AMD's new FirePro processors include CPUs and GPUs

AMD takes a new direction with the FirePro A300 and A320 chips, which are targeted at professional workstations

Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday launched new FirePro processors that include CPUs and graphics processors, a change from previous FirePro chips that only had graphics processors.

The new FirePro A300 series processors combines CPUs and GPUs, much like AMD's existing A-, C- and E-series processors that go into consumer laptops and desktops. While the consumer chips have Radeon graphics cores, the new processors have FirePro graphics cores and provide the graphics capability typically provided by a discrete graphics card.

The new processors are targeted at media and engineering professionals, AMD said in a statement. It is designed for use in multimedia workstations that are typically used to make special effects for high-definition movies, or for engineering applications such as CAD/CAM.

The AMD FirePro A300 has four CPUs operating at a speed of up to 4GHz, 384 graphics cores operating at a speed of up to 760MHz, and draws 65 watts of power. The FirePro A320 has four 4.2GHz CPUs, 384 800MHz graphics cores, and draws 100 watts.

The new chips offer PC makers the ability to design smaller and more energy efficient workstations that can deliver workstation-class performance, AMD said. The chips could also lower the cost of making a computer as PC makers would not have to acquire separate CPU and GPU components.

The new chips will also provide higher levels of parallel processing performance, where tasks are executed by harnessing the joint power of CPUs and GPUs. Some of the world's fastest computers combine CPUs and GPUs for faster execution of scientific and math applications. GPUs are proven to be faster than CPUs for specialized tasks, though CPUs are needed to offload work to GPUs.

The new chips will also support multiple display outputs and horizontal display resolutions of up to 10,240 by 1,600 pixels, so images can be spread or shared across multiple monitors. The chip's graphics processors will also take on high-definition video processing, freeing up the CPU to focus on other tasks.

AMD's FirePro products compete with Nvidia's Quadro and Tesla product lines, which do not include CPUs. Nvidia's Tegra chips for mobile phones combine ARM processors with GeForce graphics cores, but the company has not yet created a professional-grade offering that combines GPUs and CPUs.

Pricing was not immediately available for AMD's FirePro A chips.

AMD on Tuesday separately announced FirePro W5000 ($599), W7000 ($799), W8000 ($1,599) and W9000 ($3,999) graphics cards, which are targeted at workstations. The cards run at different speeds and offer different levels of performance.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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