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AMD "Bald Eagle" APUs target high-end embedded Linux

May 23, 2014 — by Eric Brown 3,138 views

AMD’s “Bald Eagle” R-Series processors offer four 3.6GHz “Steamroller” cores with Heterogeneous System Architecture support, plus Mentor Embedded Linux.

AMD has a dual-platform strategy for embedded: G-Series on the low end and R-Series on the high end. Now, the chipmaker has launched a second generation of AMD Embedded R-series processors in both CPU and APU (accelerated processing unit) variants, with the latter offering integrated, rather than optional discrete AMD Radeon graphics. AMD tipped its Bald Eagle R-Series processors last September, and has launched sales for five new variants. The new R-Series CPUs are designed for gaming machines, digital signage, medical imaging, industrial control and automation, and communications and networking infrastructure, says AMD.

R-series APU architecture
(click image to enlarge)

The five new processors include three quad-core and two dual-core models. The quad-core models include a 2.7GHz (3.6GHz turbo) RX-427BB APU model, as well as a a 2.5/3.4GHz RX-425BB APU, and a 2.7/3.6GHz RX-427NB CPU that lacks an integrated GPU. All three provide 4MB shared L2 cache and 35W TDPs, or 30-35W in AMD’s own CTDP calculation. The RX-427BB has faster, 8-core Radeon graphics up to 686MHz, and both the RX-427BB and GPU-free RX-427NB provide faster DDR3 memory (2133MHz).

2nd Generation “Bald Eagle” R-series processors
(click image to enlarge)

The dual-core APU model — the RX-225FB — has a 2.2/3.0GHz clock rate, 1MB cache, and 1600MHz memory, as well as integrated, tri-core graphics at up to 533MHz. A GPU-free RX-219NB is otherwise identical, and similarly offers a 17W TDP, or 15-17W CTDP.

The R-series Steamroller cores are 28nm fabricated like the earlier Bulldozer and newer Piledriver cores. Steamroller bumps the R-series upper, “maximum boost” clock rate on the fastest models only slightly to 3.6GHz, with other topping out at 2.2GHz. Yet, due to other enhancements, AMD is claiming the 2nd Gen chips deliver up to 66 percent more compute performance than the first generation.

2nd Generation R-series block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Steamroller-based R-series chips are AMD’s first embedded processors to offer its Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA), which has both performance and power saving advantages. The HSA Intelligent Queuing function gives the CPU a less hierarchical role, and lets applications dynamically distribute workloads to run on the optimal chip, whether that’s the CPU, GPU, or a specialized accelerator. The HSA function alone can provide “up to 44 percent more 3D graphics performance and up to 46 percent more compute performance than comparable Intel Haswell Core-i CPUs,” according to AMD. (More details on the systems and benchmarks behind these claims may be found on the product page linked to at the end of the story.)

AMD chart comparing Bald Eagle and Haswell performance
(click image to enlarge)

The R-series chips also provide configurable TDP and other power management enhancements, including Smart Turbo CORE technology. Together these are claimed to increase performance-per-Watt by up to 12 percent.


The AMD Radeon graphics integrated in the three APU models are faster and more capable than the previous generation. They run at between 533MHz and 686MHz with three to eight graphics cores, providing up to 66 percent more computer performance, claims AMD.

The GPUs integrate AMD’s latest Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture, which is said to offer improved parallel processing. Parallelizable functions are said to include deep packet inspection, encryption, decryption, compression, decompression, and even search.

The GPUs support AMD’s Eyefinity technology for supporting up to four displays simultaneously as independent displays or as a single large surface. The newly launched AMD Embedded Radeon E8860 discrete GPU, meanwhile, supports up to nine independent displays and 4K resolution.

Together with the CPU, the new Radeon GPUs support DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2, and AMD’s Mantle platform for game development. They also provide accelerated video encode and decode using Unified Video Decode (UVD) 4.2 and Video Compression Engine (VCE) 2.0.

Additional 2nd Gen. R-series features include 10-year longevity, dual-channel memory with error-correcting code (ECC), and DDR3-2133 support. A new audio coprocessor enables low-latency audio and improved signal processing, says AMD.

Mentor Graphics delivers the Linux

As we reported lasted month, Mentor Graphics will support the “Bald Eagle” R-Series line, as well as an upcoming “Steppe Eagle” G-Series family of processors, with its Mentor Embedded Linux distribution. In addition to Linux, the new R-Series supports Windows and various RTOSes.

Customers receive the Lite version of the Yocto Project based Mentor Embedded Linux, as well as Mentor’s Sourcery Lite and CodeBench Lite tools. Full professional versions of all three applications are also available at extra cost. Mentor Embedded Linux Lite will also be pre-loaded on the 2nd Generation AMD R-Series APU evaluation boards.

“AMD embedded customers will be able to create innovative products with ease and reliability with our open-source development ecosystem and Mentor’s market-leading embedded software solutions,” stated Kamal Khouri, director of product management and marketing, AMD Embedded Solutions.

“The addition of HSA, GCN and power management features enables our customers to create a new world of intelligent, interactive and immersive embedded devices,” stated Scott Aylor, corporate vice president and GM, AMD Embedded Solutions.

Further information

AMD’s 2nd Generation “Bald Eagle” Embedded R-series processors appear to be available now. More information may be found in the 2nd Gen R-series product page.

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