This creates new competition in low-end and entry-level desktop and desktop-like devices, a place Intel has (somewhat loosely) fought for with its Bay Trail and BGA products. One of the more appealing features of the new AM1 platform is that the APU is socketed, meaning it is not soldered to the board. As technology iterates, the AM1 systems (as long as the socket remains compatible) can upgrade with it instead of getting kicked to the curb. AMD tends to take the approach of long-life platforms -- just look at AM3+ -- so persistent motherboards with upgraded CPUs are a possibility. Most of the current boards and CPUs in this market are soldered together which makes it impossible to upgrade later.
AMD Kabini Specs
|Cores / Threads||4 / 4||4 / 4||4 / 4||2 / 2||4 / 4||2 / 2|
|GPU||HD 8400||HD 8400||HD 8280||HD 8240||HD 8400||HD 8240|
|TDP||25 W||25 W||25 W||25 W||25 W||25 W|
The CPU included uses the same architecture as found in both the PS4 and the Xbox One. If you are not familiar with Jaguar architecture, check out about midway into our article on the PS4 Specs from last year. The APUs will be utilizing the HD 8000 series of GPUs, said to have 128 shader cores and a base clock ranging from 400 - 600 MHz. The GPU has no dedicated VRAM and will be pulling from system memory instead. Only 4xPCIe 2.0 lanes are present, which will restrict any discrete card use to the low-end due to the more limited bandwidth.
AM1 is currently set up to only utilize memory in single channel, and the APU currently caps capacity at 16GB. Thankfully, the max memory speed is 1600MHz (possibly higher with overclocking) which becomes vital as the GPU will be drawing from this. With that in mind, the boards coming out are already looking towards the future by building for 32GB of RAM, helping ensure the boards remain relevant with new APUs.
Kabini's target competitor is the desktop Bay Trail from Intel. The AM1 platform is theoretically reaching out to a much larger audience by offering compatibility with XP, 32-bit systems, more RAM at higher speeds, and future upgrade options. Bay Trail CPUs are soldered on the board, like most others in this price range, and is effectively a "dead-end platform" in terms of upgrades. The other big difference is power use. Kabini APUs are locked in at 25W vs. the 4-15W found on Bay Trail and Silvermont CPUs that Intel is offering; this makes Bay Trail and Silvermont a bit more appealing for ultra-low TDP systems, but potentially more capped in terms of performance.
If you're wanting to overclock an extreme budget build, which is always fun, you may be in for disappointment. Kabini doesn't come with any Turbo-equivalent technology and they are not supporting CPU overclocking this time around. The AM1 system should support memory overclocking, but that's about the extent of it at this time. Hopefully, future releases for the FS1b socket will allow more play in this area, but it's really not the target of FS1b anyway.
All told, the AM1 should hold its position quite well, especially for a global market that is not into the latest and greatest games or graphics, like Titanfall, but still needs reliable computing power. The target audience for this appears to be mainstream consumers who'd like a living room PC, those running older and slower systems that need a boost for XP, anyone requiring 32-bit system compatibility at a low TDP, or the cheap all-in-one computer market with a focus on productivity over recreation with an expected upgrade down the road. The price range for the APU and board combo is rumored to be around $60, so if you're looking for an uber-budget build for basic computer use (think $250 or less), this is going to be right up your alley. Just be aware that the gaming aspect will be severely limited.
It will be interesting to see what the next release for the AM1 platform will be and if it addresses some of the current limitations - like memory channeling and capacity.
- Scott "Abibiliboop" Griffin.