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Ontario, Llano and Bulldozer

The key to the new Bobcat design, though, is that it will be combined with a graphics core on the same piece of silicon to provide improved graphical performance, which has benefits for gaming, watching video, as well as general computing. These first APUs are codenamed Ontario. Unfortunately no details on what the graphics capabilities will be was revealed.

Also on the cards in the future is the Llano design, which is much more of a direct rival to Intel's current mainstream desktop and notebook parts, the Core i3 and Core i5. It will also incorporate a graphics core onto the same silicon, but both the CPU and GPU components will be much more powerful. Details were thin on the ground for what we can expect from these parts as AMD doesn't see them arriving until the second half of next year.

What we could glean would suggest a somewhat underwhelming combination of current mainstream AMD CPU performance with current integrated ATI graphics efforts. Power consumption enhancements and tweaks are inevitable, but the basic processing core looks to be essentially the same as current parts, and we all know how mediocre they've been. That said, AMD did seem to indicate that the new CPUs could fit in existing motherboards with a BIOS update, which from a platform cost point of view means these could be a great upgrade.

AMD Bulldozer

While Llano may look a little underwhelming, AMD's performance parts seem rather more promising. Its new Bulldozer core design is a scratch build that adds the ability to process two threads simultaneously, somewhat akin to Intel's Hyper-Threading technology.

Where AMD's solution differs is that many more sub-sections have been duplicated. In particular, whereas as Hyper-Threading uses a single execution core and just duplicates a few key elements required for scheduling, AMD has added a whole second integer pipeline, essentially creating an 'almost-dual-core'.

An AMD spokesman fairly pointed out that the vast majority of calculations performed by a CPU are on integers, so duplicating this part, but keeping a single shared floating point pipeline results in much better overall performance for the same power usage and silicon area. Like Hyper-Threading, each Bulldozer core will appear as two to software so a quad-core Bulldozer CPU will appear as an eight core.

To make up a CPU, multiple Bulldozer cores will be combined with a memory controller, northbridge controller and a shared L3 cache. No specific products have been outlined yet, but AMD did say that Bulldozer-based parts will deliver 33 percent more cores and an estimated 50 percent increase in throughput in the same power envelope. This would make for a 16 core CPU. As with Llano, AMD also seemed to suggest these CPUs would support existing sockets so could be drop in replacements, though some of the power saving improvements might not be fully implemented.

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