After launching Excavator with Carrizo last year, we’re getting the next iteration based on the same architecture. Dubbed Bristol Ridge, the new lineup features an improved DDR4 memory controller among other things. Today, we’re only getting the notebook side of the launch, with the desktop chips and platform to launch later in the year. AMD is touting some major gains over their Kaveri Steamroller APUs launched in 2014. The reason for the pre-announcement is HP outing Bristol Ridge with their new Envy x360 notebook at GTC.
According to AMD, Bristol Ridge improves x86 performance by nearly 50% over Kaveri/Steamroller. This is pretty good given that Excavator actually features less L2 cache. Even compared to Carrizo, Bristol Ridge manages to post a 10% improvement due to the DDR4 memory controller. AMD’s IMC performance has generally been good but not amazing and hopefully, there will be even more improvements for Zen’s DDR4 controller.
On the graphics side, there are significant gains up to 18% in some cases. This is even with the iGPU portion staying constant. This is all probably due to the use of DDR4 which is a god improvement over DDR3. As we all know, AMD’s APUs are highly reliant on good memory bandwidth in order to feed the iGPU and CPU portions at the same time. With good memory, the APUs can see massive gains in gaming performance. Hopefully, we’ll get more benchmarks that aren’t dubious leaks.
In a final hurrah for AMD’s Bulldozer and its derivatives, Bristol Ridge APUs will launch later this year. Coming in just before Zen arrives in Q4, the update will bring Excavator to the desktop as well as introduce the new Socket AM4. Today, we’ve been treated to the Geekbench scores for the FX 9800P. Given the results, it looks like Excavator will be a nice IPC increase over the current Steamroller APUs.
Deviating from the rumoured 2.7Ghz base clock, the FX 9800P in the Lenovo 59AC sample runs at 1.85Ghz. Of course, this could be off given that Geekbench might not be properly reading the clock speed. The chip managed to score 2216 in the single-threaded tests and 5596 in the multi-threaded portion. This is pretty competitive compared to the FX 8800P especially given the clock speeds. Given that we don’t know the cTDP setting, we can’t draw too many conclusions.
The biggest change compared to Carrizo is the use of AM4, FP4 and DDR4. Bristol Ridge will showcase the motherboards and memory controller that Zen will be using and that will be the most interesting part about it. By finally bringing Carrizo to the desktop in numbers, AMD will have a new desktop architecture since 2015.
One of the first applications that came to mind with HBM was pairing it up with an AMD APU. Proven to work as VRAM with the Fiji GPUs last year, HBM also has possible applications to act as a high-speed cache for other applications where density is important. While we’ve known that AMD has been planning APUs with HBM, the latest report points to Raven Ridge, the 2017 series of APUs that follow Bristol Ridge, to have HBM.
According to the source, Raven Ridge will utilize AMD’s upcoming Zen CPU cores likely paired with Polaris GCN iGPU. With 14nmLPP and Polaris, AMD can stuff a much larger iGPU with their APUs without worrying too much about extra costs or ballooning die size. However, even with the current generation of APUs, the iGPU is bottlenecked at the high-end, something even DDR4 won’t fully solve.
In order to keep growing APU GPU performance, AMD also needs to increase the memory bandwidth. One way, of course, is to use eDRAM as Intel has done with notable success. That, however, is expensive, leading to the top SKUs costing near $400. In comes HBM to the rescue at a relatively lower cost, allowing a large yet budget friendly cache pool to help reduce bandwidth constraints. To produce this, AMD has tapped Amkor, the same firm that worked on Fiji interposers to package Raven Ridge.
With at least, 1GB HBM buffer, the APU will be very well fed, allowing for the iGPU to grow to at least R7 370 performance levels before running out of steam. AMD is also probably working on HMC to supplant HBM in the future as well. If AMD manages to pull this off, Raven Ridge will be the most potent APUs yet, securing the crown against Intel.
AMD’s new line of CPUs and APUs are hotly awaited amongst hardware enthusiasts and long-time fans of the company. These new chips, set to make use of AMD’s upcoming AM4 socket have been the subject of a number of leaks, the latest of which saw a number of AM4 products being spotted on a leak from Zauba’s shipping database. The leak included mention of multiple components, with both an AM4 quad-core CPU, quad-core GPU and also an AM4 motherboard.
The leak shows that the components had been shipped to AMD’s testing facility in India, and WCCFtech believe that they belong to the Bristol Ridge family of APUs. As can be seen, 3 different batches of deliveries were made in late October and early November. Included in these were a batch of AM4 APU prototypes and a further batch of AM4 CPU prototypes, both with a TDP of 65W. The later of the shippings included an AM4 motherboard with the FOC acronym, MYRTLE codename and mentioned DDR4 support. FOC stands for Full Operational Capacity, meaning it is likely that the AM4 motherboard specifications are complete.
When you start to aggregate the data on AMD’s leaks, it starts to paint a picture of just when the chips could be released. A leaked BIOS microcode update three months ago showed the addition of functionality for AMD’s new AM4 chips. And WCCFTech notes that the last leak on a chip sent for testing, the mobile chip Carrizo, saw the chips being released just 4 months later.
This all could mean that AMD’s new shot at the gaming CPU crown could be on the way soon, both with its high-end Summit Ridge chips, and more budget all-in-one Bristol Ridge and Stoney Ridge APU chips. The question of whether AMD will be able to oust Intel from their position at the top, which has seemed secure for many years now, and return to the days of the Athlon remains to be seen.
AMD is either orchestrating a hype campaign or they really can’t keep their secrets. This time around, the CPU roadmaps for both desktop and mobility have been leaked out to 2016. These roadmaps clarify a number of rumors and leaks over the past while as well lay out AMD’s long-term strategy.
For the desktop segment, 2015 is pretty much more of the same. Piledriver continues to drive the performance segment on AM3+ while Puma cores hold the low end. Kaveri gets a rebrand to “Godavari” making previous rumors around Godavari moot.
An important confirmation is the use of 14nm throughout the product stack. 14nm will bring AMD to parity with Intel Skylake. While Intel is set for 10nm in 2016, there have been signs that there will delays with that process. 14nm also means continued usage of Global Foundries, maybe with Samsung as a secondary supplier since the designs can now be easily be ported between the two firms.
Zen looks to be AMD’s go to architecture for 2016, covering everything from the performance to low power segments. It’s ability to replace the low-end Puma cores likely means the architecture is well power optimized and efficient. Scaling from 2-8 cores, some rumours are also pointing to simultaneous-multithreaded making an appearance, meaning up to 16 active threads are possible. It does look like rumours of a true 16 core consumer CPU were wrong though. The top end chip is codenamed Summit Ridge while the mainstream APUs are Bristol Ridge, complete with HSA 1.0. The small form factor and budget range will be served by Basilisk. Both Summit Ridge and Bristol Ridge are on the new FM3 socket while Basilisk is BGA.
On the mobile side of things, it much of the same. In 2015 Carrizo gets an update to Excavator cores, likely a minor tweak of the current Steamroller. For 2016, Bristol Ridge serves the performance and mainstream segments at 15-35W while Basilisk targets low power at 5-15W. Ultra low power moves from Amur with ARM A57 cores to Styx which sports up to 2 K12 cores to hit about 2W.
With all this information out already, it looks like May 6th will an important day not just for AMD fans but for PC fans in general. I doubt there will be much left to leak on the CPU side from AMD until then. 2016 looks like it will be a very interesting year if AMD can finally start competing with Intel using Zen.