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AMD promotes its APU chips as green

Or maybe greenwash
Mon Feb 07 2011, 12:10

CHIP DESIGNER AMD has announced that its E-350 Accelerated Processing Unit demonstrates a significant reduction in the overall product's "carbon footprint".

A study funded by AMD and carried out by an MBA student came to a faintly scientific sounding conclusion that Chimpzilla's E-350, also known as Zacate, is very green. More green, that is, than the previous generation products featuring an AMD Athlon Neo II dual core processor and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 graphics processor.

The student worked with Netimpact, an organisation that says it is "a network of more than 20,000 new generation leaders committed to using the power of business to improve the world".

Netimpact is funded by Chevron, Exxonmobile, Dow chemicals and other equally environmentally conscious companies, so we can take a pretty good guess at how it wants to "improve" the world.

AMD's statement on this bit of environmentally aware work said, "The findings showed that the AMD Fusion APU reference system generated 40.2kg CO2e of [Green House Gas] GHG emissions compared to 67.4kg CO2e of GHG emissions for the previous generation products - a 40.3 [per cent] reduction in overall GHG emissions associated with the APU product over its estimated lifetime."

The key words here are "estimated lifetime" and "reference system". The study apparently didn't include the power, sorry "carbon footprint", required for making the chips, possibly because those figures would likely dwarf their power consumption over their lifetimes. But at least it all sounds good.

AMD claims Zacate's lower carbon footprint is due to the integration of the computing and graphics processors onto a single piece of silicon. It says this eliminates the chip-to-chip linkage between CPU and GPU that can add latency to memory operations and reduce power efficiency. We don't doubt that this is true, and it even seems intuitively obvious.

Zacate, a single-chip processor that combines a dual-core CPU with a DirectX11 discrete graphics processing unit, is rated at 18W thermal design power while its sister APU. Ontario, is rated at 9W. One imagines that the green credentials of Ontario will be even more fantastic. We can't wait for Netimpact to tell us how fantastically green it is.

Silicon foundries and chip fabs still use monstrous quantities of electricity, but for those who care about how green their computers are, buying newer chip designs that use less power might help them feel more virtuous. µ


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