AMD's string of tablet failures may end with Mullins chip

AMD releases a new tablet chip called Mullins and a laptop chip called Beema, which are based on the Puma+ architecture

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

Advanced Micro Devices hopes its latest Mullins tablet processor will find acceptance after three failed predecessors and a handful of unsuccessful devices.

AMD's three new Mullins chips -- identified by the Micro suffix, such as A10 Micro-6700T-- are targeted at low-power laptops and detachable screen models. AMD also announced new laptop chips code-named Beema on Tuesday.

Tablets will be faster, have better graphics and deliver longer battery life with Mullins, AMD said. AMD is boasting two times better graphics and performance-per-watt compared to its predecessor. Power consumption has been slashed to 4.5 watts and less, while older tablet chips consumed no less than 8 watts.

Beema, like Mullins, is based on the Puma+ microarchitecture, which is an improved version of the Jaguar core. Beema consumes a maximum of 15 watts of power, which is 10 watts less than its predecessor. The chip boasts incremental CPU performance and graphics improvements.

AMD has said that tablets, laptops and hybrids based on the new chips will start shipping during the second half of this year.

Mullins is critical for AMD's attempts to stay afloat in the challenging tablet market dominated by ARM. The previous chip, called Temash, is not in any tablet today, and its predecessors, the Hondo and Z-01 tablet chips, were failures after appearing in only a handful of unsuccessful devices.

AMD rival Intel had success with the Bay Trail chip and older Atom chips in tablets, which totaled 5 million in shipments during the first quarter this year. AMD's new chips can outperform Bay Trail, and even some of Intel's Core processors code-named Haswell used in tablets, said Kevin Lensing, senior director of mobility solutions at AMD.

Intel is projecting tablet chip shipments of 40 million by the end of this year, and is providing subsidies to tablet makers for using its x86 chips. AMD can't afford to sell low-cost tablets as it can't fight Intel on margins, and has said it is willing to forgo low-end unit shipments in favor of profit margins.

Mullins will go in Windows tablets and hybrids, but not in models under US$200, Lensing said.

In comparison, tablets based on ARM and Intel's x86 Atom processors start at under $100. Tablets with Mullins could be priced under $300 in some cases, but the goal is to provide performance tablets with strong graphics capabilities, he said.

No battery life estimates for devices running on the Mullins and Beema chips were provided by AMD. Lensing said the battery life could vary depending on the screen size and other features in laptops and tablets.

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