AMD Rolls Out Low-Power Mobile Chips for Tablets, Ultrathin Notebooks

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-05-23

AMD Rolls Out Low-Power Mobile Chips for Tablets, Ultrathin Notebooks

Advanced Micro Devices officials are looking to new lines of chips to help the company regain its footing in a compute environment that is increasingly shifting to mobile devices.

AMD is unveiling new accelerated processing units (APUs) that are aimed at tablets, low-power, ultrathin notebooks and hybrid devices that can be used as either laptops or tablets, systems that are becoming the norm for both business users and consumers, according to company officials.

In a briefing with journalists and analysts before the official launch of the chips May 23, Scott Shutter, senior product marketing manager for AMD's client notebook business, talked about an "explosion of form factors and devices" that will continue for at least the next couple of years. Users are less interested in thick notebooks with big applications and big screens, Shutter said. Instead, they're looking for thin and light mobile devices that come with smaller screens, high-resolution displays and lighter apps.

The shift away from traditional PCs to these smaller, more energy-efficient devices has had a significant impact on the tech industry and established vendors, including AMD, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Microsoft. These vendors are the stalwarts of a mainstream global PC market that is seeing sales continuing to fall off, while tablets and smartphones powered by ARM-based systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), running Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems, and made by the likes of Samsung and Apple are surging.

AMD and Intel both are looking to drive up the performance and power efficiency of their x86-based chips to make them more attractive to low-power device makers. Such low-power, ultramobile devices are a key target area for AMD executives looking to bring the company back to profitability.

For months, they have been pointing to the upcoming "Temash," "Kabini" and "Richland" APUs that are based on the new "Jaguar" core as products that will help AMD become a bigger player in the low-power and ultramobile device space. Now, the company has officially announced them.

AMD is aiming the dual- and quad-core A4 and A6 Elite Mobility APUs—the Temash chips—at smaller form factors, including touch-enabled tablets, hybrid devices and notebooks that have screens smaller than 13 inches. Shutter said the 28-nanometer chips feature significantly enhanced graphics that offer a 100 percent improvement over current APUs and up to 212 percent better graphics performance per watt. In addition, AMD has driven down the power consumption to as low as 4 watts, bringing with the chips CPU performance-per-watt improvements of up to 172 percent.

"It is literally the best graphics on the planet" for these kinds of devices, he said.

The mainstream Kabini SoCs are for entry-level and small-form-factor, touch-enabled ultrathin notebooks, and come with either two or four cores and AMD's Graphics Core Next Radeon HD 8000 Series graphics. The chips offer up to 132 percent better visual performance per watt and 127 percent improved productivity performance per watt over current AMD offerings, Shutter said. They also bring 25 percent better power efficiency.

"Let's face it, ultrathin is the new normal," he said.


AMD Rolls Out Low-Power Mobile Chips for Tablets, Ultrathin Notebooks

The Elite Performance APUs—Richland—are for premium ultrathin notebooks, featuring the best graphics and compute performance, according to Shutter. That includes up to 12 percent better productivity performance and 20 to 40 percent better visual performance over their predecessors.

In addition, the gaming performance of the APUs is 39 to 72 percent better.

AMD is positioning the new APUs against current Core and Atom chips being offered by Intel, though the larger chip maker is readying new Atom releases later this year based on its upcoming "Silvermont" microarchitecture, which Intel officials have said will bring significant performance and power consumption improvements. Next month, Intel also will release the first of its new Core "Haswell" chips, which also will offer better energy efficiency and graphics.

In response to a question, Shutter said AMD did not have any of the upcoming Intel chips for comparison purposes, but said that he didn't expect Intel's offerings to be able to outdo AMD's in graphics performance or battery life.

All of AMD's new chips will come with what officials are calling "mobile APU user experiences," features designed to make using these devices easier and more enjoyable. Among the features are AMD Gesture Control for controlling basic functions using hand gestures, Face Login for using facial-recognition technology to sign onto Windows and browser-based sites, and Screen Mirror for wirelessly sharing content on support TVs or displays. There also is Dock Port, which enables users to leverage up to four external monitors and sync to other devices via a single connection.

In addition, AllDay Power offers greater battery life and Start Now brings faster boot-up.

The new chips will be optimized for Microsoft's Windows 8 OS—including the upcoming Windows 8.1 "Blue"—but an AMD official in an interview with PCWorld left open the possibility of AMD chips eventually powering tablets running Android.

In a response to a question during the press conference, Shutter said he expected the new capabilities in the AMD chips will help Microsoft gain traction in the mobile device space with Windows 8, but said that the software giant will "have to be more aggressive against Google and iOS" with more features and better pricing.


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