You may never have heard of Allwinner but they are huge and as of CES now have an 8-core tablet part on the market. With the release of the A80 SoC and the OptimusBoard that SemiAccurate used, the company is well positioned for the mainstream tablet market in 2014.
Allwinner rarely makes the headlines because they don’t make bleeding edge products that go in to high-end phones and tablets, instead they make mainstream SoCs that go in to high volume tablets. This mid-range market has decent margins, huge volumes, and since they don’t target phones directly there are no radio hassles and regulation to deal with. How big is Allwinner? Huge.
Allwinner is a clear number two in the tablet SoC market
According to Gartner’s April 2013 numbers Allwinner was a clear number two in the tablet SoC market with about 15% of the unit sales. That puts them between #1 Apple with about 43% of the market and close to the total for the #3 and #4 combined. That would be Nvidia pre-Tegra collapse and TI with 9% and 8% respectively. These numbers have changed a lot in the past 10 months but it is unlikely that Allwinner slipped from #2. Please note that these figures are unit volume, not revenue.
How do they do this? They attack the second tier OEMs for the most part and are very price competitive, there are enormous numbers of tablets sold in China and India by companies you have never heard of. On top of this they have a pretty strong suite of supporting IP, chips, and software support.
One of the trickiest of these devices to get right is the PMIC or Power Management IC, and that is where Allwinner started. The company will embed FAEs in most places where the big guys won’t go and have a lot of low-level software to bundle with each device. In short they make power management easier and save OEMs money and time to market. For the volume markets, especially the non-premium devices, this adds value enough be to considered something between welcome and a necessity.
The 2013 Allwinner lineup was led by the quad-core A31 and A31s. Both are A7 cored devices with an 8-core Imagination SGX544MP2 and lots of other standard components plus a matched PMIC. In short while other were putting out high-end A15 chips with massive GPUs, Allwinner had a perfectly adequate A7 solution with a performance matched GPU for a lot less money. According to their Techcon presentation this made them the #1 selling 1-core application processor worldwide, #1 dual core for 2013, and #1 quad-core for “non Tier-1 OEMs”. Allwinner may not be in Apple or Samsung but they are just about everywhere else.
That brings us to CES and the new A80 CPU which will be their flag bearer for 2014. This CPU has eight cores, 4x A7 and 4x A15 in a big.little configuration roughly a year after the first 4×4 models debuted. They likely sport a revised and lower power A15 variant, have most of the early big.little software/firmware headaches addressed, and are certainly going to be a lot cheaper than the first round of A15 products.
Allwinner was not giving out the full specs when SemiAccurate talked to them at CES but you can assume that these parts will be right there with the rest of the A15 pack for clocks and sport an imagination GPU too. In short it should have all the feature boxes checked to be a player in the volume markets for 2014, exactly the market they are targeting. Nothing extraordinary but no features missed, and all at a reasonable price.
A80 in the middle of the new OptimusBoard
SemiAccurate did get to see and play with functional A80 silicon both in tablet and the above OptimusBoard form factors at CES. Other than the normal trade show wear and tear that you can see in the USB port above, the tablets performed smoothly and didn’t produce the same heat levels as the first round of A15s. In short it is everything the target market will want at a price they like.
If you want one of these OptimusBoards, just contact Allwinner, but unfortunately neither it nor the A80 is listed on their website in any more depth than a press release. That will change in short order, likely by MWC, but the silicon and boards are done and dusted. Once the A80 is released in large volumes, expect the A9s that flood the mid-range market to vanish and be replaced by A15s. Thanks to Allwinner this long overdue shift is finally upon us.S|A
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