Latest AMD Pro Chips to Power Desktop PCs From HP, Lenovo

The "Bristol Ridge" APUs for business systems also will provide an upgrade path to the chip maker's much-anticipated "Zen" microarchitecture.

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PC market leaders Lenovo and HP will be among the first OEMs to roll out desktop systems armed with Advanced Micro Devices' latest processors.

Officials with the chip maker announced Oct. 3 at the Canalys Channels Forum in Barcelona, Spain, that the two PC vendors will offer the 7th Generation AMD Pro accelerated processing units (APUs)—which the company officially launched last month—in systems that promise improved computing and graphics performance, power efficiency and security.

It's the latest move by AMD officials to regain the company's footing in a commercial PC market that is dominated by larger rival Intel. AMD a decade ago gained market share with its 64-bit PC chips and its APUs, which feature the CPU and GPU on the same piece of silicon. But since then Intel has pushed back and now holds more than 95 percent of the market.

However, AMD officials have said that there is still opportunity in the $20 billion client chip market, even given Intel's dominance and the contracting in the worldwide PC market in recent years. In particular, they have pointed to the commercial space as a segment in which the PC will remain an important tool. In addition, AMD officials are looking to the PC market as a key part of the company's larger growth strategy.

According to AMD, since launching in mid-2014, shipments of AMD's Pro processors into the commercial segment have grown more than 45 percent.

The new processors—previously code-named "Bristol Ridge"—will offer significant performance and power efficiency improvements over the previous generation of AMD's APUs based on the "Kaveri" microarchitecture, and will be more competitive with Intel chips. According to AMD officials, the new chips offer up to 14 percent better compute and 22 percent better graphics performance, while at the same time offer 32 percent better power efficiency than the 6th Generation chips.

They also come with AMD's Secure Processor technology integrated for improved security. The technology provides a system-wide secure environment in which security functions can be offloaded and isolated. In addition, system management is eased with support for the open and CPU-agnostic Desktop and Mobile Architecture for System Hardware (DASH) standard. The 7th Generation APUs run 4K video and support Microsoft's Windows operating system and Linux OSes.

A key to the Bristol Ridge chips is AMD's new AM4 platform, which includes DDR4 memory, next-generation interconnect technologies and peripheral support. Most importantly, the AM4 socket will be compatible with the upcoming "Summit Ridge" desktop chips that will be based on AMD's high-profile "Zen" microarchitecture, which is foundational to the chip maker's future.

Company engineers designed the x86 chips from the ground up for all of AMD's products, from notebooks to high-performance computing (HPC) systems. The new architecture will first appear in desktop chips, followed by server processors—dubbed "Naples"—in the second quarter of 2017 and by Zen-based notebooks in the second half of next year. The compatibility will give customers who buy new PCs powered by the Bristol Ridge chips a migration path to the Zen processor, enabling them to upgrade their 7th Generation-based systems by swapping out the chips rather than having to buy all-new machines, according to AMD officials.

Zen will deliver huge improvements in compute and graphics performance and power efficiency, bringing with it a 40 percent improvement in instructions-per-clock performance over current AMD processors, officials said.

Until then, AMD will offer the Bristol Ridge desktop chips, which will hold up to four "Excavator" cores and come in 35- and 65-watt versions. The processors will deliver performance normally found in 95-watt chips, according to AMD.

Among the systems powered by the Bristol Ridge APUs—which include seven different chips, including the A6, A8, A10 and A12 Pro processors—will be HP's EliteDesk 705 G3 Series desktops that can be bought in several configurations, including microtowers, small form factor (SFF) or mini form factor.