AMD’s Trinity Boosts GraphicsMay 28, 2012
Author: Kevin Krewell
AMD’s new Trinity processor gives the company a competitive offering for notebooks, including the new “ultrathin” category. This second generation of mainstream integrated processors launched on schedule and will face off against Intel’s Ivy Bridge. Trinity is a significant step forward for AMD in CPU design, media accelerators, and graphics relative to the previous generation, Llano. The processor is already shipping to leading OEMs and will be available through retail channels in 3Q12.
The goal for Trinity was to improve both CPU and GPU performance by double-digit percentages compared with its predecessor while retaining the same 32nm process node. If AMD used Intel’s “tick-tock” terminology, Trinity would be a tock—a new architecture in a mature process. Seemingly, we can finally call GlobalFoundries’ 32nm SOI process “mature,” as AMD was able to ship millions of Trinity processors at launch. The initial product line focuses on notebooks; desktop and channel (retail and reseller) products will be available later in the year. The company offers both quad- and dual-core versions of the architecture.
The majority of the die area has clearly been devoted to the graphics and image processors. AMD’s strategy emphasizes its graphics advantage to downplay Intel’s CPU-performance edge. Being one process node behind Intel’s Ivy Bridge processor appears to have more of an impact on die size and less on clock speed and power, as AMD can offer clock speeds comparable to Intel’s in 17W (TDP) products.
AMD made considerable architectural improvements over Llano in almost every relevant subsystem while expanding the die by 7.9% to 246 mm2. The transistor count rose to 1.3 billion, a 10.4% increase, indicating that the company improved its transistor packing without adding a lot of memory. Trinity power options range from ultrathin notebooks (which AMD defines as notebooks less than 25mm thick) at 17W and 25W TDP, larger notebooks at 35W TDP, and desktop versions at 65W and 100W.
The continued weak spot for AMD will be the CPU, where Ivy Bridge is the clear winner. Ivy Bridge can be paired with a discrete GPU to compensate for its weaker graphics, but at a higher system cost. Nevertheless, AMD’s Trinity is differentiated on the basis of its better graphics, and its TDP and battery life are competitive with those of Intel’s Ivy Bridge despite being a process generation behind. Trinity is a great choice for end users seeking better graphics and “good enough” CPU performance.