AMD announces low-power processor for tablet, smartphone markets

When AMD announced Ryzen, it made it clear that the chip would hit the desktop market first, followed by server and mobile APUs. Server parts are expected in Q2, with mobile APUs following in the back half of the year. Analysts and reviewers have broadly praised the architecture, but some fans have asked why AMD hasn’t moved into the tablet and smartphone space? After all, these markets were ripe for an x86 alternative once Intel abandoned them, and AMD isn’t burdened by the high fab costs that made Intel products unprofitable. In fact, given that AMD has contracts with both TSMC and GlobalFoundries, there’s no reason to think it would be handicapped by the high manufacturing costs that crippled Intel’s attempts to build an Atom business that could compete with Android.

Fans, the wait is finally over. Secret documents emailed to ExtremeTech show that AMD is planning a new mobile product. Codenamed “Little Foot,” the new architecture is a marvel of low-power, high-efficiency performance. We’ve even got an image of the CPU’s design to share with you.

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“The K6 is a remarkably efficient CPU,” said Greg Favor, the chief processor architect. “We’ve designed a chip that can readily compete with equivalent Intel or ARM processors at a much lower price, without compromising on the performance and power efficiency that users demand from today’s mobile devices.”

Like most modern microprocessors, the K6 has a RISC-like front-end (AMD is calling it RISC86) and decodes native x86 instructions into micro-ops. The CPU’s 64KB of L1 (32KB instructions, 32KB data) ensure a high hit rate and keep branch prediction stalls to a minimum. The chip’s short pipeline (six stages), six integer execution units, and four instruction decoders are quite formidable when compared with what other manufacturers offer, and they allow the K6 to punch above its weight class in integer operations.

“We settled on the name K6 because we wanted to capture AMD’s dedication to low-power efficiency,” said AMD CEO Lisa Su. “Our last K-branded design was the K12, and, well, K6 is half of that. We fired all our marketing people in 2012. Stop asking these questions.”

AMD was cagey about what kind of GPU it might pair with its new architecture, saying the design was in early stages. “We’ve commissioned a new GPU, codenamed Rage,” RTG head Raja Koduri told us. “We expect to deliver superior performance in all 32-bit graphics modes, but God help you if you try using 16-bit color or OpenGL.”

AMD expects its new K6 APUs to be in market by mid-2018 on 14nm technology. The company continues to play games with the press concerning which foundry it uses for which products, but our bet is on Samsung or GlobalFoundries. GF’s implementation of Samsung’s 14nm has been excellent for Ryzen, and this nascent APU will need all the power savings and clock speed it can get.

The other uncertainty is OS support. AMD has signaled that Microsoft OSes, up to and including Windows 10 Mobile, will run on the K6 platform, but Android compatibility may be tricky. Some of you may recall that Intel was nearly a year late in shipping Bay Trail platforms with Android, and our sources tell us this was largely due to graphics driver issues. AMD will have to navigate a similar situation if it chooses to support Google’s operating system, and it’s not clear if they’ll bother at this point in time.

Source : https://www.extremetech.com/computing/246988-amd-announces-new-low-power-processor-tablet-smartphone-market

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