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AMD dives into embedded system-on-chip waters

Apr 24, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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AMD has added full-fledged system-on-chips (SOCs) to its Embedded G-Series integrated x86 processor family, by merging the APU (CPU + GPU) and I/O controller hub functions into a single chip. The Linux-ready AMD Embedded G-Series SOC incorporates up to four “Jaguar” CPU cores (clocked as high as 2GHz), a Radeon 8000 GPU, video accelerators, and an I/O controller, and is available in five versions featuring 9 to 25W TDPs.

Intel, which still dominates x86 processors, has been shipping SOC versions of its Atom processors for years, most notably in the Atom Z24080 “Medfield” SOC that has found its way into Android smartphones. Now AMD is playing the SOC game with its new AMD Embedded G-Series SOC line, which ships with support for Linux and Windows Embedded 8. AMD’s five new SOCs are aimed at industrial control and automation, digital signage, electronic gaming, SMB storage, IP-TV, medical and network appliances, and set-top boxes, says AMD.



G-Series APU + I/O controller hub (left) vs SOC footprints

The new G-Series SOC line includes two dual-core parts (1.65GHz and 1GHz) and three quad-core models (2.0GHz, 1.5GHz, and 1.65GHz without GPU). The SOC is based on AMD’s new Jaguar core, fabricated with a 28nm process, featuring twice the shared L2 cache at 2MB. This results in up to 113 percent faster CPU performance than the 40nm “Bobcat” cores (1MB L2 cache) used in the previous AMD Embedded G-Series APUs (accelerated processing units), says AMD. Graphics performance is said to be 20 percent faster than the APUs, as well as five times faster than the Intel Atom dual-core 1.8GHz D525. AMD also claims the top-of-the-line, 2GHz, quad-core GX-420CA SOC has a “125 percent advantage” on overall performance compared to the D525.

Summary of AMD G-Series System-on-Chip Specs

Model x86 cores Shared L2 cache CPU clock GPU clock
(type)
DDR RAM speed USB 3.0 TDP
GX-420CA 4 2MB 2.0GHz 600MHz
(HD 8400E)
DDR3-1600 yes 25W
GX-415GA 4 2MB 1.5GHz 500MHz
(HD 8330E)
DDR3-1600 yes 15W
GX-217GA 2 1MB 1.65GHz 450MHz
(HD 8280E)
DDR3-1600 yes 15W
GX-210HA 2 1MB 1.0GHz 300MHz
(HD 8210E)
DDR3-1333 yes 9W
GX-416RA 4 2MB 1.6GHz no GPU DDR3-1600 n/a 15W

 

Previously, the fastest G-Series APU was the T56N, with dual 1.65MHz cores, and a 500MHz AMD Radeon HD 6320 integrated on the same die. The “Fusion” I/O controller, however, was kept separate. Indeed, the APU terminology suggested a stepping stone between pure CPUs and SOCs.



AMD G-Series SOC architecture
(click image to enlarge)

By comparison, the G-Series SOCs integrate the interconnect controller as well. Along with the 28nm process, this enables a 33 percent footprint reduction compared to the G-Series APUs, resulting in a 24.5 x 24.5mm BGA package. The new SOCs also offer more powerful Radeon HD 800 series GPUs, ranging from 300MHz all the way up to 600MHz in the Radeon 8400E GPU found in the high-end GX-420CA SOC (see chart below).

Comparison of AMD’s G-Series APUs and SOCs

G-Series APU G-Series SOC
CPU core Bobcat Jaguar
Max CPU cores 2 4
L2 cache 512KB 2MB
Operating temp. range 0 to +70° C -40 to +85° C
Integrated I/O no yes
GPU Radeon HD 6000 Radeon HD 8000
ECC memory support no yes
DDR3 max speed 1066 1600
DDR P-states no yes
Power gating 3D engine, UVD engine yes improved
Platform footprint 2-chip platform, 890 mm2 SOC, 600mm2

 

The Radeon 8000′s support for DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2x, and OpenCL 1.2 is said to be the key to the graphics oomph, enabling “parallel processing and high-performance graphics processing,” according to AMD. The GPUs are also said to be more power efficient. In addition to the GPU, the SOC provides Universal Video Decode (UVD) 3 hardware video acceleration, a new video encoding capability, and support for dual simultaneous displays. Additional features include DASH 1.1-based remote management, AMD virtualization, and TPM 1.2 support.

Power consumption appears to have held up pretty well, considering the increased speed and additional cores. The GX-420CA SOC has a 25W TDP (thermal design power) rating, compared to 18W for the dual-core T56N. The SOC series ranges from 9-25W compared to 5.5-18W for the previous generation.

The G-Series SOCs are further touted for their DDR3-1600 RAM support, as well as Error-Correction Code (ECC) memory support. Fanless designs are supported, as well as industrial temperature ranges of -40 to 85° C.

AMD Embedded G-Series System-on-Chip I/O highlights, which may vary depending on the SKU, include:

  • VGA
  • LVDS (18pp single-channel) or eDP
  • 4-lane DisplayPort 1.2, DVI, and HDMI 1.4 supported
  • 4x PCI Express x1 Gen 2
  • 1x PCI Express x4 Gen 2 for discrete GPU
  • SD Card Reader v3.0 or SDIO controller
  • 8x USB 2.0
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 2x SATA 2.x/3.x (up to 6Gb/s)

 



AMD G-Series SOC evaluation system with mini-ITX SBC
(click images to enlarge)

Stated Colin Barnden, principal analyst, Semicast Research, “AMD has leapfrogged the competition by combining the power of an x86 CPU and the performance of AMD Radeon graphics with the I/O interconnect all on a single die.”

The AMD Embedded G-Series SOCs, including the GX-420CA (quadcore, 2GHz), GX-415GA (quad, 1.5GHz), GX-217GA (dual, 1.65GHz), GX-210HA (dual, 1GHz), and GX-416RA (quad, 1.6GHz, but with no GPU) will ship with general availability in the second quarter of 2013, with pricing ranging from $49 to $72. More information may be found on AMD’s G-Series product page.
 

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