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AMD brings GCN architecture to workstations with CPU and GPUs

The start of certified integrated graphics
Tue Aug 07 2012, 05:00
AMD Radeon HD 7950

CHIP DESIGNER AMD has introduced Firepro A300 series accelerated processor units (APUs), bringing its Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture to its Firepro graphics cards.

AMD's Firepro range of video cards has finally received the much vaunted GCN architecture first seen late last year in the Radeon HD 7970. The firm has released four cards and announced its first Firepro branded APU, all featuring the GCN architecture.

AMD was cagey with the specifications of its A300 series APUs but said they will use Piledriver cores and have a 2GB DDR3 frame buffer, handle four displays and support OpenGL 4.2, OpenCL 1.1 and DirectX 11, with power consumption going down to 66W, though the firm did not mention a TDP ceiling. The firm cited its own internal benchmarks using an A320 processor but did not reveal frequencies, only that the system uses its already released A85X chipset.

While AMD's Firepro APUs are going to be pitched at the low-end workstation market, the Firepro W-series boards should provide considerably more grunt. At the ultra high-end, the $4,000 Firepro W9000 has 6GB of 384bit GDDR5, six mini-Displayport outputs and consumes 274W of power, and if there's still any budget left, multiple cards can be run through framelock or genlock.

AMD's Firepro W8000 is in comparison an absolute bargain priced at $1,600. The firm's cut prices result in 4GB of 256bit GDDR5, four Displayport outputs and a maximum power consumption of 189W. AMD makes what is essentially a single-slot variant of the same card that it labels the Firepro W7000, with the same memory and outputs but a maximum power consumption of 150W.

For AMD's 'mid-range', the firm announced the bargain basement $600 Firepro W5000, with 2GB of 256bit GDDR5 memory, two Displayport outputs and one dual-link DVI output. The firm said the single-slot card consumes less than 75W.

For AMD, the workstation market represents a small but very lucrative chance to flog high margin products that have relatively few differences from its consumer range of Radeon boards. As with all workstation chip vendors, AMD played up the ISV certification its latest Firepro W-series of cards, citing industry giants such as Adobe, Autodesk, CATIA and Maxon.

AMD's decision to announce a Firepro branded APU could be the start of the company inching towards releasing Opteron APUs, which as OpenCL adoption grows could become big sellers. µ


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