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AMD rumored to be building a custom SoC for the next iMac

By Scorpus · 16 replies
Oct 20, 2015
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  1. According to the latest rumor, which definitely should be taken with a grain of salt, AMD is currently building a semi-custom SoC for Apple's next-generation iMac that would combine an x86 CPU and a powerful GPU on the one die.

    The CPU component of this SoC would be based on AMD's upcoming Zen architecture, which is expected to be a massive overhaul of their processor technology that brings better performance and superior energy efficiency than their current designs. Zen chips will be manufactured using a 16nm process, so this semi-custom SoC would likely also be a 16nm part.

    It's not completely clear what sort of GPU this semi-custom chip would include, but it looks like it will be similar to what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game consoles include: a GPU more powerful than a typical integrated graphics core, though less powerful than a mid-to-high end discrete graphics card.

    Apple currently uses AMD discrete graphics cores exclusively in their iMacs and high-end MacBooks, so the two companies already have a good working relationship. AMD building a custom x86 SoC for Apple would make sense considering the path they've taken with mobile ARM-based SoCs; it has allowed Apple to have full design control over their chips and hardware.

    The semi-custom SoC for Apple wouldn't be ready until 2017 or 2018, according to the report, but it would be a big change from the Intel CPUs the company has been using for years.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    I won't buy either companies products so the news, if true means nothing to me.
  3. Lemuel Stephens

    Lemuel Stephens TS Rookie

    This is the equivalent of saying "I don't care," but going out of your way to say it. If the news truly meant nothing to you, you would simply go on about your day and ignore this particular story. Instead it appears that you are so narcissistic that you actually believe that we care whether or not the story matters to you. News flash: we don't.
  4. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    Take it any way you like, you don't have to read my comments.
  5. Tekkaraiden

    Tekkaraiden TS Evangelist Posts: 996   +93

    It'll be interesting to see if they (AMD) still exist by 2017-18.
    veLa likes this.
  6. AvalonMD

    AvalonMD TS Enthusiast Posts: 36   +42

    Ah, leave him alone. Some people like to collect things, or play the latest games, and he likes to come here to read all about the new tech toys and gadgets and then inform us all of what he's not going to do. That said, I realise South Africans are a cynical bunch although usually for good reason (I would know as I am South African too), but even I have to admit he takes it a bit far. Oh well, he is right though, you don't have to read his comments.
  7. Jumbotron

    Jumbotron TS Rookie

    This rumor could have legs. Let's review.

    AMD had this to say earlier this year.....

    " Back in December, AMD chief financial officer Devinder Kumar spurred speculation when he said at an analyst conference that AMD had two semi-custom chip designs in the works. “I will say that one is x86 and the other is ARM, and at least one will be beyond gaming, right. … They [the customers] are going to announce it and then … you will find out that it is AMD’s APU that is being used in those products.”

    And today, AMD chief executive Lisa Su said that AMD had won a third semi-custom chip design as well. She said that the promise of these chip designs is that they could yield products that, over their lifetime, could generate a billion dollars in sales. "

    Ok.....so THREE design wins for their custom SoC's. One x86, which is rumored to be going into the next Nintendo game system next year code named NX. The other win is ARM based. Probably a server oriented offering since AMD just announced the other day that they are NOT investing in SoC's for tablets and phones.

    That leaves the THIRD design win mentioned by CEO Lisa Su. Could that be this rumored ZEN Soc ? I think it very well could be. ZEN will NOT be released until LATE 2016.....Q3/Q4. AMD said in a recent conference call that ZEN would NOT be relevant to profits for AMD until 2017. Su mentioned above that these THREE design wins would account for BILLIONS in sales for their life time.

    Well....they won't make that much money on the ARM SoC as ARM based servers are still niche. But....if AMD has a lock on ALL THREE GAMING PLATFORMS.....PS4, Xbox 1 AND the upcoming Nintendo NX PLUS the next gen Apple iMac, then that COULD account for BILLIONS in sales.

    Very interesting. Also....remember this. Apple is ALWAYS looking for not only better performance specs but integrated products that are also power sipping. This allows them to design very skinny and design innovative products. Intel is good at power sipping, but their GPU's suck and they are very expensive from a BOM standpoint. Nvidia does NOT have an x86 license and therefore cannot produce an x86 SoC. That leaves only AMD that can produce an x86 SoC with a performant GPU. And ZEN will be even MORE performant than the current AMD SoC's based on their Piledriver/Excavator core (think Kaveri/Carrizo core).

    Plus Nvidia is not OpenCL friendly at all which is the open source Apple design graphics API that is the competitor to Nvidia's CUDA.

    Very interesting.
  8. mateau

    mateau TS Rookie Posts: 22   +10

    Apple does not have a very large piece of the gaming market. Apple has also just declared that Metal is going to be it's graphic API. Just how similar Metal may be to DX12 or Mantle or Vulkan for that matter is anyone's guess.

    However several things do make sense; AMD's 8 core Jaguar is a great success for Microsoft and Sony consoles using 28nm and is also somewhat slow and a bit dated. If Apple is interested in gaining market share for gaming with SOC then AMD is certainly the ONLY choice as Intel integrated graphics IP is a very poor performer.

    It is also about time to see Microsoft and Sony come back to the table for new SOC as well just to keep ahead of any Nintendo surprise.

    Everything seems to be pointing at Zen for all new console design wins and Apple's possible semi-custom design as well.

    The question remains why choose AMD? That's easy, NVidia does not play well with Intel and Intel has no GPU or IGP for that matter. AMD also has Asynchronous Compute intellectual property in hardware and the best that NVidia can do is a software driver emulation. Asynch compute is also what allows Jaguar to process multi-core graphics for the consoles despite the consoles being more or less DX11 in the case of xbox.

    With Nintendo optimizing for AMD Radeon the gaming studios are lining up behind Radeon.
    FernandoEffting likes this.
  9. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,840   +1,268

    Possibly. Apple are all about shaving margins for suppliers, and AMD are already contracted to basically give away hardware (see FirePro D500 and D700 prices) to Apple.
    Apple would certainly drive a bargain as hard (if not harder) than MS, so a gross margin of $20 or less per unit would suit Apple, and isn't something that fits Intel's business model* - especially for a comparatively low volume seller like the iMac.

    ( Gross margins for the last financial quarter: Intel: 63%, Nvidia: 55%, AMD: 23%)

    As an aside, just one look at that comments section under that WTFtech source article, reaffirms why that site isn't on my preferred reading list. The level of "discussion" is on par with psychotic chimps flinging feces at each other.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
  10. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    Cynical? Me? Surely you jest. ;) Yes I am, but sometimes I do offer praise and never comment on someones comments no matter how stupid I think it is.
  11. tektel

    tektel TS Rookie

    There was a rumor about a very fat Zen based APU with .. 32 cores! A powerfull APU? AMD doesn't do that, not it's style. But in the same months I heard about confirmed semi-customs. Maybe very fat CPU+GPU is some one else´s idea. And then bang! Maybe is for a next Mac pro which already uses a single processor/many cores design plus AMD GPUs. Apple already used slightly customized procs from Intel so.. Is that even possible? AMD and Apple? Today I read this.
    JUGGERNAUTXTR likes this.
  12. Jumbotron

    Jumbotron TS Rookie

    You have to remember. ZEN is NOT just about APU's. ZEN is the new architecture for ALL AMD CPU's both APU's and stand alone CPU's. Yes...there will be ZEN FX CPU's without an embedded GPU. AMD is going to try to capture some of the server and HPC market lost to Intel since the glory days of the early Opterons. So a fat CPU.....sure. But a fat APU is not out of the question. Think of this. Think of a dense server rack with 2U size servers each with 2 fat ZEN APU's, each with 4 CPU cores, 8 Hawaii class GPU cores for GPGPU via OpenCL plus an ARM module for security and encryption OR FPGA/DSP functions. That would be quite compelling particularly from a cost standpoint to anything Intel would provide even with a Skylake Xeon.
  13. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,840   +1,268

    It might have some appeal, but Intel will already be able to pack four Skylake-EX Xeons (112 cores / 224 threads) into a 2U in a pure Xeon environment with AVX 512, six channel memory support, OmniPath, and FPGA support, and that is without Xeon Phi (or Tesla) GPGPU options. At this point in time, AMD not only need a processor exceeding AMD's 40% IPC claims over Excavator (which seemed to be downplayed lately), but a viable platform that takes market share from Intel, and overcome the lack of confidence that OEMs have regarding AMD's record regarding unreleased product claims and production ramps.

    After the nasty taste that Zambesi/Vishera produced that led to HPC companies like Cray dumping AMD, the whole SeaMicro fiasco, and product line slippage (and outright cancellation in SkyBridge's case), I really wouldn't expect AMD to take the enterprise sector by storm. They are bound to increase their market presence - although since they are presently sitting at ~ 1.5% in x86 (and ~ 0.5 - 0.7% overall including ARM/MIPS/SPARC/IBM Power) that should be a given.
  14. CrisisDog

    CrisisDog TS Booster Posts: 145   +38

    I heard rumor a while back that Apple was going to make an ARM based iMac, running iOS. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the chip to run it.
  15. The fact that iMac owners seldom care or know what hardware is in their system means this cpu swap isn't going to change anything aside from the thickness of Apples wallet.
  16. I so happen to like the a10 series from amd, they were the first to pull the x64 bit and I wouldn't be surprised if apple pulled the duel apu stunt either.


    That fat apu is a proposed exascale processor, 2 of them actually, one is a 16 core/ 32 thread, with a Greenland GPU 16g hbm. the other is a 32 core 64 thread with a Greenland GPU, 32G of hbm.
    government grant money for research and development of such devices, only these may actually come to fruition. and they are FAT, these are fullsize gpu and cpu SOC's.

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