30th January 2008

Who needs graphics inside a CPU?

posted by Eric C. in Uncategorized |

AMD is currently developing a CPU with integrated graphics named the AMD Fusion, with the first chip codenamed Swift. That’s all well and good but what’s the target market for this CPU? Who needs this feature? I mean, you’re still going to have to have a motherboard chipset for the PCI Express slots, PCI, IDE, SATA, LAN, etc, so what’s the point? If you have to have both a CPU and a motherboard chipset anyway, what’s the difference if you have a CPU with embedded graphics and a motherboard chipset for all the buses or a regular CPU with a motherboard chipset with embedded graphics? CPUs are usually better at achieving low power usage than graphics chips, but graphics chips are still pretty good, plus the first generation is just going to be based on a current Radeon design anyway. With that said though, CPUs are traditionally built using a lower process than GPUs and especially chipsets, so that could give the video portion a boost in power savings over a chipset with embedded graphics. That would only be the case though if AMD actually gets their 45nm process finished and in use, since currently AMD’s CPUs and chipsets both use 65nm process and their ATI Radeon HD 3000-series actually uses a lower manufacturing process (55nm). Infoworld says that AMD plans the Fusion to be manufactured using their 45nm process.

From the info on XbitLabs, they say “Swift will feature two x86 cores along with a graphics core and will be aimed at mobile computers,” and go on to say “Later on quad-core microprocessor with integrated memory controller is possible.” This information makes it appear that AMD is taking a step backwards by moving the memory controller from the CPU back to the northbridge motherboard chipset. This would lower performance but shouldn’t impact power usage that much. The last CPUs that didn’t have an integrated memory controller was their Socket A Athlon XP line. This also means it would require unique chipsets and motherboard designs, upping the cost of designing products to use the AMD Fusion.

Another thing to think about is if it has graphics in the CPU, that means the heat from graphics and the heat from the CPU will have to be removed by the same heatsink setup. The end result could be that the Fusion will need more cooling than what is normally required because their’s more wattage coming from one chip.

Much of the specs and information on the AMD Fusion and Swift are still up in the air, so hopefully it makes more sense once it gets closer to it’s release, which is supposed to be second half 2009.

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