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.
Cortex-A12 fills a gap
Starting off Computex with an interesting announcement, ARM is talking about a new Cortex-A12 core that will attempt to address a performance gap in the SoC ecosystem between the A9 and A15. In the battle to compete with Krait and Intel's Silvermont architecture due in late 2013, ARM definitely needed to address the separation in performance and efficiency of the A9 and A15.
Source: ARM. Top to bottom: Cortex-A15, A12, A9 die size estimate
Targeted at mid-range devices that tend to be more cost (and thus die-size) limited, the Cortex-A12 will ship in late 2014 for product sampling and you should begin seeing hardware for sale in early 2015.
Architecturally, the changes for the upcoming A12 core revolve around a move to fully out of order dual-issue design including the integrated floating point units. The execution units are faster and the memory design has been improved but ARM wasn't ready to talk about specifics with me yet; expect that later in the year.
ARM claims this results in a 40% performance gain for the Cortex-A12 over the Cortex-A9, tested in SPECint. Because product won't even start sampling until late in 2014 we have no way to verify this data yet or to evaluate efficiency claims. That time lag between announcement and release will also give competitors like Intel, AMD and even Qualcomm time to answer back with potential earlier availability.
Subject: Processors | June 13, 2012 - 10:00 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: TrustZone, hsa, Cortex-A5, cortex, arm, APU, amd, AFDS
Last year after that particular AFDS, there was much speculation that AMD and ARM would get a whole lot closer. Today we have confirmed that in two ways. The first is that AMD and ARM are founding members of the HSA Foundation. This endeavor is a rather ambitious project that looks to make it much easier for programmers to access the full computer power of a CPU/GPU combo, or as AMD likes to call them, the APU. The second confirmation is one that has been theorized for quite some time, but few people have actually hit upon the actual implementation. This second confirmation is that AMD is licensing ARM cores and actually integrating them into their x86 based APUs.
Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2012 - 12:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, Intel, amd, atom, low power, cortex, Medfield, hondo
To revive an old buzzword some of you may have forgotten, ubiquitous computing is the current holy grail of the computing industry. If AMD, Intel, ARM and to a lesser extent NVIDIA, can get the market to prefer one of their low power processors over the competitions there is a lot of money to be made in the mobile market. The way that they are approaching the market is very different however. In Intel's case they pride themselves on the general computation power of their upcoming Medfield processor though that comes at the cost of power consumption and less graphics capabilities. AMD. like Intel, are trying to reduce the power consumption of their chips and though they lag behind in general CPU performance the graphics capabilities are generally considered superior.
Then there is ARM, which is striving to overcome its reputation of providing chips low in power, both electrically and computationally. Their latest Cortex processors are certainly display a vast improvement in performance compared to previous generations. The power consumption may have increased but not to the levels of consumption of the Intel and AMD chips. Intel and AMD need to continue lowering their power consumption without sacrificing power while ARM needs to increase performance without impacting the power consumption before anyone can be considered a clear winner. There is another consideration which DigiTimes points out; right now ARM is winning the price war which could be every bit as important as power consumption or computational power.
"While Intel and AMD have been making efforts to develop low power processors for use in smartphones and tablet PCs, they cannot compete with solutions from ARM in terms of price, according to notebook makers."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Android's Chrome finish comes too late for Flash coating @ The Register
- Transactional Synchronization in Haswell @ Intel
- Google touts website prefetching with Chrome 17 @ The Inquirer
- AMD announces FirePro V3900 for entry-level professional graphics @ DigiTimes
- Windows 8 confirmed for February 29th (Beta Queue) @ Kitguru
- Ninjalane Podcast - Basic Casemodding Listener Mailbag Interview with a Top Overclocker
- Samsung NX 200 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Weekly Giveaway #21: Antec LanBoy Air and High Current Pro 750W Power Supply @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2011 - 11:57 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: cortex, ARMv8, arm, 64bit
We've now some more detailed information on ARMs new 64 bit ARMv8 processor and its strengths and weaknesses. For the most part it resembles the 64 bit architecture that Intel and AMD use, an extended 32 bit architecture with several hold overs. Perhaps the most disappointing is that ARM has the same 48 bit limit to virtual address space that the competition has. If ARM had managed to overcome the limitations of canonical form addresses, they would have something that neither Intel nor AMD could bring to the server room. ARM desperately needs somthing to offer that the competition cannot if they are to convince admins to move from a familiar architecture to a brand new ARM architecture; power savings probably won't be enough. Drop by The Inquirer to read up on the improved exception levels and encryption acceleration of the new ARMv8 architecture.
"At the ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara on Thursday, the top brass at ARM Holdings, the company that controls the core designs and licenses them to a slew of chip makers for modification in smartphones, tablets, and other embedded devices, showed off the new ARMv8 architecture. It's an incremental improvement over the current v7 architecture, just like the 64-bit extensions to the original 32-bit x86 processors from Intel and AMD were."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Quantum dots to revolutionize flat panel displays @ SemiAccurate
- Microsoft plans a commercial Kinect SDK next year @ The Inquirer
- Intel SNA Acceleration Architecture Continues To Mature @ Phoronix
- The Weight of an e-Book @ Slashdot
- The seed of something great: Acorn 3.1 reviewed @ Ars Technica
- Ubuntu 11.10: Xen vs. KVM vs. VirtualBox @ Phoronix
- LSI Purchase of SandForce - Our Discussion With VP Gary Smerdon @ The SSD Review
- The TR Podcast 99: New PC builds for a new Battlefield
Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2011 - 12:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: servers, cortex, arm
We have been hearing of a little something called Project Denver that ARM has been working on, which they claim will have them selling chips to the server market. The new Cortex A15 will be a 32bit chip with 40bit physical addressing, and multiple cores capable of reaching 2.5GHz, all while using the same amount of power as the previous Cortex A9 generation. Maybe Intel and AMD do have something to worry about. Drop by The Register for more.
"ARM Holdings' high-performance, low-power Cortex-A15 processor design will appear in products in late 2012 or early 2013, when it will begin to muscle in on territory long dominated by Intel's x86 architecture."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Mozilla slips SpiderMonkey into Dev Platform of the Future @ The Inquirer
- PlayBook won't play nice with BlackBerries on AT&T @ The Register
- Sandisk and Toshiba announce 19nm NAND flash memory @ The Inquirer
- Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 Blu-ray Software Review @ MissingRemote
- t-break podcast - episode 13
- SageTV HD300 Theater Media Player Giveaway @MissingRemote
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