AMD Z-60 'Hondo' APU: The hits and the misses

AMD Z-60 'Hondo' APU: The hits and the misses

Summary: AMD has announced its latest entry in the performance tablet and small form factor PC market -- the Z-60 chip, dubbed "Hondo."

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Chip-maker AMD has unveiled details of its new Z-60 embedded "Hondo" APU in time for Windows 8 to hit PCs on October 26.

While we have to wait for hardware to become available to carry out proper hands-on testing, let's take a look at how this new silicon look on paper.

Gallery: AMD Z-60 'Hondo' APU unveiled: pictures

The hits

The idea behind the Z-60 is to combine a powerful CPU and a GPU into a power-efficient package. The Z-60 is AMD's lowest power APU, delivering performance and up to eight hours of active tablet use, combined with two weeks standby power.

In terms of power, AMD claim that a Z-60 tablet can boot to Windows 8 in 25 seconds, and resume from sleep in as little as two seconds. These times may feel glacial compared to the iPad, but for a Windows machine -- and a tablet at that -- they are very impressive indeed.

The GPU is certainly no slouch. The Z-60 packs an integrated Radeon HD 6250 GPU, which has up to six times the performance of Intel's "Cedar Trail" silicon -- the predecessor to AMD's "Clover Trail's" chip. AMD claims that it's powerful enough to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Orcs Must Die at 1024x768 resolution while still delivering 30 frames per second.

The Z-60 also offers support for full HD 1080p resolution, HDMI output for external displays, and Microsoft Direct X 11 support.

Another hit for the Z-60 is that AMD claim that it will be cheaper than Intel-powered hardware, although no specific pricing details have been released as yet. These tablets would certainly have the potential to be disruptive if they could come in at a lower price point than Windows RT-powered ARM devices.

Model GPU TDP
W
Cores

Clock
GHz

GPU Cores USB L2 cache
MB
Z-60 HD 6250 4.5W 2 1.0 80 3.0 1

The misses

The problem with the Z-60 is that while it sounds good or paper, Intel's "Clover Trail" mobile processors sound better on a number of fronts, especially when it comes to power efficiency. The Z-60 is rated at 4.5W, which is much higher than the 1.7W that Intel lists for the Atom Z2760 "Clover Trail" silicon.

This increased power consumption translates directly into observable poorer battery life, even using AMD's own data. While AMD claims that a Z-60 tablet kitted out with a 30Wh battery can manage 6 hours of 720p HD video playback and two weeks of standby battery life, Intel says that "Clover Trail" silicon can pull off an extra 2 hours of video playback and an extra week of standby.

The additional power consumption means that AMD's chip needs more cooling, and this means that the tablets will be thicker. While Intel says tablets featuring "Clover Trail" silicon can be as 8.5mm thin -- which is thinner than the iPad, which comes in at 9.4mm. The Z-60 will need tablets that are at least 10mm thick, which might not seem like much, but as consumers become increasingly obsessed with device thickness, it puts AMD into third place.

Another problem is OEM interest. While Intel has confirmed that there are at least 20 "Clover Trail" tablets in the pipeline, AMD hasn't been able to make any such promises. AMD has had a longstanding problem convincing OEMs to choose its silicon over that on Intel, and Intel's overwhelming presence inside tablets could be enough to give them to edge in this battle.

The bottom line

The decision as to whether to go with an AMD Z-60 tablet or an Intel "Clover Trail" tablet is going to come down to a choice between graphics power and price verses battery life and thickness. But as with most PCs nowadays, its not the silicon that will be the deciding factor, but the devices wrapped around them.

The first tablets based on the AMD Z-60 APU are expected to launch globally this year in conjunction with availability of Windows 8.

Image source: AMD.

Topics: Processors, Hardware, Tablets

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34 comments
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  • AMD Hondo is not a tablet chip

    It's not a tablet chip and lacks always-on connected standby capability. Intel Clover Trail doesn't go into S3 sleep state and stays in an always on S0 state for 3 weeks. The fact that AMD is claiming 2 weeks in S3 sleep proves that it isn't a mobility chip like Intel SoC or ARM.

    Hondo is a Brazo based "APU" so it's definitely x86. But unlike Intel Clover Trail, AMD Hondo isn't really a tablet chip because it fundamentally lacks "Connected Standby" capability in Windows 8. That means it won't do 30 days of standby in an on state nor is it compatible of meeting the 300 millisecond screen-on requirement.

    Moreover, Hondo is a 9W TDP part while Intel Clover Trail is a 1.7W TDP part. That makes Hondo a laptop chip rather than a tablet chip. Throwing a big battery at the problem isn't the solution either.
    georgeou
    • How is Z60 comapred to C60?

      Hi Georgeou,

      Do you think it's reasonable to assume Z60 may have a 15% performance gain, as Trinity compared to Llano?
      RelaxWalk
      • It's 1 GHz so slower CPU but faster GPU

        Hondo will likely be weaker on CPU performance given it's 1 GHz clock speed. But AMD says the GPU is about 5 times faster than Cedar Trail which is probably similar to Clover Trail.
        georgeou
      • It's 1 GHz so slower CPU but faster GPU

        Hondo will likely be weaker on CPU performance given it's 1 GHz clock speed. But AMD says the GPU is about 5 times faster than Cedar Trail which is probably similar to Clover Trail.
        georgeou
    • It's more of an x86 64bit tablet chip than Clover Trail

      And that fact is a game changer going forward. Place the AMD Hondo chip in a tablet configuration like the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 with it's keyboard dock with included extra battery and you have a winner.

      This configuration would out perform any tablet on the market in just about every way.
      laequis
  • AMD Hondo is not a tablet chip

    It's not a tablet chip and lacks always-on connected standby capability. Intel Clover Trail doesn't go into S3 sleep state and stays in an always on S0 state for 3 weeks. The fact that AMD is claiming 2 weeks in S3 sleep proves that it isn't a mobility chip like Intel SoC or ARM.

    Hondo is a Brazo based "APU" so it's definitely x86. But unlike Intel Clover Trail, AMD Hondo isn't really a tablet chip because it fundamentally lacks "Connected Standby" capability in Windows 8. That means it won't do 30 days of standby in an on state nor is it compatible of meeting the 300 millisecond screen-on requirement.

    Moreover, Hondo is a 9W TDP part while Intel Clover Trail is a 1.7W TDP part. That makes Hondo a laptop chip rather than a tablet chip. Throwing a big battery at the problem isn't the solution either.
    georgeou
    • Nope

      Hondo has it's own power saving features comparable to "Connected Standby", and it IS a tablet chip. Having a higher TDP doesn't necessarily mean it will consume up to this limit all the time. If AMD plays it's cards right, it could still deliver decent battery life. Also, it's GPU is rated as a DX11 part. I don't think Intel can compete GPU-wise, not matter how much it's improved from Cedar Trail.
      samoanbiscuit@...
  • TDP for Z-60 is 9W, not 4.5W

    TDP for Z-60 is 9W, not 4.5W.
    georgeou
    • My mistake, it's 4.5W. You're right

      It's the C-60 that's 9W, not the Z-60.
      georgeou
  • Full Circle

    Two quick comments: My 2007 core2Duo Laptop (since deceased last Feb), cold-booted to Windows 7/64 in under 30 seconds. Not just to the windows screen, I mean to a point where I could actually click and open a browser window and check email.

    Second: I find this trend of putting the GPU back in the CPU like computers from the 90's a bit distressing. Intel's Intergrated chips these days have awful GPU performance and capabilities. I'm sitting here with a full desktop i5 with the onboard GPU garbage by intel but the graphics were so awful in speed and features that I had to put in a dedicated Nvidia card the day after I bought it.

    For tablet maybe this is fine. For a real machine to get work done (or hell, play the some of the latest games and whatnot), it's disturbing to see people settling for these low end solutions just to have another 30 minutes of battery life.
    Eric Holbrook
    • Re: Full Circle

      Well Intel was never good with integrated chips. I believe its GPU is good for low end monitors. AMD will be better as they know more about GPU than Intel.
      munsingh
    • Talking about Intel onboard solutions you are right

      However, the AMD CPU+GPU combo is excellent. The little small-form factor PC I get most of my work done on can play modern video games, but came in at less than $400.
      dimonic
    • eric holbrook ... where did you get the deluded idea

      ... all-in-one, fully integrated APU's were a complete replacement for a traditional CPU & discrete GPU setup?? Maybe 5-10 years from now ... but sure as pie ain't to date.

      "...ntel's Intergrated chips these days have awful GPU performance and capabilities. I'm sitting here with a full desktop i5 with the onboard GPU garbage by intel but the graphics were so awful in speed and features that I had to put in a dedicated Nvidia card the day after I bought it. "

      This is what we get when the uninformed make unfounded and ludicrous conclusions about a particular technology - and inevitably are completely wrong.

      The integrated APU's are meant as a cost saving measure targeted almost completely (design-wise at least) at businesses that have massive departmental deployments of business workstations and understand the benefit of placing all basic operability upon a single die. Where traditional enterprise and corporate shops deploy systems that have an onboard graphics processor or discrete video card installed / enabled, that former physical requirement / constraint is removed in scenarios where systems use integrated APU's.

      If you've no idea where the basic upside is, pay attention some more: now, by removing the need for onboard graphics and/or discrete gpu's, because of integrated APU's, OEM's have been able to build m/b's that are not only smaller, but most importantly use substantially less electricity, draw far less upon system resouces (e.g. I/O, IRQ's). Now on one workstation alone, sure the difference is a few watts here and less resources on a small level ... but multiply that by many thousands of systems littered throughout a huge corporate environment and the savings equal *a lot*. Also, it may certainly be a consequence that such m/b's also have a longer operating life in corporate environments (ergo: h/w replacement cycles also extended in certain business sceanrios, thus saving a company more $).

      Now, the graphics processing ability on these APU's wasn't meant (as yet) to be a replacement for, for example, a GTX560 or HD6850. The graphics capabilities are meant for a business environment where average office tasks such as email, word processing and spreadsheets are the height of visual, UI content rendering requirements.

      You following now?
      thx-1138_
  • Onboard GPU's

    The onboard GPU on my motherboard beats a low spec graphics card.

    The GPU integrated on the AMD chips beats the onboard graphics solution dramatically and totally displaced a whole string of basic graphics cards.

    I've been itching to get my hands on one of these integrated CPU's for ages. This little processors ROCK!!! They trounced the intel processors when they were released and it's surprising how little press they seem to get. They also bring the cost of a computer down yet again (by eliminating a component) while improving speed.

    I've been particularly keen to get a laptop based on these processors... but when they came in they were a bit pricey... so I'm still waiting.

    My next laptop or tablet will almost certainly have this kind of CPU in it.

    :-)
    MC1@...
  • Tablet processor comparison - why no mention of the ARM?

    I'm not interested in whether the AMD chip is better than the Intel chip. What I want to know is whether it's better than the ARM. Intel claimed relatively recently that it had a chip which could compete with the ARM in terms of MIPS per Watt. It would be interesting to see comparisons among the major players in the tablet processor arena.
    I remember back in 1987 when the fastest desktop computer in the world was ARM based. It's good that a superb design such as the ARM is still a major player.
    JohnOfStony
    • Existing Windows software compatibility is key for...

      the quicker adoption of Windows 8 tablets. That's the ONE thing they have over ARM tablets that are already on the market.

      Users being able to install their existing set of software on a tablet that's x86 compatible can be the deciding factor.
      laequis
  • Yes, the chip is for notebooks

    All that I can say is, that comparing apples to oranges doesn't make sense.
    As for AMD, I have one HP 635 with E450 (zacate 2011 platform) chipset and all that I can say is - I was surprised at speed versus power consumption. Comparing to Intel ATOM platform, it just beats it all over. But of course, i core platform beats zacate platform in terms of speed, not graphics...
    So, AMD with 2012 hondo platform in a slate? Great stuff and cheaper than core i based and faster than Atom based slate/tablet for x86 compatibility.
    Competeing with iPAD? NOT. As it doesn't compete with smartphones too.
    Andrej.G.
  • Good product

    AMD's Hondo is going to be the fist tablet that is 64 bit x86 and that has a powerful GPU. Sure you can be very power efficient but without the graphics capabilities, you can't do anything but browse.

    AMD Hondo based tablets will be able to run professional x86 graphical applications, which is what most professionals want. Intel's 32 bit chips don't cut it and the lack of a powerful GPU makes Intel tablets a poor choice for any professional or for anybody looking to run 3d graphics or higher end games. It makes sense, too, for a more powerful GPU processor to consume more power, like on laptops or desktops, but what matters is that you have the GPU power needed for many tasks/applications. Even all ARM tablets are just 32 bit CPU's. I am looking forward to the release of these AMD based tablets.
    aczdnet0
    • Exactly

      And I'm sure the cores will be throttled back automatically when the power is not needed. AMD has been very good with power management on their chips.

      The Tegra 3 chip does that too which helps tremendously with battery life.
      laequis
  • Marketing Fail

    With a name like the Z-80, it just makes me think it's a follow-on to the Zilog Z60.
    Marc Jellinek