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AMD's latest A-Series APUs slash power draw while upping compute performance

Just in time to steal some thunder away from Nvidia as it opens the doors to the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, rival AMD has introduced its seventh-generation A-Series APU line codenamed “Bristol Ridge.” It follows the “Carrizo” line of APUs that were launched in 2015, and is a refresh of that chip family, based on the same 28nm production process while providing performance enhancements.

This chip is also engineered for Windows 10, offering faster start-up times, smoother multitasking, and DirectX 12-based gaming on the go. The on-board Radeon GPU supposedly has 512 stream processors based on the GCN 1.2 architecture. That gives the APU support for 4K displays, AMD FreeSync, and CrossFire dual graphics.

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According to AMD, Bristol Ridge will be provided in dual-core and quad-core variants that use the “Excavator” core architecture. The improvements AMD made in the overall design should allow faster clock speeds and more work per clock than seen with Carrizo. The chips will also include Adaptive Frequency Scaling to make the most out of a given thermal envelope.

The company estimates that the performance benefit in compute performance is up to 50-percent when comparing the new Bristol Ridge APUs with the “Kaveri” fifth-generation APUs released back in 2014. Bristol Ridge also supposedly has up to 50-percent better performance than the HD 520 GPU component used in Intel’s Core i7-6500U processor.

AMD tested a seventh-generation FX 35W chip in PCMark 8 v2 Home and received a score of 3,477.4. The company then ran its A10-5750M chip in the same benchmark and received a 2,520.75 score, giving the new chip a 38 percent increase in performance. The new line-up is more efficient, too. Local 1080p video playback on the seventh-generation FX 15W chip required 4.263-watts on average, while the A10-5750M utilized 12.925-watts on average. That’s a huge decrease in power draw.

AMD said in the briefing that 15-watt designs of the seventh-generation chip will be installed in many laptops manufactured by OEMs, putting them in head-to-head competition with Intel’s popular 15-watt Core mobile chips. The company also believes that Bristol Ridge will finally allow AMD to power a number of high-end laptops, a sector typically dominated by Intel.

One of the products that will sport an A-Series “FX” APU will be the HP Envy X360, a convertible laptop that folds into a tablet. The device will have a 15.6-inch IPS Full HD screen but provide an optional UHD display. It will also be powered by an optional dual-core or four-core APU, depending on the configuration.

“We now find APUs everywhere from airplanes, to game consoles, to medical imaging devices, to the digital display in time’s square,” AMD said during the briefing. “The APU itself has been the engine that allows AMD to drive significant diversification.”

If the information released today seems a bit vague, that’s because this isn’t the full launch of the new Bristol Ridge A-Series APU. That’s expected to happen at Computex 2016, which takes place in Taipei on May 31 to June 4. We’ll have to wait until then to hear the exact specifications of every chip AMD has planned.