As usual, AMD set up shop this week on the outskirts of the Intel Developer Forum, in a hotel suite not far from the main Moscone Center venue, in order to tell its side of the story. The biggest news from the underdog chipmaker this week was a live demo of working GPU silicon fabbed on TSMC’s 28-nm process.
As you can see, the GPU demoed was a discrete model intended for mobile systems, situated on an MXM module (top left in the shot above) installed in a laptop development system. This GPU is part of the “Southern Islands” family, which will feature the new shader architecture AMD unveiled at its Fusion Developer Summit back in June. Another bit of novelty in Southern Islands will be support for the emerging PCI Express 3.0 standard, which should essentially double peak transfer rates over PCIe 2.0.
Although the firm has been making noises about being ahead of the game on 28-nm chips, it appears we may not see 28-nm GPUs for sale during the holiday buying season. AMD’s David Cummings told us they’re aiming to bring this product to market near the end of the year. That’s a bit of a vague window, but it doesn’t suggest an impending release.
Also on display was AMD’s upcoming Trinity APU, the follow-on to Llano, this time in a head-to-head comparison against Sandy Bridge, with a system based on each chip running Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Naturally, Trinity was running the game in DX11 mode, while Sandy Bridge had to stick with DX9.
AMD’s Godfrey Cheng narrates our video of the demo above, in which he reveals the code name of Trinity’s IGP: “Devastator.” Interestingly, although it’s been widely reported that Trinity’s IGP will be based on the Cayman GPU architecture that powers the Radeon HD 6900 series, Cheng told us AMD hasn’t officially confirmed that fact, and he wouldn’t confirm it for us. Could Trinity’s IGP be based on the older Cypress/Barts-era graphics architecture? Hmm.
Regardless of its provenance, that IGP will be paired with some number of “Piledriver” CPU cores derived from the all-new Bulldozer microarchitecture. (We expect Trinity to feature up to four cores, or two Bulldozer “modules.”)
When asked about Trinity’s likely release time frame, Cheng underscored the rapid pace of AMD’s development recently, pointing out that the firm will have launched a host of chips—the low-power Ontario/Zacate APUs, Llano, and soon Bulldozer/Zambezi—since Intel introduced Sandy Bridge. Somewhat amazingly, if AMD keeps to its schedule, Trinity may also join that list, reaching the market before Intel’s Ivy Bridge lands this spring.
Curiously, Cheng would not confirm that Trinity will be drop-in compatible with the still-new Socket FM1 platform just introduced with the desktop variants of Llano. Instead, he emphasized that AMD may see some disruptions in its socket infrastructure for the next little while, a casualty of the company’s shorter development cycles and the introduction of new technologies.
Of course, no AMD demo suite would be complete without an Eyefinity demonstration featuring loads of monitors—five of ’em side by side in landscape mode, in this case—and a gaming system tied to a stereoscopic 3D display and glasses. AMD’s stereoscopic 3D tech is called HD3D, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of a handful of games (along with DiRT 3 and soon Battlefield 3) that support HD3D natively via AMD’s new quad-buffer API. (HD3D supports a host of other games via the DDD middleware, too.) The monitor is Samsung’s SA950, which offers 3D support via DisplayPort and looks quite nice indeed.