What are your choices when your application's performance requirements, power limits, and budget conflict? Comparing the options available today reveals some important differences that can affect the bottom line.
AMD made a lot of noise recently with the announcement of a new embedded Ball Grid Array (BGA) platform that was rolled out at this year’s Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. This new BGA-packaged solution for the ASB2 socket touts better performance per watt than the previous generation, with a new 128-bit floating-point unit, wider instruction fetch, reduced latencies, and large page support.
AMD is providing ample versatility through the option of a 1 GHz single-core CPU with a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of just 8 W. For multithreaded applications, you could drop an 800 MHz dual-core CPU in the exact same thermal envelope. There are additional high-performance dual-core CPU options at 12, 15, and 25 W TDP. The power of the companion AMD 785E chipset can be scaled between 6.4 W and 13 W depending on the system’s needs, making it a strong choice for applications such as portable instrumentation, industrial controls, and automation. For applications that are I/O-intensive or require real-time performance, this new platform operates at less than 20 W TDP and offers the high throughput and low latency of AMD’s Direct Connect Architecture.
But this platform isn’t just about the processing capabilities. When you consider the AMD 785E chipset’s integrated ATI Radeon™ HD 4200 graphics, it’s clear that AMD is offering a top-to-bottom solution that aims at graphics-intensive applications such as digital signage, where manufacturers want to integrate the processing solution into the back of the display and need high-quality and high-performance graphics. For a high-performance application such as this, a 2.2 GHz processor can be paired with the AMD 785E chipset, and the entire solution can still operate within a 40 W envelope. For an extra boost in graphics performance, the 785E also supports enhanced operating modes that allow it to boost the graphics core up to 590 MHz.
The versatility of this platform doesn’t stop there. For applications that demand reliability such as Small Office, Home Office (SOHO) servers and storage applications, it also supports Error Correction Code (ECC) memory, making it a good option for applications like integrated medical appliances, point-of-sale systems, and kiosks that need to operate reliably over long periods of time.
This sounds good, but how does this platform stack up against competitors’ solutions? Pretty darn well. The entire AMD solution’s power envelope is comparable to Intel’s BGA-packaged Core i7 solutions for embedded, both ranging roughly between 20 W and 40 W with the chipset. Although the Core i7 with the QM57 PCH is a two-chip solution, the footprint on the board is a mere 4 percent smaller than the ASB2/785E chipset, at 1,627 mm2 and 1,699 mm2, respectively. And when it comes to board layout, the Intel solution has 414 more balls for you to route, with 2,359 versus 1,945 on the AMD solution. The real difference is the price. Based on the March 28, 2010 Intel Processor Price List, the 1K tray unit price for the LV/ULV Intel Core i7 processors ranged from $278 to $332 for just the processor. In contrast, the small quantity price for the dual-core versions of the second-generation AMD BGA platform solution (including the chipset) is set to roll out between $127 and $196.
So whether you are designing a graphics-intensive integrated digital signage system, an I/O-intensive real-time industrial controller, or a high-reliability SOHO server, the new AMD embedded BGA platform solution will likely be the best choice for overall performance, power efficiency, and bottom-line value.
Cameron Swen is a senior manager of product marketing in AMD’s Embedded Solutions Division. He works with customers and partners to define products and strategies for various embedded markets. Cameron joined AMD in 2003 as manager of technical marketing for AMD’s Innovative Solutions Group. He started his career 17 years ago as an engineer working with embedded computer systems and has held technical marketing positions at National Semiconductor and AMD for the past 10 years. Cameron holds a degree in Engineering from Colorado State University.