AMD to detail upcoming Jaguar low-power processor design for tablets

AMD chips with the Jaguar architecture will make it to tablets next year

Advanced Micro Devices will detail its upcoming low-power CPU for tablets code-named Jaguar at the Hot Chips show in August, and share the stage with IBM, Oracle and Fujitsu, which will provide further insight into next-generation server processors.

AMD's Jaguar CPU will be in tablets that will become available next year, and will be integrated in a chip alongside a powerful graphics processor. AMD is expected to use the Jaguar architecture in a dual-core tablet chip code-named Tamesh next year, and also in low-power laptops such as netbooks.

Jaguar was introduced earlier this year after a new management team discarded the old road map and reconfigured the company's product line. AMD did not share details about the processor core at the time, but Jaguar will succeed the Bobcat processor, which will be used in an upcoming tablet chip code-named Hondo, expected to be launched later this year alongside Microsoft's Windows 8 OS.

AMD has virtually no presence in the fast-growing tablet market, and currently sells most of its chips into the declining PC and graphics markets. AMD currently offers the Z-series chips for tablets, which have performed poorly in the market, and the Jaguar chip could provide a spark to AMD's tablet ambitions.

AMD's tablet rivals include ARM, which dominates the market and whose processor designs are used in Apple's iPad, Google's Galaxy Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire. AMD will also compete with Intel, which is expected to release a low-power Atom processor code-named Clover Trail later this year. Intel says 20 tablet designs are in the works based on Clover Trail.

An AMD spokesman declined to comment on the Jaguar processor, but analysts said tablets will be faster and more power-efficient with the new architecture.

The improvements in Jaguar may not be revolutionary, but AMD has a record of lowering power consumption while scaling up performance, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"AMD continues to evolve everything without trying to reinvent the wheel," McGregor said.

The lower power consumption on chips with the Jaguar CPU will primarily come from the 28-nanometer manufacturing process, said David Kanter, an analyst for Real World Technologies.

The current chips based on the Bobcat architecture are considered power-hungry for mobile devices, and are designed more for low-power laptops like netbooks. AMD's upcoming Hondo tablet chip -- which is based on Bobcat -- will be made using the 40-nm process. The advanced 28-nm manufacturing process will help miniaturize circuitry, thus making the Jaguar-based chip more power-efficient. Chips with ARM processors are made using the 40-nm process and are moving to the 28-nm process. Intel's upcoming Clover Trail chip will be made using the 32-nm process.

Chips based on the Jaguar design will also be more power-efficient with higher levels of CPU and GPU integration, Kanter said.

But AMD's biggest asset is the graphics processor, which will give it an edge over its rivals, analysts said. That would be useful for productivity tablets, where users need high levels of graphics performance.

AMD last month said it would integrate ARM processors to bulk up security features on its chips, though it is unclear whether chips based on Jaguar would have ARM processors.

AMD at Hot Chips will also be providing more details on its Steamroller CPU core, which will be used in mainstream laptops starting next year. The presentation will be made by Mark Papermaster, a former Apple executive who was appointed AMD's chief technology officer in October last year.

Outside of tablet chips, IBM, Oracle and Fujitsu will be shedding light on their upcoming server chips at the Hot Chips conference. IBM will be sharing information on the Power 7+ chip, which has already been delayed. IBM is scheduled to release the Power 8 chip in the near future.

Fujitsu will be providing more details on the 16-core SPARC64 X chip, which is the successor to the SPARC64 VIIIFX chip used in Japan's K Computer, which was rated the world's fastest supercomputer in November last year.

Oracle will share more information on its Sun SPARC T5 processor, which will be made using the 28-nm process. The chip succeeds the current SPARC T4, which is made using the 40-nm process. The T5 is an incremental advancement of the T4 processor based on the new manufacturing process, Kanter said.

Hot Chips will be held in Cupertino, California, from Aug. 27 to 29.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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