AMD Introduces New Carrizo Mobile Chip for Notebooks

The chip and its Carrizo-L companion will launch in the first half of 2015, with systems coming to market in the second half of the year.

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Advanced Micro Devices next year will launch an integrated chip called Carrizo that will replace the current Kaveri offerings as the chip maker looks to gain greater footing in the PC space, which is dominated by larger rival Intel.

AMD official unveiled Carrizo and another x86 system-on-a-chip (SoC), "Carrizo-L," during the company's Future of Compute event in Singapore Nov. 20.

Carrizo, which will be based on AMD's new CPU core code-named "Excavator," will begin appearing in a range of systems—from traditional laptop PCs to new form factors like two-in-one systems—in the second half of 2015, officials said. Carrizo, which also will come with AMD's next-generation Radeon graphics technology, will be aimed at high-performance systems. Carrizo-L will hit more mainstream systems.

In announcing Carrizo, AMD officials touted the improved performance and energy efficiency of the accelerated processing unit (APU), the company's designation for its chips that integrate the CPU and graphics onto the same piece of silicon.

"This is the most advanced APU AMD has ever brought to the market," John Byrne, senior vice president and general manager of AMD's Computing and Graphics business group, said in a video presentation. "It's right on time. It's right on schedule."

AMD has been undergoing an extensive restructuring over the past several years, one that is continuing after Rory Read resigned as CEO last month, being replaced by Lisa Su. Read had overseen the beginning of the reorganization, refocusing AMD's efforts on such areas as embedded and semi-custom chip making, ultraportable PCs, energy-efficient servers and graphics.

In the third quarter, the company's Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom group, which includes server chips, saw revenues jump 21 percent over the same period last year, helped in large part by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo using AMD semi-custom chips in their latest game consoles. However, during the same period, revenues for AMD's Computing and Graphics unit—which comprises desktop and notebook chips, discrete GPUs and professional graphics—fell 16 percent, driven by soft notebook processor and chipset sales.

Despite the decline, Su during a conference call last month to discuss the company's quarterly numbers said that there had been improvements in the business—for example, a doubling of commercial client design wins, with new systems from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo starting to ramp—and that Kaveri had helped drive a 50 percent growth in high-end mobile chip shipments from the second to third quarters.

AMD officials will be looking to Carrizo and Carrizo-L to ramp up the company's presence in the notebook space. The SoCs will be the first to be fully compliant with the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) 1.0 specification, a capability AMD has been championing that enables systems to view the GPU and CPU as a single processor and to easily move the workloads to whichever one is most needed. In addition, while Carrizo will use the next-generation CPU core and graphics technology, Carrizo-L will integrate the "Puma+" CPU with AMD's RadeonR-Series Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPU.

The reduction in power consumption in the Carrizo SoC is part of AMD's larger effort to improve the energy efficiency of its chips 25-fold by 2020, an initiative laid out by CTO Mark Papermaster in June.

The SoCs will include AMD's Secure Processor feature, which is based on ARM's TrustZone technology, for both commercial and consumer systems, and will support such technologies as Microsoft's DirectX 12, OpenCL 2.0, and AMD's Mantle API and FreeSync offerings. It also will support Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 operating system.

Like its predecessor, Carrizo will be built on AMD's 28-nanometer manufacturing process, even as the company is working its way to 20nm. Intel officials in September announced that systems—including two-in-ones—featuring the company's 14nm Core-M chip will begin appearing on the market in time for the holidays.