AMD take on Haswell with newly unveiled Kaveri architecture

Dave James

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At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) AMD's Lisa Su, Senior VP and General Manager, officially introduced their latest, groundbreaking APU, code-named Kaveri. You can pre-order it straight away or wait until it's officially available to buy on the 14th January.

Sadly my review samples won't be around until after I'm back from the Las Vegas show, which is why I wouldn't recommend a pre-order, but AMD are convinced this piece of tech represents a new dawn for them, and they might just be right.

There's a trifecta of goodness that makes Kaveri such a tantalising prospect, especially compared to the pretty uninspiring APUs we've seen from AMD over the past few years. There are the brand new Steamroller CPU cores - four of them - offering higher performance at lower clockspeeds and lower power requirements. Then there's the introduction of their Graphics Core Next GPU architecture, ripped right from their latest discrete graphics cards and integrated into the chip itself. And finally, but possibly more importantly, there's the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA).

The latter is most interesting to me. When AMD talk about the Kaveri A10-7850K having 12 Compute Cores, it's not just marketing fluff. In traditional computing only the CPU has unfettered access to system memory, but HSA allows CPU and GPU cores to handle software and memory autonomously. That means the four Steamroller cores can be added to the eight compute units (each housing sixty-four GCN cores) to form the twelve compute cores.

The big caveat though is that for that to happen seamlessly applications need to be coded to take advantage of HSA. It also streamlines code, which ought to help, so you need less code to accomplish something on a HSA-capable chip than you would with a traditional setup.

Then there's Mantle, which has the potential to bring proper, serious multi-threaded gaming to life in the PC market. It's the close-to-the-metal API that replaces DirectX and removes much of the overhead that seems to be wasting a hell of a lot of CPU horsepower. With that and HSA Kaveri could become a very intriguing gaming chip.

Look out for my review next week once the jet-lag's worn off.

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