After the ATI acquisition AMD announced it would be creating a new category of microprocessors that featured integrated ATI GPUs. AMD called these hybrid CPU/GPUs Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) and it branded the entire APU strategy: Fusion.

The first Fusion project we heard about was Llano for mainstream notebooks/desktops. Llano will integrate a 32nm derivative of the current Phenom II architecture with a relatively capable DirectX 11 AMD GPU. Llano isn't due out until sometime in 2011 so details are still light. However, AMD just released some details on its lower end Fusion APUs that will begin shipping in Q4 2010 (OEM system availability in Q1 2011).

Bobcat is the CPU core. Last month we went in depth on its architecture. In short, Bobcat is an out-of-order alternative to Intel's Atom that has the potential to offer significantly higher performance. But since we're talking about APUs, Bobcat is only a part of the equation.

AMD will be shipping two Bobcat based APUs in Q4: Ontario and Zacate. Both APUs implement two Bobcat cores and a DX11 AMD GPU with an undisclosed number of cores. Ontario is aimed at netbooks/nettops while Zacate can be used in ultra thins and value notebooks/desktops.

Today at IFA in Berlin AMD announced the Ontario and Zacate TDPs as well as shared a photo of a low power AMD Fusion APU (possibly Ontario?). The Ontario APU is rated at 9W, while Zacate is rated at 18W.

Ontario's TDP is competitive. Intel's recently announced Atom N550 (dual-core Pine Trail) with on-die graphics has an 8.5W TDP, but it should be significantly slower than Ontario if AMD did its job right. 

Zacate's TDP is competitive but at 18W it's in curious company. Intel's ultra-low voltage Core i3 has an 18W TDP, but the CPU should be much faster than a pair of Bobcats. The GPU side is a question here as well, but I'm guessing AMD should at least be competitive with Arrandale graphics.

The TDPs at least give us an idea that peak power consumption should be competitive between low power Fusion APUs and Intel's alternatives. Ultimately battery life is determined by performance and average power draw. Idle power should be competitive given AMD's use of power gating on the chips but we'll have to wait and see to get the full picture.


The photo above is what AMD calls a low power Fusion APU, which I presume means Ontario. Also in the photo are two coins: a 1 Euro coin and a 2 Polish Zloty coin. The Euro is bigger than the entire APU package. With a 23.5mm diameter, I'd guess Ontario's package is at least comparable to Atom's 22mm x 22mm package size. With a similar TDP and similar package size (if not smaller), Ontario should be able to fit into anything an Atom can fit in - meaning Ontario netbooks should be just as thin and just as light as Atom netbooks. They'll just be faster.

We also have an idea of die size. The Polish Zloty's inner circle measures 12mm in diameter. A quick comparison in Photoshop indicates that the Ontario die is shorter along its side than the diameter of Zloty's inner circle. I'd estimate the die as being 10mm x 10mm, putting it at 100mm^2. Intel's Atom N550's die is 87mm^2, but a 15% increase in die area makes sense given AMD's out-of-order architecture and presumably beefier GPU. AMD typically gives you more transistors than Intel for the same price so this isn't surprising. Update: Industry and enthusiast community veteran, Hans de Vries (I remember reading his architecture posts back in the K8 and P4 days) posted an analysis of the Ontario die plot. He estimates its die at an even small 74mm^2, indicating that TSMC's 40nm process is quite dense. If these numbers hold true that would mean Ontario is not only smaller than Atom, but also much higher performing. Note the amount of die area dedicated to graphics. This is going to be very good for entry level systems.

I'm excited, we desperately need performance competition in the ultra thin/ultra portable notebook market. Now all we need is to get our hands on an Ontario platform and test it.

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  • blckgrffn - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Because we need SC2 capable netbooks.

    I am serious. I need this.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    "Ontario's TDP is competitive. Intel's recently announced Atom N550 (dual-core Pine Trail) with on-die graphics has an 8.5W TDP, but it should be significantly slower than Ontario if AMD did its job right. "

    So they moved the graphics on-die instead of just on-package? Or was it only on-package for the desktop variants?
  • chromatix - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    So, competitive TDP in both cases, performance probably beating Atom very nicely, and price probably rather less than Core i3. Graphics performance should be at least equal performance, and potentially more mature in terms of features and drivers. I'm willing to bet that AMD have properly integrated the two so that they can share the full memory bandwidth from an on-die memory controller nicely.

    Atom's graphics core is indeed now on-die, but via a standard bus link rather than sharing a tighter connection. This hurts performance because they have to share the memory controller in a suboptimal way. The revised version of ION also suffers from having only a single PCIe lane, instead of being able to use a full Northbridge status.
  • krumme - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    Look here for core floorplan explanations and asumptions:
  • Voldenuit - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    I fully expect Bobcat to deliver a better user experience on a netbook than Atom. However, the netbook craze is pretty much over now - CULV laptops and ultraportables just make more sense for a tiny price premium, and an 18W Core i3 Arrandale would completely demolish any Bobcat.

    The only space I can see big growth opportunities for Bobcat is in slim tablets, and they'd be saddled with a bloated OS (Win7) compared to Cortex A9s running iOS or Android. Maybe Meego might take off, and maybe pigs will fly, too :P.

    AMD came fully dressed to the prom, but the party may have been over already.
  • krumme - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    Do you think there is a small price premium from a CULV to an Atom?
    Fine for you
    But thats not what the average customer thinks
    You can call it netbook, nettop, latptop, ultraportable, lowend desktop whatever. Bobat is going to eat the largest share of these markets, until Intel releases new low cost Atom.
  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    " Intel's ultra-low voltage Core i3 has an 18W TDP, but the CPU should be much faster than a pair of Bobcats."

    Intel's 18W Core i3 runs at 1.2GHz (a fact that was mysteriously omitted). It would only require a 1.6GHz Bobcat to become roughly equivalent given Bobcat's performance figures leaked so far (~90% of equivalent clocked Core 2 Duo in Int, ~80% in FP, we won't even discuss the figures against Atom).

    Secondly, cost is a major factor - how costly is a CULV Core i3 for an OEM to integrate, versus a ~74mm^2 Zacate?

    Thirdly, an 80SP DX11 GPU with OpenCL support is going to make the Arrandale graphics look terrible, never mind having some half decent drivers to go with them.
  • marraco - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    Since AMD and Intel are obligated to share their x86 patents with each other, then integrating ATI technologies into x86 would enable Intel to use ATI licenses?

    then nVidia is in trouble.
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    Nope. The graphics are not an extension of the x86 instruction set. When AMD took x86 and extended it to support 64bits with x86-64, then yes, Intel got that.

    Putting something on the same die is not the same as adding it to the x86 instruction set.
  • sleepeeg3 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    Ontario looks like it is meant to compete with the ULV chips and will likely be a more attractive option, with the better integrated video and possibly battery life. Atom was an attractive marketing tool that Intel needs to kill. Performance sucks and there is little profit in it.

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