Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | March 3, 2015 - 12:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Unity, lighting, global illumination, geomerics, GDC, arm
Back in 2013 ARM picked up a company called Geomerics, responsible for one the industry’s most advanced dynamic lighting engines used in games ranging from mobile to console to PC. Called Enlighten, it is the lighting engine in many major games in a variety of markets. Battlefield 3 uses it, Need for Speed: The Run does as well, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and Quantum Conundrum mark another pair of major games that depend on Geomerics technology.
Great, but what does that have to do with ARM and why would the company be interested in investing in software that works with such a wide array of markets, most of which are not dominated by ARM processors? There are two answers, the first of which is directional: ARM is using the minds and creative talent behind Geomerics to help point the Cortex and Mali teams in the correct direction for CPU and GPU architecture development. By designing hardware to better address the advanced software and lighting systems Geomerics builds then Cortex and Mali will have some semblance of an advantage in specific gaming titles as well as a potential “general purpose” advantage. NVIDIA employs hundreds of gaming and software developers for this exact reason: what better way to make sure you are always at the forefront of the gaming ecosystem than getting high-level gaming programmers to point you to that edge? Qualcomm also recently (back in 2012) started employing game and engine developers in-house with the same goals.
ARM also believes it will be beneficial to bring publishers, developers and middleware partners to the ARM ecosystem through deployment of the Enlighten engine. It would be feasible to think console vendors like Microsoft and Sony would be more willing to integrate ARM SoCs (rather than the x86 used in the PS4 and Xbox One) when shown the technical capabilities brought forward by technologies like Geomerics Enlighten.
It’s best to think of the Geomerics acquisition of a kind of insurance program for ARM, making sure both its hardware and software roadmaps are in line with industry goals and directives.
At GDC 2015 Geomerics is announcing the release of the Enlighten 3 engine, a new version that brings cinematic-quality real-time global illumination to market. Some of the biggest new features include additional accuracy on indirect lighting, color separated directional output (enables individual RGB calculations), better light map baking for higher quality output, and richer material properties to support transparency and occlusion.
All of this technology will be showcased in a new Subway demo that includes real-time global illumination simulation, dynamic transparency and destructible environments.
Geomerics Enlighten 3 Subway Demo
Enlighten 3 will also ship with Forge, a new lighting editor and pipeline tool for content creators looking to streamline the building process. Forge will allow import functionality from Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya applications making inter-operability easier. Forge uses a technology called YEBIS 3 to show estimated final quality without the time consuming final-build processing time.
Finally, maybe the biggest news for ARM and Geomerics is that the Unity 5 game engine will be using Enlighten as its default lighting engine, giving ARM/Mali a potential advantage for gaming experiences in the near term. Of course Enlighten is available as an option for Unreal Engine 3 and 4 for developers using that engine in mobile, console and desktop projects as well as in an SDK form for custom integrations.
Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2015 - 02:05 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, g-sync, GTX 970, gigabyte, brix s, broadwell-u, Intel, nuc, arm, Cortex-A72, mediatek, amd, Godavari, Raspberry Pi, windows 10
PC Perspective Podcast #335 - 02/05/2015
Join us this week as we discuss Mobile G-Sync, GTX 970 SLI, a Broadwell Brix and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:28:13
ARM Releases Top Cortex Design to Partners
ARM has an interesting history of releasing products. The company was once in the shadowy background of the CPU world, but with the explosion of mobile devices and its relevance in that market, ARM has had to adjust how it approaches the public with their technologies. For years ARM has announced products and technology, only to see it ship one to two years down the line. It seems that with the increased competition in the marketplace from Apple, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm ARM is now pushing to license out its new IP in a way that will enable their partners to achieve a faster time to market.
The big news this time is the introduction of the Cortex A72. This is a brand new design that will be based on the ARMv8-A instruction set. This is a 64 bit capable processor that is also backwards compatible with 32 bit applications programmed for ARMv7 based processors. ARM does not go into great detail about the product other than it is significantly faster than the previous Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A57.
The previous Cortex-A15 processors were announced several years back and made their first introduction in late 2013/early 2014. These were still 32 bit processors and while they had good performance for the time, they did not stack up well against the latest A8 SOCs from Apple. The A53 and A57 designs were also announced around two years ago. These are the first 64 bit designs from ARM and were meant to compete with the latest custom designs from Apple and Qualcomm’s upcoming 64 bit part. We are only now just seeing these parts make it into production, and even Qualcomm has licensed the A53 and A57 designs to insure a faster time to market for this latest batch of next-generation mobile devices.
We can look back over the past five years and see that ARM is moving forward in announcing their parts and then having their partners ship them within a much shorter timespan than we were used to seeing. ARM is hoping to accelerate the introduction of its new parts within the next year.
Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2015 - 03:08 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wearables, SoC, smartwatch, Intel, ces 2015, CES, arm
Wearable tech shown at this year's CES by Intel included the Intel MICA and Basis PEAK wearables, but a blog post from ARM is reporting that a pair of these devices are powered by an ARM SoC.
The Intel MICA (Image credit: Intel)
ARM has posted pictures of teardowns from different wearable products, highlighting their presence in these new devices. The pictures we have taken from ARM's blog post show that it is not Intel at the heart of the two particular models we have listed below.
First is the Basis PEAK, and it actually makes a lot of sense that this product would have an ARM SoC considering Intel's aquisition of Basis occurred late in 2014, likely after the development of the PEAK had been completed.
The Basis PEAK (Image credits: Basis, ARM)
Of course it is likely that Intel has plans to integrate their own mobile chips into future versions of wearable products like the PEAK.
Of some interest however is the SoC within their own MICA luxury wearable.
The Intel MICA (Image credits: Intel, ARM)
For now, ARM is the industry standard for mobile devices and they are quick to point this out in their their blog post, writing "it’s important to remember that only ARM and its partners can meet the diversity requirements and fuel innovation in this space". Intel seems to be playing the "partner" role for now, though not exclusively as the company's mobile technology is powering the newest ASUS ZenFone, for instance.
Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2015 - 01:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: android 4.0, Android 5.0, arm, microsoft
The closed beta for the Office Suite is over and now anyone with an ARM powered Android device running versions 4.x or 5.x can install the non-pared down version Office for Android though you want to make sure your device is between 7" to 10". This is somewhat sad news as it deflates the dreams of those hoping to use NVIDIA's Shield as a desktop replacement and also excludes the new and more powerful Bay Trail tablets. Office on Android is still in beta so this is not a final product and the support for processors may expand as the we approach release, with no firm date for the final release there is reason to expect support could expand to Bay Trail at the least. There is also no price although as The Inquirer points out, the iPad version is free to use.
"MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED the expansion of its beta programme for Android tablet versions of its Office productivity suite."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Micron stacks its 3D NAND high in 2015 @ The Register
- Lenovo: We now OWN IBM's shrinking Euro server biz. It's OURS! @ The Register
- With Forge TV, Razer aims to bring PC gaming to the living room @ The Tech Report
- Syber invades living room with gaming PCs, in-home streaming prototype @ The Tech Report
- Cherry's RealKey tech promises uber-responsive, ghost-free keyboards @ The Tech Report
- Intel's Compute Stick is a $149 Windows PC to go @ The Tech Report
NVIDIA's Tegra X1
NVIDIA seems to like begin on a one year cycle with their latest Tegra products. Many years ago we were introduced to the Tegra 2, and the year after that the Tegra 3, and the year after that the Tegra 4. Well, NVIDIA did spice up their naming scheme to get away from the numbers (not to mention the potential stigma of how many of those products actually made an impact in the industry). Last year's entry was the Tegra K1 based on the Kepler graphics technology. These products were interesting due to the use of the very latest, cutting edge graphics technology in a mobile/low power format. The Tegra K1 64 bit variant used two “Denver” cores that were actually designed by NVIDIA.
While technically interesting, the Tegra K1 series have made about the same impact as the previous versions. The Nexus 9 was the biggest win for NVIDIA with these parts, and we have heard of a smattering of automotive companies using Tegra K1 in those applications. NVIDIA uses the Tegra K1 in their latest Shield tablet, but they do not typically release data regarding the number of products sold. The Tegra K1 looks to be the most successful product since the original Tegra 2, but the question of how well they actually sold looms over the entire brand.
So why the history lesson? Well, we have to see where NVIDIA has been to get a good idea of where they are heading next. Today, NVIDIA is introducing the latest Tegra product, and it is going in a slightly different direction than what many had expected.
The reference board with 4 GB of LPDDR4.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | December 23, 2014 - 04:07 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, Nintendo, arm, amd
The tea leaves that WCCFTech have been reading are quite scattered, but they could be right. The weaker half is pulled from an interview between Shigeru Miyamoto and the Associated Press. At the very end, the creator of many Nintendo franchises states, “While we're busy working on software for the Wii U, we have production lines that are working on ideas for what the next system might be.”
Of course they do. That is not confirmation of a new console.
Original Mario Bros. Screenshot Credit: Giant Bomb (Modified)
A bit earlier, he also states, “I think that maybe when we release the next hardware system, you can look forward to seeing Mario take on a new role or in a new game.”
This, on the other hand, sounds a little bit like they are iterating on game design ideas that will shape the next console. From what I understand, this is how Nintendo tends to work – they apparently engineer hardware around concept use cases. It could also be a mistake.
The rumor's stronger half is a statement from Devinder Kumar, the CFO of AMD.
“I will say that one [design win] is x86 and [another] is ARM, and at least one will [be] beyond gaming, right,” said Devinder Kumar, chief financial officer of AMD, at the Raymond James Financial technology conference. “But that is about as much as you going to get out me today. From the standpoint [of being] fair to [customers], it is their product, and they launch it. They are going to announce it and then […] you will find out that it is AMD’s APU that is being used in those products.”
So AMD has secured design wins from two companies, one gaming and the other is something else. Also, one design will be x86 and the other will be ARM-based. This could be an awkward co-incidence but, at the same time, there are not too many gaming companies around.
Also, if it is Nintendo, which architecture would they choose? x86 is the common instruction set amongst the PC and other two consoles, and it is easy to squeeze performance out of. On the other hand, Nintendo has been vocal about Apple and the mobile market, which could have them looking at ARM, especially if the system design is particularly abnormal. Beyond that, AMD could have offered Nintendo an absolute steal of a deal in an effort to get a high-profile customer associated with their ARM initiative.
Or, again, this could all be coincidence.
Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2014 - 12:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, microsoft, windows server
The Register does not specify which version this was, likely a recent but highly modified version, but Microsoft has demonstrated their Server OS running on ARM hardware. This will give them another inroad to low cost server builds which don't necessarily have Intel or AMD inside, as well as hedging their bets against Linux. Linux is already happily running on just about any hardware you could want, or will be soon and Microsoft is likely worried about losing share to the open source OS. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft can offer the price conscious shopper to convince them to spend the money on an OS license when Linux is free. The days when the older generations of techs who have grown up with large UNIX servers and through Microsoft replacing it are numbered and they have always been one of the obstacles for the growth of upstart young Linux. The Register also points to the possibility of it being an in house solution to keep the costs of maintaining Microsoft's Cloud applications.
"That's not a stunning feat: having developed Windows RT – a version of Windows 8 running on ARM chippery – Microsoft clearly has the know-how to get the job done. And it's not an indication that Microsoft intends to make Windows Server on ARM a product. It's just a test."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Windows 10 Gets a Package Manager For the Command Line @ Slashdot
- Microsoft shows off spanking Win 10 PCs, compute-tastic Azure @ The Register
- Microsoft Office for Android tipped to arrive in November @ The Inquirer
- Universal Translator @ MAKE:Blog
- Best travel gadgets 2014 @ The Inquirer
- Win an ASUS ROG Swift 144Hz G-Sync monitor @ KitGuru
Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 04:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: arm, mali-T800, mali
While some mobile SoC manufacturers have created their own graphics architectures, others license from ARM (and some even have a mixture of each within their product stack). There does not seem to be a specific push with this generation, rather just increases in the areas that make the most sense. Some comments tout increased energy efficiency, others higher performance, and even API support got a boost to OpenGL ES 3.1, which brings compute shaders to mobile graphics applications (without invoking OpenCL, etc.).
Three models are in the Mali-T800 series: the T820, the T830, and the T860. As you climb in the list, the products go from entry level to high-performance mobile. GPUs are often designed in modularized segments, which ARM calls cores. You see this frequently in desktop, discrete graphics cards where an entire product stack contains a handful of actual designs, but products are made by disabling whole modules. The T820 and T830 can scale between one to four "core" modules, each core containing four actual "shader cores", while the T860 can scale between one to sixteen "core" modules, each core with 16 "shader cores". Again "core modules" are groups that contain actual shader processors (and L2 cache, etc.). Cores in cores.
This is probably why NVIDIA calls them "Streaming Multiprocessors" that contain "CUDA Cores".
ARM does not (yet) provide an actual GFLOP rating for these processors, and it is up to manufacturers to some extent. It is normally a matter of multiplying the clock frequency by the number of ops per cycle and by the number of shader units available. I tried, but I assume my assumption of instructions per clock was off because the number I was getting did not match with known values from previous generations, so I assumed that I made a mistake. Also, again, ARM considers their performance figures to be conservative. Manufacturers should have no problem exceeding these, effortlessly.
As for a release timeline? Because these architectures are designed for manufacturers to implement, you should start seeing them within devices hitting retail in late 2015, early 2016.
Subject: Editorial | October 15, 2014 - 12:39 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: revenue, Results, quarterly, Q3, Intel, haswell, Broadwell, arm, amd, 22nm, 2014, 14nm
Yesterday Intel released their latest quarterly numbers, and they were pretty spectacular. Some serious milestones were reached last quarter, much to the dismay of Intel’s competitors. Not everything is good with the results, but the overall quarter was a record one for Intel. The company reported revenues of $14.55 billion dollars with a net income of $3.31 billion. This is the highest revenue for a quarter in the history of Intel. This also is the first quarter in which Intel has shipped 100 million processors.
The death of the PC has obviously been overstated as the PC group had revenue of around $9 billion. The Data Center group also had a very strong quarter with revenues in the $3.7 billion range. These two groups lean heavily on Intel’s 22 nm TriGate process, which is still industry leading. The latest Haswell based processors are around 10% of shipping units so far. The ramp up for these products has been pretty impressive. Intel’s newest group, the Internet of Things, has revenues that shrank by around 2% quarter over quarter, but it has grown by around 14% year over year.
Not all news is good news though. Intel is trying desperately to get into the tablet and handheld markets, and so far has had little traction. The group reported revenues in the $1 million range. Unfortunately, that $1 million is offset by about $1 billion in losses. This year has seen an overall loss for mobile in the $3 billion range. While Intel arguably has the best and most efficient process for mobile processors, it is having a hard time breaking into this ARM dominated area. There are many factors involved here. First off there are more than a handful of strong competitors working directly against Intel to keep them out of the market. Secondly x86 processors do not have the software library or support that ARM has in this very dynamic and fast growing section. We also must consider that while Intel has the best overall process, x86 processors are really only now achieving parity in power/performance ratios. Intel still is considered a newcomer in this market with their 3D graphics support.
Intel is quite happy to take this loss as long as they can achieve some kind of foothold in this market. Mobile is the future, and while there will always be the need for a PC (who does heavy duty photo editing, video editing, and immersive gaming on a mobile platform?) the mobile market will be driving revenues from here on out. Intel absolutely needs to have a presence here if they wish to be a leader at driving technologies in this very important market. Intel is essentially giving away their chips to get into phones and tablets, and eventually this will pave the way towards a greater adoption. There are still hurdles involved, especially on the software side, but Intel is working hard with developers and Google to make sure support is there. Intel is likely bracing themselves for a new generation of 20 nm and 16 nm FinFET ARM based products that will start showing up in the next nine months. The past several years has seen Intel push mobile up to high priority in terms of process technology. Previously these low power, low cost parts were relegated to an N+1 process technology from Intel, but with the strong competition from ARM licensees and pure-play foundries Intel can no longer afford that. We will likely see 14 nm mobile parts from Intel sooner as opposed to later.
Intel has certainly shored up a lot of their weaknesses over the past few years. Their integrated 3D/GPU support has improved in leaps and bounds over the years, their IPC and power consumption with CPUs is certainly industry leading, and they continue to pound out impressive quarterly reports. Intel is certainly firing on all cylinders at this time and the rest of the industry is struggling to keep up. It will be interesting to see if Intel will keep up with this pace, and it will be imperative for the company to continue to push into mobile markets. I have never counted Intel out as they have a strong workforce, a solid engineering culture, and some really amazingly smart people (except Francois… he is just slightly above average- he is a GT-R aficionado after all).
Next quarter appears to be more of the same. Intel is expecting revenue in the $14.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million. This continues along with the strong sales of PC and server parts for Intel that helps buoy them to these impressive results. Net income and margins again look to appear similar to what this past quarter brought to the table. We will see the introduction of the latest 14 nm Broadwell processors, which is an important step for Intel. 14 nm development and production has taken longer than people expected, and Intel has had to lean on their very mature 22 nm process longer than they wanted to. This has allowed a few extra quarters for the pure-play foundries to try to catch up. Samsung, TSMC, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES are all producing 20 nm products with a fast transition to 16/14 nm FinFET by early next year. This is not to say that these 16/14nm FinFET products will be on par with Intel’s 14 nm process, but it at least gets them closer. In the near term though, these changes will have very little effect on Intel and their product offerings over the next nine months.