AMD lifts the curtain a little bit on its Bristol Ridge APUs

— 6:30 AM on April 5, 2016

AMD is giving the world a sneak peek at its upcoming Bristol Ridge APU lineup this morning. Here's what we know. Bristol Ridge parts will still be fabricated on a 28-nm process, and they'll still use Excavator CPU cores and Radeon R5 or R7 integrated graphics. All that may sound familiar from Carrizo, but Bristol Ridge APUs still promise some performance improvements over their predecessors.

AMD makes different performance claims about Bristol Ridge using parts with different TDPs, so the first task is to pit apples against apples. The company sticks to 15W parts across the board for its graphics performance comparisons. Intel's Skylake Core i7-6500U CPU serves as the blue team's representative in this fight. That chip's Intel HD Graphics 520 IGP isn't going to blow back one's hair to start with.

Using the 3DMark 11 Performance benchmark to test the Bristol Ridge FX APU and the Core i7-6500U, AMD says the Intel chip scored 1605 while the Bristol Ridge APU scored 2409, or 1.5 times the Core i7's result. Within AMD's APU lineup, a 15W Bristol Ridge chip is supposed to deliver 23% better graphics performance than a 15W Carrizo part, too. The Bristol Ridge platform used DDR4-1866 RAM, while the Skylake platform used DDR3-1600. The move to DDR4 is probably one of the biggest changes for this next-gen APU platform.

It's worth noting that 3DMark 11 Performance is an older benchmark that runs at 1280x720. Between that benchmark and the price point of the Intel notebook AMD chose—a $500-ish Asus laptop with a 1366x768 display—we have a pretty good picture of the systems where AMD expects these APUs to end up.

AMD also notes that in the PCMark 8 v2 Home Accelerated test, which runs with OpenCL support enabled, the 15W Bristol Ridge part stays within 5% of the Core i7-6500U's index score. It also performs about 5% better than a Carrizo chip in the same test. We're fans of the all-important per-thread CPU performance measure, though, and it's there that the picture gets (or perhaps remains) more murky for this new APU.

AMD says a 35W Bristol Ridge APU turned in a Cinebench R15 single-threaded score of 93.24 in its press materials. Compare that to the 15W Core i5-6500U's Cinebench 1T score of 125, and we end up with a somewhat less rosy picture. While the company says Bristol Ridge APUs deliver up to 50% more compute performance over Kaveri APUs in the 35W power envelope, AMD still has a ways to go to catch up to Intel when it comes to IPC.

Performance numbers aside, AMD is showing off one major design win for Bristol Ridge today. HP is using these APUs to power a version of its 15.6" Envy x360 convertible notebook. AMD says Envy x360s will be available with a range of dual-core or quad-core FX APUs, although it's not discussing TDP numbers for those parts. Even so, the x360 sounds attractive. It offers 1080p or 4K display options, mechanical and PCIe solid-state storage options, and an optional infrared camera for Windows Hello. The x360 measures in at 0.74" (18.8 mm) thick and weighs 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg).

AMD says it's shipping Bristol Ridge dual- and quad-core parts to OEMs "in volume" today, and it plans to give the APU family a full introduction at Computex 2016 alongside a range of products built around those parts. We expect to learn more about the changes AMD has made inside this chip to boost its performance then.

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