AMD 2010, 2011 Roadmap Leaked

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Just after the release of their new processors comes a pretty exciting leak of AMD’s current roadmap strategy for future processor releases. While AMD’s roadmaps have been pushed back and pushed back in recent years (Fusion was supposed to be out several years ago) the new releases are pretty conservative, so it’s a safe bet they might be accurate this time.

Despite recent losses and coming in at a very distant second to Intel in most metrics, AMD is feeling pretty good about itself.  They’ve helped to create the ultrathin notebook market with the HP dv2, launched the first DirectX 11-capable GPUs and have a series of affordably-priced processors under their belt. They even have a six-core server chip floating out on the market that will undoubtedly make its way to their consumer desktop segment at some point.  Aside from vague mentions of “Bulldozer” and “Fusion”, however, AMD has been pretty mum about what we can expect from them in the future.  Thanks to some sneaky camera work at a recent press event in Asia, we at least have an idea.

AMD Enthusiast Desktop Platforms
2009 – “Dragon” 2010 – “Leo” 2011 – “Scorpius”
  • Record-setting AMD Phenom II performance
  • Immersive gaming with DirectX 11 graphics
  • 32nm architecture featuring Bulldozer CPU; 4-8 cores
  • Balanced platform enabling a superior visual experience
  • Ultimate performance with up to 6-core computing
  • Next-generation discrete graphics solutions
AMD Mainstream Desktop Platforms
2009 - “Pisces” 2010 - “Dorado”

2011 - “Lynx”

with Fusion

  • Amazing price/performance for quad-core computing
  • Platform flexibility designed to exceed user expectations
  • Optimal balance of compute resources
  • Industry-leading graphics performance
  • Next-generation integrated graphics
  • Amazing graphics performance
  • Outstanding energy efficiency
AMD Mainstream Notebook Platforms
2009 - “Tigris” 2010 - “Danube” 2011: “Sabine”

with Fusion

  • Entertainment powerhouse
  • Quad- and triple-core computing for mainstream
  • Optimal balance of compute resources
  • Up to 27% improvement in platform performance
  • DirectX 11 discrete graphics
  • Amazing graphics performance
  • 5 hours resting battery life
  • Designed for 7 hours resting battery life
  • Outstanding energy efficiency

Obviously there’s a little hyperbole in some of the above statements, but that’s a given for any company’s press materials. We can glean a few of the really interesting bits away, though.  First of all, that six-core opteron chip we talked about earlier?  It looks like we can expect that to hit desktops this year, which is a nice surprise.  That will rise to eight cores on the 32nm Bulldozer architecture sometime next year.  One concern is how power efficient that six-core chip will be; if AMD isn’t transitioning to a 32nm manufacturing process until sometime next year, they may need to underclock the CPU in order to maintain compatibility with current motherboards and chipsets.  That’s utter speculation at this point, though.

Fusion is also discussed in the leaked roadmap; that’s AMD’s name for moving integrated graphics from a separate chip onto the CPU die.  They’ve been talking about it for years, now; at most AMD events since 2008 the tagline has been “The Future is Fusion.”  Clearly, they think it is, as it starts to invade both mainstream desktop and mainstream and ultralight notebook platforms in 2011.  It isn’t too surprising to see that it’s being left out of the enthusiast markets for the moment, since most enthusiasts will pair that CPU with a high-end discrete graphics card that would blow any on-chip graphics system out of the water.  I doubt we’ll see that change any time soon, especially given AMD’s pretty fantastic idle power consumption on their 5000-series of graphics cards.  It can make a big difference for high-end notebooks, however, since users would be able to transition to the integrated graphics to save power, and warm up the discrete card when they’re ready for gaming or other GPU-assisted computing.

The Leo platform for 2010 includes AMD’s Thuban CPU, which supports up to six-core CPUs paired with DDR3 in an AM3 socket.  It also uses their next-gen RD890+SB850 chipset and 5000-series cards.  In other words, it’ll be a pretty competitive showcase of technologies.  The Dorado mainstream platform for 2010 is mostly already out, centering around AMD’s really affordable quad-core Athlon II CPUs and a reduced-performance chipset with DirectX 10.1 graphics.  The Lynx platform, carrying over to the Sabine and Brazos notebook platforms, introduces what AMD calls the “APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit.  It’s a term they coined back in 2006 to describe their merging of the CPU and GPU onto one die.  The best part?  It looks like the dual-core CPU will be dead for mainstream desktop computers.  There’s no doubt really cheap computers will still use it, but going forward, consumers are going to have a fair amount of power under their belts.  Even the mainstream notebook market will be transitioning to more quad-core chips and fewer dual-core CPUs. The ultrathin and netbook categories will move up to dual-core CPUs with, very interestingly, DirectX 11-capable graphics systems.

AMD has taken hits in recent months (years?) in terms of market and mindshare, but if they pull this transition off, they could regain the performance crown they carried back when the first Athlon dual-core chips were announced.  Already, the usersare getting interested and wondering if AMD is back.  That’s a question that only time will tell, but we can say that we’re cautiously optimistic on the matter.  People are pretty brand optimistic here in our offices, but if nothing else, competition is good for the consumer, and a strong AMD means Intel and NVIDIA will have innovate even more to keep their place in the market.  As the Red Queen said, you have to keep running just to stay in place, and AMD looks to be sprinting along.

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