AMD’s Dual Graphics & Radeon RAMDisk
AMD’s Dual Graphics
Back when Llano was first launched, consumers were introduced to AMD’s Dual Graphics technology which allowed the graphics processor within an APU to be paired up with a discrete add-in card for increased performance. This hybrid setup used the lower end Turks, Caicos and Cedar-based discrete cores which were siblings with Llano’s HD 6000D-series cores. This unique Dual Graphics technology has been carried over into the Trinity generation but in a slightly different way and is bound to be confusing for some end users.
The HD 7000-series graphics processor at the heart of all Trinity APUs uses the VLIW4 architecture found in HD 6000 discrete cards. As such, the new APUs can only be paired up with HD 6600, HD 6500 and HD 6400 cards (all of which also use updated VLIW4 shader execution units) and the performance benefits should be more than apparent. We should also mention that none of these lower end discrete cards have been replaced with updated HD 7000-series other than within the OEM market. This means they’re all still readily available within the retail channel.
With this generation of Dual Graphics, AMD is once again pushing the price / performance ratio for low cost, entry level systems. We call this “entry level with some GPU balls” since pairing up an A10 APU with a simple sub-$100 discrete part can grant playable framerates at 1080P in today’s newest titles, even with higher detail settings enabled. Naturally, the benefits will only be realized if AMD has pushed out Crossfire profiles for newer titles but with their new APP system in place and additional Gaming Evolved wins, we should see continual improvement in this field.
Like the previous APU generation, there are some telltale roadblocks here. While pairing up a HD 6670 with an A10-series APU could dramatically improve performance, it does represent a bit of a dead end since Dual Graphics won’t work with higher performing graphics cards. Should this solution prove inadequate for upcoming titles, upgrade options will be limited to more expensive GPUs since the cumulative effect of IGP + discrete effectively stops at the HD 6600-series for the time being. Nonetheless, we happen to love the possibilities Dual Graphics technology opens up and we will be looking at it more closely in the coming weeks.
AMD Introduces Radeon RAMDisk
In the SSD arena, application caching is becoming all the rage these days. With caching enabled, a simple, inexpensive 30GB or 60GB SSD can be paired up with a large capacity HDD to offer lightning quick application load times for a fraction of a 250GB SSD’s cost. The caching setup does this by storing your system’s most-used boot files on the SSD in order to take advantage of its higher performance. AMD is now porting a version of this technology onto the Virgo platform and they call it Radeon RAMDisk.
Radeon RAMDisk operates much like SSD caching but instead of using an SSD, it dedicates a portion of the system memory towards caching operations and treats this segmented area as a discrete “drive”. All AMD has to do is provide the necessary software (which isn’t yet available) to make this vision a reality on their systems.
Due to its rapidly accessible nature, RAM has always an excellent candidate for memory-based application acceleration but in the past, prices held back widespread adoption of large memory allotments within systems. Fast forwarding to the present day, we see a market that offers 32GB of DDR3-1600MHz memory for under $175, making RAM drives a possibility. Over the next year, densities will continue to increase and 64GB quad channel kits should become more readily available and with Trinity’s support of high density ICs, platform support won’t be a problem.
For larger memory configurations that can sacrifice some capacity for caching abilities, AMD’s RAMDisk will drastically improve system responsiveness. However, with the current 32GB memory kits, RAMDisk will always have to strive for a delicate balance between load time acceleration and available system resources. In most cases it should dedicate about 8GB to general memory tasks while the remaining 24GB will go towards application loading. As a result only a limited number of program files will be cached at any one time. We hope to test this feature once AMD makes the software available.
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