Published in Processors

The heart of AMD’s Llano is K8

by on27 August 2010
Fusion to fight Sandy Bridge with 6-year-old core
Bulldozer is one risky architecture for AMD. At the same time AMD is making its first 32nm CPU on an unproven, new and risky process and the company is making a completely new core, something that it hasn't done for years. When you do both of these things at once, you kind of have a recipe for potential disaster. AMD might get lucky this time and we're hoping that it will have more luck than with its transition to 65nm and the K10 native quad-core. As you probably remember, that transition was anything but smooth.

The most shocking report about the second-to-come Fusion is that the CPU core behind it is the venerable K8. The first Fusion features Bobcat, AMD's answer to the Atom and the Ontario notebook version of that first Fusion is expected early next year.

Let’s go back to the K8. The K8 officially came out on September 23rd 2003 and the first desktop part followed in early 2004. If you do the math this core is more than six years old, and it started at 130nm. Llano is 32nm which means that the transistor size shrunk multiple times and the power consumption went significantly down, but then again, the performance of K8 doesn’t look promising if you know that Llano is supposed to fight the Sandy Bridge monolithic cores. On a related note, this means that the good old K8's die area will be shrunk by a factor of 16 compared to the original chip which launched in 130nm. That's a quite simple way of illustrating the impressive benefits of more advanced production processes.

Sandy Bridge features Intel's second generation Core architecture, supports automatic overclocking and frequency adjustment for both CPU and GPU and K8 certainly doesn’t have that.

AMD might pull out an ace and actually tell the world at later date that the K8 core has been heavily modified and prepared for 2011, but we doubt that they can catch up with six years of CPU development. They simply don’t have enough engineers for that as most of them work on Bobcat and Bulldozer, which are entirely new chips.

Llano looks like a real transitional product that will prove investors that CPU and GPU on one core chip can be done, it will be faster in graphics tasks that Core i 2000 series aka Sandy Bridge. Of course, AMD is already working on the next generation Fusion that has something better than K8 inside. Let’s just say that Bulldozer can easily meet the Radeon 6000 graphics core and in 2012 you can get some decent performance part.

Do we need to remind you that this will be the third time that AMD tries to make Fusion work, just remember the original Fusion and later Swift cores that mysteriously disappeared form AMD's roadmaps. Fusion was promised back in 2006 and it still hasn't arrived.
Last modified on 27 August 2010
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