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:

Tech Talk

 

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

Dell uses ARM-based "Copper" servers to accelerate ecosystem

Subject: Processors, Systems | May 29, 2012 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: server, dell, copper, arm

Dell announced today that is going to help enable the world of the ARM-based server ecosystem by enabling key hyperscale customers to access and develop on Dell's own "Copper" ARM servers.

Dell today announced it is responding to the demands of our customers for continued innovation in support of hyperscale environments, and enabling the ecosystem for ARM-based servers. The ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, marked by increasing customer interest in testing and developing applications, and Dell believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers.

Dell is recognized as an industry leader in both the x86 architecture and the hyperscale server market segments. Dell began testing ARM server technology internally in 2010 in response to increasing customer demands for density and power efficiency, and worked closely with select Dell Data Center Solutions (DCS) hyperscale customers to understand their interest level and expectations for ARM-based servers. Today's announcement is a natural extension of Dell's server leadership and the company's continued focus on delivering next generation technology innovation.

While these servers are still not publicly available, Dell is fostering the development of software and verification processes by seeding these unique servers to a select few groups.  PC Perspective is NOT one of them.

armserver-hotswap.jpg

Each of these 3U rack mount machines includes 48 independent servers, each based around a 1.6 GHz quad-core Marvell Armada XP SoC.  Each of the sleds (pictured below) holds four discrete server nodes, each capable of as much as 8GB of memory on a single DDR3 UDIMM.  Each node can access one 2.5-in HDD bay and one Gigabit Ethernet connection.

dell_copper_sled.jpg

Click for a larger view

Even though we are still very early into the life cycle of ARM architectures in the server room, Dell claims that these systems are built perfectly for web front-ends and Hadoop environments:

Customers have expressed great interest in understanding ARM-based server advantages and how they may apply to their hyperscale environments. Dell believes ARM infrastructures demonstrate promise for web front-end and Hadoop environments, where advantages in performance per dollar and performance per watt are critical. The ARM server ecosystem is still developing, and largely available in open-source, non-production versions, and the current focus is on supporting development of that ecosystem. Dell has designed its programs to support today's market realities by providing lightweight, high-performance seed units and easy remote access to development clusters.

There is little doubt that Intel will feel and address this competition in the coming years.

Source: Marketwatch

Mmm, Raspberry Pi!

Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2012 - 12:02 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, hardware, embedded systems, arm

It is not often the tech community gets excited about a minimalist piece of hardware like the Raspberry Pi; unless you follow Limor Fried it is unlikely you are even aware of the last time a new Arduino shield was released or just what you can stick in an Altoids tin.  Be that as it may, the $35 Raspberry Pi has been making news and peaking the interest of a large range of people.  The specs don't stand up if you compare them to a netbook but the footprint on the Pi is much smaller, at 85.60mm x 53.98mm x 17mm.  Both models are powered with a 700MHz ARM1176JZF-S CPU core, 256MB of RAM and a Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU with the Model A lacking ethernet and a single USB 2.0 port, the Model B has 2 USB ports and ethernet.  Tim has been covering the troubled path to retail for the Pi but has yet to get his hands on one.  TechSpot did get a hold of the Model B and put together a brief tutorial covering the basics of setting up your Pi but they can't really show you how to use it, as the entire point of the Pi is that it is a flexible platform that is probably capable of fulfilling anything you can imagine a low powered system could do.

TS_pi-2.jpg

"When the first 10,000 devices shipped in mid-April, the organization graciously sent us a sample for coverage. Along with a hands-on review of the Pi, today we'll be covering basic steps for setting up the computer and other elemental post-installation tasks to get you up and running with applications. In other words, this should serve as a starting point no matter what you want to do with your Raspberry Pi."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: TechSpot

The First Slice Of Raspberry Pi Gets Taste Tested

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2012 - 08:28 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, hardware, embedded systems, arm

We’ve been covering the Raspberry Pi computer for quite some time now, and after a slew of delays the boards are finally shipping. UK based hardware site Bit-Tech has managed to snag one of the Model B Raspberry Pi boards and recently posted a review of the small ARM computer.

raspberrypi.jpg

They do note that the ARM11 processor leaves a lot of performance to be desired, but no other boards offer the same features for the price. Once software matures to the point that hardware accelerated drivers are available out of the box, the user experience should improve. Also, the relatively powerful Videocore IV GPU will really start to shine.

Head on over to see how they tested the board, what sort of overclocking headroom the SoC has, and what their final verdict is!

Further Raspberry Pi coverage:

Anyone else still waiting on their slice of Pi to arrive in the mail?

Source: Bit-Tech

Intel Announces Q1 2012 Earnings: Not a Record, but Close

Subject: Editorial | April 23, 2012 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: trinity, Q1, Ivy Bridge, Intel, earnings, atom, arm, amd, 2012

Guess what? Intel made money. A lot of money. This is not surprising. The results were not record breaking, but they did beat expectations. Intel had a gross revenue of $12.9 billion for the quarter, with a net income of $2.7 billion. Gross margins decreased (slightly) to 64%, but the reasons for this are pretty logical as we discover down below. Compared to Q4 2011, results are still significantly down, but this is again expected due to seasonal downturns. In Q4 they had $13.9 billion in gross revenue and $3.4 billion in net income with a gross margin of 64.5%.

 
Currently Intel is showing inventory at near historic lows, and this is due to a variety of factors. The PC market has been growing slower than expected due to the hard drive shortage that started last fall. Intel has adjusted manufacturing downward to account for this, and has worked to ramp 22 nm products faster by cutting back 32n production and converting those 32 nm lines. Intel is very aggressive with Ivy Bridge, and it expects 25% of all shipments in Q2 to be 22nm products. This is probably the fastest and most aggressive ramp that Intel has ever done, and it will continue to put AMD in a hole with their 32 nm production.
 
intel_logo.jpg
 
The second half of the year should see some significant growth on the PC side. The primary push will be the release of Windows 8 from Microsoft. This, combined with the near complete recovery of hard drive production, should push PC growth the record levels. Ultrabooks are an area that Intel is spending a lot of money to promote and develop with their partners. There are some 26 Ultrabook designs on record so far, and Intel expects this number to rise rapidly. The big push is to decline the overall price of Ultrabooks, as well as enabling touch functionality for a more affordable price. While not mentioned during the conference call, AMD is also pushing for ultra-thin notebooks, and once Trinity enabled products hit the street, we can expect a much more aggressive price war to be waged on these products.
 
Smart phones are another area that Intel is actively trying to expand into. This past quarter we saw the introduction of the Orange, Lava, and Lenovo phones based on the Medfield platform. So far these have been fairly well received by users and media alike, though the products have certainly had some teething issues. Intel still has a lot of work to do, but they finally realize the importance of this market. Intel expects that there will be 450 million smart phones shipped in 2012 (from all manufacturers), and that it is expected to grow up to 1 billion shipped a year by 2015/2016 (if not sooner). Intel wants to get into those phones, and is adjusting their Atom strategy to fit it. While in previous years Atom lagged behind other processor development from Intel, they are pushing it to the forefront. We can expect to see Atom based products being manufactured on 22 nm, and then aggressively pushed to 14 nm when that process node is available. Intel feels that they have a significant advantage in process technology that will directly impact their success in achieving higher rates of utilization across product lines in the mobile sector. If Intel can offer an Atom with similar performance and capabilities, tied with a significantly lower TDP, then they feel that a lot of phone manufacturers will look their way rather than use older/larger/more power hungry products from competitors.
 
Finally, Intel essentially has little interest in becoming a foundry for other partners. They are currently working with a handful of other countries to produce products for them, but I think that this might be a short term affair. Intel will either stay with a few partners to produce a low quantity of parts, or Intel will learn what they have to about producing products like FPGAs and eventually start producing chips of their own. When Intel fabs their own parts, they essentially get paid twice as compared to foundries or 3rd party semiconductor companies.
 
Intel continues to be profitable and successful. Ivy Bridge is going to be a very big product for Intel, and they are going to push it very hard through the rest of this year. Mobile strategies are coming to fruition and we see Intel getting their foot in the door with some major partners around the world. Servers, desktops, and notebook chips still comprise the vast majority of products that Intel ships, but mobile will become a much stronger player in the years to come. That is if Intel is able to execute effectively with accelerated Atom development on smaller process nodes. ARM is still a very worthy competitor, and a seemingly re-invigorated AMD could provide some better competition with Trinity and Brazos 2.0 in the notebook/tablet market.
 
Margins will be down next quarter due to the aggressive 22 nm ramp. With any new process there will be problems and certain inefficiencies at the beginning. As time passes, these issues will be resolved and throughput and yields will rise. Intel does expect a larger PC growth through the next quarter and a higher gross revenue. It will be interesting to see if Ultrabooks do in fact take off for Intel, or will competitors offer better price/performance for that particular market. Needless to say, things will not slow down through the rest of this year.
Source: Intel