Published in PC Hardware

Kaveri presentation leaked, fails to impress

by on06 January 2014

Plenty of performance gains, but...

Polish tech site Pure PC “mistakenly” published excerpts from AMD’s Kaveri event held on Sunday. The event was held at the sidelines of CES and it was covered by an NDA, so we suspect AMD is not very pleased about it. We wouldn’t know anything about NDAs since we never sign any.

The leaked slides paint a very optimistic picture of Kaveri, which is understandable since this is an official presentation. The chip is said to be significantly faster than Richland and thanks to Mantle it should deliver unbeatable IGP performance.

In terms of raw specs, the Kaveri die measures 245 square millimetres and features 2.41 billion transistors manufactured using Globalfoundries’ 28nm SHP node. The die contains up to eight GCN compute units, which translates into 512 GCN cores on the A10-7850K. Thanks to its asynchronous compute engine, the GPU cores can access L2 cache and then there’s HUMA, which should allow better memory access. In theory, this means faster memory should have a much bigger impact on GPU performance than in previous AMD APUs.

AMD appears to have emphasized GPU performance in the presentation, which is understandable. In a series of gaming tests the A10-7850K was pitted against the Core i5-4670K with Intel HD 4000 graphics and it wiped the floor with it, ending up 35 percent to 91 percent faster in games like Tombraider, Sleeping Dogs, Just Cause and Battlefield 4. Compared to Richland, Kaveri parts with the same TDP offer a 30 to 45 percent performance boost in 3DMark Firestrike. In terms of performance per watt, Kaveri is 8 to 15 percent better than Richland.

So far so good, but the Steamroller CPU cores don’t offer very impressive perofmance gains. IPC is about 20 percent higher, but that does not paint the full picture. Tests leaked by Chinese tech sites are showing a 10 to 33 percent performance improvement across the board. This is a good score, we rarely see such performance gains with new x86 architectures these days. However, it is just not enough given the extent of Intel’s lead with Haswell.

In addition, Haswell refresh and Broadwell parts are just months away and for all intents and purposes these are the products Kaveri will have to compete with for much of its lifecycle, not Haswell parts launched two quarters ago.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the presentation involved Mantle. AMD claims it will deliver a performance boost of up to 45 percent in Battlefield 4 and in some cases we could be looking at even more. For example in Starswarm by Oxide Games, the A8-7800 delivers less than 10FPS in DirectX mode, but on Mantle it churns out a relatively playable 30FPS. When AMD announced Mantle in September, many geeks and analysts viewed it as another front in its never ending battle with Nvidia. However, in the long run it may prove a bit more disruptive in the CPU space than in the discrete GPU space. In essence, if Mantle gains traction it could give upcoming AMD APUs a competitive edge, just as it seemed Intel’s IGPs were about to become competitive. AMD is having trouble keeping up with Intel in CPU design, but future AMD APUs may provide vastly superior graphics performance, annulling Intel’s lead in some market segments, namely low-end gaming rigs and affordable all-round PCs.

Kaveri looks like a good chip, with some impressive performance gains across the board. However, AMD doesn’t need another good chip - it needs a truly great chip if it wants to close the gap and catch up with Intel’s latest Core parts. Kaveri just doesn’t cut it.

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