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New AMD Mullins tablet processor 50% faster than Temash with half the power drain

Andrew Unsworth
29 Apr 2014
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Quad-core processors use just 4.5W

AMD has released details of its latest low-power processors designed for tablets and PCs where power efficiency is paramount. Codenamed Mullins, the processors promise operating frequencies up to 50 per cent higher than 2013’s Temash low-power processors, but with much lower power consumption.

The Mullins processors use four new Puma+ cores for processing and have a fifth ARM Cortex A5 core that’s solely used for security. To demonstrate the performance gains of the new Puma+ cores compared to the older Jaguar cores of 2013’s Temash processors, AMD pointed out that an 8W Temash processor running at 1.4Ghz is now replaced by a 4.5W Mullins processor running at a 2.2GHz. That’s over 50 per cent more frequency than the Temash chips with nearly half the power consumption.

The new Mullins processors also support 1,333MHz memory, which provides a gentle speed boost over the Temash’s maximum memory speed of 1,066MHz.

We were lucky enough to use one of the processors, the A10-6700T, in one of AMD’s new Discovery tablets, a concept tablet designed to showcase various technologies and operational performance provided by Mullins. As is common with all of AMD’s APUs, the A10-6700T is loaded with a 128-core Graphics Core Next Radeon graphics processor with a maximum clock speed of 500MHz. That isn’t good enough to play the latest 3D games at the highest settings, and we wouldn’t expect it to be, but it is good enough to stream video and handle desktop tasks, and even game at low detail levels.

MULLINS SPECIAL FEATURES

The new Mullins chips are packed with special features that hardware accelerate certain functions. One such feature of the 6700T processor is hardware-accelerated support for gesture control. This feature was enabled on our demo tablet but as it was a pre-production unit didn’t work quite as well as we’d have liked. The gesture control was supposed to let us move between, pause and play music tracks, to give one example, by waving our finger. However, we had to keep our finger around four to five feet from the tablet’s camera sensor for the tablet to recognise that we were issuing commands. We could move between tracks easily enough when the sensor recognised our finger, but we’ll have to wait until we see this feature on a mass-production device before we pass judgement. Certainly, the potential to provide advanced gesture control is exciting.

A related feature is hardware-accelerated facial recognition which, in the context of tablets and mobile devices, could be useful. One obvious application is the ability to log into your operating system by facial recognition alone, but we’re sure there are more interesting uses that are waiting to be developed.

One feature, Quickstream, monitors your internet use and prioritises bandwidth-intensive apps and tasks, such as streaming video from Netflix and the internet. The intention is to make sure that you have nicely buffered video so you can enjoy it without stutters and interruptions. Video is set to get an extra boost from a suite of technologies and algorithms that AMD calls Picture Perfect. AMD claims that Picture Perfect is designed to clean up video so it looks as good as it can be, and in some cases the technology will even upscale the resolution of the video to suit the device's screen. Given the wide use of tablets for watching video, this is a good move.

We used the A10-6700T-based Discovery tablet to stream Full HD to a TV wirelessly, and the video stream was smooth with no stutter. This is certainly impressive, especially as we had no trouble connecting to the TV.

Finally, AMD has partnered with a company called BlueStacks in order to provide hardware acceleration for Android virtualisation. The idea is to allow Windows users to synchronise data with their Android accounts and access Android apps within Windows. Unfortunately, we couldn’t test this feature with our demo unit.

MULLINS PERFORMANCE

Although we ran our application benchmarks on the Discovery tablet, it’s important to remember that it’s a concept unit, not a mass-production device, and our benchmark results are not a definitive indication of the final product’s performance. Still, the Discovery tablet scored 27 overall, which is significantly faster than some tablets we've seen with Intel's Bay Trail processors.

This performance is impressive, and it’ll be good to see just how well the processors compare to Intel’s Bay Trail processors when we finally get our hands on a mass-production Mullins-based device.

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