Report: AMD to introduce ARM-based tablet chip this year


— 9:23 AM on October 4, 2013

AMD announced last year that it would build processors based on ARM CPU technology. One of those chips popped up on a server roadmap in June, and it was followed by an embedded solution last month. Now, Sweclockers claims a consumer-focused tablet SoC is also in the works. The site's sources say the ARMv8-based chip will combine Cortex-A57 and A53 CPU cores with integrated graphics derived from the GCN architecture that powers the Radeon HD 7000 series.

The Cortex-A57 has a multi-issue pipeline that supports out-of-order execution, while the A53 is a simpler in-order design with lower power consumption. The two fit into ARM's big.LITTLE strategy, which combines high-performance and low-power cores to deliver the best of both worlds. AMD isn't developing its own ARM-compatible core, so it makes sense for the company to stick to the standard playbook.

Sweclockers doesn't offer more specifics on the chip, which will reportedly be announced in Q4 and launch some time next year. Unfortunately, the few details we have on AMD's server-focused ARM products provide little additional insight. The "Hierofalcon" processor on AMD's embedded roadmap will have up to eight ARM Cortex-A57 cores along with 10Gb Ethernet and PCI Express 3.0. That 64-bit chip will be joined by a "Seattle" server product with up to 16 Cortex-A57 cores and clock speeds as high as 2GHz.

The first Seattle iteration will be an eight-core chip, but it seems likely AMD will use fewer cores—or at least fewer "big" A57 cores—in a tablet-oriented SoC. We could see an eight-core chip split evenly between A57 and A53 cores. Samsung already has a big.LITTLE Exynos 5 Octa SoC with four Cortex-A15 and four A7 cores. Given the presence of PCIe 3.0 in Hierofalcon, I wonder if that interface will be used to connect the integrated graphics.

AMD has historically had a hard time getting its low-power chips into tablets. The old Brazos-based Hondo APU barely barely made it into any slates, and the newer Temash and Kabini chips don't have many design wins. The lowest-power Temash variant still has a relatively high 3.9W TDP, though; AMD can surely do better with ARM-based chips. Radeon graphics technology should make those offerings unique, and it could help AMD gain a foothold in the tablet market.

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