Today we are looking at AMD’s new AM1 platform and given that I am writing with the realms of a traditional “tech enthusiast” website you’ll either think this is a great platform with potential, or just too slow to add anything new to the market. However, I am in the former, not the latter, camp – I can see the massive potential of AMD’s socketed Kabini APU. I have always been keen on budget and small form factor computing solutions; the Raspberry Pi is a great example of something that caught my eye. Of course at just $35 the Raspberry Pi is hardly comparable to AMD’s new Kabini socketed APUs that will cost a similar amount for just the APU. However, you can build a Kabini quad core system with a motherboard for just $64 – less than twice the cost of Raspberry Pi but no doubt with way more than twice the performance. The ethos with AMD’s AM1 platform is to bring the Athlon and Sempron product lines (that are orientated towards value for money and “upgradeability”) back with a bang.
While the AM1 system may seem like it is catering to a small market – it isn’t! The majority of PCs are bought in those entry level and mainstream price points – below $200-300 shall we say. Yet if we look at emerging markets in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and so on, then we find that the sub $200 price point is even more popular. As a result the majority of Windows-orientated desktop systems that will be delivered in the future are likely to be in the entry level and mainstream categories. That logic is AMD’s justification for the AM1 platform – it will deliver Windows capable PCs for a fraction of the cost of traditional desktop systems.
AMD is also looking to innovate to correct some of the deficiencies in the PC landscape. A lack of upgradeability, limitations to 32 bit operating systems and poor integrated graphics are common place in small form PCs. Latest generation Intel “Bay Trail” Atom SoCs are not upgradeable, are mainly limited to 32 bit operating systems and with regards to graphics performance most are still largely incapable of anything but video playback and browser-based gaming. Of course AMD’s Kabini Athlon APUs aren’t going to be creating high-end “Gaming PCs” any time soon but they do offer more graphics performance than Intel’s equivalent Atom parts.
AMD is keen to point out the advantages it has over Intel’s Bay Trail equivalents because that is what AMD sees as its main rival in this price point.
AMD’s “AM1” moniker is effectively the “chipset” denotation – although there is no chipset as such. All the “chipset” components are placed on-die with the APU. The socket of the AM1 platform is the FS1b and it is currently upgradeable to a choice of four Kabini APUs.
The FS1b APUs will be available with up to four CPU cores, 128 GCN cores and up to 1600 MHz memory. On-die there are two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and two SATA III 6 Gbps ports so storage connectivity is modest but for such a low cost platform you would expect that.
We have covered the basics of what the AM1 platform is, why it has been created and what it is designed to compete with so now let’s move on to cover the technical aspects of it in a little more detail.