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Introducing AMD’s Radeon 7000M and NVIDIA’s GeForce 600M Mobile GPUs

Posted by DJ aka GDR DJ, 07 December 2011 · 2,103 views

Introducing AMD’s Radeon Mobility 7400M, 7500M, and 7600M

Traditionally AMD and NVIDIA have launched their new series of graphics products at the high end and worked their way down. This means launching products like Cypress (Radeon HD 5800 series) and GF100 (GeForce 470/480) first, and following it up with smaller products like Redwood (Radeon HD 5600 series) and GF106 (GeForce 450) later. This owes to the fact that high-end GPUs are the flag bearers of a generation, with new architectures being built on these large chips first before lesser products are derived from them. As a consequence of building the biggest chips first, new architectures have always launched on the desktop first and have come to the mobile space later once the lesser derivatives were ready.

Today, AMD will be launching their first Radeon HD 7000 series products, and in a significant deviation from normal, they're starting on the mobile side first. We've had some indication that this would happen, AMD chose to demo the mobile version of their 28nm GPU instead of the desktop version back in September so this Confirms AMD's intentions. However the 7000M series launching today is not quite what we had in mind

We expected Southern Iceland products based on TSMC's 28nm HKMG new process, but the fact of the matter is that TSMC's 28nm HKMG process is running late, yields and production capacity just are not good enough for the production of high volume retail products for 2011. We may yet see some kind of 28nm product before the year is out so that AMD meets their stated commitment, but a complete 28nm launch in 2011, is off the table. However, AMD is concerned they need to launch new mobile products at the end of this year they have new GPUs Whether or not, meaning they need to make do with what they already have.

As a consequence we're facing another situation rebadging: the 7000M series launching today is based on AMD's Turks and Caicos GPUs, the same GPUs that make up part of the 6000M series. Thus AMD may technically be launching the 7000 series today, but it's the 7000 series in name only. The launch of the Southern Islands 28nm architecture will happen soon enough, but it will not be happening today. Ignore the product number-if you wanted to see new GPUs from AMD [cue Obi-Wan], these are not the GPU you're looking for.

Naming shenanigans aside, the Particularly rustrating part of all of this is that what was already a two architecture series just became a three series architecture. At the high end we will of course see Core Graphics Next, AMD's next-generation architecture intended to move the company away from VLIW. Meanwhile for integrated GPUs, AMD's Trinity will be using a VLIW4 design derived from AMD's 6900 series Cayman GPU, and at the same time it stands to reason that at least some of AMD's 7000 series will be VLIW4 in order to have something to crossfire with Trinity. However, with the latest addition of Turks and Caicos on the 7000M, VLIW5 just got thrown into the mix and any kind of consistency just went out the window.

The one silver lining here is that even with the architecture differences, AMD's architecture is architecture VLIW5 still a state. Compute performance is lacking compared to the latest and greatest, but from a graphics perspective GCN, VLIW4, and VLIW5 are all Direct3D 11 + designs. The launch of Direct3D 11.1 will shake this up later next year-Particularly if GCN is a D3D 11.1-design but thankfully there will not be a huge feature gap like we've seen in the past with other rebadging efforts. The graphics feature set will be mostly not even consistent, if the underlying architectures are.

With the above discussion out of the way, let's hit the actual feature and spec sheets for the 7000M parts launching today. We're including some information from the existing 6000M lineup as a reference point, and because we do not have specifics on the actual models that are launching. If the past is anything to go by, we'd expect two or three models (maybe even four) in each series (eg the 6430M, 6450M, 6470M, and 6490M are all part of the lineup 6400m).

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Unfortunately, the details for the new 7000M parts are lacking right now—all we have to go on is the general configuration. We would assume the newer 7000M parts will have slightly higher clocks than the 6000M parts they’re replacing, but we really can’t say much more than that. All the current 7000M parts have the ability to support DDR3 or GDDR5 memory, and we expect to see higher-end models with GDDR5 and more budget friendly offerings with DDR3.
The most interesting (and not necessarily in a good way) series is the 7500M, which looks to straddle the ground between the entry-level 7400M and the more capable 7600M. It combines the 480 core GPU of the 7600M with the 64-bit memory interface of the 7400M. The goal is to bring prices down on mainstream hardware, but unless pricing is significantly lower the loss of memory bandwidth is going to hurt. Of course, the GDDR5 equipped models can provide the same bandwidth over a 64-bit bus as a DDR3 model with a 128-bit bus, but we’ll have to wait and see what laptops actually ship with the GPUs and how much they cost before we can come to any firm conclusions.
And that sums it up. AMD is launching 7000M GPUs today at the entry-level and midrange segments, but it’s only a rebadging of existing 6000M GPUs. We assume there will be some increased core clocks on the higher end SKUs, but overall there’s no significant change to the performance on tap.

NVIDIA’s GeForce 600M Parts

We just covered the AMD side of things, but yesterday NVIDIA quietly refreshed their entry-level and midrange mobile GPUs in a similar manner. We weren’t briefed on the updates, most likely because there’s not much to say. Like AMD there are three "new" 600M parts. Here’s the overview of what NVIDIA is offering, with the previous generation equivalents listed for reference.

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NVIDIA has the specifications up for their parts 600M, and it appears that they'll be doing a straight rebadge without changing the clock speeds from the 500M-equivalents in fact, they'll even keep the craziness that is the GT 555M. The only difference we could find is that GT 635M GDDR5 variants may have slightly more memory bandwidth (or more likely is that the spec page just does not adequately describe the bipolar nature of the product). What they want to be changing is the apparent positioning of the products. The GT 630M and 610M drop 10 points from the model number, while the GT 635M drops 20 points, that appears to leave room for future GT 640M/650M parts, nothing has been announced yet though as. We also do not have information on pricing, but there's a Possibility that with the drop in the model number so prices will be lower.

Like the AMD launch 7000M, GeForce 600M looks to be more about marketing and product positioning than anything. Mobile GPUs are about a generation behind their desktop counterparts, so with the renaming both AMD and NVIDIA are paving the way for new high-end GPUs to replace the current HD 6990M GTX and 580M. Thus, when we see the desktop HD 7970 and GTX 680 (or whatever they end up being named), we'll should also see HD 7970M GTX and 680M. If recent history holds, those will end up being mobile variants of HD 7700 and GTX 660 (whatever those entail).