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AMD intros fastest-ever GPU, new A-Series processors

Dec 22, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

AMD announced the Radeon 7970, based on a 28nm manufacturing process and said to be its fastest-ever GPU (graphics processing unit). The move follows the introduction of 13 new entries in the company's A-Series (“Llano”) series of processors for laptops and desktops, including two models that can be overclocked.

On Dec. 22, AMD announced its new Radeon HD 7970 graphics card for desktops, which officials claimed is not only the fastest available, but also the first to be based on a 28nm manufacturing process. It's built around a GPU chip code-named "Tahiti," featuring AMD's new Graphics Core Next architecture.

According to a Dec. 22 review by AnandTech, the GPU is between five and 35 percent faster than Nvidia's speediest offering, the GeForce GTX 580.

AMD's Radeon 7970
(Click to enlarge)

Reports of the Radeon 7970 had been circulating in the media for several weeks. AMD officials have said the GPU was designed as a heterogeneous type of chip, one that is as suited for computing as it is for graphics. Traditional GPUs have been built with one or the other in mind.

AMD officials said the new Graphics Core Next architecture will significantly improve both computing and gaming capabilities. The Radeon 7970 also supports PCI Express 3.0 for greater performance scaling, plus AMD's CrossFire multi-GPU technology.

Support for AMD's App Acceleration technology means improved high-definition video images and better performance for mainstream computing applications, AMD says. Eyefinity support will enable users to connect up to six displays to a single GPU, a key consideration for gamers and high-performance computing users.

AMD also is looking to ensure high-energy efficiency while it ramps up the performance. The Radeon 7970 GPU supports AMD's PowerTune and ZeroCore Power technologies. PowerTune lets users essentially crank up the performance of the GPU while staying within the chip's power envelope, while ZeroCore Power lets the GPU idle at very low power.

More A-Series processors

The new GPU was introduced two days after AMD unveiled updates to its Fusion A-Series accelerated processing units (APUs) for mainstream PCs. The chip vendor rolled out eight new laptop APUs and five new desktop chips, all of which offer faster speeds and better graphics performance than the "Llano" A-Series chips first unveiled in June.

The chips are the latest of the Fusion APUs that AMD first introduced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in January, all of which offer a CPU and high-level graphics capabilities on the same piece of silicon. The enhanced A-Series APUs offer two to four x86 CPU cores with up to 400 Radeon GPU cores, according to AMD.

Most of the new chips include AMD's Turbo Core technology, which helps users boost core performance without impacting the APU's power efficiency.

According to AMD, the new A-Series processors for laptops are:

  • A8-3550MX: four CPU cores, 2.0GHz CPU base (2.7GHz Turbo Core), 400 Radeon cores, 45-Watt TDP
  • A8-3520M: four CPU cores, 1.6GHz CPU base (2.5GHz Turbo Core), 400 Radeon cores, 35-Watt TDP
  • A6-3430MX: four CPU cores, 1.7GHz CPU base (2.4GHz Turbo Core), 320 Radeon cores, 45-Watt TDP
  • A6-3420M: four CPU cores, 1.5GHz CPU base (2.4GHz Turbo Core), 320 Radeon cores, 35-Watt TDP
  • A4-3330MX: two CPU cores, 2.2GHz CPU base (2.6GHz Turbo Core), 240 Radeon cores, 45-Watt TDP
  • A4-3320M: two CPU cores, 2.0GHz CPU base (2.6GHz Turbo Core), 240 Radeon cores, 35-Watt TDP
  • A4-3305M: two CPU cores, 1.9GHz CPU base (2.5GHz Turbo Core), 160 Radeon cores, 35-Watt TDP
  • E2-3000M: two CPU cores, 1.8GHz CPU base (2.4GHz Turbo Core), 160 Radeon cores, 35-Watt TDP

The new A-Series processors for desktops are:

  • A8-3870K: four CPU cores, 3.0GHz CPU base (unlocked), 400 Radeon cores, 100-Watt TDP
  • A8-3820: four CPU cores, 2.5GHz CPU base (2.8GHz Turbo Core), 400 Radeon cores, 65-Watt TDP
  • A6-3670K: four CPU cores, 2.7GHz CPU base (unlocked), 320 Radeon cores, 100-Watt TDP
  • A6-3620: four CPU cores, 2.2GHz CPU base (2.5GHz Turbo Core), 320 Radeon cores, 65-Watt TDP
  • A4-3420: two CPU cores, 2.8GHz CPU base, 160 Radeon cores, 65-Watt TDP

The new APUs, which will start hitting the market over the next few weeks, are an indication that AMD apparently has moved beyond the supply problems that cropped up this fall, when the company had to cut its third-quarter financial forecasts due to problems by manufacturing partner Globalfoundries that limited the initial yield of the 32nm A-Series "Llano" APUs.

AMD officials have said the Fusion APUs have become the fastest ramping products in company history. Over the course of the year, the chip maker has introduced APUs for such markets as low-power PCs (E-Series chips) and embedded devices (G-Series chips).

AMD in October also introduced its new FX chips based on its "Bulldozer" multicore architecture. The chips offer four to eight cores but do not include integrated graphics; they're aimed at high-end systems for extreme gaming, HD content creation, and multimedia for PC and digital enthusiasts, according to the company.

Further information

AMD's Radeon 7970 is scheduled to be available starting Jan. 9, 2012, with pricing starting at $549.

The company's unlocked A-Series processors, which will be sold as boxed upgrades from outlets such as Newegg and TigerDirect, are priced at $115 for the A6-3670K and $135 for A8-3870K; the other new models do not yet appear on the company's price list.

Jeffrey Burt is a writer for eWEEK. Jonathan Angel added A-Series chip specifications to this story.

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