AMD shows off a reference device with a quad-core, x86-based Temash chip

Earlier today AMD's director of global business units marketing, John Taylor, joined us on our CES stage to talk chips. Specifically, tablet chips, and laptop chips, and chips for products that have elements of both. While he was up there, Mr. Taylor flashed a reference device -- a laptop hybrid with the keyboard and touchpad built into the carrying case. Obviously, we weren't satisfied with just a quick tease, so we caught up with him afterward to learn a bit more. As it turns out, it runs a quad-core version of AMD's new Temash chip, which is being billed as the first quad-core, x86-based SoC. (There's also a dual-core version.) Built into the chip is an HD Radeon 8000 series GPU with AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture, so in theory you should be able to pull off PC-caliber gaming even on a tablet.

All told, it promises 50 percent more performance than AMD's Hondo processor, which you can find in Vizio's new Windows 8 tablet. Of course, those are just marketing claims, and besides we haven't had a chance to benchmark either a Hondo or a Temash system yet. So, to put that in better context, it might be helpful to hear AMD talk about its competitors. Obviously, Intel is a biggie, but in particular AMD says Temash should be able to compete with Clover Trail tablet chips, going all the way up to Core i3 on laptops. We're told Temash will ship sometime in the first half of this year, and that AMD will be revealing more details about the platform at Mobile World Congress, which kicks off in late February. Until then, we've got hands-on photos of the unit below, along with some performance impressions after the break.

As we said, the laptop on display had an 11.6-inch, 1080p display and a quad-core chip, with a max power draw of eight watts. (AMD was also showing off an 11-inch, Quanta-made tablet with a dual-core Temash chip, rated for up to three watts, though it wasn't powered on.) In a demo of DiRT Showdown, we noticed lots of detail -- the glint of asphalt, and dust particles rising from the ground. At the same time, the game ran quite smoothly, even at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. When we strained really hard we noticed some very slight slow-down, but at this point we're mostly just nitpicking: the gameplay here is more than playable, and it's a clear improvement over what you'd get on an Atom-powered device or even an Ultrabook with HD 4000 graphics.

The rest of the hardware is beside the point, but knowing you guys, you're probably curious anyway. The viewing angles were good enough that we were able to follow along with DiRT Showdown, even when someone else was playing and we had to stand off to the side. The keyboard is shallow, as is often the case with ultraportables, though the individual buttons have an uncommon (but very pleasant) rubber finish.

The removable case has that built-in touchpad of course, and sports a faux-leather finish. We sort of dig that orange-yellow color, but naturally any OEM that uses this design can customize the color palette. The case doubles as a stand, too, with a piece in the back that folds in to prop up the tablet. Meanwhile, there are two slots into which you can insert the tablet as a way of adjusting the screen angle. On a closing note, that 11-inch tablet measures 10mm thick and has a soft-touch finish, similar to Vizio's Tablet PC, and it too has a 1080p display. Again, though, it wasn't powered on, so we unfortunately can't tell you much more today. We should learn more by May or June, though: that's when both devices are expected to hit shelves.

Myriam Joire contributed to this report.