MWC 2014: Intel Announces XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced Wireless Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 01:00 AM |
Tagged: xmm, MWC 14, MWC, lte-advanced, LTE, Intel, 7260

Intel also announced Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs at Mobile World Congress today.

In 2011, Intel acquired SysDSoft to improve and accelerate the companies transition into the mobile wireless controllers, LTE in particular.  As a result, Intel released the XMM 7160 modem in 2013 which included the X-GOLD 716 baseband controller that could support LTE and HSPA functions.  This modem was adopted by a handful of OEMs in the market with Cat 4 bandwidth up to 150 Mbps (downstream) and 50 Mbps (upstream), LTE voice implementation and globally capability with 15 bands.

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This modem was available as a multi-chip solution for mobile device vendors to implement but was shipped in a M.2 module. The latter form gave a quick option for notebook and tablet vendors to include in ready-built systems.

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At Mobile World Congress today though, Intel is announcing its next generation modem, the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced.  As the name implies, this update includes support for LTE-Advanced that adds in features like carrier aggregation and a pair of downlink channels for up to 300 Mbps data rates.  Carrier aggregation can be used for additional bandwidth performance or to disperse spectrum in a more efficient way to improve reliability.  Intel claims that this controller and modem meets the maximum specification levels of LTE today.

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The XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced includes the X-GOLD 726 that is truly a global market ready part with frequency compatibility on LTE FDD/TDD, WCDMA/HSPA+, TD-SCDMA/TD-HSPA/EDGE.  This iteration uses fewer components, thus is smaller and easier to integrate than the 7160, and will be "on shelf" as early as next quarter.  There is no CDMA support included, though. For users on Verizon and Sprint, we'll have to see if handset makers for those carriers have adjusted their timelines for LTE-only devices.  AT&T and T-Mobile, in the US, will have no issues with 4G and 3G support.

This modem is meant to compete directly with the stranglehold that Qualcomm has on the LTE market (and one source tells me that carriers "are dying for an alternative" to help drive down costs).  Though it might seem odd in some ways, I fully expect this XMM 7260 modem to be paired with non-Intel SoC devices, including smartphones and tablets.  In fact, it is quite possible that the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced modem might have more successful adoption than the upcoming Merrifield SoCs, also announced today. Device manufacturers might be satisfied with their choice in SoCs, not demanding an alternative in x86, but also might appreciate a new modem.

As a side note, the XMM 7260 is being built on TSMC's 28nm process technology rather than on Intel's own fabs (this isn't the first time it has happened).  I don't expect this to be a concern for performance but it is interesting to see a chip that Intel is placing so much emphasis on being constructed outside its own walls.

The XMM 7269 LTE-Advanced modem is currently in certification and is expected to be available for integration in Q2, 2014.

MWC 2014: Intel Atom Moorefield and Merrifield officially unveiled

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 01:00 AM |
Tagged: z3480, PowerVR, MWC 14, MWC, moorefield, merrifield, Intel, atom

Intel also announced an LTE-Advanced modem, the XMM 7260 at Mobile World Congress today.

Last May Intel shared with us details of its new Silvermont architecture, a complete revamp of the Atom brand with an out-of-order design and vastly improved performance per watt.  In September we had our first real-hands on with a processor built around Silvermont, code named Bay Trail.  The Atom Z37xx and Z36xx products were released and quickly found their way into products like the ASUS T100 convertible notebook.  In fact, both the Bay Trail processor and the ASUS T100 took home honors in our end-of-year hardware recognitions.  

Today at Mobile World Congress 2014, Intel is officially announcing the Atom Z35xx and Z34xx processors based on the same Silvermont architecture, code named Moorefield and Merrifield respectively.  These new processors share the same power efficiency of Bay Trail and excellent performance but have a few changes to showcase.

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Though there are many SKUs yet to be revealed for Merrifield and Moorefield, this comparison table gives you a quick idea of how the new Atom Z3480 compares to the previous generation, Atom Z2580 and Clover Trail+.  

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The Atom Z3480 is a dual core (single module) processor with a clock speed as high as 2.13 GHz.  And even though it doesn't have HyperThreading support, the new architecture is definitely faster than the previous product.  The cellular radio listed on this table is a separate chip, not integrated into the SoC - at least not yet.  PowerVR G6400 quad core/cluster graphics should present performance somewhere near that of the iPhone 5s with support for OpenCL and RenderScript acceleration.  Intel claims that this PowerVR architecture will give Merrifield a 2x performance advantages over the graphics system in Clover Trail+.  A new image processor allows for 1080p60 video capture (vs 30 FPS before) and support Android 4.4.2 is ready.  

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Most interestingly, the Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs do not use Intel's HD graphics technology and instead return to the world of Imagination Technology and the PowerVR IP.  Specifically, the Merrifield chip, the smaller of the two new offerings from Intel, is using the PowerVR G6400 GPU; the same base technology that powers the A7 SoC from Apple in the iPhone 5s.  

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A comparison between the Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs reveals the differences between what will likely be targeted smartphone and tablet processors.  The Moorefield part uses a pair of modules with a total of four cores, double that of Merrifield, and also includes a slightly higher performance PowerVR GPU option, the G6430.  

Intel has provided some performance results of the new Atom Z3480 using a reference phone, though of course, with all vendor provided benchmarks, take them as an estimate until some third parties get a hold of this hardware for independent testing.  

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Looking at GFXBench 2.7, Intel estimates that Merrifield will run faster than the Apple A7 in the iPhone 5s and just slightly behind the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 found in the Samsung Galaxy S4.  Moorefield, the SoC that adds slightly to GPU performance and doubles the CPU core count, would improve performance to best the Qualcomm result.

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WebXPRT is a web application benchmark and with it Intel's Atom Z3480 has the edge over both the Apple A7 and the Qualcomm S800.  Intel also states that they can meet these performance claims while also offering better battery life than the Snapdragon S800 as well - interestingly the Apple A7 was left out of those metrics.

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Finally, Intel did dive into the potential performance improvements that support for 64-bit technology will offer when Android finally implements support.  While Kitkat can run a 64-bit kernel, the user space is not yet supported so benchmarking is a very complicated and limited process.  Intel was able to find instances of 16-34% performance improvements from the move to 64-bit on Merrifield.  We are still some time from 64-bit Android OS versions but Intel claims they will have full support ready when Google makes the transistion.

Both of these SoCs should be showing up in handsets and tablets by Q2.  Intel did have design wins for Clover Trail+ in a couple of larger smartphones but the company has a lot more to prove to really make Silvermont a force in the mobile market.  

ARM Brings Out Marketing Guns - Says Intel Quark Too Hot for Wearables

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 21, 2014 - 07:47 AM |
Tagged: wearables, wearable computing, quark, Intel, arm

On a post from the official ARM blogs, the guns are blazing in the battle for the wearable market mind share.  Pretty much all the currently available wearable computing devices are using ARM-based processors but that hasn't prevented Intel from touting its Quark platform as the best platform for wearables.  There are still lots of questions about Quark when it comes to performance and power consumption but ARM decided to pit its focus on heat.

For a blog post on ARM's website

Intel’s Quark is an example that has a relatively low level of integration, but has still been positioned as a solution for wearables. Fine you may think, there are plenty of ARM powered communication chipsets it could be paired with, but a quick examination of the development board brings the applicability further into question. Quark runs at a rather surprising, and sizzling to the touch, 57°C. The one attribute it does offer is a cognitive awareness, not through any hardware integration suitable for the wearable market, but from the inbuilt thermal management hardware (complete with example code), which in the attached video you can see is being used to toggle a light switch once touched by a finger which, acting as a heat sync, drops the temperature below 50°C.

Along with this post is a YouTube video that shows this temperature testing taking place.

Of course, when looking at competitive analysis between companies you should always take the results as tentative at best.  There is likely to be some change between the Quark Adruino board (Galileo) integration of the X1000 and what would make it into a final production wearable device.  Obviously this is something Intel is award of as well and they are also aware of what temperature means for devices that users will have such direct contact with.  

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The proof will be easy to see, either way, as we progress through 2014. Will device manufacturers integrated Quark in any final design wins and what will the user experience of those units be like?  

Still, it's always interesting to see marketing battles heat up between these types of computing giants.

Source: ARM

Intel Roadmap Including Xeon E7 v2 Lineup

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | February 19, 2014 - 12:28 AM |
Tagged: Intel, SoC, atom, haswell, Haswell-E, Airmont, Ivy Bridge-EX

Every few months, we get another snapshot at some of Intel's products. This timeline has a rough placement for every segment, from their Internet of Things (IoT) product, the Quark, up to the Xeon E7 v2. While it covers from now through December, it is not designed to be a strict schedule and might contain an error or two.

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Image Credit: VR-Zone

First up is Ivy Bridge-EX (Xeon E7 v2). PCMag has an interesting rundown on these parts in depth, although some aspects are a little fuzzy. These 22nm-based chips range from 6 to 15 cores and can access up to 1.5TB of memory, per socket. Intel also claims they will support up to four times the I/O bandwidth for disk and network transactions. Naturally, they have all the usual virtualization and other features that are useful for servers. Most support Turbo Boost and all but one have Hyper-Threading Technology.

Jumping back to the VR-Zone editorial, the timeline suggests that the Quark X1000 will launch in April. As far as I can tell, this is new information. Quark is Intel's ultra low-end SoC that is designed for adding intelligence to non-computing devices. One example given by Intel at CES was a smart baby bottle warmer.

The refresh of Haswell is also expected to happen in April.

Heading into the third quarter, we should see Haswell-E make an appearance for the enthusiast desktop and moderately high-end server. This should be the first time since Sandy Bridge-E (2011) that expensive PCs get a healthy boost to single-threaded performance, clock for clock. Ivy Bridge-E, while a welcome addition, was definitely aimed at reducing power consumption.

Ending the year should be the launch of Airmont at 14nm. The successor to Silvermont, Airmont will be the basis of Cherry Trail tablets and lower end PCs at the very end of the year. Moorefield, which is Airmont for smartphones, is not listed on this roadmap and should not surface until 2015.

Source: VR-Zone

It's not a rumour; Broadwell is still making itself pretty

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2014 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell

There are many possible reasons why Intel is delaying the arrival of the 14nm Broadwell, from a lack of competition to the slowing of the laptop market to simply wanting to sell more Haswell chips.  Regardless of the cause, DigiTimes is reporting that we will not see the first Broadwell chips until the beginning of 2015 with the arrival of Celeron and Pentium branded chips.  The first ones to be shipped will be to mobile system builders in the last quarter of this year, limited amounts of U- and Y-series models will be distributed to manufacturers to be sold at the beginning of 2015.  That is a long way off, don't give up all hope but don't hold your breath.

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"Intel's upcoming 14nm Broadwell-based processors were previously scheduled for mass production at the end of the first quarter for release in the third; however, sources from the upstream supply chain say the processors have recently been delayed and will not be available until the fourth quarter."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Intel NUC BIOS Update Fixes Debian Booting

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, SteamOS, nuc, Intel, debian

Two days ago, Intel added a new BIOS for the NUC to their download center. Its main update addresses a problem with booting some operating systems, such as SteamOS. Ars Technica published an editorial a couple of weeks ago about using the Haswell-based NUC with four Linux distributions. It basically comes down to the NUC not seeing a bootloader file that Debian-based OSes leave in their own branded folder. The BIOS was available less than two weeks later.

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The update also addresses (PDF) fan speed control, a bug with disk encryption passwords, a couple of BIOS settings, and a system hang with certain USB thumb drives.

If you have a NUC and want to make it a SteamOS (or Ubuntu, etc.) device, this should fix your woes. I mean, there was already a workaround involving four terminal commands but it is that much easier nonetheless. It is available now at Intel's store.

Source: Intel

Podcast #286 - AMD Mantle, Battlefield 4 Performance, Chromeboxes and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2014 - 12:14 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Mantle, r9 290, 290x, battlefield 4, Chromebox, Chromebook, t440s, nvidia, Intel

PC Perspective Podcast #286 - 02/06/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the release of AMD Mantle, Battlefield 4 Performance, Chromeboxes 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

 
Program length: 1:03:08
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Jeremy: The Cyberith Virtualizer would be nice to go with that Oculus Rift you should buy me
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

SBSA reaches an ARM into the server room

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2014 - 10:35 AM |
Tagged: arm, OCP, open source, Intel, amd, seattle, opteron

The Inquirer had a chance to talk to Lakshmi Mandyam, the director of Server Systems and Ecosystems at ARM, about their plans for the server room.  ARM and their SBSA team have joined forces with Microsoft's Open Technology initiative which is key to AMD's adoption of ARM architecture in their new Opteron series.  These projects will offer several key benefits to customers, the open source nature will allow customization in the server room for those customers with specific needs and the know how to implement them and the nature of ARM processors can bring energy bills down.  This could also be great news for smaller businesses that require a proper server, they will be able to build that server out of a number of inexpensive ARM based processors instead of having to spend the price of the currently available x86/64 CPUs from Intel and AMD.

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"CHIP DESIGNER ARM announced at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit last week that servers based on its architecture have taken a step forward with the arrival of ARM v8-A based 64bit servers, known as the Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) specification."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Video Perspective: Free to Play Games on the A10-7850K vs. Intel Core i3 + GeForce GT 630

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 31, 2014 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: 7850k, A10-7850K, amd, APU, gt 630, Intel, nvidia, video

As a follow up to our first video posted earlier in the week that looked at the A10-7850K and the GT 630 from NVIDIA in five standard games, this time we compare the A10-7850K APU against the same combination of the Intel and NVIDIA hardware in five of 2013's top free to play games.

UPDATE: I've had some questions about WHICH of the GT 630 SKUs were used in this testing.  Our GT 630 was this EVGA model that is based on 96 CUDA cores and a 128-bit DDR3 memory interface.  You can see a comparison of the three current GT 630 options on NVIDIA's website here.

If you are looking for more information on AMD's Kaveri APUs you should check out my review of the A8-7600 part as well our testing of Dual Graphics with the A8-7600 and a Radeon R7 250 card.

Video Perspective: 2013 Games on the A10-7850K vs. Intel Core i3 + GeForce GT 630

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 29, 2014 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: video, nvidia, Intel, gt 630, APU, amd, A10-7850K, 7850k

The most interesting aspect of the new Kaveri-based APUs from AMD, in particularly the A10-7850K part, is how it improves mainstream gaming performance.  AMD has always stated that these APUs shake up the need for low-cost discrete graphics and when we got the new APU in the office we did a couple of quick tests to see how much validity there to that claim.

In this short video we compare the A10-7850K APU against a combination of the Intel Core i3-4330 and GeForce GT 630 discrete graphics card in five of 2013's top PC releases.  I think you'll find the results pretty interesting.

UPDATE: I've had some questions about WHICH of the GT 630 SKUs were used in this testing.  Our GT 630 was this EVGA model that is based on 96 CUDA cores and a 128-bit DDR3 memory interface.  You can see a comparison of the three current GT 630 options on NVIDIA's website here.

If you are looking for more information on AMD's Kaveri APUs you should check out my review of the A8-7600 part as well our testing of Dual Graphics with the A8-7600 and a Radeon R7 250 card.