I stopped by Allwinner today to discuss their recently announced and now-shipping A31 SoC. The A31 is based around four ARM Cortex A7 CPUs and a Power VR SGX544MP2 GPU, all built on TSMC's 40nm G process. In addition there's a fifth power saver (likely A7) core on A31 which has a lower frequency, an arrangement curiously similar to NVIDIA's shadow core — this core is likely synthesized for better power efficiency. I asked for details about CPU and GPU clocks since these weren't readily available in the launch announcement, and was told that A31 was shipping with the A7s clocked at 1.0 GHz, although the platform could go higher to around 1.2 GHz if an OEM chooses. GPU clocks on the SGX544MP2 are around 350 MHz or higher as well. Allwinner also claims to have built its own video encode and decode blocks for the A31 which is what enables the platform to decode UHD (4K) content at 30 FPS. Allwinner says that the A31 is starting out with a price of around $20 but fully expects this to go down to half or even lower during its life cycle. A31 is targeted at tablets, smartphones, TVs, ARM based notebooks, and of course small Android-running media playback boxes. 

Allwinner also noted that it has an A20 SoC coming with dual core ARM Cortex A7s and Mali-400MP2 graphics which is pin compatible with A10 for easy design reuse. There's also obviously a Cortex A15-based Allwinner SoC in the works, but no word on how many cores that design will have.

Allwinner isn't as well known as some of the other SoC vendors in the US, but abroad in mainland China and other markets Allwinner has significant market share and penetration thanks to aggressive pricing. I've started to see Allwinner-based tablets emerge in the US on Amazon and other online retailers built by small one-off device manufacturers, in the future this will likely increase. There also has been an influx of Allwinner-based, Android-running media playback boxes I've noticed. 

Allwinner had two tablets with A31 inside that are already shipping, built by Chinese device maker Onda. The Onda V812 which is built around an 8-inch XGA display, includes 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 5 MP rear facing camera and 3 MP front facing camera. The Onda V812 is available from some online retailers for $180 USD which is very competitive, construction is aluminum and I was impressed by how well built it felt. 

In addition I played with the 9.7-inch V972 which I'm told includes the same display that Apple sources for its iPad 4 — 9.7 inch, 2048 x 1536 IPS, which looked brilliant. I felt like SGX544MP2 was a bit under powered to drive this, but the UI was performant. Curiously enough Onda also claims to have the iPhone 4 camera module for the 5.0 MP rear camera, and 2.0 MP front facing camera. Perhaps the most intriguing part is the $239 price point online. Imported into the US and running stock Android, I feel like price points such as these could easily disrupt some things. I ran sunspider on the two Allwinner tablets, scores are visible in the gallery. Allwinner was quick to remind me that even though A31 and devices are shipping that optimizations are ongoing.

I feel like we are going to see a lot more from Allwinner and a lot more devices with Allwinner inside in the future. 

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  • shomizu9 - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    When comparing budget tablets, I've found the Allwinner based tablets perform poorly vs similarly priced Rockchip and Via chip based tablets.

    It seems like you see too many A10-based and A13-based tablets in the same price ranges as tablets based on the Via WM8850 and Rockchip's RK3066, both of which blow the A13 and A10 tablets away (in my hands).
    Reply
  • Roland00Address - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Allwinner a10 is nowhere near as fast as Rockchip RK3066 but look at what is up against

    Allwinner a10 is a single core cortex A8 with about 1.2 ghz.
    Rockchip RK3066 is a dual core cortex A9 with about 1.6 ghz.

    Double the cores, 33% more frequency, and finally A9s have about 25% more IPC than A8s. Of course the Rockchip is much faster then the allwinner.

    To put it another way (ironically the ratios are perfect for this comparison.). The Iphone 3GS has a single core cortex A8, Iphone 4S has a dual core cortex A9. The Iphone 4S mhz is also 33% higher than the 3GS. Does anyone who has had both phones think the Iphone 4S is similar in speed to the 3GS?
    Reply
  • pugster - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    The rk3066 cost about $15 and the a10 cost less than $7. These low end allwinner tablets are being sold for about $41 wholesale, so the bump up in cpu does change the cost significantly. Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    @$20/piece, I'm looking forward to see these SoC flood the cheaper made phones/tablets.
    This will definitely raise the bottom performance line denominator for Android devices.

    Why get a cheap[er] iphone especially in places like China when you can get these power beasts alternatives at lower/better pricing.
    Reply
  • pugster - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Actually $20/piece is relatively costly. The Allwinner a10 was estimated to cost around $7 a few months back and the a13 cost around $5. Reply
  • twotwotwo - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    As pugster said, Allwinner chips are apparently $7 in quantity. The super-cheap 7" $40 Aakash 2 tablets for Indian students have (so far) been Chinese Allwinner A13-based gadgets--though they want to shift to actually building those tablets in India, so that may change the part sourcing/design as well.

    Yeah, I can imagine these getting attention in the US. They'll never have the marketing of a Kindle Fire or Nexus 7, but you do wonder if insanely low prices plus a standout feature or two (like using Apple's display part) will get some love. Or if they'll get attention from Apple's lawyers at least. :)
    Reply
  • Activate: AMD - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    This V972 seems like a great opportunity to do some kind of round-up review of "knock-off" tablets. I'm very tempted by the $240 price tag, but its a bit too much for me to simply impulse buy. The korean 1440P monitor experience has warmed me up to compromising on certain secondary aspects of a product in order to get some otherwise very expensive tech ( the high res screen), but I'd like a bit of background first Reply
  • coder543 - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    I agree. Maybe Anandtech could purchase a few of these lesser known tablets and do a full review on them? I would find it deeply interesting, and I'm sure many others would too. Come to think of it, Onda would probably be happy to give you a few tablets in exchange for the amount of publicity they would get. Reply
  • coder543 - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    This is extremely interesting. I would love to have some hands on time with these tablets.. Reply
  • GNUminex - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    I'm just curious, how does $20 compare to the current costs of older high end smart phone chips like omap 4430 and MSM8960? Because, based on the Sunspider scores, the A31 falls kind of in between those two chips; that brings up a lot of questions about cost value for new cortex A7 only chips versus older cortex A9 chips particularly when you are spending die space on a bunch of extra cores and money to design the chip. Reply

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