AMD To Sample Out First Fusion Chip In First Half

The mainstream PC processor, codenamed Llano, is the chip maker's first "Accelerated Processor Unit," or APU, said Samuel Naffziger, an AMD Senior Fellow presenting at ISSCC. Llano marks the first step in Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD's march towards a processor architecture that incorporates both x86-based central processor functionality and a graphics processor on the same CPU die, he said.

AMD has targeted 2011 for a pair of new x86 CPU core architectures, codenamed Bulldozer and Bobcat. Those new cores will be used in traditional CPUs, but will also be a big part of the development of APUs, processors that wed central processing with graphics processing in the future architecture that AMD has dubbed Fusion.

AMD has long held that it is in a unique position to create a Fusion product, claiming its main CPU rival Intel lacks leading graphics while its biggest graphics competitor Nvidia does not make x86 CPUs at all. That said, Intel has already released an early form of an APU with its latest client processors featuring graphics processing in a CPU package, but not on a single silicon die as AMD intends.

Llano, though it will ultimately be made available in 2011, will be based on AMD's current Phenom microarchitecture, rather than the Bulldozer and Bobcat cores coming out that same year, Naffziger said. But the Llano chips will be among AMD's first to utilize the 32-nanometer fabrication process, which will deliver several advantages over the chip maker's current 45nm process.

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Intel released its first 32nm chips earlier this year and generally remains between a year to two years ahead of AMD on process technology.

Moving to 32nm involves the adoption of the high-K metal gate technology that Intel moved to in its own 45nm generation of products, Naffziger said. That, combined with AMD's leadership in immersion lithography for silicon fabrication and some design tweaks to the Phenom architecture will deliver advantages such as a 10x reduction in power leakage.

Llano will also have core-level power gating, delivering better power management on multi-core processors through the throttling up or down of individual cores as needed for a particular workload -- a feature that might be compared to Intel's Turbo Boost technology on many of its current-generation chips.