AMD Press Release at Computex 2009

Overall Score

AMD News Release

Istanbul, touted by AMD as the most complex processor in the world, released June 1st five months ahead of schedule and is available for two-, four- and eight- socket systems. Istanbul is said to deliver up to 34% more performance-per-watt in the exact same platform.
 
AMD: the future is Fusion… was the main theme throughout the hour presentation.  To start the event, the press was audience to Taiwan’s number one cheerleading team, Monster who performed a traditional Taiwanese dance with some modern cheerleading mixed in.
 
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Billy Wong, Corporate VP, Greater China Sales, opened with the first greating and announcements.  He briefly covered the press events agenda and handed off the rest of the presentation to Rick Bergman, Senior VP. 
 
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Fusion… AMD’s transformation to a unified design powerhouse has become the focus of their new strategy.  A key aspect of the Fusion movement is the use of the GPU.  During the press conference we were treated with a sneak peak at the world’s first DirectX 11 demonstration by Rick Bergman.
 
But before we got to see the demo, Rick talked about the three most important areas of DX 11.
  • Biggest infusion in graphics to date
  • Well adopted by developers even at this stage
  • AMD will deliver the first DX 11 hardware in the second half of 2009

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Dr. John Wei, Senior Director of Advanced Technology Marketing Division, TSMC took over after Rick to talk more about the upcoming DX 11 hardware.  He said TSMC focused on three areas while developing the new 40nm tech which were:
  • Leading edge technology
  • Volume
  • Close design and process interaction/collaboration with AMD
After his short brief, Dr. Wei presented Rick Bergman with the first DX 11 and 40nm silicon wafer from TSMC.  Just to make it clear, AMD has working DX 11 hardware, so this wafer was from the very first tape out of fully functional silicon.  What we are seeing in the wafer appears to be the RV8x0 chips that will be available in full graphics packages around the launch of Windows 7.
 
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After the wafer presentation, we finally got to see the DX 11 demo sneak peak.

The first demo was of a character being rendered using tessallation in real time.  As you can see from the pictures, the detail of the character is amazing.

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The next demo we saw was a terrain demonstration.  In it you can see the difference tessallation makes in the sheer number of triangles used to make the scenery much more life-like.

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The final demo was of the Frogmen which combined terrain and character rendering using DX 11 software and hardware to render the scenes with tessallation.  Again, tessallation allows more triangles that smooth out the jaggedness you see in previous generation gaming graphics.  All of this is done without impacting the graphics footprint.

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After the demos, Rick talked about the key points of AMD’s DX 11 hardware.  The key points were as follows.

  • compute shaders
  • new instruction set.. pixel shader 5.0
  • HDR Compression technologies
  • Multi-Threading
  • Tessellation

Compute Shader allows for smarter AI that is not possible with a processor alone.  The computing power of the upcoming DX 11 hardware will allow for much better gaming AI, making gameplay more interactive and challenging.  The Pixel Shader 5.0 instruction set with help improve the look and feel of future games along with HDR Compression technologies.  Multi-threading will make more use of all the horsepower sitting under the hood of the future DX 11 hardware from AMD.  And, as we saw from the tessallation demonstrations, we will see richer and more detailed gaming environments. 

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Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate VP, OEM, Microsoft talked about the ATI Stream Advantage and the impact it will have on CPU + GPU transcoding with DX 11 technology.  Allowing the CPU and GPU to work together will allow for less time spent on heavily CPU intensive applications.  We were shown a demo of this technology with an AMD CPU working with an ATI R8x0 GPU to transcode a video.  On the left was the CPU only demo.  On the right was the CPU + GPU demo.  It was impressive to see both the CPU and GPU working together to transcode the video.  Of course, it is easy to guess which transcoding finished first.
 
Another key point covered by Steve was the use of mult-threading.  DX 10 and below is really inefficient when it comes to using more than one thread and leaves a lot of the GPU and CPU unused, wasting tons computing and graphics power.  With DX 11, you get full use of all cores on both the CPU and GPU. 
 
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One of the last videos we saw was from game developers talking about DX 11 and where they see it being used.  All of the developers talked about better looking games, the use of tessallation and multi-threading as well as ambient occlusion.  We will see higher frame rates in Windows 7 combined with DX 11 and AMD’s compatible hardware.  And, as AMD stated before, they will be first out of the gate with DX 11 products.
 
 

Before the press conference was finished, we got a glimpse of what AMD has planned for their notebook and low power platform future. 

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AMD plans to fight Intel’s ULV notebooks with their own sub ~20W BGA processors, the Yukon platform and the future Congo platform.  The Congo platform, available Q309, will utilize a mobile 780G chipset along with an integrated HD 3200 graphics processor.  Available now is the ultrathin HP Pavillion DV2 using the Yukon platform.  This notebook is priced under $750 and comes with Blu Ray.  We asked if AMD plans on entering the netbook market and they said they are concentrating on the ultrathin and affoardable market as the netbook segment is leveling out.

On the midrange notebook side we are looking at sub ~25w  BGA processors offering a thin and light package.  Desktops are also included in AMD’s low power client platform focusing on 25-65W CPUs.  As SFF computers are becoming more popular, AMD has targeted this segment as well.

AMD took this press opportunity to release two new processors.  First up was the Phenom II X2 520 Black Edition CPU.  With a speed of 3.1GHz, 8MB of cache, DDR2/3 support and compatible with AM3 socket motherboards, the new BE comes unlocked at a great price of $102.

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The second CPU released at the press conference was the Athlon II X2 250.  Specs on this processor show it running at 3GHz with 2MB of cache in a 65W envelope.  Pricing sets this chip at $87.

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To reiterate what we said about Istanbul at the beginning of the article, it is a 6-core processor that is drop in compatible with current server setups.  AMD’s approach to the server segment has always been to offer the customer a complete solution at all price points.  That is why they offer AMD-V and AMD-P technologies in all their server processors.  As a comparison, the Istanbul CPU offers 14x the performance(integer) as the original Opteron released in 2003, all within the same thermal envelope.

Overall, we got a good feeling from AMD.  They seem to be pushing the envelope on GPU die shrink technology and continue to become more competitive on the CPU front.  We are eagerly awaiting some benchmarks of the recently released 6-core Istanbul server processor.  Stay tuned for more information from the AMD booth and many of their partners as we continue our Computex coverage.

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