Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM Releases Cortex-A72 for Licensing

On February 3rd, ARM announced a slew of new designs, including the Cortex A72.  Few details were shared with us, but what we learned was that it could potentially redefine power and performance in the ARM ecosystem.  Ryan was invited to London to participate in a deep dive of what ARM has done to improve its position against market behemoth Intel in the very competitive mobile space.  Intel has a leg up on process technology with their 14nm Tri-Gate process, but they are continuing to work hard in making their x86 based processors more power efficient, while still maintaining good performance.  There are certain drawbacks to using an ISA that is focused on high performance computing rather than being designed from scratch to provide good performance with excellent energy efficiency.

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ARM has been on a pretty good roll with their Cortex A9, A7, A15, A17, A53, and A57 parts over the past several years.  These designs have been utilized in a multitude of products and scenarios, with configurations that have scaled up to 16 cores.  While each iteration has improved upon the previous, ARM is facing the specter of Intel’s latest generation, highly efficient x86 SOCs based on the 2nd gen 14nm Tri-Gate process.  Several things have fallen into place for ARM to help them stay competitive, but we also cannot ignore the experience and design hours that have led to this product.

(Editor's Note: During my time with ARM last week it became very apparent that it is not standing still, not satisfied with its current status. With competition from Intel, Qualcomm and others ramping up over the next 12 months in both mobile and server markets, ARM will more than ever be depedent on the evolution of core design and GPU design to maintain advantages in performance and efficiency. As Josh will go into more detail here, the Cortex-A72 appears to be an incredibly impressive design and all indications and conversations I have had with others, outside of ARM, believe that it will be an incredibly successful product.)

 

Cortex A72: Highest Performance ARM Cortex

ARM has been ubiquitous for mobile applications since it first started selling licenses for their products in the 90s.  They were found everywhere it seemed, but most people wouldn’t recognize the name ARM because these chips were fabricated and sold by licensees under their own names.  Guys like Ti, Qualcomm, Apple, DEC and others all licensed and adopted ARM technology in one form or the other.

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ARM’s importance grew dramatically with the introduction of increased complexity cellphones and smartphones.  They also gained attention through multimedia devices such as the Microsoft Zune.  What was once a fairly niche company with low performance, low power offerings became the 800 pound gorilla in the mobile market.  Billions of chips are sold yearly based on ARM technology.  To stay in that position ARM has worked aggressively on continually providing excellent power characteristics for their parts, but now they are really focusing on overall performance and capabilities to address, not only the smartphone market, but also the higher performance computing and server spaces that they want a significant presence in.

Click here to read the rest of the ARM Cortex-A72 Introduction.

ARM's chips are flying off the shelves in Q1

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2015 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: arm, Q1 2015

ARM seems to be completely ignoring the sales downturn that almost every single component manufacturer has seen in this quarter, as well as previous ones, turning in on increase of 14% on revenue and 24% on profit in Q1 of 2015.  As The Register points out that equates to 450 chips selling every second, something even automated stock trading algorithms have to be impressed by.  Royalty revenue increased by 31% thanks to Mali, regardless of Apple's decision not to use that chip in their iPhone 6.  You can expect to see more news on ARM from us in the near future and you can expect the news to be good for their investors and users.

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"The first three months of 2015 have been good to ARM, which saw revenues of $348.2m and pre-tax profits of $120.5m in the first quarter, with 3.8 billion ARM-based chips shipped - or more than 450 chips per second."

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Source: The Register

It is a bad week for Qualcomm

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2015 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, arm, qualcomm, snapdragon 820, Kyro

Not only has the NVIDIA sueball pitch been judged to be in play and will continue to run but now according to news The Register has heard Samsung may be using their own in-house ARM processors for their next products.  The rumour is that they have spend four years developing an ARM processor from the ground up which will make it much less likely that Qualcomm will be able to sell their next generation 64 bit Snapdragon Kyro processor to Samsung, which is after all a modified ARM v8-a chip as opposed to a custom built processor.  Qualcomm does have other customers than Samsung, including HTC, Amazon and LG who might be interested in the new Snapdragon 820 but it does look bleak for their next generation processor.  The only leverage Qualcomm has now is that Samsung will likely be the ones fabbing many of the new Snapdragon 820's, perhaps they can strike a deal for some lower cost mobile devices once Kyro matures.

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"Samsung will join Apple and other mobile semiconductor rivals in producing chips powered by homegrown, proprietary application cores in 2016, according to a new report."

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Source: The Register

Hints of things to come from AMD

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 04:18 PM |
Tagged: skybridge, HPC, arm, amd

The details are a little sparse but we now have hints of what AMD's plans are for next year and 2017. In 2016 we should see AMD chips with ARM cores, the Skybridge architecture which Josh described almost a year ago, which will be pin compatible allowing the same motherboard to run with either an ARM processor or an AMD64 depending on your requirements.  The GPU portion of their APUs will move forward on a two year cycle so we should not expect any big jumps in the next year but they are talking about an HPC capable part by 2017.  The final point that The Register translated covers that HPC part which is supposed to utilize a new memory architecture which will be nine times faster than existing GDDR5.

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"Consumer and commercial business lead Junji Hayashi told the PC Cluster Consortium workshop in Osaka that the 2016 release CPU cores (an ARMv8 and an AMD64) will get simultaneous multithreading support, to sit alongside the clustered multithreading of the company's Bulldozer processor families."

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Source: The Register

HSA Version 1.0 arrived today

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2015 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: hsa foundation, hsa, amd, arm, Samsung, Imagination Technologies, HSAIL

We have been talking about the HSA foundation since 2013, a cooperative effort by AMD, ARM, Imagination, Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek and TI to design a heterogeneous memory architecture to allow GPUs, DSPs and CPUs to all directly access the same physical memory.  The release of the official specifications today are a huge step forward for these companies, especially for garnering future mobile market share as physical hardware apart from Carrizo becomes available.

Programmers will be able to use C, C++, Fortran, Java, and Python to write HSA-compliant code which is then compiled into HSAIL (Heterogeneous System Architecture Intermediate Language) and from there to the actual binary executables which will run on your devices.  HSA currently supports x86 and x64 and there are Linux kernel patches available for those who develop on that OS.  Intel and NVIDIA are not involved in this project at all, they have chosen their own solutions for mobile devices and while Intel certainly has pockets deep enough to experiment NVIDIA might not.  We shall soon see if Pascal and improvements Maxwell's performance and efficiency through future generations can compete with the benefits of HSA.

The current problem is of course hardware, Bald Eagle and Carrizo are scheduled to arrive on the market soon but currently they are not available.  Sea Islands GPUs and Kaveri have some HSA enhancements but with limited hardware to work with it will be hard to convince developers to focus on programming HSA optimized applications.  The release of the official specs today is a great first step; if you prefer an overview to reading through the official documents The Register has a good article right here.

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"The HSA Foundation today officially published version 1.0 of its Heterogeneous System Architecture specification, which (if we were being flippant) describes how GPUs, DSPs and CPUs can share the same physical memory and pass pointers between each other. (A provisional 1.0 version went live in August 2014.)"

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Source: The Register

ARM and Geomerics Show Enlighten 3 Lighting, Integrate with Unity 5

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | March 3, 2015 - 05:00 PM |
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Podcast #335 - Mobile G-Sync, GTX 970 SLI, a Broadwell Brix and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2015 - 07:05 PM |
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!

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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

 

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

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.

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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.

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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.

Click here to continue reading about ARM's latest releases!

Two of Intel's CES Wearables Powered by ARM Processors

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2015 - 08:08 PM |
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Source: ARM IoT Blog

Get Office on your Android

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2015 - 06:09 PM |
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.

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"MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED the expansion of its beta programme for Android tablet versions of its Office productivity suite."

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Source: The Inquirer