MSI W20 tablet sports Windows 8, AMD A4, and a fanless design

Once upon a time AMD processors had a reputation for running fast… but also running hot. These days AMD is offering low-power chips that you can fit into a thin and light tablet with no fans to keep things cool.

The MSI W20, for instance, is an 11.6 inch Windows 8 tablet powered by an AMD A4-1200 dual-core processor, and there’s not a fan in site (or sound).

MSI W20

The tablet has a 1366 x 768 pixel IPS touchscreen display, a 128GB of solid state storage, 2GB of RAM, and AMD Radeon HD 8180 graphics.

It features WiFi, Bluetooth, and a 34.78 Whr battery which MS says is good for up to 9 hours of run time. There’s also a fingerprint reader in addition to the usual tablet motion sensors and automatic light sensor. The 720p camera might be the most underwhelming feature.

The MSI W20 measures 12.2″  x 7.7″ x 0.4″ and weighs 1.5 pounds.

MSI hasn’t announced pricing for the tablet yet, but it’ll have to compete with a sea of low-cost Windows tablets featuring Intel Bay Trail processors.

via UMPC Portal

  • jm2c

    Seems pretty good. 9 hours of battery life, fanless and pretty light and thin with full Windows 8. If it really does get 9 hours of battery life and doesn’t perform poorly then that puts more pressure on RT tablets.

    • worleyeoe

      I agree and look forward to the Tamesh AMD chips by year end. Just give me a table that integrates with a nice docking station. I’m more likely to use the tablet as a general PC replacement with a large HDMI monitor and some nice USB based speakers. So give me the choice between a detachable keyboard and a docking station, and I might end up buying both in due time.

      Bay Trail is going to be the real deal. It’s going to run like an current Ivy Bridge i3 chip but with 9-10 hours of battery and very strong graphics that will support mid-range gaming.

      • kirilmatt

        Your facts are incorrect. Quad core bay trail is on par with jaguar cores clocked at the same frequency in cinebench. In GPU tasks Is is stomped on by jaguar and GCN and is about 2-3 times slower. Compared to haswell/IB, it is slower by about 2-3 times in CPU and GPU tasks. The GPU is a HD 4000 with a quarter of the clock speed or less. Not only that, but what I said that when jaguar and baytrail were clocked the same and performed the same, bay trail probably has turbo boost indicating lower IPC then jaguar cores.
        8 processors? You mean cores probably, but they will not do this. It is useless, with lower yields, energy efficiency and it takes up more space and will cost more.

      • CyberGusa

        Actually, if you compare performance per watt then Bay Trail completely blows away AMD’s Elite APUs. Different architectures can run at different clock speeds but it’s power and performance that matter!

        Really, the Z3770 is a sub 4W TDP tablet optimized version of Bay Trail but yet it can rival the 15W Kabini A4-5000 for CPU performance. The GPU does account for most of that 15W but the CPU cores still account for at least 6W under load but Bay Trail’s quad cores only pull 1W to 2.5W under load for comparison!

        So Bay Trail is using a lot less power for the same range of performance!

        While, Bay Trail does scale up as well with the Bay Trail M and D series actually being intended for the mobile laptop and desktop/server markets. Meaning the Z3770 doesn’t represent the equivalent of Kabini for Intel and they can actually offer even more performance at higher TDP.

        The GPU performance is in AMD’s favor, there was very little Intel could do to change that, but the gap is over a wider range as not everything was clearly in AMD’s GPU performance advantage… some tasks Intel gets pretty close to matching AMD and in others there was up to a little over double the performance difference but all of these are specifically only GPU performance comparisons…

        Anything that requires the CPU performance with the GPU, like running a physics engine benchmark suddenly reverses the advantage to Bay Trail!

        Really, AMD’s Elite APU GPU performance only exceeds Intel’s HD3000… So Haswell provides even more graphical performance and not the same as you indicated!

        The GCN graphics is definitely a improvement over the previous AMD Fusion/Brazos but let’s not get carried away and make it sound like it has a massive multiple times advantage… It’s more like comparing a GPU to one that’s only a step higher… Like say the Intel HD4000 to the newer HD4400, definite advantage but not a night and day difference!

      • kj_pda

        Very disappointed in emmc controller. Sata3 vs. Emmc, really. No 64-bit support until 2014. What’s the physical ram limitation. Intel drivers are always very poor and support is once from release

      • CyberGusa

        Bay Trail can go up to 4GB of RAM, mind that for the LP-DDR3 mobile market that there aren’t any higher capacities being offered yet and is a limitation like eMMC.

        The eMMC support is better though as they can now use the higher performance v4.5 specification eMMC that allows nearly double the performance of the previous v4.41 specification.

        So should be much more acceptable now with less than 1/3 difference for a SSD on SATA 2…

        Really, look at the videos showing Clover Trail and Bay Trail side by side and notice how much faster apps and games load… May still be a long way from modern SATA 3 and PCI Express SSDs but it’s not so bad anymore for a mobile device.

      • Richard Diaz

        I think you have the TDP and power consumption a little confused on this one, I don’t blame you though there has been no definite info on what the TDP for Bay Trail is do to there being no reference designs circulating around for the reviewer’s just the one test of the Z3770. The 4 watts you mentioned is actually the SDP (which measures the average power consumption for day to day use), while the 1-2.5 watts was the average power drawn while surfing the web (no videos).

        As for what the TDP is.. well we don’t know because Intel has not officially reveled that yet and probably wont do so (they no longer like to use this because they have found it ineffective for measuring power consumption/heat generated). Usually for Intel’s Core-I series the SDP numbers have been 2/3 of the TDP, so if we use that same measurement the Z3770’s TDP would be around 6-8watts (factoring in the turbo mode for the 8watts measurement).

        So in conclusion both the A6-1450 and Z3770 would on average consume 3-4 watts, their TDP would be 6-8watts TDP (both factoring Turbo Mode) meaning they both would need small cooling fans, and are both targeted at the hybrid notebook segment for about the same price (depending on the design). And we will see the same story we are use to seeing between Intel and AMD, Intel having superior CPU performance for serial work loads and AMD having superior GPU performance for video playback and entertainment work loads.

      • CyberGusa

        Sorry but this is incorrect, the SDP for Bay Trail T is specifically only 2W, this is official and has been for some time! Only TDP hasn’t been specified for the Bay Trail T models but the Bay Trail M starts at 4.5W TDP for the lowest model and that’s the range that starts for laptop, etc.

        And there have been already reviews that have indicated power consumption is only about the same for the Z3770 as it was for the Clover Trail Z2760! The Z3770 can go a bit higher when going full out because of the Turbo and it’s a quad but it finishes tasks faster and is much more efficient on managing power. So it still stays well below 5W even maxed out!

        The 1W to 2.5W I stated was specifically the power draw for all four CPU cores and that includes Turbo Mode! It was a on die power monitoring test that showed that! The Whole SoC of course is higher because of the GPU, etc. but it never goes above 5W!

        Really, a tablet optimized SoC has to stay below 5W TDP to remain fan-less!

        While you really should read the three available detailed reviews done on Bay Trail performance! Anandtech’s is only one of them…

      • kirilmatt

        I agree with a lot of what you said above, but the point I was making was that performance was nowhere near the level mentioned by the original comment. However, as mentioned above, intel has yet to provide a TDP figure. I hate their SDP because it is disingenuous. A 2W SDP is really not that great. If you look at AMD’s latest temash chip, the quad core A4-1350(?), they claim average power consumption under 3W, similar to Intel’s SDP. We have yet to really see everything about baytrail, but many reviewers were less then impressed with their hand-on time with a baytrail tablet. As for your graphics claim, the iGPU in quad core temash equals about the Intel HD 4000. In dual core, it is somewhat less. It does not equal the HD 3000. The only GPU benchmark that bay trail wins/is about the same is physics. Every other benchmark, baytrail doesn’t come close. As mentioned above, I don’t know how optimistic I am about power consumption compared to temash. I’m sure it will be netter, the question is how much. And if intel is somehow trying to squeeze a 5-6W baytrail chip in a tablet, heat could be an issue. I wouldn’t want my tablet to heat up when I play more intensive games. My current one does and its terribly annoying.

      • CyberGusa

        The reference models were handled by more than a dozen bloggers and they all noted it never got hot.

        While SDP isn’t average power but where TDP is limited most of the time.

        Basically, SDP is a extra cTDP state, like the U series Core processors but tuned to what’s optimal for target device usage.

        So, except for Turbo, it’ll rarely ever go beyond it.

        Mind that Intel ATOM can idle far lower than AMD SoCs can… There is no support for AMD to provide low mw power states like Always Connected Standy… Only S3 suspend is supported by AMD right now.

        Intel specifically optimized Bay Trail to compete with ARM mobile SoCs and so far the reviews are bearing this out..

        ARM also, basically uses SDP like states as high end ARM SoCs are already reaching 8W and higher but need to stay below 5W to stay fan-less but it’s normal for ARM, so they don’t advertise it but new for x86 and so why Intel markets it… But they don’t explain it well, thus the confusion.

      • kirilmatt

        ARM doesn’t release power figures. However, in order for arm to achieve fanlessness in certain designs(think nexus 10 exnyos) the SoC actually throttles in order to stay within 5W, certainly not an idea solution. There have been no reviews yet of baytrail, only benchmarks and hands-on, hands on being a bit disappointing according to some. The Toshiba tablet most hands-on reviewers handled was certainly not stressed. I’m not saying it will run hot, but a 2W SDP is a vague figure at this point. SDP is generally around 2-3x lower than TDP. Idle power consumption is not what maters. Both temash and bay trail will provide plenty of idle battery life. What is more interesting is usage scenarios. With AMD’s GPU using more power generally then the CPU, it’s actually possible for AMD to have better battery life in CPU-only tasks. Intel should publish hard TDP figures.

      • CyberGusa

        No, there are at least three reviews of Bay Trail… Four if you count HotHardware.com… So I’m just telling you what’s known now.

        While ARM SoCs have been tested for power usage. So it doesn’t matter whether the chip makers provide that figure… Besides, the OEMs manipulate and optimize every product in their own way… So some can be more power efficient than others but the numbers I gave are for what the platforms can provide.

      • kj_pda

        These were very good
        discussions

        After owning a acer clover trail tablet for close to a year,

        The tablet can get very hot
        (fanless)

        Connected standby had a lot
        of issues when waking up. Much better after recent firmware/driver release, but still get
        issues. Haven’t tried Skype, etc. that needs to alert in connected
        standby. I wonder if hibernate/sleep are more seemless

        Can’t play some metro win8
        games. Game just crashes. This is from gameloft ,specifically asphalt 7
        on clover trail

        Android Emulators like
        blu-staks doesn’t work well on clover trail

        A lot of storage performance
        issues outside of metro. Emmc has very poor random i/o. Agreed random i/o
        less on desktop but I’ve
        experienced slow i/o symptoms

        Opening multiple tabs in IE
        can be problematic (crash browser) with many tabs opened

        I don’t think bay trail will
        make these experiences better. And the low cost will just mask the issue

        Is there native high speed
        external i/o (usb 3.0) etc.

        I will say screen response
        when not experiencing other issues is great but clover trail tablet is
        meant for light use

        I just want to see 3+ amd tablets to compare

        MSI W20 m is amd temash a4 1200 with slow 8180 series gcn

        What’s even more frustrating is where is amd pricing?

      • CyberGusa

        “The tablet can get very hot”

        Not a general issue with Clover Trail, there’s far more complaints of ARM devices getting hot. Like the early Tegra 3 models and back then they were only clocked up to around 1.3GHz but now they can be clocked up to 1.7GHz… Showing it’s the OEM who had a learning curve.

        So don’t take too much from first gen Windows 8 tablets because the OEMs were still learning how to optimize and make them.

        “Android Emulators like blu-staks doesn’t work well on clover trail”

        This and other issues had more to do with how improvised the Clover Trail design was… Especially, the use of the Imagination PowerVR GPU.

        3rd party driver support is usually never good and Imagination is hardly known for great support. So a lot of the issues with Clover Trail can be traced to that issue but Bay Trail is 100% Intel based.

        So it’ll get direct support from Intel and the GMA being based on the same architecture as the Intel HD4000 GMA means a lot of the same driver support now applies to Bay Trail.

        The Bay Trail GMA even supports features like Quick Sync, among other things that previously was only provided by Intel Core Processors lines.

        Along with double or more on average performance that’ll make it a lot easier to run things that Clover Trail just couldn’t.

        “Connected standby had a lot of issues when waking up. Much better after recent firmware/driver release, but still get
        issues.”

        This had a lot to do with a number of issues that shouldn’t effect Bay Trail…

        1) Windows 8 introduced the adoption of UEFI instead of traditional BIOS firmware. UEFI isn’t the same as BIOS and this can cause problems unless everything is updated to work with it properly.

        2) The OEMs needed to learn how to properly optimize and set up the firmware and a lot of what they use to do for BIOS didn’t apply anymore. So the OEMs had a learning curve that we had to suffer through for those first gen devices.

        3) New features for Windows support is the Always Connected Standby. Prior to Windows 8 no version of Windows ever was made to support such a feature. Windows itself was never really optimized for mobile power efficiency before.

        So that meant both the driver support and Windows 8 itself had some early issues, but we’re going to be getting Windows 8.1 with Bay Trail and the driver support should be much better now that hardware makers have had a year to deal with it.

        It’s just Always Connected Standby is one of those things that requires everything to work together properly… Bad WiFi drivers that didn’t like the WiFi enter a proper power state for example would be enough to mess it up.

        Frankly, most of this should be solved already for Bay Trail and most issues should be for Android Bay Trail devices… New Architecture means what they did to get Android working on Clover Trail doesn’t apply and it shows as they’re taking an extra 2 months before they release any Bay Trail devices running Android.

        “A lot of storage performance issues outside of metro. Emmc has very poor random i/o.”

        Yes, mobile devices have been limited to slow eMMC… reasons being it’s a lot cheaper and because unlike true SSDs and other storage devices the eMMC is specifically optimized to support the power sipping states needed to maximize battery life.

        Bay Trail supports the latest mobile advances though… meaning it moves from LP-DDR2 to LP-DDR3 RAM and from v4.41 specification eMMC drives to v4.5 specification… The newer specification means nearly double the max bandwidth and performance enhancements like the support for cache memory with even higher bandwidth.

        So the drive performance can be about as significantly improved in new Bay Trail devices as the Bay Trail performance is over previous Clover Trail devices.

        “Is there native high speed external i/o (usb 3.0) etc. ”

        Yes, Bay Trail has native support for USB 3.0 and so we’ll be seeing a lot more of that offered. Just look at the early announced releases of Bay Trail devices coming out in October/November…

        The Asus Transformer Book T100, with Bay Trail Z3740, will have a full size USB 3.0 port in the included Keyboard Dock for example.

        “I will say screen response when not experiencing other issues is great but clover trail tablet is meant for light use”

        All mobile tablets are really only intended for light use but Bay Trail represents the next gen and raises the performance level enough for at least a little medium usage.

        Quick Sync support means for example you can do some light video editing, the gaming performance is good enough for light games like Torchlight 2, Team Fortress 2, etc. and the video playback is good enough for at least playing full 4K videos… even though the screen and video out max out at 2560×1600 but all of that is a world better than what Clover Trail was capable of providing.

        “I just want to see 3+ amd tablets to compare

        MSI W20 m is amd temash a4 1200 with slow 8180 series gcn

        What’s even more frustrating is where is amd pricing?”

        Unfortunately, AMD usually has a issue getting design wins for their products right away. Even higher end products like Trinity took months before we saw any actual system running on it and the previous tablet optimized Hondo APU took about a year before we finally saw a product but by then AMD was already introducing their new Elite APUs…

        Pricing should be low, but it’s still a question of whether they’ll be charging more than ARM based devices… AMD never really reveals their Tray pricing and even Intel has been a little vague for their tablet and phone range SoCs.

        But we can infer something of the pricing from what final products are being priced at…

        So far Bay Trail devices are all being announced below $400… making them more affordable than the previous Clover Trail… Though, it looks like HP will go higher but they sometimes charge more than they should.

        While, we’re seeing some pretty good prices with AMD Temash and Kabini for laptops… Even a recently announced budget range Lenovo Thinkpad is supposed to be having a starting price of $349 with a unspecified A4 processor and Thinkpads aren’t usually known for low pricing.

        MSI appears to be the first really pushing AMD for tablets, and while a 12.5″ may be too big for most people they did manage to make it really light and can still be easily held with one hand.

        The only problem is the A4-1200 at 1GHz doesn’t rival even the Clover Trail for CPU performance… but the GCN graphics are good enough to compare to Bay Trail… It’s just graphics alone aren’t enough to satisfy all needs but if you’re fine with Clover Trail and just wish it had better drivers and better graphics then the A4-1200 can be considered good… albeit, without any Connected Standby or similar mobile support but only a issue if you need to power sip for long periods and can’t charge the device regularly.

      • CyberGusa

        Btw, ARM doesn’t just throttle to reach the lower power states but dynamically manages the power resources throughout the SoC. The Krait processor for example can use up to 4W for either the CPU cores or the GPU, but just not at the same time!

        While also, pretty much everything else on the system can also be power gated…

        What Intel did was basically the same thing with Bay Trail, power can be dynamically adjusted between the CPU cores, the GPU and the rest of the system…

        Not using the camera, it gets turned off… Not using all cores, then everything but the active core it turned off… Need GPU performance but not CPU performance then power management shifts everything to the GPU and powers down the CPU cores… Etc!

        This is especially important for multiple core SoCs… Apple for example hasn’t developed this sort of power gating yet. So even the new A7 is still only a dual core but it’s well optimized dual cores that trade flexibility for better individual core performance.

        There’s different ways of going about it but the point is they use a wide range of tricks to optimize performance and so far only Intel is managing to do the same.

        AMD is still at the stage Intel was before they redesigned the ATOM into a SoC… They can throttle down to low power but they can’t really optimize performance for those low power states yet like ARM and Intel can. So the average power consumption will still be higher for AMD because they can’t take as much advantage of the idle periods.

        They do have features like power gating but not to the low mw power ranges, at least not without actually turning off pretty much everything and not doing anything.

        Features like Always Connected Standby may seem like the system is off but it’s still doing things like keeping the system up to date and similar power states in the phone versions allow Intel SoCs to stay in low mw range for doing simple things like making a phone call and thus provide similar talk times as ARM versions.

        So, don’t be distracted by simply being able to get the max TDP in range of mobile devices because what it really takes to compete in mobile devices is being able to maximize the idle states advantage and focus power only where it’s needed at any one time to maximize efficiency.

        This is how Haswell, for example, can do the graphical performance of a 17W Ivy Bridge but only operate at around 7W… And Bay Trail takes that to even more extremes for maximizing mobile usage potential.

        Besides, TDP isn’t exactly always accurate and can be deceptive for mobile devices. Especially, since it’s actually variable depending on how the OEM designs the system as some designs require more cooling than others and so the power required to cool the system can vary even when using the same SoC between models.

  • vēer

    Make it at least 4Gb of RAM and that might make someone more interested :D!

  • kirilmatt

    If it had a 1080p screen it would be a lot better. I honestly don’t know why we haven’t seen any temash tablets actually for sale yet. Temash was released months ago and stomps all over clovertrail. Now that nobody used it, it has to compete with bay trail.