Process tweaks and power management define AMD's Richland APU

Starting early this year, AMD will begin replacing its Trinity APUs with new models based on Richland. This new APU uses the same basic silicon as Trinity, but time has been spent tuning the firmware and process technology to enable higher clock speeds and lower power consumption. Richland features new power management tech that's based in firmware and governs how power is shared between the processor's CPU and GPU elements. Although application profiles are part of the picture, the management scheme relies primarily on algorithms that control the chip's general behavior. AMD doesn't want to go too far down the road of optimizing for specific workloads.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, AMD discussed Richland with our Editor in Chief. He was told Trinity has lots of architectural headroom that wasn't exploited by the products launched thus far. AMD has been working on process tweaks to increase clock speeds, although its focus seems more on improving the chip's suitability for ultra-low-voltage applications like thinner notebooks.

19W versions of Richland are expected to deliver a 40% boost in graphics performance and 10-20% jump in CPU performance over their Trinity-based counterparts. Right now, the only 19W Trinity APU listed on AMD's website is the A8-4555M, which has quad cores clocked at 1.6/2.4GHz with an integrated Radeon running at 320/424MHz. It will be interesting to see how much process tweaks can increase clock speeds within the same thermal envelope—and what that tuning can do for AMD's 17W duallies.

Richland is also headed to the desktop, and it will be compatible with the same FM2 motherboards as current Trinity chips. We don't have numbers for expected performance gains on the desktop front, but I wouldn't be surprised to see slightly higher clock speeds. The performance gains seem unlikely to exceed those quoted for the 19W mobile parts. AMD says Richland APUs are shipping for revenue already, so it won't be long before we see them in the flesh.

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