Hardkernel Launching Quad Core ODROID-X Android Computer

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2012 - 08:53 AM |
Tagged: SFF, Samsung, linux, hardkernel, Exynos 4, computer, arm

If you are an Android developer and have been itching to get your hands on some high end, quad core hardware, than Korean company HardKernel may have just what you’re looking for. The new ODROID-X is an Android developer board (meaning it comes as just a single board computer sans case or accessories. For $129 plus shipping and customs fees, you can have a 90 x 94mm PCB with a Samsung Exynos 4412 ARM Cortex-A9 quad core at 1.4 GHz (1MB cache), Mali 400 GPU, 1GB RAM, and runs on a 5V, 2A power adapter.

Hardkernel ODROID-X.jpg

IO for the ODROID-X includes headphone and microphone jacks, six USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Ethernet, SDHC card slot, 50-pin GPIO connector, UART serial connector, MIPI-CAM camera connector, HDMI, and a power jack. In other words, it is extremely expandable. It is capable of outputting 1080p video over HDMI when using the H.264 video codec thanks to dedicated hardware acceleration. Hardkernel will happily sell you accessories but you would likely be better off buying it from a local retailer or online shop that is in-country to avoid the extra shipping and customs fees. The power jack and other ports are standard, so there aren’t any worries there. Android 4.0 ICS is reportedly available for download, though no word yet on when the newly announced Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" OS build will be up on the site.

Thanks to the Samsung Exynos 4, you definitely have more oomph than the 700 MHz ARMv7 in the Raspberry Pi, though this board isn’t nearly as small (and costs about four times as much). If you need the extra horsepower, this may be worth considering at this price but be sure figure out the import taxes and shipping for your location to figure out what it will really cost you to get your hands on. Read more about the ODROID-X's specifications over at the Hardkernel website.

Source: Ars Technica

Want to see a four socket ARM server on dual PCIe slots?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2012 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Calexda, arm, cortex-a9, ECX-1000

Looking at the picture below you can see what Calxeda's ARM based server node will look like, an add-in card which requires two PCIe 2.0 slots to communicate with the mainboard.  On the node are four Cortex A9 CPUs, each with two PCI-Express 2.0 controllers, a DDR3 memory controller, and a SATA 2.0 disk controller, as well as an integrated Layer 2 distributed fabric switch for ethernet connectivity.  The mainboard these are connected to does very little, this server will depend on ethernet for its interconnect for now but it is likely that they will find something else to use though they may end up needing to license from AMD or Intel. 

The Register took a look at the comparative benchmarks which came with this release, an Intel Xeon E3-1240 with one Ethernet port and 16GB of DDR3 which should be roughly equivalent to the new HP Redstone servers.  They had some questions about the methodology used for the power usage on the Intel system as it was not describing the most power efficient usage of the Intel system and perhaps was not representative of the Intel system they actually benchmarked at all.  Check out the benchmark as well as Calxeda's response in the full article.

ElReg_calxeda_four_socket_server.jpg

"Calxeda, the ARM server-chip upstart that HP tapped for its "Redstone" hyperscale servers last November, is getting ready to ramp up production on the server cards that use its quad-core EnergyCore ARM processors, and is making waves with benchmarks while promising to do a better job with comparative testing against x86 architectures."

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Source: The Register

Can a 12-Core ARM Cluster hit critical mass?

Subject: Processors | June 26, 2012 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: arm, cortex-a9, e-350, i7-3770k, z530, Ivy Bridge, atom, Zacate

Taking a half dozen PandaBoard ESes from Texas Instruments that have a 1.2GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor onboard, Phoronix built a 12-core ARM machine to test out against AMD's E-350 APU as well as Intel's Atom Z530 and a Core i7 3770K.  Before you you make the assumption that the ARM's will be totally outclassed by any of these processors, Phoronix is testing performance per Watt and the ARM system uses a total of 31W when fully stressed and idles below 20W, which gives ARM a big lead on power consumption. 

Phoronix tested out these four systems and the results were rather surprising as it seems Intel's Ivy Bridge is a serious threat to ARM.  Not only did it provide more total processing power, its performance per Watt tended to beat ARM and more importantly to many, it is cheaper to build an i7-3770K system than it is to set up a 12-core ARM server.  The next generation of ARM chips have some serious competition.

Phoronix12ARM.jpg

"Last week I shared my plans to build a low-cost, 12-core, 30-watt ARMv7 cluster running Ubuntu Linux. The ARM cluster that is built around the PandaBoard ES development boards is now online and producing results... Quite surprising results actually for a low-power Cortex-A9 compute cluster. Results include performance-per-Watt comparisons to Intel Atom and Ivy Bridge processors along with AMD's Fusion APU."

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Source: Phoronix

The Surface Tablet should be cheaper than an Ultrabook, but not by much

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2012 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: surface, ultrabook, Pegatron, windows rt, windows 8, tablet, microsoft, arm, tegra 3

You've met Microsoft's two new Surface Tablet by now, either in Scott's write up or elsewhere on the net and are aware that there is a less expensive ARM and Tegra 3 version and a more expensive Ivy Bridge model.  What you might not have known is the expected pricing, a lack that DigiTimes remedies this morning with the prediction the WinRT model will cost at least $600 and the Win8 model more than $800.  Both are being assembled by Pegatron Technology but the amount being assembled is still unknown.  The Surface Tablet is certainly attention grabbing but it costs significantly more than other tablets and many full notebooks, but it likely to be lower priced than either Intel or Apple's ultraportable devices which puts it in an odd spot in the market.  How many will be willing to pay that much for a multi-touch tablet with dock?

MicrosoftSurfacetablet.jpg

"Sources from notebook players have revealed that Microsoft's 10.6-inch Surface tablet PCs will be outsourced to Pegatron Technology for assembly; however, there is still not a firm estimate for order volumes.

The sources also estimated the end-market price of the Windows 8 Pro-based Surface tablet PC with Ivy Bridge processor to be at least above US$799, while the Windows RT-based model, featuring Nvidia's Tegra 3, will be priced above US$599."

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Source: DigiTimes

Podcast #206 - Corsair 550D Chassis, AMD licensing ARM, AMD Tahiti 2 GPUs and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2012 - 02:53 PM |
Tagged: tahiti 2, podcast, nvidia, Intel, hsa, corsair, arm, amd, 550d

PC Perspective Podcast #206 - 06/14/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the Corsair 550D Chassis, AMD licensing ARM, AMD Tahiti 2 GPUs 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: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malvantano and Scott Michaud

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:22:58

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:20 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:02:00 ioSafe SoloPro and Synology DiskStation 212+ Review
  6. 0:13:05 Origin EOS17 Gaming Notebook Review
  7. 0:18:00 Corsair Obsidian 550D Case Review
  8. 0:22:00 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  9. 0:24:10 AMD, ARM, Ti, Imagination and MediaTek for HSA Foundation
  10. 0:34:30 AMD licenses ARM Cortex-A5 for APUs
  11. 0:39:45 Sapphire passive Radeon HD 7770
  12. 0:42:50 ASUS ROG laptop first with 802.11ac
  13. 0:47:50 AMD could be releasing Tahiti 2 GPU next week
  14. 0:49:16 Unreal Engine 4 looks pretty awesome...
  15. 0:55:05 AMD Wireless Display standard coming soon
  16. 0:56:45 Apple does indeed release high-res 15" laptop
  17. 1:02:00 New MacBooks Sporting 6Gb/s Samsung 830 Series SSD Controllers
  18. 1:04:18 AMD Kevari 3rd gen APU to hit 1 TFLOPS performance
  19. 1:06:45 Link_A_Media controller explored
  20. 1:09:45 AMD FirePro W600 launched
  21. 1:13:55 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: That Doctor he was getting drunk with
    2. Jeremy: It's heeere and on the Leaderboard
    3. Josh:  Not for the faint of heart. Or wallet.
    4. Allyn: Windows 8 Release Preview is out
    5. Scott: Mount and Blade: Warband: Napoleonic Wars (because you can never have too many subtitles)
    6. Tim: Corsair Obsidian 550D I've been drooling over this since CES! )
  22. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  23. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  24. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  25. 1:22:00 Closing

 

Live Blog: AMD Fusion Developer Summit 2012 (AFDS)

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | June 14, 2012 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: live blog, arm, APU, amd, AFDS

afdslogo.png

Day 3 - Thursday, June 14th

We are here at AFDS 2012 for the day 3 keynotes - join us as find out what else AMD has in store.  

If you are looking for Tuesday or Wednesday keynotes and information on the announcement of the HSA Foundation, you can find it below, after the break!

AMD Licenses ARM Technology: AMD Leans on ARM for Security

Subject: Processors | June 13, 2012 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: TrustZone, hsa, Cortex-A5, cortex, arm, APU, amd, AFDS

Last year after that particular AFDS, there was much speculation that AMD and ARM would get a whole lot closer.  Today we have confirmed that in two ways.  The first is that AMD and ARM are founding members of the HSA Foundation.  This endeavor is a rather ambitious project that looks to make it much easier for programmers to access the full computer power of a CPU/GPU combo, or as AMD likes to call them, the APU.  The second confirmation is one that has been theorized for quite some time, but few people have actually hit upon the actual implementation.  This second confirmation is that AMD is licensing ARM cores and actually integrating them into their x86 based APUs.

HSAFoundation-FINAL-Desktop.png
 
AMD and ARM are serious about working with each other.  This is understandable as both of them are competing tooth and nail with Intel.
 
ARM has a security functionality that they have been working with for several years now.  This is called ARM TrustZone.  It is a set of hardware and software products that provide a greater amount of security in data transfer and transactions.  The hardware basis is built into the ARM licensed designs and is implemented in literally billions of devices (not all of them enabled).  The biggest needs that this technology addresses are that of secure transactions and password enabled logins.  Money is obviously quite important, but with identity theft and fraud on the rise, secure logins to personal information or even social sites are reaching the same level of importance as large monetary transactions.
 
AMD will actually be implementing a Cortex-A5 processor into AMD APUs that will handle the security aspects of ARM TrustZone.  The A5 is the smallest Cortex processor available, and that would make sense to use it in a full APU so it will not take up an extreme amount of die space.  When made on what I would assume to be a 28 nm process, a single A5 processor would likely take up as little as 10 to 15 mm squared of space on the die.
 
This is not exactly the licensing agreement that many analysts had expected from AMD.  It is a start though.  I would generally expect AMD to be more aggressive in the future with offerings based on ARM technologies.  If we remember some time ago Rory Read of AMD pronounced their GPU technology as “the crown jewel” of their IP lineup, it makes little sense for AMD to limit this technology just to standalone GPUs and x86 based APUs.  If AMD is serious about heterogeneous computing, I would expect them to eventually move into perhaps not the handheld ARM market initially, but certainly with more server level products based on 64 bit ARM technology.
 
cor_a5.jpg
 
Cortex-A5: coming to an AMD APU near you in 2013/2014.  Though probably not in quad core fashion as shown above.
 
AMD made a mistake once by selling off their ultra-mobile graphics group, Imageon.  This was sold off to Qualcomm, who is now a major player in the ARM ecosystem with their Snapdragon products based on Adreno graphics (“Adreno” is an anagram of “Radeon”).  With the release of low powered processors in both the Brazos and Trinity line, AMD is again poised to deliver next generation graphics to the low power market.  Now the question is, what will that graphics unit be attached to?
 
 
Source: AMD

AFDS 2012: HSA Foundation Joins AMD, ARM, Ti, Imagination and MediaTek with Open Architecture

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | June 12, 2012 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: texas instruments, mediatek, imagination, hsa foundation, hsa, arm, amd, AFDS

Today is a big day for AMD as they, along with four other major players in the world of processors and SoCs, announced the formation of the HSA Foundation.  The HSA Foundation is a non-profit consortium created to define and promote an open approach to heterogeneous computing.  The primary goal is to make it easier for software developers to write and program for the parallel power of GPUs.  This encompasses both integrated and discrete of which the HSA (heterogeneous systems architecture) Foundation wants to enable users to take full advantage of all the processing resources available to them.

On stage at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in Bellevue, WA, AMD announced the formation of the consortium in partnership with ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek, and Texas Instruments; some of the biggest names in computing. 

The companies will work together to drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model to help software developers take greater advantage of the capabilities found in modern central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), and unlock the performance and power efficiency of the parallel computing engines found in heterogeneous processors.

HSA Foundation_Logo.png

There are a lot of implications in this simple statement and there are many questions that are left open ended to which we hope to get answered this week while at AFDS.  The idea of a "single architecture specification" set a lot of things in motion and makes us question the direction of both AMD and the traditionally ARM-based companies of the HSA Foundation will be moving in.  AMD has had the APU, and the eventual complete fusion of the CPU and GPU, on its roadmap for quite a few years and has publicly stated that in 2014 they will have their first fully HSA-capable part.  We are still assuming that this is an x86 + Radeon based part, but that may or may not be the long term goal; ideas of ARM-based AMD processors with Radeon graphics technology AND of Radeon based ARM-processors built by other companies still swirl amongst the show.  There are even rumors of Frankenstein-like combinations of x86 and ARM based products for niche applications.

hsa01.jpg

Looks like there is room for a few more founding partners...

Obviously ARM and others have their own graphics IP (ARM has Mali, Imagination Technology has Power VR) and those GPUs can be used for parallel processing in much the same way that we think of GPU processing on discrete GPUs and APUs today.  ARM processor designers are well aware of the power and efficiency benefits of utilizing all of the available transistors and processing power correctly and the emphasis on an HSA-style system design makes a lot of sense moving forward.  

My main question for the HSA Foundation is its goals: obviously they want to promote the simplistic approach for programmers, but what does that actually translate to on the hardware side?  It is possible that both x86 and ARM-based ISAs can continue to exist with libraries and compilers built to correctly handle applications for each architecture, but that would seem to me to be against the goals of such a partnership of technology leaders.

amdarmcombo.jpg

In a meeting with AMD personnel, the most powerful and inspiring idea from the HSA Foundation is summed up with this:

"This is bigger than AMD.  This is bigger than the PC ecosystem."

The end game is to make sure that all software developers can EASILY take advantage of both traditional and parallel processing cores without ever having to know what is going on under the hood.  AMD and the other HSA Foundation members continue to tell us that this optimization can be completely ISA-agnostic – though the technical blockages for that to take place are severe. 

AMD will benefit from the success of the HSA Foundation by finally getting more partners involved in promoting the idea of heterogeneous computing, and powerful ones at that.  ARM is the biggest player in the low power processor market responsible for the Cortex and Mali architectures found in the vast majority of mobile processors.  As those partners trumpet the same cause as AMD, more software will be developed to take advantage of parallel computing and AMD believes their GPU architecture gives them a definite performance advantage once that takes hold.  

What I find most interesting is the unknown – how will this affect the roadmaps for all the hardware companies involved?  Are we going to see the AMD APU roadmap shift to an ARM-IP system?  Will we see companies like Texas Instruments fully integrate the OMAP and Power VR cores into a single memory space (or ARM with Cortex and Mali)?  Will we eventually see NVIDIA jump onboard and lend their weight towards true heterogenous computing?

hsa02.jpg

We have much more the learn about the HSA Foundation and its direction for the industry but we can easily say that this is probably the most important processor company collaboration announcement in many years – and it does so without the 800 pound gorilla that is Intel in attendance.  By going after the ARM-based markets where Intel is already struggling to compete in, AMD can hope to create a foothold with technological and partnership advantages and return to a seat of prominence.  This harkens back to the late 1990s when AMD famously put together the "virtual gorilla" with many partners to take on Intel.

Check out the full press release after the break!

AMD's new Embedded Solutions Group aims at a new market

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2012 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: amd, arm, IBM, Freescale, AFDS, ESG

According to the VDC Research Group's findings, the embedded market will hit $6bn in sales in 2012 and keep growing at a rate of 12%-15% per year.  AMD seems poised to move into this market with the formation of their Embedded Solution Group and the changes we have been seeing to their processor lines.  Current Opteron HE and EE chips consume between 35W and 65W depending on the number of cores and that amount might be trimmed down as new models come out.  They also have lines of embedded Athlon, Turion, Sempron, and Geode LX based chips and have hired an FPGA veteran, Arun Iyengar, to manage the ESG though The Register expresses doubt that AMD is thinking of developing it's own FPGA business.  More likely they hope to provide powerful alternatives for those in the market that now need a little more from their embedded products.  Read the full story here and keep your eyes peeled for more news coming out of the AMD Fusion Developer Summit.

DPX-S430_Front_B_PLCCsocket.jpg

"The new management team at Advanced Micro Devices is looking everywhere, including under the couch cushions, to find some money so it can afford to explore the embedded systems market again. The chip biz hopes rivals Intel and the ARM collective are too distracted to notice the foray as they fight over each others' territories in PCs, servers and mobile devices."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

AFDS 2012: ARM once again on stage with AMD - partnership incoming?

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2012 - 12:01 AM |
Tagged: mali, arm, amd, AFDS

In a blog post over at arm.com, ARM Fellow Jem Davies has made a point to let us all know that he is going to be attending the AMD Fusion Developer Summit yet again, but this time with something more concrete to discuss.  In a very self-aware statement, Davies writes in his post that "my appearance last year generated a lot of speculation about the nature of the relationship between ARM and AMD." 

Indeed it did.

From Davies' post:

This year, we have a great deal to discuss. ARM is all about low power and many people in the industry now realize that GPUs have a central role to play in providing highly energy-efficient computing. It’s an exciting future that can grow the ecosystem that surrounds computing. ARM’s unique portfolio of CPU, GPU, interconnect and physical IP puts us at the forefront of one of the most important technological changes in a long time. Reflecting on that and some of those changes, I will be making an announcement at the show.

Emphasis above is ours.

Also worth noting is that Jem Davies does not have his own session at AFDS, but rather we can expect to see him to come out on stage during another keynote, likely during Phil Rogers' or Mark Papermaster's. 

amdtablet.jpg

AMD wants into the tablet market.  ARM could accelerate that process.

Exactly WHAT the ARM/AMD announcement might be obviously isn't known by many yet, but we have speculated many times that an AMD built, ARM architecture processor, with Radeon-based graphics technology and ARM low-power CPU cores, could help AMD enter into the world of ultra-lower power SoCs very quickly.  Markets like the pending onslaught of Windows 8 RT tablets and clamshells have NVIDIA foaming at the mouth and AMD would be remiss to not attempt to tackle the same markets and one-up Intel at the same time.

It should be an exciting week!  Keep checking pcper.com and our AFDS site tag for all the latest news including keynote live blogs!

Source: ARM