazing HD Internet Browsing”. The E-series on the other hand will go up against Intel’s range of Pentium processors, of which by sometime next year, there won’t be many left. Intel has rebranded some of its crippled Core isomething processors as Pentiums, especially in the entry level notebook market and for its ultra-low power notebook platform and this seems to be where AMD is hoping to battle Intel with the E-series.

According to the Techreport, Brazos will offer a platform TDP of a mere 21W which compares favourably to Intel’s ultra-low power Core i and Pentium processors combined with the H55 chipset which ends up around 21.5W. AMD claims that active power draw should be about 6.5W on average and is as such expecting 8.5-9h battery life out of a notebook with a 55Whr battery pack. Considering that many Intel powered notebooks ship with 65Whr+ battery packs, there’s the potential of seeing even longer battery life out of the Brazos platform depending on what battery pack the notebook manufacturers see fit to supply with their Brazos models. It’s worth taking these numbers with a pinch of salt before we’ve seen some actual tests, as battery life figures are always over-estimated.

Now Brazos isn’t just for mobile usage and we’re already hearing about motherboard manufacturers working hard on bringing out retail products that will take on Atom in the mini-ITX market space. One thing that caught our attention on the slides posted, is that it includes an optional discrete GPU option for both Ontario and Zacate, although it seems like both CPU’s will be limited to a x4 PCI Express gen 2 interface. This should allow for vastly better performance than Nvidia’s second generation ION graphics, as there’s four times as much bandwidth available, but it wouldn’t be close to that of a regular desktop system. For the mobile platform this is less of an issue, as most notebooks don’t tend to use more than a x8 PCI Express interface for graphics.

Ontario and Zacate support up to three displays, although we’re not sure if all three can be used at once, but considering AMD’s love for Eyefinity, we’re hoping that this might be the case. For mobile solutions AMD has gone for embedded DisplayPort and LVDS support, but with both the primary and secondary display interfaces also supports HDMI and DVI, as well as DisplayPort for external displays, we might see some interesting configurations here. The humble D-sub connector is of course also supported and it seems like it’ll stick around for quite some time yet.

For those that are interested in the really nitty-gritty technical details, the Ontario and Zacate APU’s measures 19x19mm and feature 413 solder balls with a 0.8mm pitch. The Hudson-M1 chipset measures 23x23mm and has 605 solder balls, which if a fair bit larger than the APU’s, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise as this is common place on many mobile platforms. The APU’s are manufactured using TSMC’s 40nm process, while the Hudson chipset appears to be made on Global Foundries 65nm process.

So what about graphics performance? Well, AMD claims 50 percent better graphics performance compared to its current Nile platform and this is apparently not a best-case scenario according to the Techreport. They’re in fact going as far as saying that even if Nvidia has a next gen ION solution; it’s most likely not going to stand a chance compared to what AMD has come up with. Sounds pretty good to us, but then again, we didn’t really expect the current netbook platform to last all that much longer.

Judging by what we’ve seen, it seems like AMD has come up with a platform that is what Intel’s CULV platform should’ve been, just with a lot better graphics. The Brazos platform was never intended for high-end users anyhow, but as a platform, it should be good enough for your average user. Considering that AMD is hoping for machines that will retail for between $399-$449 based on the Zacate APU’s and even less with the Ontario APU’s. It might not be quite as cheap as some netbooks, but considering the extra processing power we’re expecting from these machines, the small extra outlay is likely to be well worth it.S|A

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