First AMD Fusion chip revealed

Falcon processor is almost a 'system on a chip'

The avalanche of AMD announcements continues. The latest is Falcon, the first "Fusion" processor from AMD with CPU and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) capabilities combined in a single CPU die. Contrary to recent rumours, Falcon will indeed be a single-die processor with conventional CPU and graphics processing capabilities combined on the same slice of silicon.

The Falcon processors are slated to appear in 2009. They'll be powered by both AMD's new high performance execution core, known as Bulldozer , and the upcoming Bobcat mobile architecture . Falcon chips designed for desktop and laptop PCs will sport Bulldozer execution cores, while models aimed at handheld devices will be powered by Bobcat.

A fully DirectX-compatible GPU core will also be included in all Falcon processor dies. It'll appear alongside a shared cache memory pool, a shared memory controller and a 16-lane PCI Express controller.

As such, Falcon is just another part of AMD's wider M-SPACE initiative. M-SPACE is essentially a modular approach to CPU architecture. It's designed to allow AMD to specify processors with variable numbers of execution cores and other functional units to meet the needs of a wide range of market segments and applications.

Following up Falcon

However, it's thought the successor to the Falcon family of processors will be more worthy of the evocative "Fusion" moniker. While Falcon sports discrete CPU and GPU cores, future Fusion processors are expected to use a single, "fused" execution core for both types of processing.

For now, AMD says the GPU cores in Falcon chips will include the UVD dedicated video decoding engine from graphics subsidiary ATI . Falcon will therefore be capable of decoding both H.264 and VC-1 video content, as found on Blu-ray and HD DVD disks.

With all that functionality crammed into a single die, Falcon comes awfully close to being a system on a chip. On paper, that should allow extremely compact Falcon-compatible motherboards to be produced.

That's exciting because it promises to enable ultra-compact mobile devices with desktop levels of processing power, including the ability to decode high-definition video. Simpler, smaller motherboards will also translate into even cheaper conventional desktops and laptops.