Intel's Knights Landing (Xeon Phi, 2015) Details

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | July 2, 2014 - 03:55 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Xeon Phi, xeon, silvermont, 14nm

Anandtech has just published a large editorial detailing Intel's Knights Landing. Mostly, it is stuff that we already knew from previous announcements and leaks, such as one by VR-Zone from last November (which we reported on). Officially, few details were given back then, except that it would be available as either a PCIe-based add-in board or as a socketed, bootable, x86-compatible processor based on the Silvermont architecture. Its many cores, threads, and 512 bit registers are each pretty weak, compared to Haswell, for instance, but combine to about 3 TFLOPs of double precision performance.

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Not enough graphs. Could use another 256...

The best way to imagine it is running a PC with a modern, Silvermont-based Atom processor -- only with up to 288 processors listed in your Task Manager (72 actual cores with quad HyperThreading).

The main limitation of GPUs (and similar coprocessors), however, is memory bandwidth. GDDR5 is often the main bottleneck of compute performance and just about the first thing to be optimized. To compensate, Intel is packaging up-to 16GB of memory (stacked DRAM) on the chip, itself. This RAM is based on "Hybrid Memory Cube" (HMC), developed by Micron Technology, and supported by the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium (HMCC). While the actual memory used in Knights Landing is derived from HMC, it uses a proprietary interface that is customized for Knights Landing. Its bandwidth is rated at around 500GB/s. For comparison, the NVIDIA GeForce Titan Black has 336.4GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Intel and Micron have worked together in the past. In 2006, the two companies formed "IM Flash" to produce the NAND flash for Intel and Crucial SSDs. Crucial is Micron's consumer-facing brand.

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So the vision for Knights Landing seems to be the bridge between CPU-like architectures and GPU-like ones. For compute tasks, GPUs edge out CPUs by crunching through bundles of similar tasks at the same time, across many (hundreds of, thousands of) computing units. The difference with (at least socketed) Xeon Phi processors is that, unlike most GPUs, Intel does not rely upon APIs, such as OpenCL, and drivers to translate a handful of functions into bundles of GPU-specific machine language. Instead, especially if the Xeon Phi is your system's main processor, it will run standard, x86-based software. The software will just run slowly, unless it is capable of vectorizing itself and splitting across multiple threads. Obviously, OpenCL (and other APIs) would make this parallelization easy, by their host/kernel design, but it is apparently not required.

It is a cool way that Intel arrives at the same goal, based on their background. Especially when you mix-and-match Xeons and Xeon Phis on the same computer, it is a push toward heterogeneous computing -- with a lot of specialized threads backing up a handful of strong ones. I just wonder if providing a more-direct method of programming will really help developers finally adopt massively parallel coding practices.

I mean, without even considering GPU compute, how efficient is most software at splitting into even two threads? Four threads? Eight threads? Can this help drive heterogeneous development? Or will this product simply try to appeal to those who are already considering it?

Source: Intel

The renewed FX-9590, still up to 5GHz

Subject: Processors | June 23, 2014 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: amd, fx 9590, vishera

Hardware Canucks have just let out AMD's secret on a new take on a Vishera processor, the FX-9590 which will come with a Cooler Master Seidon 120 AIO LCS which will add $40 to the original $320 price tag.  The base clock of the 8 CPUs will still be 4.7GHz, 5GHz boost buit with the TDP of 219W the watercooler should allow the boost clock to be maintained longer.  If you ever planned on overclocking the FX-9590 but never picked it up because of the challenge of cooling it, then here is your chance.

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"It all started with a tweet. AMD teased an unnamed new FX-series chip on Twitter and we've got the inside track. It's a refreshed 5GHz FX-9590 with an included water cooling unit."

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Qualcomm Focuses on Android Gaming, Snapdragon Benefits to Gamers, Developers

Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 23, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, gaming, Android, adreno

Today Qualcomm has published a 22-page white paper that keys in on the company's focus around Android gaming and the benefits that Qualcomm SoCs offer. As the dominant SoC vendor in the Android ecosystem of smartphones, tablets and handhelds (shipping more than 32% in Q2 of 2013) QC is able to offer a unique combination of solutions to both developers and gamers that push Android gaming into higher fidelity with more robust game play.

According to the white paper, Android gaming is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market with a 30% compound annual growth rate from 2013 to 2015, as projected by Gartner. Experiences for mobile games have drastically improved since Android was released in 2008 with developers like Epic Games and the Unreal Engine pushing visuals to near-console and near-PC qualities. 

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Qualcomm is taking a heterogeneous approach to address the requirements of gaming that include AI execution, physics simulation, animation, low latency input and high speed network connectivity in addition to high quality graphics and 3D rendering. Though not directly a part of the HSA standards still in development, the many specialized engines that Qualcomm has developed for its Snapdragon SoC processors including traditional CPUs, GPUs, DSPs, security and connectivity allow the company to create a solution that is built for Android gaming dominance.

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In the white paper Qualcomm dives into the advantages that the Krait CPU architecture offers for CPU-based tasks as well as the power of the Adreno 4x series of GPUs that offer both raw performance and the flexibility to support current and future gaming APIs. All of this is done with single-digit wattage draw and a passive, fanless design and points to the huge undertaking that mobile gaming requires from an engineering and implementation perspective.

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For developers, the ability to target Snapdragon architectures with a single code path that can address a scalable product stack allows for the least amount of development time and the most return on investment possible. Qualcomm continues to support the development community with tools and assistance to bring out the peak performance of Krait and Adreno to get games running on lower power parts as well as the latest and upcoming generations of SoCs in flagship devices.

It is great to see Qualcomm focus on this aspect of the mobile market and the challenges presented by it require strong dedication from these engineering teams. Being able to create compelling gaming experiences with high quality imagery while maintaining the required power envelope is a task that many other company's have struggled with. 

Check out the new landing page over at Qualcomm if you are interested in more technical information as well as direct access to the white paper detailing the work Qualcomm is putting into its Snapdragon line of SoC for gamers.

Source: Qualcomm

AMD Restructures. Lisa Su Is Now COO.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Chipsets | June 13, 2014 - 06:45 PM |
Tagged: x86, restructure, gpu, arm, APU, amd

According to VR-Zone, AMD has reworked their business, last Thursday, sorting each of their projects into two divisions and moving some executives around. The company is now segmented into the "Enterprise, Embedded, and Semi-Custom Business Group", and the "Computing and Graphics Business Group". The company used to be divided between "Computing Solutions", which handled CPUs, APUs, chipsets, and so forth, "Graphics and Visual Solutions", which is best known for GPUs but also contains console royalties, and "All Other", which was... everything else.

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Lisa Su, former general manger of global business, has moved up to Chief Operating Officer (COO), along with other changes.

This restructure makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, it pairs some unprofitable ventures with other, highly profitable ones. AMD's graphics division has been steadily adding profitability to the company while its CPU division has been mostly losing money. Secondly, "All Other" is about a nebulous as a name can get. Instead of having three unbalanced divisions, one of which makes no sense to someone glancing at AMD's quarterly earnings reports, they should now have two, roughly equal segments.

At the very least, it should look better to an uninformed investor. Someone who does not know the company might look at the sheet and assume that, if AMD divested from everything except graphics, that the company would be profitable. If, you know, they did not know that console contracts came into their graphics division because their compute division had x86 APUs, and so forth. This setup is now more aligned to customers, not products.

Source: VR-Zone

Thinking of swapping Linux for Windows on your new Bay Trail NUC?

Subject: Processors | June 5, 2014 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: baytrail, linux, N2820, ubuntu 14.04, Linux 3.13, Linux 3.15, mesa, nuc

It would seem that installing Linux on your brand new Bay Trail powered NUC will cost you a bit of performance.  The testing Phoronix has performed on Intel NUC DN2820FYKH proves that it can handle running Linux without a hitch, however you will find that your overall graphical performance will dip a bit.  Using MESA 10.3 and both the current 3.13 kernel and the 3.15 development kernel Phoronix saw a small delta in performance between Ubuntu 14.04 and Win 8.1 ... until they hit the OpenGL performance.  As there is still no full OpenGL 4.0+ support there were tests that could not be run and even with the tests that could be there was a very large performance gap.  Do not let this worry you, as they point out in the article there is a dedicated team working on full compliance and you can expect updated results in the near future.

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"A few days ago my benchmarking revealed Windows 8.1 is outperforming Ubuntu Linux with the latest Intel open-source graphics drivers on Haswell hardware. I have since conducted tests on the Celeron N2820 NUC, and sadly, the better OpenGL performance is found with Microsoft's operating system."

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Source: Phoronix

Computex 2014: Cavium Introduces 48 Core ThunderX ARM Processors

Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 4, 2014 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: computex, computex 2014, arm, cavium, thunderx

While much of the news coming from Computex was centered around PC hardware, many of ARMs partners are making waves as well. Take Cavium for example, introducing the ThunderX CN88XX family of processors. With a completely custom ARMv8 architectural core design, the ThunderX processors will range from 24 to 48 cores and are targeted at large volume servers and cloud infrastructure. 48 cores!

The ThunderX family will be the first SoC to scale up to 48 cores and with a clock speed of 2.5 GHz and 16MB of L2 cache, should offer some truly impressive performance levels. Cavium claims to be the first socket-coherent ARM processor as well, using the Cavium Coherent Processor Interconnect. The I/O capacity stretches into the hundreds of Gigabits and quad channel DDR3 and DDR4 memory speeds up to 2.4 GHz keep the processors fed with work.

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Source: Gigaom.com

Here is the breakdown on the ThunderX families.

ThunderX_CP: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, dual socket coherency, multiple 10/40 GbE and high memory bandwidth. This family is optimized for private and public cloud web servers, content delivery, web caching, search and social media workloads.

ThunderX_ST: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, multiple SATAv3 controllers, 10/40 GbE & PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric for east-west as well as north-south traffic connectivity. This family includes hardware accelerators for data protection/ integrity/security, user to user efficient data movement (RoCE) and compressed storage. This family is optimized for Hadoop, block & object storage, distributed file storage and hot/warm/cold storage type workloads.

ThunderX_SC: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, 10/40 GbE connectivity, multiple PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric for east-west as well as north-south traffic connectivity. The hardware accelerators include Cavium’s industry leading, 4th generation NITROX and TurboDPI technology with acceleration for IPSec, SSL, Anti-virus, Anti-malware, firewall and DPI. This family is optimized for Secure Web front-end, security appliances and Cloud RAN type workloads.

ThunderX_NT: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, 10/40/100 GbE connectivity, multiple PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric with feature rich capabilities for bandwidth provisioning , QoS, traffic Shaping and tunnel termination. The hardware accelerators include high packet throughput processing, network virtualization and data monitoring. This family is optimized for media servers, scale-out embedded applications and NFV type workloads.

We spoke with ARM earlier this year about its push into the server market and it is partnerships like these that will begin the ramp up to wide spread adoption of ARM-based server infrastructure. The ThunderX family will begin sampling in early Q4 2014 and production should be available by early 2015. 

Richard Huddy Departs Intel, Rejoins AMD

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | June 3, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: Intel, amd, richard huddy

Interesting news is crossing the ocean today as we learn that Richard Huddy, who has previously had stints at NVIDIA, ATI, AMD and most recently, Intel, is teaming up with AMD once again. Richard brings with him years of experience and innovation in the world of developer relations and graphics technology. Often called "the Godfather" of DirectX, AMD wants to prove to the community it is taking PC gaming seriously.

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The official statement from AMD follows:

AMD is proud to announce the return of the well-respected authority in gaming, Richard Huddy. After three years away from AMD, Richard returns as AMD's Gaming Scientist in the Office of the CTO - he'll be serving as a senior advisor to key technology executives, like Mark Papermaster, Raja Koduri and Joe Macri. AMD is extremely excited to have such an industry visionary back. Having spent his professional career with companies like NVIDIA, Intel and ATI, and having led the worldwide ISV engineering team for over six years at AMD, Mr. Huddy has a truly unique perspective on the PC and Gaming industries.

Mr. Huddy rejoins AMD after a brief stint at Intel, where he had a major impact on their graphics roadmap.  During his career Richard has made enormous contributions to the industry, including the development of DirectX and a wide range of visual effects technologies.  Mr. Huddy’s contributions in gaming have been so significant that he was immortalized as ‘The Scientist’ in Max Payne (if you’re a gamer, you’ll see the resemblance immediately). 

Kitguru has a video from Richard Huddy explaining his reasoning for the move back to AMD.

Source: Kitguru.net

This move points AMD in a very interesting direction going forward. The creation of the Mantle API and the debate around AMD's developer relations programs are going to be hot topics as we move into the summer and I am curious how quickly Huddy thinks he can have an impact.

I have it on good authority we will find out very soon.

Computex 2014: Intel Officially Releases Devil's Canyon, Core i7-4790K

Subject: Processors | June 3, 2014 - 02:30 AM |
Tagged: Intel, i7-4790k, devil's canyon, computex 2014, computex, 4790k

Back in March, we learned from Intel that they were planning to release a new Haswell refresh processor targeted at the overclocking and gaming market, code named Devil's Canyon. As we noted then, this new version of the existing processors will include new CPU packaging and the oft-requested improved thermal interface material (TIM). What wasn't known were the final clock speeds and availability time lines.

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The new Core i7-4790K processor will ship with a 4.0 GHz base clock with a maximum Turbo clock rate of 4.4 GHz! That is a 500 MHz increase in base clock speed over the Core i7-4770K and should result in a substantial (~10-15%) performance increase. The processor still supports HyperThreading for a total of 8 threads and is fully unlocked for even more clock speed improvements.

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All of the other specifications remain the same - HD Graphics 4600, 8MB of L3 cache, 16 lanes of PCI Express, etc.

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Intel spent some time on the Devil's Canyon Haswell processors to improve the packaging and thermals for overclockers and enthusiasts. The thermal interface material (TIM) that is between the top of the die and the heat spreader has been updated to a next-generation polymer TIM (NGPTIM). The change should improve cooling performance of all currently shipping cooling solutions (air or liquid) but it is still a question just HOW MUCH this change will actually matter. 

You can also tell from the photo comparison above that Intel has added capacitors to the back of the processor to "smooth" power delivery. This, combined with the NGPTIM should enable a bit more headroom for clock speeds with the Core i7-4790K.

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In fact, there are two Devil's Canyon processors being launched this month. The Core i7-4790K will sell for $339, the same price as the Core i7-4770K, while the Core i5-4690K will sell for $242. The lower end option is a 3.5 GHz base clock, 3.9 GHz Turbo clock quad-core CPU without HyperThreading. While a nice step over the Core i5-4670K, it's only 100 MHz faster. Clearly the Core i7-4790K is the part everyone is going to be scrambling to buy.

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Not to be left out, Intel is offering an unlocked Pentium processor for users on a tighter budget. This dual core CPU runs at 3.2 GHz base frequency and includes not just HD Graphics but support for QuickSync video. 

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At just $72, the Pentium G3258 will likely be a great choice for gamers that lean towards builds like the one we made for the Titanfall release.

I was hoping to have a processor in hand to run benchmarks and overclocking testing on, but they haven't quite made it to the office yet. The 4.0 GHz clock speed is easily emulated by any 4770K and some BIOS tweaks but the additional overclocking headroom provided by the changed thermal interface is still in question. Honestly, based on conversations with motherboard vendors, Devil's Canyon headroom is only 100-200 MHz over the base Haswell parts, so don't expect to reach 6.0 GHz all of the sudden.

Later in the week we'll have the Core i7-4790K in hand and you can expect a full review shortly thereafter.

Intel Announces Partnership with Rockchip to Produce Low-Cost x86 Atom SoC

Subject: Processors | May 28, 2014 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: tablet, SoC, Rockchip, mobile, Intel, atom, arm, Android

While details about upcoming Haswell-E processors were reportedly leaking out, an official announcement from Intel was made on Tuesday about another CPU product - and this one isn't a high-end desktop part. The chip giant is partnering with the fabless semiconductor manufacturer Rockchip to create a low-cost SoC for Android devices under the Intel name, reportedly fabricated at TSMC.

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We saw almost exactly the opposite of this arrangement last October, when it was announced that Altera would be using Intel to fab ARMv8 chips. Try to digest this: Instead of Intel agreeing to manufacture another company's chip with ARM's architecture in their fabs, they are going through what is said to be China's #1 tablet SoC manufacturer to produce x86 chips...at TSMC? It's a small - no, a strange world we live in!

From Intel's press release: "Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will deliver an Intel-branded mobile SoC platform. The quad-core platform will be based on an Intel® Atom™ processor core integrated with Intel's 3G modem technology."

As this upcoming x86 SoC is aimed at entry-level Android tablets this announcement might not seem to be exciting news at first glance, but it fills a short term need for Intel in their quest for market penetration in the ultramobile space dominated by ARM-based SoCs. The likes of Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, TI, and others (including Rockchip's RK series) currently account for 90% of the market, all using ARM.

As previously noted, this partnership is very interesting from an industry standpoint, as Intel is sharing their Atom IP with Rockchip to make this happen. Though if you think back, the move is isn't unprecedented... I recall something about a little company called Advanced Micro Devices that produced x86 chips for Intel in the past, and everything seemed to work out OK there...

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When might we expect these new products in the Intel chip lineup codenamed SoFIA? Intel states "the dual-core 3G version (is) expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year, the quad-core 3G version...expected to ship in the first half of 2015, and the LTE version, also due in the first half of next year." And again, this SoC will only be available in low-cost Android tablets under this partnership (though we might speculate on, say, an x86 SoC powered Surface or Ultrabook in the future?).

Source: Intel

Rumor: New Intel Core i7 Haswell-E Processor Specs Allegedly Leaked

Subject: Processors | May 27, 2014 - 06:58 PM |
Tagged: X99, rumors, octocore, lga2011, Intel, Haswell-E, cpu

As with any high-profile release there have been rumors circulating around Intel's upcoming high-end desktop processors for the X99 chipset, and a report today from Chinese site Coolaler claims to have the specs on these new Haswell-E CPU's.

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The alleged Haswell-E lineup

Of particular interest are the core counts, which appear to have been increased compared to the current Ivy Bridge-E products. The lineup will reportedly include a 6-core i7-5820K, 6-core i7-5930K, and 8-core i7-5960X. Yep, not only are we looking at an octo-core desktop part but now even the "entry-level" Extreme part might have 6 cores.

Nothing wrong with more cores (and this will be especially attractive if we see the same MSRP's as Ivy Bridge-E) but there might be one caveat with the i7-5820K, as the reported specs show fewer PCIe lanes on this CPU with 28, compared to the 40 lanes found on the higher Haswell-E parts (and all current Ivy-Bridge-E parts).

Haswell-E would still provide more lanes than the current desktop i7 parts (an i7-4770K has only 16), but the disparity would create an interesting quandary for a potential adopter. Though x8 connections for multi-GPU setups is par for the course already on non-X79 desktop systems, the SATA Express and M.2 standards will put more of a premium on PCIe lane allocation for storage going forward.

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An alleged CPU-Z screenshot of an 8-core i7-5960X part

Of course no official word from Intel on the matter yet, and only speculation on pricing. This is completely unsubstantiated, but is certainly of interest - particularly as hex-core i7's previously commanded the pricing of a more premium part in each prior iteration.

Source: Coolaler

Reuters: Intel CEO says Broadwell PCs for sale by holidays

Subject: Processors | May 19, 2014 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell, z97, krzanich

Apparently attending Maker Faire gets you more than a look at the latest hacked gadgets produced by the community. Reuters got to talk with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich who confirmed that the company's upcoming Broadwell architecture processors using the new 14nm process technology would be on store shelves in time for the holidays.

"I can guarantee for holiday, and not at the last second of holiday," Krzanich said in an interview. "Back to school - that's a tight one. Back to school you have to really have it on-shelf in July, August. That's going to be tough."

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Dissecting that comment we can assume that Broadwell will likely be made available in September or October of this year. This becomes the most precise word from the mouth of Intel about the release of these new parts but of course there wasn't much detail to be had. Though "computers" was mentioned he did not specify notebooks, all-in-ones or desktops. And more importantly for our readers, he did not specify anything about the socketed parts we have been promised would run on the newly released Intel Z97 chipset.

Source: Reuters

Xiaomi MiPad Tablet is Tegra K1 Powered

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | May 15, 2014 - 05:02 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, xaiomi, mipad, tegra k1

Tegra K1 is NVIDIA's new mobile processor and this first to implement the Kepler graphics architecture. In other words, it has all of the same graphics functionality as a desktop GPU with 364 GigaFLOPs of performance (a little faster than a GeForce 9600 GT). This is quite fast for a mobile product. For instance, that amount of graphics performance could max out Unreal Tournament 3 to 2560x1600 and run Crysis at 720p. Being Kepler, it supports OpenGL 4.4, OpenGL ES 3.1, DirectX 11 and 12, and GPU compute languages.

Xiaomi is launching their MiPad in Beijing, today, with an 8-inch 2048x1536 screen and the Tegra K1. They will be available in June (for China) starting at $240 USD for the 16GB version and going up to $270 for the 64GB version. Each version has 2GB of RAM, an 8MP rear-facing camera, and a 5MP front camera.

Now, we wait and see if any Tegra K1 devices come to North America and Europe - especially at that price point.

Source: NVIDIA

AMD Allegedly Preparing New Mobile Kaveri APUs Including the Flagship FX-7600P

Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 11, 2014 - 11:41 PM |
Tagged: ulv, mobile apu, laptop, Kaveri, APU, amd

According to leaked information, AMD will allegedly be releasing mobile versions of its Kaveri APU later this year. There are reportedly seven new processors aimed at laptops and tablet that follow the same basic design as their desktop counterparts: steamroller CPU cores paired with a GCN-based graphics portion and an integrated memory controller.

According to information obtained by WCCF Tech, AMD will release four ULV and three standard voltage parts. All but one APU will have four Steamroller CPU cores paired with an Radeon R4, R5, R6, or R7 graphics processor with up to 512 GCN cores. The mobile APUs allegedly range in TDP from 17W to 35W and support various AMD technologies including TrueAudio, Mantle, and Eyefinity.

An AMD slide showing a die shot of the desktop "Kaveri" Accelerated Processing Unit (APU).

Of the seven rumored APUs, two of them are OEM-only parts that feature the “FX” moniker. The FX-7500 is the fastest ULV (ultra-low voltage) APU while the FX-7600P is AMD’s flagship mobile processor.

The FX-7600P is the chip that should most interest mobile gamers and enthusiasts looking for a powerful AMD-powered laptop or tablet. This processor allegedly features four CPU cores clocked at 2.7GHz base (that turbo to a maximum of 3.6GHz), a GPU with 512 GCN cores clocked at a base of 600MHz and a boost clock of 666MHz. The chip further uses 4MB of L2 cache and is a 35W TDP part. This should be a decent processor for laptops, offering acceptable general performance and some nice mobile gaming with the beefy integrated GPU!

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The leaked AMD mobile Kaveri APU lineup via WCCF Tech.

Of course, for productivity machines where portability and battery life are bigger concerns, AMD will reportedly be offering up the dual core A6-7000. This 17W ULV processor combines two cores clocked at 2.2GHz (3.0GHz boost), a GPU based on the Radeon R4 with 192 GCN cores (494MHz base and 533MHz boost), and 2MB of L2 cache. Compared to the FX-7600P (and especially the desktop parts), the A6-7000 sips power. We will have to wait for reviews to see how it performs, but it will be facing stiff competition from Intel’s Core i3 Haswell CPUs and even the Bay Trail SoCs which come in at a lower TDP and offer higher thread counts. The GPU capabilities and GPGPU / HSA software advancements (such as LibreOffice adding GPGPU support) will make or break the A6-7000, in my opinion.

In all, the leaked mobile chips appear to be a decent upgrade over the previous generation. The new mobile APUs will bring incremental performance and power saving benefits to bear against competition from Intel. I’m looking forward to more official information and seeing what the OEMs are able to do with the new chips.

Source: WCCF Tech

AMD Shows Off ARM-Based Opteron A1100 Server Processor And Reference Motherboard

Subject: Processors | May 8, 2014 - 12:26 AM |
Tagged: TrustZone, server, seattle, PCI-E 3.0, opteron a1100, opteron, linux, Fedora, ddr4, ARMv8, arm, amd, 64-bit

AMD showed off its first ARM-based “Seattle” processor running on a reference platform motherboard at an event in San Francisco earlier this week. The new chip, which began sampling in March, is slated for general availability in Q4 2014. The “Seattle” processor will be officially labeled the AMD Opteron A1100.

During the press event, AMD demonstrated the Opteron A1100 running on a reference design motherboard (the Seattle Development Platform). The hardware was used to drive a LAMP software stack including an ARM optimized version of Linux based on RHEL, Apache 2.4.6, MySQL 5.5.35, and PHP 5.4.16. The server was then used to host a WordPress blog that included stream-able video.

AMD Seattle Development Platform Opteron A1100.jpg

Of course, the hardware itself is the new and interesting bit and thanks to the event we now have quite a few details to share.

The Opteron A1100 features eight ARM Cortex-A57 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz (or higher). AMD has further packed in an integrated memory controller, TrustZone encryption hardware, and floating point and NEON video acceleration hardware. Like a true SoC, the Opteron A1100 supports 8 lanes of PCI-E 3.0, eight SATA III 6Gbps ports, and two 10GbE network connections.

The Seattle processor has a total of 4MB of L2 cache (each pair of cores shares 1MB of L2) and 8MB L3 cache that all eight cores share. The integrated memory controller supports DDR3 and DDR4 memory in SO-DIMM, unbuffered DIMM, and registered ECC RDIMM forms (only one type per motherboard) enabling the ARM-based platform to be used in a wide range of server environments (enterprise, SMB, and home servers et al).

AMD has stated that the upcoming Opteron A1100 processor delivers between two and four times the performance of the existing Opteron X series (which uses four x86 Jaguar cores clocked at 1.9 GHz). The A1100 has a 25W TDP and is manufactured by Global Foundries. Despite the slight increase in TDP versus the Opteron X series (the Opteron X2150 is a 22W part), AMD claims the increased performance results in notable improvements in compute/watt performance.

AMD Opteron Server Processor.png

AMD has engineered a reference motherboard though partners will also be able to provide customized solutions. The combination of reference motherboard and ARM-based Opteron A1100 is known at the Seattle Development Platform. This reference motherboard features four registered DDR3 DIMM slots for up to 128GB of memory, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, support for standard ATX power supplies, and multiple PCI-E connectors that can be configured to run as a single PCI-E 3.0 x8 slot or two PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots.

The Opteron A1100 is an interesting move from AMD that will target low power servers. the ARM-based server chip has an uphill battle in challenging x86-64 in this space, but the SoC does have several advantages in terms of compute performance per watt and overall cost. AMD has taken the SoC elements (integrated IO, memory, companion processor hardware) of the Opteron X series and its APUs in general, removed the graphics portion, and crammed in as many low power 64-bit ARM cores as possible. This configuration will have advantages over the Opteron X CPU+GPU APU when running applications that use multiple serial threads and can take advantage of large amounts of memory per node (up to 128GB). The A1100 should excel in serving up files and web pages or acting as a caching server where data can be held in memory for fast access.

I am looking forward to the launch as the 64-bit ARM architecture makes its first major inroads into the server market. The benchmarks, and ultimately software stack support, will determine how well it is received and if it ends up being a successful product for AMD, but at the very least it keeps Intel on its toes and offers up an alternative and competitive option.

Source: Tech Report

Also at Intel and Google's Chrome OS Event: Human Rights

Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 7, 2014 - 03:06 AM |
Tagged: conflict-free, Intel, Congo

The Intel and Google keynote speech closed out with a video and an announcement. Each Chrome OS device that they mentioned will be among the first to use Haswell and Bay Trail processors manufactured with conflict-free minerals. They are not abandoning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rather they seem to be forcing their suppliers to adhere to human rights standards if they want to do business with Intel.

This initiative has apparently led to the creation of the "Conflict-Free Smelter Program" which is run by the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative. This industry body includes several other companies, such as AMD, Apple, Foxconn, IBM, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Pegatron, Qualcomm, every laptop manufacturer that I could think of, and over 150 others.

Intel has been discussing this for a little while, and taking positive steps toward this goal along the way. There really is not that many other ways to say it: reducing the suffering in the world is a great goal.

Source: Intel

Intel Leaks: Skylake and 100-Series Chipsets Expected 2015

Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 6, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, Broadwell

VR-Zone is returning to their "leak everything Intel has" gig with a few light details about Skylake, the architecture after Broadwell, and its accompanying 100-Series chipset. The main detail is that Skylake, despite Broadwell and its delays, is still expected for 2015. This sort of makes sense, because this architecture runs on the same 14nm fabrication process as Broadwell, but it is surprising nonetheless. Intel could have slowed down its entire release cycle to compensate for how difficult it is to make smaller transistors and keep a steady "Tick-Tock".

Or maybe they hope that the process shrink after Skylake, Cannonlake at 10nm, will be on schedule?

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Image Credit: VR-Zone

The second major detail is the available sockets. A couple of years ago, there was a fear that Intel would drop LGA sockets, starting with Broadwell, and switch entirely to the non-replaceable BGA soldered-to-the-motherboard format. Intel has later decided to support LGA with Broadwell and that will continue with Skylake.

This leads us to the third major detail - product categories. There will be four of them in the consumer range: H (BGA) for regular notebooks, Y (BGA) for desktops and all-in-ones, U (BGA) for ultrabooks, and S (LGA) for standard desktop computers. The slide lists a few more details which I believe signify core count and GPU version. If so, the lineup of Skylake processors would be the following:

  • (BGA) Quad Core Skylake-H with GT2 Graphics
  • (BGA) Quad Core Skylake-H with GT4e Graphics, the successor to Iris Pro.
  • (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-Y with GT2 Graphics
  • (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-U with GT2 Graphics
  • (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-U with GT3e Iris Pro Graphics
  • (LGA) Quad Core Skylake-S with GT2 Graphics
  • (LGA) Dual Core Skylake-S with GT2 Graphics
  • (LGA) Quad Core Skylake-S with GT4e Graphics, the successor to Iris Pro.

The inclusion of an enthusiast, LGA SKU with GT4e graphics is promising, especially for us. We, of course, continue to want products that we can, you know, buy and put into our desktops at will. It will certainly be interesting to see how these GPUs perform and it could lead to some healthy SteamOS builds.

There's a lot of information here. Expect us to chew on this over the next little while.

Source: VR-Zone

ARM Claims x86 Android Binary Translation on Intel SoC Hurting Efficiency

Subject: Processors, Mobile | April 30, 2014 - 07:06 PM |
Tagged: Intel, clover trail, Bay Trail, arm, Android

While we are still waiting for those mysterious Intel Bay Trail based Android tablets to find their way into our hands, we met with ARM today to discuss quite few varying topics. One of them centered around the cost of binary translation - the requirement to convert application code compiled for one architecture and running it after conversion on a different architecture. In this case, running native ARMv7 Android applications on an x86 platform like Bay Trail from Intel.

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Based on results presented by ARM, so take everything here in that light, more than 50% of the top 250 applications in the Android Play Store require binary translation to run. 23-30% have been compiled to x86 natively, 20-21% run through Dalvik and the rest have more severe compatibility concerns. That paints a picture of the current state of Android apps and the environment in which Intel is working while attempting to release Android tablets this spring.

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Performance of these binary translated applications will be lower than they would be natively, as you would expect, but to what degree? These results, again gathered by ARM, show a 20-40% performance drop in games like Riptide GP2 and Minecraft while also increasing "jank" - a measure of smoothness and stutter found with variances in frame rates. These are applications that exist in a native mode but were tricked into running through binary conversion as well. The insinuation is that we can now forecast what the performance penalty is for applications that don't have a natively compiled version and are forced to run in translation mode.

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The result of this is lower battery life as it requires the CPU to draw more power to keep the experience close to nominal. While gaming on battery, which most people do with items like the Galaxy Tab 3 used for testing, a 20-35% decrease in game time will hurt Intel's ability to stand up to the best ARM designs on the market.

Other downsides to this binary translation include longer load times for applications, lower frame rates and longer execution time. Of course, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is based on Intel's Atom Z2560 SoC, a somewhat older Clover Trail+ design. That is the most modern currently available Android platform from Intel as we are still awaiting Bay Trail units. This also explains why ARM did not do any direct performance comparisons to any devices from its partners. All of these results were comparing Intel in its two execution modes: native and translated.

Without a platform based on Bay Trail to look at and test, we of course have to use the results that ARM presented as a placeholder at best. It is possible that Intel's performance is high enough with Silvermont that it makes up for these binary translation headaches for as long as necessary to see x86 more ubiquitous. And in fairness, we have seen many demonstrations from Intel directly that show the advantage of performance and power efficiency going in the other direction - in Intel's favor. This kind of debate requires some more in-person analysis with hardware in our hands soon and with a larger collection of popular applications.

More from our visit with ARM soon!

The Health of Intel's Many Divisions...

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | April 16, 2014 - 08:40 PM |
Tagged: Intel, silvermont, arm, quarterly earnings, quarterly results

Sean Hollister at The Verge reported on Intel's recent quarterly report. Their chosen headline focuses on the significant losses incurred from the Mobile and Communications Group, the division responsible for tablet SoCs and 3G/4G modems. Its revenue dropped 52%, since last quarter, and its losses increased about 6%. Intel is still making plenty of money, with $12.291 billion USD in profits for 2013, but that is in spite of Mobile and Communications losing $3.148 billion over the same time.

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Intel did have some wins, however. The Internet of Things Group is quite profitable, with $123 million USD of income from $482 million of revenue. They also had a better March quarter than the prior year, up a few hundred million in both revenue and profits. Also, Mobile and Communications should have a positive impact on the rest of the company. The Silvermont architecture, for instance, will eventually form the basis for 2015's Xeon Phi processors and co-processors.

It is concerning that Internet of Things has over twice the sales of Mobile but I hesitate to make any judgments. From my position, it is very difficult to see whether or not this trend follows Intel's projections. We simply do not know whether the division, time and time again, fails to meet expectations or whether Intel is just intentionally being very aggressive to position itself better in the future. I would shrug off the latter but, obviously, the former would be a serious concern.

The best thing for us to do is to keep an eye on their upcoming roadmaps and compare them to early projections.

Source: The Verge

Refreshed Intel Haswell Processors Coming Next Month For Desktop and Mobile

Subject: Processors | April 15, 2014 - 12:09 AM |
Tagged: z97, Intel, i7-4790, haswell refresh, haswell, h97

Intel is releasing a refreshed lineup of processors based on its latest generation “Haswell” micro-architecture. The new lineup is comprised of 27 new desktop processors and 17 new mobile CPUs (44 in total). The new chips will displace the existing Haswell processors at their existing price points with small clockspeed increases.

On the desktop side of things, the Haswell Refresh lineup includes four new Core i7, ten Core i5, five Core i3, five Pentium, and three Celeron processors. The new chips come in both standard and (multiple) lower-TDP variants. At the top end, Intel is introducing a new non-K part called the Intel Core i7 4790 which is a quad core (eight thread) processor clocked at 3.6 GHz with 8MB of L3 cache. The new CPU also comes in 65W i7-4790S (3.2 GHz) and 45W i7-4790T (2.7 GHz). The new desktop parts range in tray price from $45 to $303.

Intel Haswell Refresh Desktop and Mobile Processor CPU Lineup.png

Additionally, Intel is updating its mobile lineup by introducing 17 new chips. The refreshed lineup includes six Core i7s, four Core i5s, five Core i3s, one Pentium, and one Celeron CPU. The mobile parts range in tray price from $75 to $434. Like the desktop range, the mobile chips come in multiple low power TDP SKUs. Five of the new chips are quad cores while the rest are dual cores.

Intel’s new refreshed Haswell processors are reportedly coming early next month as part of the "Haswell Refresh Platform." The chips will fully support motherboards based on Intel’s upcoming LGA 1150 9-series chipsets, and the various motherboard manufactures appear to be hard at work getting their lineups ready. As a result, enthusiasts can expect to see the new chips and motherboards (using the H97 and Z97 chipsets) on store shelves soon.

If you have not already bought into Haswell, the refreshed lineup is worth waiting for.  if you are already running a Haswell-based system, upgrading to a refreshed Haswell CPU and H97 or Z97 motherboard makes much less sense. Instead, you should ride it out until Sky Lake or at least Broadwell (upgrade itch permitting, of course).

Testing Kabini on Linux

Subject: Processors | April 14, 2014 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: Kabini, linux, Athlon 5350, Athlon 5150, Sempron 3850, Semprov 2650, amd, athlon, sempron

An easy way to trim the cost of a lower end system is to skip Windows and install Linux, along with picking a less expensive AMD chip to power your system.  AMD has recently gifted us with new Kabini based Sempron and Athlon chips, the most expensive of which is available for less that $70.  For testing Phoronix used Ubuntu 14.04, the 3.14 kernel and Mesa 10.2 along with the Radeon 7.3.99 driver.  You will be glad to know that there were no compatibility problems with Linux whatsoever, all CPUs performed more or less as expected as you can see for yourself in the full review.

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"It's been a busy past few days since AMD launched their "AM1" Socketed Kabini APUs. After the initial Athlon 5350 Linux review on launch-day, I did some tests involving a faster kernel and newer Mesa code along with some reference DDR3 memory scaling benchmarks for these APUs with Jaguar processor cores. Since then the Athlon 5150 and Sempron 3850/2650 APUs arrived."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: Phoronix