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AMD ships its next-generation Carrizo-L desktop chip, but it's going to Chinese vendors first

Mark Hachman | May 12, 2015
AMD is calling Carrizo a “sixth-generation” part, implying it's more advanced than Intel’s own fifth-generation Core chips. We'll have to wait in line behind China to find out, though.


If you listened to AMD's investor briefing on Thursday, you didn't get the whole picture: AMD also quietly cut the prices of its mainstream CPUs, and said it had begun shipping its first "Carrizo" chips, the Carrizo-L for desktop PCs.

Unfortunately, those chips are being shipped to Chinese customers first ahead of a global rollout, AMD said. As my colleague Brad Chacos noted, AMD is referring to Carrizo as a "sixth-generation" part, implying that it's more advanced than Intel's own fifth-generation Core chips.

AMD's price cuts were relatively modest, compared to the Oct. 2014 price list that was still posted on AMD's site at press time. The high-end, 4GHz A10-7850K chip was cut by $15, for example, to $127--a drop of 11 percent. In total, AMD cut the prices of seven chips.

Why this matters:  With summertime approaching, hardware vendors are building back-to-school PCs, and AMD's chips need to be part of that wave. The key, really, is how fast AMD can launch its notebook Carrizo chips; most students don't tote desktop PCs to class.

What Carrizo means to AMD

AMD said Thursday that it's prepared to pursue Intel in the high end of the market once again, announcing plans to develop a high-end "Zen" core that breaks from many of AMD's earlier designs. Before that, however, there's Carrizo--and the first chips in that line will run at speeds up to 2.5GHz, according to specs AMD released Thursday. 

While Carrizo doesn't represent a make-or-break proposition from AMD, the company has struggled to maintain profitability. Under new chief executive Lisa Su, AMD has tossed out its low-end focus with an eye towards gaining "profitable market share" in businesses like graphics and datacenter chips. But about half of AMD's revenue will still come from the PC, and that's where Carrizo comes in. 

Carrizo will be fully HSA 1.0-compliant, meaning it will deliver on the Heterogenous Systems Architecture that AMD has talked about for some time. With HSA, the GPU can also be tapped to perform compute functions, which the company claims will deliver far more performance than the speed increases from moving to finer CPU manufacturing technologies alone. 

The Carrizo processor will integrate a new x86 CPU core codenamed "Excavator" with next-generation AMD Radeon graphics, while the Carrizo-L derivative will use the Puma+ core and AMD Radeon R-Series GCN GPUs for mainstream configurations, AMD said in January.  To keep things simple for its hardware partners, AMD settled on a single motherboard design.

AMD has begun shipping five Carrizo-L chips, according to a list published by the company, with two to four cores and speeds up to 2.5GHz. Officially, they're known as the AMD 7000 Series APUs. All will support DirectX 12 and Windows 10.


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