AMD Unveils Low-Power G-Series Embedded Chip

AMD is rounding out its G-Series portfolio of systems on a chip for the embedded industry, which is a key growth area for the company.

Advanced Micro Devices is rolling out another low-power chip aimed at the embedded market, the latest move by the company to expand the reach of its embedded and semi-custom efforts and reduce its reliance on the shrinking traditional PC market.

The new GX-210JA, announced July 30, is the latest addition to the line of low-power embedded G-Series systems on a chip (SoCs) that AMD introduced in April. It's also the most energy efficient, with a top thermal design power (TDP) of 6 watts, with the expected average power of about 3 watts, according to Arun Iyengar, vice president and general manager of AMD's Embedded Systems unit.

The new dual-core SoC fills out AMD's lineup of G-Series low-power embedded chips, which includes six other offerings that offer two or four processing cores and TDP numbers that range from 9 to 25 watts. The G-Series complements AMD's higher power R-Series embedded chips, which the company introduced last year.

The embedded and semi-custom chip businesses are a key part of the company's turnaround effort spearheaded by CEO Rory Read and other top executives. Read earlier this month said the company is on track to hit its goal of having the embedded and semi-custom businesses account for 20 percent of the company's revenues by the end of the year. Overall, the executives are expecting that all the new growth areas—which also include dense servers and ultramobile client devices—will make up 40 to 50 percent of AMD's business within the next two to three years.

Iyengar told eWEEK that OEM and end-user response to AMD's new G-Series embedded SoCs has been strong, and that he expects the uptick in business to continue. The company's key challenge is that while AMD has been in the embedded chip business for three decades, some customers continue to ask if it is committed to that part of the industry.

"We're definitely in [the] embedded [space]," Iyengar said. "We just have to make sure that message gets across to a lot of customers."

Having a full lineup of R- and G-Series products will help do just that, he said.

The goal with the new GX-210JA SoC was to give the industry a very low power offering that comes in below the GX-210HA, which has a TDP of 9 watts, Iyengar said. To get there, AMD left the CPU alone but dropped the speed of the graphics core from 300MHz to 225MHz, and reduced the display capabilities to 1080p. With the I/O, the GX-210JA leverages USB 2.0 rather than USB 3.0, and there are a number of other tweaks that AMD has made.

Like the other G-Series SoCs, the GX-210JA is built on the company's 28-nanometer process, and offers AMD's "Jaguar" CPU cores. It is aimed at new fanless designs that can process content-rich multimedia and traditional workloads, such as industrial controls and automation, digital gaming, communications infrastructure and visual embedded products, like thin clients, digital signage and medical imaging.

There is a tremendous opportunity in the embedded market, which now stands at about $10 billion but should double within the next four to five years, driven by such spaces as cloud, factory automation, casino gaming and communications infrastructure, according to Iyengar. And while some of that will go to chips based on the ARM architecture, x86 will continue to be the dominant platform, he said.

Starting next year AMD will begin offering server chips based on ARM's architecture, with the aim of offering OEMs and end users a choice of systems powered by either ARM or x86.