Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2013 - 12:24 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: techcon, Intel, arm techcon, arm, Altera, 14nm
In February of this year Intel and Altera announced that they would be partnering to build Altera FPGAs using the upcoming Intel 14nm tri-gate process technology. The deal was important for the industry as it marked one of the first times Intel has shared its process technology with another processor company. Seen as the company's most valuable asset, the decision to outsource work in the Intel fabrication facilities could have drastic ramifications for Intel's computing divisions and the industry as a whole. This seems to back up the speculation that Intel is having a hard time keeping their Fabs at anywhere near 100% utilization with only in-house designs.
Today though, news is coming out that Altera is going to be included ARM-based processing cores, specifically those based on the ARMv8 64-bit architecture. Starting in 2014 Altera's high-end Stratix 10 FPGA that uses four ARM Cortex-A53 cores will be produced by Intel fabs.
The deal may give Intel pause about its outsourcing strategy. To date the chip giant has experimented with offering its leading-edge fab processes as foundry services to a handful of chip designers, Altera being one of its largest planned customers to date.
Altera believes that by combing the ARMv8 A53 cores and Intel's 14nm tri-gate transistors they will be able to provide FPGA performance that is "two times the core performance" of current high-end 28nm options.
While this news might upset some people internally at Intel's architecture divisions, the news couldn't be better for ARM. Intel is universally recognized as being the process technology leader, generally a full process node ahead of the competition from TSMC and GlobalFoundries. I already learned yesterday that many of ARM's partners are skipping the 20nm technology from non-Intel foundries and instead are looking towards the 14/16nm FinFET transitions coming in late 2014.
ARM has been working with essentially every major foundry in the business EXCEPT Intel and many viewed Intel's chances of taking over the mobile/tablet/phone space as dependent on its process technology advantage. But if Intel continues to open up its facilities to the highest bidders, even if those customers are building ARM-based designs, then it could drastically improve the outlook for ARM's many partners.
UPDATE (7:57pm): After further talks with various parties there are a few clarifications that I wanted to make sure were added to our story. First, Altera's FPGAs are primarly focused on the markets of communication, industrial, military, etc. They are not really used as application processors and thus are not going to directly compete with Intel's processors in the phone/tablet space. It remains to be seen if Intel will open its foundries to a directly competing product but for now this announcement regarding the upcoming Stratix 10 FPGA on Intel's 14nm tri-gate is an interesting progression.
ARM is Serious About Graphics
Ask most computer users from 10 years ago who ARM is, and very few would give the correct answer. Some well informed people might mention “Intel” and “StrongARM” or “XScale”, but ARM remained a shadowy presence until we saw the rise of the Smartphone. Since then, ARM has built up their brand, much to the chagrin of companies like Intel and AMD. Partners such as Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Rockchip, and NVIDIA have all worked with ARM to produce chips based on the ARMv7 architecture, with Apple being the first to release the first ARMv8 (64 bit) SOCs. The multitude of ARM architectures are likely the most shipped chips in the world, going from very basic processors to the very latest Apple A7 SOC.
The ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures are very power efficient, yet provide enough performance to handle the vast majority of tasks utilized on smartphones and tablets (as well as a handful of laptops). With the growth of visual computing, ARM also dedicated itself towards designing competent graphics portions of their chips. The Mali architecture is aimed at being an affordable option for those without access to their own graphics design groups (NVIDIA, Qualcomm), but competitive with others that are willing to license their IP out (Imagination Technologies).
ARM was in fact one of the first to license out the very latest graphics technology to partners in the form of the Mali-T600 series of products. These modules were among the first to support OpenGL ES 3.0 (compatible with 2.0 and 1.1) and DirectX 11. The T600 architecture is very comparable to Imagination Technologies’ Series 6 and the Qualcomm Adreno 300 series of products. Currently NVIDIA does not have a unified mobile architecture in production that supports OpenGL ES 3.0/DX11, but they are adapting the Kepler architecture to mobile and will be licensing it to interested parties. Qualcomm does not license out Adreno after buying that group from AMD (Adreno is an anagram of Radeon).
Subject: Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 26, 2013 - 11:13 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: techcon, iot, internet of things, arm
This year at the Santa Clara Convention Center ARM will host TechCon, a gathering of partners, customers, and engineers with the goal of collaboration and connection. While I will attending as an outside observer to see what this collection of innovators is creating, there will be sessions and tracks for chip designers, system implementation engineers and software developers.
Areas of interest will include consumer products, enterprise products and of course, the Internet of Things, the latest terminology for a completely connected infrastructure of devices. ARM has designed tracks for interested parties in chip design, data security, mobile, networking, server, software and quite a few more.
Of direct interest to PC Perspective and our readers will be the continued release of information about the Cortex-A12, the upcoming mainstream processor core from ARM that will address the smartphone and tablet markets. We will also get some time with ARM engineers to talk about the coming migration of the market to 64-bit. Because of the release of the Apple A7 SoC that integrated 64-bit and ARMv8 architecture earlier this year, it is definitely going to be the most extensively discussed topic. If you have specific questions you'd like us to bring to the folks at ARM, as well as its partners, please leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be sure it is addressed!
I am also hearing some rumblings of a new ARM developed Mali graphics product that will increase efficiency and support newer graphics APIs as well.
Even if you cannot attend the event in Santa Clara, you should definitely pay attention for the news and products that are announced and shown at ARM TechCon as they are going to be a critical part of the mobile ecosystem in the near, and distant, future. As a first time attendee myself, I am incredibly excited about what we'll find and learn next week!
Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2013 - 12:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, arm, Cortex-A57, servers, seattle
DigiTimes spoke with AMD's current server guru about their move from providing only x86/64 based processors in their server chips to the inclusion of ARM cores in the Seattle chip family. These will be the first processors from AMD using 64-bit Cortex-A57 cores and they hope to sell them to companies who depend on Hadoop or run web hosting services which will benefit from scalability. As these will be true APUs as well, any application which can be accelerated by a GPU will also greatly benefit from the new design from AMD. It is AMD's hope that they will be able to offer server customers a choice in the architecture they want to use in their server rooms and able to choose between more than just competing x86/64 chips.
"Commenting on AMD's decision to make ARM-based processors for servers, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD's server business, Suresh Gopalakrishnan, said that as more server applications will show up in the future, different architectures will provide different advantages to clients. Providing solutions based on market demand will be the major business strategy for AMD's server business, Gopalakrishnan noted."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Explaining the low level stuff you don’t know about ARM programming @ Hack a Day
- Nvidia announces the Tegra Note Android tablet prototype @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft relents: 'Go ahead, install Windows 8.1 on clean PCs' @ The Register
- IBM Bets Big Again on Linux: $1B for Linux on Power Systems @ Linux.com
- Windows Phone 8 is deemed secure by the US and Canadian governments @ The Inquirer
- Blackberry Z30 Phablet Announced @ Slashdot
Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2013 - 04:15 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: solidrun, SFF, Freescale, cubox-i, arm
SolidRun Ltd. Has come up with its own ARM-powered mini computer called the CuBox-i. The new PC measures 2” x 2” x 2” and has some respectable IO for its size. The CuBox-i comes in multiple flavors from $45 to $120. The cheapest version competes in many ways with the Raspberry Pi while the top-end device is more in line with Android development boards that tend to run in the hundreds of dollars.
There are actually four SKUs in the CuBox-i series:
The CuBox-i PCs are powered by single, dual, or quad core variant of a Freescale i.MX6 SoC at up to 1.2 GHz. The SoC uses ARMv7 instructions and dedicated NEON media encode/decode hardware. The GPU included in the SoC supports OpenGL ES 2.0 on all models, and the GPU in the two higher-end models further supports OpenCL 1.1 embedded. Memory is 512MB on the $45 CuBox-i1, 1GB on both CuBox-2 systems, and 2GB of DDR3 on the CuBox i4Pro. The mini PCs support 1080p video playback, and are compatible with Android 4.2.2, XBMC, and various Linux distributions.
IO on the CuBox-i PCs includes two powered USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet (Gigabit on the higher end models, limited to less than 470 Mbps internally), one eSATA 3Gbps port, an optical S/PDIF output, microSD slot, microUSB (RS-232 adapter on higher end models), and an infrared reciever. The two higher-priced models also include an infrared transmitter. The high end systems also support Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth, and a hardware RTC (Real Time Clock) with backup battery.
The table above shows the breakdown of IO and internal hardware in the various SKUs. While the systems start at $45, it is the higher priced models that add some interesting features. It is always nice to see competition in the mini PC space. The CuBox-i series will be available in limited quantities later this year. Pre-order pricing breaks down as follows:
- CuBox-i1 for $45
- CuBox-i2 for $70
- CuBox-2Ultra for $95
- CuBox-4Pro for $120
Compared to the previously-announced CuBox Pro, the CuBox-i series is slightly cheaper, uses a faster SoC, and is available in multiple SKUs. For example, the top-end CuBox-i4Pro is a bit cheaper at $120 versus $160 for the CuBox Pro's original price. Naturally, the lower end CuBox-i's are even cheaper but also have less memory and IO.
Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2013 - 01:28 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: asus, memo pad hd 7, eee memo pad, mediatek, mt8125, arm, Android 4.2.1
ASUS has released its own spin on a budget tablet with the new MeMo Pad HD 7. An updated model of the original MeMo Pad, the new 7” tablet runs Android 4.2.1 with newer hardware.
On the outside, the MeMo Pad HD 7 features a 1280x800 IPS display, 1.2 MP webcam, and 5 MP rear camera with auto focus. The top of the tablet hosts a micro USB port, microphone, and headphone jack. The MeMo Pad HD 7 measures 7.7” x 4.7” x 0.43” and weighs 0.67 pounds (303 grams). The MeMo Pad HD 7 comes in blue, green, pink, and white.
The ASUS MeMo Pad HD 7 is powered by a quad core MediaTek MT8125 SoC clocked at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a 15Whr battery. Wireless radios include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Miracast wireless display support. The device also has two built in stereo speakers with Sonic Master audio technology.
Best of all, the budget tablet is available now with a price of $149. As an even more affordable alternative to the new Nexus 7, the ASUS MeMo Pad HD 7 looks to be a decent device.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors, Mobile | August 3, 2013 - 07:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qualcomm, Intel, mediatek, arm
MediaTek, do you even lift?
According to a Taiwan Media Roundtable transcript, discovered by IT World, Qualcomm has no interest, at least at the moment, in developing an octo-core processor. MediaTek, their competitor, recently unveiled an eight core ARM System on a Chip (SoC) which can be fully utilized. Most other mobile SoCs with eight cores function as a fast quad-core and a slower, but more efficient, quad-core processor with the most appropriate chosen for the task.
Anand Chandrasekher of Qualcomm believes it is desperation.
So, I go back to what I said: it's not about cores. When you can't engineer a product that meets the consumers' expectations, maybe that’s when you resort to simply throwing cores together. That is the equivalent of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. That's a dumb way to do it and I think our engineers aren't dumb.
The moderator, clearly amused by the reaction, requested a firm clarification that Qualcomm will not launch an octo-core product. A firm, but not clear, response was given, "We don't do dumb things". Of course they would not commit to swearing off eight cores for all eternity, at some point they may find core count to be their bottleneck, but that is not the case for the moment. They will also not discuss whether bumping the clock rate is the best option or whether they should focus on graphics performance. He is just assured that they are focused on the best experience for whatever scenario each product is designed to solve.
And he is assured that Intel, his former employer, still cannot catch them. As we have discussed in the past: Intel is a company that will spend tens of billions of dollars, year over year, to out-research you if they genuinely want to play in your market. Even with his experience at Intel, he continues to take them lightly.
We don't see any impact from any of Intel's claims on current or future products. I think the results from empirical testers on our products that are currently shipping in the marketplace is very clear, and across a range of reviewers from Anandtech to Engadget, Qualcomm Snapdragon devices are winning both on experience as well as battery life. What our competitors are claiming are empty promises and is not having an impact on us.
Qualcomm has a definite lead, at the moment, and may very well keep ahead through Bay Trail. AMD, too, kept a lead throughout the entire Athlon 64 generation and believed they could beat anything Intel could develop. They were complacent, much as Qualcomm sounds currently, and when Intel caught up AMD could not float above the sheer volume of money trying to drown them.
Then again, even if you are complacent, you may still be the best. Maybe Intel will never get a Conroe moment against ARM.
Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2013 - 12:41 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, arm, low power, server, Avoton, rangeley
Intel envisions a sea change in the server room, with servers, SANs and racks of switches which all have been controlled separately becoming much more software based as the ability to virtualize hardware becomes more prevalent. This is not to imply that the hardware will disappear and that Intel will go the way of IBM and get out of the chip business as neither are true; instead Intel is moving forward on the belief that the optimization of your virtualization software will be more important than specific hardware optimizations. While it is great to have tiered storage with expensive SSDs, solid SAS drives and other longer term and lower availability all working together there is little benefit if the software which allocates your data to those media doesn't do so properly.
In this new server room the SoC could be king, modular designs which offer scalable processing power to any and all tasks which is something that ARM cut its teeth on and is now scaling up their power to become a major player in server room design. Intel is coming at this market segment from the other direction as it has to trim power down on its chips without crippling them like we saw in the first 45nm Atom chips. To that end they are working on the new Silvermont architecture, the 22nm Avoton and Rangley which will be mature 64bit chips, something that ARM is still in early days with. Check out more info on these two chips and their successors, along with a teaser on Broadwell at The Tech Report.
"Last week, Intel hosted an event for press and analysts where it provided some updates on the state of its data center business. Then it proceeded to confound our expectations by demonstrating how it's gearing up for a protracted fight with ARM."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- NVIDIA's Linux Driver On Ubuntu Is Very Competitive With Windows 8 @ Phoronix
- BeagleBone Black becomes a handheld classic gaming console @ Hack a Day
- Nvidia buys Portland Group for compiler smarts @ The Register
- KitGuru visit the Overclockers UK Store
- Funky Kit Interview with ASRock
NVIDIA Finally Gets Serious with Tegra
Tegra has had an interesting run of things. The original Tegra 1 was utilized only by Microsoft with Zune. Tegra 2 had a better adoption, but did not produce the design wins to propel NVIDIA to a leadership position in cell phones and tablets. Tegra 3 found a spot in Microsoft’s Surface, but that has turned out to be a far more bitter experience than expected. Tegra 4 so far has been integrated into a handful of products and is being featured in NVIDIA’s upcoming Shield product. It also hit some production snags that made it later to market than expected.
I think the primary issue with the first three generations of products is pretty simple. There was a distinct lack of differentiation from the other ARM based products around. Yes, NVIDIA brought their graphics prowess to the market, but never in a form that distanced itself adequately from the competition. Tegra 2 boasted GeForce based graphics, but we did not find out until later that it was comprised of basically four pixel shaders and four vertex shaders that had more in common with the GeForce 7800/7900 series than it did with any of the modern unified architectures of the time. Tegra 3 boasted a big graphical boost, but it was in the form of doubling the pixel shader units and leaving the vertex units alone.
While NVIDIA had very strong developer relations and a leg up on the competition in terms of software support, it was never enough to propel Tegra beyond a handful of devices. NVIDIA is trying to rectify that with Tegra 4 and the 72 shader units that it contains (still divided between pixel and vertex units). Tegra 4 is not perfect in that it is late to market and the GPU is not OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant. ARM, Imagination Technologies, and Qualcomm are offering new graphics processing units that are not only OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant, but also offer OpenCL 1.1 support. Tegra 4 does not support OpenCL. In fact, it does not support NVIDIA’s in-house CUDA. Ouch.
Jumping into a new market is not an easy thing, and invariably mistakes will be made. NVIDIA worked hard to make a solid foundation with their products, and certainly they had to learn to walk before they could run. Unfortunately, running effectively entails having design wins due to outstanding features, performance, and power consumption. NVIDIA was really only average in all of those areas. NVIDIA is hoping to change that. Their first salvo into offering a product that offers features and support that is a step above the competition is what we are talking about today.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 14, 2013 - 11:51 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: utilite, ubuntu, silent, SFF, linux, fanless, cortex-a9, compulab, arm, Android
CompuLab has announced a new fanless, small form factor PC called the Utilite. This new PC comes from the same company that engineered the MintBox, MintBox 2, and Fit PC series. The Utilite is a low-power desktop PC powered by a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor and runs either Ubuntu Linux or Google’s Android operating system.
The upcoming Utilite measures 5.3” x 3.9” x 0.8”(135 x 100 x 21mm) and consumes anywhere between 3W and 8W of power depending on the particular hardware configuration. It is designed to be a quiet desktop replacement with plenty of IO.
CompuLab will provide single core, dual core, and quad core CPU SKUs. Specifically, the Utilite is powered by a Freescale i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor that is clocked at up to 1.2 GHz. Users will be able to further configure the system with up to 4GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory and a 512GB mSATA SSD. Storage can be further expanded using Micro SD-XC cards (maximum of 128GB per card). The GPU in the SoC is compatible with OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 as well as OpenVG 1.1 and OpenCL EP. It is capable of hardware decoding multi-stream 1080p video in a variety of common formats.
Wireless functionality includes an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card and Bluetooth 3.0.
The Utilite has a dark gray case with silver front and rear bezels.
The front of the Utilite PC features the following IO options in addition to the power button and indicator LEDs.
- 1 x USB OTG (Micro USB)
- 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
- 1 x Micro SD card slot
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x 3.5mm audio jacks (line in, line out)
The rear of the PC hosts:
- 1 x DC power input
- 1 x Wi-Fi antenna
- 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 jacks
- 2 x HDMI video outputs
According to fanless PC guru FanlessTech, CompuLab will be releasing the ARM-powered Utilite mini PC next month with a starting price of $99 and a variety of SKUs with varying amounts of CPU cores, memory, and storage. The Utilite PC is a bit on the expensive side, but this is a system for industrial and enterprise use as well as consumers, and Olivier from FanlessTech notes that build quality should be on par with those goals/industry aims.