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AMD expands its G-Series range with pin-compatible SoCs

Feb 24, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 938 views

AMD launched 3rd Gen, dual-core, G-Series SoCs with 6-15W TDPs, DDR4 and 4Kx2K support, and R-Series pin compatibility, plus an entry-level G-Series LX SoC.

The lines between AMD’s Embedded G-Series and its higher end R-Series system-on-chips continue to blur with a new line of 3rd Generation G-Series SoCs that offers pin compatibility with the “Merlin Falcon” R-Series SoC announced last October. AMD’s 3rd Gen “Brown Falcon” (G-Series I) and more power efficient, but less graphics intensive “Prairie Falcon” (G-Series J) SoCs, each offer up to two of the same “Excavator” x86 CPU cores that debuted on Merlin Falcon. Only the “Brown Falcon” I chips are BIOS compatible with Merlin Falcon, however.

3rd Gen and LX G-Series SoCs in relation to other recent AMD processors
(click image to enlarge)

AMD also launched a new, low-end G-Series LX SoC that is pin compatible with 2nd-gen G-Series SoCs, but not the 3rd-gen G-Series chips. The LX has two of the older Jaguar cores found on the previous dual/quad-core “Steppe Eagle” and quad-core, GPU-less “Crowned Eagle” G-Series SoCs, as well as a 6 to 15W TDP range (see farther below). While the first 3rd Gen SoCs are available now, the LX will ship in March.

Thanks to the Excavator CPUs, which are modified, more power-efficient versions of the cores found on AMD’s higher end, desktop-targeted 6th Generation “Carrizo” A-Series SoCs, “Merlin Falcon” is claimed to be 25 percent faster than last year’s 2nd Generation Bald Eagle R-Series APUs, AMD said in October. “Merlin Falcon,” which was the first SoC model in the R-Series line, is also 35 percent smaller.

While the Merlin Falcon R-Series chips bottom out with 12-Watt TDPs, the TDPs on the 3rd Gen G-Series range from 6 to 15W. This compares to a 6-25W TDP range for the previous generation, Jaguar based “Steppe Eagle” and “Crowned Eagle” G-Series SoCs. Yet, the clock rates for CPU and GPU are considerably higher on these 3rd Gen models.

Block diagrams for 3rd Gen “Brown Falcon” I (left) and “Prairie Falcon” J
(click images to enlarge)

The “Brown Falcon” (G-Series I) and “Prairie Falcon” (G-Series J) differ primarily in TDP, clock rate, and the number of AMD Radeon graphics cores, but there are other differences as well. Interestingly, the “Brown Falcon” I G-Series chips have better graphics, but slower CPUs, while the “Prairie Falcon” I chips are the reverse.

The “Brown Falcon” I’s Excavator CPUs top out at 1.7GHz, or 2.0GHz in burst mode, and offer up to four Radeon R6E GPU cores clocked at up to 758MHz. The “Prairie Falcon” J CPUs advance to 2.4GHz/2.8GHz, but have only two Radeon R5E GPU cores clocked to a lower 600MHz or 686MHz, depending on the model. The multimedia-friendly “Brown Falcon” I ranges from 12 to 15W TDP while the more embedded-focused “Prairie Falcon” J goes from 6 to 15W TDP. By comparison, the dual-core, 6W TDP GX-212JC Steppe Eagle SoC topped out at 1.2GHz CPU and 399MHz GPU frequencies.

3rd Gen “Brown Falcon” I model comparison
(click image to enlarge)

Note that the spec tables shown here are incomplete. The “Brown Falcon” chart lists almost no information on the NPU and iTemp versons, only the GX-217GI model. (All the models are listed with 0 to 90°C support except for the I family iTemp version, which will presumably have a wider range.)

3rd Gen “Prairie Falcon” J model comparison
(click image to enlarge)

The “Prairie Falcon” J shows two unnamed models, one with 2.4GHz/2.8GHz CPUs, 686MHz graphics, and 10-15W TDP, and the other with 1.8/2.2GHz CPUs, 600MHz graphics, and 8-10W TDP. The announcement, however, notes a TDP range of 6-15W TDP in general, so the third unnamed J model is likely the 6W version.

The 3rd Gen G-Series I and J SoCs each have 1MB of shared L2 cache, and support faster DDR4 RAM, in addition to DDR3. The I family tops out at 1600MHz RAM, while the J family jumps up to 1866MHz. Both support up to two channels of 64-bit RAM, but only the I family supports ECC.

Both the I and J chips provide 4K x 2K H.265 decode with multi format encode and decode. The more graphics-intensive I chips are listed with further detail, including the presence of a UVD v6 Unified Video Decode Engine (H.265 and H.264 decode) and a VCE v3.1 Video Compression Engine (H.264 encode). The J family apparently lacks these features, and is said to offer 10-bit compatibility. DirectX 12 support is provided on both.

Additional common features across both the 3rd Gen G-Series I (“Brown Falcon”) and J (“Prairie Falcon”) SoCs include:

  • Flexible scalability across AMD FP4 class offerings, including package footprint and software compatibility with R-Series and G-Series
  • 1.0-compliant Heterogeneous System Architecture
  • AMD Secure Processor
  • 10-year longevity
  • Support for up to 2x displays via HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, and Embedded DisplayPort 1.4
  • High performance, integrated Controller Hub supporting:
    • PCIe Gen 3 1×4, PCIe Gen2/3 4×1
    • 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
    • 2x SATA 2.0/3.0

Early support for the 3rd Gen G-Series SoCs comes from Mentor Graphics and Congatec, each of which is starting with “Brown Falcon” I support. Mentor, which has for several years been the AMD’s go-to development software partner for G- and R-Series chips, will support “Brown Falcon” I chips with its Yocto Project 2.0 derived Mentor Embedded Linux (MEL) distribution. Customers can start by downloading the free Mentor Embedded Linux Lite and CodeBench Lite tools, and then step up to the commercial MEL version.


Congatec is recasting its Linux-ready Conga-TR3 COM Express Type 6 Basic module for “Brown Falcon.” Announced in October, the initial version was equipped with the “Merlin Falcon” R-Series SoC.

The new COM is identical except for the updated chips support. The module supports 4GB to 32GB of DDR4 with optional ECC, and offers a GbE controller. I/O includes, but is not limited to dual DisplayPort/HDMI/eDP, LVDS, dual SATA, eight USB (4x 3.0), and three PCIe 2.0 interfaces.

Conga-TR3 block diagram (“Merlin Falcon” version)
(click image to enlarge)

Compared to COM Express modules based on the previous generation of G-Series SoCs, the Conga-TR3 with a dual-core GX-217GI “Brown Falcon” processor provides up to 30 percent more graphics performance and 15 percent more overall system performance, claims Congatec. Here, the company appears to be referring to the circa-2013 Conga-TCG COM Express Type 6 module.

G-Series LX

The G-Series LX may prove to be the last of the 2nd Gen, Jaguar-based G-Series models. This low-power, 6 to 15W TDP SoC uses the same FT3b socket as the Steppe Eagle generation. The chips are pin-compatible with FT3 class offerings including G-Series Steppe Eagle and eKabini SoCs. Applications for this 10-year longevity chip are said to include retail point-of-sale, digital signage, arcade gaming, and industrial control.

G-Series LX block diagram (left) and model comparison
(click images to enlarge)

The G-Series LX family spans four models, as shown above, each with dual-core Jaguar cores clocked from 800MHz to 1.8GHz depending on the model. The single-core Radeon R1E graphics range from 267MHz to 497MHz. As you can see, the lowest-powered GX-208JL model is said to dip below 6W.

All four LX SoCs have 1MB shared L2 cache and an AMD Secure Processor, and support single-channel DDR3-1333MHz or 1600MHz RAM, with ECC support. Other common features include dual display support via HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, and eDP 1.4. The chip support DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, and OpenCLTM 1.2. Supported peripherals include PCIe Gen 2.0 4×1, 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, and dual SATA 2.0/3.0 ports.

Further information

The first 3rd Generation AMD Embedded G-Series SoCs are available now with additional offerings planned in the first and second quarter of this year. The first AMD Embedded G-Series LX products are expected to be available in March. More information may be found in the 3rd Gen and LX G-Series announcement, as well as AMD’s updated G-Series product page.

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