Intel Wants To See 48-Core Processors In Future Smartphones

Subject: Processors | October 31, 2012 - 02:25 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, R&D, prototype, Intel

Intel researchers located at the company’s Barcelona, Spain labs are working on multi-core solutions. Specifically, the researchers are looking to bring massive numbers of processing cores to smartphones and tablets. The x86 chip giant hopes to see as many as 48 core processors powering mobile devices within the next five to ten years.

Currently, quad core System on a Chip (SoC) processors represent the highest number of cores in a mobile device, so a 48 core processor would be an absolutely massive jump. Of course, there are several issues that Intel will need to address in order for such a chip to be feasible. The package size, TDP, and power draw will all need to be drastically reduced in order to fit into the power envelope and form factor of smartphones in particular. The biggest issue standing in the way of such a chip though is software. Massively multi-threaded software is still extremely rare, and on mobile devices is no where close to effectively utilizing the number of cores Intel wants to provide.

Intel Prototype Chip.jpg

Image credit: Computer Wold. A prototyping platform running software to research efficient multi-core processing.

Analyst Patrick Moorhead argues that five to ten years is effectively an eternity in technology-time, and by the time the hardware with massive numbers of cores is feasible, the software will be there. Intel is a bit less optimistic, but hopeful that developers will embrace the idea of multiple low power cores versus a few high clocked, power hungry cores. Such a transition in the software industry would allow smartphones to multitask much more efficiently than they do now, and would no longer have to comprise on the extent of background tasks in order to keep the user interface stable and snappy.

Intel is currently using cloud computers to analyze multi-threading and what tasks can be parallelized. The company envisions being able to encrypt email, listen to media, sync with backup services, and use voice recognition without needing to reach out to Internet-connected servers at the same time. Cores would be able to split the work or dedicate certain numbers of cores to tasks like the UI or video playback. Intel has already demonstrated the ability to turn off unused portions of the CPU to save power as well as its turbo boost modes to increase clockspeeds when there is TDP headroom. It will be interesting to see a 48 core chip, especially if software developers can be coerced into doing tasks with massive numbers of cores in mind.

Interestingly, AMD is going for heterogeneous cores (CPU cores, GPU cores, ARM cores, etc) while Intel is using its process node and chip technology lead to throw large numbers of homogenous cores at the problem of processing. In the end though, it all comes down to battery tech and software enabling these kinds of advancements. I'm hopeful that I'll see these kinds of currently mind-blowing chips in my future smartphone, however.

Computer World has a write-up with quotes from the Intel engineers working on the multi-core smartphone chip, which is worth a read. What do you think about the prospects of a 48 core chip in your handheld mobile device?

Samsung Shows Off Ultrabook With 2560x1440 Display at IFA

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2012 - 09:50 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Series 9, Samsung, retina display, prototype, ifa

The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) 2012 electronics show in Berlin has seen numerous Windows 8 tablets, but those are not the only mobile devices on the show floor. Samsung is at the event with its lineup of Series 9 Ultrabooks, for example.

The most interesting model is a prototype (engineering sample) Series 9 ultrabook that sports a WQHD display. That’s right, the 11.6” and 13.3” ultrabooks have displays with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels! The new display has a pixels-per-inch (PPI) rating of 220.84, which is a major improvement over the current 13” Series 9 ultrabook’s 1600x900, 138.03 PPI display. The new prototype Series 9 has a total display resolution lower than the 2880x1800 “Retina” display in the 15” Macbook Pro, but due to its overall smaller size at 13,” the PPI is comparable. In fact, it is ever-so-slightly higher at 220.84 PPI versus 220.53 for the Apple Macbook Pro. In addition, the Series 9 display features a matte finish, which is something road warriors will appreciate.

Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook.jpg

Image credit: Engadget.

It seems that – except for the new higher resolution display – the prototype spotted by Engadget at IFA is exactly the same as the latest Ivy Bridge-powered Series 9 ultrabook. It features a full QWERTY keyboard and click-able multitouch trackpad. The right side of the Samsung ultrabook includes a microphone, HDMI output, combination headphone/microphone jack, and a USB 2.0 port. There is also a covered slot for a full-size SD card on the underside of the chassis. On the left side of the ultrabook is a power jack, USB 3.0 port, micro-HDMI port, and micro RJ45 Ethernet port.

Powering the Series 9 prototype is likely an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, at least 4GB of RAM and an SSD. Further, the computer comes loaded with Microsoft's latest Windows 8 operating system. Beyond that, it is impossible to know the exact parts being used as Samsung isn’t ready to unleash this notebook yet. Unfortunately, that also means that pricing and availability are also not known.

With rumors that Apple is working on a new 13” Macbook Pro with “retina” display of its own, one possibility is that the prototype Series 9 is just that – a prototype (and proof of concept) – from which the company will sell the panels to Apple for its Macbook while not coming out with its own high resolution ultrabook. On the other hand, Samsung may be pursuing this and trying to beat Apple to market with a smaller notebook packing a comparible display to Apple's current Macbook Pro.

Personally, I’m rooting for the Series 9 with 2560x1440 display to at least come to market even if the panels also end up in Macbooks (though with Samsung’s luck that would just give Apple yet another device to attempt to get an injunction on….).

Either way, the concept is certainly promising, and here’s hoping that it inspires other OEMs to step up their ultrabook designs by using higher resolution displays!

Below is a hands on video by Mat Smith over at Engadget. For more information, you can find our Series 9 review as well as an editorial on the "Retina Macbook Pro from a PC Perspective" (see what we did there?).

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more IFA 2012 coverage!

Source: Engadget