AMD Takes Aim at Intel in PCs With New APUs

At the Computex show, AMD officials unveiled the latest generation of its APUs for PCs, which they say offers better performance than Intel chips.


Advanced Micro Devices and Intel both came to the Computex 2016 show this week in Taipei, Taiwan, with the PC in mind despite efforts to grow their respective businesses in emerging areas in hopes of reducing their dependence on the contracting market.

Officials with both chip makers said that despite several years of declines in PC shipments globally, the systems are still core to what they do now and their roadmaps for the future.

"Beyond the scale the PC gives us, it also generates much of the IP, factory scale and cash that we apply to other areas of our business," Navin Shenoy, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's Client Computing Group (CCG), wrote in a post on the company blog. "Today's PCs are better than ever. If you haven't held a new 2 in 1, played on a new gaming system or tried a new desktop All in One, you are missing out."

Intel at the show introduced its powerful 10-core Core i7 Extreme Edition enthusiast chip.

For their part, AMD officials came equipped with a full lineup of the company's 7th Generation A-Series chips, which they said bring significant performance and power efficiency improvements over their "Kaveri" predecessors and can challenge Intel's Core processors in the PC space. In a conference call with journalists before the show began, Kevin Lensing, corporate vice president and general manger of AMD's Client Business Unit, said that despite the troubles in the PC market since late 2011 there is still a large market opportunity—about a $20 billion—for client chips.

"We really love PCs," Lensing said. "We're really into PCs. We want to try to reignite the PC space."

The new accelerated processing units—or APUs, which put the CPU and GPU on the same silicon—are aimed at mobile entertainment workloads, productivity applications and entry-level systems, which officials said comprise 26 percent of all PCs sold every year.

The new 7th Generation APUs including the FX, A-Series and E-Series. The 28-nanometer chips are based on the "Excavator" cores and come with such features as support for DirectX 12 and AMD's FreeSync for improved streaming and Dual Graphics technology. Users will be able to take advantage of multimedia experiences with resolutions of up to Ultra HD 4K, and the chips will deliver up to four cores and provide all-day battery life. As far as the integrated graphics, the new chips will include up to Radeon R7 GPUs.

The product family includes the chips formerly code-named "Bristol Ridge," which encompass 35- and 15-watt versions of FX, A12 and A10 APUs, and those once known as "Stoney Ridge," which include 15-watt A9, A6 and E2 configurations. With the Excavator cores, the new chips offer 52 percent to 56 percent performance gains over previous generations, while using 12 percent less power in productivity workloads. According to officials, the new APUs provide 53 percent better graphics performance and up to 51 percent more compute performance when compared with Intel's Core i7 chips.

The new chips will be used in systems being developed by HP Inc., Lenovo, Dell, Acer and Asus.

PCs that can run such applications as gaming and immersive workloads are part of the plan of AMD officials to reinvigorate the company and return it to sustainable profitability. AMD a decade ago looked to challenge Intel in the PC space, but in recent years the company has struggled to carve away any of Intel's dominant market share. During the conference call, Lensing admitted that the company "fell behind a bit" in recent years in competing with its larger rival. Now the company wants to offer a "much better experience at a better price" on PCs, he said.

A significant step in the strategy will happen later this year when AMD rolls out the first of its products based on the new "Zen" core architecture, which will support simultaneous multithreading (SMT) and DDR4 memory, and feature a FinFET transistor design for the 14-nanometer chips. It will provide a 40 percent improvement in instructions-per-clock over current AMD processors and come with High-Bandwidth Memory. Zen is scheduled to first appear in high-end desktop PCs later this year and then expand into servers and other systems.