ARM Claims x86 Android Binary Translation on Intel SoC Hurting Efficiency

Subject: Processors, Mobile | April 30, 2014 - 04:06 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 - 05:40 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 14, 2014 - 09:09 PM |
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 - 12:22 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."

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Source: Phoronix

AMD Kabini Chips Now Available At Retail

Subject: Processors | April 10, 2014 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: sempron, Kabini, Athlon 5350, athlon, amd, AM1

AMD has officially announced its socketed Kabini chips and the AM1 platform. Information on the chips and motherboards have been slowly trickling out since CES, but now they are finally official and available for purchase at retail.

Specifically, AMD has launched four desktop Kabini processors under the Athlon and Sempron brands. In addition ASRock, ASUS, Biostar, ECS, Gigabyte, and MSI all have AM1 platform motherboards ready to accept the new AMD chips. The motherboards come in mini ITX and micro ATX form factors.

The AMD Athlon 5350 SoC Installed in the ASUS AM1I-A motherboard which was used in our full Kabini review.

All four of the AMD chips have 25W TDPs and integrated GPUs with 128 stream processors. The Kabini chips support four PCI-E 2.0 lanes, two SATA III 6 Gbps ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and eight USB 2.0 ports. Motherboard permitting, the Kabini GPU supports up to three display outputs (HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA). The chips differ by CPU and GPU clockspeeds, core count, and DDR3 memory frequency support. On the low end, the $34 (MSRP) Sempron 2650 is a dual core part clocked at 1.45 GHz with a GPU clocked that 400 MHz that supports a maximum memory clockspeed of 1333 MHz. The top-end Athlon 5350 is a quad core processor clocked at 2.05 GHz with a GPU clocked at 600 MHz and supports DDR3 1600 MHz. This chips has a $59 MSRP. The desktop chips are similar to their mobile counterparts, with slight differences in clockspeed and (of course) price and the socketed implementation.

Processor TDP CPU L2 Cache GPU Maximum Memory Speed Price
Athlon 5350 25W 4 cores @ 2.05 GHz 2MB 128 SPs @ 600 MHz 1600 MHz $59
Athlon 5150 25W 4 cores @ 1.6 GHz 2MB 128 SPs @ 600 MHz 1600 MHz $49
Sempron 3850 25W 4 cores @ 1.3 GHz 2MB 128 SPs @ 450 MHz 1600 MHz $39
Sempron 2650 25W 2 cores @ 1.45 GHz 1MB 128 SPs @ 400 MHz 1333 MHz $34

The motherboards for the new Kabini processors will come in mini ITX and micro ATX. We previously covered AM1 platform boards from ASRock, Biostar, and MSI. In general, the boards offer up most of the standard IO and other functionality that enthusiasts are used to from existing AMD motherboards including multiple display outputs, networking, audio, and a plethora of USB ports on the rear IO panel and SATA ports, PCI Express slot(s), and two DDR3 DIMM slots internally. Interestingly, the boards are fairly bare and free from chipsets because the IO is included in the processor itself. This enables motherboards that are notably cheaper than, say, FM2+ and AM3 boards.

When AMD first launched the AM1 platform, the company stated that a combination of a Kabini chip and FS1b-socketed motherboard would add up to about $60. Now that the platform is official, retail prices are starting to pop up. With the Kabini processors and motherboards each ranging from around $30 to $60, AMD has technically hit that mark. Adding a hard drive, RAM, and enclosure will get you a baisc and complete system for less than $150.

AMD's Kabini chips are set to compete against Intel's Bay Trail-D processor which comes pre-soldered onto motherboards. The AM1 platform does look to be the slightly cheaper option that also gives users the choice of motherboard and the possibility of upgrading to soecketed Beema (Kabini's successor) SoCs.

If you are interested in desktop Kabini, be sure to check out our full review of the AMD Athlon 5350 at PC Perspective!

Source: Tech Report

NAB 2014: Intel Iris Pro Support in Adobe Creative Cloud (CC)

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: Intel, NAB, NAB 14, iris pro, Adobe, premiere pro, Adobe CC

When Adobe started to GPU-accelerate their applications beyond OpenGL, it started with NVIDIA and its CUDA platform. After some period of time, they started to integrate OpenCL support and bring AMD into the fold. At first, it was limited to a couple of Apple laptops but has since expanded to include several GPUs on both OSX and Windows. Since then, Adobe switched to a subscription-based release system and has published updates on a more rapid schedule. The next update of Adobe Premiere Pro CC will bring OpenCL to Intel Iris Pro iGPUs.

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Of course, they specifically mentioned Adobe Premiere Pro CC which suggests that Photoshop CC users might be coming later. The press release does suggest that the update will affect both Mac and Windows versions of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, however, so at least platforms will not be divided. Well, that is, if you find a Windows machine with Iris Pro graphics. They do exist...

A release date has not been announced for this software upgrade.

Source: Intel

GDC 2014: Shader-limited Optimization for AMD's GCN

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | March 29, 2014 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: gdc 14, GDC, GCN, amd

While Mantle and DirectX 12 are designed to reduce overhead and keep GPUs loaded, the conversation shifts when you are limited by shader throughput. Modern graphics processors are dominated by sometimes thousands of compute cores. Video drivers are complex packages of software. One of their many tasks is converting your scripts, known as shaders, into machine code for its hardware. If this machine code is efficient, it could mean drastically higher frame rates, especially at extreme resolutions and intense quality settings.

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Emil Persson of Avalanche Studios, probably known best for the Just Cause franchise, published his slides and speech on optimizing shaders. His talk focuses on AMD's GCN architecture, due to its existence in both console and PC, while bringing up older GPUs for examples. Yes, he has many snippets of GPU assembly code.

AMD's GCN architecture is actually quite interesting, especially dissected as it was in the presentation. It is simpler than its ancestors and much more CPU-like, with resources mapped to memory (and caches of said memory) rather than "slots" (although drivers and APIs often pretend those relics still exist) and with how vectors are mostly treated as collections of scalars, and so forth. Tricks which attempt to combine instructions together into vectors, such as using dot products, can just put irrelevant restrictions on the compiler and optimizer... as it breaks down those vector operations into those very same component-by-component ops that you thought you were avoiding.

Basically, and it makes sense coming from GDC, this talk rarely glosses over points. It goes over execution speed of one individual op compared to another, at various precisions, and which to avoid (protip: integer divide). Also, fused multiply-add is awesome.

I know I learned.

As a final note, this returns to the discussions we had prior to the launch of the next generation consoles. Developers are learning how to make their shader code much more efficient on GCN and that could easily translate to leading PC titles. Especially with DirectX 12 and Mantle, which lightens the CPU-based bottlenecks, learning how to do more work per FLOP addresses the other side. Everyone was looking at Mantle as AMD's play for success through harnessing console mindshare (and in terms of Intel vs AMD, it might help). But honestly, I believe that it will be trends like this presentation which prove more significant... even if behind-the-scenes. Of course developers were always having these discussions, but now console developers will probably be talking about only one architecture - that is a lot of people talking about very few things.

This is not really reducing overhead; this is teaching people how to do more work with less, especially in situations (high resolutions with complex shaders) where the GPU is most relevant.

Taking the A10-7850K out for a spin and leaving marks on the bench

Subject: Processors | March 27, 2014 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: Kaveri, APU, amd, A10-7850K

It is about time we took a look at AMD's new flagship processor, the A10-7850K Kaveri chip running at 3.7GHz or 4GHz at full boost with 4 Steamroller CPU cores and 8 Hawaii GPU cores.  While we are still shy on HSA benchmarks at the moment, HiTech Legion did have a chance to do some Mantle testing with the APU alone and paired with a discrete GPU which showed off some of the benefits on Mantle.  They also reached a decent overclock, a hair shy of 4.5GHz on air which is not too shabby for a processor that costs under $200.  Check out the full review here.

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"AMD has launched their fourth generation of APU, codenamed “Kaveri”. Kaveri boasts increased processor power coupled with advanced Radeon graphics but there are other technologies, such as HSA, that balance memory loads via “compute” to both the CPU and GPU."

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Intel Devil's Canyon Offers Haswell with Improved TIM, 9-series Chipsets

Subject: Processors | March 19, 2014 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: tim, Intel, hawell, gdc 14, GDC, 9-series

An update to the existing Haswell 4th Generation Core processors will be hitting retail sometime in mid-2014 according to what Intel has just told us. This new version of the existing processors will include new CPU packaging and the oft-requested improved thermal interface material (TIM).  Overclockers have frequently claimed that the changes Intel made to the TIM was limiting performance; it seems Intel has listened to the community and will be updating some parts accordingly.

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Recent leaks have indicated we'll see modest frequency increases in some of the K-series parts; in the 100 MHz range.  All Intel is saying today though is what you see on that slide. Overclocks should improve with the new thermal interface material but by how much isn't yet known.

These new processors, under the platform code name of Devil's Canyon, will target the upcoming 9-series chipsets.  When I asked about support for 8-series chipset users, Intel would only say that those motherboards "are not targeted" for the refreshed Haswell CPUs.  I would not be surprised though to see some motherboard manufacturers attempt to find ways to integrate board support through BIOS/UEFI changes.

Though only slight refreshes, when we combine the Haswell Devil's Canyon release with the news about the X99 + Haswell-E, it appears that 2014 is shaping up to be pretty interesting for the enthusiast community!

GDC 14: Intel Ready Mode offers low power, always connected desktops

Subject: Processors, Systems | March 19, 2014 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: ready mode, Intel, gdc 14, GDC

Intel Ready Mode is a new technology that looks to offer some of the features of connected standby for desktop and all-in-one PCs while using new power states of the Haswell architecture to keep power consumption incredibly low.  By combining a 4th Generation Core processor from Intel, a properly implemented motherboard and platform with new Intel or OEM software, users can access the data on their system or push data to their system without "waking up" the machine.

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This feature is partially enabled by the C7 state added to the Haswell architecture with the 4th Generation Core processors but could require motherboard and platform providers to update implementations to properly support the incredibly low idle power consumption.  

To be clear, this is not a desktop implementation of Microsoft Instant Go (Connected Standby) but instead is a unique and more flexible implementation.  While MS Instant Go only works on Windows 8 and with Metro applications, Intel Ready Mode will work with Windows 7 and Windows 8 and actually keeps the machine awake and active, just at a very low power level.  This allows users to not only make sure their software is always up to date and ready when they want to use the PC but enabled access to a remote PC from a remote location - all while in this low power state.

How low?  Well Intel has a note on its slide that mentions Fujitsu launched a feature called Low Power Active Mode in 2013 that was able to hit 5 watts when leveraging the Intel guidelines. You can essentially consider this an incredibly low power "awake" state for Intel PCs.

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Intel offers up some suggested usage models for Ready Mode and I will be interested to see what OEMs integrate support for this technology and if DIY users will be able to take advantage of it as well. Lenovo, ASUS, Acer, ECS, HP and Fujitsu are supporting it this year.

Intel Confirms Haswell-E, 8-core Extreme Edition with DDR4 Memory

Subject: Processors | March 19, 2014 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: X99, Intel, Haswell-E, gdc 14, GDC, ddr4

While talking with press at GDC in San Francisco today, Intel is pulling out all the stops to assure enthusiasts and gamers that they haven't been forgotten!  Since the initial release of the first Extreme Edition processor in 2003 (Pentium 4), Intel has moved from 1.7 million transistors to over 1.8 BILLION (Ivy Bride-E). Today Intel officially confirms that Haswell-E is coming!

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Details are light, but we know now that this latest incarnation of the Extreme Edition processor will be an 8-core design, running on a new Intel X99 chipset and will be the first to support DDR4 memory technology.  I think most of us are going to be very curious about the changes, both in pricing and performance, that the new memory technology will bring to the table for enthusiast and workstation users.

Timing is only listed as the second half of 2014, so we are going to be (impatiently) waiting along with you for more details.

Though based only on leaks that we found last week, the X99 chipset and Haswell-E will continue to have 40 lanes of PCI Express but increases the amount of SATA 6G ports from two to ten (!!) and USB 3.0 ports to six.  

Intel brings Iris Pro Graphics to Broadwell in LGA Sockets

Subject: Processors | March 19, 2014 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: LGA, iris pro, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, Broadwell

We have great news for you this evening!  The demise of the LGA processor socket for Intel desktop users has been great exaggerated.  During a press session at GDC we learned that not only will Intel be offering LGA based processors for Broadwell upon its release (which we did not get more details on) but that there will be an unlocked SKU with Iris Pro graphics implemented.  

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Iris Pro, in its current version, is a high performance version of Intel's processor graphics that includes 128MB of embedded DRAM (eDRAM).  When we first heard that Iris Pro was not coming to the desktop market with an LGA1150 SKU we were confused and bitter but it seems that Intel was listening to feedback.  Broadwell will bring with it the first socketed version of Iris Pro graphics!

It's also nice to know that the rumors surrounding Intel's removal of the socket option for DIY builders was incorrect or possibly diverted due to the reaction. The enthusiast lives on!!

UPDATE: Intel has just confirmed that the upcoming socketed Broadwell CPUs will be compatible with 9-series motherboards that will be released later this spring. This should offer a nice upgrade path for users going into 2015.

Intel "Wellsburg" Leaks: Haswell-E's X99 Chipset

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Chipsets | March 13, 2014 - 12:35 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, X99

Though Ivy Bridge-E is not too distant of a memory, Haswell-E is on the horizon. The enthusiast version of Intel's architecture will come with a new motherboard chipset, the X99. (As an aside: what do you think its eventual successor will be called?) WCCFTech got their hands on details, albeit some of which have been kicking around for a few months, outlining the platform.

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Image Credit: WCCFTech

First and foremost, Haswell-E (and X99) will support DDR4 memory. Its main benefit is increased bandwidth and decreased voltage at the same current, thus lower wattage. The chipset will support four memory channels.

Haswell-E will continue to have 40 PCIe lanes (the user's choice between five x8 slots or two x16 slots plus a x8 slot). This is the same number of total lanes as seen on Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E. While LGA 2011-3 is not compatible with LGA 2011, it does share that aspect.

X99 does significantly increase the number of SATA ports, to ten SATA 6Gbps (up from two SATA 6Gbps and four SATA 3Gbps). Intel RST, RST Smart Response Technology, and Rapid Recover Technology are also present and accounted for. The chipset also supports six native USB 3.0 ports and an additional eight USB 2.0 ones.

Intel Haswell-E and X99 is expected to launch sometime in Q3 2014.

Source: WCCFTech

Samsung Releases 8-Core and 6-Core 32-Bit Exynos 5 SoCs

Subject: Processors | February 26, 2014 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Samsung, exynos 5, big.little, arm, 28nm

Samsung recently announced two new 32-bit Exynos 5 processors with the eight core Exynos 5 Octa 5422 and six core Exynos 5 Hexa 5260. Both SoCs utilize a combination of ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 CPU cores along with ARM's Mali graphics. Unlike the previous Exynos 5 chips, the upcoming processors utilize a big.LITTLE configuration variant called big.LITTLE MP that allows all CPU cores to be used simultaneously. Samsung continues to use a 28nm process node, and the SoCs should be available for use in smartphones and tablets immediately.

The Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5422 offers up eight CPU cores and an ARM Mali T628 MP6 GPU. The CPU configuration consists of four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 2.1GHz and four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. Devices using this chip will be able to tap up to all eight cores at the same time for demanding workloads, allowing the device to complete the computations and return to a lower-power or sleep state sooner. Devices using previous generation Exynos chips were faced with an either-or scenario when it came to using the A15 or A7 groups of cores, but the big.LITTLE MP configuration opens up new possibilites.

Samsung Exynos 5 Hexa 5260.jpg

While the Octa 5422 occupies the new high end for the lineup, the Exynos 5 Hexa 5260 is a new midrange chip that is the first six core Exynos product. This chip uses an as-yet-unnamed ARM Mali GPU along with six ARM cores. The configuration on this SoC is four low power Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.3GHz paired with two Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. Devices can use all six cores at a time or more selectively. The Hexa 5260 offers up two higher powered cores for single threaded performance along with four power sipping cores for running background tasks and parallel workloads.

The new chips offer up access to more cores for more performance at the cost of higher power draw. While the additional cores may seem like overkill for checking email and surfing the web, the additional power can enable things like onboard voice recognition, machine vision, faster photo filtering and editing, and other parallel-friendly tasks. Notably, the GPU should be able to assist with some of this parallel processing, but GPGPU is still relatively new whereas developers have had much more time to familiarize themselves with and optimize applications for multiple CPU threads. Yes, the increasing number of cores lends itself well to marketing, but that does not preclude them from having real world performance benefits and application possibilities. As such, I'm interested to see what these chips can do and what developers are able to wring out of them.

Source: Ars Technica

Video Perspective: Gaming on an Overclocked AMD A10-7850K APU

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 26, 2014 - 04:18 PM |
Tagged:

Overclocking the memory and GPU clock speeds on an AMD APU can greatly improve gaming performance - it is known.  With the new AMD A10-7850K in hand I decided to do a quick test and see how much we could improve average frame rates for mainstream gamers with only some minor tweaking of the motherboard BIOS.  

Using some high-end G.Skill RipJaws DDR3-2400 memory, we were able to push memory speeds on the Kaveri APU up to 2400 MHz, a 50% increase over the stock 1600 MHz rate.  We also increased the clock speed on the GPU portion of the A10-7850K from 720 MHz to 1028 MHz, a 42% boost.  Interestingly, as you'll see in the video below, the memory speed had a MUCH more dramatic impact on our average frame rates in-game.  

In the three games we tested for this video, GRID 2, Bioshock Infinite and Battlefield 4, total performance gain ranged from 26% to 38%.  Clearly that can make the AMD Kaveri APU an even more potent gaming platform if you are willing to shell out for the high speed memory.

  Stock GPU OC Memory OC Total OC Avg FPS Change
Battlefield 4
1920x1080
Medium
22.4 FPS 23.7 FPS 28.2 FPS 29.1 FPS +29%
GRID 2
1920x1080
High + 2xAA
33.5 FPS 36.3 FPS 41.1 FPS 42.3 FPS +26%
Bioshock Infinite
1920x1080
Low
30.1 FPS 30.9 FPS 40.2 FPS 41.8 FPS +38%

New Intel Graphics Drivers Further Spread Quick Sync Video

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 25, 2014 - 10:33 AM |
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, Intel, iGPU, haswell

Recently, Intel released the 15.33.14.3412 (15.33.14.64.3412 for 64-bit) drivers for their Ivy Bridge and Haswell integrated graphics. The download was apparently published on January 29th while its patch notes are dated February 22nd. It features expanded support for Intel Quick Sync Video Technology, allowing certain Pentium and Celeron-class processors to access the feature, as well as an alleged increase in OpenGL-based games. Probably the most famous OpenGL title of our time is Minecraft, although I do not know if that specific game will see improvements (and if so, how much).

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The new driver enables Quick Sync Video for the following processors:

  • Pentium 3558U
  • Pentium 3561Y
  • Pentium G3220(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Pentium G3420(Unsuffixed/T)
  • Pentium G3430
  • Celeron 2957U
  • Celeron 2961Y
  • Celeron 2981U
  • Celeron G1820(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Celeron G1830

Besides the addition for these processors and the OpenGL performance improvements, the driver obviously fixes several bugs in each of its supported OSes. You can download the appropriate drivers from the Intel Download Center.

Source: Intel

MWC 2014: Qualcomm Snapdragon 610 and 615 are 64-bit, 8-core with LTE

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdrdagon 615, snapdragon 610, snapdragon 410, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 14, MWC, adreno 405, adreno

Intel, Mediatek and Allwinner have all come out with new SoC announcements at Mobile World Congress and Qualcomm is no different.  By far the most interesting release is what it calls the "first commercial" 64-bit Octa-Core chipset with integrated global LTE support.  The list of features and technologies included on the chipset is impressive.  

The Snapdragon 615 integrates 8 x ARM Cortex-A53 cores that opterate on the newer 64-bit ARMv8 architecture while supporting 32-bit for backwards compatibility.  Qualcomm is not using a custom designed CPU core for this chipset but the company has stated it will have its own custom 64-bit core sometime in 2015.  This 8-core model is divided into a pair of quad-core clusters that will be tuned to different clock speed and power levels, offering the ability to run slightly more efficiently than would be possible with all cores tuned to the highest performance.

snapdragon.jpg

Snapdragon 610 is essentially the same design but is limited to a quad-core, single cluster setup.  

Both of these parts will integrate the Qualcomm custom built Adreno 405 GPU that brings a DX11 class feature set, along with OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.2.  The Adreno 405 performance is still unknown but it should be able to compete with the likes of PowerVR's Series6 used in the Apple A7 and Intel Merrifield parts.  Quad HD resolutions are supported up to 2560x1600 and Miracast integration enables wireless display.  H.265 hardware decode acceleration also found its way into the 615/610.

Connectivity features of the Snapdragon 615/610 include 802.11ac wireless as well as the company's 3rd generation LTE modem.  Category 4 and carrier aggregation are optional.

Qualcomm has publicly stated that the move to 8-core processors with software lacking the capability to manage them properly was a poor decision.  But it would appear that the "core race" has infected just about everyone.

Check out the full details in the press release after the break!!

MWC 2014: Intel Atom Moorefield and Merrifield officially unveiled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MWC 2014: NVIDIA and Wiko Release First Tegra 4i Smartphone

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: wiko, Tegra 4i, tegra, nvidia, MWC 14, MWC

NVIDIA has been teasing the Tegra 4i for quite some time - the integration of a Tegra 4 SoC with the acquired NVIDIA i500 LTE modem technology.  In truth, the Tegra 4i is a totally different processor than Tegra 4.  While the big-boy Tegra 4 is a 4+1 Cortex-A15 chip with 72 GPU cores, the Tegra 4i is a 4+1 Cortex-A9 design with 60 GPU cores.  

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NVIDIA and up-and-coming European phone provider Wiko are announcing at Mobile World Congress the first Tegra 4i smartphone: Wax.  That's right, the Wiko Wax.

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Here is the full information from NVIDIA:

NVIDIA LTE Modem Makes Landfall in Europe, with Launch of Wiko Tegra 4i LTE Smartphone

Wiko Mobile, France’s fastest growing local phonemaker, has just launched Europe’s first Tegra 4i smartphone.

Tegra 4i – our first integrated LTE mobile processor – combines a 60-core GPU and our own LTE modem to bring up to 2X higher performance than competing phone chips.

It helps the Wiko WAX deliver fast web browsing, best-in-class gaming performance, smooth video playback and great battery life.

Launched at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, the Wiko WAX phone features a 4.7-inch 720p display, 8MP rear camera and LTE / HSPA+ support.

The phone will be available throughout Europe – including France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, UK and Belgium – starting in April.

Within two short years, Wiko has become a major player by providing unlocked phones with sophisticated design, outstanding performance and the newest technologies. It has more than two million users in France and is expanding overseas fast.

Wiko WAX comes pre-installed with TegraZone – NVIDIA’s free app that showcases the best games optimized for the Tegra processor.

As a refresher, Tegra 4i includes a quad-core CPU and fifth battery saver core, and a version of the NVIDIA i500 LTE modem optimized for integration.

The result is an extremely power efficient, compact, high-performance mobile processor that unleashes performance and capability usually only available in costly super phones.

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

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

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

For a blog post on ARM's website

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

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

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

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

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

Source: ARM