AMD Low-Energy APUs: Beema and Mullins Preview

Low power computing is an extremely important market for chipset and device manufacturers. As we strive to get the best performance from our tablets and notebooks, we also want the longest battery life without having to lug around a bulky, heavy device.

ARM has already established itself as a developer of low-power silicon, and its products and derivatives from manufacturers like Qualcomm can be found almost everywhere in iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. While ARM wasn't recognized as a powerful architecture type five years ago, they have come a long way with some really powerful, low-watt SoCs that we find in tablets like the iPad Air – the A7 was developed by Apple on the 28-nanometer ARMv8 architecture from ARM.

The Windows and x86 story is different. X86 has always been a powerful powerhouse and the instruction set of choice for the world's most powerful systems. In recent years, companies like Intel and AMD have focused on reducing the power consumption of their x86 chips and getting results like Bay Trail and Temash. The former is a very popular choice for Windows mainstream tablets.

While Intel is the market leader in this area, AMD believes that next-generation chips will be the best. The new chips – & # 39; Beema & # 39; for mainstream laptops and & # 39; Mullins & # 39; for tablets with low power consumption – have been a further development of their work on APUs in recent years and will be strong competitors against Intel's Bay Trail and Haswell offers with low power consumption.

To take a look at Beema and Mullins, AMD flew me to their Singapore office to learn about the products and give me some hands-on time to test Mullins on their Discovery reference design tablet.

APUs with low power consumption and high performance

In early 2014, AMD launched its new APUs for the performance segment called Kaveri. As Steve has already described in his reviews of the A8-7600 and A10-7850K, these products have steamroller cores, powerful integrated Radeon graphics and TDPs of up to 95 W for their desktop SKUs. Kaveri will eventually end up in performance laptops, completing the top end of AMD's APU product stack.

Beema and Mullins are very different from Kaveri, but fill the bottom of the stack. Both products use the new Puma + CPU cores from AMD, which are the successors of the Jaguar cores from Kabini (the predecessor of Beema), Temash (the predecessor of Mullins) and the current generation of game consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4) ). Puma + is a more energy-efficient CPU architecture that enables higher clock speeds and higher performance while reducing power consumption.

Like all APU offers from AMD, Beema and Mullins also offer a GCN-GPU with 128 cores and frequencies between 300 MHz and 800 MHz. With these new APUs, AMD has again succeeded in increasing the clock rates and at the same time reducing the power consumption. Combined with improvements in the CPU and other areas, AMD claims that Beema, for example, is 20% more energy efficient than Kabini when performing equivalent tasks.

The reduction in performance is quite impressive when you put it in terms of TDPs. The top-of-the-range Mullins section has a 4.5 W TDP, which is significantly less than Temash's 8 W TDP, but manages twice the graphics and productivity performance.

Intel's competitor is Bay Trail-T, whose TDP is somewhere in the 3-4W range (Intel hasn't released any details), and AMD claims Mullins has a performance advantage across the board. It's harder to say if power consumption is a win because Intel is vague and lacks Mullins products in the wild, but I'll definitely test this later.

Interestingly, AMD is confident enough to compare Mullins with Intel's Haswell Y parts, which, based on the data on their slides, give an interesting picture. The top-end Mullins product is slightly faster than Haswell Y in the graphics, but falls behind considering the CPU. The most important thing, however, is that Haswell Y has a TDP of not less than 11.5 W and a “scenario design”. Power “more than 50% higher than that of Mullins.

AMD also claims that the performance of 4.5W Mullins parts this year is at the level of 25W Kabini (sub) parts last year, which is a very impressive statistic when it is.

At Beema, these 15 W parts have the same or higher output than Kabini, but are 40% lower for TDPs. Beema goes back to AMD's figures and categorically smashes 7.5 W Bay Trail M chips, especially in the graphics department. Compared to 15W Haswell U parts – the same power consumption as Beema – it's a closer battle, but AMD seems to be the leader in their favorite areas: graphics and general computing.

Unfortunately, AMD did not have Beema samples available for testing in its Singapore office, so these claims will not be verified until they are available in retail devices. But if AMD really achieves that kind of performance, Beema will be a very compelling product against a strong Haswell cast.

Beema will initially be available to OEMs in four SKUs, ranging from quad-core A6-6310 to dual-core E1-6010. The technical data for these products can be found below.

Technical specifications A6-6310 A4-6210 E2-6110 E1-6010
Central processor

4x 2.4 GHz

4 x 1.8 GHz

4x 1.5 GHz

4x 1.35 GHz

L2 cache

2 MB

2 MB

2 MB

1 MB

GPU "cores"

128 at 800 MHz

128 @ 600 MHz

128 @ 500 MHz

128 @ 550 MHz

memory

One channel
DDR3L-1866

One channel
DDR3L-1600

One channel
DDR3L-1600

One channel
DDR3L-1333

TDP

15 W.

15 W.

15 W.

10 W.

Mullins will be available in three SKUs, the fastest of which is the quad-core A10 Micro-6700T, which is included in the Discovery tablet that I had practical time with. Check the specifications for these products below.

Technical specifications A10 Micro-6700T A4 Micro-6400T E1 Micro-6200T
Central processor

4x 2.2 GHz

4x 1.6 GHz

2x 1.4 GHz

L2 cache

2 MB

2 MB

1 MB

GPU "cores"

128 @ 500 MHz

128 @ 350 MHz

128 at 300 MHz

memory

One channel
DDR3L-1333

One channel
DDR3L-1333

One channel
DDR3L-1066

SDP / TDP

2.8 W / 4.5 W.

2.8 W / 4.5 W.

2.8 W / 3.95 W.

The diagrams above provide some other important information about AMD's low power APUs. Each quad-core SKU has 2 MB of L2 cache, while the dual-core chips have 1 MB. The situation is similar with memory controllers: high-end Mullins uses single-channel DDR3L-1333, while high-end Beema offers single-channel DDR3L-1866 or DDR3L-1600.

Another important point is that AMD lists the maximum CPU frequencies that correspond to the Intel Turbo Boost numbers. The A10 Micro-6700T will operate a 2.2 GHz core. However, if all four cores are used, the clock speeds will be 1.5 GHz. You will notice similar differences across the product stack.

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