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AMD's Zacate E-350 APU is pint-sized compared to AMD's monolithic previous gen V105 Geneva chip pair.   (Source: Hot Hardware)

AMD helps inform the public what an "APU" is (hint: What does GPU+CPU=?).  (Source: AMD via Hot Hardware)

Zacate adds support for two memory DIMMS (click to enlarge).  (Source: AMD via Hot Hardware)

Zacate and Ontario are only the first two members of AMD's APU invasion, which will soon hit netbooks and notebooks as well.  (Source: AMD via Hot Hardware)
APU is two Bobcat cores and a DX11 GPU

Intel's Atom processor has long enjoyed a reign as undisputed king of entry-level netbooks and ultraportables.  AMD is at last prepared to challenge that position with its long-awaited "Fusion" processor.

The chips are done and in 2011 AMD plans on launching 4 processors:

The E-xxx processors are parts in the Zacate series, while the C-xxx parts belong to the Ontario series, which is more heavily aimed at ultraportables.  Together these parts collectively belong to the Brazos family.

So is Brazos a leap forward for netbook computing or a step backward from the modest performance of Atom?  The answer is a bit of both.

Finally, a Solid IGP

The clear upside here is the integrated GPU.  In its high-end Ontario/Zacate models, AMD has packed two Bobcat cores.  Both the single-core and dual-core chips also feature an on-chip DirectX 11 GPU with 80 ALUs -- twice the number in Nile, AMD's previous integrated graphics solution.

The fact that AMD incorporated its integrated GPU directly on the same die as its CPU cores isn't exactly revolutionary, in so much as Intel already did this with its Pineview (Atom) chips launched earlier this year.  It is revolutionary in that it is the first on-chip GPU whose performance isn't horrendous and that it is the first on-die IGP to have a high-bandwidth link to the CPU (Pineview oddly opted for a slower FSB-like link on-die between the GPU core and CPU core[s]).

Intel's Pineview uses the Intel GMA 3150, which lacks dedicated vertex shader hardware.  As a result 3D performance is a miserable experience.  The GPU's overall weakness makes even playing trying to play back high definition video a painful prospect.

By contrast Brazos's Radeon GPUs should offer decent entry level gaming performance and should play HD video (including Blu-Ray) with ease. 

Memory and I/O

Pineview only supports a single 800 MHz DDR3 DIMM, Brazos offers the support for two 800-1066MHz DDR3 DIMMs.

While specifics on the smaller uni-core Ontario chips aren't available, AMD has revealed that its Zacate consists of a 19 x 19-mm, 413-ball BGA package with a 75 mm² die "advanced processing unit" (APU) (GPU+CPU) inside.  That's ever-so-slightly smaller than Intel Atom's single core entry that features a 22 mm x 22 m package and a 87 mm² die.

The APU is hooked up to AMD's chipset unit, which is named Hudson.  The Hudson chip handles part of the I/O duties, offering a wealth connections including four PCIe Gen1 lanes, four PCIe Gen2 lanes, six 6 Gbps Serial ATA connections, 14 USB 2.0 connections, and built-in fan control logic. 

Together the APU core and Hudson chipset form the Brazos platform.

The 6 Gbps SATA connections should allow for ultra fast SSD access, though it seems a bit strange to be considering pricey hard drive options with a budget-minded netbook chip.  The four PCIe Gen1 lanes can be used with the ethernet and wireless (802.11n) connections, freeing up the Brazos core's PCIe gen2 lanes for use with a discrete GPU.

Thus netbooks or mobile internet devices sporting the Brazos APU could in theory also offer a discrete GPU.  It's unclear at this point whether you could switch to the integrated GPU to decrease power consumption and extend battery life.


Speaking of battery life, the one area that Pineview appears to have AMD's Brazos beat is in battery life.  Its dual core Atom N550 is clocked similar to the E-350, but has about half the power consumption.  Of course the lean power footprint is due to the garbage graphical performance.  We're not sure if that's something to brag about -- even in the mobile space.

Overall, though, when you consider chipset power (Pineview is paired with the NM10 chipset) the result is that an Atom-based netbook's internals will consume about 16 W, while AMD expects a platform TDP of 21 W for Brazos (possibly less for Zacate models).

At the end of the day AMD is claiming the E-350-equipped Zacate platform will last for about 8.5 to 9 hours on a fully charged 55Wh laptop battery, while an Ontario may get 10.5 hours.  An Atom platform netbook will last slightly longer.


At this point it's hard to draw definitive conclusions as a) Intel may have new Atom designs up its sleeve for 2011 and b) AMD hasn't delivered on Brazos chips yet.

That said Intel definitely has cause for concern here.  AMD's chips still are more power hungry than their Intel siblings (+5 watts for the entire platform), but the roughly 33 percent power increase reportedly allows a > 50 percent performance bump in GPU-intensive applications.  With even everyday programs like Firefox and Flash using GPU acceleration these days, this could offer faster performance even for non-gamers.

And Brazos is only the budget-minded beginning of AMD's APU invasion.  It will be followed by the Llano platform (dubbed Lynx on desktops, Sabine on notebooks), which will feature a beefier GPU and a more powerful modified K10.5 core design (not quite a Bulldozer, as some pointed out).

At this point Intel's most compelling alternative to Brazos is to pair itself with NVIDIA's ION chip.  But that approach would likely negate much of Intel's power advantage, and further it cuts into Intel's bottom line, as it would have to either cut the cost of its chips for OEMs or end up double-charging customers for their graphics.

Atom has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the netbook world, but in 2011 it will likely meet its x86 match in Brazos.  And if that wasn't enough to keep the Santa Clara chipmaker's executives up at night, ARM processors, fresh off their tablet takeover, will likely continue to trickle into the netbook space.  And those ARM processors have the potential to blow both Atom and Brazos awy in terms of processing power-per-watt.

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My dream
By punzada on 11/9/2010 5:25:01 PM , Rating: 4
This puts me one step closer to the netbook I dream about at night....

A 10" 1366x768 display, a realistic 8 hour battery life of moderate usage (idle, wifi radios enabled, say IM client and Email app open and I don't mind if the battery has to have extra cells and make things a little bulky/ugly), HD video playback capability with hdmi output(I want blu-ray capable performance regardless of optical drive not being there.) Priced somewhere sub-$450. I don't think this should be unreasonable soon.

An additional plus would be good linux support. The fantasy would be that this machine would have not only HDMI output but also - s-video (seriously, I understand most people are rocking flat screen high definition screens now, but make a model that can support both and I'd happily pay $200 more just to have the flexability and really have a portable media machine).

RE: My dream
By Korvon on 11/9/2010 6:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
Archos will be releasing one this month that is very close to what you are looking for.

Their 10.1 inch tablet will start a $299.

RE: My dream
By deputc26 on 11/9/2010 6:56:21 PM , Rating: 2
So... is Bobcat on the 32nm node?

RE: My dream
By stmok on 11/9/2010 8:40:31 PM , Rating: 5
Ontario and Zacate will be released on 40nm node in 2011.

In 2012, their successors (Wichita and Krishna) will be released on 28nm. From 1 to 4 core configurations...AMD wants to cover all the low end as well as netbooks and tablets!

See here...

RE: My dream
By Freddo on 11/10/2010 1:27:34 AM , Rating: 1
Interesting :)

RE: My dream
By borismkv on 11/10/2010 1:53:34 PM , Rating: 4
You dream about netbooks? Nerd. :P

RE: My dream
By Ammohunt on 11/10/2010 2:31:13 PM , Rating: 2
How else is he gonna get his porn?

Need correction!
By stmok on 11/9/2010 6:04:44 PM , Rating: 5
And Brazos is only the budget-minded beginning of AMD's APU invasion. It will be followed by the Llano platform (dubbed Lynx on desktops, Sabine on notebooks), which will feature a beefier GPU and the more powerful Bulldozer core design.

Llano does NOT use Bulldozer core . It uses a modified version of the K10.5 core . Its cache configuration is basically the same as the current Athlon II series...In fact, Llano replaces Athlon II line from mid-2011 onwards. (Delayed due to yield issues.)

A little history that I pieced together from various web sources...

AMD announces "Falcon" series APU
(Bulldozer-based; covering 10W to 100W.)

End of 2007:
AMD announces "Swift" APU
(Falcon is quietly canceled. Bulldozer core replaced by K10-based.)

End of 2008:
Swift suffers from massive yield issues with 45nm process. Project is canceled. New project (Llano) announced to replace it; aims to use 32nm process instead.

=> Swift was made from 45nm process and used Radeon HD 4350/4550 class GPU. (80 stream processors). CPU was based on K10 cores, with up to dual-cores.

=> Llano is made from 32nm process and will use Radeon HD 55xx/56xx class GPU. (480 stream processors). CPU is a highly modified variant of the K10.5 architecture, with up to quad-cores.

Squeezing a powerful GPU on-die with a complex x86 design is a painful process. Even at 32nm nodes, AMD has encountered yield issues. But it looks like they've worked them out at the cost of a 6 month delay. It forced AMD to push Ontario/Zacate forward in place of Llano. That's why those APUs are made by TSMC on 40nm process. (Intel was planning to counter Llano with the LGA1155 version of Sandy Bridge, by releasing it early in 2011. They're obviously still going forward with this plan; as AMD won't have a real answer until mid-2011 or so...Intel is trying to nullify a popular GPU-accelerated application of video transcoding, by incorporating hardware acceleration circuitry into Sandy Bridge.)

We can see though, that Swift was split into two projects that resulted in what we have today; Llano and Ontario/Zacate APUs.

The next stage for Bulldozer (currently referred to as "Bulldozer NG"), is to integrate all the I/O into the processor. GPU technology won't be incorporated until much later. (A good 5 yrs+ away.) ...At that point, you will see a hybrid solution that is a blur of x86 and GPU-like cores on the same processor die. It won't have distinct sections of x86 cores and GPU-based IGP like we see today. (Hopefully, software infrastructure like OpenCL would have matured enough to be useful!)

So it all looks like this in 2011...

=> Ontario goes after Intel Atom and Celeron.
Mini-ITX, embedded boards(?), netbooks/nettops, etc.

=> Zacate goes after Intel Pentium.
Mum/Dad boxes; affordable desktops.

=> Llano will target processors in the Core i3 and i5 areas. Mainstream desktops...Replaces Athlon II line.

=> Bulldozer will aim for Core i5 and i7 processors. Performance/Enthusiast desktops...Replaces Phenom II line.

Whether or not AMD's lines beat their Intel market equivalents is another story. I don't think the general public gives a damn if they serve their purpose without offering a sluggish experience.

RE: Need correction!
By justjc on 11/9/2010 6:26:56 PM , Rating: 3
Actually there will be a Bulldozer APU "We’ll bring our “Bulldozer” CPU cores into APUs with “Trinity”, targeted for both the mainstream and performance notebook markets. We will also offer a “Trinity” APU for mainstream desktop;" and "Also in 2012, we plan to continue offering high-performance desktop CPUs for the enthusiast market with the “Bulldozer” core-based “Komodo” CPU."

Info is from the "simply put it’s all about velocity" post on AMDs Fusion Blog where a new roadmap is presented.

RE: Need correction!
By stmok on 11/9/2010 6:54:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I just saw the 2012 roadmap after I posted...

RE: Need correction!
By IntelUser2000 on 11/10/2010 2:45:18 AM , Rating: 2
No point of integrating all the I/O. Only things like PCI Express, and memory controller are necessary. Rest probably keep the CPU from being clocked high enough and the benefits are minimal.

RE: Need correction!
By foolsgambit11 on 11/10/2010 3:55:52 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt it would really affect clock speeds. Many processors already clock different parts of the chip at different speeds. Except for certain markets, though, I don't see there being much of an advantage to integrating the I/O onto the die. I guess it might shave a couple dollars off the cost of a total system. The only usage where integration makes overwhelming sense is for very small form factor devices like cell phones and MIDs where space is at a premium.

By sprockkets on 11/9/2010 5:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that AMD incorporated its integrated GPU directly on the same die as its CPU cores isn't exactly revolutionary, in so much as Intel already did this with its Pineview (Atom) chips launched earlier this year. It is revolutionary in that it is the first on-chip GPU whose performance isn't horrendous.

Not really. Intel did was move it on die, and you would expect it to be faster since it, yeah, is on die. But it is connected via a typical FSB, which is why its performance sucks.

In any case, if Zotac releases a successor to this, I'll buy. Even this model is probably loads better than the ION models.

RE: correction
By IntelUser2000 on 11/10/2010 2:43:07 AM , Rating: 1
Performance did increase, but it wasn't as much as expected. Physical latencies have been reduced, but it seems they have just might it bit slower to save even more power.

Jason, you might want to adjust the total platform TDP for Atom dual core. It's a 8.5W CPU and 1.5W NM10 chipset making it total 10W not 16W.

RE: correction
By sprockkets on 11/10/2010 7:09:26 AM , Rating: 1
Yes, it did, but the graphics performance went nowhere. Technically the features it offers is even worse.

We should see for sure very soon, but this should be much better. Of course, we don't have much of anything to compare it to from a previous gen, save the Neo.

Fusion 40nm > 28nm
By Gungel on 11/9/2010 5:25:33 PM , Rating: 2
Any word on when we will see Fusion APU's made on the 28nm Globalfoundries process? I'm looking forward to see even lower overall power consumption.

RE: Fusion 40nm > 28nm
By justjc on 11/9/2010 6:22:06 PM , Rating: 2
On AMDs Roadmap Blog it says "For the essential, netbook and tablet markets we introduce our “Krishna” and “Wichita” APUs with enhanced “Bobcat” CPU cores. These will be our first APUs based on 28nm process technology. “Krishna” APUs are scheduled to be available for small form-factor and all-in-One (AIO) desktop platforms in 2012;"

I would link, but Dailytech doesn't allow me to.

Models and dies
By nafhan on 11/9/2010 5:26:00 PM , Rating: 2
While specifics on the smaller uni-core Ontario chips aren't available, AMD has revealed that its Zacate consists of a 19 x 19-mm, 413-ball BGA package with a 75 mm² die
I think they all start off as the same 75 mm² piece of silicon, and clock speeds/TDP are adjusted and cores turned off to get the different parts. with the 18 W ones being Zacate and the 9 W parts Ontario.

By twhittet on 11/9/2010 6:08:52 PM , Rating: 2
I need a new laptop, and am waiting to see how well the numbers stack up. We all know what to expect from the GPU already, but the CPU is a big question mark at the moment.

A long time waiting
By wordsworm on 11/10/2010 7:29:48 AM , Rating: 2
I've been waiting for this since the merger. I guess I can wait a few more months. It would have been nice if they'd leaked some estimated prices.

I can't help but wonder if Intel ought to be seriously considering merging/buying nVidia at this point. I really see this part as the tip of a mega-iceberg.

I was happy to see Intel come back to kick AMD butt after so long as the butt of everyone's jokes. However, I had anticipated a speedier rejoinder on AMDs behalf. Maybe this is the start of it.

By Einy0 on 11/10/2010 10:04:37 AM , Rating: 2
If those battery usage figures are correct then I'll get a Zacate based unit to replace my N450 based netbook. Atom single core is about as close to useless as it can possibly be. I use my netbook more as a portable movie player than a PC. Trying to do anything on it other than watch movies is down right frustrating. The battery life is amazing 8-10hrs watching video. I can deal with 6-8 hrs if that includes a little more get up and go especially in the graphics department.

Sand Bridge IGP link
By tafreire on 11/10/2010 3:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
"and that it is the first on-die IGP to have a high-bandwidth link to the CPU"

And how is the Sand Bridge's IGP link to the CPU cores?

By Blood1 on 11/11/2010 11:30:46 AM , Rating: 2
"Vegetta whats the scouter reading say...?"

"It's OVER 5,000!!!!!"

Those TDP Numbers Can't Be Right.
By mindless1 on 11/11/2010 12:51:18 PM , Rating: 2
Either the TDP or the processor speeds are wrong! Think about it, a dual core @ 1.6GHz & 18W TDP, then a single core clocked lower with same IGP also 18W TDP?

I suppose it is possible if they're binning cream of the crop ULV chips for the dual core, yet unlikely.

Similar is true of the C-50 and C-30, same TDP while one is dual core? At least in this case the single core is higher clockspeed, possibly higher core voltage which would both increase TDP.

Either way, I expect "average" power consumption to not be much different between Intel & AMD offerings when the task isn't more demanding than the slower combo of the two in a given situation can handle... the rest of the time the power management coming close to equalizing the TDP for either since the faster of the two has more idle cycles.

Now I wait for the BIG news, when one of these two contenders finally ponies up and puts CPU, IGP, and entire chipset on one chip. Not so important for netbooks since their keyboard and screen size need a certain amount of area for ergonomic use but with touch-screen devices that's what we really need.

By The Insolent One on 11/9/10, Rating: -1
RE: Surprise!
By Fritzr on 11/9/2010 9:03:30 PM , Rating: 5
They aren't competing head to head with Atom ... they will be splitting the market yet again.

You can either minimize power consumption with ARM or Atom or you can get decent graphics with a hit on power consumption using Brazos/Zacate.

You define your need, then make your choice. With these chips there will actually be a choice to make :D

RE: Surprise!
By StevoLincolnite on 11/10/2010 12:07:50 AM , Rating: 2
They aren't competing head to head with Atom ... they will be splitting the market yet again.

If anything they seem to be more likely taking on Via's new Nano Dual-Cores in terms of the targeted TDP.

Personally... I want one for a Mini-ITX rig months ago over my Atom 330, the Intel IGP is absolutely pathetic in that rig.

RE: Surprise!
By inighthawki on 11/9/2010 11:12:24 PM , Rating: 5
Spoken like someone who truly doesn't understand the point of these new processors...

RE: Surprise!
By JKflipflop98 on 11/11/2010 2:49:51 AM , Rating: 1
The customer shouldn't have to figure out the "point of a processor". If it takes that much thought, you've already fucked up.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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