Podcast #375 - Snapdragon 820, Lenovo Yoga 900, R9 380X and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2015 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, qualcomm, snapdragon 820, Lenovo, yoga 900, be quiet!, amd, r9 380x, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, 14nm, FinFET, nvidia, asus, Maximus VIII Extreme, Thrustmaster, T300

PC Perspective Podcast #375 - 11/12/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Snapdragon 820, Lenovo Yoga 900, R9 380X 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!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

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GLOBALFOUNDRIES Achieves 14nm FinFET - Coming to New AMD Products

Subject: Processors | November 6, 2015 - 10:09 AM |
Tagged: tape out, processors, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, global foundries, APU, amd, 14 nm FinFET

GlobalFoundries has today officially announced their success with sample 14 nm FinFET production for upcoming AMD products.


(Image credit: KitGuru)

GlobalFoundries licensed 14 nm LPE and LPP technology from Samsung in 2014, and were producing wafers as early as April of this year. At the time a GF company spokesperson was quoted in this report at KitGuru, stating "the early version (14LPE) is qualified in our fab and our lead product is yielding in double digits. Since 2014, we have taped multiple products and testchips and are seeing rapid progress, in yield and maturity, for volume shipments in 2015." Now they have moved past LPE (Low Power Early) to LPP (Low Power Plus), with new products based on the technology slated for 2016:

"AMD has taped out multiple products using GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 14nm Low Power Plus (14LPP) process technology and is currently conducting validation work on 14LPP production samples.  Today’s announcement represents another significant milestone towards reaching full production readiness of GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 14LPP process technology, which will reach high-volume production in 2016."

GlobalFoundries was originally the manufacturing arm of AMD, and has continued to produce the companies processors since the spin-off in 2012. AMD's current desktop FX-8350 CPU was manufactured on 32 nm SOI, and more recently APUs such as the A10-7850K have been produced at 28 nm - both at GlobalFoundries. Intel's latest offerings such as the flagship 6700K desktop CPU are produced with Intel's 14nm process, and the success of the 14LPP production at GlobalFoundries has the potential to bring AMD's new processors closer parity with Intel (at least from a lithography standpoint).

Full PR after the break.

"We made a 7nm process chip and you can't have one!" - IBM

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2015 - 02:30 PM |

The heavy hitting partnership of IBM, Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES have designed and created the first chip built on a 7nm process using Silicon Germanium channel transistors and EUV lithography.  Even more impressive is their claim of 50% area scaling improvements ovver 10nm, a very large step in such small processes.  IBM told PC World that they will be able to fit 20 billion transistors on a 7nm chip which is a tenfold increase over Braswell as an example of current technology.  The Inquirer reports that this project also cements the deal between GLOFO and IBM; GLOFO will be the exclusive provider of chips for IBM for the next decade.


"IBM'S RESEARCH TEAM has manufactured functional test chips using a 7nm production process, making it the first in the industry to produce chips with working transistors of this size."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Inquirer
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Various

Process Technology Overview

We have been very spoiled throughout the years.  We likely did not realize exactly how spoiled we were until it became very obvious that the rate of process technology advances hit a virtual brick wall.  Every 18 to 24 months we were treated to a new, faster, more efficient process node that was opened up to fabless semiconductor firms and we were treated to a new generation of products that would blow our hair back.  Now we have been in a virtual standstill when it comes to new process nodes from the pure-play foundries.

Few expected the 28 nm node to live nearly as long as it has.  Some of the first cracks in the façade actually came from Intel.  Their 22 nm Tri-Gate (FinFET) process took a little bit longer to get off the ground than expected.  We also noticed some interesting electrical features from the products developed on that process.  Intel skewed away from higher clockspeeds and focused on efficiency and architectural improvements rather than staying at generally acceptable TDPs and leapfrogging the competition by clockspeed alone.  Overclockers noticed that the newer parts did not reach the same clockspeed heights as previous products such as the 32 nm based Sandy Bridge processors.  Whether this decision was intentional from Intel or not is debatable, but my gut feeling here is that they responded to the technical limitations of their 22 nm process.  Yields and bins likely dictated the max clockspeeds attained on these new products.  So instead of vaulting over AMD’s products, they just slowly started walking away from them.


Samsung is one of the first pure-play foundries to offer a working sub-20 nm FinFET product line. (Photo courtesy of ExtremeTech)

When 28 nm was released the plans on the books were to transition to 20 nm products based on planar transistors, thereby bypassing the added expense of developing FinFETs.  It was widely expected that FinFETs were not necessarily required to address the needs of the market.  Sadly, that did not turn out to be the case.  There are many other factors as to why 20 nm planar parts are not common, but the limitations of that particular process node has made it a relatively niche process node that is appropriate for smaller, low power ASICs (like the latest Apple SOCs).  The Apple A8 is rumored to be around 90 mm square, which is a far cry from the traditional midrange GPU that goes from 250 mm sq. to 400+ mm sq.

The essential difficulty of the 20 nm planar node appears to be a lack of power scaling to match the increased transistor density.  TSMC and others have successfully packed in more transistors into every square mm as compared to 28 nm, but the electrical characteristics did not scale proportionally well.  Yes, there are improvements there per transistor, but when designers pack in all those transistors into a large design, TDP and voltage issues start to arise.  As TDP increases, it takes more power to drive the processor, which then leads to more heat.  The GPU guys probably looked at this and figured out that while they can achieve a higher transistor density and a wider design, they will have to downclock the entire GPU to hit reasonable TDP levels.  When adding these concerns to yields and bins for the new process, the advantages of going to 20 nm would be slim to none at the end of the day.

Click here to read the rest of the 28 nm GPU editorial!


Subject: General Tech | December 11, 2014 - 12:50 PM |

As best we know TSMC is the sole fabricator of Apple's A8 chips on 20nm process, but so far from what DigiTimes has been able to determine that is not the case for the upcoming A9 chips.  TSMC plans to keep pricing the same as they move to 14nm process tech but both Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES are in a position where they could decide to drop their pricing in order to win business.  Qualcomm has already placed orders for its 14nm chips with TSMC and Samsung but it is possible that with the experience GLOBALFOUNDRIES has with the 14nm process thanks to business from AMD they may also be able to undercut TSMC's pricing, assuming their yields can stay up.


"Globalfoundries is striving to be among the major contract chipmakers of Qualcomm and Apple, vying for 14nm chip orders from the two vendors, according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes
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.
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.
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.

IBM Also Considers Leaving Chip Manufacturing

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2014 - 01:18 PM |

Well this is something which I expect they will not sell to Lenovo...

IBM, one of the world's most advanced chip fabrication companies with the capability to manufacture on a 22nm node, is looking to sell this division. According to The Financial Times, via Ars Technica, the company selected Goldman Sachs to seek options. They are primarily looking for interested buyers but would also consider finding a business partner to offload the division into a joint venture.

The two initial candidates are GLOBALFOUNDRIES and TSMC.


Image Credit: IBM via ZDNet (Outside photographers are not allowed inside their fab lab).

IBM is not willing to get rid of its chip design ability. IBM creates many chips, often based on its own "Power Architecture". This trademark comes with their RISC-based instruction sets which rival ARM and x86. It forms the basis of the Xbox 360, the Cell processor found in the PS3 (and rarely elsewhere), and the last three Nintendo game consoles starting with the Gamecube.

Despite designing all of the above chips, only some were actually fabricated by IBM.

Personally, I am not sure how serious the earlier mentioned potential buyers are. It could have easily been someone who looked at the list of leading foundries and picked the top two. TSMC is not even a member of "the Common Platform" alliance, not to mention how small IBM is compared to them, so I cannot see much reason for TSMC to bother.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES is a different story, It would make sense for them to want that part of IBM (Josh notes they even share some resource centers). Still, the both of us wondered if they could afford the deal. ATIC, parent company of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, might be able to get the money from somewhere - but would they? They purchased Charter only just recently. Now, if they simply enter a partnership with IBM, that might be a different story than an outright purchase.

Fabrication is hard and expensive. Creating a foundry is about $10 billion, give or take a few billion depending on yield, and changing your equipment for new nodes or wafer sizes is not much cheaper. I can see IBM, a company that is increasing concerned with high profitability, wanting to let someone else deal with at least some of the volatility.

IBM has not commented on this rumor.

Source: Ars Technica

Intel has some good news for GLOFO

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2014 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: UMC, SoFIA, Intel, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, atom, 28nm

GLOBALFOUNDRIES will be the primary supplier of Intel's 28nm baseband chips according to this unconfirmed report at DigiTimes.  It seems that Intel really is moving towards a new business model and will be outsourcing some of their upcoming chips to both GLOFO and UMC.  Their 28nm PolySiON process will be used to make the next generation of baseband transmitter chips and the new Atom SoC for cellphones and phablets will use TSMC's 28nm HKMG process.  The higher end Broxton SoCs will remain at Intel and use their FinFET process.  This is a big win for GLOFO and could mean the beginning of a lasting partnership with what was once an AMD asset.


"Intel has contracted Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to manufacture its forthcoming Atom mobile processor series codenamed SoFIA, and also placed orders for entry-level baseband chips with Globalfoundries and United Microelectronics (UMC), according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

More Talks About Process Technology

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | December 8, 2013 - 04:11 AM |

Josh Walrath titled the intro of his "Next Gen Graphics and Process Migration: 20nm and Beyond" editorial: "The Really Good Times are Over". Moore's Law predicts that, with each ~2 year generation, we will be able to double the transistor count of our integrated circuits. It does not, however, set a price.


A look into GlobalFoundries.

"Moore's Law is expensive" remarked Tom Kilroy during his Computex 2013 keynote. Intel spends about $12 billion USD in capital, every year, to keep the transistors coming. It shows. They are significantly ahead of their peers in terms of process technology. Intel is a very profitable company who can squirrel away justifications for these research and development expenses across numerous products and services.

The benefits of a process shrink are typically three-fold: increased performance, decreased power consumption, and lower cost per chip (as a single wafer is better utilized). Chairman and CTO of Broadcom, Henry Samueli, told reporters that manufacturing complexity is pushing chip developers into a situation where one of those three benefits must be sacrificed for the other two.

You are suddenly no longer searching for an overall better solution. You are searching for a more optimized solution in many respects but with inherent tradeoffs.

He expects GlobalFoundries and TSMC to catch up to Intel and "the cost curve should come back to normal". Still, he sees another wall coming up when we hit the 5nm point (you can count the width or height of these transistors, in atoms, using two hands) and even more problems beyond that.


Image Credit: IONAS

From my perspective: at some point, we will need to say goodbye to electronic integrated circuits. The theorists are already working on how we can develop integrated circuits using non-electronic materials. For instance, during the end of my Physics undergraduate degree, my thesis adviser was working on nonlinear optics within photonic crystals; waveguides which transmit optical frequency light rather than radio frequency electric waves. Of course I do not believe his research was on Optical Integrated Circuits, but that is not really the point.

Humanity is great at solving problems when backs are against walls. But, what problem will they try?

Power consumption? Cost? Performance?

Source: ITWorld

Qualcomm tries to play matchmaker between Samsung Electronics and Globalfoundries

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2013 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, TSMC

Qualcomm is looking to diversify their supply chain and move away from dependence on TSMC and their 28nm node.  They have some qualifications for their suitor to meet and being one of the larger customers means that they just might get it.  Their requirement is for the rumoured Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES partnership to become stable and for Samsung to use GF as a sub-contractor to make chips for Apple.  If you believe all the hints we are getting the partnership could grow and it would give Qualcomm a supplier who is financially stable and still has enough free resources to fab Qualcomm's chips in the desired volume.  This is the news out of DigiTimes this morning.


"Qualcomm reportedly hopes Samsung Electronics and Globalfoundries can form an alliance, as the fabless IC vendor seeks to reduce its reliance on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) for its advanced chips, according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes