Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM Releases Cortex-A72 for Licensing

On February 3rd, ARM announced a slew of new designs, including the Cortex A72.  Few details were shared with us, but what we learned was that it could potentially redefine power and performance in the ARM ecosystem.  Ryan was invited to London to participate in a deep dive of what ARM has done to improve its position against market behemoth Intel in the very competitive mobile space.  Intel has a leg up on process technology with their 14nm Tri-Gate process, but they are continuing to work hard in making their x86 based processors more power efficient, while still maintaining good performance.  There are certain drawbacks to using an ISA that is focused on high performance computing rather than being designed from scratch to provide good performance with excellent energy efficiency.

arma72_01.jpg

ARM has been on a pretty good roll with their Cortex A9, A7, A15, A17, A53, and A57 parts over the past several years.  These designs have been utilized in a multitude of products and scenarios, with configurations that have scaled up to 16 cores.  While each iteration has improved upon the previous, ARM is facing the specter of Intel’s latest generation, highly efficient x86 SOCs based on the 2nd gen 14nm Tri-Gate process.  Several things have fallen into place for ARM to help them stay competitive, but we also cannot ignore the experience and design hours that have led to this product.

(Editor's Note: During my time with ARM last week it became very apparent that it is not standing still, not satisfied with its current status. With competition from Intel, Qualcomm and others ramping up over the next 12 months in both mobile and server markets, ARM will more than ever be depedent on the evolution of core design and GPU design to maintain advantages in performance and efficiency. As Josh will go into more detail here, the Cortex-A72 appears to be an incredibly impressive design and all indications and conversations I have had with others, outside of ARM, believe that it will be an incredibly successful product.)

 

Cortex A72: Highest Performance ARM Cortex

ARM has been ubiquitous for mobile applications since it first started selling licenses for their products in the 90s.  They were found everywhere it seemed, but most people wouldn’t recognize the name ARM because these chips were fabricated and sold by licensees under their own names.  Guys like Ti, Qualcomm, Apple, DEC and others all licensed and adopted ARM technology in one form or the other.

arma72_02.jpg

ARM’s importance grew dramatically with the introduction of increased complexity cellphones and smartphones.  They also gained attention through multimedia devices such as the Microsoft Zune.  What was once a fairly niche company with low performance, low power offerings became the 800 pound gorilla in the mobile market.  Billions of chips are sold yearly based on ARM technology.  To stay in that position ARM has worked aggressively on continually providing excellent power characteristics for their parts, but now they are really focusing on overall performance and capabilities to address, not only the smartphone market, but also the higher performance computing and server spaces that they want a significant presence in.

Click here to read the rest of the ARM Cortex-A72 Introduction.

CES 2015: Intel Releases 14 nm Cherry Trail SOC

Subject: Processors | January 5, 2015 - 07:30 PM |
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.

atom_a_rgb_3000.png

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.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Intel

It's the Post-Post-PC Era! (I can do it, too! :3)

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2014 - 06:58 PM |
Tagged: best buy, tablets, convertible, laptop

Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, talked with Re/code about the overall health of their company and various industry trends. The first question (at least in the order Re/code presented them) asked about the decline of the PC industry. He responded that PC sales are actually recovering, to some extent, but that Android tablets are, now, "crashing".

Best_Buy_Logo.png

His view is that laptops are adopting the successful bits of the tablet market, especially as a result of various two-in-one initiatives. He believes students, in particular, appreciate tablet/laptop hybrids. This is certainly what Intel has been hoping for, through its recent Ultrabook efforts. He hopes that innovation will be done at the high end, so consumers will not simply settle for the $300-tier.

He did back off on his "crashed" statement, regarding the tablet market, however. The growth of tablets, from the start, were amazing. However, like the argument with "good enough" PCs, there does not seem to be a compelling argument for users to move to the next device, at least not yet. Like PCs, devices are being replaced, just not driven from industry forces. Also, like smartphones, the market seems to have matured, slowing in growth.

Naturally, Joly believes that Best Buy will be around for years to come. I agree with his reasoning. He acknowledges the squeeze between online resellers and boutique shops, which puts Best Buy in an awkward middle niche when the goal of a big box store is to be not niche. My interpretation of his strategy is to, instead of being crushed, strive to overlap. Embrace what the customers want on either side while doing your thing in the middle.

It is still questionable whether it will work, but it seems like the right move.

Source: Re/code

PC Shipments Fell Less Than Expected. Tablets Grew Less

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | October 14, 2013 - 09:27 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, hp, dell, tablets

About 81 million PCs were sold in the third quarter of this year; a decline of 8 percent from the same quarter of last year. This is according to reports from Windows IT Pro who averaged figures from IDC and Gartner.

The firms, however, were expecting somewhere between a 9 and 10 percent drop.

HP-slatex2-01.jpg

A further decline (in global shipments) is still expected to occur next year. Tablet sales have slowed from projections, albeit still on a growing trend, due to emerging markets and the simplification of generic content consumption. Our viewers probably extend beyond the generic but many others do not, for whatever number of reasons, use their devices except for media and text-based web browsing; as such, customers are more hesitant to replace their PCs.

Lenovo, HP, and Dell were 1-2-3 in terms of worldwide PC sales with each experiencing slight growth. HP is very near to Lenovo in terms of unit sales, less than a quarter million units separating the two, although I would expect Lenovo would have wider margins on each unit sold. HP extends further into the low value segments. Acer and ASUS had a sharp decline in sales.

Unfortunately, the article does not give any specific details on the tablet side. They did not reach their projections.

HP SlateBook x2: Tegra 4 on Android 4.2.2 in August

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | May 15, 2013 - 09:02 PM |
Tagged: tegra 4, hp, tablets

Sentences containing the words "Hewlett-Packard" and "tablet" can end in a question mark, an exclamation mark, or a period on occasion. The gigantic multinational technology company tried to own a whole mobile operating system with their purchase of Palm and abandoned those plans just as abruptly with such a successful $99 liquidation of $500 tablets, go figure, that they to some extent did it twice. The operating system was open sourced and at some point LG swooped in and bought it, minus patents, for use in Smart TVs.

So how about that Android?

HP-slatex2-01.jpg

The floodgates are open on Tegra 4 with HP announcing their SlateBook x2 hybrid tablet just a single day after NVIDIA's SHIELD move out of the projects. The SlateBook x2 uses the Tegra 4 processor to power Android 4.2.2 Jellybean along with the full Google experience including the Google Play store. Along with Google Play, the SlateBook and its Tegra 4 processor are also allowed in TegraZone and NVIDIA's mobile gaming ecosystem.

As for the device itself, it is a 10.1" Android tablet which can dock into a keyboard for extended battery life, I/O ports, and well, a hardware keyboard. You are able to attach this tablet to a TV via HDMI along with the typical USB 2.0, combo audio jack, and a full-sized SD card slot; which half any given port is available through is anyone's guess, however. Wirelessly, you have WiFi a/b/g/n and some unspecified version of Bluetooth.

HP-slatex2-02.jpg

The raw specifications list follows:

  • NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC
    • ARM Cortex A15 quad core @ 1.8 GHz
    • 72 "Core" GeForce GPU @ ~672MHz, 96 GFLOPS
  • 2GB DDR3L RAM ("Starts at", maybe more upon customization?)
  • 64GB eMMC SSD
  • 1920x1200 10.1" touch-enabled IPS display
  • HDMI output
  • 1080p rear camera, 720p front camera with integrated microphone
  • 802.11a/b/g/n + Bluetooth (4.0??)
  • Combo audio jack, USB 2.0, SD Card reader
  • Android 4.2.2 w/ Full Google and TegraZone experiences.

If this excites you, then you only have to wait until some point in August; you will also, of course, need to wait until you save up about $479.99 plus tax and shipping.

Source: HP

Tablets won't kill the desktop, but what about notebooks?

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2013 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: tablets, notebook, shiny

The plural of anecdote is not data but The Tech Report does make some good points about how the tablet may push the notebook out of the market, or at least reduce its market share significantly.  Unless you are buying a gaming laptop, in its self a niche market, there are many qualities about tablets that make them an attractive alternative, ranging from the lack of crumbs accumulating in the keyboard to all day battery life.  If you do not game or have programs you use which actually need the processing power of a full x86 processor then you will never even notice the reduction in processing power that comes from moving to an ARM or other low powered processor.  There is still no way that it is going to replace desktops whose users actually need real processing power ... or triple monitors.

nasty.JPG

"Earlier this week, Gartner reported that PC shipments shrank by almost 5% last quarter. The firm pinned the blame on users relinquishing their PCs for daily use. As enthusiasts, we may find it hard to imagine folks ditching their computers for comparatively limited tablets. However, I have some pretty convincing anecdotal evidence that lends weight to Gartner's thesis."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Ultrabooks 2.0

Intel is a yearly presence at CES and typically have a few interesting things to talk about.  Last year we got to see Will.I.Am on stage telling us all about how the Ultrabook has changed his artistic life.  Oddly enough, things have not changed dramatically for the company.  Ultrabooks have inherited the latest Ivy Bridge processors which were released last Spring.  Medfield is still the primary cell phone processor for Intel.

intc_01.JPG

The first area they covered  is the cellphone market.  Medfield is still the go-to processor and Intel claims that it has better performance and battery life than even the latest Qualcomm products.  Intel is introducing a new reference phone for emerging markets around the world codenamed Lexington.  Based on the Z2420 and the XMM6265 modem, this budget smartphone will be Android based with certain optimizations instituted by Intel in collaboration with Google.

Intel has achieved more wins throughout the next few months.  Acer, Safaricom, and Lava will all be announcing new smart phones based on Intel silicon.  Details of these products will be released later in the quarter.

intc_02.JPG

Medfield will be replaced by Clover Tail+ and then further on with their next gen 22 nm product.

Click to read about more of Intel's CES 2013 coverage.

AMD Launches New Z-Series APU for Tablets

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 8, 2012 - 09:43 PM |
Tagged: z-60 apu, tablets, radeon hd, APU, amd

AMD launched a new APU today meant for tablets and other mobile devices. The new Z-60 Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) is now the company’s lowest power APU processor. AMD is primarily pushing this chip as the best choice for tablets as thin as 10mm that are capable of running Windows 8.

HDTablet_770x206_Banner.png

The Z-60 APU supports AMD’s Start Now and AppZone technologies for fast boot and resume times and application repository respectively. AMD has stated that it identified a gap between low performance and high priced mobile devices, and believes the Z-60 APU fills that void. AMD Corporate Vice President of Ultra-Low Power Products Steve Belt further stated the following:

“Tablet users seeking an uncompromised experience for both creating and consuming content on the Microsoft Windows 8 platform now have a performance-driven, affordable option with the AMD Z-60 APU.”

Interestingly, AMD has managed to bring the TDP of the new Z-60 lower than the previous generation without sacrificing hardware or needing a new manufacturing process. While the Z-01 is part of the Brazos platform (codename Desna), the new Z-60 is codenamed Hondo and part of the Brazos-T platform, which involves several tweaks to the design to get more power efficiency.

The Z-60 has two Bobcat CPU cores clocked at 1GHz, 1MB L2 cache, and a Radeon HD 6250 GPU with 80 cores. This APU has a TDP of 4.5W, which is a noteable decrease from the Z-01's 5.9W TDP when you consider that this chip is going to be used in a battery powered, mobile device. In fact, with a Z-60 APU, AMD is claiming up to eight hours of batery life. Further, thanks to the integrated HD 6250 GPU, the Z-60 can support Direct X 11, OpenGL 4.1, and OpenCL 1.1 graphics technologies.

  CPU Cores CPU Clockspeed L2 Cache Radeon GPU GPU Cores TDP USB Support
Z-60 2 1 GHz 1 MB HD 6250 80 4.5W 3.0
Z-01 (previous generation) 2 1 GHz 1 MB HD 6250 80 5.9W 2.0

AMD has announced that the Z-60 APU is shipping now to its OEM customers. The company expects that consumers should see products using the new processor as soon as the end of this year.

Read more about the future direction of AMD at PC Perspective.

Source: AMD

Nokia To Release Windows 8 ARM Tablets (WOA) Later This Year

Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2012 - 10:35 PM |
Tagged: WOA, windows 8, tablets, nokia, microsoft, arm

Earlier this year we heard talk of several planned Windows On ARM tablets that would run the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, and now more planned tablets have emerged. Asus is planning to release four Windows 8 tablets (two WOA versions), and according to Digitimes, Nokia will be joining the fray with their own WOA tablets.

WinSetup13.PNG

Allegedly, Nokia will launch a 10" ARM tablet powered by Qualcomm's dual core System on a Chip (SoC) processor. The tablet will run the Windows on ARM version of Windows 8, and their sources have expressed that the Nokia tablet will further fuel the mobile tablet market and provide healthy competition for the iPad juggernaut.

Further, according to "sources at upstream component suppliers," Nokia will be outsourcing the manufacturing of their Windows 8 tablet to Compal Electronics. Also, the sources have stated that the first production batch will consist of 200,000 units.

Don't forget to check out our guide on virtualizing Windows 8 to get an idea of how the new interface works. More information on the Windows On ARM front as it develops.

Source: DigiTimes

Intel in the Cloud with Ray-traces

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | March 8, 2012 - 04:02 AM |
Tagged: ray tracing, tablet, tablets, knight's ferry, Intel

Intel looks to bring ray-tracing from their Many Integrated Core (Intel MIC) architecture to your tablet… by remotely streaming from a server loaded with one or more Knight’s Ferry cards.

The anticipation of ray-tracing engulfed almost the entirety of 3D video gaming history. The reasonable support of ray-tracing is very seductive for games as it enables easier access to effects such as global illumination, reflections, and so forth. Ray-tracing is well deserved of its status as a buzzword.

intel-ray.jpg

Render yourself in what Knight’s Ferry delivered… with scaling linearly and ray-traced Wolfenstein

Screenshot from Intel Blogs.

Obviously Intel would love to make headway into the graphics market. In the past Intel has struggled to put forth an acceptable offering for graphics. It is my personal belief that Intel did not take graphics seriously when they were content selling cheap GPUs to be packed in with PCs. While the short term easy money flowed in, the industry slipped far enough ahead of them that they could not just easily pounce back into contention with a single huge R&D check.

Intel obviously cares about graphics now, and has been relentless at their research into the field. Their CPUs are far ahead of any competition in terms of serial performance -- and power consumption is getting plenty of attention itself.

Intel has long ago acknowledged the importance of massively parallel computing but was never quite able to bring products like Larabee against anything the companies they once ignored could retaliate with. This brings us back to ray-tracing: what is the ultimate advantage of ray-tracing?

 

Ray-tracing is a dead simple algorithm.

 

A ray-trace renderer is programmed very simply and elegantly. Effects are often added directly and without much approximation necessary. No hacking around is required in the numerous caveats within graphics APIs in order to get a functional render on screen. If you can keep throwing enough coal on the fire, it will burn without much effort -- so to speak. Intel just needs to put a fast enough processor behind it, and away they go.

Throughout the article, Daniel Pohl has in fact discussed numerous enhancements that they have made to their ray-tracing engine to improve performance. One of the most interesting improvements is their approach to antialiasing. If the rays from two neighboring pixels strike different meshes or strike the same mesh at the point of a sharp change in direction, denoted by color, between pixels then they are flagged for supersampling. The combination of that shortcut with MLAA will also be explored by Intel at some point.

intel-41914.png

A little behind-the-scenes trickery...

Screenshot from Intel Blogs.

Intel claims that they were able to achieve 20-30 FPS at 1024x600 resolutions streaming from a server with a single Knight’s Ferry card installed to an Intel Atom-based tablet. They were able to scale to within a couple percent of theoretical 8x performance with 8 Knight’s Ferry cards installed.

I very much dislike trusting my content to online streaming services as I am an art nut. I value the preservation of content which just is not possible if you are only able to access it through some remote third party -- can you guess my stance on DRM? That aside, I understand that Intel and others will regularly find ways to push content to where there just should not be enough computational horsepower to accept it.

Ray-tracing might be Intel’s attempt to circumvent all of the years of research that they ignored with conventional real-time rendering technologies. Either way, gaming engines are going the way of simpler rendering algorithms as GPUs become more generalized and less reliant on fixed-function hardware assigned to some arbitrary DirectX or OpenGL specification.

Intel just hopes that they can have a compelling product at that destination whenever the rest of the industry arrives.

Source: Intel Blog