AMD's next desktop chip lands in January, merges CPU and GPU like never before

We've been waiting a long time for the AMD chip known as Kaveri, but at least now we have a date for its availability: January 14th. We also know that the flagship desktop part for FM2+ socket motherboards will be called the A10-7850K, that it'll use four Steamroller CPU cores clocked at 3.7GHz, and that it'll incorporate the same TrueSound audio processing technology found on AMD's latest Radeon graphics cards. What we don't know for sure is how much this A10 chip will cost, or whether it'll arrive first as a standalone part or in pre-built systems. But either way, we're about discover something important: namely, whether the next-gen "Heterogeneous Systems Architecture" (HSA) that AMD has been boasting about, and which is supported for the first time on Kaveri, is actually worth its syllables. Read on for more.

In a nutshell, HSA is an open standard that will allow different processors inside a system (such as the CPU and GPU, but also DSPs and others) to work together to speed up compute tasks -- something that has been possible for a long time with GPU compute, but which has so far been limited in scope and has also been relatively tricky to code for. As a chip that not only puts the CPU and GPU on the same chunk of silicon but also lets them talk to each other in new, HSA-enabled ways, Kaveri should make it easier for software developers to harness the graphics processor for a bigger range of tasks, and possibly reduce the degree to which AMD lags behind Intel in terms of raw compute.

Furthermore, since Kaveri's graphics processor is built on AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture, it'll be compatible with the new Mantle API that makes it easier for developers to port next-gen console games to PCs while retaining their deep-level optimization for AMD. If the marketing promise holds true, this could deliver surprising lifts in gaming performance even on relatively low-powered APUs running without a discrete graphics card. It follows that the first thing we'll need to do when our Kaveri test unit arrives is run some Battlefield 4 on it, with the game's Mantle update, to find out for sure if AMD is able to banish any of our old (but persistent) assumptions about integrated graphics.