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AMD raises the bar on performance-per-watt in APUs

Posted: 30 Apr 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMD  Mullins  Beema 

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has released two mobile accelerated processing units (APUs)—a mainstream chip and a low-power chip, respectively dubbed Beema and Mullins. The chips feature Puma cores, which build upon security, improved power consumption, and increased processing capabilities.

"Our focus with Mullins and Beema in the third generation was overall performance per watt, fitting in to smaller form factors, and overall improved experienced," said Kevin Lensing, senior director of mobility solutions.

Each Puma SoC comes in two-and four core sets with top stack Mullins, designed for a variety of mobile devices, with clock speed topping out at 2.2GHz for a "general sense of responsiveness and snappiness." Beema has achieved maximum CPU speeds of 2.4GHz for use in traditional notebooks.

BeemaMullins_functional view

AMD is also touting improved power system capability per watt and an average 38 per cent reduction in energy leakage in the APUs. Beema tops out at 15W, a 20 per cent power reduction at the SoC level, AMD said, while the Mullins APUs (in A4 and A10 series) reach 4.5W TDP (thermal design power) and 2.8W SDP (scenario design power). Improvements in power consumption allow for nearly twice the system productivity, AMD Platform Design Engineer Ben Bates said.

"Last year our high end products scaled up to 8 total watts of power," he added. "[With Mullins] we're delivering the same experience at roughly half of the power level... enabling more aggressive form factors."

Improvements in power consumption are partially due to a silicon temperature tracking algorithm that allows for better management of the phone's skin. Samuel Naffziger, AMD Corporate and IEEE fellow, said such temperature management can enable up to 63 per cent performance increases on key workloads.

Energy savings also come from non-APU components able to complete basic tasks quickly, compensating for extra energy expensed when running the CPU core faster. Additionally, increased memory support from lower-power DDR3-1866 allow the chips to be used in high performance fanless tablets.

"The total system power is actually lower when the CPU runs faster because the rest of the system spends a lot of time asleep," Naffzinger said. "The key is to exploit this is to have a power manager that can pinpoint that lowest power."

Mullins and Beema also use Enduro technology, a switchable graphics mode, to optimise performance and power. AMD says the chips have nearly twice the graphics performance as the previous generation, operating on AMD's Graphics Core Next Architecture (GCN) GPU. To decrease latency, the chips' video encode block is next to its display interface; Beema can process at 800MHz, up from 10 per cent from the Kabini chip, while Mullins tops out at 500MHz.

Mullins_structure

Structure of the low-power Mullins APU. (Source: AMD)

The APUs are also AMD's first to have security designed in at chip level with a platform security processor (PSP) based on the ARM Cortex-A5 and ARM TrustZone technology for data security. The integrated PSP partitions the processors into two "virtual CPUs"—a "secure world" and a "normal world" based on the type of data being processed – to ensure secure storage and processing of sensitive data and apps, a release stated.

"Users are demanding that they can access data anywhere they go, and have it be secure. We need a security solution that protects our data across all of our devices," Bates said. "Mobility, cloud computing, the IT-itisation of devices trend all create risk to securing your data. You need a hardware-based security solution."

New software capabilities also include touch-free gesture control, facial recognition, and a virtual Android OS using BlueStacks technology. AMD also created a custom "discovery tablet" and nano PC based on Mullins and Beema to validate, optimise, and showcase this technology. The company will not market the devices to end-users, however.

Mullins and Beema are already in mass production though the company has yet to announce partners other than Lenovo.

- Jessica Lipsky
  EE Times





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