AMD aims for 25-fold boost in chip energy efficiency by 2020

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AMD has set an ambitious goal for the next six years: By 2020, the chipmaker wants its Accelerated Processing Units to become 25 times more power-efficient.

By comparison, the energy efficiency of AMD chips only increased tenfold over the last six years. AMD says it wants to refocus on power consumption given that personal computers now consume one percent of the world's energy worldwide, and servers consume another 1.5 percent.

The crazy part is that AMD thinks it can outpace Moore's Law, which states that a given area can pack in twice as many transistors—and therefore double computing power or efficiency—every two years. Although AMD has warned in the past that Moore's Law will slow down, the company now claims it can break ahead of the efficiency curve by at least 70 percent over the next six years.

The key, as AMD has explained before, lies in heterogeneous system architecture enabled by AMD's APUs. In these chips, the CPU and GPU sit on the same die, and in the latest chips can also share the same memory pool. This allows AMD to more efficiently shift some of the workload over to the graphics processor, while also improving performance. Cutting down the communication needed between CPU and APU will also help energy efficiency, the company says. AMD is touting other advances as well, such as intelligent power management that maximizes the amount of time spent in idle mode.

AMD's newfound focus on efficiency isn't a surprise given the rise of mobile computing, powered largely by ARM-based architectures. While rival Intel has been working hard to address this market, with low-power chips for smartphones and tablets, and more efficient Core processors for hybrid devices, AMD has been largely left out. If AMD can make good on its promises, the next six years should prove interesting as the lines continue to blur between mobile devices and traditional PCs.

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