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Interview with AMD’s Sasa Marinkovic-hh0

Interview with AMD’s Sasa Marinkovic-hh0

AMD Interview with Sasa Marinkovic

Can you explain to our readers what your job title is and what tasks are involved in your day to day activities?

I am a Senior Manager of Technology Marketing. At present my role is focused on marketing heterogeneous computing. This involves identifying and evangelising upcoming industry trends such as ultralow voltage, small form factor and parallel computing and driving that from a marketing point of view.

Looking specifically at the AMD APU products, since the first batch of products in early 2011 there has been a constant stream of new models. Do you see the same pace of development continuing over the next year-2 years?

APU is about pushing the envelope on application acceleration and UI by harnessing the power of GPU.As our roadmap shows, the APU help put AMD in a leadership position and now there is a tremendous opportunity in the rapidly evolving PC industry where more and more devices are utilising our differentiated IP coming to markets such as cloud, tablets and ultra thin and light laptops.

AMD Roadmap

Those early models were mainly based on boards which were aimed at small form factor systems, for example the E350 based products. With the new Trinity/Piledriver based products now being announced for mobile and desktop use what do you feel has been the biggest advance from the 1st gen APU to now?

The second generation AMD APU codenamed “Trinity” has a lot of cool new things, but I would single out two of them:

1. The new AMD APU is the only Quad Core APU in the market that can be used in ultra thin notebooks. Intel calls them Ultrabooks, we call them ultrathin and light notebooks as these are in essence still notebooks – just thinner, lighter and more energy efficient.

2. We have 17W version of this new APU for ultrathin and light notebooks. These have similar performance to our previous generation AMD A-series APU codenamed “llano” in the 35W category, which is half the power for similar performance.

We also have the, the next-gen AMD E-Series APU codenamed “Brazos 2.0” with integrated USB 3.0, for the low power envelopes such as 10-inch notebooks.

One of the key aspects of an AMD APU is its ability to use the GPU element to enhance performance, for example accelerating zip operations or reducing encoding time. Is there a particular application that receives AMD boosts that consumers will most benefit from?

I would really like to expand on this question by commenting that the majority of notebooks today have integrated graphics which means that they have a hybrid processor inside. As you know, notebooks are not ‘upgradable’ i.e. you have to live with the performance of your graphics inside the laptop for the whole lifetime of that product. In order to have a great experience using a notebook, you must have good graphics.

Many of today’s mainstream applications are GPU accelerated – these include Internet Explorer 9, Chrome, Firefox, as well as Adobe Flash 11, Microsoft PowerPoint and Adobe Photoshop CS6 – which are all receiving a performance boost. GPU acceleration also helps improve battery life as the CPU can offload a number of tasks to a more energy efficient GPU.

Are there any upcoming applications or software packages that will receive APU acceleration that you feel will benefit consumers?

The ecosystem is expanding constantly – you can see just over the last year how many applications have emerged. There are applications being developed that we can’t talk about right now and that we will let the people who are building them talk about. Bottom line, we are working towards making it easy for mainstream developers to build applications and code for both APU and GPU acceleration.

One of the significant announcements in the Trinity launch was the new low wattage range which will end up in Ultrathin mobile systems. Consumers currently know Ultrabook as a significant "brand", what will AMD offer in Ultrathin as a major benefit over the competition?

The AMD offering provides the only quad core in an ultrathin package. In addition to this, if you take a look at some of the ultrathins from HP and Samsung, they really do look amazing. They are thin, light and ultramobile, but in addition to this they have industry leading GPUs built right into them.

We also have a different approach to ultrathin and light notebooks that embraces differentiation. What we are doing is simply allowing the OEMs to build the ultrathins the way they want to build them, instead of forcing them into a small box.  Netbooks had those restrictions and they were limited to basic OS, small screen size and poor graphics. Our AMD E-series APUs have changed that just the way new AMD A-series can ‘liberate’ the ultrathin and light notebooks. I think the new AMD A-Series is the right product at the right time.

One of the main selling points of many Ultrabooks is their use of SSDs; in fact models on mechanical drives are in the minority. Do you think APU based alternatives will follow a similar trend?

This is really up to OEM. Samsung series 5 already has implemented them in their ultrathin and lights.

We recently took a look at the Trinity reference laptop and found its gaming performance to be great at 1366×768 with high/maximum detail. Did AMD aim for playable performance at this resolution on Trinity during the design phase?

We didn’t target one specific resolution. The benefit of having the leadership on discrete graphics means that we have the ability to scale all way to AMD Eyefinity technology type of resolutions and still enable great gaming performance. As most of the laptops run 1366×768 resolution, the new AMD A-Series APU powered notebooks will really show off a playable gaming performance.

The Trinity reference system contained an APU which varied the core speed on both CPU and GPU to 3.2GHz/684MHz depending on load. Do you think that performance APU mobile systems will become available that allow users to tweak the speed further?

Users should be enjoying notebooks right from the start. If they want to tweak at all, they are more than welcome but we have designed a technology that is smart enough to not require it.

We have designed dynamic performance management in to our systems, so the APU is smart enough to analyse the work load and adjust using something called AMD Turbo Core Technology 3.0 – which can boost the CPU clock speed or the GPU clock speed above stock clocks. Even better, the APU is able to allocate power to either the GPU or CPU depending on which area needs the boost and how much TDP headroom the chip has when doing certain tasks.

What’s next for APU, for example might similar AMD technology make it into smart phones or similar devices?

I cannot comment on future plans but in terms of the next steps for APU, we have a big push around the HAS (Heterogeneous System Architecture). AMD and the HSA Foundation are driving industry standards and providing developers an open standards body that is easily accessible and broadly available to leverage as a resource when developing next generation computing solutions. AMD is unleashing innovation with improved programmability through HSA to make accessing the power of the APU and GPU as easy as today’s CPU.

By unlocking the performance and power efficiency in today’s GPUs and APUs with HSA, AMD is helping to drive performance leadership to substantially improve the user experience across a number of devices.

Any final words for our readers?

There has been a whole new revolution on the compute side from the past 40 years. We got used to thinking how powerful CPU is the most important thing in our PC and how the GPU is important only for gaming. Now there is a whole new movement and the two processors are becoming equal partners.

We are looking at being able to provide the right products to be able to support new applications such as natural user interface (gesture, voice, touch) and push more pixels across devices while being more energy efficient. Designing applications to take advantage of the heterogeneous computing will help drive ‘next generation of breakthroughs’ and actually significantly help to improve the user experience.

The HSA foundation is going to be revolutionising the new wave and next generation of applications. The future looks very exciting. We look forward to be leading the industry forward into the future.

Thanks for talking to us!

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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