Apple's A6 Processor Uses Hand Drawn ARM Cores to Boost Performance

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2012 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: SoC, PowerVR, iphone, arm, apple, a6

Apple's latest smartphone was unveiled earlier this month, and just about every feature has been analyzed extensively by reviewers and expounded upon by Apple. However, the one aspect that remains a mystery is the ARM System on a Chip that is powering the iPhone 5. There has been a great deal of speculation, but the officially Apple is not talking. The company has stated that the new processor is two times faster than its predecessor, but beyond that it will be up to reviewers to figure out what makes it tick.

After the press conference PC Perspective's Josh Walrath researched what few hints there were on the new A6 processor, and determined that there was a good chance it was an ARM Cortex A15-based design. Since then some tidbits of information have come out that suggest otherwise, however. Developers for iOS disovered that the latest SDK suggest new functionality for the A6 processor, including some new instruction sets. That discovery tended credence to the A6 possibly being Cortex A15, but it did not prove that it wasn't. Following that, Anandtech posted an article that stated it was in a licensed Cortex A15 design. Rather, the A6 was a custom Apple-developed chip that would, ideally, give users the same level of performance without needing significantly more power – and without waiting for a Cortex A15 chip to be manufactured.

Finally, thanks to the work of the enthusiasts over at Chipworks, we have physical proof that, finally, reveals details about Apple's A6 SoC. By stripping away the outer protective layers, and placing the A6 die under a powerful microscope, they managed to get an 'up close and personal' look at the inside of the chip.

Apple A6 ARM SoC.jpg

Despite the near-Jersey Shore (shudder) levels of drama between Apple and Samsung over the recent trade dress and patent infringement allegations, it seems that the two companies worked together to bring Apple's custom processor to market. The researchers determined that the A6 was based on Samsung's 32nm CMOS manufacturing process. It reads APL0589B01 on the inside, which suggests that it is of Apple's own design. Once the Chipworks team sliced open the processor further, they discovered proof that Apple really did craft a custom ARM processor.

In fact, Apple has created a chip with dual ARM CPU cores and three GPU cores (PowerVR). The CPU cores support the ARMv7s instruction set, and Apple has gone with a hand drawn design. Rather than employ computer libraries to automatically lay out the logic in the processor, Apple and the engineers acquired from its purchase of PA Semi have manually drawn out the processor by hand. This chip has likely been in the works for a couple of years now, and the 96.71mm^2 sized die will offer up some notable performance improvements.

microscope.jpg

It seems like Apple has opted to go for an expensive custom chip rather than opt for a licensed Cortex A15 design. That combined with the hand drawn layout should give Apple a processor with better performance than its past designs without requiring significantly more power.

At a time when mobile SoC giant Texas Instruments is giving up on ARM chips for tablets and smartphones, and hand drawn designs are becoming increasingly rare (even AMD has given up), I have to give Apple props for going with a custom processor laid out by hand. I'm interested to see what the company is able to do with it and where they will go from here. 

Chipworks and iFixIt also took a look at the LTE modem, Wi-Fi chip, audio amplifier, and other aspects of the iPhone 5's internals, and it is definitely worth a read for the impressive imagery alone.

Source: ifixit

Raspberry Pi Allows Official Overclocking “Turbo Mode” With Presets Up To 1GHz

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2012 - 11:53 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, overclocking, arm

The Raspberry Pi has proved a popular – if difficult to get a hold of – low-cost computer. The Pi is powered by a Broadcom BCM2835 ARM system on a chip that features a VideoCore IV GPU and ARM1176JZFS CPU core. By default, the processor runs at 700MHz, but enthusiasts put it through its paces and found there to be more than a bit of headroom. Unfortunately, if your particular chip required a bit of extra voltage to run at higher frequencies, it would mean voiding your warranty in order to get the extra performance – until now, that is.

In a bit of good news for overclockers, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced that official overclocking will now be supported even when the processor has been over-volted. In the raspi-config file, you will be able to choose from one of five overclocking presets where the highest overclock will run the processor at 1GHz.

Raspberry Pi_Gijsbert Peijs.jpg

Interestingly, the overclocked frequency is managed by the cpufreq driver and can be dynamically adjusted. The processor will run at up to the frequency defined in your chosen preset as long as the temperature of the chip does not reach 85 °C. Also, the overclocked frequencies will only be applied when the SoC is under load. When idling, it will happily use less power by turning the clockspeed down. Further, when applying the higher clocks, you are also adjusting the GPU Core, SDRAM, and system bus speed.

When combined with other software fixes (below), the Raspberry Pi Foundation is claiming various performance improvements. According to the site, Linux benchmark nbench reports 52% better integer performance, 64% increased floating point performance, and a 55% improvement in memory.

[

Left: default clockspeeds, right: 1GHz overclock

Should your particular Raspberry Pi not boot after applying a higher overclocking preset, you can hold down the Shift key during boot to force the Raspberry Pi to revert to default clockspeeds. Then, you can back down to the next-highest preset to see if the Raspberry Pi is capable of running at that (though it would be a better idea to start at the lowest preset and work your way up). The Raspberry Pi Foundation recommends playing through a bit of Quake 3 as it is a good indicator of a stable overclock.

In addition to the new turbo mode, a fix has been applied to the USB driver to reduce the USB interrupt rate, which improves performance approximately 10%. Because even the LAN port is on the USB bus, reducing CPU load should help a lot in freeing up the limited resources of the ARM processor for other tasks. If you have Wi-Fi devices based on the RTL8188CUS chipset or is otherwise supported by Linux, it should now work with the Raspberry Pi out of the box.

In order to get all of the above improvements (among a couple of other minor tweaks), you can run the following command to update to the latest image:

“sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade”

It’s nice to see continued support for the Raspberry Pi, and the ‘free’ overclocking performance is always a plus!

Image of Raspberry Pi hardware courtesy Gijsbert Peijs via Flickr Creative Commons. Thank you.

Read more about the $35 Linux-powered Raspberry Pi computer at PC Perspective!

Source: Raspberry Pi

Podcast #218 - Gigabyte Z77X-UD7, Apple A6 SoC, Thunderbolt GPU Tech from Lucid, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2012 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: z77x-ud7, z77n-wifi, WD, thunderbolt, SoC, podcast, lucid, idf 2012, Hybrid Drive, haswell, gpu, gigabyte, arm, a6

PC Perspective Podcast #218 - 09/13/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the Gigabyte Z77X-UD7, Apple A6 SoC, Thunderbolt GPU Tech from Lucid, 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: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malvantano and Scott Michaud

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:01:33

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:02:50 Live Recap: Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 & Z77N-Wifi Preview
    2. 0:11:11 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review
    3. 0:16:20 Apple A6 SOC: Cortex A15 Hits the Market
    4. 0:21:30 IDF 2012: Intel Haswell Architecture Revealed
      1. Intel Haswell CPUs as low as 10W TDP
  2. 0:28:05 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:28:45 IDF 2012: Lucid External GPUs?
    2. 0:32:05 IDF 2012: Intel Dives in to Oil!
    3. 0:35:45 IDF 2012: Western Digital Hybrid Hard Drives - 5mm 500GB
    4. 0:38:00 AMD Steamroller -- Shrunk Die Without a Die Shrink?
    5. 0:39:50 Firefox OS Interface: Sept 6, 2012.
    6. 0:42:30 CiiNow Sounds Like Wii... also AMD Investment.
    7. 0:47:15 Valve Big Picture Mode for Steam
  4. Closing:
    1. 0:50:36 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Jeremy: SLI\CrossFire PSU for dirt cheap, NewEgg not quite so good
      2. Josh: Not terrible. Hopefully it actually works for the S3
      3. Allyn: WD MyBook VelociRaptor Duo
      4. Scott: Back to school? For the love of God, laser printers.
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer:

Apple Produces the new A6 for the iPhone 5

 

Today is the day that world gets introduced to the iPhone 5.  I of course was very curious about what Apple would be bringing to market the year after the death of Steve Jobs.  The excitement leading up to the iPhone announcement was somewhat muted as compared to years past, and a lot of that could be attributed to what has been happening in the Android market.  Companies like Samsung and HTC have released new high end phones that are not only faster and more expansive than previous versions, but they also worked really well and were feature packed.  While the iPhone 5 will be another success for Apple, for those somewhat dispassionate about the cellphone market will likely just shrug and say to themselves, “It looks like Apple caught up for the year, but too bad they really didn’t introduce anything really groundbreaking.”

a6_01.jpg

If there was one area that many were anxiously awaiting, it was that of the SOC (system on a chip) that Apple would use for the iPhone 5.  Speculation went basically from using a fresh piece of silicon based on the A5X (faster clocks, smaller graphics portion) to having a quad core monster running at high speeds but still sipping power.  It seems that we actually got something in between.  This is not a bad thing, but as we go forward we will likely see that the silicon again only matches what other manufacturers have been using since earlier this year.

Click here to read the entire article.

Prepare to be shocked ... ARM has negative things to say about Intel Inside phones

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2012 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: arm, Intel, atom, atom z2460, ARM Army

It is hard to believe that competing tech companies might make comments about their competitors that could be construed as negative but it has happened today as ARM calls Intel power hungry.  From what DigiTimes could gather, a VP at ARM suggested that the Atom architecture consumes more power in total than ARM processors, though he stayed away from any comment about processing power per watt.  This could well be because handset makers describe the Z2460 as more powerful than the ARM and only slightly less power efficient, something the ARM Army would rather was not mentioned.  In the coming months consumers will get a chance to compare this for themselves as Windows 8 phones running on both Intel and ARM hardware will become available for direct comparison.

ARM-chip3.jpg

"While Intel has been making efforts to tap the handset processor market, the company still has a long way to go to catch up with ARM in terms of power consumption, according to Noel Hurley, vice president for Marketing & Strategy, Processor Division, ARM."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Podcast #216 - GTX 660Ti Roundup, AMD Steamroller Details, Multi GPU Graphics Card Rumors and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2012 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: zotac, Steamroller, ssd, revodrive, podcast, ocz, msi, MARS III, Intel, galaxy, evga, asus, arm, ARES II, amd, 7990, 690, 660ti

PC Perspective Podcast #216 - 08/30/2012

Join us this week as we talk about our GTX 660Ti Roundup, AMD Steamroller Details, Multi GPU Graphics Card Rumors 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, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom and Allyn Malvantano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:01:56

Program Schedule:

  1. Introduction
  2. PCPer moving to pcper.com/live
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  4. http://pcper.com/podcast
  5. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:02:15 GeForce GTX 660 Ti Roundup
    2. 0:16:00 AMD Steamroller details from HotChips
    3. 0:27:30 ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Review
  2. 0:29:45 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:30:25 EVGA 1500 watt power supply
    2. 0:34:30 Powercolor HD 7990 Devil 13 graphics card
    3. 0:37:26 AMD releases FX-4130 and lowers prices
    4. 0:39:24 Synology refreshes DiskStation
    5. 0:40:50 ASUS MARS III GTX 680 - dreamers only
    6. 0:43:17 EVGA Mini ITX Z77 motherboard
    7. 0:45:15 NVIDIA shows Unreal Engine 3 on Tegra 3
  4. Closing:
    1. 0:51:11 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: OCZ RevoDrive 3 x2
      2. Jeremy: Something to vie for your upgrade budget
      3. Josh: Can never have enough space
      4. Allyn: Kingston HyperX Genesis 32GB DDR3 1600
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

 

ARM-A9 SOC showdown, Tegra 3 versus ODROID-X

Subject: Mobile | August 21, 2012 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: tegra 3, Samsung, nvidia, Exynos 4412, cortex-a9, arm

The participants in this System on a Chip showdown both bear long names, on one side is NVIDIA's Tegra 3 ARM SoC and on the other the ODROID-X Samsung Exynos 4412 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9.  NVIDIA's offering is well known by now but the ODROID-X is a relative newcomer to the market, offering their product for about $130.  After setting up Linux on these systems Phoronix got to benchmarking and the results will surprise NVIDIA fans as the ARM based system actually came out on top on quite a few of the tests.

ph_odroidx.jpg

"While not as popular as NVIDIA's Tegra 3 ARM SoC, the Samsung Exynos 4412 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 found on cheaply priced ODROID-X can actually outperform the quad-core NVIDIA ARM processor. Here are benchmarks of the $129 USD ODROID-X benchmarked against the NVIDIA Tegra 3 reference tablet and a PandaBoard ES running the Texas Instruments OMAP4460."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: Phoronix

Rumour has it Microsoft's Surface will be $200

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2012 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: rumour, microsoft, arm, surface

With yesterdays announcement that Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung will all be releasing ARM based WinRT systems, the rumour we are hearing from The Register today is very interesting.  If indeed the ARM powered Surface will be selling for $200 it would be less than half of the price analysts predicted it would arrive at.  That Acer is not on that list of manufacturers lends credence to their CEO's statement that the $200 Surface will have a negative impact on current tablet vendors.  On the other hand, if it turns out that a reasonably functional and sturdy ARM based tablet/laptop can be designed and sold for $200 then it will be a definite win for the consumer and compete with Google's new tablet as well as certain high end eReaders.

about2.jpg

"If the latest Redmond rumors are to be believed, Microsoft's ARM-based Surface tablet models could arrive priced as low as $199, positioning them as heavyweights in the burgeoning low-cost tablet category."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

WinRT spreads to the major vendors after they touched the Surface

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2012 - 02:54 PM |
Tagged: winRT, asus, dell, Lenovo, Samsung, microsoft, arm

When Microsoft released their Surface tablet/notebook, the tech community wondered if this move by a software company would upset the Tier 1 hardware vendors who might not want the competition.  That discussion was ended when Microsoft announced that Surface was a proof of concept and would be released in very limited qualities.  Today The Inquirer reports on upcoming mobile devices running on ARM hardware and WinRT from all the major vendors, giving us a rough idea what to expect in the way of performance.  The quoted specs include user interface animations at 60FPS and touchscreen sampling rates of 100Hz per finger.  Battery life will be impressive, 320 hours and 409 hours of standby time and for video playback you can expect 8-13 hours of HD playtime, though they do not talk about the quality of that playback.

winrt.png

"SOFTWARE DEVELOPER Microsoft has revealed Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung Windows RT devices will be available at the launch of the operating system.

Microsoft has been playing a very dangerous game with its Surface tablet hogging the Windows RT limelight, something that its long-term and invaluable partners will not like. Now the company has come out and said that Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung will also have Windows RT devices when the operating system launches later this year."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft will chop bits off of Office on WinRT

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2012 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: arm, office 2013, winRT, lies

Microsoft has done an about face which is going to disappoint office workers who were planning on switching to ARM based hardware running WinRT, which includes Microsoft's Surface tablet/laptop.  Though this was promised to us, The Register now has heard that macros, 3rd party add-ons, and support for VBA will not exist on Office 2013 for ARM.  Since that removes any possible automation from Office as well as damaging the productivity of those users who depend on 3rd party add-ons the Surface suddenly seems a lot less attractive.  For those who fervently believe that PowerPoint is the only Office application there will likely be no effect whatsoever.

Steve-Ballmer-intros-Office-2013.jpg

"If true, it would be something of an about-face for the software giant. At a press event announcing the Office 2013 Preview in July, Microsoft honcho Steve Ballmer said that Redmond was committed to providing the full Office experience on Surface and other devices running Windows RT.

"You'll see this as we and our partners ship PCs and Surface devices with ARM chips in them," Ballmer said. "Full Word. Full PowerPoint. Full Excel. You give up nothing of the rich capabilities of Microsoft Office when you embrace a Windows 8 ARM device."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register