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Mobile SoCs promise to boost security, performace

Posted: 02 May 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Advanced Micro Devices  mobile SoC  GCN  ARM Cortex 

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has rolled out a couple of mobile SoCs. The low-power chip code named Mullins and a mainstream chip, Beema, are part of a lineup of SoCs that are intended to boost security and performance while lowering power consumption.

"Our focus with Mullins and Beema was overall performance per watt, fitting in to smaller form factors, and overall improved experienced," said Kevin Lensing, senior director of mobility solutions at AMD.


Functional view of Mullins. (Source: AMD)

"Last year our high end products scaled up to eight total watts," said AMD platform design engineer Ben Bates. "[With Mullins] we're delivering the same experience at roughly half of the power level... enabling more aggressive form factors."

Improvements in power consumption are partially due to a silicon temperature tracking algorithm. Samuel Naffziger, an AMD corporate fellow, said such temperature management can enable up to 63 per cent performance increases on key workloads.

Energy savings also come from more efficient peripherals. In addition, support for lower-power DDR3-1866 allows the chips to be used in high performance fanless tablets.

"The total system power is actually lower when the CPU runs faster because the rest of the system spends a lot of time asleep," Naffzinger said. "The key to exploit this is to have a power manager that can pinpoint that lowest power."

Mullins and Beema use a switchable graphics mode to optimise performance and power. AMD said the chips have nearly twice the graphics performance as the previous generation, using AMD's Graphics Core Next Architecture (GCN) running at 800MHz in Beema and 500MHz in Mullins. To decrease latency, the chip's video encode block is next to its display interface.

Low-power Mullins APU

Structure of the low-power Mullins APU. (Source: AMD)

The SoCs are also AMD's first to have security designed in at chip level using the ARM Cortex-A5 and ARM TrustZone technology. They partition the processors into two virtual CPUs, one using hardware-backed security.

New software capabilities also include support for gesture control, facial recognition and a virtual Android OS using technology from BlueStacks.

AMD designed a reference tablet and small PC based on Mullins and Beema. The company will not market the devices to end-users, however. The SoCs are in mass production, though the company has yet to announce partners other than Lenovo.

- Jessica Lipsky
  EE Times

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