As the year comes to an end, it’s time to take a look at the most interesting and relevant tech stories of 2012. Several trends consolidated during 2012: Apple’s dominance in this area, mobile growth, rapid release in the smartphone world, Windows 8 launch, just to name a few.
This year we’ve divided stories into 12 heavy-handed categories, for a total of about 500 featured headlines. Feel free to jump between your favorite topics, but try not to miss the tech culture section where we revisit some of the most entertaining stories we covered this year.
Like Zackett, we felt the Llano was going to be a success for AMD, and for the most part, it’s been a hit among some users. Even today, top-end Intel chips like the Core i7-3770K can’t beat the A8-3850’s graphics performance, while many Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 and i7 parts feature an even slower HD 2500 graphics engine.
Granted, Intel still dominates the processor market and its products are generally the way to go if you want the fastest CPU. However, AMD’s APUs provide an attractive alternative for those who don’t need the horsepower of Ivy Bridge or discrete GPUs, but still want more graphics power than Intel’s IGPs.
AMD continues to refine its Fusion offerings, launching its Trinity series on mobile platforms four months ago — arguably where its APUs provide the most value. These 32nm parts have four CPU cores based on the Piledriver, Bulldozer’s successor, and a GPU based on the Cayman of the 2010 Northern Islands (HD 6000) series.
This week, AMD is finally ready to offer the desktop version of the Trinity, which brings a new socket and a new high-end chipset. Given that the PileDriver improves the power consumption of the Bulldozer, we expect the Trinity to be more efficient than the Llano, while the Cayman’s VLIW4 architecture should give a boost to GPU speeds – or so we hope. .
32nm Trinity Line-up
Piledriver cores are spread across three different 32nm APU series: Trinity, Weatherford and Richland. We will specifically look at the Trinity, which covers the performance segment and replaces the Llano-based A8-series. Weatherford covered the upper-mainstream market, replacing the Llano-based A6-series, while Richland covered the lower-mainstream segment, replacing the Llano-based A4-series.
There are six new Piledriver-based APUs, four of which are from the Trinity line, and we’ll be testing the A10-5800K, a quad-core part that operates at 3.8GHz with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.2GHz and boasts a 4MB L2 Cache. Its GPU is known as Radeon HD 7660D, which has 384 cores and operates at 800MHz. Like Intel’s “K” series processors, the A10-5800K comes unlocked for easy overclocking.
A-Series Core Design
As mentioned, Trinity’s piledriver cores are based on the same bulldozer architecture used by the current FX series. However, AMD has changed the design a bit. For example, the L3 cache is discarded. The new A10 and A8 APUs match the FX-4000 series with 4MB of L2 cache, while the A6 and A4 parts only have 1MB.
Although L3 cache increases performance in some situations, it also increases power consumption and essentially ruins the efficiency of these chips. While small dedicated L2 caches can be enabled or disabled as per the need for cores, the entire L3 cache remains awake even when only one core is being used. Obviously, AMD realized the performance tradeoff wasn’t worth it.
Despite dropping the L3 cache, Trinity’s transistor count still exceeds the Phenom II X6 1100T and the AMD FX-8170. In fact, the Trinity’s transistor count is only slightly lower than Intel’s Core i7 Ivy Bridge (22nm) processor.
The quad-core APU has a die area of 246mm², which is larger than the 160mm² die of the high-end Ivy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Naturally, larger dies cost more, and considering Trinity APUs much larger than their competition, we have no doubt that this will cut into AMD’s bottom line.
That said, the Trinity and its ilk are unbelievable when you look at the processors and platforms from a few years ago. AMD added a 66mm² (13w) northbridge, 200mm (65–95w) quad-core processor, 108mm (30w) graphics processing unit – which were once three completely separate components – and merged them into 246mm² (65-100w). A-Series APU.