Intel Might Become a Foundry -- For ARM? If Apple Goes x86

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | December 4, 2012 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: Intel, arm, apple

Hopefully I did not make your head hurt too much with that title.

Intel announced early in the year the opening of their fabrication labs to certain other developers, none of which competing with anything Intel does. We joked about how this is the end of the world as we know it although we feel fine. As it turns out, the world might end December 2012: RBC rumors that Intel might fulfill orders of ARM processors taking away that responsibility from Samsung.

Of course, there will always be a catch. It is possible that Intel will allow Apple to manufacture their ARM-based processors at Intel if Apple switches their tablets to x86-based products. No-one said the apocalypse must be an irrational event.

intel-cmon.png

When pigs fly? Challenge accepted.

If this rumor comes to fruition - and that is a mighty large if - we finally know that a line of apathy exists within Intel. Intel fabricating an architecture that they directly compete with is a big deal, ignore their motive.

Intel has allegedly made a compromise, definitively this time. We debated fairly heavily whether Intel made a compromise when they allowed FBGAs to be manufactured at their facilities. This time there is no question about whether Intel will make a concession to better its company as a whole.

I have no doubt that Intel desires to stomp competing platforms but we should all doubt that Intel would never step into some middle ground. After all, Intel is not even suffering at this point by any measure. Imagine if the situation actually begins to look dire.

Source: CNN

The new strong ARM line up of X-Men from Applied Micro Circuits

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2012 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: arm, Applied Micro Circuits, X-Gene, X-Compute, X-Memory, X-Storage

There is more choice to put ARM power into your server room with three new products with varying roles.  The first is the X-Compute card with a single 8 core X-Gene processor and up to 128GB of memory, connectivity is three gigabit and one 10 gigabit ethernet ports. This they see running web apps and monitoring or load balancing purposes.  Next is the X-Memory machine with 16 cores thanks to two X-Gene chips and it can support up to 256GB of memory, its connectivity is a little more advanced with two 10 gigabit connections in addition to three gigabit connections.  Obviously this is intended for memory dependent applications which don't depend on high density local storage.  Last but certainly not least is the biggest member, the X-Storage which can handle up to 11 3.5" SATA drives and an additional three 2.5" SATA drives and sports a single eight X-Gene processor, up to 32GB of memory plus one gigabit and one 10 gigabit networking port.  The Register doesn't have benchmarks but you can see what these devices will look like right here.

ElReg_amcc_x_gene_xcompute_board.jpg

"Applied Micro Circuits is not yet shipping its first X-Gene ARM-based processor aimed at servers, and it is going to be a while yet before it can get the processors into the field. But because there is so much at stake, Applied Micro can't afford to be left out of any conversations about ARM Holding's attack on the data center. The reason? It has invested very heavily (at least relative to its size) in this X-Gene project."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #225 - Intel's New Low Priced 240GB SSD, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Convertible Ultrabook, AMD ARM processors, and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2012 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: z77a-gd80, yoga 13, thunderbolt, podcast, pcper, msi, Lenovo, intel ssd, intel 335, Intel, Ideapad, asus, arm, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #225 - 11/01/2012

Join us this week as we talk about Intel's New Low Priced 240GB SSD, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Convertible Ultrabook, AMD ARM processors, 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, Allyn Malventano, and Chris Barbere

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:10:09

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:01:40 The Windows You Love is Gone
    2. 0:07:30 Intel SSD 335 Series 240GB Full Review - Intel's first 20nm SSD
    3. 0:15:30 MSI Z77A-GD80 with Thunderbolt Motherboard Review
    4. 0:20:20 Video Perspective: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Windows 8 Ultrabook Preview
  2. 0:29:22 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:30:35 Corsair Announces new products
      1. Corsair Announces Vengeance MM200 and MM400 gaming mouse mats
      2. Corsair Announces Updated Hydro Series H60 and New Hydro Series H55
    2. 0:36:10 ASUS Launches Line of VivoBook Laptops Running Windows 8
      1. Asus Zenbook Refresh Introduces Several New Ultrabooks
    3. 0:42:05 How to Build a PC with Windows 8 - PC Perspective Live!
    4. 0:43:50 Microsoft Giving Away Free Media Center Keys For Windows 8
    5. 0:46:30 ASRock Launches Extreme6/TB4 Motherboard With Two Thunderbolt Ports
    6. 0:47:30 AMD Announces It Will Build 64-bit ARM Processors for Server Markets
    7. 0:53:15 Intel Wants To See 48-Core Processors In Future Smartphones
    8. 0:56:30 NZXT Unleashes the Kraken -- World's first all-in-one 140mm & 280mm liquid-cooler
  4. Closing:
    1. 1:00:20 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Symphony on Steam - Free Keys to Give Away!!
      2. Jeremy: Grab media centre, even if you don't plan on getting Win 8 yet
      3. Allyn: Start8 - for you Windows 8 users
      4. Chris: MechWarrior Online
  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

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

AMD Announces It Will Build 64-bit ARM Processors for Server Markets

Subject: Processors | October 29, 2012 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: processors, arm, amd, 64-bit

On a not very technically reliable webcast today, AMD has announced that it will produce 64-bit processors based on the ARM architecture and combine them with the "Freedom Fabric" they acquired with the purchase of SeaMicro.

amdarmlogos.jpg

In a move that is incredibly telling about the times we are in, but not really a surprise to those of us that follow the processor markets closely, AMD and ARM announced a partnership beyond previously discussed in public.  AMD will start production of ARM-based processors in 2014 and will be among the first to include 64-bit technology. 

The target for these processors will be the server market and AMD hopes to be at the forefront the often discussed ARM-in-the-server-world migration.  While that server opportunity size is debatable, with partners on stage like Facebook and RedHat, there is little doubt that it will have an affect on enterprise computing in the next 24 months.  AMD is hoping that its experience with the move to 64-bit technology in the x86 migration will aid them in development and migration in the ARM architecture world; one that is currently still limited to 32-bit. 

UPDATE: As being reported by Anand Shimpi this is in fact NOT an architecture license but is instead a processor license.  What does that mean?  AMD is not going to develop its own core (as Apple and NVIDIA do) but instead will fully integrate an upcoming 64-bit ARM core in new AMD products.

seamicro.jpg

Image source: EEBeat

SeaMicro's Freedom Fabric technology is another major angle that AMD has over other players in this field.  The fabric technology is meant to facilitate communication between multiple processors on a specialized bus, removing bottlenecks on the platform and network.  Dr. Lisa Su, SVP of Global Business at AMD, stated that simply connecting hundreds or thousands of ARM-based processors to each other isn't enough and moves the problem of computing management from the CPUs to the network itself.  Using Freedom Fabric, the AMD-based ARM processors would be able to much more efficiently communicate and thus maintain the promised power benefits of ARM servers.

AMD did state that they will continue to develop x86 processors going forward but you have to wonder about its dedication to that goal.  Working with ARM is a quick and easy way to get AMD into a growing market in the server world that Intel currently has no solutions for so it seems possible that this is simply a stop-gap until AMD can develop an x86-based solution.  It is hard to say for sure but for an organization in AMD's financial position, having options in multiple segments is certainly a good idea. 

seamicro2.jpg

What you won't see yet is AMD's graphics technology in the ARM-based processors announced today.  This isn't an "ARM APU" but instead is a combination of SeaMicro and ARM for a very specific server workload. 

We'll have more on this announcement if anything else interesting is divulged, but you can find the entire press release from AMD after the break!

ARM snaps graphics marketshare from the dragon

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 22, 2012 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: arm, qualcomm, marketshare, SoC, imagination, Vivante, jon peddie, mali

ARM has made some serious impact on the mobile market with their Mali GPU on their SoC, with Jon Peddie Research reporting they have doubled their market share over the past year.  That number is even more impressive when you pair it with the 91.3% growth in the mobile GPU market.  Another player, Vivante, quadrupled their share of the market and while their products are found primarily in Asia you may recognize them as a member of the HSA.  Their success comes at a cost to Imagination and Qualcomm, both of whom have seen their market shares drop. NVIDIA is currently making up 2.5% of the GPU market for tablets and smartphones which is not too bad when you consider that the other four main players all license their processors out while NVIDIA remains the sole provider of its Tegra SoCs.  Get more numbers at The Inquirer.

ARM-Mali-T658-graphics.jpg

"CHIP DESIGNERS ARM and Vivante have achieved significant market share gains in the system-on-chip (SoC) GPU market while Imagination and Qualcomm have seen their market shares fall."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Samsung Launches New ARM-Powered XE303C12 Chromebook

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2012 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: xe303c12, Samsung, laptop, google, Exynos 5250, Chromebook, chrome os, arm

While Android gets most of the attention, it is not the only operating system from Google. Chrome OS was released two years ago, and despite the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets, it is still very much alive and kicking on the cloud-connected “Chromebooks.”

In fact, earlier this week Samsung announced a brand new Chromebook powered by its own Exynos 5250 ARM System of a Chip (SoC). The new system is lighter than the company’s previous Chromebook offerings at 2.43 pounds and is less than an inch thick. The specifications are not impressive for a laptop, but in the context of a Chromebook where much of the processing is done on Internet-connected servers the internals should ensure that you get good battery life – up to 6.3 hours – out of the mobile machine.

Samsung Chromebook.jpg

The 11.6” Chromebook has a display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, 1.5W stereo speakers, and a full physical keyboard with trackpad.

External I/O options include:

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Headphone/Mic combo jack
  • 1 x SD card slot

The USB 3.0 option is interesting, and should allow you to hook up fast external storage should you need more caching space for offline use.

On the outside, the Chromebook very much resembles a standard laptop, but on the inside it is closer to the specifications of a smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, Samsung has chosen its Exynos 5250 system on a chip to power the XE303C12 Chromebook. That processor is packing two Cortex A15-based ARM CPU cores and an ARM Mali T604 GPU. While the Exynos 15 is capable of clocking up to 2GHz, it is unclear whether or not the Chromebook will feature chips clocked at that speed or not. It is certainly a possibility though, since the laptop form factor would provide ample cooling versus a more constrained smartphone or tablet. Beyond the SoC, Samsung has packed in 2GB of RAM and a 16GB solid state drive (SSD). Additionally, the XE303C12 Chromebook includes a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip – useful for business uses – and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio with a 2x2 antenna configuration.

The new Samsung Chromebook is available for pre-order now, and will be officially available for purchase at Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg, and other retailers beginning October 22, 2012. It has an MSRP of $249.99.

I’m interested to see how this compared to the Windows RT offerings, and whether the cheaper price will win people over versus those devices. On the other hand, it may be that Android tablets – like the Nexus 7, Nook Tablet, and new Kindle Fire tablets – are the favored devices for all but road warriors needing a decent keyboard. What do you think?

Source: Samsung

Mention Linux incompatibility and it will be fixed; ARM support coming soon

Subject: General Tech | October 11, 2012 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: linux, arm

Linus has been graphically describing what he thinks of the fragmented state of ARM manufacturers who make it very difficult for a single Linux kernel to reliably work on the staggering variety of ARM chips on the market.  So many manufacturers license ARM technology under an agreement which allows them a lot of leeway to make changes to the architecture which leads to the development nightmares which are preventing Linux from offering the same compatibility for ARM as they do for x86 chips. This is poised to change as The Register has announced that Linus has committed new source code which could finally lead to multi-platform support.  Calxeda and other companies pushing ARM based server solutions can't wait for this to finish testing and be deployed.

linus-torvalds.jpg

"Based on Johansson’s source code changes, one Linux kernel build could supports devices of all kinds. He said electronics capable of running the new kernel include system-on-a-chip machines, storage devices, cameras, medical devices and Calexda's efforts to put ARM-powered chips in HP ProLiant SL6500 servers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Calxeda gains some allies in the Server War

Subject: General Tech | October 10, 2012 - 10:57 AM |
Tagged: calxeda, arm, 64bit, ARMv8

There are two very big hurdles for Calxeda to overcome if it wants its ARM based servers to make any headway in the market.  The first is OS support which could be the hardest to overcome as they are dependant on programmers making Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE compatible with ARM chips, Microsoft has already announced that the first version of Windows Server 2012 will not support ARM.  Compatibility is something that Calxeda cannot fix on its own, however the lack of a x64 chip is something that they can work to solve and thanks to the $55M they just received they can now move forward on finishing the chip design.  That money came from an impressive list of allies including the current parent company of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, ATIC as well as ARM Holdings, Battery Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, and Highland Capital Partners and will be used to design the next Cortex A15 and an as of yet unnamed x64 chip.  Check out The Register for more.

calxeda-ECore2.jpg

"ARM chip upstart Calxeda is lining its coffers as it prepares to do battle with its 32-bit EnergyCore ECX-1000 processors, and two more cores in its roadmap, to conquer some corner of the server world.

Calxeda now has more than 100 employees, who work in its Austin, Texas headquarters as well as in development labs in Silicon Valley and throughout Asia, and it needs cash as it ramps up sales and etches future EnergyCore processors to handle heavy duty workloads and 64-bit code."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

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

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2012 - 09:26 AM |
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 - 08:53 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