AMD Launches Excavator Based R-Series APUs for Embedded with DDR4 Supportby Ian Cutress on October 21, 2015 9:00 AM EST
Despite the recent news surrounding AMDs reorganization and financials, today AMD is announcing the launch of its first DDR4 processors. But rather than aiming at the high end or the consumer platforms like their blue competitors, AMDs focus for DDR4 starts in the embedded sector which comprises of digital signage, vertical markets (medical), networking, point-of-sale, commercial and industrial applications.
The new R-series line uses the same Excavator cores we have seen in AMDs Carrizo platform but with an extra level of validation and support. An embedded platform regularly requires security, and thus features such as AMDs use of ARM TrustZone along with high performance graphics and HSA 1.0 features are all aimed at these markets. Currently at launch, AMD is submitting the processors for 'HSA 1.0 Full' validation to the HSA Foundation, and expect to be approved within a week or two.
The initial launch will be of five ‘Merlin Falcon’ processors, supporting DDR3 and DDR4 through a dual controller design, with the single module cheaper silicon being limited on memory speeds. Three of these will be APUs with 3rd generation GCN graphics while two are pure CPU silicon. There will be another set of processors coming in Q1 in the R-series as part of the iTemp line, featuring a wider validated temperature operating window from -40ºC to 105ºC. This will essentially the same silicon as the others, but requires additional validation on AMDs side. Customers requiring ISO or MIL validation will have to enquire with AMD direct.
Obviously an interesting element is the DDR4 support. These are the same silicon as the laptop versions of Carrizo, which doesn't have DDR4 support and begs the question of where it went for consumers. We were told by AMD that for this platform, which is expected to have a 7-10+ year life cycle, the requirements for DDR4 were to allow their customers through the memory transition as the market shifts. Reasons as to why the Carrizo silicon in laptops are not DDR4 enabled revolve around the mix of DDR3-only Carrizo-L and Carrizo designs, as well as marketing of those parts.
Aside from this, the new R-series brings the chipset/south bridge normally connected to provide the storage and PCIe supported onto the same silicon die as the APU. This means that the chipset is now made at the same processing node as the APU, reducing power, but it also makes power management easier as well as reducing the size of the motherboard needed for the system. AMD told us in a briefing that a number of customers have requested an overall smaller form factor for their designs, and this is here for that.
At the time of writing, the new R-series will support three displays, using a variety of connectivity. We have been told that this is the currently validated list, and other display configurations are still being tested. On the left is AMD’s ‘Bald Eagle’ platform, with R-series processors derived from Kaveri cores.
Part of today's announcement also lot to do with the Linux ecosystem surrounding the embedded market. AMD is moving its entire graphics driver stack to open source, removing the disconnect with some closed source drivers. Elements of the stack are under different open source licenses, but it allows customers to develop and distribute a custom driver kernel specific to their needs. Customers can also select part of AMDs Linux distribution platform.
Performance for the new Merlin Falcon parts, according to AMD and running benchmarks such as 3D Mark, puts the high frequency RX-421BD APU at 15W on par with the previous generations RX-427BB (Bald Eagle, Kaveri-based) when at 35W. Customers for these parts can work with AMD and Sapphire (AMD’s long term AMD Pro partner) to obtain evaluation ‘AMD Gardenia’ motherboards.
Just to be clear with these embedded parts, in AMD’s briefing to us they identified the markets they are targeting – gaming machines (poker, pachinko, etc), communication infrastructure, industrial control/automation, storage, medical, security/surveillance and retail signage. Any hopes of being able to play with DDR4 on an Excavator based platform, for the end user at least, is still an unknown. That being said, we are working with AMD to perhaps get a couple of evaluation boards to test, at least to see how DDR3 vs. DDR4 performance comes into the equation.
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nathanddrews - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkYippee ki yay, Merlin Falcon!
Oxford Guy - Saturday, October 24, 2015 - linkSilicon silicon silicon silicon silicon silicon.
milli - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkThere are plenty of laptops out there with Carrizo processors. Why hasn't Anandtech reviewed one yet? I think everybody is pretty eager to see a decent review of this processor so we can put Zen's 40% IPC increase into perspective.
Ian Cutress - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkSimply put, when we've asked for samples no-one wants to send us one yet. Even though I'm not the laptop guy, I actually just ordered one for my Grandparents. I don't have the tools to do display tests, but I can run some quick CPU benchmarks.
ddriver - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkHardly anyone would expect a product of that class to sport a display worthy of testing. System, CPU and GPU benches would suffice.
Gc - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkSeveral Carrizo models are available in configurations with FHD IPS screens. I think they might include some configurations of the 14 and 12.5 inch Elitebooks, some Satellite P50D, some Pavillion 17z, and the Pavilion 23 AIO.
BurntMyBacon - Thursday, October 22, 2015 - linkIt is true that they are starting to pair these setups with better displays. However, I think many are looking for a review of Carrizo in general. Laptop specific things like display, keyboard, battery size, etc. take a back seat to things like System/CPU/GPU performance and power efficiency (Minutes / WHr). Though, I wouldn't mind a laptop specific review separate from the general Carrizo review.
nathanddrews - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkIf the opportunity presents itself, that would be great. It could be a Pipeline mini-review. AMD has made a lot of promises with Carrizo (non-L) that I would love to see substantiated.
ImSpartacus - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkThat would be pretty kickass of you.
silverblue - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - linkGood luck finding one not restricted to 12 or 15W. :S Still, you can at least show the improvement over Kaveri.