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.

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"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."

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Source: DigiTimes

ASUS kills the Eee PC and shrinks the Atom market

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2012 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: asus, acer, Intel, atom, eee pc

2012 has been a very tough year to be a manufacture of mobile products and not too easy on the designers either.  We started off with the Ultraboook form factor, specifically the challenge to make parts which could allow the ultrathin design to be functional in the real world while still aiming for that $1000 price point.  The prices of SSDs have come down and the processors have also marginally dropped in price but the materials required to make a sturdy chassis of exceptional thinness have not. 

Then Microsoft decided to make things interesting with their Surface tablet, which is a wonderful platform to show off Windows 8 on but not the best way to maintain a relationship with mobile manufacturers.  Regardless of the price that Microsoft chooses to release the Surface at, each Surface sale represents a lost sale for another mobile manufacturer.  Acer, for one has had no problems voicing their complaints about a software company muscling into hardware territory.

Today we heard from DigiTimes that ASUS is dropping their Eee PC line, along with Intel's Atom processor and Acer is dropping netbooks altogether.  While part of the problem with the Intel's Atom is that it has always had a hard time providing users with the computing experience they desire, dropping the entire form factor implies more problems that simply performance.  Manufacturers could build netbooks with AMD's Trinity or even NVIDIA's Tegra depending on the agreements in place with Intel, however the two top tier mobile manufactures have straight out dropped the form factor, with only MSI staying in the market.  While the netbook may have only been of use to a certain younger crowd with limited money and expectations there were certain Eee PC models designed for the desktop which made decent low powered internet access machines which are also going the way of the dinosaur which may be missed a little by a larger audience. 

The effective death of the netbook will have an effect on manufacturers like Pegatron and some sections of Intel, the real question is whether the end user will even notice or if they were already only considering a 13" laptop or Ultrabook.

 

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"Intel may be forced to adjust its roadmap for PC-use Atom processors as the top-2 netbook vendors – Asustek Computer and Acer – both plan to stop manufacturing related products, according to sources from notebook players.

Asustek is already set to halt its Eee PC product line and officially phase out from the IT industry after completely digesting any remaining inventory. As for Acer, so far, the company has not yet made any plans to open new netbook projects, indicating that the vendor may also plan to step out of the market."

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Source: DigiTimes

Can a 12-Core ARM Cluster hit critical mass?

Subject: Processors | June 26, 2012 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: arm, cortex-a9, e-350, i7-3770k, z530, Ivy Bridge, atom, Zacate

Taking a half dozen PandaBoard ESes from Texas Instruments that have a 1.2GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor onboard, Phoronix built a 12-core ARM machine to test out against AMD's E-350 APU as well as Intel's Atom Z530 and a Core i7 3770K.  Before you you make the assumption that the ARM's will be totally outclassed by any of these processors, Phoronix is testing performance per Watt and the ARM system uses a total of 31W when fully stressed and idles below 20W, which gives ARM a big lead on power consumption. 

Phoronix tested out these four systems and the results were rather surprising as it seems Intel's Ivy Bridge is a serious threat to ARM.  Not only did it provide more total processing power, its performance per Watt tended to beat ARM and more importantly to many, it is cheaper to build an i7-3770K system than it is to set up a 12-core ARM server.  The next generation of ARM chips have some serious competition.

Phoronix12ARM.jpg

"Last week I shared my plans to build a low-cost, 12-core, 30-watt ARMv7 cluster running Ubuntu Linux. The ARM cluster that is built around the PandaBoard ES development boards is now online and producing results... Quite surprising results actually for a low-power Cortex-A9 compute cluster. Results include performance-per-Watt comparisons to Intel Atom and Ivy Bridge processors along with AMD's Fusion APU."

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Source: Phoronix
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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In August of 2011 I reviewed the Acer AC700-1099, one of two Chromebooks available in the North American market. The review was almost entirely negative. The hardware wasn’t great and the operating system was a bit of a mess–capable of only the most basic tasks. 

Since then, the small surge of hype that surrounded the Chrome OS release has receded. You could be mistaken for thinking Google has abandoned it, but they haven’t. In typical Google fashion it has been slowly, quietly improved. Performance tweaks have allegedly improved web browsing, a proper file manager has been added and Google has just launched Google Drive, its cloud storage service. 

Such enhancements could address a lot of the concerns I had with the Acer rendition. Do they? That’s what we’re here to find out. Let’s start with the basics - what’s inside?

samsungchromebooktable.png

The hardware inside the Samsung Series 5 is nearly identical to what was inside the Acer AC700-1099 that we reviewed late last year. We’re talking an Atom processor that must rely on its own IGP, two gigabytes of RAM and a tiny–but quick–16GB solid state drive. 

While the equipment is the same, the pricing has changed. When we reviewed the Acer Chromebook it was $349.99. That has been slashed to $279.99. The Series 5, which used to be priced at $429, is now sold for just $299.

Let’s see if improved software and a lower price can turn Chromebooks into winners. 

Dell leaks specs for Latitude 10, Windows 8 and Intel Clover Trail powered tablet

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 29, 2012 - 11:33 AM |
Tagged: z2670, windows 8, dell, clover trail, atom

In a leaked slide posted by Neowin.net, details of Dell's upcoming Latitude 10 tablet are coming to light, including hardware specifications like the Intel Atom Z2670 "Clover Trail" SoC. 

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This 10.1-in Windows 8 based tablet will include a 1366x768 display with a capacitive multi-touch screen and an optional stylus accessory.  Weighing in at just over 1.5 pounds, the Latitude 10 is just slightly heavier than the latest generation of iPad (1.46 pounds). 

Intel's upcoming Atom processor, the Z2670, will be at the core of the design and will be based on the "Clover Trail" design, a slightly faster and updated version of "Medfield" we have seen implemented on mobile phones early in 2012.  With dual-cores capable of HyperThreading, and the ability to enter into "Burst Mode" which offers "quick bursts of extra performance when called upon", the Atom Z2670 should be capable of presenting a reasonable Windows 8 experience.  

Other specifications include 2 GB of DDR2-800 lower power memory, up to a 128 GB SSD, 2 and 4 cell swappable batteries and front plus rear facing cameras.  

With Computex 2012 right around the corner in Taipei, Taiwan, we expect to see quite a few more tablets and hybrid machines based on Windows 8 including Intel Atom-powered devices as well as ARM-based devices running Windows 8 RT. 

Source: Neowin.net
Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction, Design

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If the netbook was a shooting star, the nettop was an asteroid that never quite entered our atmosphere. Instead it flew silently by, noted by NASA, written about in a handful of articles, and now forgotten.

That doesn’t mean it has ceased to exist, however. It’s still out there, floating in space - and it occasionally swings back around for an encore. So we have the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180. 

Of course, simply advertising a small computer as - well, a small computer - isn’t particularly sexy. The Q180 is instead being sold not just as general-purpose laptop but also as a media center (with optional Blu-Ray, not found on our review unit). There’s no doubting the demand for this, but so far, attempts to make PC-based media center computers have not done well - even Boxee, with its custom Linux-based operating system, was fussy. Can the Q180 succeed where others have stumbled? Let’s start with the specs.

q180table.png

It’s been awhile since we tested anything Atom. Since our last look at this line of processors, Intel has updated to the code-name Cedertrail processors, allowing for higher clock speeds. The 2.13 GHz dual-core Atom D2700 looks quite robust in print. But this still the same old architecture, so per-clock performance doesn’t come close to Intel’s Pentium and Core processors.

Also included in AMD’s Radeon HD 6450A, a version of the HD 6450 built for small systems that don’t have room for a typical PCIe graphics card. This makes up for the fact that all Atom processors are still using hopelessly outdated Intel Media Accelerator graphics, which is entirely unsuitable for HD video.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180!!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer:

Introduction, Low-Power Computing Was Never Enjoyable

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It was nearly five years ago that ASUS announced the first Eee PC model at Computex. That October the first production version of what would to be called a netbook, the ASUS Eee PC 4G, was released. The press latched on to the little Eee PC, making it the new darling of the computer industry. It was small, it was inexpensive, and it was unlike anything on the market.

Even so, the original Eee PC was a bit of a dead end. It used an Intel Celeron processor that was not suited for the application. It consumed too much power and took up a significant portion of the netbook’s production cost. If Intel’s Celeron had remained the only option for netbooks they probably would not have made the leap from press darling to mainstream consumer device.

It turned out that Intel (perhaps unintentionally) had the solution – Atom. Originally built with hopes that it might power “mobile Internet devices” it proved to be the netbook’s savior. It allowed vendors to squeeze out cheap netbooks with Windows and a proper hard drive.

At the time, Atom and the netbook seemed promising. Sales were great – consumers loved the cute, pint-sized, affordable computers. In 2009 netbook sales jumped by over 160% quarter-over-quarter while laptops staggered along with single-digit growth. The buzz quickly jumped to other products, spawning nettops, media centers and low-power all-in-one-PCs. There seemed to be nothing an Atom powered computer could not do.

Fast forward. Earlier this year, PC World ran an article asking if netbooks are dead. U.S. sales peaked in the first quarter of 2010 and have been nose-diving since then, and while some interest remains in the other markets, only central Europe and Latin America have held steady. It appears the star that burned brightest has indeed burned the quickest. 

But why?

Continue reading our editorial on the problems with low power x86 processors...

Intel Announces Q1 2012 Earnings: Not a Record, but Close

Subject: Editorial | April 23, 2012 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: trinity, Q1, Ivy Bridge, Intel, earnings, atom, arm, amd, 2012

Guess what? Intel made money. A lot of money. This is not surprising. The results were not record breaking, but they did beat expectations. Intel had a gross revenue of $12.9 billion for the quarter, with a net income of $2.7 billion. Gross margins decreased (slightly) to 64%, but the reasons for this are pretty logical as we discover down below. Compared to Q4 2011, results are still significantly down, but this is again expected due to seasonal downturns. In Q4 they had $13.9 billion in gross revenue and $3.4 billion in net income with a gross margin of 64.5%.

 
Currently Intel is showing inventory at near historic lows, and this is due to a variety of factors. The PC market has been growing slower than expected due to the hard drive shortage that started last fall. Intel has adjusted manufacturing downward to account for this, and has worked to ramp 22 nm products faster by cutting back 32n production and converting those 32 nm lines. Intel is very aggressive with Ivy Bridge, and it expects 25% of all shipments in Q2 to be 22nm products. This is probably the fastest and most aggressive ramp that Intel has ever done, and it will continue to put AMD in a hole with their 32 nm production.
 
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The second half of the year should see some significant growth on the PC side. The primary push will be the release of Windows 8 from Microsoft. This, combined with the near complete recovery of hard drive production, should push PC growth the record levels. Ultrabooks are an area that Intel is spending a lot of money to promote and develop with their partners. There are some 26 Ultrabook designs on record so far, and Intel expects this number to rise rapidly. The big push is to decline the overall price of Ultrabooks, as well as enabling touch functionality for a more affordable price. While not mentioned during the conference call, AMD is also pushing for ultra-thin notebooks, and once Trinity enabled products hit the street, we can expect a much more aggressive price war to be waged on these products.
 
Smart phones are another area that Intel is actively trying to expand into. This past quarter we saw the introduction of the Orange, Lava, and Lenovo phones based on the Medfield platform. So far these have been fairly well received by users and media alike, though the products have certainly had some teething issues. Intel still has a lot of work to do, but they finally realize the importance of this market. Intel expects that there will be 450 million smart phones shipped in 2012 (from all manufacturers), and that it is expected to grow up to 1 billion shipped a year by 2015/2016 (if not sooner). Intel wants to get into those phones, and is adjusting their Atom strategy to fit it. While in previous years Atom lagged behind other processor development from Intel, they are pushing it to the forefront. We can expect to see Atom based products being manufactured on 22 nm, and then aggressively pushed to 14 nm when that process node is available. Intel feels that they have a significant advantage in process technology that will directly impact their success in achieving higher rates of utilization across product lines in the mobile sector. If Intel can offer an Atom with similar performance and capabilities, tied with a significantly lower TDP, then they feel that a lot of phone manufacturers will look their way rather than use older/larger/more power hungry products from competitors.
 
Finally, Intel essentially has little interest in becoming a foundry for other partners. They are currently working with a handful of other countries to produce products for them, but I think that this might be a short term affair. Intel will either stay with a few partners to produce a low quantity of parts, or Intel will learn what they have to about producing products like FPGAs and eventually start producing chips of their own. When Intel fabs their own parts, they essentially get paid twice as compared to foundries or 3rd party semiconductor companies.
 
Intel continues to be profitable and successful. Ivy Bridge is going to be a very big product for Intel, and they are going to push it very hard through the rest of this year. Mobile strategies are coming to fruition and we see Intel getting their foot in the door with some major partners around the world. Servers, desktops, and notebook chips still comprise the vast majority of products that Intel ships, but mobile will become a much stronger player in the years to come. That is if Intel is able to execute effectively with accelerated Atom development on smaller process nodes. ARM is still a very worthy competitor, and a seemingly re-invigorated AMD could provide some better competition with Trinity and Brazos 2.0 in the notebook/tablet market.
 
Margins will be down next quarter due to the aggressive 22 nm ramp. With any new process there will be problems and certain inefficiencies at the beginning. As time passes, these issues will be resolved and throughput and yields will rise. Intel does expect a larger PC growth through the next quarter and a higher gross revenue. It will be interesting to see if Ultrabooks do in fact take off for Intel, or will competitors offer better price/performance for that particular market. Needless to say, things will not slow down through the rest of this year.
Source: Intel

Intel Medfield powered cellphone appears ... in the Orient

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 19, 2012 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: atom, Medfield

The new Atom processor, named Medfield, has appeared in a market far, far away.  The chip powering Lava's Xolo X900 runs at 1.6GHz and supports hyperthreading, the graphics core is clocked at 400MHz which Intel believes should be enough to allow it to output 1080p video via its HDMI plug.  The power efficiency of the new architecture has yet to be tested but the claim by the manufacturer is eight hours of talk time and five hours of 3G web browsing.  There are no available benchmarks yet but you can get an idea of the overall capabilities of this phone at The Inquirer.

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"Intel and Indian handset maker Lava announced their intention to ship an Atom smartphone at Mobile World Congress in January. However Lenovo's K800 received all the attention, so Lava's Xolo X900 slipped under the radar to become the first shipping smartphone to feature Intel's Medfield Atom processor."

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Source: The Inquirer

Intel Centerton; the next big thing in Micro Machines

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2012 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: microserver, Centerton, seamicro, atom, low power

Microservers are the newest old idea to hit the PR flacks, anyone who remembers the original blade servers already has a good idea what a microserver is.  Intel has once again tried to take ownership of a form factor, in this case defining what they feel the market should consider a microserver.  In some ways, the single socket design seems to run counter to current low power servers, which tend towards large arrays of low powered APUs but at the same time when you no longer have to worry about the interconnects between those APUs you can drop the price significantly.

AMD has had several forays into this market and while Intel has never put much effort into this segment vendors like Dell and HP have been creating microservers using an Intel processor for some time.  This heralds a change in Intel's strategy when taking on ARM and AMD in the server room, with the 6W Atom Centerton chip they announced at IDF.  The Inquirer was also told of 10W and 15W parts which would be more powerful although they could also require a bit more space than what the 6W part could survive in.  It seems that those looking for inexpensive servers which require very little infrastructure will have a lot of choices to spend their money on by the end of this year.

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"CHIPMAKER Intel dropped an Atom bomb on the second day of IDF in Beijing, announcing its 'Centerton' microserver chip that will draw just a miserly 6W of thermal design power (TDP).

It defines a microserver as a computer with one socket, error correction, 64-bit processing, and minimal memory and I/O. The Atom Centerton platform will have two cores, Hyperthreading and support for ECC DDR3 as well as VT-x virtualisation technology. Intel said the Atom Centerton chip will be available in the second half of this year."

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Source: The Inquirer