Subject: Editorial | January 16, 2013 - 06:41 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: ST Ericsson, planar, PD-SOI, L8580, FinFET, FD-SOI, Cortex A9, cortex a15, arm
SOI has been around for some time now, but in partially depleted form (PD-SOI). Quite a few manufacturers have utilized PD-SOI for their products, such as AMD and IBM (probably the two largest producers of SOI based parts). Oddly enough, Intel has shunned SOI wafers altogether. One would expect Intel to spare no expense to have the fastest semiconductor based chips on the market, but SOI did not provide enough advantages for the chip behemoth to outweigh the nearly 10% increase in wafer and production costs. There were certainly quite a few interesting properties to PD-SOI, but Intel was able to find ways around bulk silicon’s limitations. These non-SOI improvements include stress and strain, low-K dialectrics, high-K metal gates, and now 3D FinFET Technology. Intel simply did not need SOI to achieve the performance they were looking for while still using bulk silicon wafers.
Things started looking a bit grim for SOI as a technology a few years back. AMD was starting to back out of utilizing SOI for sub-32 nm products, and IBM was slowly shifting away from producing chips based on their Power technology. PD-SOI’s days seemed numbered. And they are. That is ok though, as the technology will see a massive uptake with the introduction of Fully Depleted SOI wafers. I will not go into the technology in full right now, but expect another article further into the future. I mentioned in a tweet some days ago that in manufacturing, materials are still king. This looks to hold true with FD-SOI.
Intel had to utilize 3D FinFETs on 22 nm because they simply could not get the performance out of bulk silicon and planar structures. There are advantages and disadvantages to these structures. The advantage is that better power characteristics can be attained without using exotic materials all the while keeping bins high, but the disadvantage is the increased complexity of wafer production with such structures. It is arguable that the increase in complexity completely offsets the price premium of a SOI based solution. We have also seen with the Intel process that while power consumption is decreased as compared to the previous 32 nm process, the switching performance vs. power consumption is certainly not optimal. Hence the reason why we have not seen Intel release Ivy Bridge parts that are clocked significantly faster than last generation Sandy Bridge chips.
FD-SOI and planar structures at 22 nm and 20 nm promise the improve power characteristics as compared to bulk/FinFET. It also looks to improve overall power vs. clockspeed as compared to bulk/FinFET. In a nutshell this means better power consumption as well as a jump in clockspeed as compared to previous generations. Gate first designs using FD-SOI could be very good, but industry analysts say that gate last designs could be “spectacular”.
So what does this have to do with ST Ericsson? They are one of the first companies to show a products based on 28 nm FD-SOI technology. The ARM based NovaThore L8580 is a dual Cortex A9 design with the graphics portion being the IMG SGX544. At first glance we would think that ST is behind the ball, as other manufacturers are releasing Cortex A15 parts which improve IPC by a significant amount. Then we start digging into the details.
The fastest Cortex A9 designs that we have seen so far have been clocked around 1.5 GHz. The L8580 can be clocked up to 2.5 GHz. Whatever IPC improvements we see with A15 are soon washed away by the sheer clockspeed advantage that the L8580 has. While it has been rumored that the Tegra 4 will be clocked up to 2 GHz in tablet form, ST is able to get the L8580 to 2.5 GHz in a smartphone. NVIDIA utilizes a 5th core to improve low power performance, but ST was able to get their chip to run at 0.6v in low power mode. This decrease in complexity combined with what appears to be outstanding electrical and thermal characteristics makes this a very interesting device.
The Cortex A9 cores are not the only ones to see an improvement in clockspeed and power consumption. The well known and extensively used SGX544 graphics portion runs at 600 MHz in a handheld device, and is around 20% faster clocked than other comparable parts.
When we add all these things together we have a product that appears to be head and shoulders above current parts from Qualcomm and Samsung. It also appears that these parts are comparable, if not slightly ahead, of the announced next generation of parts from the Cortex A15 crowd. It stands to reason that ST Ericsson will run away with the market and be included in every new handheld sold from now until the first 22/20 nm parts are released? Unfortunately for ST Ericsson, this is not the case. If there was an Achilles Heel to the L8580 it is that of production capabilities. ST Ericsson started production on FD-SOI wafers this past spring, but it was processing hundreds of wafers a month vs. the thousands that are required for full scale production. We can assume that ST Ericsson has improved this situation, but they are not exactly a powerhouse when it comes to manufacturing prowess. They simply do not seem to have the FD-SOI production capabilities to handle orders from more than a handful of cellphone and table manufacturers.
ST Ericsson has a very interesting part, and it certainly looks to prove the capabilities of FD-SOI when compared to competing products being produced on bulk silicon. The Nova Thor L8580 will gain some new customers with its combination of performance and power characteristics, even though it is using the “older” Cortex A9 design. FD-SOI has certainly caught the industrys’ attention. There are more FD-SOI factoids floating around that I want to cover soon, but these will have to wait. For the time being ST Ericsson is on the cutting edge when it comes to SOI and their proof of concept L8580 seems to have exceeded expectations.
Subject: Systems | January 16, 2013 - 09:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: VIA, pico-itx, embedded system, cortex a8, arm
VIA has launched a new small form factor PC for embedded applications and powered by ARM hardware. The ARMOS-800 is ruggedized and low power. It features a fanless design with an aluminum chassis that can operate between -40 and 80 degrees Celsius.
Internal hardware includes a pico-ITX motherboard, and Freescale ARM Cortex A8 processor clocked at 800MHz. It also has two integrated GPUs capable of dual display outputs. Other specifications include 1GB DDR3 SDRAM, 4GB eMMC internal storage, and a microSD card slot.
IO options on the ARMOS-800 include a COM port, DIO port, CAN port, and three audio jacks (line in, line out, and mic in). Rear IO includes one VGA, one HDMI, one Ethernet jack (10/100), three USB 2.0 ports, and an optional VNT9271 Wi-Fi card attached via an internal USB header.
The ARMOS-800 PC uses an average of 3.14W during normal operation. It can officially support Android 2.3 or Embedded Linux 2.6. The PC measures 15 x 4.6 x 10.8 centimeters. The ARMOS-800 is available now. You can find more information on the VIA product page.
Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2013 - 06:55 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows rt, microsoft, arm
One of the downsides to Microsoft’s ARM-powered Windows RT operating system is the lack of desktop applications. While Windows RT devices to retain the traditional Windows desktop, only Microsoft applications that come pre-packaged with Windows are allowed to run. Instead, Microsoft wants users to stick to Modern UI applications and the Windows Store to get new apps. (Granted, the ARM hardware powering these devices necessitates porting x86 desktop applications in order to run in the first place, but Windows RT locks out even recompiled apps).
Enthusiasts are working on changing that, however. A XDA Developers forum member known as Netham45 recently released a tool that allows users to run unsigned desktop applications on Windows RT. The new RT Jailbreak tool is a batch file that automates a hack discovered by another hacker known as clrokr.
The hack is currently only temporary, and needs to be redone after every computer restart. It does, however, allow Windows RT to run unsigned code on the desktop. After downloading the batch file, you run the runExploit.bat and follow the prompts. After it completes, you users can run recompiled desktop apps such as PuTTY, 7-zip, TightVNC, DOSBox, Quake 2, and more.
While it is not a permaent solution, it is a step in the right direction, and makes ARM-powered Windows RT devices a lot more interesting and useful to power users. For more information on the RT Jailbreak hack, and to grab the batch file to unlock your WinRT tablet, check out this forum thread on the XDA Developers website.
Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2013 - 06:05 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm 800, qualcomm 600, qualcomm, krait, ces 2013, CES, arm, adreno 330, adreno 320
Qualcomm introduced two new high end mobile processors at CES earlier this week. Known as the Snapdragon 600 and Snapdragon 800, the new SoCs take the company’s Krait CPU cores to the next level. Both of the new chips are based on a 28nm HPm manufacturing process and feature faster (and more efficienct) CPU and GPU portions.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 is SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.9GHz along with an Adreno 320 GPU, and 4G LTE modem. The Snapdragon 600 also supports LPDDR3 RAM. The Adreno 320 GPU features suport fro OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and Renderscript Compute technologies. According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 600 is 40% faster than the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor used in devices like the Google Nexus 4 smartphone. Also, the Adreno 320 GPU is up to 3-times faster than the previous-generation A225.
The Snapdragon 600 SoC is inteded for smartphones, and we should start to see the new processor shipping with new devices by Q2 2013.
Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 800 processor takes performance up yet another notch over the company’s existing chips. The new SoC includes four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz, an Adreno 330 GPU, support for 2x32-bit LPDDR3 at 800MHz (12.8Gbps), and a 4G LTE modem. The chip also features two image signal processors (ISP) that can handle up to four cameras and 55MP (total) resolution. Devices with the Snapdragon 800 processor will be able to record 1080p30 video as well as encode and decode stored videos with up to 4K resolutions. As far as wireless, the Snapdragon 800 includes a 4G LTE modem and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The upcoming SoC can handle 4K video output and HD audio in the form of DTS-HD, Dolby Digital+, and 7.1 Surround Sound.
The Adreno 330 GPU in the Snapdragon 800 chip also supports OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and Rednderscript Computer technologies. It can output 4K video and reportedly offers up to twice the compute performance versus the Adreno 320 GPU in the Snapdragon 600 processor.
According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 800 processor as a whole is up to 75% faster than the Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC. Qualcomm is aiming this processor at “premium” high end devices including Smart TVs, tablets, consumer electronics devices (ie: blu ray players with apps), and smartphones. Qualcomm expects to see devices powered by the new SoC become available sometime around the middle of 2013 (1H’13).
The new chips appear to offer up some noticeable performance and efficiency improvements over the current generation of Snapdragon processors. The Snapdragon 800 in particular is an impressive-sounding design. I am interested to see how it stacks up against competing chips such as NVIDIA’s Tegra 4, Samsung’s next-gen Exynos lineup, and whatever chip Apple has up its sleeve for the next iPad/iPhone refresh. This year is shaping up to be an exciting year for ARM-based SoCs!
If you are interested in the new silicon, Qualcomm has teased a few more details on its blog.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2013 - 12:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, surface, winRT, tegra 4, nvidia, arm
NVIDIA's new Shield gaming device might have distracted your attention from another new product they demonstrated which could be even more important to their success, a fully functional WinRT tablet. The tablet is powered by a Tegra 4 chip and apparently runs smoothly even on this OS which was theoretically designed for ARM hardware. DigiTimes feels that this is a sign that NVIDIA, who have had a long if somewhat troubled relationship with Microsoft, could become a chip supplier for new Surface devices and tablets. Hopefully in the near future we will get to see a head to head review of two devices powered by different chips so that we can see which provides the best experience.
"Nvidia unveiled a pilot tablet based on its new Tegra 4 processor and Microsoft's Windows RT operating system at CES 2013, and since the device is already operating smoothly, Nvidia will have a chance of becoming the CPU supplier for next-generation Surface tablets or Windows RT-based tablets from other IT players, according to Digitimes Research senior analyst Eric Lin."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Potty-mouthed Watson supercomputer needed filth filter @ The Register
- Java Zero-Day Vulnerability Rolled Into Exploit Packs @ Slashdot
- GlobalFoundries plunks $2bn into New York fab @ The Register
- RIM plans six BlackBerry 10 handsets for 2013 @ The Register
- Canonical Shakes Up Mobile with Ubuntu for Phones @ Linux.com
- Unsigned code running on Windows RT @ Hack a Day
- The weird and wonderful from 2013's Las Vegas technology show @ The Inquirer
- Richland, Kaveri, Kabini & Temash; AMD’s 2013 APU Lineup Examined @ Hardware Canucks
- CES 2013 Day 1 Coverage @ Legit Reviews
- CES digest, part 3: Intel, Silverstone, Thermaltake, Diamond, and Xi3 @ The Tech Report
- Nvidia's CES 2013 Press Conference Replay @ NGOHQ
- TechwareLabs CES 2013 News and Event Coverage with Videos
- CES 2013 Coverage Day 1 @ OCC
- CES 2013 Coverage Day 2 @ OCC
Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2013 - 03:29 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, Samsung, exynos octa, exynos, ces 2013, CES, big.little, arm
Samsung talked up a new ARM SoC during CES that will become the new high-end part of its Exynos 5 lineup. The Samsung Exynos 5 Octa is, as the name suggests, an eight core processor. It is built on a 28nm manufacturing process and employs ARM's big.LITTLE architecture.
While Samsung is not ready to share all the detailed under-the-hood details, the Exynos 5 Octa has four Cortex A15 cores clocked at 1.8GHz paired with four Cortex A7 cores clocked at 1.2GHz. With big.LITTLE, the SoC has both high performance, high powr cores and lower power cores. The configuration is invisible to the end user, and the chip will use the Cortex A15 cores when in 3D applications or other CPU load intensive applications. Then, while the phone is idle or simply running background applications (notifications, checking email, updating twitter and facebook feeds, ect), the SoC will power down the Cortex A15 cores and use the lower power-drawing A7 cores. Ideally, this will give users a "best of both worlds" situation and a balance of performance and battery life.
Samsung claims that the Exynos 5 Octa offers up to twice the 3D performance of other existing current-generation SoCs. However, we do not yet have details on the GPU improvements (if any) over Samsung's other Exynos 5 chips much less benchmark-able products running this chip yet so it is difficult to say whether that statement is true or not. Also, Samsung claims as much as a 70% improvement in power savings over its dual core Exynos 5 processor, which is certainly a bold claim.
According to Engadget, Samsung plans to reveal all the nitty-gritty details on the eight-core Exynos 5 Octa SoC at the International Solid State Circuits Conference on February 19, 2013. It should give NVIDIA's "4+1" core Tegra 4 a run for its money, at lest on the CPU front (and maybe 3D graphics as well, but it's hard to say at this point).
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2013 - 12:01 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tegra 4, SoC, nvidia, cortex a15, ces 2013, CES, arm
Details about NVIDIA’s latest system on a chip (SoC) for mobile devices leaked last month. On Sunday, NVIDIA officially released its Tegra 4 chip, and talked up more details on the new silicon.
Interestingly, the leaked information from the slide held true over the weekend when NVIDIA officially unveiled it during a press conference. The new chip is manufactured on a 28nm, low power, high-k metal gate process. It features four ARM Cortex-A15 CPU cores running at up to 1.9GHz, one (additional) low power Cortex-A15 companion core, a NVIDIA GeForce GPU with 72 cores (not unified shader design unfortunately). In addition, the Tegra 4 SoC includes the company’s i500 programmable soft modem, and a number of fixed function hardware used for audio and image processing.
According to Anandtech, the majority of GPU cores in the Tegra 4 are 20-bit pixel shaders though exact specifications on the GPU are still unknown. Further, the i500 modem currectly supports LTE UE Category 3 on the WCDMA band with an LTE 4 modem expected in the future.
Image Credit: ArsTechnica attended the NVIDIA press conference.
Tegra 4 will support dual channel LP-DDR3 memory, USB 3.0, and a technology that NVIDIA is calling its Computational Photography Architecture that allegedly will allow real-time HDR imagery with still and video shoots.
According to NVIDIA, Tegra 4 will be noticeably faster than its predecessors and the competing SoCs from Apple and Qualcomm et al. When compared to the Nexus 10 (Samsung Exynos 5 SoC) and the stock Android web browser, the Tegra 4 device (Chrome browser) opened pages in 27 seconds versus the Nexus 10’s 50 second benchmark time. Users will have to wait for retail devices with Tegra 4 hardware for independent benchmarks, however. Thanks to the higher top-end clockspeed and beefier GPU, you can expect Tegra 4 to be faster than Tegra 3, but until reviewers get their hands on Tegra 4-powered devices it is difficult to say just how much faster it is.
Speaking of hardware, the Tegra 4 chip will most likely be used in tablets (and not smartphones). Here’s hoping we see some prototype Tegra 4 devices or product announcements later this week at CES.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | January 4, 2013 - 04:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, Intel, krayt, atom, qualcomm, cortex a15, tegra 3
AnandTech managed to get their hands on an Samsung designed ARM Cortex A15 processor powered tablet, which they compared to several competitors such as Intel's Atom, Qualcomm's Krait and NVIDIA's Tegra 3. The test names may seem unfamiliar with Sunspider, Kraken and RIABench providing performance comparisons though the power consumption tests will be familiar to all. Read on to see how the next generation of chips from the main contenders for your mobile device spending compare.
"The previous article focused on an admittedly not too interesting comparison: Intel's Atom Z2760 (Clover Trail) versus NVIDIA's Tegra 3. After much pleading, Intel returned with two more tablets: a Dell XPS 10 using Qualcomm's APQ8060A SoC (dual-core 28nm Krait) and a Nexus 10 using Samsung's Exynos 5 Dual (dual-core 32nm Cortex A15). What was a walk in the park for Atom all of the sudden became much more challenging. Both of these SoCs are built on very modern, low power manufacturing processes and Intel no longer has a performance advantage compared to Exynos 5."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- iBUYPOWER Chimera 4SE Desktop Gaming PC @ Tweaktown
- Improving the PC as a gaming platform: the hardware @ The Tech Report
- Cyberpower Gaming Battalion 502 Windows 8 PC Review (FX 4170 / Radeon 7770) @ Kitguru
- HP Envy 23-d060qd TouchSmart Review @ TechReviewSource
- E3iO Snack Series SK02 Desktop PC Review @ Ninjalane
- Antec ISK110 VESA Mini-ITX Desktop @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2012 - 12:16 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, virtu, VIA, tegra 4, Samsung, radeon, podcast, nvidia, nvelo, nuc, lucid, Intel, hackintosh, gigabyte, Dataplex, arm, amd, 8000m
PC Perspective Podcast #231 - 12/20/2012
Join us this week as we talk about the Intel NUC, AMD 8000M GPUs, Building a Hackintosh and more!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Chris Barbere
Program length: 1:13:41
Podcast topics of discussion:
- 0:01:50 We are going to try Planetside 2 after the podcast!
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News items of interest:
- 0:33:30 Cutting the Cord Complete!
- 0:36:10 VIA ARM-based SoCs in upcoming ASUS tablet
- 0:42:00 Lucid MVP 2.0 will be sold direct
- 0:44:50 Samsung acquires NVELO SSD Caching Software
- 0:49:00 AMD announces mobility 8000M series of GPUs
- 0:54:15 Some NVIDIA Tegra 4 Details
- 0:58:55 NEC Unveils Super Thin Ultrabook
- 1:00:30 Win a Sapphire HD 7870 GHz Edition FleX!!
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Subject: Processors, Mobile | December 19, 2012 - 12:26 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wayne, tegra 4, SoC, nvidia, cortex a15, arm
Earlier this year, NVIDIA showed off a roadmap for its Tegra line of mobile system on a chip (SoC) processors. Namely, the next generation Tegra 4 mobile chip is codenamed Wayne and will be the successor to the Tegra 3.
Tegra 4 will use a 28nm manufacturing process and feature improvements to the CPU, GPU, and IO components. Thanks to a leaked slide that appeared on Chip Hell, we now have more details on Tegra 4.
The 28nm Tegra 4 SoC will keep the same 4+1 CPU design* as the Tegra 3, but it will use ARM Cortex A15 CPU cores instead of the Cortex A9 cores used in the current generation chips. NVIDIA is also improving the GPU portion, and Tegra 4 will reportedly feature a 72 core GPU based on a new architecture. Unfortunately, we do not have specifics on how that GPU is set up architecturally, but the leaked slide indicates that the GPU will be as much as 6x faster than NVIDIA’s own Tegra 3. It will allegedly be fast enough to power displays with resolutions from 1080p @ 120Hz to 4K (refresh rate unknown). Don’t expect to drive games at native 4K resolution, however it should run a tablet OS fine. Interestingly, NVIDIA has included hardware to hardware accelerate VP8 and H.264 video at up to 2560x1440 resolutions.
Additionally, Tegra 4 will feature support for dual channel DDR3L memory, USB 3.0 and hardware accelerated secuity options including HDCP, Secure Boot, and DRM which may make Tegra 4 an attractive option for Windows RT tablets.
The leaked slide has revealed several interesting details on Tegra 4, but it has also raised some questions on the nitty-gritty details. Also, there is no mention of the dual core variant of Tegra 4 – codenamed Grey – that is said to include an integrated Icera 4G LTE cellular modem. Here’s hoping more details surface at CES next month!
* NVIDIA's name for a CPU that features four ARM CPU cores and one lower power ARM companion core.
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