Systems based around AMD's new G-T16R APU are currently aimed at embedded computing markets, but could an x86 Raspberry Pi-alike be on the cards?
While ARM and Intel play out a very public battle for supremacy in the low-power chip market, AMD has declared that it has no intention of being left out and has officially launched a new entry in its G-Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) family with a 4.5W Thermal Design Profile (TDP.)
Intel and ARM continue to chip away at each other's market share in areas where the opponent is strongest: ARM's low-power chips are seeing increasing interest from the cloud computing and microserver market - although Intel isn't taking that lying down
- while Intel's system-on-chip (SoC) Atom variants offer an alternative to ARM chips in the smartphone, tablet and embedded computing markets.
AMD, meanwhile, is continuing to push its APU design as an alternative to both. The latest chip in the G-Series family, the G-T16R - aimed firmly at small-form factor and cost-sensitive embedded computing designs - is designed to replace the ageing 500MHz Geode LX 800 chip, which remains a popular choice in embedded computing circles for its low power draw and x86 instruction set.
As an APU, the G-T16R includes both general-purpose and graphics-processing hardware, although it's not a true system-on-chip design: manufacturers looking to build a system around the G-T16R will need to include an A55E chipset for connectivity to the rest of the system. Although this makes the overall design bulkier than one based around a true SoC from the likes of AMD rivals Nvidia or Intel, the new chip still comes in at a fraction of the size of the Geode: overall footprint for APU and chipset is 890 square millimetres, compared to 2,129 square millimetres for the Geode.
AMD's selling point for the G-T16R isn't just a reduced component footprint, however. The company claims that the chip draws seven per cent less power than the Geode - a 2.3W average power draw in a 4.5W TDP - while offering three times the performance as proved by SciMark2 benchmark suite in which the Geode scored 22.05 to the APU's 65.55. It has not, however, confirmed the chip's clock speed.
Traditionally, AMD's embedded product lines have been exceptionally niche products aimed at industrial control and monitoring, medical infrastructure, point-of-sale and digital signage markets. The role of low-power, passively-cooled embedded processors is beginning to change, however: the staggering success of the Raspberry Pi ARM-based single-board computer - which still requires pre-registration to purchase despite two manufacturing partners and round-the-clock production - has indicated a growing demand from users for cheap, compact low-cost computing systems.
Although AMD's hardware partners for the G-T16R - Advantech, Aewin, Arbor, aValue, Axiomtek and MEN Mikro Elektronik - are currently aiming firmly at traditional embedded markets with their designs, it wouldn't surprise us to see a manufacturer taking the G-T16R and producing a Raspberry Pi-alike - but one which boasts support for up to 4GB of DDR3 memory and a full x86 instruction set with full support for running Windows or any modern Linux variant.