All signs point to Kaveri being an evolutionary upgrade

We talked a little bit about AMD's upcoming Kaveri APU in our latest podcast. Some of the discussion centered on how Kaveri will compare with current offerings—a topic about which AMD provided several hints during its APU13 conference earlier this month. In case you missed the podcast, here's some of what we learned.

To begin with, Adam Kozak, AMD's marketing chief for client processors, told folks during a press briefing that Kaveri will be competitive with Intel's Core i5-4670K processor. (That's a $225 offering and the cheapest quad-core Haswell CPU with an unlocked upper multiplier.) When pressed for details after the briefing, however, Kozak clarified that Kaveri should only be equivalent in terms of combined CPU and GPU compute power. If one measures x86 performance on its own, Kozak said, "we'll lose." However, Kozak expects Kaveri's integrated graphics, bolstered with Mantle support, to be better than the latest version of Intel's HD Graphics.

On the subject of power consumption, Kozak wouldn't give us definite numbers, but he told us that he expects Kaveri to consume less power than the Core i5-4670K at idle and to draw more power under load. Earlier in the briefing, Kozak had mentioned that Kaveri would have a similar target TDP to "what you see today on the A series."

Kozak wouldn't say much about pricing. However, AMD VP Manju Hegde offered a hint during an impromptu lunch chat. Referring to a stage demo in which a Kaveri APU was compared to a Core i7-4770K processor with GeForce GT 630 discrete graphics, Hegde said that Kaveri didn't do badly for a product that's "a third the cost." It's not entirely clear if Hegde was talking about manufacturing cost or retail pricing. However, the i7-4770K and GT 630 are worth $410 put together. A third of that would be around $137, which would be in the same ballpark as the current high end of the A-series APU lineup.

In short, based on what we heard at APU13, it sounds like Kaveri may be an evolutionary rather than revolutionary upgrade over Richland. It also sounds like Kaveri may not take the A series into new pricing territory.

Kaveri nevertheless looks poised to offer decent performance improvements over the previous generation. AMD suggested during the opening keynote of APU13 that Kaveri's integrated graphics would have 512 shader processors, which would be up from 384 in Richland. Then, during the aforementioned press briefing, there was also talk of "decent IPC [instruction per clock] gains" and support for DDR3-2133 memory. Finally, because Kaveri supports hUMA, it may deliver substantially better compute performance than Richland. Hegde claimed that usable gigaflops were "an order of magnitude higher" in Kaveri.

For what it's worth, leaked slides suggest that Kaveri will offer a 20% boost in CPU performance and a 30% boost in graphics performance over Richland. That's probably at least close to the mark.

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