Yesterday Andrew Grush wrote an article “AMD Tablets – Where are they at?” and that’s a good question. I may have an answer.
I’ve read a few articles that AMD is working on combining an ARM processor with their x86 processor. Here is an article by PC World http://bit.ly/Qudgdd. This article doesn’t bring up this thought I have, but I’d be shocked if AMD hasn’t thought of it.
What if an OEM made a tablet with this hybrid x86/ARM processor ran Windows RT when it’s in tablet mode and Windows 8 when docked with its keyboard?
This way when in tablet mode it gets great battery life because of the ARM processor (the x86 processor and fans are turned off) and running Windows RT, but then when you plug it into the keyboard dock the x86 processor kicks in and it starts running Windows 8 and you have a full-fledged laptop.
I also had a similar thought but with ARM and Intel processors, but it would cost a lot more because you’d have to have a separate ARM tablet and the Intel processor would be built into the dock.
This way when you plug the tablet into the dock it turns off the ARM processor in the tablet and then runs on the x86 processor and switches from Windows RT to Windows 8.
If an OEM decided to make an ARM tablet and a dock with an x86 processor (graphics and RAM also would have to be added to the dock I’m guessing) the cost I’m guessing would be around $1800-$2000 or more. An ARM/AMD hybrid could probably cut that in half to about $1000-$1200 (more or less depending on the graphics processor included).
Another plus using an ARM/AMD hybrid would be graphics power. It seems so far all Intel based tablets have one big negative and that’s that they use PowerVR graphics (even worse the next generation of ATOM processors will use Intel graphics).
PowerVR grphics are ok except if you play video games and I’m not talking about tablet games, but PC games like the up and coming Firefall or Planetside 2 or even World of Warcraft.
With an ARM/AMD hybrid you can have a gaming machine with high end graphics. So unless Intel can get their graphics to be as good as AMD’s or Nvidias for gaming, Intel has no chance in the gaming field which I think a good hybrid gaming tablet/laptop could do very well.
An ARM only tablet does have a major positive and that’s thinness because it doesn’t need fans to cool it down. That’s the one negative behind an AMD/ARM hybrid. The fact that if AMD combines its x86 chip with an ARM chip the tablet is going to be thick. Will that matter to the consumer though? For some yes, but for some I think the lower price and better graphics will make up for the bulk.
Where does this leave Intel with their ATOM chip, it’s supposed to be Intel’s answer to the ARM processor? I’m not sure. This would depend on the speed of the ATOM processor compared to ARM and also power usage. Intel’s new chips is supposed to be better at sipping power, but can it beat ARM? Only time will tell.
There is one thing ATOM has above ARM and that’s ARM chips are still only 32bit while newer ATOM processors are x86-64 bit. ARMv8 processors are supposed to support 64bit data and addressing but when will they come out? No news on that yet.
If Intel can pull it off, making an x86 chip that can equal or best ARM then ARM could is in trouble. The thing is while Intel is trying to catch up to ARM with their ATOM chip companies that make ARM chips are trying to better the ARM platform.
Also I think for gaming an AMD/ARM hybrid is best because I don’t think ATOM processor with Intel graphics will be able to run graphic intensive games. If an OEM like Alienware can make a good gaming hybrid with an AMD/ARM chip, it could be a win for AMD.
What do you think? If an AMD/ARM tablet hybrid were available would you buy one?