By David Bennett
Several years ago, computer chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) saw that consumers? needs for technology were changing. As people relied more heavily on their computers for work and entertainment purposes, AMD realized its technology needed to respond to the evolving way that people interact with computers in our world.
The thought was: why should a computer be powered by two processors ? two brains, if you will ? a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) when it could instead be powered by one processor ? one brain ? that does it all?
Five years ago, AMD?s idea became a reality with the birth of the Accelerated Processing Unit (APU,) that combined a CPU and a GPU on a single chip.
You might be thinking, why does this matter and how does it affect me? Well, combining the CPU and GPU on a single processor produces a faster transfer rate between the two, allowing them to better share tasks.
It?s like having two chefs in the same kitchen rather than two separate kitchens ? they can better communicate together to complete the meal, each one complementing the other?s specialized skillset. This analogy applies to the processor: tasks can be routed and completed more quickly.
In today?s world, the APU type of design is so commonplace that essentially everyone?s computer is powered by one. Not only do APUs power the computers we use every day, they power game consoles in our living rooms, such as the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4, and the computers that run virtually every advanced machine in modern society ? from airplanes to medical imaging equipment to home security systems to server rooms to digital signage and electronic casino games.
That hasn?t always been the case. AMD anticipated the need to harmonize CPU and GPU technologies more than a decade ago and started working on the path to integrate them.
Today?s AMD APUs allow you to stream entertainment, edit photos, complete work tasks and more, all while helping save energy as the APU smartly routes certain tasks to the CPU and certain tasks to the GPU.
One of the major improvements to the APU over the past 5 years has been increasing graphics performance. Today, high-resolution graphics are at the heart of almost every aspect of the computing experience. Think about the frustrating feeling of waiting for a video to buffer or a game to load or how when you scroll through your Facebook feed, videos start playing automatically.
Video content is a huge part of modern entertainment, and the powerful graphics capabilities of the APU support it. Without powerful graphics technology, computers would seem sluggish and inadequate, even for everyday use.
The more we rely on electronics to power our lives, the more important it is to conserve energy, which is another improvement the APU makes possible.
AMD announced a 25×20 Energy Efficiency Initiative in 2014 to accelerate the energy efficiency of the company?s APUs 25x by the year 2020. If AMD reaches the 25×20 goal, then by 2020, it?s feasible to say that computers powered by AMD APUs will be able to accomplish computing tasks in 1/5th the time of today?s computers, while consuming less than 1/5th the power on average. Imagine the serious time and energy savings!
While the history of the APU has primarily related to graphics, it may be said that the future of the APU lies in computing advancements. AMD foresaw this and worked to enable software developers to use the strengths of each processor component to tackle complex tasks and work at a faster pace. This benefits individual users and companies of all natures that are able to work more quickly to solve problems, advance in research, and provide a greater understanding of our world.
It?s important to understand the last five years as we look ahead to the next five. What lies ahead? If the past five years are an indicator, we can look forward to a promising future for computer technology and the potential capabilities the APU may bring to consumers.
The author is the corporate vice president and mega-region vice president of APJ region at AMD