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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  • CoronaL - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    lol me too
  • max1001 - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    I would love to see a nicely spec ultrabook with this APU and $800-$1k price point that can do decent gaming.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    It'd be fun to throw a GTX 760 in the mix, just to see where we're at.
  • CoronaL - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Wonder if they will pair that up with a cheap 250x mobile version for some X-fire gaming on laptop. I bet that would beef up the graphics a fair bit. IMO the cpu part is pretty respectable trading blows with the i7 and i5 for the most part, which AMD usually gets trounced in.
  • azazel1024 - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Well it does look a lot better than Richland and price might be a big driver in making these interesting (I see no prices?), but 19w Kaveri versus 15w Haswell ULT...the 15w Haswell ULT, depending on the turbo performance of the 19w Kaveri part looks to run roughly as fast to a very sizeable 20-30% lead in CPU performance and with the GPU cut down to roughly half performance between core and clock reduction...the Haswell ULT is likely to be on par graphically +/-10%. In a lower power consumption package...and if the Kaveri has turboing issues or the GPU is thermally constrained in this package it could be a much more significant lead.

    The 15w Kaveri doesn't look like it would be on the performance map at all (<<<50% of the performance of Haswell ULT). The standard voltage parts actually look the most interesting, especially if the price is moderate. That would probably allow you to make a decent performing machine (70-90% of an Intel's CPU performance) with a very nice iGPU for a rather low price point (assuming the FX-7600p is very price competitive to the Intel Haswell SV dual core parts).
  • azazel1024 - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    I guess I missed something with the Intel chips in regard to the TDP. My experience is vastly different. Most Intel chips, both desktop and mobile, don't seem to come close to hitting max TDP under full CPU load. Especially in the desktop space I see something like my i5-3570 with a TDP of 77w is hitting around a 35w delta between idle and full load based on wall plug data, considering losses from the power supply and assuming a fairly low (CPU) idle number, thats only in the area of 30-40w total power consumption. That isn't simply under load, the processor is clocked up to 4.2GHz single core and 4GHz all 4 cores turbo. That isn't a max burn situation where every single itty bitty capacitor and transistor is loaded like Intel does in their TDP tests, but that is under 100% sustained CPU load across all 4 cores.

    From what I have seen with Ivy Bridge testing (which ain't Haswell I'll admit) a fully loaded i5-3317u seems to only use in the area of 8-10w with both cores fully loaded max turbos 100% CPU load. Its the GPU that uses a huge whack of power, >12w under max load and turbos.

    I'd assume Haswell is pretty close there, at least with the CPU, since the turbo core speed is the same, same lithography, very similar architecture. So I doubt a ULT Haswell is using more than 10w under max CPU load and turbos. Its the GPU that is going to be the power hog.

    No idea what AMD is capable of on these, but we know they are using a less energy efficient process, so I'd assume/guess that their CPU is probably below the cap under max CPU load, but it might be much closer, maybe in the 12-15w range under max turbo, meaning GPU load is going to cause the CPU to scale pretty far back, even on the 19w chips.
  • worm - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    It seems like any benchmarks of the Ax-7xxxP should be against an ix-4xxxM, not MQ, like over at Tom's, and the 7xxx, should be against the ix-4xxxU, at approximately the closest price point. That leaves plenty to choose from, in laptops in the market. Hopefully we can get that data so a real comparison can be made. I hope we are just waiting on OEMs to release their Kaveri laptops, in both 19w, and 35w forms, to make it worthwhile?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    I am actually testing the first dual-core standard voltage Haswell laptop right now, so I'll have that data added to Bench in the next week.
  • meacupla - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    still waiting on A6-7600K.

    I know it's a desktop CPU, but c'mon, it's been four months since Febuary and I don't even see it in stock at newegg.
  • MLSCrow - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Why are they comparing Kaveri to the 15W ULV i7? Simple, because it's a more fair comparison for multiple reasons:

    A) That i7 is a dual core with hyperthreading (4 threads). Kaveri is a dual module with modular multithreading (4 threads). An AMD module is what you compare to a single Intel Core with hyperthreading. That is the fair comparison. It wouldn't be fair to compare a dual core vs a quad core now would it?

    B) Although the Intel chip is still more expensive than the Kaveri, it is much more closely priced than the quad core version. Price ranges should always be taken into consideration when comparing offerings of like-capabilities from different manufacturers.

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