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AMD launches new G-Series family, hints at future ARM chips

AMD launches new G-Series family, hints at future ARM chips

AMD's new G-series processors show a renewed focus on the embedded market, and hint at future ARM-architecture system-on-chip designs.

On the ten-year anniversary of its Opteron processor, the first 64-bit x86 chip to hit the mass market, AMD has made an announcement that illustrates better than any other how its focus is shifting: a new family of G-series processor for the embedded markets.

Based on the Jaguar architecture - the same architecture that powers the semi-custom processors at the heart of Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 console - the latest entries in the G-series are based on a system-on-chip design which pairs up to four Jaguar cores with Radeon HD embedded graphics in thermal design profiles (TDPs) ranging from 25W to just 9W. Designed to replace the existing G-series family, the new chips include power efficiency improvements through clock-gating in the graphics cores, a shared L2 cache - another step on the road to AMD's Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) vision - and the latest Universal Video Decode 3 (UVD 3) combined with hardware acceleration of video encoding - a first for the platform.

Designed specifically for Windows Embedded 8 and Linux, the new chips include OpenCL support for general-purpose GPU (GPGPU) offload - something that suddenly brings the surprisingly powerful graphics cores into sharp focus. The idea AMD is pushing is to use the G-series as low-power chips that can nevertheless cope with the heavy lifting required to perform, for example, real-time computer vision analysis or high-speed parallel data processing. It's here that the company's chips start to eclipse rivals: compared to Intel's equivalent Atom SoC designs, the new G-series boasts a claimed 125 per cent better performance - delivered largely thanks to the Radeon HD graphics cores.

It's here that AMD's focus on heterogeneous computing becomes clear: no other company is able to combine desktop-class graphics hardware with low-power x86 processors in quite the same way. Intel relies on third-party graphics IP for its Atom processors, while rival Nvidia has no x86 licence and instead uses ARM IP for the CPU portion of its Tegra family of embedded SoC processors.

It's also a clear indication of how AMD's priorities have shifted over the last few years. Finding itself unable to compete with Intel's latest Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge products at the performance end of the market, the company is increasingly looking to HSA - formerly known as Fusion - for its future. While yet to make a massive impact on the desktop, where its Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) are typically only found at the budget end of the market and then in limited numbers, HSA holds great promise for the embedded sector - providing, that is, the company can keep riding the performance curve ahead of Cambridge-based chip design giant ARM's products.

If AMD can capture the embedded markets - the company is suggesting industrial control and automation powered by GPU-accelerated code, digital signage using UVD-accelerated playback, electronic gaming machines and network-attached storage as target markets for the new G-series chips - its future will look considerably more rosy. Whether such a focus will come at the cost of the high-performance 64-bit processors it pioneered a decade ago, however, remains to be seen.

The company has confirmed five models in the new family at launch: the quad-core 2.0GHz GX-420CA with 600MHz Radeon HD 8400E graphics and a 25W TDP; the quad-core 1.5GHz GX-415GA with 500MHz Radeon HD 8330E graphics and a 15W TDP; the dual-core 1.65GHz GX-217GA with 450MHz Radeon HD 8280E graphics and a 15W TDP; the dual-core 1GHz GX-210HA with 300MHz Radeon HD 8210E graphics and a 9W TDP which can be cooled entirely passively; and the quad-core 1.6GHz GX416RA, which has no embedded graphics and run at a 15W TDP. Pricing will range from $49 to $72 depending on model, based on orders in trays of 1,000.

Most interesting of all, however, is a change to the G-series logo: designed to match the company's current design language, the new logo includes the presence of an 'X' in the bottom-right corner - suggesting the company needs a way to highlight which of its embedded processors use the x86 instruction set architecture. The only reason the company would need to do this is if it planned to launch processors that do not use the x86 ISA - meaning embedded cousins to the company's previously-announced ARM-based Opteron chips are a near-certainty.

In other words: Nvidia's Tegra platform is soon to have some serious competition.

5 Comments

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Tyinsar 23rd April 2013, 16:13 Quote
I'd like to see AMD use this to compete with Intel's NUC systems.

I don't know why Zotac with all their tiny systems hasn't made a more powerful AMD based one. I'd make my own but FM2 ITX boards are extremely rare (Isn't the compact, integrated, format the point of these?) and I haven't yet seen any with msata.
schmidtbag 23rd April 2013, 17:42 Quote
I wish AMD the best with this platform, it actually sounds realistic, and I like the fact that they're giving Linux attention. I just hope that these are actual dual cores, not single-cores with 2 modules (same goes for the quad core). AMD should do the same for their FX-4XXX series - I'm sure it'd get a noticeable performance improvement if it were 4 physical cores rather than 2 cores per module.
Gareth Halfacree 23rd April 2013, 17:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyinsar
I'd like to see AMD use this to compete with Intel's NUC systems.
It's already possible to buy a last-generation G-series-based development board on the open market: the Gizmo. I've got a couple here: very compact, surprisingly powerful (about 1/20th the single-core performance of my A10-5800K, or 5x the performance of a Raspberry Pi, using the SysBench CPU benchmark and ignoring the GPU) and includes one on-board SATA port and another that can be accessed using a "high-speed port" on the edge of the device - but you'll have to build an adapter to get at that one.
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
I wish AMD the best with this platform, it actually sounds realistic, and I like the fact that they're giving Linux attention. I just hope that these are actual dual cores, not single-cores with 2 modules (same goes for the quad core).
It's Jaguar, which means updated Bobcat - which means the traditional module approach, using two integer units fused to one shared 256-bit FMAC that can operate in 2x128-bit mode as and when required. In other words: if you think AMD's existing processors aren't 'real' dual/quad core parts, then this ain't going to change your mind.
Marquee 24th April 2013, 05:13 Quote
Can any one say mining. Thats really be the only thing on my mind the last couple of days.
Tyinsar 24th April 2013, 05:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
It's already possible to buy a last-generation G-series-based development board on the open market: the Gizmo. ...
I remember that from the January (link). That fell a little short and the cost was too high. I'm currently looking at funding this: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/435742530/udoo-android-linux-arduino-in-a-tiny-single-board but that might be a little too DIY for the time I have available.

I'd still like an FM2 ITX (or smaller) board with msata, HDCP HDMI / DisplayPort / DVI, USB3 ...
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