AMD Unveils Faster Processors And Graphics


AMD has taken the wraps off a number of more powerful CPUs and GPUs in the Christmas run up

Advanced Micro Devices has used the run up to Christmas to unveil new processor and graphics products for mainstream PC users as well as enthusiasts and gamers.

AMD announced 22 December its new Radeon HD 7970 graphics card for desktops, which officials said is the fastest graphics processing unit (GPU) card and the only one based on a 28-nanometer manufacturing process.

Speedy Graphics

Code-named “Tahiti,” the GPU reportedly is faster than Nvidia’s speediest GPU, the GeForce GTX 580, and sports AMD’s new Graphics Core Next architecture. According to a 22 December review by AnandTech, the GPU is between 5 and 35 percent faster than Nvidia’s graphics card.

Reports of the Radeon 7970 had been circulating in the media for several weeks. AMD officials have said the GPU was designed as a heterogeneous type of chip, one that is as suited for computing as it is for graphics. Traditional GPUs have been built with one or the other in mind.

AMD officials said the new Graphics Core Next architecture will significantly improve both computing and gaming capabilities. It also supports PCI Express 3.0 for greater performance scaling and AMD’s CrossFire multi-GPU technology. Support for AMD’s App Acceleration technology means improved high-definition video images and better performance for mainstream computing applications, while Eyefinity support will enable users to connect up to six displays to a single GPU, a key consideration for gamers and high-performance computing users.

AMD also is looking to ensure high-energy efficiency while it ramps up the performance. The Radeon 7970 GPU supports AMD’s PowerTune and ZeroCore Power technologies. PowerTune lets users essentially crank up the performance of the GPU while staying within the chip’s power envelope by enabling the graphics chip to find unused power capabilities and leveraging them.

AMD’s ZeroCore Power lets the GPU idle at very low power.

AMD’s Radeon 7970 is scheduled to be available starting 9 January next year, with pricing starting at $549 (£350).

Mainstream Arrivals

The new GPU was introduced two days after AMD unveiled its Fusion A-Series accelerated processing units (APUs) for mainstream PCs. The chip vendor rolled out eight new laptop APUs and five new desktop chips, all of which offer faster speeds and better graphics performance than those first unveiled in June.

The chips are the latest of the Fusion APUs that AMD first introduced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in January and that offer the CPU and high-level graphics capabilities on the same piece of silicon. The enhanced A-Series APUs offer two to four x86 CPU cores with up to 400 Radeon GPU cores, according to AMD.

Most of the new chips include AMD’s Turbo Core technology, which helps users boost core performance without impacting the APU’s power efficiency.

The new APUs, which will start hitting the market over the next few weeks, are an indication that AMD apparently has moved beyond the supply problems that cropped up this fall, when the company had to cut its third-quarter financial forecasts due to problems by manufacturing partner Globalfoundries that limited the initial yield of the 32nm A-Series “Llano” APUs.

AMD officials have said the Fusion APUs have become the fastest ramping products in company history. Over the course of the year, the chip maker has introduced APUs for such markets as low-power PCs and embedded devices.

AMD in October also introduced its new FX chips based on its “Bulldozer” multicore architecture. The chips offer four to eight cores but do not include integrated graphics and are aimed at high-end systems for extreme gaming, HD content creation, and multimedia for PC and digital enthusiasts, according to the company.

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