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AMD's Carrizo chip promises aggressive power savings, but not fanless PCs

Mark Hachman | Jan. 16, 2015
AMD executives said Wednesday that their upcoming "Carrizo" mobile processors will significantly increase battery life in the PCs that use them. Even better, the new chips won't require transitioning to a new process technology in order to reach lofty new power-efficiency goals.

However, fanless designs like those enabled by the Intel Core M "are out of the question," McAfee said. Instead, other products in the company's portfolio will be used for entirely fanless machines.

Getting smart to stay competitive

AMD taps into a number of strategies to reduce power consumption, McAfee said, including adaptive power management, as well as syncing the refresh rate of the graphics portion of the chip to the LCD panel it's being displayed upon. This FreeSync technology helps smooth images displayed on the screen, and also reduces the power consumed by the system. A secondary benefit, says Robert Hallock, the head of AMD's global technical marketing, is that games will look smoother, improving the user experience without the need for higher frame rates.

AMD executives are on record saying that Carrizo will bring "incremental experiences to our prior offerings," implying that the performance of the chips may be marginally better than the Kaveri chips.

Although Intel has revealed only dual-core Broadwell chips for the time being, AMD's Kaveri chips predominantly used four processor cores, in part, some have thought, to provide comparable performance to Intel's Core chips. McAfee said we should expect a similar number of cores for Carrizo.

"The dirty little secret is that... the vast majority of the [notebook] market is dual-core," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. A small niche of gaming notebooks take advantage of quad-core designs, if only because dual-core chips don't cut it for hardcore gaming, he said.

Carrizo will also be the first chip to be fully HSA 1.0 compliant, meaning that it will deliver on the Heterogenous Systems Architecture that AMD has talked about for some time. With HSA, the GPU inside the Carrizo chip can also be tapped to perform compute functions — which AMD says will deliver far more performance than any clock-speed increases made possible by processing technology advancements.

AMD has also introduced Mantle, an API optimized for AMD's own graphics chips. Game developers can write Mantle-optimized code, increasing performance on AMD chips. Intel has also inquired about supporting Mantle.

The next venue for more Carrizo details will be the ISSCC chip conference that begins on Feb. 22. AMD is scheduled to present two papers, a spokesman said. 

AMD has struggled to overcome a market perception that its chips are best suited for low-end machines — the doorbuster laptops that lure in shoppers on price alone. But AMD's HSA and Mantle technologies could give them a boost in certain applications. And considering AMD's recent executive shakeup, the company needs something concrete to resuscitate its image.


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