AMD docking technology adjusts tablet, laptop performance in hybrids

AMD's Turbo Dock increases performance when hybrid is in laptop mode, scales down in tablet mode

Advanced Micro Devices hopes to take on Intel's ultrabooks with a new keyboard docking technology that modifies the level of performance of thin-and-light hybrid devices when used in tablet or laptop modes.

The company's Turbo Dock technology will adapt system performance when a hybrid laptop is in tablet mode, and vice versa, said Steve Belt, corporate vice president at AMD. The underlying technology behind Turbo Dock cranks up the clock speed of a processor when the tablet is connected to the dock, turning the hybrid device into a high-performance laptop.

There are many hybrid devices available today that turn into tablets when screens are detached from a dock. But the performance of existing hybrids in both laptop and tablet mode are the same.

Turbo Dock cranks up performance by up to 40 per cent when the tablet and dock are connected, Belt said. The clock speed falls when the tablet and dock are detached, and that helps extend battery life when the hybrid is in tablet mode.

The docking technology allows users to have a hybrid with both laptop or tablet performance, without sacrificing on battery life or performance, Belt said.

The technology is targeted at Windows 8 hybrids with multiple screen sizes and running the company's upcoming chip code-named Temash. AMD previewed tablets based on Temash earlier this year at the International CES trade show, and will likely show tablets with the new docking technology at the upcoming Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona next week.

The new technology will be available to PC makers to implement in hybrids, though Belt did not say when the computing devices would become available. Belt did not disclose full details about the Turbo Dock technology, but said PC makers will be able to customize docks to fit device needs. Docks may have various ports and display outputs.

AMD hopes the new technology is one of the cornerstones for the company to establish a presence in the market for hybrid devices, which is dominated by Intel and ARM. AMD in June last year announced its intent to enter the hybrid market, showing a Compal laptop that could turn into a tablet. However, Intel has steamed ahead, with most of the Windows 8 hybrids available today running on Atom or Core processors.

AMD is targeting performance tablets with its Temash chips, which also can offer the performance of a laptop, Belt said. Right now a majority of tablets are used for content consumption, and AMD has an opportunity to fill a void by offering tablet-laptop hybrids that balance performance and battery life, Belt said.

Temash is a quad-core x86 chip that can run a full OS like Windows 8. AMD estimates tablets with the chip will draw less than 5 watts of power and provide 10 hours of battery life. Tablets with the Temash chip will become available in the first half of this year.

But AMD is struggling in the tablet space. Its existing Z-60 chip, also targeted at performance tablets, has met with an underwhelming response. But Belt said that AMD sees promise in the performance tablet and hybrid segments.

"We've become very big believers in hybrid designs," Belt said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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