Chromebooks may be hot-ticket items, but with its sixth-generation A-series chips for mainstream laptops, AMD is placing its bets on Microsoft’s Windows 10.
The new chips, code-named Carrizo, will appear in laptops priced between US$400 and $800 from Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. The first wave of laptops will become available starting in July, initially with Windows 8, and later in the year with Windows 10.
The new chips include quad-core A8 and A10 processors, which have up to six GPU cores, and the faster FX chips, which have up to eight GPU cores. Some new laptops based on the chips were shown at the Computex trade show in Taipei this week.
PC makers are considering the new Carrizo chips for Windows laptops, not for Chromebooks, said Adam Kozak, marketing manager at AMD.
The new Carrizo chips have been specifically engineered for the highly anticipated Windows 10, to be released on July 29. With new CPU and GPU technologies, Carrizo-based laptops will offer faster boot times, better application performance, longer battery life and will be quicker at resuming operation from sleep mode than prior AMD chips, Kozak said.
The chips draw between 15 watts to 35 watts of power, and have CPUs based on AMD’s Excavator architecture. While the CPU improvements are modest at best, the GPUs are close to 65 percent faster than AMD’s Kaveri chips, which shipped last year.
The integrated graphics processors in Carrizo can take advantage of the DirectX 12 feature in Windows 10 to improve gaming play. Laptop users will also be able to watch 4K video on laptops with the GPU, which will be able to decode H.265 files based on the HEVC codec. The new chips, however, don’t support hardware-based decoding for a 4K video codec from Google called VP9.
Graphics can hog battery life, but Carrizo does a good job preserving battery strength when running video. A laptop with a new Carrizo chip and a 50-watt-hour battery can deliver 8.3 hours of battery life, compared to the 3.3 hours supplied by last year’s Kaveri chip, according to AMD’s benchmarks.
AMD claims that with Carrizo chips, overall battery life for laptops could double in some cases. Such a jump is rare, and more precise numbers will be available once the third-party laptop reviews start rolling out. Many factors typically play into battery life, including the size of the monitor, CPU speed and wireless connectivity.
Windows 10 will also exploit Carrizo’s flexibility to invoke multiple processors to execute tasks, which helps preserve battery life and speed up applications. The chips support the HSA 1.0 specification, which can break up task execution over CPUs, GPUs and other processors to balance the use of PC resources. Windows 10 will tap HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) 1.0 features through indirect support for OpenCL, for which drivers will be added to the OS.
In Windows 10, GPUs play a larger role in executing PC tasks, which plays to AMD’s advantage over Intel in graphics. Today most tasks go through CPUs, but Windows 10’s redesigned memory manager will be able to directly schedule tasks for execution on GPUs. As a result, Web video and Adobe applications—which heavily rely on GPUs—could run faster.
Laptops also will get thinner and lighter, as Carrizo chips are about 29 percent smaller than their predecessors.
Beyond the new A-series chips, AMD will announce new Pro chips that are part of the Carrizo family during the third quarter, Kozak said.