ARM Partners with TSMC to Produce SoCs on 7nm FinFET

Subject: Processors | March 15, 2016 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, servers, process technology, low power, FinFET, datacenter, cpu, arm, 7nm, 7 nm FinFET

ARM and TSMC have announced their collaboration on 7 nm FinFET process technology for future SoCs. A multi-year agreement between the companies, products produces on this 7 nm FinFET process are intended to expand ARM’s reach “beyond mobile and into next-generation networks and data centers”.

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TSMC Headquarters (Image credit: AndroidHeadlines)

So when can we expect to see 7nm SoCs on the market? The report from The Inquirer offers this quote from TSMC:

“A TSMC spokesperson told the INQUIRER in a statement: ‘Our 7nm technology development progress is on schedule. TSMC's 7nm technology development leverages our 10nm development very effectively. At the same time, 7nm offers a substantial density improvement, performance improvement and power reduction from 10nm’.”

Full press release after the break.

Source: ARM

MWC 2016: MediaTek Announces Helio P20 True Octa-Core SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 22, 2016 - 11:11 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, octa-core, MWC 2016, MWC, mediatek, Mali-T880, LPDDR4X, Cortex-A53, big.little, arm

MediaTek might not be well-known in the United States, but the company has been working to expand from China, where it had a 40% market share as of June 2015, into the global market. While 2015 saw the introduction of the 8-core Helio P10 and the 10-core helio X20 SoCs, the company continues to expand their lineup, today announcing the Helio P20 SoC.

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There are a number of differences between the recent SoCs from MediaTek, beginning with the CPU core configuration. This new Helio P20 is a “True Octa-Core” design, but rather than a big.LITTLE configuration it’s using 8 identically-clocked ARM Cortex-A53 cores at 2.3 GHz. The previous Helio P10 used a similar CPU configuration, though clocks were limited to 2.0 GHz with that SoC. Conversely, the 10-core Helio X20 uses a tri-cluster configuration, with 2x ARM Cortex-A72 cores running at 2.5 GHz, along with a typical big.LITTLE arrangement (4x Cortex-A53 cores at 2.0 Ghz and 4x Cortex-A53 cores at 1.4 GHz).

Another change affecting MediaTek’s new SoC and he industry at large is the move to smaller process nodes. The Helio P10 was built on 28 nm HPM, and this new P20 moves to 16 nm FinFET. Just as with the Helio P10 and Helio X20 (a 20 nm part) this SoC is produced at TSMC using their 16FF+ (FinFET Plus) technology. This should provide up to “40% higher speed and 60% power saving” compared to the company’s previous 20 nm process found in the Helio X20, though of course real-world results will have to wait until handsets are available to test.

The Helio P20 also takes advantage of LPDDR4X, and is “the world’s first SoC to support low power double data rate random access memory” according to MediaTek. The company says this new memory provides “70 percent more bandwidth than the LPDDR3 and 50 percent power savings by lowering supply voltage to 0.6v”. Graphics are powered by ARM’s high-end Mali T880 GPU, clocked at an impressive 900 MHz. And all-important modem connectivity includes CAT6 LTE with 2x carrier aggregation for speeds of up to 300 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up. The Helio P20 also supports up to 4k/30 video decode with H.264/265 support, and the 12-bit dual camera ISP supports up to 24 MP sensors.

Specs from MediaTek:

  • Process: 16nm
  • Apps CPU: 8x Cortex-A53, up to 2.3GHz
  • Memory: Up to 2 x LPDDR4X 1600MHz (up to 6GB) + 1x LPDDR3 933Mhz (up to 4GB) + eMMC 5.1
  • Camera: Up to 24MP at 24FPS w/ZSD, 12bit Dual ISP, 3A HW engine, Bayer & Mono sensor support
  • Video Decode: Up to 4Kx2K 30fps H.264/265
  • Video Encode: Up to 4Kx2K 30fps H.264
  • Graphics: Mali T-880 MP2 900MHz
  • Display: FHD 1920x1080 60fps. 2x DSI for dual display
  • Modem: LTE FDD TDD R.11 Cat.6 with 2x20 CA. C2K SRLTE. L+W DSDS support
  • Connectivity: WiFiac/abgn (with MT6630). GPS/Glonass/Beidou/BT/FM.
  • Audio: 110db SNR & -95db THD

It’s interesting to see SoC makers experiment with less complex CPU designs after a generation of multi-cluster (big.LITTLE) SoCs, as even the current flagship Qualcomm SoC, the Snapdragon 820, has reverted to a straight quad-core design. The P20 is expected to be in shipping devices by the second half of 2016, and we will see how this configuration performs once some devices using this new P20 SoC are in the wild.

Full press release after the break:

Source: MediaTek

Podcast #386 - Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: vr edition, video, UMC, ue4, podcast, phanteks, nvidia, logitech, GTX 980 Ti, g810, evga, enthoo evolv itx, asrtock, arm, amd, 28HPCU

PC Perspective Podcast #386 - 02/10/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:30:34

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:36:45 This week’s podcast is brought to you by Casper. Use code PCPER at checkout for $50 towards your order!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

28HPCU: Cost Effective and Power Efficient

Have you ever been approached about something and upon first hearing about it, the opportunity just did not seem very exciting?  Then upon digging into things, it became much more interesting?  This happened to me with this announcement.  At first blush, who really cares that ARM is partnering with UMC at 28 nm?  Well, once I was able to chat with the people at ARM, it is much more interesting than initially expected.

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The new hotness in fabrication is the latest 14 nm and 16 nm processes from Samsung/GF and TSMC respectively.  It has been a good 4+ years since we last had a new process node that actually performed as expected.  The planar 22/20 nm products just were not entirely suitable for mass production.  Apple was one of the few to actually develop a part for TSMC’s 20 nm process that actually sold in the millions.  The main problem was a lack of power and speed scaling as compared to 28 nm processes.  Planar was a bad choice, but the development of FinFET technologies hadn’t been implemented in time for it to show up at this time by 3rd party manufacturers.

There is a problem with the latest process generations, though.  They are new, expensive, and are production constrained.  Also, they may not be entirely appropriate for the applications that are being developed.  There are several strengths with 28 nm as compared.  These are mature processes with an excess of line space.  The major fabs are offering very competitive pricing structures for 28 nm as they see space being cleared up on the lines with higher end SOCs, GPUs, and assorted ASICs migrating to the new process nodes.

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TSMC has typically been on the forefront of R&D with advanced nodes.  UMC is not as aggressive with their development, but they tend to let others do some of the heavy lifting and then integrate the new nodes when it fits their pricing and business models.  TSMC is on their third generation of 28 nm.  UMC is on their second, but that generation encompasses many of the advanced features of TSMC’s 3rd generation so it is actually quite competitive.

Click here to continue reading about ARM, UMC, and the 28HPCU process!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Fighting for Relevance

AMD is still kicking.  While the results of this past year have been forgettable, they have overcome some significant hurdles and look like they are improving their position in terms of cutting costs while extracting as much revenue as possible.  There were plenty of ups and downs for this past quarter, but when compared to the rest of 2015 there were some solid steps forward here.

AMD-Logo.jpg

The company reported revenues of $958 million, which is down from $1.06 billion last quarter.  The company also recorded a $103 million loss, but that is down significantly from the $197 million loss the quarter before.  Q3 did have a $65 million write-down due to unsold inventory.  Though the company made far less in revenues, they also shored up their losses.  The company is still bleeding, but they still have plenty of cash on hand for the next several quarters to survive.  When we talk about non-GAAP figures, AMD reports a $79 million loss for this past quarter.

For the entire year AMD recorded $3.99 billion in revenue with a net loss of $660 million.  This is down from FY 2014 revenues of $5.51 billion and a net loss of $403 million.  AMD certainly is trending downwards year over year, but they are hoping to reverse that come 2H 2016.

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Graphics continues to be solid for AMD as they increased their sales from last quarter, but are down year on year.  Holiday sales were brisk, but with only the high end Fury series being a new card during this season, the impact of that particular part was not as great as compared to the company having a new mid-range series like the newly introduced R9 380X.  The second half of 2016 will see the introduction of the Polaris based GPUs for both mobile and desktop applications.  Until then, AMD will continue to provide the current 28 nm lineup of GPUs to the market.  At this point we are under the assumption that AMD and NVIDIA are looking at the same timeframe for introducing their next generation parts due to process technology advances.  AMD already has working samples on Samsung’s/GLOBALFOUNDRIES 14nm LPP (low power plus) that they showed off at CES 2016.

Click here to continue reading about AMD's Q4 2015 and FY 2015 results!

GDC 2016 Sessions Are Up and DirectX 12 / Vulkan Are There

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2016 - 07:06 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, ue4, nvidia, Intel, gdc 2016, GDC, epic games, DirectX 12, Codemasters, arm, amd

The 30th Game Developers Conference (GDC) will take place on March 14th through March 18th, with the expo itself starting on March 16th. The sessions have been published at some point, with DX12 and Vulkan prominently featured. While the technologies have not been adopted as quickly as advertised, the direction is definitely forward. In fact, NVIDIA, Khronos Group, and Valve have just finished hosting a developer day for Vulkan. It is coming.

gdc-2016-logo.png

One interesting session will be hosted by Codemasters and Intel, which discusses bringing the F1 2015 engine to DirectX 12. It will highlight a few features they implemented, such as voxel based raytracing using conservative rasterization, which overestimates the size of individual triangles so you don't get edge effects on pixels that are partially influenced by an edge that cuts through a tiny, but not negligible, portion of them. Sites like Game Debate (Update: Whoops, forgot the link) wonder if these features will be patched in to older titles, like F1 2015, or if they're just R&D for future games.

Another keynote will discuss bringing Vulkan to mobile through Unreal Engine 4. This one will be hosted by ARM and Epic Games. Mobile processors have quite a few cores, albeit ones that are slower at single-threaded tasks, and decent GPUs. Being able to keep them loaded will bring their gaming potential up closer to the GPU's theoretical performance, which has surpassed both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, sometimes by a factor of 2 or more.

Many (most?) slide decks and video recordings are available for free after the fact, but we can't really know which ones ahead of time. It should be an interesting year, though.

Source: GDC

Need a hand picking a low power ARM system?

Subject: Systems | January 13, 2016 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: arm, raspberry pi zero, jetson tk1, JetsonTX1

If you are curious how the various ARM powered boards currently on the market compare to each other then the gang over at Phoronix has a real treat for you.  They have assembled a plethora of systems including the ODROID C1+, Raspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 2, Orange Pi Plus, Orange Pi PC, Banana Pi M2 as well as the Jetson TK1, and Jetson TX1 for comparison purposes.  Most of the systems use a Cortex A7 though you will also see an A5 as well as an A57.  The tests are varied as it can be difficult to determine what performance should be benchmarked on these systems although some like the OpenSSL test are obvious.  Since part of the reason you would choose a low power ARM system is the price, they wrap up with a performance-per-dollar rating to help you choose the best valued system for what you need it to do.

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"For those interested in small, low-power ARM single-board computers, up for your viewing pleasure today are benchmarks of several different boards from the Raspberry Pi Zero to the Banana Pi M2."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Phoronix

CES 2016 Podcast Day 2 - MSI, Gigabyte, Corsair, and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2016 - 04:31 AM |
Tagged: video, spec alpha, podcast, msi, GT72S Tobii, GS40 Phantom, gigabyte, corsair, CES 2016, CES, carbide, brix, arm, 400Q, 400C

CES 2016 Podcast Day 2 - 01/06/16

Join us for announcements from MSI, Gigabyte, Corsair, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:02:45

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

Looking Towards 2016

ARM invited us to a short conversation with them on the prospects of 2016.  The initial answer as to how they feel the upcoming year will pan out is, “Interesting”.  We covered a variety of topics ranging from VR to process technology.  ARM is not announcing any new products at this time, but throughout this year they will continue to push their latest Mali graphics products as well as the Cortex A72.

Trends to Watch in 2016

The one overriding trend that we will see is that of “good phones at every price point”.  ARM’s IP scales from very low to very high end mobile SOCs and their partners are taking advantage of the length and breadth of these technologies.  High end phones based on custom cores (Apple, Qualcomm) will compete against those licensing the Cortex A72 and A57 parts for their phones.  Lower end options that are less expensive and pull less power (which then requires less battery) will flesh out the midrange and budget parts.  Unlike several years ago, the products from top to bottom are eminently usable and relatively powerful products.

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Camera improvements will also take center stage for many products and continue to be a selling point and an area of differentiation for competitors.  Improved sensors and software will obviously be the areas where the ARM partners will focus on, but ARM is putting some work into this area as well.  Post processing requires quite a bit of power to do quickly and effectively.  ARM is helping here to leverage the Neon SIMD engine and leveraging the power of the Mali GPU.

4K video is becoming more and more common as well with handhelds, and ARM is hoping to leverage that capability in shooting static pictures.  A single 4K frame is around 8 megapixels in size.  So instead of capturing video, the handheld can achieve a “best shot” type functionality.  So the phone captures the 4K video and then users can choose the best shot available to them in that period of time.  This is a simple idea that will be a nice feature for those with a product that can capture 4K video.

Click here to read the rest of ARM's thoughts on 2016!

Rumors Surrounding the LG NUCLUN 2 SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | December 1, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, LG, Intel, arm

So this story came out of nowhere. Whether the rumors are true or false, I am stuck on how everyone seems to be talking about it with a casual deadpan. I spent a couple hours Googling whether I missed some big announcement that made Intel potentially fabricating ARM chips a mundane non-story. Pretty much all that I found was Intel allowing Altera to make FPGAs with embedded ARM processors in a supporting role, which is old news.

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Image Credit: Internet Memes...

The rumor is that Intel and TSMC were both vying to produce LG's Nuclon 2 SoC. This part is said to house two quad-core ARM modules in a typical big.LITTLE formation. Samples were allegedly produced, with Intel's part (2.4 GHx) being able to clock around 300 MHz faster than TSMC's offering (2.1 GHz). Clock rate is highly dependent upon the “silicon lottery,” so this is an area that production maturity can help with. Intel's sample would also be manufactured at 14nm (versus 16nm from TSMC although these numbers mean less than they used to). LG was also, again allegedly, interesting in Intel's LTE modem. According to the rumors, LG went with TSMC because they felt Intel couldn't keep up with demand.

Now that the rumor has been reported... let's step back a bit.

I talked with Josh a couple of days ago about this post. He's quite skeptical (as I am) about the whole situation. First and foremost, it takes quite a bit of effort to port a design to a different manufacturing process. LG could do it, but it is questionable, especially for a second chip ever sort of thing. Moreover, I still believe that Intel doesn't want to manufacture chips that directly compete with them. x86 in phones is still not a viable business, but Intel hasn't given up and you would think that's a prerequisite.

So this whole thing doesn't seem right.

Source: Android