MediaTek Follows ARM Cortex-A17 Unveil with MT6595

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | February 12, 2014 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: mediatek, arm, cortex, A17

Our Josh Walrath wrote up an editorial about the Cortex-A17 architecture less than two days ago. In it, he reports on ARM's announcement that "the IP" will ship in 2015. On the same calendar date, MediaTek announced their MT6595 SoC, integrating A17 and A7 cores, will be commercially available in 1H 2014 with devices in 2H 2014.

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Of course, it is difficult to tell how ahead of schedule this is, depending on what ARM meant by shipping in 2015 and what MediaTek meant by devices based on the MT6595 platform in 2H 2014.

There are two key features about the A17: a 40% power reduction from A15 and its ability to integrate with A7 cores in a big.LITTLE structure. MediaTek goes a little further with "CorePilot", which schedules tasks across all eight cores (despite it being a grouping of two different architectures). This makes some amount of sense because it allows for four strong threads which can be augmented with four weaker threads. Especially for applications like web browsers, it is not uncommon to have a dominant main thread.

The SoC will also support LTE and HSPA+ mobile and 802.11ac wireless connections. It will not integrate the Mali-T720 GPU (DX11/OpenGL ES 3.0), but instead use the Power VR Series6 GPU (DX10/OpenGL ES 3.0 unless it is an unannounced design). MediaTek does not explain why they chose the one licensed GPU over the other.

MediaTek claims the MT6595 platform will be available in the first half of 2014 with devices coming in the second half.

Source: MediaTek
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

Cortex-A12 Optimized!

ARM is an interesting little company.  Years ago people would have no idea who you are talking about, but now there is a much greater appreciation for the company.  Their PR group is really starting to get the hang of getting their name out.  One thing that ARM does that is significantly different from what other companies do is announce products far in advance of when they will actually be seeing the light of day.  Today they are announcing the Cortex-A17 IP that will ship in 2015.
 
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ARM really does not have much of a choice in how they announce their technology, primarily because they rely on 3rd parties to actually ship products.  ARM licenses their IP to guys like Samsung, Qualcomm, Ti, NVIDIA, etc. and then wait for them to actually build and ship product.  I guess part of pre-announcing these bits of IP provides a greater push for their partners to actually license that specific IP due to end users and handset makers showing interest?  Whatever the case, it is interesting to see where ARM is heading with their technology.
 
The Cortex-A17 can be viewed as a more supercharged version of the Cortex-A12, but with features missing from that particular product.  The big advancement over the A12 is that the A17 can be utilized in a big.LITTLE configuration with Cortex-A7 IP.  The A17 is more power optimized as well so it can go into a sleep state faster than the A12, and it also features more memory controller tweaks to improve performance while again lowering power consumption.
 
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In terms of overall performance it gets a pretty big boost as compared to the very latest Cortex-A9r4 designs (such as the Tegra 4i).  Numbers bandied about by ARM show that the A17 is around 60% faster than the A9, and around 40% faster than the A12.  These numbers may or may not jive with real-world experience due to differences in handset and tablet designs, but theoretically speaking they look to be in the ballpark.  The A17 should be close in overall performance to A15 based SOCs.  A15s are shipping now, but they are not as power efficient as what ARM is promising with the A17.
 
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

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.

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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.

Continue reading our article on the NVIDIA Kepler architecture making its way to mobile markets and Tegra!

Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: ARM
Tagged: t622, mali, cortex, arm, A9, A15, a12

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. 

arm1.jpg

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.

arm3.jpg

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. 

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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.

Continue reading our overview of the newly announced ARM Cortex-A12 and Mali-T622!!

AMD Licenses ARM Technology: AMD Leans on ARM for Security

Subject: Processors | June 13, 2012 - 10:00 AM |
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.

HSAFoundation-FINAL-Desktop.png
 
AMD and ARM are serious about working with each other.  This is understandable as both of them are competing tooth and nail with Intel.
 
ARM has a security functionality that they have been working with for several years now.  This is called ARM TrustZone.  It is a set of hardware and software products that provide a greater amount of security in data transfer and transactions.  The hardware basis is built into the ARM licensed designs and is implemented in literally billions of devices (not all of them enabled).  The biggest needs that this technology addresses are that of secure transactions and password enabled logins.  Money is obviously quite important, but with identity theft and fraud on the rise, secure logins to personal information or even social sites are reaching the same level of importance as large monetary transactions.
 
AMD will actually be implementing a Cortex-A5 processor into AMD APUs that will handle the security aspects of ARM TrustZone.  The A5 is the smallest Cortex processor available, and that would make sense to use it in a full APU so it will not take up an extreme amount of die space.  When made on what I would assume to be a 28 nm process, a single A5 processor would likely take up as little as 10 to 15 mm squared of space on the die.
 
This is not exactly the licensing agreement that many analysts had expected from AMD.  It is a start though.  I would generally expect AMD to be more aggressive in the future with offerings based on ARM technologies.  If we remember some time ago Rory Read of AMD pronounced their GPU technology as “the crown jewel” of their IP lineup, it makes little sense for AMD to limit this technology just to standalone GPUs and x86 based APUs.  If AMD is serious about heterogeneous computing, I would expect them to eventually move into perhaps not the handheld ARM market initially, but certainly with more server level products based on 64 bit ARM technology.
 
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Cortex-A5: coming to an AMD APU near you in 2013/2014.  Though probably not in quad core fashion as shown above.
 
AMD made a mistake once by selling off their ultra-mobile graphics group, Imageon.  This was sold off to Qualcomm, who is now a major player in the ARM ecosystem with their Snapdragon products based on Adreno graphics (“Adreno” is an anagram of “Radeon”).  With the release of low powered processors in both the Brazos and Trinity line, AMD is again poised to deliver next generation graphics to the low power market.  Now the question is, what will that graphics unit be attached to?
 
 
Source: AMD

Collision alert! ARM, AMD and Intel are all headed for the same market

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2012 - 12:07 PM |
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.

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"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."

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Source: DigiTimes

ARM follows Intel and AMD's 64 bit lead

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
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.

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"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:

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Source: The Register

16 core Cortex A15s coming soon?

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2011 - 12:16 PM |
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.

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"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:

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Source: The Register