Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

Cortex-A12 Optimized!

ARM is an interesting little company.  Years ago people would have no idea who you are talking about, but now there is a much greater appreciation for the company.  Their PR group is really starting to get the hang of getting their name out.  One thing that ARM does that is significantly different from what other companies do is announce products far in advance of when they will actually be seeing the light of day.  Today they are announcing the Cortex-A17 IP that will ship in 2015.
 
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ARM really does not have much of a choice in how they announce their technology, primarily because they rely on 3rd parties to actually ship products.  ARM licenses their IP to guys like Samsung, Qualcomm, Ti, NVIDIA, etc. and then wait for them to actually build and ship product.  I guess part of pre-announcing these bits of IP provides a greater push for their partners to actually license that specific IP due to end users and handset makers showing interest?  Whatever the case, it is interesting to see where ARM is heading with their technology.
 
The Cortex-A17 can be viewed as a more supercharged version of the Cortex-A12, but with features missing from that particular product.  The big advancement over the A12 is that the A17 can be utilized in a big.LITTLE configuration with Cortex-A7 IP.  The A17 is more power optimized as well so it can go into a sleep state faster than the A12, and it also features more memory controller tweaks to improve performance while again lowering power consumption.
 
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In terms of overall performance it gets a pretty big boost as compared to the very latest Cortex-A9r4 designs (such as the Tegra 4i).  Numbers bandied about by ARM show that the A17 is around 60% faster than the A9, and around 40% faster than the A12.  These numbers may or may not jive with real-world experience due to differences in handset and tablet designs, but theoretically speaking they look to be in the ballpark.  The A17 should be close in overall performance to A15 based SOCs.  A15s are shipping now, but they are not as power efficient as what ARM is promising with the A17.
 

AMD serves up more hints on ARM on Opteron

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2014 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: seattle, Opteron A111, opteron, arm, amd

The Inquirer had a chance to hear more about the upcoming Opteron A111 which contains an ARM Cortex A57.  We now know it runs at 2GHz, can address up to 128GB of RAM and has enough channels for 8 drives to be connected to it.  While the chips will be able to operate in tandem with traditional x86 server chips the reduction in power needed and heat produced could mean Opteron based servers could be as small as a cellphone.  We also know that they will be running on a specially flavoured version of Fedora, read on to see what else was revealed by Ian Drew.

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"CHIP DESIGNER AMD has spilled some more details about its first ARM based server processor."

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Source: The Inquirer

SBSA reaches an ARM into the server room

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: arm, OCP, open source, Intel, amd, seattle, opteron

The Inquirer had a chance to talk to Lakshmi Mandyam, the director of Server Systems and Ecosystems at ARM, about their plans for the server room.  ARM and their SBSA team have joined forces with Microsoft's Open Technology initiative which is key to AMD's adoption of ARM architecture in their new Opteron series.  These projects will offer several key benefits to customers, the open source nature will allow customization in the server room for those customers with specific needs and the know how to implement them and the nature of ARM processors can bring energy bills down.  This could also be great news for smaller businesses that require a proper server, they will be able to build that server out of a number of inexpensive ARM based processors instead of having to spend the price of the currently available x86/64 CPUs from Intel and AMD.

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"CHIP DESIGNER ARM announced at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit last week that servers based on its architecture have taken a step forward with the arrival of ARM v8-A based 64bit servers, known as the Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) specification."

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Source: The Inquirer

AMD's first Syst-ARM on a Chip Opteron will be here soon

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: SoC, seattle, opteron, arm, amd, A1100

The Opteron A1100 will be the name born by AMD's first SoC, which we knew previously as Seattle and is the first chip which will contain ARM Cortex A57 architecture working in tandem with AMDs.  It will be a full 64bit chip and will sport up to 4MB of shared L2 cache and 8MB of shared L3 cache and it will support of to four DIMMs of either DDR3 or DDR4 in dual channel with ECC.  It will boot using UEFI into a Linux environment based on Fedora and will be optimized to handle web front ends and data centre tasks.  As far as connectivity it will have 8 lanes of PCIe 3.0 and 8 SATA 3 ports. You can follow links from The Register to see the AMD Press Release.

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"CHIP DESIGNER AMD is preparing to sample its 64-bit ARM based server processors codenamed Seattle, which will be the company's first stab at a system on chip (SoC) design for data centre products."

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Source: The Register
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Lenovo introduces a unique form factor

Lenovo isn't a company that seems interested in slowing down.  Just when you think the world of notebooks is getting boring, it releases products like the ThinkPad Tablet 2 and the Yoga 2 Pro.  Today we are looking at another innovative product from Lenovo, the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10.  While the tablets share the Yoga branding seen in recent convertible notebooks these are NOT Windows-based PCs - something that I fear some consumers might get confused by.  

Instead this tablet pair is based on Android (4.2.2 at this point) which brings with it several advantages.  First, the battery life is impressive, particularly with the 8-in version that clocked in more than 17 hours in our web browsing test!  Second, the form factor of these units is truly unique and not only allows for larger batteries but also a more comfortable in-the-hand feeling than I have had with any other tablet.  

Check out the video overview below!  

You can pick up the 8-in version of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet for just $199 while the 10.1-in model starts at $274.

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The Lenovo Yoga Tablet is available in both 8-in and 10.1-in sizes though the hardware is mostly identical between both units include screen resolution (1280x800) and SoC hardware (MediaTek quad-core Cortex-A7).  The larger model does get an 8000 mAh battery (over the 6000 mAh on the 8-in) but isn't enough to counter balance the power draw of the larger screen.

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The 1280x800 resolution is a bit lower than I would like but is perfectly acceptable on the 8-in version of the Yoga Tablet.  On the 10-in model though the pixels are just too big and image quality suffers.  These are currently running Android 4.2.2 which is fine, but hopefully we'll see some updates from Lenovo to more current Android versions.

Continue reading about the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10 devices!!

CES 2014: ARM and Huawei Show First True 8-Core Smartphone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2014, arm, Huawei, mediatek, 8 core

While clearly the need for an 8-core smartphone is still a debate, the enablement of hardware partners like Huawei, Mediatek and ARM are creating an ecosystem that enables the software developer to stretch their legs and innovate.  While wandering around CES we ran into the Huawei G750 smartphone, the first to be powered by a true 8-core (octa-core) processor.

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This phone likely isn't going to find its way to the US market but the design was solid and the user interface, as you would expect, was snappy and smooth.  This processor from Mediatek, the MT6592, has the ability to run all 8 Cortex-A7 cores at the same time when the needs arise.  Rather than go with the big.LITTLE design route Mediatek instead include 8 of the "little" cores in this design.

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Each core is capable of clocking in at 2.0 GHz (though this Huawei model seems to cap at 1.7 GHz) and MediaTek claims that this allows support for 4K high bit-rate H.264 video playback as well as H.265 and VP9 playback.  

The concern of a "core race" in the mobile market is definitely real though you have to be impressed by the drive for hardware vendors to improve capabilities.  Now we just need to be sure that the software ecosystem and the power management designs are keeping up.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Nvidia's renamed Tegra K1 SoC uses Denver and Kepler

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2014 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, SoC, nvidia, kepler, k1, cortex a15, CES, arm, A15

Project X Logan K1 is the first big news out of CES from NVIDIA and represents a bit of a change from what we were expecting.  The current belief was that the SoC would have four 28nm Cortex A15 processors but that will only be one flavour of K1, a Denver based dual core version will also be released.  Those ARMv8 64-bit processors will natively handle 64 bit applications while the A15 version that The Tech Report had taken pictures of will be limited to 32 bit applications, though that will not matter in many mobile applications.   You should also check out Ryan's deep dive into the new Denver and Kepler version here.

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"In early 2011, during a CES press event, Nvidia revealed its Project Denver CPU initiative. On Sunday evening, at another CES press conference, the company provided a glimpse of the first Denver-based processor: the Tegra K1. This next-generation SoC features dual Denver CPU cores clocked at up to 2.5GHz. The cores were designed by Nvidia, and they're compatible with the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set. They have a seven-way superscalar pipeline and a hefty 192KB of L1 cache."

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Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

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Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Once known as Logan, now known as K1

NVIDIA has bet big on Tegra.  Since the introduction of the SoC's first iteration, that much was clear.  With the industry push to mobile computing and the decreased importance of the classic PC design, developing and gaining traction with a mobile processor was not only an expansion of the company’s portfolio but a critical shift in the mindset of a graphics giant. 

The problem thus far is that while NVIDIA continues to enjoy success in the markets of workstation and consumer discrete graphics, the Tegra line of silicon-on-chip processors has faltered.  Design wins have been tough to come by. Other companies with feet already firmly planted on this side of the hardware fence continue to innovate and seal deals with customers.  Qualcomm is the dominant player for mobile processors with Samsung, MediaTek, and others all fighting for the same customers NVIDIA needs.  While press conferences and releases have been all smiles and sunshine since day one, the truth is that Tegra hasn’t grown at the rate NVIDIA had hoped.

Solid products based on NVIDIA Tegra processors have been released.  The first Google Nexus 7 used the Tegra 3 processor, and was considered the best Android tablet on the market by most, until it was succeeded by the 2013 iteration of the Nexus 7 this year.  Tegra 4 slipped backwards, though – the NVIDIA SHIELD mobile gaming device was the answer for a company eager to show the market they built compelling and relevant hardware.  It has only partially succeeded in that task.

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With today’s announcement of the Tegra K1, previously known as Logan or Tegra 5, NVIDIA hopes to once again spark a fire under partners and developers, showing them that NVIDIA’s dominance in the graphics fields of the PC has clear benefits to the mobile segment as well.  During a meeting with NVIDIA about Tegra K1, Dan Vivoli, Senior VP of marketing and a 16 year employee, equated the release of the K1 to the original GeForce GPU.  That is a lofty ambition and puts of a lot pressure on the entire Tegra team, not to mention the K1 product itself, to live up to.

Tegra K1 Overview

What we previously knew as Logan or Tegra 5 (and actually it was called Tegra 5 until just a couple of days ago), is now being released as the Tegra K1.  The ‘K’ designation indicated the graphics architecture that powers the SoC, in this case Kepler.  Also, it’s the first one.  So, K1.

The processor of the Tegra K1 look very familiar and include four ARM Cortex-A15 “r3” cores and 2MB of L2 cache with a fifth A15 core used for lower power situations.  This 4+1 design is the same that was introduced with the Tegra 4 processor last year and allows NVIDIA to implement a style of “big.LITTLE” design that is unique.  Some slight modifications to the cores are included with Tegra K1 that improve performance and efficiency, but not by much – the main CPU is very similar to the Tegra 4.

NVIDIA also unveiled late last night that another version of the Tegra K1 that replaces the quad A15 cores with two of the company's custom designs Denver CPU cores.  Project Denver, announced in early 2011, is NVIDIA's attempt at building its own core design based on the ARMv8 64-bit ISA.  This puts this iteration of Tegra K1 on the same level as Apple's A7 and Qualcomm's Krait processors.  When these are finally available in the wild it will be incredibly intriguing to see how well NVIDIA's architects did in the first true CPU design from the GPU giant.

Continue reading about NVIDIA's new Tegra K1 SoC with Kepler-based graphics!

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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It really has been a busy year for CPU reviews

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2013 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: 2013, amd, nvidia, Intel, arm, qualcomm

2013 has been an incredible year and when looking at The Inquirer's look back on the releases of this year it is hard to believe that all of these releases took place in 12 short months.  Haswell and Richland were the only two traditional CPU architecture updates for high powered desktop applications which stymied the enthusiasm of some gamers but the real star of 2013 was low powered silicon.  ARM has always held strong in this market and celebrated several major releases such as 28nm dual core Cortex A15s and Qualcomm's raising of the bar on mobile graphics with the dual-core and quad-core Snapdragon 400 chips but they lost market share to three newcomers to the low powered market.  NVIDIA's quad-core Tegra 4 SoC arrived with decent performance and graphics improvements compared to their previous generation and allowed the release of the Shield which has helped them become more than a GPU company that is also dipping its toes into the HPC market.   AMD announced the G series of SoCs for industrial applications with a TDP in the neighbourhood of 6W as well as Temash which will power next generation tablets and hybrid mobile devices but it was really Intel that shone brightest at the low end.  Bay Trail has completely reversed the perception of Atom from a product that is not really good at anything to an impressive low powered chip that provides impressive performance for small mobile devices and might find its self a role in the server room as well.  That only scratches the top layer of silicon, click over for more of the year in review.

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"While Intel and AMD battled out their ongoing war, Nvidia took the stage to announce its latest Tegra 4 system on a chip (SoC), a quad-core chip with a significant graphics boost. The firm did its best to play down the fact that its Tegra 4 has the same CPU core count as its previous-generation Tegra 3, and instead it focused on GPU performance, an area where the Tegra 3 was starting to look dated against newer chips from rivals such as Samsung."

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Source: The Register

Google to Develop CPUs (For Themselves)?

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 15, 2013 - 04:27 AM |
Tagged: Intel, google, arm

Amazon, Facebook, and Google are three members of a fairly exclusive club. These three companies order custom server processors from Intel (and other companies). Jason Waxman of Intel was quoted by Wired, "Sometimes OEMs and end customers ask us to put a feature into the silicon and it sort of depends upon how big a deal it is and whether it has to be invisible or proprietary to a customer. We're always happy to, if we can find a way to get it into the silicon".

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Now, it would seem, that Google is interested in developing their own server processors based on architecture licensed from ARM. This could be a big deal for Intel as Bloomberg believes Google accounts for a whole 4.3% of the chip giant's revenue.

Ouch.

Of course this probably does not mean Google will spring up a fabrication lab somewhere. That would just be nutty. It is still unclear whether they will cut in ARM design houses, such as AMD or Qualcomm, or whether they will take ARM's design and run straight to TSMC, GlobalFoundries, or IBM with it.

I am sure there would be many takers for some sizable fraction of 4.3% of Intel's revenue.

Source: Bloomberg