Introducing AMD's Mobile Kaveri APUs

A couple weeks back, AMD flew us out to San Francisco for a briefing on their upcoming Mobile Kaveri APUs. Along with the briefing, we were given some time to run benchmarks on a prototype Kaveri laptop, though I'll note up front that the laptop isn't intended for retail and is merely a demonstration of performance potential. A funny thing happened about a week after the briefing, which some of you likely saw: AMD's web team accidentally posted all of the specs for the upcoming mobile Kaveri APUs ahead of schedule (for about half a day). We removed our coverage of the Mobile Kaveri APUs when AMD corrected the error, but we might as well jump right into things with the overview of the new mobile APUs.

Kaveri is AMD’s latest generation high-performance APU, and appeared first released on the desktop back in January of this year. We were a bit surprised – perhaps even perplexed – about the desktop first launch, considering AMD's "we're not going after the highest performance CPU market" stance. Then again, AMD-equipped laptops haven't been as strong as Intel-equipped laptops – not that the APUs aren't fast enough, but getting OEM partners to make a compelling AMD laptop seems rather difficult. As the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." AMD has provided a compelling APU and platform solution for a couple years, but the perception is that AMD platforms are budget platforms, so basically almost every corner gets cut. I'll have more to say on that later, but it's still a major concern in my book. Regardless, since the desktop Kaveri launch we have been eagerly awaiting the release of the mobile incarnation.

The launch has been scheduled for H1 2014 for some time now, and with AMD able to offer significant GPU performance with their APUs coupled with the space benefits of an integrated GPU versus a discrete GPU, it should be an easy sell. Mobile of course is not without its challenges. Power use is paramount, and while AMD has always been able to meet the desired TDPs, there is often the matter of performance tradeoffs required to hit those TDPs. Mobile is also a highly contested market right now; Intel of course has their Bay Trail and Haswell parts, but we're now seeing tablets and ARM-based Chromebooks pushing into AMD territory.

Despite the somewhat questionable decision to launch first on desktop – particularly odd given both Llano and Trinity launched more or less simultaneously on laptops and desktops – it's now time to pull the wrappings off Kaveri for the second time and see what AMD has created. We're now almost exactly a year after the launch of mobile Richland, which was really just a minor tweak of Trinity that launched about two years back. This is the first major architectural upgrade for AMD laptop APUs in two years, and expectations and hopes are high.

Kaveri brings a number of improvements, including the higher performance Steamroller based CPU cores and modern GCN based GPUs. We've previously covered this material, so rather than rehash things on the mobile side I'll simply refer back to the desktop Kaveri launch information. (You can also view the full presentation deck in the above gallery if you're interested.) AMD's Kaveri will be going up against Intel’s existing Haswell products, and this is AMD’s best chance to claw back market share from the Haswell family. Of course AMD has other APUs as well – specifically, Beema/Mullins will target the ultra-low power and tablet markets – but those compete in an even lower price bracket and go up against Intel's Bay Trail offerings. For now, let's start with an overview of the new Mobile Kaveri APUs.

AMD Mobile Kaveri SKUs
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  • - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    icrap and affordable? what a joke! lol

    don't forget outdated low res screen, no pen input, no touch screen, and still more expensive.

    Surface Pro is much better and much more affordable.
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Exactly how is the 13" and 15" rMBP screen outdated and low res?

    Oh and: not everybody shopping for a notebook needs a touch display nor pen input. I even give you a reason why the 12" Surface 3 will not replace either notebooks or tablets: 750g.
  • nerd1 - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    1st gen iPad 3G weighed 730gr and everyone said it's as light as a feather.
    Oh, and macbook still looks and weighs exactly same since then.
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Your point? They are light now. I owned the 1st gen iPad and it was way to heavy to comfortably hold in my hands to read. I since switched to the iPad mini for its lightness and small form factor, nothing the Surface can provide me with. So I still tuck along my notebook to write stuff and use the iPad for media consumption. The surface simply doesn't work for me, but your mileage might vary. Just don't make it sound it's the holy grail that truly combines both tablets and notebooks, because it isn't. At least not for all.
  • Morawka - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    well for one it's not a IPS Screen, and 2, it's a low res panel
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    The iPad mini with retina? You need to check your facts.
  • ShieTar - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    The 35W AMD APU is giving you about 75% of the mobile gaming performance that you get with a 15W Intel CPU + 50W nVidia GPU; but over 200% of the 15W Intel APU performance. That's a very decent result in my opinion. Sure it's slower as a pure CPU, but I don't think it will hit its 35W TDP limit when the GPU part is dormant, either.

    Another interesting comparison might have been to see how FX-7600P fairs against something like an i7-4558U, i.e. an Intel APU with a ~30W TDP and an Iris GPU.
  • Roland00Address - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    While I agree with you perfectly on what you said, I want to bring up another point. The gt750m is a kepler part with 384 stream processors (2 SMX). We now have maxwell on the market and maxwell is very good. With maxwell you get 640 stream processors (5 SMM, 1 SMM is roughly 90% of an SMX) in roughly the same tdp that as the gt750m. Thus nvidia+intel is able to get a large increase in number of calculation units in roughly the same form factor.

    So in sum AMD is able compete with intel and intel+nvidia only on price and/or time to market. Intel and Intel+Nvidia can meet AMD on graphic efficiency, form factors, and Intel is faster in cpu tasks. Sadly I wish AMD was doing better than they are, not because AMD is bad but I want more competition and more competition is always good for the end user. Problem is AMD may bring their B+ game often but when you have Intel and Nvidia as competitors you need to bring your A+ game to win for your competitors are just as talented as you are and they have far more design resources due to greater revenue and cash on hand which means more money spent on engineers.
  • Krysto - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Intel cheats with Turbo-Boost, though, being able to win 5-minute benchmarks because of Turbo-Boost, while also claiming long battery life because Turbo-Boost barely gets any use, so the chip is actually running at lower performance than advertised in the long term.
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    And AMD doesn't turbo? o.O

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