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

AMD has announced its latest entry in the performance tablet and small form factor PC market -- the Z-60 chip, dubbed "Hondo."
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

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.



GPU Cores USB L2 cache
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.

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