Business, Graphics, Hardware

AMD Updates Roadmaps, Shows 28nm Kaveri for Socket FM2+

Recently AMD released updated roadmaps on their investor relations website. While most of the contents were already known by followers of the company, there are some details that are newsworthy, as they previously were only discussed in rumors.

Desc.: On the mobile roadmap Kabini and Temash are prominently featured. In the high end Kaveri will make a show in the back half of the year. Unlike the desktop platform, Richland is already available.

According to the updated roadmap, Kaveri is designed for the FM2+ socket, while current Trinity and upcoming Richland processors are running on socket FM2. What is unclear at the moment is whether Kaveri will strictly require new mainboards. Given the history of AMD, it could very well be that Kaveri processors fit into existing FM2 motherboards and run with a reduced feature set, provided the manufacturer would offer a BIOS update. At this point we don’t know what new functionality socket FM2+ will bring to the table. As a result we also can neither confirm nor deny that Kaveri will be able to operate on existing FM2 motherboards.

If you recall earlier socket transitions AMD has gone through, like AM2 to AM2+ and AM3 to AM3+, the sockets without the plus-denomination were physically compatible but lacked certain features of the newer variants. Given the mainboard manufacturer would provide a BIOS update, you could install AM2+ processors into AM2 motherboards, but would have to put up with less power management features. Similarly AM3+ processors would physically fit into socket AM3, but only boards with strong power delivery would be able to drive the newer CPUs along with some reduced power management functionality. However it should be noted running newer CPUs in those older sockets often was a less than stellar experience.

While Vishera in the high-end remains unchanged, Richland which is not even launched yet on the desktop, it will be joined by Kaveri later this year. The FM2+ socket denomination indicates some changes.

The roadmap itself is rather aggressive. AMD only launched Trinity (A-series APUs and select Athlon II models) in fall of 2012. The release of the refresh called Richland is imminent. While the new roadmap only gives a vague timeframe when Kaveri is scheduled to be released, it can be expected to happen in the late Q3 to Q4 timeframe. Given AMDs APU13 conference taking place in San Jose from November 11-14, an educated guess would put the Kaveri launch around this time. What’s also noteworthy is that in 2013 there won’t be a refresh for AMDs high-end desktop platform AMD FX. Vishera will stay there for the full year.

Kaveri itself will bring a lot of updates to AMDs APU platform. First and foremost it is the first product featuring the Heterogenous System Architecture (HSA), which allows for unified address spaces for the CPU and GPU, allowing for different programming models. It is expected AMD will talk a lot about HSA on the APU13 conference. The CPU cores will get updated to the next iteration of the Bulldozer architecture called Steamroller, which the company detailed at the Hot Chips conference last summer. Steamroller will bring much needed IPC improvements to the x86 cores.

Kaveri doesn’t get GDDR5 anymore

Earlier this year we reported about Kaveri also getting a GDDR5 memory interface, a rather interesting proposition but imaginable considering AMD integrated the same memory technology into the silicon for Sony’s Playstation 4. A newer version of the NDA documents seen by us no longer include the references to a GDDR5 interface. The document detailing the GDDR5 interface was from last year, while the newer one we have seen is only a few months old. It seems AMDs engineers for some reason dropped GDDR5 in Kaveri. The possibility of models with 3 compute units (i.e. 6 cores) was removed as well. This is also reflected in the roadmap.

Last but not least Kaveri will be manufactured at the 28nm node. Previous mainstream APU products like Llano, Trinity and Richland were manufactured at the 32nm node with SOI technology. AMD already detailed a while ago that all their 28nm products will be on bulk silicon. This allows AMD to potentially make the product at different semiconductor manufacturers. At this point it is unknown whether Kaveri will be made at TSMC or GLOBALFOUNDRIES, but by now GLOBALFOUNDRIES should have their 28nm lines ready for prime time. Previous 28nm products from AMD were exclusively made at TSMC, even though earlier it was announced that in 2013 all processor products would be made at 28nm at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.