Allwinner Technology are a Chinese chipmaker with a history of producing processors and system-on-chips for a number of Android devices, in-car entertainment units and similar. Most of their processors have a bias towards energy saving and this has trended towards lower end devices: we’ve seen a number of entry level tablets based around an Allwinner processor such as the HP 10 Plus. Allwinner Technology have announced Android 5.0 Lollipop is going to be available for tablets, using the Allwinner A33 processor. This being a quad core ARM Cortex-A7 unit and we’ve seen this used in some of HP’s smaller, budget tablets. As well as the less powerful processors in the Allwinner range, they’ve also confirmed that Lollipop will be compatible with the A80 octa-core processors and have demonstrated Android TV running on an A80 processor.
The A80 is based around ARM’s 32-bit processor technology and most units combine a quad core Cortex-A15 processor with a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor, similar to a number of Samsung Exynos processors and arranged to use big.LITTLE. The concept behind big.LITTLE is that the high powered processor cores are there for the heavy lifting whereas the lower powered, but more efficient, cores are there for when the device is less stressed. It’s a way of improving performance and battery life. The Cortex-A15 cores used in the A80 are a couple of years old, but still have the stride to run with the big boys. At the end of October 2014, the Samsung Nexus 10 (running a 1.7 GHz dual core Cortex-A15 processor) was ranked as the seventh quickest Android device in the world according to Futuremark. Yes; the newer 64-bit processors will offer stronger performance and lower power consumption compared with the A80, but I suspect they’ll cost significantly more. Here is where Allwinner is onto something. Before I continue though, you should check out this video clip showing Android TV running on the Allwinner Technology hardware.
The video clip showing Android TV running Allwinner Technology (shown below) is interesting viewing. With Android TV working on inexpensive, but powerful, hardware, it is likely to encourage the Chinese manufacturers to manufacturer these devices. We’ve already seen many smart TV products from Chinese manufacturers running the smartphone (or tablet) flavor Android, but now they’ll be able to run the Android TV version. We need to wait and see if the manufacturers do switch to Android TV. As it’s somewhat less flexible compared with traditional Android as the Google Play Store will only show applications and games certified to work well with the remote control and television interface. It is possible that the Chinese manufacturers will continue to install normal Android versions to allow users to run largely anything they want on the Android TV boxes. Although, I think that this would be a shame. Surely it’s better to encourage developers to update their applications to work with the new hardware rather than allow a workaround? Perhaps we’ll see dual-boot devices offering customers a choice of either Android TV or tablet Android?