Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

A Watershed Moment in Mobile

This previous May I was invited to Austin to be briefed on the latest core innovations from ARM and their partners.  We were introduced to new CPU and GPU cores, as well as the surrounding technologies that provide the basis of a modern SOC in the ARM family.  We also were treated to more information about the process technologies that ARM would embrace with their Artisan and POP programs.  ARM is certainly far more aggressive now in their designs and partnerships than they have been in the past, or at least they are more willing to openly talk about them to the press.

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The big process news that ARM was able to share at this time was the design of 10nm parts using an upcoming TSMC process node.  This was fairly big news as TSMC was still introducing parts on their latest 16nm FF+ line.  NVIDIA had not even released their first 16FF+ parts to the world in early May.  Apple had dual sourced their 14/16 nm parts from Samsung and TSMC respectively, but these were based on LPE and FF lines (early nodes not yet optimized to LPP/FF+).  So the news that TSMC would have a working 10nm process in 2017 was important to many people.  2016 might be a year with some good performance and efficiency jumps, but it seems that 2017 would provide another big leap forward after years of seeming stagnation of pure play foundry technology at 28nm.

Yesterday we received a new announcement from ARM that shows an amazing shift in thought and industry inertia.  ARM is partnering with Intel to introduce select products on Intel’s upcoming 10nm foundry process.  This news is both surprising and expected.  It is surprising in that it happened as quickly as it did.  It is expected as Intel is facing a very different world than it had planned for 10 years ago.  We could argue that it is much different than they planned for 5 years ago.

Intel is the undisputed leader in process technologies and foundry practices.  They are the gold standard of developing new, cutting edge process nodes and implementing them on a vast scale.  This has served them well through the years as they could provide product to their customers seemingly on demand.  It also allowed them a leg up in technology when their designs may not have fit what the industry wanted or needed (Pentium 4, etc.).  It also allowed them to potentially compete in the mobile market with designs that were not entirely suited for ultra-low power.  x86 is a modern processor technology with decades of development behind it, but that development focused mainly on performance at higher TDP ranges.

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This past year Intel signaled their intent to move out of the sub 5 watt market and cede it to ARM and their partners.  Intel’s ultra mobile offerings just did not make an impact in an area that they were expected to.  For all of Intel’s advances in process technology, the base ARM architecture is just better suited to these power envelopes.  Instead of throwing good money after bad (in the form of development time, wafer starts, rebates) Intel has stepped away from this market.

This leaves Intel with a problem.  What to do with extra production capacity?  Running a fab is a very expensive endeavor.  If these megafabs are not producing chips 24/7, then the company is losing money.  This past year Intel has seen their fair share of layoffs and slowing down production/conversion of fabs.  The money spent on developing new, cutting edge process technologies cannot stop for the company if they want to keep their dominant position in the CPU industry.  Some years back they opened up their process products to select 3rd party companies to help fill in the gaps of production.  Right now Intel has far more production line space than they need for the current market demands.  Yes, there were delays in their latest Skylake based processors, but those were solved and Intel is full steam ahead.  Unfortunately, they do not seem to be keeping their fabs utilized at the level needed or desired.  The only real option seems to be opening up some fab space to more potential customers in a market that they are no longer competing directly in.

The Intel Custom Foundry Group is working with ARM to provide access to their 10nm HPM process node.  Initial production of these latest generation designs will commence in Q1 2017 with full scale production in Q4 2017.  We do not have exact information as to what cores will be used, but we can imagine that they will be Cortex-A73 and A53 parts in big.LITTLE designs.  Mali graphics will probably be the first to be offered on this advanced node as well due to the Artisan/POP program.  Initial customers have not been disclosed and we likely will not hear about them until early 2017.

This is a big step for Intel.  It is also a logical progression for them when we look over the changing market conditions of the past few years.  They were unable to adequately compete in the handheld/mobile market with their x86 designs, but they still wanted to profit off of this ever expanding area.  The logical way to monetize this market is to make the chips for those that are successfully competing here.  This will cut into Intel’s margins, but it should increase their overall revenue base if they are successful here.  There is no reason to believe that they won’t be.

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The last question we have is if the 10nm HPM node will be identical to what Intel will use for their next generation “Cannonlake” products.  My best guess is that the foundry process will be slightly different and will not provide some of the “secret sauce” that Intel will keep for themselves.  It will probably be a mobile focused process node that stresses efficiency rather than transistor switching speed.  I could be very wrong here, but I don’t believe that Intel will open up their process to everyone that comes to them hat in hand (AMD).

The partnership between ARM and Intel is a very interesting one that will benefit customers around the globe if it is handled correctly from both sides.  Intel has a “not invented here” culture that has both benefited it and caused it much grief.  Perhaps some flexibility on the foundry side will reap benefits of its own when dealing with very different designs than Intel is used to.  This is a titanic move from where Intel probably thought it would be when it first started to pursue the ultra-mobile market, but it is a move that shows the giant can still positively react to industry trends.

IDF 2016: Intel To Demo Optane XPoint, Announces Optane Testbed for Enterprise Customers

Subject: Storage | August 16, 2016 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Testbed, Optane, Intel, IDF 2016, idf

IDF 2016 is up and running, and Intel will no doubt be announcing and presenting on a few items of interest. Of note for this Storage Editor are multiple announcements pertaining to upcoming Intel Optane technology products.

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Optane is Intel’s branding of their joint XPoint venture with Micron. Intel launched this branding at last year's IDF, and while the base technology is as high as 1000x faster than NAND flash memory, full solutions wrapped around an NVMe capable controller have shown to sit at roughly a 10x improvement over NAND. That’s still nothing to sneeze at, and XPoint settles nicely into the performance gap seen between NAND and DRAM.

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Since modern M.2 NVMe SSDs are encroaching on the point of diminishing returns for consumer products, Intel’s initial Optane push will be into the enterprise sector. There are plenty of use cases for a persistent storage tier faster than NAND, but most enterprise software is not currently equipped to take full advantage of the gains seen from such a disruptive technology.

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XPoint die. 128Gbit of storage at a ~20nm process.

In an effort to accelerate the development and adoption of 3D XPoint optimized software, Intel will be offering enterprise customers access to an Optane Testbed. This will allow for performance testing and tuning of customers’ software and applications ahead of the shipment of Optane hardware.

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I did note something interesting in Micron's FMS 2016 presentation. QD=1 random performance appears to start at ~320,000 IOPS, while the Intel demo from a year ago (first photo in this post) showed a prototype running at only 76,600 IOPS. Using that QD=1 example, it appears that as controller technology improves to handle the large performance gains of raw XPoint, so does performance. Given a NAND-based SSD only turns in 10-20k IOPS at that same queue depth, we're seeing something more along the lines of 16-32x performance gains with the Micron prototype. Those with a realistic understanding of how queues work will realize that the type of gains seen at such low queue depths will have a significant impact in real-world performance of these products.

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The speed of 3D XPoint immediately shifts the bottleneck back to the controller, PCIe bus, and OS/software. True 1000x performance gains will not be realized until second generation XPoint DIMMs are directly linked to the CPU.

The raw die 1000x performance gains simply can't be fully realized when there is a storage stack in place (even an NVMe one). That's not to say XPoint will be slow, and based on what I've seen so far, I suspect XPoint haters will still end up burying their heads in the sand once we get a look at the performance results of production parts.

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Leaked roadmap including upcoming Optane products

Intel is expected to show a demo of their own more recent Optane prototype, and we suspect similar performance gains there as their controller tech has likely matured. We'll keep an eye out and fill you in once we've seen Intel's newer Optane goodness it in action!

IDF 2016: Intel Project Alloy Promises Untethered VR and AR Experiences

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Displays, Shows and Expos | August 16, 2016 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, project alloy, Intel, augmented reality, AR

At the opening keynote to this summer’s Intel Developer Forum, CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new initiative to enable a completely untether VR platform called Project Alloy. Using Intel processors and sensors the goal of Project Alloy is to move all of the necessary compute into the headset itself, including enough battery to power the device for a typical session, removing the need for a high powered PC and a truly cordless experience.

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This is indeed the obvious end-game for VR and AR, though Intel isn’t the first to demonstrate a working prototype. AMD showed the Sulon Q, an AMD FX-based system that was a wireless VR headset. It had real specs too, including a 2560x1440 OLED 90Hz display, 8GB of DDR3 memory, an AMD FX-8800P APU with R7 graphics embedded. Intel’s Project Alloy is currently using unknown hardware and won’t have a true prototype release until the second half of 2017.

There is one key advantage that Intel has implemented with Alloy: RealSense cameras. The idea is simple but the implications are powerful. Intel demonstrated using your hands and even other real-world items to interact with the virtual world. RealSense cameras use depth sensing to tracking hands and fingers very accurately and with a device integrated into the headset and pointed out and down, Project Alloy prototypes will be able to “see” and track your hands, integrating them into the game and VR world in real-time.

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The demo that Intel put on during the keynote definitely showed the promise, but the implementation was clunky and less than what I expected from the company. Real hands just showed up in the game, rather than representing the hands with rendered hands that track accurately, and it definitely put a schism in the experience. Obviously it’s up to the application developer to determine how your hands would actually be represented, but it would have been better to show case that capability in the live demo.  

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Better than just tracking your hands, Project Alloy was able to track a dollar bill (why not a Benjamin Intel??!?) and use it to interact with a spinning lathe in the VR world. It interacted very accurately and with minimal latency – the potential for this kind of AR integration is expansive.

Those same RealSense cameras and data is used to map the space around you, preventing you from running into things or people or cats in the room. This enables the first “multi-room” tracking capability, giving VR/AR users a new range of flexibility and usability.

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Though I did not get hands on with the Alloy prototype itself, the unit on-stage looked pretty heavy, pretty bulky. Comfort will obviously be important for any kind of head mounted display, and Intel has plenty of time to iterate on the design for the next year to get it right. Both AMD and NVIDIA have been talking up the importance of GPU compute to provide high quality VR experiences, so Intel has an uphill battle to prove that its solution, without the need for external power or additional processing, can truly provide the untethered experience we all desire.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube: Small Form-Factor Gaming with Desktop Power

Subject: Systems | August 16, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: small form-factor, SFF, nvidia, Lenovo, Killer Networking, Intel, IdeaCentre Y710 Cube, GTX 1080, gaming, gamescom, cube

Lenovo has announced the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube; a small form-factor system designed for gaming regardless of available space, and it can be configured with some very high-end desktop components for serious performance.

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"Ideal for gamers who want to stay competitive no matter where they play, the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube comes with a built-in carry handle for easy transport between gaming stations. Housed sleekly within a new, compact cube form factor, it features NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX graphics and 6th Gen Intel Core processors to handle today’s most resource-intensive releases."

The Y710 Cube offers NVIDIA GeForce graphics up to the GTX 1080, and up to a 6th-generation Core i7 processor. (Though a specific processor number was not mentioned, this is likely the non-K Core i7-6700 CPU given the 65W cooler specified below).

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Lenovo offers a pre-installed XBox One controller receiver with the Y710 Cube to position the small desktop as a console alternative, and the machines are configured with SSD storage and feature Killer Double Shot Pro networking (where the NIC and wireless card are combined for better performance).

Specifications include:

  • Processor: Up to 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home
  • Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080; 8 GB
  • Memory: Up to 32 GB DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 2 TB HDD + 256 GB SSD
  • Cooling: 65 W
  • Networking: Killer LAN / WiFi 10/100/1000M
  • Connectivity:
    • Video: 1x HDMI, 1x VGA
    • Rear Ports: 1x USB 2.0 1x USB 3.0
    • Front Ports: 2x USB 3.0
  • Dimensions (L x D x H): 393.3 x 252.3 x 314.5 mm (15.48 x 9.93 x 12.38 inches)
  • Weight: Starting at 16.3 lbs (7.4 kg)
  • Carry Handle: Yes
  • Accessory: Xbox One Wireless Controller/Receiver (optional)

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The IdeaCentre Y710 Cube is part of Lenovo's Gamescom 2016 annoucement, and will be available for purchase starting in October. Pricing starts at $1,299.99 for a version with the GTX 1070.

Source: Lenovo

Xaggerated claims from Intel? Psah, we've heard that googolplex of times before

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2016 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: 3D XPoint, Intel, FMS 2016

You might have caught our reference to this on the podcast, XPoint is amazingly fast but the marketing clams were an order or magnitude or two off of the real performance levels.  Al took some very nice pictures at FMS and covered what Micron had to say about their new QuantX drives.  The Register also dropped by and offers a tidbit on the pricing, roughly four to five times as much as current flash or about half the cost of an equivalent amount of RAM.  They also compare the stated endurance of 25 complete drive writes per day to existing flash which offers between 10 to 17 depending on the technology used. 

The question they ask at the end is one many data centre managers will also be asking, is the actual speed boost worth the cost of upgrading or will other less expensive alternatives be more economical?

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"XPoint will substantially undershoot the 1,000-times-faster and 1,000-times-longer-lived-than-flash claims made by Intel when it was first announced – with just a 10-times speed boost and 2.5-times longer endurance in reality."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Can Netlist use Samsung in their upcoming HybriDIuMM to challenge Intels XPoint?

Subject: General Tech | August 9, 2016 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Samsung, Intel, HybriDIMM

Bit of a correction folks, Netlist developed the HybriDIMMs using Samsung DRAM and NAND, united using their own proprietary interface. This, and my confusion, is in part to do some nasty and very costly IP litigation behind the scenes which lead to Samsung getting more credit for this than they deserved. 

Netlist and Diablo Technologies worked together for a while and then parted ways.  Soon after the split Diablo licensed SMART to produce ULLtraDIMMs and a court case was born. Not long afterwards SanDisk grabbed the IP from Diablo and now WD is buying SanDisk, making this an utter nightmare for a smaller company.  Samsung invested $23m in Netdisk and offered  a source of chips, albeit likely with strings, which has allowed Netdisk to develop HybriDIMMs. 

Samsung Netlist has developed HybriDIMMs, replacing some of the DRAM on a memory module with NAND.  This allows you to significantly increase the amount of memory available on a DIMM and reduces the price dramatically at the same time.  The drawback is that NAND is significantly slower than DRAM; they intend to overcome that with the use of predictive algorithms they have called PreSight to pre-fetch data from the NAND and stage it in DRAM.  This will compete with Intel's Optane XPoint DIMMs once they are released and will mean the DRAM market will split into two, the DRAM we are currently used to and these hybrid NAND DIMMs.  Check out more details over at The Register.

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"Gold plate can give a durable and affordable alloy a 24-carat veneer finish, adding value to cheap metal. DRAM gives Samsung-Netlist Hybrid DIMMs a cache veneer, providing what looks like DRAM to applications but is really persistent NAND underneath, cheaper than DRAM and lots of it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Xiaomi Launches Sleek Mi Notebook Air Ultrabooks

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2016 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: xiaomi, ultraportable, ultrabook, thin and light, Intel, core m3, core i5

According to the guys over at The Tech Report, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is jumping into the notebook game with two new Mi Notebook Air ultrabooks. The all aluminum notebooks are sleek looking and priced very competitively for their specifications. They are set to release on August 2nd in China.

The new Mi Notebook Air notebooks come in 13.3" and 12.5" versions. Both models use all aluminum bodies with edge to edge glass displays (1080p though unknown what type of panel), backlit keyboards, and dual AKG speakers. Users can choose from gold or silver colors for the body and keyboard (Xiaomi uses a logo-less design which is nice).

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Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air via Ars Technica.

Both models sport a single USB Type C port (which is also used for charging), two USB 3.0 Type A ports, one HDMI video output, and a headphone jack. The Xiaomi website shows an USB Type C adapter that adds extra ports as well. Internally, they have a M.2 slot for storage expansion but the notebooks do not appear to be user serviceable (though iFixit may rectify that...). Also shared is support for the company's Mi Sync software and Mi fitness band which can be used to unlock the computer when the user is in proximity.

The smaller 12.5" Mi Notebook Air is 0.51" thick and weighs just over 2.3 pounds. It is powered by an Intel Core M3 processor and Xiaomi claims that this model can hit 11.5 hours ouf battery life. Other specifications include 4 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SATA SSD, and 802.11ac wireless.

If you need a bit more computing power, the 13.3" notebook is slightly bulkier at 0.58" thick and 2.8 pounds with the tradeoff in size giving users a larger display, keyboard, and dedicated graphics card. Specifically, the 13.3" ultrabook features an Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia Geforce 940MX GPU, 8 GB DDR4 RAM, a 256GB NVMe PCI-E SSD, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. This laptop is a bit heavier but I think the extra horsepower is worth it for those that need or want it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about what many will see as an Apple MacBook Air clone is the pricing. The 12.5" laptop will MSRP for RMB 3499 while that 13.3" notebook will cost RMB 4999. That translates to approximately $525 and $750 USD respectively which is a great value for the specifications and size and seemingly will give Apple a run for its money in China. That's the bad news: Xiaomi does not appear to be bringing these slick looking notebooks to the US anytime soon which is unfortunate.

Also read:

The Huawei MateBook Review: A Denial-of-Surface Attack

Source: Xiaomi

Intel Will Release 14nm Coffee Lake To Succeed Kaby Lake In 2018

Subject: Processors | July 28, 2016 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: kaby lake, Intel, gt3e, coffee lake, 14nm

Intel will allegedly be releasing another 14nm processor following Kaby Lake (which is itself a 14nm successor to Skylake) in 2018. The new processors are code named "Coffee Lake" and will be released alongside low power runs of 10nm Cannon Lake chips. 

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Not much information is known about Coffee Lake outside of leaked slides and rumors, but the first processors slated to launch in 2018 will be mainstream mobile chips that will come in U and HQ mobile flavors which are 15W to 28W and 35W to 45W TDP chips respectively. Of course, these processors will be built on a very mature 14nm process with the usual small performance and efficiency gains beyond Skylake and Kaby Lake. The chips should have a better graphics unit, but perhaps more interesting is that the slides suggest that Coffee Lake will be the first architecture where Intel will bring "hexacore" (6 core) processors into mainstream consumer chips! The HQ-class Coffee Lake processors will reportedly come in two, four, and six core variants with Intel GT3e class GPUs. Meanwhile the lower power U-class chips top out at dual cores with GT3e class graphics. This is interesting because Intel has previous held back the six core CPUs for its more expensive and higher margin HEDT and Xeon platforms.

Of course 2018 is also the year for Cannon Lake which would have been the "tock" in Intel's old tick-tock schedule (which is no more) as the chips will move to a smaller process node and then Intel would improve on the 10nm process from there in future architectures. Cannon Lake is supposed to be built on the tiny 10nm node, and it appears that the first chips on this node will be ultra low power versions for laptops and tablets. Occupying the ULV platform's U-class (15W) and Y-class (4.5W), Cannon Lake CPUs will be dual cores with GT2 graphics. These chips should sip power while giving comparable performance to Kaby and Coffee Lake perhaps even matching the performance of the Coffee Lake U processors!

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information!

Podcast #409 - GTX 1060 Review, 3DMark Time Spy Controversy, Tiny Nintendo and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2016 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: Wraith, Volta, video, time spy, softbank, riotoro, retroarch, podcast, nvidia, new, kaby lake, Intel, gtx 1060, geforce, asynchronous compute, async compute, arm, apollo lake, amd, 3dmark, 10nm, 1070m, 1060m

PC Perspective Podcast #409 - 07/21/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1060 review, controversy surrounding the async compute of 3DMark Time Spy 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:34:57
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:51:17 This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. 1:26:26 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Sapphire Nitro Bot
    2. Allyn: klocki - chill puzzle game (also on iOS / Android)
  5. Closing/outro

Ya, so our IoT enabled toasters need patching ... oh, only around 5 million, why is that a problem?

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2016 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: iot, security, amazon, Intel

The Register brings up the issue of IoT security once again today, this time looking at the logistics of patching and updating a fleet of IoT devices.  Amazon is focusing on dumb devices with a smart core, the physical device having the sensors required and a connection to the net to send all data to be processed in large database which would be much easier to maintain but does offer other security issues.  Intel on the other hand unsurprisingly prefers end devices with some smarts, such as their Curie and Edison modules, with a smarter gateway device sitting between those end devices and the same sort of large server based computing as Amazon. 

Intel's implementation may be more effective in certain enviroments than Amazons, El Reg uses the example of an oil rig, but would be more expensive to purchase and maintain.  Take a look at the article for a deeper look, or just imagine the horrors of pushing out a critical patch to 1000's of devices in an unknown state when you go live.

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"Internet of Things (IoT) hype focuses on the riches that will rain from the sky once humanity connects the planet, but mostly ignores what it will take to build and operate fleets of things.

And the operational side of things could be hell."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register