Posted: 17 Dec 2012 08:01 PM PST
We recently reviewed Dell's top of the line Precision M6700 mobile workstation and found that the overall design left something to be desired compared to HP's high end EliteBooks, but that the price was definitely right for the performance. The M6700 is likely to remain a good value for the enterprise sector (much as Dell's desktop workstations continue to be), and the 10-bit PremierColor display uses a similar LG panel to the ones HP employs in their DreamColor displays. Can we get something like that in a smaller form factor, though?
As it turns out, theoretically at least, we can. We have an HP EliteBook 8570w on hand for review, and the 15.6" 1080p DreamColor display threatens to hit the sweet spot for productivity, with a smaller chassis footprint than larger workstations like the M6700 and EliteBook 8760w/8770w. But is the 8570w able to hit the same value propositions as Dell's mobile workstations, can it offer similar performance, or is our memory of the HP EliteBook line a little rosier than reality?
Posted: 17 Dec 2012 12:21 PM PST
AMD held a press briefing today on their upcoming 8000M graphics chips, which they are calling the "second generation GCN architecture" parts. We’ll have more on that in a moment, but while we were expecting a rebranding prior to the call, it appears we are at least partially mistaken—you can see the previous generation high-end 7000M announcement from April 2012 for reference.
I’m not going to get too far into the marketing aspects, as we’ve heard all of this information before: AMD has improved Enduro Technology, they’re continuing to improve their drivers, and APP Acceleration has a few more applications. There have been a few major titles released in the past couple of months with AMD Gaming Evolved branding (Far Cry 3 is arguably the most notable of the offerings, with Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs also scoring well amongst critics and users), and Bioshock Infinite is at least one future release that I'm looking forward to playing.
Cutting straight to the chase, at this point AMD has released limited information on the core specifications for some of their 8000M GPUs, but they coyly note that at least one more GPU announcement will be forthcoming in Q2 2013 (8900M by all appearances). Today is a soft launch of high level details, with more architectural information and product details scheduled for January 7, 2013 at CES. AMD did not share any codenames for the newly announced mobile GPUs, if you’re wondering, other than the overall family name of “Solar” for the mobile chips (replacing the outgoing “London” series). Here are the details we have right now:
Obviously there are a lot of missing pieces right now, but what we immediately notice is that the core count on the 8500M/8600M/8700M means that we’re definitely looking at a new GPU. The only other time we’ve seen AMD do 384 cores is with Trinity, but that’s a VLIW4 architecture so we’re not seeing that again. Given the currently shipping Southern Islands chips (“London” on the mobile side) have 640 cores max for Cape Verde, 1280 max for Pitcairn, and up to 2048 for Tahiti, AMD has likely created a fourth SI derivative that drops down to two CU arrays, each with three CUs. (You can read more about the GCN/SI architecture in our earlier GPU coverage.) Performance is something of a wildcard with the new 384 core parts, and the choice of DDR3/GDDR5 memory will also influence the final result. We'll find out in the coming months how the 8500/8600/8700M stack up to NVIDIA's midrange "GT" offerings, which interestingly are also using 384 cores.
The final announced card is the one where we appear to have more of a rebrand/optimization of a previous generation chip. 8800M has the same 640 core count as Cape Verde/7800M, only with modified clocks this time. The earlier 7800M chips could clock up as high as 800MHz, so maximum core clock is actually down a bit, but they only ran the memory at up to 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5. If AMD determined memory bandwidth was more important for that particular GPU than shader performance, the new 8800M would make sense. Also note that AMD isn’t including the boost clock speeds into the above chart; under the right circumstances, all of the new chips can run at higher clocks than the reference clock.
AMD isn’t calling the 8800M a rebrand, but we’re looking at the same core counts as Cape Verde and the same 28nm process technology, so we wouldn’t expect a substantial change in performance. There’s also the above chip shot as a point of reference. If the 8800M is substantially different from Cape Verde then the above images provided in AMD’s slides must be incorrect, as the new and old chips look the same. Minor tweaks to power use, caching, or other elements notwithstanding, we’re probably dealing with a die respin at most. But, there’s nothing inherently wrong with rebranding—AMD and NVIDIA have both been doing it for some time now. Don’t expect every “upgraded” GPU to be better; a 7400M isn’t faster than a 6700M, and likewise we expect 7700M and 7800M to be faster options than the 384 core 8500M/8600M/8700M and competitive with 8800M. Here’s a quick recap of the same core specs as above for the current 7700M/7800M parts:
I’ll refrain from commenting too much more about performance of an unreleased part, but AMD indicated their 8870M should be substantially faster than NVIDIA’s current GT 650M GDDR5 (which isn’t too surprising considering clocks and core counts), and the 8770M should likewise be a healthy 20%+ bump in performance relative to the 7670M. I’d rather see comparisons with GTX 675MX and HD 7770M, respectively, but I suspect those wouldn’t be quite as impressive. Anyway, you can see both of AMD’s comparison charts in the complete slide deck gallery below. Availability of the new GPUs is slated for Q1 2013.
Gallery: AMD Announces Their First 8000M GPUs
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