Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2015 - 12:09 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, Semiconductor, Samsung, process node, nvidia, gpu, fab
Want to liven up your weekend? Forget college basketball, we all know that few things are more exciting than SEC filings - and oh boy do we have a great read for you! (OK, this one is actually interesting!)
Ah, legal documents...
NVIDIA has disclosed in their latest 10-K filing that none other than Samsung is manufacturing some of the company’s chips. TSMC has been the source of GPUs for both AMD and NVIDIA for some time, but this filing (the full document is available from the SEC website) has a very interesting mention of the suppliers of their silicon under the “Manufacturing” section:
"We utilize industry-leading suppliers, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, to produce our semiconductor wafers."
Back in December NVIDIA commented on its lawsuit against Samsung for alleged IP theft, which only makes this partnership seem more unlikely. However even Apple (which has their own famous legal history with Samsung, of course) has relied on Samsung for some of the production of their A-series SoCs, including the current crop of A8 chips. Business is business, and Samsung Foundry has been a reliable source of silicon for multiple manufacturers - particularly during times when TSMC has struggled to meet demand at smaller process nodes.
Samsung's Current Semiconductor Offering
It is unclear at this point whether the wafers produced by Samsung Semiconductor are for NVIDIA’s mobile parts exclusively, or if any of the desktop GPUs were produced there rather than at TSMC. The partnership could also be attributed simply to scale, just as Apple has augmented A8 SoC supply with their rival’s fab while primarily relying on TSMC. It will be interesting to see just how pervasive the chips produced by Samsung are within the NVIDIA lineup, and what future products might be manufactured with their newest 14nm FinFET process technology.
Subject: Mobile | March 1, 2015 - 02:01 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, smartphones, Samsung, MWC 2015, MWC, Galaxy S6 Edge, galaxy s6, Exynos 7420, 14nm
Samsung has announced the new Galaxy S phones at MWC, and the new S6 and S6 Edge should be in line with what you were expecting if you’ve followed recent rumors.
The new Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge (Image credit: Android Central)
As expected we no longer see a Qualcomm SoC powering the new phones, and as the rumors had indicated Samsung opted instead for their own Exynos 7 Octa mobile AP. The Exynos SoC’s have previously been in international versions of Samsung’s mobile devices, but they have apparently ramped up production to meet the demands of the US market as well. There is an interesting twist here, however.
The Exynos 7420 powering both the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge is an 8-core SoC with ARM’s big.LITTLE design, combining four ARM Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. Having announced 14nm FinFET mobile AP production earlier in February the possibility of the S6 launching with this new part was interesting, as the current process tech is 20nm HKMG for the Exynos 7. However a switch to this new process so soon before the official announcement seemed unlikely as large-scale 14nm FinFET production was just unveiled on February 16. Regardless, AnandTech is reporting that the new part will indeed be produced using this new 14nm process technology, and this gives Samsung an industry-first for a mobile SoC with the launch of the S6/S6 Edge.
GSM Arena has specs of the Galaxy S6 posted, and here’s a brief overview:
- Display: 5.1” Super AMOLED, QHD resolution (1440 x 2560, ~577 ppi), Gorilla Glass 4
- OS: Android OS, v5.0 (Lollipop) - TouchWiz UI
- Chipset: Exynos 7420
- CPU: Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57
- GPU: Mali-T760
- Storage/RAM: 32/64/128 GB, 3 GB RAM
- Camera: (Primary) 16 MP, 3456 x 4608, optical image stabilization, autofocus, LED flash
- Battery: 2550 mAh (non-removable)
The new phones both feature attractive styling with metal and glass construction and Gorilla Glass 4 sandwiching the frame, giving each phone a glass back.
The back of the new Galaxy S6 (Image credit: Android Central)
The guys at Android Central (source) had some pre-release time with the phones and have a full preview and hands-on video up on their site. The new phones will be released worldwide on April 10, and no specifics on pricing have been announced.
Subject: Processors | January 18, 2015 - 05:16 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, rumor, processor, leak, iris pro, Intel, graphics, cpu, carrizo, APU, amd
A new report of leaked benchmarks paints a very interesting picture of the upcoming AMD Carrizo mobile APU.
Image credit: SiSoftware
Announced as strictly mobile parts, Carrizo is based on the next generation Excavator core and features what AMD is calling one of their biggest ever jumps in efficiency. Now alleged leaked benchmarks are showing significant performance gains as well, with numbers that should elevate the IGP dominance of AMD's APUs.
Image credit: WCCFtech
"The A10 7850K scores around 270 Mpix/s while Intel’s HD5200 Iris Pro scores a more modest 200 Mpix/s. Carriso scores here over 600 Mpix/s which suggests that Carrizo is more than twice as fast as Kaveri and three times faster than Iris Pro. To put this into perspective this is what an R7 265 graphics card scores, a card that offers the same graphics performance inside the Playstation 4."
While the idea of desktop APUs with greatly improved graphics and higher efficency is tantalizing, AMD has made it clear that these will be mobile-only parts at launch. When asked by Anandtech, AMD had this to say about the possibility of a desktop variant:
“With regards to your specific question, we expect Carrizo will be seen in BGA form factor desktops designs from our OEM partners. The Carrizo project was focused on thermally constrained form factors, which is where you'll see the big differences in performance and other experiences that consumers value.”
The new mobile APU will be manufactured with the same 28nm process as Kaveri, with power consumption up to 35W for the Carrizo down to a maximum of 15W for the ultra-mobile Carrizo-L parts.
Introduction, Specs, and First Impressions
In our review of the original LIVA mini-PC we found it to be an interesting product, but it was difficult to identify a specific use-case for it; a common problem with the mini-PC market. Could the tiny Windows-capable machine be a real desktop replacement? That first LIVA just wasn't there yet. The Intel Bay Trail-M SoC was outmatched when playing 1080p Flash video content and system performance was a little sluggish overall in Windows 8.1, which wasn't aided by the limitation of 2GB RAM. (Performance was better overall with Ubuntu.) The price made it tempting but it was too underpowered as one's only PC - though a capable machine for many tasks.
Fast forward to today, when the updated version has arrived on my desk. The updated LIVA has a cool new name - the “X” - and the mini computer's case has more style than before (very important!). Perhaps more importantly, the X boasts upgraded internals as well. Could this new LIVA be the one to replace a desktop for productivity and multimedia? Is this the moment we see the mini-PC come into its own? There’s only one way to find out. But first, I have to take it out of the box.
Chipset: Intel® Bay Trail-M/Bay Trail-I SOC
Memory: DDR3L 2GB/4GB
Expansion Slot: 1 x mSATA for SSD
Storage: eMMC 64GB/32GB
Audio: HD Audio Subsystem by Realtek ALC283
LAN: Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller
USB: 1 x USB3.0 Port, 2 x USB2.0 Ports
Video Output: 1 x HDMI Port, 1 x VGA Port
Wireless: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.0
PCB Size: 115 x 75 mm
Dimension: 135 x 83 x 40 mm
VESA Support: 75mm / 100mm
Adapter Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 12V / 3A
OS Support: Linux based OS, Windows 7 (via mSATA SSD) Windows 8/8.1
Thanks to ECS for providing the LIVA X for review!
Packaging and Contents
The LIVA X arrives in a smaller box than its predecessor, and one with a satin finish cuz it's extra fancy.
Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2015 - 03:08 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wearables, SoC, smartwatch, Intel, ces 2015, CES, arm
Wearable tech shown at this year's CES by Intel included the Intel MICA and Basis PEAK wearables, but a blog post from ARM is reporting that a pair of these devices are powered by an ARM SoC.
The Intel MICA (Image credit: Intel)
ARM has posted pictures of teardowns from different wearable products, highlighting their presence in these new devices. The pictures we have taken from ARM's blog post show that it is not Intel at the heart of the two particular models we have listed below.
First is the Basis PEAK, and it actually makes a lot of sense that this product would have an ARM SoC considering Intel's aquisition of Basis occurred late in 2014, likely after the development of the PEAK had been completed.
The Basis PEAK (Image credits: Basis, ARM)
Of course it is likely that Intel has plans to integrate their own mobile chips into future versions of wearable products like the PEAK.
Of some interest however is the SoC within their own MICA luxury wearable.
The Intel MICA (Image credits: Intel, ARM)
For now, ARM is the industry standard for mobile devices and they are quick to point this out in their their blog post, writing "it’s important to remember that only ARM and its partners can meet the diversity requirements and fuel innovation in this space". Intel seems to be playing the "partner" role for now, though not exclusively as the company's mobile technology is powering the newest ASUS ZenFone, for instance.
Subject: Processors | January 5, 2015 - 07:30 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: SoC, low power, Intel, Cherry Trail, cell phones, ces 2015, CES, Bay Trail, 14 nm trigate, tablets
It wouldn’t be CES if there wasn’t an Intel release. Today they are releasing their latest 14 nm Cherry Trail SOC. Very little information has been released about this part, but it is the follow-up to the fairly successful Bay Trail. That particular part was a second generation 22 nm part that exhibited very good power and performance characteristics for the price. While Bay Trail was not as popular as Intel had hoped for, it did have some impressive design wins in multiple market sectors.
The next generation process technology from Intel will improve power and performance for the Cherry Trail parts as compared to previous products. It will work in both Windows and Android environments. While Cherry Trail is x86, Intel has been working very closely with Google to get Android to work effectively and quickly with a non-ARM based ISA.
Intel is shipping these parts to their partners for integration into phones, tablets, and small form factor computers. We had previously seen Bay Trail parts integrated into low cost motherboards with the J1800 and J1900 SKUs from Intel. We can expect these products to be refreshed with the latest Cherry Trail products that are being released today.
There is very little information being provided by Intel about the nuts and bolts of the Cherry Trail products. Intel promises to release more information once their partners start announcing individual products. We know that these parts will have improved graphics performance and will exist in the same TDPs as previous Bay Trail products. Other than that, feeds and speeds are a big question for this latest generation part.
These products will be integrating Intel’s RealSense technology. Password-less security, gestures, and 3D camera recognition are all aspects of this technology. I am sure we will get more information on how this technology leverages the power of the CPU cores and GPU cores in the latest Cherry Trail SOCs.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | December 10, 2014 - 03:03 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, mini-pc, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Bay Trail
A new, more powerful ECS mini-PC has been reported by The Tech Report, and this latest iteration of the LIVA will be known as the "X".
The LIVA X features a faster 2.25GHz dual-core CPU from its Bay Trail SoC, and maximum configurable memory has been doubled to 4GB. OS support has been revised as well, with Windows 7 supported - but only when using an mSATA SSD. The LIVA X still offers full Windows 8.1 support, along with beta Linux driver support as before.
The LIVA X also offers one more USB 2.0 port than its predecessor, along with the same 32GB or 64GB eMMC storage onboard, Gigabit Ethernet, and included 802.11 wireless N card.
The LIVA proved to be a good value when we reviewed it, though it was underpowered for some desktop tasks. Adding another 2GB of memory as well as a slightly faster CPU will make this new version a very interesting product, depending on price. The new LIVA X hasn't shown up for sale just yet in the usual places, but the product page is up on the ECS site.
Subject: Processors | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: amd, APU, carrizo, Carrizo-L, Kaveri, Excavator, Steamroller, SoC, Intel, mobile
AMD has certainly gone about doing things in a slightly different manner than we are used to. Today they announced their two latest APUs which will begin shipping in the first half of 2015. These APUs are running at AMD and are being validated as we speak. AMD did not release many details on these products, but what we do know is pretty interesting.
Carrizo is based on the latest iteration of AMD’s CPU technology. Excavator is the codename for these latest CPU cores, and they promise to be smaller and more efficient than the previous Steamroller core which powers the latest Kaveri based APUs. Carrizo-L is the lower power variant which will be based on the Puma+ core. The current Beema APU is based on the Puma architecture.
Roadmaps show that the Carrizo APUs will be 28 nm products, presumably fabricated by GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Many were hoping that AMD would make the jump to 20 nm with this generation of products, but that does not seem to be the case. This is not surprising due to the limitations of that particular process when dealing with large designs that require a lot of current. AMD will likely be pushing for 16 nm FinFET for the generation of products after Carrizo.
The big Carrizo supposedly has a next generation GCN unit. My guess here is that it will use the same design as we saw with the R9 285. That particular product is a next generation unit that has improved efficiency. AMD did not release how many GCN cores will be present in Carizzo, but it will be very similar to what we see now with Kaveri. Carrizo-L will use the same GCN units as the previous generation Beema based products.
I believe AMD has spent a lot more time hand tuning Excavator instead of relying on a lot of automated place and route. This should allow them to retain much of the performance of the part, all the while cutting down on transistor count dramatically. Some rumors that I have seen point to each Excavator module being 40% smaller than Steamroller. I am not entirely sure they have achieved that type of improvement, but more hand layout does typically mean greater efficiency and less waste. The downside to hand layout is that it is extremely time and manpower intensive. Intel can afford this type of design while AMD has to rely more on automated place and route.
Carrizo will be the first HSA 1.0 compliant SOC. It is in fact an SOC as it integrates the southbridge functions that previously had been handled by external chips like the A88X that supports the current Kaveri desktop APUs. Carrizo and Carrizo-L will also share the same infrastructure. This means that motherboards that these APUs will be soldered onto are interchangeable. One motherboard from the partner OEMs will be able to address multiple markets that will see products range from 4 watts TDP up to 35 watts.
Finally, both APUs feature the security processor that allows them access to the ARM TrustZone technology. This is a very small ARM processor that handles the secure boot partition and handles the security requests. This puts AMD on par with Intel and their secure computing solution (vPro).
These products will be aimed only at the mobile market. So far AMD has not announced Carrizo for the desktop market, but when they do I would imagine that they will hit a max TDP of around 65 watts. AMD claims that Carrizo is one of the biggest jumps for them in terms of power efficiency. A lot of different pieces of technology have all come together with this product to make them more competitive with Intel and their process advantage. Time will tell if this is the case, but for now AMD is staying relevant and pushing their product releases so that they are more consistently ontime.
One Small Step
While most articles surrounding the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus this far have focused around user experience and larger screen sizes, performance, and in particular the effect of Apple's transition to the 20nm process node for the A8 SoC have been our main questions regarding these new phones. Naturally, I decided to put my personal iPhone 6 though our usual round of benchmarks.
First, let's start with 3DMark.
Comparing the 3DMark scores of the new Apple A8 to even the last generation A7 provides a smaller improvement than we are used to seeing generation-to-generation with Apple's custom ARM implementations. When you compare the A8 to something like the NVIDIA Tegra K1, which utilizes desktop-class GPU cores, the overall score blows Apple out of the water. Even taking a look at the CPU-bound physics score, the K1 is still a winner.
A 78% performance advantage in overall score when compared the A8 shows just how much of a powerhouse NVIDIA has with the K1. (Though clearly power envelopes are another matter entirely.)
If we look at more CPU benchmarks, like the browser-based Google Octane and SunSpider tests, the A8 starts to shine more.
While the A8 edges out the A7 to be the best performing device and 54% faster than the K1 in SunSpider, the A8 and K1 are neck and neck in the Google Octane benchmark.
Moving back to a graphics heavy benchmark, GFXBench's Manhattan test, the Tegra K1 has a 75% percent performance advantage over the A8 though it is 36% faster than the previous A7 silicon.
These early results are certainly a disappointment compared to the usual generation-to-generation performance increase we see with Apple SoCs.
However, the other aspect to look at is power efficiency. With normal use I have noticed a substantial increase in battery life of my iPhone 6 over the last generation iPhone 5S. While this may be due to a small (about 1 wH) increase in battery capacity, I think more can be credited to this being an overall more efficient device. Certain choices like sticking to a highly optimized Dual Core CPU design and Quad Core GPU, as well as a reduction in process node to 20nm all contribute to increased battery life, while surpassing the performance of the last generation Apple A7.
In that way, the A8 moves the bar forward for Apple and is a solid first attempt at using the 20nm silicon technology at TSMC. There is a strong potential that further refined parts (like the expected A8x for the iPad revisions) Apple will be able to further surpass 28nm silicon in performance and efficiency.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2014 - 02:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, spreadtrum, rda, Rockchip, SoC
A few months ago, Intel partnered with Rockchip to develop low-cost SoCs for Android. The companies would work together on a design that could be fabricated at TSMC. This time Intel is partnering with Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. and, unlike Rockchip, also investing in them. The deal will be up to $1.5 billion USD in exchange for a 20% share (approximately) of a division of Tsinghua.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Intel is hoping to use this partnership to develop mobile SoCs, for smart (and "feature") phones, tablets, and other devices, and get significant presence in the Chinese mobile market. Tsinghua acquired Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics within the last two years. The "holding group" that owns these division is apparently the part of Tsinghua which Intel is investing in, specifically.
Spreadtrum will produce SoCs based on Intel's "Intel Architecture". This sounds like they are referring to the 32-bit IA-32, which means that Spreadtrum would be developing 32-bit SoCs, but it is possible that they could be talking about Intel 64. These products are expected for 2H'15.