COMPUTEX 2011: The new AMD Z-series chips will bring a full PC client experience to tablets, a company executive said. AMD has been criticized for not moving quickly enough to deliver chips for the booming tablet market

AMD finally enters tablet market with new chip

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on Wednesday broke its silence around its tablet strategy, announcing its first low-power chip designed for these devices.

The Z-series chips, which is based on the Fusion architecture, will deliver a full PC client experience in tablets, said Chris Cloran, vice president and general manager of the computing solutions group, client division at AMD, at a press conference at the Computex trade show in Taipei. 

AMD has been criticized for  not moving quickly enough to deliver chips for the booming tablet market, at one point fueling speculation that it might license chip technology from ARM for this market. With the Z-series chips, AMD will compete with ARM, whose processors go into most tablets, and Intel, whose Atom processor code-named Oak Trail is being shown in many tablets at Computex.

The first chip in the Z-series family, the dual-core Z-01, runs at a clock speed of 1GHz. It draws less than six watts of power, and will deliver a long battery life to tablets, Cloran said. The chip is made using the 40-nanometer process and has already started shipping.

The chip includes a graphics core that supports Microsoft’s DirectX 11 technology, which will help deliver a more realistic gaming experience on tablets, Cloran said. The tablets will also be able to connect to high-definition television sets.

MSI at Computex is demonstrating a new tablet based on AMD’s latest tablet chip. The WindPad 110W runs Windows 7, and packs 2GB of RAM and SSD (solid-state drive) storage of up to 64GB. It weighs 850 grams and offers six hours of battery life.

The Z-series chips are designed specifically for Microsoft’s Windows 7 OS. Google’s Android will be able to run on top of the Windows 7 software stack, Cloran said. An Acer tablet running AMD’s Z-series chip was demonstrated onstage, and was able to switch seamlessly between Windows 7 and Android.

The ability to run Android will make more applications available for AMD tablets, Cloran said. Most of the tablets targeted at consumers today run on Android operating systems, while Windows 7 tablets, such as Hewlett-Packard’s Slate 500, are targeted at businesses.

Support for Android also gives tablet designers more flexibility to bundle both operating systems in one tablet, Cloran said.

AMD is scheduled to launch next year processors, code-named Wichita and Krishna, for low-power devices such as tablets. The chips will be made using the 28-nanometer process, and will have up to four processor cores.

AMD officials at the press conference also said that the company’s latest A-series chips, code-named Llano, for laptops and desktops will be officially announced later this month. The chips are to be released under the A4, A6 and A8 monikers. The A-series chips bring 400 gigaflops of computing power to laptops and 500 gigaflops to desktops, Cloran said.

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