Many people, including those within AMD, have been waiting for quite some time for the 'Future is fusion' tagline to come true. This week, that promise has officially come to be as AMD has finally delivered on the Fusion promise in a way that doesn't disappoint.
To show it means business, the chip maker is demonstrating how the newly announced Brazos platform, part of the AMD Ultrathin Platform introduced last Wednesday, stacks up against rival offerings.
The Brazos platform consists of the the Hudson chipset and the 40nm Ontario APU (APU, as in Accelerated Processing Unit - quick info here) with full DirectX11 support and featuring a total power draw of 9W for netbooks and small form factor desktops and devices. This more than favorably compares to the Zacate platform with a power draw of 18W for desktops, all-in-ones, and ultrathin/mainstream notebooks.
The biggest draw of the Brazos APU lineup is the fact it provides a proper balance between thermal control and graphical prowess. AMD released two products during CES, one being a single core Brazos and the other a dual-core chip. Graphically, they're very similar in performance, but the added CPU core allows the dual-core E-350 Brazos part to deliver quality performance at an affordable price point.
The simple fact is that Brazos consumes very little power and generates very little heat, and as a result can be used in platforms that have traditionally been in a need of both graphical and CPU power.
This has been most notable in the netbook segment where most systems have been overpromising and under delivering on graphical and computational power.
The Brazos platform elegantly fixes this common issue by combining AMD's dual-core processor with the company's GPU technology. By doing this, not only does AMD save space and power, they also remove the latency that would normally exist if the two components were discrete. At the same time, though, it reduces the memory bandwidth of the GPU.
While AMD isn't the first silicon maker to marry a CPU and GPU on a single die, Brazos is admittedly a smart entry into the market for AMD, especially considering Intel currently lacks a competitive offering in this category.
Furthermore, it computationally and graphically makes Intel's Atom processors in today's netbooks seem archaic. While we all know something in this segment is already on the way from Intel, the likelihood of it competing with the Fusion APUs on a graphical level is still doubtful.
From what we've seen, Brazos lets system integrators gain more performance and graphical power while reducing the power consumption of the platform and saving room. The ability to go passively cooled on most platforms will prove to be a beneficial one to many consumers sick of loud failing fans and hot-to-the-touch netbooks.
Many of the lower-end notebooks will also benefit from Brazos in that they'll be able to get the level of graphical performance that has simply been missing for quite some time. A number of small form factor notebooks and netbooks built around the Brazos platform debuted at CES, all sporting speedy graphics and 1080p video with an all-day battery.
When we met with AMD, they also highlighted the abilities of the APU and the accompanied SDKs to provide developers with ways of writing more effective applications running in real-time, since most of the processing would never leave the chip. The ability to have the CPU and GPU on the same die has really given AMD a much-needed leverage in latency when processing things like video and immediately needing to give feedback.
In all, our experience with Brazos and Fusion was a very good one and we were happy to see what kind of performance it delivered. This is all accomplished while still allowing for quieter cooling and in some cases completely passive cooling.