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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  • kirilmatt - Friday, June 6, 2014 - link

    These chips are an amazing step for AMD. They have moved from i3-level CPU performance up to i5 level in some cases. People seem to neglect the potential of dual graphics in these laptops. With a GCN GPU, big gains could be seen. There would be less energy usage for more performance in games. The 19W FX looks like the best chip that they offer. AMDs previous ULV offerings have been dead awful. The OEMs are sure to ruin it though by putting them in inferior hardware.
  • MLSCrow - Friday, June 6, 2014 - link

    Just think about this...considering that Kaveri is actually a pretty decent APU, especially for the mobile market, just imaging what Carrizo is going to be like. I honestly believe that Carrizo will be the first APU that will actually be considerable in terms of an enthusiast gaming laptop/ultrabook. When AMD moves to 20nm, we will finally have HD7870 performance in an iGPU and that is when APU's will completely take over the market as that puts out acceptable performance even for a hardcore gamers.

    Add to that an all new x86 core built from the ground up by Jim Keller, mixed with a 16nm process by the time it comes out...and hell, we may even get what all AMD fans are dreaming of right now, an 8 or 16 core APU with the iGPU performance equivalent of an HD7970 or perhaps even R9-290x.
  • johnny_boy - Saturday, June 7, 2014 - link

    The 19W FX part is nice. These make great chips for linux laptops since you get good gpu performance without having to deal with dual graphics and graphics switching, a horrendous affair on linux (though improving). If they put this in a moderately well-built machine in the $600-800...
  • UtilityMax - Sunday, June 8, 2014 - link

    The tests are kind of meaningless. As others pointed out, AT compares AMD's 35W TDP part with Intel's 18W TDP designs. Moreover, those lower power Intel CPUs are dual core while the Kaveri A10s are quad core. Bring Intel's mobile quad core i7 or at least a 35W Core i5 (dual core) part, and there'd be no comparison. AMD would be far behind in any bench that doesn't use GPU.
  • Andrew H - Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - link

    After reading, I was a bit disappointed that that didn't have the socket type. After doing some digging, those of us currently using the 5750M (Socket FS1r2) will NOT be able to swap in the new FX-7600P (Socket BGA/FP3).

    Shame, guess I'll have to wait for MSI to get on the bandwagon and I can order a motherboard/cpu combo that fits in their universal 17" chassis.


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