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Retouched image of AMD Hawk Point

AMD Hawk Point and Phoenix 2 Deliver Value to Mainstream PC Users


Desktop and laptop PCs incorporating AMD’s Phoenix 2 and Hawk Point processors will soon be available. In desktop guise, they form the Ryzen 8000G series. The two designs follow last year’s Ryzen 8040 (Phoenix) APU (AMD’s name for CPU-GPU combination processors). To cut cost, Phoenix 2 mixes Zen 4 and Zen 4c CPUs, and it has a smaller GPU and no NPU, shrinking the die 23%. Hawk Point’s big selling point over Phoenix is its greater raw AI performance, which climbs from 10 TOPS to 16 TOPS.

AMD Hawk Point and Phoenix 2 Notables

  • Preannouncing Hawk Point at the MI300 launch, AMD sought to upstage Intel’s Meteor Lake (Core Ultra) launch. Hawk offers more raw AI performance than Meteor, Intel’s first PC processor with a big NPU.
  • Although AI acceleration is the hot new Windows PC feature of 2024, demand for the capability is at best latent. AMD, thus, can easily justify dropping the feature from the cost-reduced Phoenix 2.
  • AMD’s Zen 4 plus Zen 4c approach to building a heterogeneous multicore processor balances performance and cost.
    • The faster Zen 4 cores can run an application’s one or two main threads, which tend to be performance sensitive, while the Zen 4c cores run the other threads.
    • In multitasking cases, often only a few processes are ready to run in any instant. The OS can schedule these for the faster CPUs, employing the Zen 4c ones in the less frequent case of many processes being ready.
    • For less performance-sensitive users, Phoenix 2 should deliver an experience similar to a heterogeneous Zen 4 processor.
  • Despite the new code name and 8000-series product number, Hawk may be the same die as Phoenix and the performance gain could come from simply clocking the NPU faster. Although AMD isn’t being transparent, it doesn’t bill Hawk as a next-generation chip, either.
  • By adding a GPU to the CPU, an APU (also called an IGP) reduces system cost by obviating a discrete graphics card. Hawk (and Phoenix 1) raises graphics performance enough to run popular games at playable frame rates, albeit at less-than-maximum resolution and graphics settings.

Competition

  • Intel is the only relevant competitor for now, although Apple silicon provides a reference point and Arm-based Windows processors are in the offing.
  • AMD’s main advantage is cost. A monolithic design, Hawk Point should cost less to make than Meteor Lake. The two designs have similar performance and power. AMD, the smaller x86 supplier, puts Intel’s share at risk by building a similar product at a lower cost.
  • Hawk Point’s advantage in raw AI performance also puts Intel in an awkward position as it promotes AI as a reason for end customers to upgrade their systems. AMD can ride its competitor’s coattails, letting Intel build AI PC awareness and then swooping in to convince educated customers Hawk is better.
  • Intel doesn’t offer a current-generation design comparable to Phoenix 2, opening the door to AMD to capture wins at the low end and foisting responsibility to fend off Arm challengers attacking x86 on cost.
  • Hawk’s graphics performance obviates the graphics card in a greater swath of designs than previous APUs, reducing Nvidia’s opportunities.

Customers

Although Hawk Point and Phoenix 2 are only variations on the generational APU advancement Phoenix made last year, they deliver clear benefits. Compared with Phoenix and Intel’s offerings, Hawk raises AI performance and Phoenix 2 reduces cost. OEMs should make room in their lineups for systems based on these new AMD chips.

AMD Hawk Point and Phoenix 2 Bottom Line

AMD’s PC-processor business is executing well. Phoenix 2 is its first heterogeneous-CPU processor and Hawk Point sets a new high-water mark for NPU performance in an x86 chip. These aren’t stunning next-gen processors but variations of last year’s Phoenix APU that have distinct selling points for mainstream users: fastest-in-class AI acceleration, good graphics performance without a discrete GPU’s added cost, and low per-chip cost.


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