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Mullins Performs; Remains To Be Seen How It Does On Power

Mullins And Beema APUs: AMD Gets Serious About Tablet SoCs
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I'm impressed with the potential of AMD's newest low-power APUs, just as I was hopeful that the previous generation would enjoy more success than it apparently did. The Discovery platform I was able to benchmark, featuring an A10 Micro-6700T APU, fares well compared to a number of other compelling SoCs.

Of course, the demo platform I played with was purpose-built to showcase the Mullins APU design, and those numbers only serve as an early indicator of what the hardware can do. We need to wait and see whether the company can attract IHVs. Not only does it face Intel, a powerhouse with advanced manufacturing and product shipping at 22 nm, but also the ARM-based efforts from Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, and Apple. 

The good news for AMD is that low-cost tablets with Android on them are prolific. They're everywhere. But they have their limitations, too. Typically, stepping up to a piece of hardware with full Windows 8.1 (not that Windows RT dreck) involves a corresponding price hike. If AMD is able to help enable more budget-conscious mobile devices able to run x86 software competently, it has the opportunity to attract a market full of value-seeking PC users unaccustomed to being told their apps don't work on the road.

It's odd that Microsoft managed to fall so far from grace in a segment that Bill Gates tried to invent at the turn of the millennium. The company completely failed to entrench itself before Apple arrived with its iPad, changing everything. Then, Google took the experience and made it more affordable with Android. I own iPad and Nexus tablets, and both satisfy me as media consumption devices. Neither proves to be especially useful for getting real work done, though. I did have an Iconia W3 with Windows 8. But while it checked the important functionality boxes, Intel's Atom Z2760 (that was Clover Trail, remember) was too slow for me to tolerate.

I now use that Dell Venue 8 Pro you saw me benchmark. Armed with an Atom Z3740D (Bay Trail) and Windows 8.1, it's the first tablet I've owned that truly satisfied me from the four perspectives of battery life, functionality, general performance, and portability. It only really lacks the ability to play demanding PC games, which is what's going to keep PCs around most of our houses for years to come.

But that's one of the reasons I see so much potential in AMD's hardware. This is a company with ATI's DNA. It has what it takes to augment graphics performance in mobile devices. Mullins will never cope with Crysis, but it might be able to handle titles that you've never been able to play on a tablet before. And it gives me hope that we're only a couple of generations away from an x86 tablet with real gaming chops.

Whatever shortcomings kept Temash and Kabini out of more shipping products, Mullins and Beema show significantly more promise, if only because of their lower power envelopes. The inclusion of an integrated ARM-based Platform Security Processor is a dark horse that may yield benefits we currently can't evaluate. Of course, Intel isn't standing still, and its 14 nm Bay Trail replacement, known as Cherry Trail, is well on its way. We'll see if AMD is able to gain real traction from Mullins and Beema in the coming months, and hopefully healthy competition can bolster Windows' success in the mobile space.

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  • -1 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , April 28, 2014 11:16 PM
    ...yeah, I don't think intending to benchmark full-on PC games that aren't even a year old on what is essentially a tablet APU was one of the wisest decisions you guys have made.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , April 28, 2014 11:21 PM
    Quote:
    ...yeah, I don't think intending to benchmark full-on PC games that aren't even a year old on what is essentially a tablet APU was one of the wisest decisions you guys have made.


    Actually, both Dota2 and Grid2 are well known for having low system requirements, and they represented a great opportunity to compare results to the desktop bay trail and kabini platforms. We would have tested these games regardless, but we would have added more, less demanding titles if we had more time.

  • 0 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , April 28, 2014 11:21 PM
    Hmmm, sounds like an AMD equivalent of an Intel "tick", especially considering that the IPC between Puma+ and Jaguar is unchanged.

    Interestingly enough, this would mean that the PS4 and Xbone could use Puma+ cores in the future (with turbo disabled obviously).

  • 0 Hide
    PreferLinux , April 28, 2014 11:31 PM
    OK, so where are the power measurements? That is about the most important part of the chip, and is also the part that is missing.
  • 0 Hide
    kyuuketsuki , April 28, 2014 11:57 PM
    I'm not sure why you decided to benchmark Dota at 1920x1080 instead of 1200x800. You lost the ability to compare against the Venue 8 Pro *and* the results might have been something resembling playable. I'm always of the opinion that game benchmarking should focus around what the product in question (and its competitors) can actually, y'know, play. Seeing graphs of everything being in a range of 1-10 FPS just isn't interesting or particularly useful.

    But yeah, I understand the limited time and environment, and the look at Beema and Mullins is greatly appreciated. I'm *still* looking forward to a commercially-available tablet with an AMD SoC in it, since one never materialized with Temash. That Vizio tablet that used AMD was actually pretty nifty, except for using the Z-60(?) which just wasn't up to scratch. It's too bad Vizio seems to be deprecating its tablet efforts, since an update of that tablet with Mullins in it would be worth looking at.
  • 0 Hide
    NoClue_87 , April 29, 2014 12:04 AM
    Dota2 is very cpu intensive. It's a shame Valve aint interested in suporting mantle for dota 2.
  • 0 Hide
    CaptainTom , April 29, 2014 12:17 AM
    I seriously cannot wait when 5 years from now I can get mid-range PC gaming in a tablet... The future cannot come soon enough...
  • 2 Hide
    tigger888 , April 29, 2014 12:47 AM
    HOW is the author of this article NOT amazed that the apu is pushing NEAR 30 frames per second! With the competition only having half... Who pays these guys to write articles..
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , April 29, 2014 2:05 AM
    looks quite promising. these socs will be in media consumption devices, so i hope you'll include various media playback benches in the review.

    the tskin temp and tjmax temp look a bit low for outside use. i wonder if it'll be enough to prevent throttling in actual devices.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , April 29, 2014 3:18 AM
    Quote:
    HOW is the author of this article NOT amazed that the apu is pushing NEAR 30 frames per second! With the competition only having half... Who pays these guys to write articles..


    How did you not read the commentary, yet decide comment on it?

    The article is very complimentary to the new APU's game performance. What exactly did you expect? Did you want me to write that its the "SUPERBEST GAMING APU EVAR"?

  • 0 Hide
    renz496 , April 29, 2014 3:45 AM
    Quote:
    OK, so where are the power measurements? That is about the most important part of the chip, and is also the part that is missing.


    if you check other tech site that covering this new APU there is not much detail on power consumption.

    Quote:
    I was allowed to spend a few hours benchmarking AMD’s Discovery Tablet. Unfortunately the device wasn’t instrumented for power testing, nor was there enough time to run any battery life tests on it, so the usefulness of these numbers is limited. We already know that AMD’s idle power isn’t as good as smartphone silicon, but for some of these value Windows 8.1 devices it may still be good enough.


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7974/amd-beema-mullins-architecture-a10-micro-6700t-performance-preview/3

    it seems AMD only allow reviewer to do some benchmark on it and then take it back
  • 0 Hide
    renz496 , April 29, 2014 3:49 AM
    Quote:
    Dota2 is very cpu intensive. It's a shame Valve aint interested in suporting mantle for dota 2.


    maybe because Mantle only works on GCN based card. not even 6k or 5k series support mantle. we might see Dota 2 having Mantle support if AMD pays Valve to use Mantle.
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , April 29, 2014 3:53 AM
    Quote:

    maybe because Mantle only works on GCN based card. not even 6k or 5k series support mantle. we might see Dota 2 having Mantle support if AMD pays Valve to use Mantle.

    mantle would be great gaming performance booster for processors like beema playing games like these.
  • 0 Hide
    renz496 , April 29, 2014 4:15 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:

    maybe because Mantle only works on GCN based card. not even 6k or 5k series support mantle. we might see Dota 2 having Mantle support if AMD pays Valve to use Mantle.

    mantle would be great gaming performance booster for processors like beema playing games like these.


    the question is will valve care to spend extra resource (out of their own pocket) on enhancement that can only benefit some of their user? yes mantle will be a great help for SoC like this but in the end it is still up to developer to use mantle or not.
  • 3 Hide
    cleeve , April 29, 2014 5:46 AM
    Quote:
    OK, so where are the power measurements? That is about the most important part of the chip, and is also the part that is missing.


    There was no way to measure it. The CPU is too new to be recognized by the thermal and power measurement software that I tried.

    We'll have to wait a bit for the details, unfortunately. Having said that, the TDP gives us a reliable range.

  • 0 Hide
    rajangel , April 29, 2014 6:55 AM
    More trolling and baiting from Toms Hardware authors, sigh.
  • 0 Hide
    renz496 , April 29, 2014 7:11 AM
    Quote:
    More trolling and baiting from Toms Hardware authors, sigh.


    i take that you are the one trolling here
  • 1 Hide
    ykki , April 29, 2014 7:38 AM
    nice to see some progress from AMD in the tablet segment. who knows what's next? (maybe smartphone processors :)  )
  • 0 Hide
    harly2 , April 29, 2014 9:16 AM
    Toms is very apprehensive to be positive on AMD, just can't give props. There are things to be excited about, but not to excited in this case because its straddled to the windows platform for tablets. It's faster then a K1, Intel mobile everything, A7, and snapdragon 801 but only for high end windows tablets....meh. Beema will be a money maker for them though.
  • 0 Hide
    xenol , April 29, 2014 9:25 AM
    I like that AMD is getting into the SoC business, which hopefully spells competition in the area... but I don't really care for their emphasis on gaming. I'm not going to game on a tablet, and if I do, it's going to be simple games.

    The tablet for me is more for having a lightweight internet connected device than something I game on. I already portable consoles and a high performance laptop for that.
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