Several years ago Intel discovered surprisingly enough that its NetBurst architecture was not very good for the mobile space.  As wonderful as the idea of battery powered space heaters was, Intel quickly discovered that to build the perfect mobile platform you had to start from scratch and design a CPU that was built for the mobile space.  By doing so Intel could make tradeoffs that it wouldn't normally make, performance for power reduction, many of which we diagrammed in our first Centrino articles.

Intel also discovered the power of the platform; by bundling a good CPU with a good chipset and wireless controller, three independent Intel products were transformed into a marketing powerhouse.  The Centrino brand simplified notebook purchasing and quickly became a mark associated with a notebook you wanted to buy.

It took AMD a bit longer to get on the bandwagon, putting marketing first and worrying about architecture last.  We had heard rumors of a mobile-specific AMD microarchitecture, but nothing ever surfaced until now.  AMD's design team out of Massachusetts worked on the project, and today we're finally able to tell you about it.  The processor is called Griffin, and the platform is called Puma, both are codenames; AMD will undoubtedly come up with a phenomenal name for the final product (sorry we couldn't resist).

When Intel started development on the first Centrino processor, Banias, it had to go back to the P6 for a starting point.  The Pentium 4's NetBurst architecture was hardly suitable and the design team was intimately familiar with the P6 core at the time.  The end product hardly resembled a P6 and if you look at what the architecture evolved into today, you would be hard pressed to say it was similar at all to a Pentium III. 

AMD didn't make the misstep of a Pentium 4, it made a solid evolutionary step to K8 from K7.  Griffin's execution core and underlying architecture is based on the current generation 65nm K8 design, not Barcelona/Phenom.  You can take everything you are looking forward to being in Phenom and throw it out the window, as AMD is starting from the same K8 core that launched in 2003.

By no means is it a bad starting point, but thankfully AMD did toss in some enhancements.  Griffin gets a new North Bridge, a new memory controller, a power optimized Hyper Transport 3 interface and a 1MB L2 cache per core.  Griffin will still be built on a 65nm process as AMD will have, at best, only begun its 45nm production by the time Griffin debuts. 

Right off the bat you see a disparity between AMD's approach and Intel's approach; while the K8 is arguably a better starting point for a mobile-specific architecture than the P6, the K8 was heavily designed for servers and scaled down.  But as we've seen, the K8 is quite power efficient, with 35W TDPs easy achievable for dual core versions, so the race isn't over before it has started.

Griffin will go into production at the end of this year, and AMD is targeting availability in the first half to middle of 2008.  Given the launch timeframe, much like Phenom, AMD won't be competing with today's Core 2 processors but rather tomorrow's Penryn based notebooks.  Penryn does have some mobile-specific power improvements that even Griffin does not, but the opposite is also true as you will soon see.  AMD quoted a maximum TDP of 35W for dual core Griffin CPUs.  AMD hopes that notebooks based on Griffin can offer beyond 5 hours of battery life, but do keep in mind that battery life will vary greatly based on OEM implementation.

Truly Independent Power Planes
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  • Goty - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    I agree with your points here, but it might have come down to an issue of time and manpower. Intel probably has teams of engineers sitting around twiddling their thumbs just waiting for something to do while AMD probably has everyone working around the clock. It's probably more a result of resources than anything. Reply
  • TA152H - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    Goty,

    I think you're right, but a product like that could make a big difference too. It would be so different than anything out there, and have such advantages for the market it is designed for, I think it is something they should have looked at.

    I guess what's so disappointing for me is they mentioned that they were going to try a completely new design for it, and then they just did another iteration of the K8 and took a branch from there. I don't think they can seriously differentiate themselves from the Core 2 line, and I think they have to. Intel is so much better in manufacturing, if AMD retains design parity, or something close, I don't know how they are going to be successful. I think Fusion is a good idea, but I don't think it's enough and I don't think it would be hard for Intel to duplicate, because as you say, they have the resources.

    Besides, they have the K6, they'd have to increase the memory interface, improve the decoders, and tweak little things here and there, but it's a great processor. Remember how disappointed everyone was when the K7 couldn't beat it clock normalized for integer and it was beating the Katmais that were 50 MHz faster? This with the putrid VIA MVP3 chipset that had horrible memory performance. It was a really good design.

    I am also wondering why they still have such strong x87 in the Athlons. Why even bother these days, particularly with the mobile part. Put in a tiny non-pipelined version for compatibility, and save the space for something more useful. x87 isn't even supported in x86-64 mode, so it's clearly a dead technology.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    quote:

    The Centrino brand simplified notebook purchasing and quickly became a mark associated with a notebook you wanted to buy.


    Maybe it did for Joe Sixpack, but it ticks me off. Centrino tells me nothing about what kind of processor is in a system, it just tells me that the system has a wireless card (of some sort, Intel branded but who-knows-which-model). Centrino could mean Pentium-M (Banias or Dothan), Celeron-M, or Core Solo. Centrino Duo at least tells me a system is dual-core, but not whether it's Core Duo or Core 2 Duo (or possibly "Pentium Dual Core", that relabeled Core Duo Intel is putting out in limited quantities). You call this simple? I sure don't.

    I can't stand this marketing trend. There is very little way to "at-a--glance", know exactly what you are getting in a given laptop. It's just one more buzzword to know, when just saying the laptop has WiFi (which 95% do at this point) and an Intel xxx processor running at such-an-such a speed would be useful. And it looks like it gets review sites like Anandtech sucked into buzzword bingo in the process.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Centrino could mean Pentium-M (Banias or Dothan), Celeron-M, or Core Solo. Centrino Duo at least tells me a system is dual-core, but not whether it's Core Duo or Core 2 Duo (or possibly "Pentium Dual Core", that relabeled Core Duo Intel is putting out in limited quantities). You call this simple? I sure don't.


    Actually, Celeron M based laptops can't be certified as Centrino. Here is the chart from Intel: http://www.intel.com/products/centrino/compare.htm">http://www.intel.com/products/centrino/compare.htm

    And you can further differentiate the single core Centrinos from the dual cores. Dual core versions are Centrino Duo, and single core ones are Centrino. It looks like even the logo can be different for Core Solo compared to Pentium M.
    Reply
  • acejj26 - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    power consumption is linear with respect to frequency and quadratic with respect to voltage, not exponential Reply
  • elpresidente2075 - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    You do know that they are one in the same in this instance, right? Reply
  • Goty - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    x^2 is quadratic, a^x is exponential (a being some constant).

    Big difference.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    a^x is indeed exponential... and yet, x could be something like... 2! :) Reply
  • Seer - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    The OP is right and you're completely wrong. I came on here to post the very same message.

    The definition of x in this case is that it is a variable. If both x and a were constants....you'd just have a single number. There would be no relationship. Go back to Algebra I if you truly don't understand this.
    Reply
  • goku - Friday, May 18, 2007 - link

    Seeing innovations like this where they're doing more with less just really makes me happy. It's nice to see that they're addressing power concerns and working towards having a powerful computer that also can be power conservative.

    While the hardware industry is getting more efficent, unfortunately the software industry is following the trend of the P4. Software is getting more and more inefficient and bloated while hardware is getting more efficient. It'd be nice if this trend would reverse and would start seeing better software written again..
    Reply

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