AMD's Superior Design Is a Game Changer

AMD has shifted its focus from manufacturing PC chips to being more involved in graphics and custom chips. It is still lagging in the fast-growing tablets market, but not for long.

May 4, 2014 at 11:00AM

Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) has been in a turnaround phase for the last year or so, while the company shifted its focus from manufacturing PC chips to being more involved in graphics and custom chips. The results of the last few quarters have been positive thanks to the solid performance of graphics and custom chips, and the company is also testing the waters in micro-servers.

The company is still lagging in the fast-growing tablet market. Last year, AMD's highly anticipated Kabini and Temash were not able to gain substantial traction in the Android tablet space due to competition from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC). In the wake of this, AMD has revealed its new line of SoCs for tablets, codenamed Mullins, and SoCs for portable PCs, codenamed Beema.

The performance and power claims are promising, while benchmarks such as 3DMark show that these SoCs beat Intel's current offerings in almost all departments. Beema and Mullins are likely to gain traction in the coming months, and this will be reflected in AMD's financial and market performance.



Mullins is a low-power SoC with a thermal design power, or TDP, of 4.5W, making it suitable for the tablet market. AMD is rolling out three models under this category.



Clock Speed

GPU Clock


A10 Micro-6700T

4 puma cores




A4 Micro- 6400T

4 puma cores




E1 Micro-6200T

2 puma cores




Table 1 Source: AMD

These products are differentiated in terms of power and performance from the previous generation, Temash. The following results were seen upon comparison with Temash in a 3DMark benchmark:



Source: AMD

The above graph reveals that Mullins outperforms Temash in absolute terms, both in graphics and productivity. The key point is that it does so using only half the power that Temash does. Less power consumption and better performance make Mullins a good candidate for tablet design wins.

A comparison of Mullins with currently available Intel counterparts also paints a favorable picture for AMD.




A4 Micro-6400T outperforms Bay Trail. However, Bay Trail seems to have a slightly lower SDP thanks to its 22nm architecture. The performance and graphics difference will help AMD to gain market share in gaming and high-performing tablets.

Intel's next-generation 14nm Cherry Trail is not expected until late 2014 and AMD can capitalize on this in the next few months. Another important fact is AMD's ability to compete with its 28nm against Intel's superior 22nm. This raises the argument that AMD's design would be even more effective with 22nm.




The above test conducted by Tom's Hardware also points to AMD's superior performance in tablet gaming. All in all, Mullins seems a viable alternative to Intel's current offerings, and AMD is set to steal market share from Intel this year, especially when the BlueStacks dual-OS Android solution is added to the mix.

Beema is a more mainstream SoC directed toward laptops, Ultrabooks, and possibly the Chromebook market as well. It is the successor to Kabini and promises significant performance improvements. AMD is rolling out the following models:


Puma Cores

Clock Speed

GPU Clock


A6 6310








600 Mhz





500 Mhz





350 Mhz


Table 2 Source: AMD

Compared to predecessor Kabini, Beema offers approximately 11% better graphics at a 20% power reduction.



Source: AMD

This is a significant improvement given the fact that AMD has used 28nm for both Beema and Kabini.

In comparison to the competition, Beema appears to be the winner in terms of graphics and CPU performance. Comparison with Intel's 3556U reveals some astonishing figures:




Beema shows a comparable system performance with Haswell and outperforms it in terms of graphics and computing, but this is not the only interesting part. AMD utilized 28nm to achieve a clock speed of 2.4GHz, which is higher than the 1.7GHz of Pentium 3556U that uses 22nm process at the same TDP of 15W. This is quite remarkable and indicates AMD's superior design efficiency. Put AMD on the same process node as Intel, and the market share will change radically.

Bottom line
After a disappointing 2013 in the tablet and portable PC market, AMD has come up with a decent reply. As the new APUs beat the existing x86 competition, AMD is set to gain market share unless Intel comes up with a Bay Trail update or rolls out the Cherry Trail earlier than planned. AMD's design efficiency seems to have taken the lead and its 20nm products, at relatively low manufacturing costs, will give Intel a tough time. Moreover, the new APUs are already featured in products announced by Samsung and Lenovo. AMD will gain market share in the tablet and laptop market, which will have a positive effect on the company's bottom line.

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Muhammad Saeed has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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