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AMD boosts G-Series SoC performance-per-watt, adds security engine

Jun 5, 2014  |  Eric Brown

[Updated Jun 6] — AMD announced six new Embedded G-Series SoCs, featuring improved performance-per-Watt, on-chip security processors, and Mentor Embedded Linux support.

Following up on last month’s announcement of a new “Bald Eagle” generation of R-Series processors for high-end, multimedia-focused embedded processors, AMD unveiled new Embedded G-Series SoCs including what it refers to as “CPU solutions,” which are SoCs that include CPUs and I/O controllers, but without the GPUs of its earlier SoCs. The new parts are labeled with codenames “Steppe Eagle” and “Crowned Eagle,” respectively, for the SoCs with and without integrated GPUs. These new, more power-efficient embedded processors are pin-compatible with earlier models, which are still available.



Original AMD G-Series SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

As before, the “Steppe Eagle” G-Series SoCs include both dual- and quad-core configurations, while these first “Crowned Eagle” SoCs are all quad-core models. Only the non-GPU Crowned Eagle parts are touted as offering a 64-bit architecture. All models include integrated I/O controllers.


“Steppe Eagle” and “Hierofalcon” preview slides (Sept. 2013)
(click images to enlarge)

When AMD tipped the Steppe Eagle processors last September it did not mention a key feature found in all the new Steppe Eagle and Crowned Eagle SoC models: a dedicated Platform Security Processor (PSP) compatible with ARM TrustZone security technology. The PSP technology was previously announced only for AMD’s new ARM-based Hierofalcon SoCs, which were previewed at the same time, along with the “Bald Eagle” processors. In the case, of the G-Series SoCs, the security enhancements are said to support fanless security appliances, such as network infrastructure equipment, network attached storage appliances, and storage controllers.


Updated AMD G-Series roadmap, with Steppe Eagle and Crowned Eagle
(click image to enlarge)

In the case of both new G-Series Steppe Eagles, the underlying CPUs are also claimed to offer improved performance-per-Watt, although they appear to use the same basic 28nm fabrication process, and for the most part offer similar maximum clock rates. AMD has announced TDPs only for the SoC models. While some match the 6W TDP of the previous power-sipping leader, the GX-210JA, none can best that TDP. In both the new models with and without GPUs, however, the processors support “configurable TDP” (cTDP) technology, which can bring real-world power consumption down to as low as 5 Watts, claims the chipmaker.


Updated table of AMD G-Series SoC models
(click image to enlarge)

Of the parts listed in the updated G-Series family table above, the table below highlights those that were announced this week.

AMD’s new “Steppe Eagle” and “Crowned Eagle” G-Series SoCs

SoC Model Cores TDP Cache CPU Clock GPU Clock
Steppe Eagle SoCs
GX-424CC 4 25W 2MB 2.4GHz 497MHz
GX-412HC 4 7W 2MB 1.2GHz 300MHz
GX-212JC 2 6W 1MB 1.2GHz 300MHz
GX-210JC 2 6W 1MB 1.0GHz tbd
Crowned Eagle SoCs
GX-420MC 4 17.5W 2MB 2.0GHz non-GPU
GX-412TC 4 6W 2MB 1.2GHz non-GPU


 
AMD adds a new G-Series category

In the announcement of the 64-bit Crowned Eagle G-Series processors, AMD refers to this new line of SoCs as “CPU solutions,” which appears to add a fourth category of AMD processors, on top of AMD’s earlier CPUs, APUs (accelerated processing units), and SoCs (system-on-chips).

As AMD PR manager Travis Williams explained in an email: “To think of it from an evolutionary standpoint, you once needed separate solutions for GPU, CPU, and I/O, then (in 2011) AMD integrated the GPU and CPU onto one chip (i.e. the APU) but still had a separate I/O controller. Last year, we introduced the first APU SoC that incorporated all three chips onto a single die (thus why we had to differentiate between an APU and an SoC).” And now, AMD has introduced the first CPU SoC, which provides CPU and non-graphics I/O functions.

We couldn’t resist converting what Travis told us into the handy “decoder ring” below.


AMD Processor Terminology Decoder Ring

  CPU GPU I/O controller
Pre-2011 processor Yes No No
2011 APU Yes Yes No
2013 SoC Yes Yes Yes
2014 “Steppe Eagle” APU SoC Yes Yes Yes
2014 “Crowned Eagle” CPU SoC Yes No Yes

 
“Steppe Eagle” G-Series SoCs

The “Steppe Eagle” G-Series SoCs will appear first in an unnamed HP thin client, as well as an Advantech AIMB-225 Mini-ITX board. The latter is said to be available in both dual- and quad-core versions and designed for rugged industrial applications.

In addition to offering the new PSP security chip, the new “Steppe Eagle” G-Series SoCs are notable for improved power/performance, says AMD. The four new SoC models feature up to a 60 percent jump in CPU performance and up to 53 percent more overall performance compared to earlier models, claims AMD. They are also claimed to offer up to a 96 percent improvement in overall performance-per-Watt. Other new features are said to include ECC memory support.

Like the new Bald Eagle R-Series processors, the Steppe Eagle SoCs feature AMD Radeon GPUs enhanced with AMD’s new Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. In the case of the better documented “Bald Eagle” processors, AMD touted GCN for its improved parallel processing, and noted that parallelizable functions are said to include deep packet inspection, encryption, decryption, compression, decompression, and even search.

With the Steppe Eagle SoCs, however, AMD says only that the GPUs produce “stunning graphics” and support OpenGL 4.0 and OpenCL 1.1, with the latter said to improve general computation performance. DirectX 11 is also supported.

The new Steppe Eagle models include the GX-424CC, which is the new high-end leader. Like the previous flagship GX-420CA, it offers four Jaguar cores, 2MB of shared L2 cache, and a high 25 Watt TDP, but it boosts the clock rate from 2GHz to 2.4GHz. On the other hand, its Radeon graphics are clocked at just 497MHz instead of 600MHz.

The two new dual-core Steppe Eagle SoCs — the GX-212JC and GX-210JC — reduce the cache to 1MB cache. They both feature 6W TDPs and extended junction temperature (TjC) ranges, which appear to support the typical -40 to 85°C environments of industrial temperature-rated board level products. The GX-212JC provides 1.2GHz CPU and 300MHz GPU clock rates, while the GX-210JC provides a 1GHz CPU and a GPU rate that AMD says it will reveal later.

“The AMD G-series SoC provides HP thin clients with enhanced security, value and unmatched performance,” stated Jeff Groudan, worldwide director, Thin Client product management, HP.

 
“Crowned Eagle” G-Series SoCs

As with the previous G-Series SoCs, the new Crowned Eagle parts include an integrated controller hub. And as noted above, the Crowned Eagle chips integrate the new PSP security chips. Additionally, these new non-GPU SoCs also boast enhanced CPU cores with 1.2 to 2GHz clock rates, and support single-channel DDR3-1600 memory with ECC support.

They also support integrated PCI-Express Gen 2.0 (4×1 or 1×4), as well as USB 3.0 and SATA interfaces, among other I/O. The processors are said to be “an ideal choice for control plane applications on router and switch line cards.” Other touted features include advanced power management features like cTDP, as well as a performance-per-Watt ratio said to be 96 percent more efficient than the previous G-Series parts.

The new Crowned Eagle chips are led by a new quad-core, 2GHz GX-420MC, which features a lower 17.6W TDP thanks to the fact that it has no integrated GPU. Even more interesting, we think, is the GPU-free GX-412TC, which sports four 1.2GHz CPU cores and manages to scrape by with a 6W TDP.

Both GPU-less Crowned Eagle SoCs devices have 2MB of L2 cache.

 
Mentor Embedded Linux support

As with the Bald Eagle R-series processors, the new G-Series SoCs are now available with “Mentor Embedded Linux Lite” distribution and development platform. The open source, Yocto-based platform is also joined by Mentor’s Sourcery CodeBench debugging tools.

 
Further information

The Steppe Eagle Embedded G-Series SoCs, as well as Crowned Eagle G-Series non-GPU models appear to be available now. More information may be found in the AMD press release, the AMD blog announcement, and Mentor Graphics support announcement, as well as the updated G-Series product page.
 

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