AMD Launches 'Carrizo' APUs for Mainstream Notebooks

The new sixth-generation A-Series chips bring significant compute and graphics performance and power efficiency to PCs, officials say.

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Advanced Micro Devices, which is planning to make an aggressive push back into the PC space, took a significant step in that direction with the release of the company's "Carrizo" processor.

The vendor's sixth generation A-Series accelerated processing unit (APU), which was launched June 2 at the Computex 2015 show in Taiwan, is aimed at both mainstream consumer and commercial notebooks in the $400 to $700 range as well as new form factors like two-in-one systems. It delivers twice the gaming performance than competitive processors from other chip makers, according to AMD. The chips' graphics performance and battery life are double that of the current "Kaveri" processors.

The x86 Carrizo chips leverage the company's new "Excavator" CPU core, a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, the latest generation of AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture and support for High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) hardware decode. They also are complaint with the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) 1.0 specification, which enables systems to view the GPU and CPU as a single processor and to easily move the workloads to whichever one is most needed.

The 28-nanometer chips hold up to 12 cores—four Excavator CPU cores and eight GCN graphics cores—and offer all-day battery life, according to AMD. The chip is aimed at a broad array of applications, from streaming entertainment and online gaming to business computing workloads. The company said the capabilities in Carrizo will offer users a premium experience with Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.

Carrizo is part of a larger effort by AMD engineers to continue driving power efficiency in their chips. CTO Mark Papermaster last year said the company's goal is to improve energy efficiency in the processors 25-fold by 2020.

The Carrizo chips bring high levels of performance to systems that are central to the lives of both consumers and business users, according to Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager of products at AMD.

"The notebook remains the ideal, versatile, connected hub in people’s lives—the one device that does it all and does it well, and today's consumer shouldn't have to pay a premium to enjoy high quality streaming video, superior online gaming, and powerful content management as mainstays of today's computing experience," Skynner said in a statement. He added that the new chips "deliver exceptional experiences never before seen in a mainstream notebook, truly making innovation available to everyone."

AMD officials have been talking about Carrizo for a year, pointing to the chips as the products that will help jump-start the company's PC chip business, which combined with graphics still accounts for 60 percent of the company's revenues. In the first quarter, the Computing and Graphics Unit saw revenue drop 38 percent over the same period last year.

Still, during a meeting with financial analysts in May, CEO Lisa Su and other executives said that while they want to reduce AMD's reliance on the PC market, they also see the high-performance PC space as a growth opportunity.

AMD already is beginning to see some traction. A number of PC OEMs, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Acer, plan to roll out new notebooks powered by Carrizo chips. However, AMD still has to compete with larger rival Intel, which also at Computex rolled out its "Broadwell-H" line of Core PC chips.

But AMD officials, while touting Carrizo, already are looking down the road at "Zen," a CPU core design that they say will bring a range of new features—from a FinFET transistor design and simultaneously multi-threading to DDR4 memory support—that will help drive a 40 percent performance increase.