Initial Thoughts

I really wish Kaveri could have launched on laptops earlier in the year. While Trinity was a decent solution, Richland didn't really offer much in the way of real improvements, and then seeing Kaveri on desktops first and laptops second was more than a little disappointing. The good news is that Kaveri laptops should start shipping in the near future, and overall they offer a good blend of performance and features that should help AMD be more competitive in the growing world of laptop computing.

Our initial performance results look about right, perhaps even a little lower than we'll see from final shipping hardware. There's also plenty of potential for improved performance as more applications start to leverage OpenCL, but AMD has been beating that drum for a while and it's been a relatively slow process. Yes, there are applications that can perform much faster with an APU than with an Intel CPU, but we still need more. It's fine to talk about HSA and Compute Cores, but until they make a tangible difference in every day applications they're mostly talking points. For people that truly need compute performance, I suspect they're looking at much higher performance parts than an APU.

One interesting example AMD discussed was using an optimized JPEG decoder to process images and generate thumbnails in a Windows folder. This is actually something I can see as being useful to a lot of people, and AMD was able to speed up the process by 80% compared to an Intel laptop running the stock Windows JPEG decoder. However, it's not clear how much of that performance increase is AMD being faster than Intel as opposed to the default Windows JPEG decoder simply being slow.

Kaveri's Die Up Close

There are some notable omissions in our performance data right now as well. We were only able to test the highest performance Kaveri laptop APU, the FX-7600P, and even that was essentially in "beta" form. I think the 19W FX-7500 will be potentially more interesting, and if AMD is really able to hit close to max turbo speeds most of the time it could prove a potent alternative to Intel's 15W ULV processors. Something else I'm very interested in seeing is what sort of battery life AMD is able to coax out of these APUs, as Llano and Trinity both did quite well – or at least, they did well when the laptop OEM took time to get things right. And that is perhaps the biggest obstacle AMD faces right now: getting their APUs into laptops that don't cut corners in all the wrong places.

As I noted earlier, storage performance (i.e. having a pure SSD solution for the OS and primary applications) is now far more critical for most use cases than the choice of CPU. However, we can't even get $1000+ laptops to universally switch to SSDs, and it's going to be a long row to hoe getting anything priced under $800 to include one. You can just picture the bean counters: "Why are we using a $100 SSD that only holds 256GB instead of a $50 HDD that holds 1TB!? That's a terrible component choice!" On a similar note, getting a laptop with a good keyboard, trackpad, and screen is more difficult than it needs to be even on midrange laptops, and I've seen many an AMD-equipped laptop fall flat on its face thanks to penny pinching and cut corners in these areas. Finally, it's important to note that all batteries are not created equal; while it would be nice if a 56Wh battery was always a 56Wh battery, I know from experience that there's still a wide range of quality, including the ability to store a charge for more than a few weeks without going dead.

But these things cost money, and when you're saving $50-$100 by using an AMD APU instead of an Intel CPU, the mindset often becomes, "Where else can we save money?" The result is a race to the bottom, and if laptop OEMs aren't careful they'll lose more and more market share to alternative devices. (There's a thought: someone make a Kaveri-based Chromebook. That could be interesting!)

Bottom line: AMD's Kaveri APUs show plenty of promise. Now I want someone to build a nice AMD-equipped laptop for under $800 (with or without a ULV APU). Take the core elements of a good Ultrabook, swap out the Intel CPU/platform for an AMD Kaveri APU/platform, and keep the SSD, form factor, and screen. If one of the major OEMs can deliver that sort of product at a lower price than the Intel equivalent, it would be an easy recommendation.

AMD Kaveri FX-7600P GPU Performance Preview
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • MLSCrow - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Who cares that it's slower as a CPU? Beside the point that it's not even noticeably slower, have you forgotten that it's not a CPU at all, but rather an APU, and as an APU its performance is something to be praised not degraded. Intel fans have honestly become the worst fanboys out there now. Can't give credit where it's due and can only make negative comments, even in the light of positive results. Facepalm.
  • kingpin888 - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Dude, mobile AMD Kaveri has a 35W TDP and is quad core and intel i5 is dual core and has a 35W and 47W TDP. What are you talking about ??
  • Gondalf - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link are comparing an hot 35W SKU with a constrained 15W ultrabooks SKU.
    This time there is no justification, Anantech lab is plenty of notebooks with a 37W Intel cpu on board and i pretty believe of notebooks with 28W U parts with a less constrained HD 5000 or Iris 5100 GPUs. And why a i7 4500 (GT2) and not a i7 4550 (GT3) ??????
    This is a pretty biased article, nearly useless for customers.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Comparing $300 CPUs against $150 APUs is potentially just as bad. And you'd be surprised how many laptops we don't actually have; most come with high-end configurations, which really muddies the waters. I do have a 37W i7-4702MQ available where I can disable the dGPU and see how performance compares, but that's a $370 CPU and again just not anywhere near the price of the AMD offerings. (Base price on the laptop is $1500+.)
  • Morawka - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    your looking at tray cost. overall laptop costs will be comparable, intel has much more components on die. maybe $150 off. I would have liked to see a comparable wattage intel cpu in there as well.
  • Gondalf - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Yes agreed with you.
    The perfect review could be with a i7 4550 or i5 4250 both GT3 with TDPup enabled up to 21/22 W. We have forgotten that Kaveri is 19W but we need of other 2/3W for southbridge that is on package on Haswell.
    Looking at others reviews, in this conditions Intel and Amd are average on pair in GPU (depending on game title) and Intel is in huge advantage in CPU. The 19W (21/22) TDP figure seems an attempt to put sand in customer eyes.
    Lets wait a review with real Notebooks, yes because the TDPup feature is largely utilized by Intel OEMs to have more performance from mobile Haswell.
  • Thermogenic - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Can't wait until we get real laptops tests - tests without battery life on a mobile device aren't all that useful anymore.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Yeah, I tried to check it and found that the prototype was basically not tuned at all for battery life -- probably would have been under four hours for Internet surfing, which is way out of line with what we expect. Basically, idle power draw was around 16-17W, almost double what it should be, so the firmware and hardware wasn't tuned to go into low power states as far as I could tell. When we get shipping laptops, I suspect we'll see battery life competitive with Intel solutions, maybe even better. I figure 5-6W idle power draw or less isn't too far off these days.
  • s44 - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Competitive with Haswell or with Ivy Bridge? Battery life really is everything for most laptop use.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Haswell is obviously the target, and AMD is claiming 11 hours vs. 9.2 hours for Kaveri vs. Richland (doing a low intensity eReader/Browser test), so that's at least a decent bump. But I've seen Trinity laptops with lousy battery life due to the OEM not spending the needed effort in that area, so really it's as much the laptop as it is the CPU/APU.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now