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Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 08:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: smartwatch, mt2601, mediatek, ces 2015, CES
When you start getting into the wearables market, even mobile SoCs can be somewhat big and power-hungry. As such, we are seeing more innovation in processors that satisfy these lower classes (which could just be us paying more attention). The MediaTek MT2601 is one such device, which combines a pair of ARM Cortex-A7 cores (1.2 GHz) with an ARM Mali 400MP GPU (intended frequency unknown) on a
package PCB that is less than 480mm2. (Edit @ 9:48PM -- they seem to mean the SoC and other chips, like the Bluetooth module)
Of course, these chips are designed to be low cost, low power, and whatever performance can be squeezed out of those two requirements, so it might not be the most interesting SoC that we can talk about. Still, battery life has been a major hindrance to smart watches and other small, niche devices. It will be interesting to see new-generation devices that use these components.
Heck, if I had more time, I might even want to hack around with these directly.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Processors | January 5, 2015 - 07:30 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: SoC, low power, Intel, Cherry Trail, cell phones, ces 2015, CES, Bay Trail, 14 nm trigate, tablets
It wouldn’t be CES if there wasn’t an Intel release. Today they are releasing their latest 14 nm Cherry Trail SOC. Very little information has been released about this part, but it is the follow-up to the fairly successful Bay Trail. That particular part was a second generation 22 nm part that exhibited very good power and performance characteristics for the price. While Bay Trail was not as popular as Intel had hoped for, it did have some impressive design wins in multiple market sectors.
The next generation process technology from Intel will improve power and performance for the Cherry Trail parts as compared to previous products. It will work in both Windows and Android environments. While Cherry Trail is x86, Intel has been working very closely with Google to get Android to work effectively and quickly with a non-ARM based ISA.
Intel is shipping these parts to their partners for integration into phones, tablets, and small form factor computers. We had previously seen Bay Trail parts integrated into low cost motherboards with the J1800 and J1900 SKUs from Intel. We can expect these products to be refreshed with the latest Cherry Trail products that are being released today.
There is very little information being provided by Intel about the nuts and bolts of the Cherry Trail products. Intel promises to release more information once their partners start announcing individual products. We know that these parts will have improved graphics performance and will exist in the same TDPs as previous Bay Trail products. Other than that, feeds and speeds are a big question for this latest generation part.
These products will be integrating Intel’s RealSense technology. Password-less security, gestures, and 3D camera recognition are all aspects of this technology. I am sure we will get more information on how this technology leverages the power of the CPU cores and GPU cores in the latest Cherry Trail SOCs.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 10:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: iris graphics 6100, iris, Intel, hd graphics 6000, hd graphics 5500, ces 2015, CES, broadwell-u, Broadwell
When Intel launched Broadwell-Y in November, branded Core M by that point, they had a 4.5W processor that was just a little slower than a 15W Haswell Ultrabook CPU. This is quite a bit of power efficiency, although these numbers are maximum draw and might not be exactly proportional to average power under load.
At CES, Intel has launched Broadwell-U, which takes this efficiency and scales it up to 15W and 28W SKUs. The idea is that the extra thermal headroom will scale up for extra CPU and GPU performance. These are all BGA-attached components, which means that these processors need to be physically soldered to the motherboards -- they are destined for OEMs.
As an example of Broadwell-U's increased performance, the Core M 5Y70 has a base frequency of 1.1 GHz that can boost to 2.6 GHz; the top-end Broadwell-U has a base clock of 3.1 GHz and boosts to 3.4 GHz. From Core i3 up to Core i7, regardless of TDP, each of these processors are dual-core with HyperThreading (4 threads total). There is also a single Pentium and two Celeron SKUs, which are dual-core without HyperThreading (2 threads total).
Its GPU receives a large boost as well, particularly with the 28W SKUs receiving Iris Graphics 6100, although Iris Pro Graphics (6200 and 6300) do not yet make an appearance. If we had access to the number of execution units and we assumed the same instruction-per-clock count as Iris Graphics 5100, we would be able to calculate a theoretical FLOP figure, but that is information that we do not have. It would make sense if it were 48 execution units, twice Core M and consistent with the official die shot that Intel doesn't actually identify by product number. This would give it about 845 GFLOPs of performance, or about an OEM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 (the retail GTX 460 cards were about 4% faster than the OEM ones).
It is also within 2% of Haswell's Iris 5100 theoretical GFLOPs, albeit with a 15% drop in clock rate.
From a features standpoint, the GPU is a definite step-up. It has “Enhanced” hardware support for VP8, VP9, and h.265 (HEVC) video and 4K UltraHD output, wired or by Intel WiDi. Broadwell's iGPU was designed with DirectX 12 in mind and supports OpenCL 2.0 -- leaving NVIDIA behind in that regard, since AMD added that API in last month's Omega driver.
Intel is slightly behind in OpenGL support however, claiming 4.3 compatibility while AMD is at 4.4 and NVIDIA is at 4.5. This could mean that these GPUs do not (unless a future driver changes this) support “Efficient Multiple Object Binding”, “Sparse Texture Extension”, or “Direct State Access”. Then again, they could support these features as extensions or something, because it is OpenGL and extensions are its thing, but you know -- they're obviously missing some part of the spec, somewhere.
This leaves Broadwell-H and Broadwell-K, high performance BGA and socketed LGA respectively, to launch later in the year. These products will have significantly higher TDPs and stronger performance, at the expense of battery life (a non-issue for the desktop-bound -K parts) and heat.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | December 23, 2014 - 04:07 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, Nintendo, arm, amd
The tea leaves that WCCFTech have been reading are quite scattered, but they could be right. The weaker half is pulled from an interview between Shigeru Miyamoto and the Associated Press. At the very end, the creator of many Nintendo franchises states, “While we're busy working on software for the Wii U, we have production lines that are working on ideas for what the next system might be.”
Of course they do. That is not confirmation of a new console.
Original Mario Bros. Screenshot Credit: Giant Bomb (Modified)
A bit earlier, he also states, “I think that maybe when we release the next hardware system, you can look forward to seeing Mario take on a new role or in a new game.”
This, on the other hand, sounds a little bit like they are iterating on game design ideas that will shape the next console. From what I understand, this is how Nintendo tends to work – they apparently engineer hardware around concept use cases. It could also be a mistake.
The rumor's stronger half is a statement from Devinder Kumar, the CFO of AMD.
“I will say that one [design win] is x86 and [another] is ARM, and at least one will [be] beyond gaming, right,” said Devinder Kumar, chief financial officer of AMD, at the Raymond James Financial technology conference. “But that is about as much as you going to get out me today. From the standpoint [of being] fair to [customers], it is their product, and they launch it. They are going to announce it and then […] you will find out that it is AMD’s APU that is being used in those products.”
So AMD has secured design wins from two companies, one gaming and the other is something else. Also, one design will be x86 and the other will be ARM-based. This could be an awkward co-incidence but, at the same time, there are not too many gaming companies around.
Also, if it is Nintendo, which architecture would they choose? x86 is the common instruction set amongst the PC and other two consoles, and it is easy to squeeze performance out of. On the other hand, Nintendo has been vocal about Apple and the mobile market, which could have them looking at ARM, especially if the system design is particularly abnormal. Beyond that, AMD could have offered Nintendo an absolute steal of a deal in an effort to get a high-profile customer associated with their ARM initiative.
Or, again, this could all be coincidence.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 16, 2014 - 11:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, holiday, devil's canyon, 10 days of christmas
Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!
Today, we go from rusty gates (or rather cutting the bolts off of them with a Dremel) to tri-gates. Either way, you are probably looking for hardware that prides itself on variable speed. If you are looking to build or upgrade an upper-mainstream desktop PC, then the Intel Core i7-4790K is the last stop before Haswell-E.
The CPU, codenamed Devil's Canyon, was Intel's offering for mainstream gamers and non-Enthusiast (capital E) enthusiasts during their Haswell refresh. It is cooler than its 4770K predecessor due to an improved thermal interface under the processor lid. It is a deal this week because its price dropped down to $299.99, which is about $50 below Intel's list price.
If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)
Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?
Subject: Processors | November 21, 2014 - 04:08 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: quad core, pentium, gaming, far cry 4, dual-core, dragon age inquisition, cpus, budget, athlon
A new report covering dual-core woes with Far Cry 4 paints a "bleak future" for budget gamers.
Image credit: Polygon
For a while now the dual-core Pentium processors have been a great option for budget gaming, with the Pentium G3220 and newer G3258 Anniversary Edition taking center stage in a number of budget gaming builds. Today, we may be nearing the end of the road for dual-core CPUs entirely as a couple of high-profile games now require a quad-core CPU.
Is the anniversary really...over?
Far Cry 4 won't even open with a dual-core CPU installed, and while the game will load when using dual-core CPU's with hyper-threading enabled (for 4 total "cores") the performance isn't very good. PC World's article points to users "reporting that Far Cry 4 flat-out refuses to work with 'straight' dual-core PCs - chips that don’t use hyperthreading to 'fake' having additional cores." The article references a "black-screen 'failure to launch' bug" being reported by users with these dual-core chips.
This should come as good news for AMD, who has embraced quad-core designs throughout their lineup, including very affordable offerings in the budget space.
Image credit: AMD
AMD offers very good gaming performance with a part like the Athlon X4 760K, which matched the Pentium G3220 in our budget gaming shootout and was neck and neck with the Pentium in our $550 1080p gaming PC article back in April. And the Athlon 760K is now selling for just under $77, close to the current best-selling $70 Pentium.
Ubisoft has made no secret of their new game's hefty system requirements, with an Intel Core i5-750 or AMD Phenom II X4 955 listed as the minimum CPUs supported. Another high-profile new release, Dragon Age: Inquisition, also requires a quad core CPU and cannot be played on dual-core machines.
Image credit: Origin
Looks like the budget gaming landscape is changing. AMD’s position looks very good unless Intel chooses to challenge the under $80 price segment with some true quad-core parts (and their current 4-core CPUs start at more than twice that amount).
Subject: Processors | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: amd, APU, carrizo, Carrizo-L, Kaveri, Excavator, Steamroller, SoC, Intel, mobile
AMD has certainly gone about doing things in a slightly different manner than we are used to. Today they announced their two latest APUs which will begin shipping in the first half of 2015. These APUs are running at AMD and are being validated as we speak. AMD did not release many details on these products, but what we do know is pretty interesting.
Carrizo is based on the latest iteration of AMD’s CPU technology. Excavator is the codename for these latest CPU cores, and they promise to be smaller and more efficient than the previous Steamroller core which powers the latest Kaveri based APUs. Carrizo-L is the lower power variant which will be based on the Puma+ core. The current Beema APU is based on the Puma architecture.
Roadmaps show that the Carrizo APUs will be 28 nm products, presumably fabricated by GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Many were hoping that AMD would make the jump to 20 nm with this generation of products, but that does not seem to be the case. This is not surprising due to the limitations of that particular process when dealing with large designs that require a lot of current. AMD will likely be pushing for 16 nm FinFET for the generation of products after Carrizo.
The big Carrizo supposedly has a next generation GCN unit. My guess here is that it will use the same design as we saw with the R9 285. That particular product is a next generation unit that has improved efficiency. AMD did not release how many GCN cores will be present in Carizzo, but it will be very similar to what we see now with Kaveri. Carrizo-L will use the same GCN units as the previous generation Beema based products.
I believe AMD has spent a lot more time hand tuning Excavator instead of relying on a lot of automated place and route. This should allow them to retain much of the performance of the part, all the while cutting down on transistor count dramatically. Some rumors that I have seen point to each Excavator module being 40% smaller than Steamroller. I am not entirely sure they have achieved that type of improvement, but more hand layout does typically mean greater efficiency and less waste. The downside to hand layout is that it is extremely time and manpower intensive. Intel can afford this type of design while AMD has to rely more on automated place and route.
Carrizo will be the first HSA 1.0 compliant SOC. It is in fact an SOC as it integrates the southbridge functions that previously had been handled by external chips like the A88X that supports the current Kaveri desktop APUs. Carrizo and Carrizo-L will also share the same infrastructure. This means that motherboards that these APUs will be soldered onto are interchangeable. One motherboard from the partner OEMs will be able to address multiple markets that will see products range from 4 watts TDP up to 35 watts.
Finally, both APUs feature the security processor that allows them access to the ARM TrustZone technology. This is a very small ARM processor that handles the secure boot partition and handles the security requests. This puts AMD on par with Intel and their secure computing solution (vPro).
These products will be aimed only at the mobile market. So far AMD has not announced Carrizo for the desktop market, but when they do I would imagine that they will hit a max TDP of around 65 watts. AMD claims that Carrizo is one of the biggest jumps for them in terms of power efficiency. A lot of different pieces of technology have all come together with this product to make them more competitive with Intel and their process advantage. Time will tell if this is the case, but for now AMD is staying relevant and pushing their product releases so that they are more consistently ontime.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel
Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.
And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.
At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.
The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.
Subject: Processors | November 3, 2014 - 02:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Sempron 2650, low cost, Intel, Celeron J1800, asus AM1M-A, ASRock D1800M, amd
For a mere $60 you can get the ASRock D1800M motherboard with a Celeron J1800 installed, or for about $8 more you can get a socketed Sempron 2650 and compatible motherboard. After that it is merely a matter of adding a PSU, RAM and storage and you have a working machine for very little cost. Those were the systems which Hardware Secrets tested out to see which low cost, low powered system made more sense to purchase for light browsing and media consumption. As you would expect the 1Ghz clock advantage that the Celeron enjoys pushed its performance above the Sempron in all tests but 3D Mark but what is interesting is that the performance gap was nowhere near as large a percentage difference as the clock speed. While it is clear that the Celeron runs cooler, quieter and faster the fact that the AMD solution is socketed might sway some buyers decision. Check out the full review if you are interested in working machines that cost less than $200 to assemble.
"Both AMD and Intel recently released new families of low cost, low TDP desktop CPUs. AMD launched the AM1 platform with Sempron and Athlon "Kabini" processors, while Intel released the "Bay Trail-D" Celeron and Pentium CPUs, recognizable by the use of the letter "J" on the model naming. Among the lowest-end models of each family are, respectively, the AMD Sempron 2650, and the Intel Celeron J1800. Let's compare the performance of those CPUs and discover which one is the best buy in the low-end market segment."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD FX-9590 Processor Review: Brute Almighty @ Modders-Inc
- AMD FX-8370 and FX-8370e Review @HiTech Legion
- Intel Core i7 5820K Haswell-E @ Kitguru
- Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition, Core i7-5930K and Core i7-5820K @ X-bit Labs
- Core i7-5960X 5930K 5820K Overclocking & Performance @ [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Processors | October 29, 2014 - 05:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, Haswell-EX, Ivy Bridge-EX
Last February, Intel launched the Xeon E7 v2 line of CPUs. Based on the Ivy Bridge architecture, they replaced the original Xeon E7s, developed from Sandy Bridge, that were released in April 2011. Intel is now planning to release Haswell-EX in the second quarter of 2015. No specific SKUs are listed, this information describes the product family as a whole.
This is Ivy Bridge-EX. Haswell-EX will have 3 extra cores (and look a bit different).
To set the tone, these are not small chips. Using the previous generation as an example, Ivy Bridge-EX was over twice the size (surface area) of Ivy Bridge-E, and it contained over twice the number of transistors. While Ivy Bridge-EX was available with up to 15 physical cores per processor, double that with HyperThreading, Haswell-EX is increasing that to 18, or 36 simultaneous threads with HyperThreading. If that is not enough cores, then you can pick up an eight-socket motherboard and load it up with multiple of these.
Other than their gigantic size, these chips are fairly similar to the Xeon E5 processors that are based on Haswell-E. If you need eighteen cores per package, and can spare several thousand dollars per processor, you should be able to give someone your money in just a handful of months.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 04:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: arm, mali-T800, mali
While some mobile SoC manufacturers have created their own graphics architectures, others license from ARM (and some even have a mixture of each within their product stack). There does not seem to be a specific push with this generation, rather just increases in the areas that make the most sense. Some comments tout increased energy efficiency, others higher performance, and even API support got a boost to OpenGL ES 3.1, which brings compute shaders to mobile graphics applications (without invoking OpenCL, etc.).
Three models are in the Mali-T800 series: the T820, the T830, and the T860. As you climb in the list, the products go from entry level to high-performance mobile. GPUs are often designed in modularized segments, which ARM calls cores. You see this frequently in desktop, discrete graphics cards where an entire product stack contains a handful of actual designs, but products are made by disabling whole modules. The T820 and T830 can scale between one to four "core" modules, each core containing four actual "shader cores", while the T860 can scale between one to sixteen "core" modules, each core with 16 "shader cores". Again "core modules" are groups that contain actual shader processors (and L2 cache, etc.). Cores in cores.
This is probably why NVIDIA calls them "Streaming Multiprocessors" that contain "CUDA Cores".
ARM does not (yet) provide an actual GFLOP rating for these processors, and it is up to manufacturers to some extent. It is normally a matter of multiplying the clock frequency by the number of ops per cycle and by the number of shader units available. I tried, but I assume my assumption of instructions per clock was off because the number I was getting did not match with known values from previous generations, so I assumed that I made a mistake. Also, again, ARM considers their performance figures to be conservative. Manufacturers should have no problem exceeding these, effortlessly.
As for a release timeline? Because these architectures are designed for manufacturers to implement, you should start seeing them within devices hitting retail in late 2015, early 2016.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Chipsets | October 23, 2014 - 03:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell, Broadwell-E, Haswell-E
VR-Zone China got hold of an alleged Intel leak, go figure, that talks about their next enthusiast processor platform, Broadwell-E. This architecture is mostly Haswell-E that has its (rated) feature size shrunk down to 14nm. Given an available BIOS, it is expected to support at least some existing LGA 2011-v3 motherboards with the X99 chipset. Like Haswell, they are sticking with a maximum of 40 PCIe lanes. We will need to wait for individual SKUs to see whether one or more models will be limited to 28 lanes, like the Haswell-E-based Core i7-5820K.
Image Credit: Chinese VR-Zone
Intel claims 140W TDP, which is identical to the current three offerings of Haswell-E, for all options. The slide claims six and eight core models will be available (also identical to Haswell-E).
One bullet-point that baffled me is, "Integrated Memory Controller: 4 Channels DDR4 2400, 1 DIMM per Channel". Double-checking with the other writers here, just to make sure sure, it seems like the slide claims that Broadwell-E will only support four sticks of DDR4. This makes zero sense for a couple of reasons. First, one of the main selling points of the enthusiast platform has been the obscene amount of RAM that workstation users demand. Second, and more importantly, if it is compatible with existing motherboards, what is it going to do? Fail to POST if you install a fifth stick? This has to be a typo or referring to something else entirely.
When will you be able to get it? A bit later than we were hoping. It is expected for Q1 2016, rather than late 2015.
Subject: Processors | October 22, 2014 - 10:02 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Richland, Q3 results, lisa su, Kaveri, APU, amd, A10 7850K
While AMD made a small profit last quarter, the Q4 outlook from the company is not nearly as rosy. AMD estimates that Q4 revenues will be around 12% lower than Q3, making for a rare drop in what is typically a robust season for sales. Unlike Intel, AMD is seeing a very soft PC market for their products. Intel so far has been able to deliver parts that are as fast, if not faster than the latest APUs, but they also feature lower TDPs while at a comparable price. The one area that AMD has a significant advantage is in terms of 3D performance and better driver support.
To keep the chips selling during this very important quarter, AMD is cutting the prices on their entire lineup of FM2+ parts. This includes the entire Kaveri based lineup from the top end A10-7850K to the A6-7400K. AMD is also cutting the prices on the previous Richland based parts, which include the A10-6800K. Also of interest is that buyers of A10 APUs will be able to select one of three game titles (Murdered: Soul Suspect, Thief, or Sniper Elite 3) for free, or use the included code to purchase Corel’s Aftershot Pro 2 for only $5.
|Compute Cores||12 (4+8)||12 (4+8)||10 (4+6)||10 (4+6)||6 (2+4)|
|TDP (cTDP)||95 (65/45)||65 (45)||95 (65/45)||65 (45)||65 (45)|
The A10-7850K is a pretty good part overall, though of course it does suffer at the hands of Intel when it comes to pure CPU performance. It still is a pretty quick part that competes well with Intel’s 2 core/4 thread chips. 3D performance from the integrated graphics is class leading, and the potential for using that unit for HSA applications is another checkmark for AMD. We have yet to see widespread adoption of HSA, but we are seeing more and more software products coming out that support it. Having tested it out myself, the GPU portion of the APU can be enabled when using a standalone GPU from either AMD or NVIDIA. The Kaveri chips also support TrueAudio, which will show up in more titles throughout the next year.
One aspect of AMD’s latest FM2+ platform that cannot be ignored is the pretty robust selection of good and interesting motherboards that are offered at very low prices. Products such as the Gigabyte G1.Sniper.A88X and the MSI A88X-G45 Gaming motherboards are well rounded products that typically sell in the $90 to $110 range. Top end products like the Asus Crossblade Ranger are still quite affordable at around $160. Budget offerings are still pretty decent and they come in the $50 range.
One other product that has sparked interest is the Athlon X4 860K Black Edition. This product is clocked between 3.7 GHz and 4.0 GHz, features two Steamroller modules, and is priced at a very reasonable $90. The downside is that there is no GPU portion enabled, while the upside is that there is potentially more thermal headroom for the CPU portion to be clocked higher than previous A10-7850K parts. This will of course differ from individual chips, but the potential is there to have a pretty solid CPU for a very low price. Add in the low motherboard prices, and this has the making of a nice budget enthusiast system.
So why the cuts now? We can simply look at last week’s results for AMD’s previous quarter, as well as how the next quarter is stacking up. While AMD made a small profit last quarter, predictions for Q4 look grim. AMD is looking at around a 12% decrease in revenue, as stated above. AMD has a choice in that they can keep ASPs higher, but risk shipping less product in the very important 4th quarter; or they can sacrifice ASPs and potentially ship a lot more product. The end result of cutting the prices on their entire line of APUs will be of course lower ASPs, but a higher volume of parts being shipped and sold. In terms of cash flow, it is likely more important to see parts flowing rather than having higher inventories with a higher ASP. This also means that more APUs being sold will mean more motherboards from their partners moving through the channel.
Intel does have several huge advantages over AMD in that they have a very solid 22 nm process, a huge workforce that can hand tune their processors, and enough marketing money to make any company other than Apple squirm. AMD is at the mercy of the pure-play foundries in terms of process node tweaks and shrinks. AMD spent a long time at 32 nm PD-SOI before it was able to migrated to 28 nm HKMG. It looks to be 2015 before AMD sees anything below 28 nm for their desktop APUs, but it could be sooner for their smaller APUs and ARM based products on planar 20 nm HKMG processes. We don’t know a all of the specifics of the upcoming 16/14nm FinFET products from TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, so it will be hard to compare/contrast to Intel’s 2nd generation 14 nm TriGate line. All we know is that it will most assuredly be better than the current 28 nm HKMG that AMD is stuck at.
Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2014 - 11:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: processors, microprocessor, FinFET, fab
Ah, Solid State Physics. Semiconductors are heavily based on this branch, because it explains the physical (mechanical, electrical, thermal, etc.) properties of solids based on how their atoms are organized. These properties lead into how transistors function, and why.
Put it back, Allyn.
Anandtech has published a seven-page article that digs into physics and builds upon itself. It starts with a brief explanation of conductivity and what makes up the difference between a conductor, an insulator, and a semiconductor. It uses that to build a simple transistor. From there it explains logic gates, wafers, and lithography. It works up to FinFETs and then keeps going into the future. It is definitely not an article for beginners, but it can be progressed from start to finish given enough effort on the part of the reader.
While this was not mentioned in the article, at least not that I found, you can derive the number of atoms per "feature" by dividing its size by the lattice-distance of the material. For silicon, that is about half of a nanometer at room temperature. For instance, 14nm means that we are manufacturing features that are defined by less than 30 atoms (up to rounding error). The article speculates a bit about what will happen after the era of silicon. This is quite interesting to me, particularly since I did my undergraduate thesis (just an undergrad thesis) on photonic crystals, which route optical light across manufactured defects in an otherwise opaque solid to make an optical integrated circuit. It has the benefit of, with a mixture of red, orange, and maybe green lasers, being able to "go plaid".
If you are interested, be sure to read the article. It is a bit daunting, but much more manageable than most sources. Congratulations to Joshua Ho and anyone else who might have been involved.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | October 8, 2014 - 05:54 PM | Scott Michaud
In an abrupt announcement, Rory Read has stepped down from his positions at AMD, leaving them to Dr. Lisa Su. Until today, Mr. Read served as president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the x86 chip designer and Dr. Su as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Today however, Dr. Su has become president and CEO, and Mr. Read will stay on for a couple of months as an adviser during the transition.
Josh Walrath, editor here at PC Perspective, tweeted that he was "Curious as to why Rory didn't stay on longer? He did some good things there [at AMD], but [it's] very much an unfinished job." I would have to agree. It feels like an odd time, hence the earlier use of the word "abrupt", to have a change in management. AMD restructured just four months ago, which was the occasion for Dr. Su to be promoted to COO. In fact, at least as far as I know, no-one is planned to fill her former position as COO.
These points suggest that she was planned to take over the company for at least several months.
I have been told that timing is everything. I guess this rings true, but only if you truly know the circumstances around any action. Today’s announcement by AMD was odd in its timing, but it was not exactly unexpected. As Scott mentioned above, I was confused by this happening now. I had expected Rory to be in charge for at least another year, if not two. Rory had hinted that he was not planning on being at AMD forever, but was aiming at creating a solid foundation for the company and to help shore up its finances and instill a new culture. While the culture is turning due to pressure from up top as well as a pretty significant personnel cuts, AMD is not quite as nimble yet as they want to be.
Rory’s term has seen the return of seasoned veterans like Jim Keller and Raja Koduri. These guys are helping to turn the ship around after some fairly mediocre architecturse on the CPU and GPU sides. While Raja had little to do with GCN, we are seeing some aggressive moves there in terms of features that are making their products much more competitive with NVIDIA. Keller has made some very significant changes to the overall roadmap on the CPU side and I think we will see some very solid improvements in design and execution over the next two years.
Lisa Su was brought in by Rory shortly after he was named CEO. Lisa has a pretty significant background in semiconductors and has made a name for herself in her work with IBM and Freescale. Lisa attained all three of her degrees from MIT. This is not unheard of, but it is uncommon to stay in one academic setting when gaining advanced degrees. Having said that, MIT certainly is the top engineering and science school in the nation (if not the world). I’m sure people from RPI, GT, and CalTech might argue that, but it certainly is an impressive school to have on your resume.
Dr. Su has seemingly been groomed for this transition for quite some time now. She went from a VP to COO rather quickly, and is now shouldering the burden of being CEO. Lisa has been on quite a few of the quarterly conference calls and taking questions. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Analog Devices.
I think that Lisa will continue along the same path that Rory set out, but she will likely bring a few new wrinkles due to her experience with semiconductor design and R&D at IBM. We can only hope that this won’t become a Dirk Meyer 2.0 type situation where a successful engineer and CPU architect could not change the course of the company after the disastrous reign of Hector Ruiz. I do not think that this will be the case, as Rory did not leave the mess that Hector did. I also believe that Lisa has more business sense and acumen than Dirk did.
This change, at this time, has provided some instability in the markets when regarding AMD. Some weeks ago AMD was at a near high for the year at around $4.66 per share. Right now it is hovering at $3.28. I was questioning why the stock price was going down, and it seems that my question was answered. One way or the other, rumors of Rory taking off reached investors’ ears and we saw a rapid decline in share price. We have yet to see what Q3 earnings look like now that Rory has rather abruptly left his position, but people are pessimistic as to what will be announced with such a sudden departure.
Subject: Processors | September 30, 2014 - 06:02 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: arm, cortex, Cortex-A, cortex-m, 90 nm, 40 nm, 28 nm, 32 bit
Last week ARM announced the latest member of their Cortex-M series of embedded parts. The new Cortex-M7 design is a 32 bit processor designed to have good performance while achieving excellent power consumption. The M7 is a fully superscalar design with 6 pipeline stages. This product should not be confused with the Cortex-A series of products, as the M series is aimed directly at embedded markets.
This product is not necessarily meant for multi-media rich applications, so it will not find its way into a modern smart phone. Products that it is leveraged at would be products like the latest generation of smart watches. Industrial control applications, automotive computing, low power and low heat applications, and countless IoT (Internet of Things) products can utilize this architecture.
The designs are being offered on a variety of process nodes from 90 nm down to 28 nm. These choices are made by the licensee depending on the specifics of their application. In the most energy efficient state, ARM claims that these products can see multiple years of running non-stop on a small lithium battery.
This obviously is not the most interesting ARM based product that we have seen lately, but it addresses a very important market. What is perhaps most interesting about this release not only is the pretty dramatic increase in per clock performance from the previous generation of part, but also how robust the support is in terms of design tools, software ecosystem, and 3rd party support.
Cortex-M7 can also be utilized in areas where a more complex DSP has traditionally been used. In comparison to some common DSPs, the Cortex-M7 is competitive in terms of specialized workload performance. It also has the advantage of being much more flexible than a DSP in a general computing environment.
ARM just keeps on moving along with products that address many different computing markets. ARM’s high end Cortex-A series of parts powers the majority of smart phones and tablets while the Cortex-M series have sold in the billions addressing the embedded market. The Cortex-M7 is the latest member of that family and will find more than its fair share of products to be integrated into.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | September 30, 2014 - 03:33 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: iris, Intel, core m, broadwell-y, broadwell-u, Broadwell
Intel's upcoming 14nm product line, Broadwell, is expected to have six categories of increasing performance. Broadwell-Y, later branded Core M, is part of the soldered BGA family at expected TDPs of 3.5 to 4.5W. Above this is Broadwell-U, which are also BGA packages, and thus require soldering by the system builder. VR-Zone China has a list of seemingly every 15W SKU in that category. 28W TDP "U" products are expected to be available in the following quarter, but are not listed.
Image Credit: VR-Zone
As for those 15W parts though, there are seventeen (17!) of them, ranging from Celeron to Core i7. While each product is dual-core, the ones that are Core i3 and up have Hyper-Threading, increasing the parallelism to four tasks simultaneously. In terms of cache, Celerons and Pentiums will have 2MB, Core i7s will have 4MB, and everything in between will have 3MB. Otherwise, the products vary on the clock frequency they were binned (bin-sorted) at, and the integrated graphics that they contain.
Image Credit: VR-Zone
These integrated iGPUs range from "Intel HD Graphics" on the Celerons and Pentiums, to "Intel Iris Graphics 6100" on one Core i7, two Core i5s, and one Core i3. The rest pretty much alternate between Intel HD Graphics 5500 and Intel HD Graphics 6000. Maximum frequency of any given iGPU can vary within the same product, but only by about 100 MHz at the most. The exact spread is below.
- Intel HD Graphics: 300 MHz base clock, 800 MHz at load.
- Intel HD Graphics 5500: 300 MHz base clock, 850-950 MHz at load (depending on SKU).
- Intel HD Graphics 6000: 300 MHz base clock, 1000 MHz at load.
- Intel Iris Graphics 6100: 300 MHz base clock, 1000-1100 MHz at load (depending on SKU).
Unfortunately, without the number of shader units to go along with the core clock, we cannot derive a FLOP value yet. This is a very important metric for increasing resolution and shader complexity, and it would provide a relatively fair metric to compare the new parts against previous offerings for higher resolutions and quality settings, especialy in DirectX 12 I would assume.
Image Credit: VR-Zone
Probably the most interesting part to me is that "Intel HD Graphics" without a number meant GT1 with Haswell. Starting with Broadwell, it has been upgraded to GT2 (apparently). As we can see from even the 4.5W Core M processors, Intel is taking graphics seriously. It is unclear whether their intention is to respect gaming's influence on device purchases, or if they are believing that generalized GPU compute will be "a thing" very soon.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | September 29, 2014 - 01:53 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: apple, a8, a7, Imagination Technologies, PowerVR
First, Chipworks released a dieshot of the new Apple A8 SoC (stored at archive.org). It is based on the 20nm fabrication process from TSMC, which they allegedly bought the entire capacity for. From there, a bit of a debate arose regarding what each group of transistors represented. All sources claim that it is based around a dual-core CPU, but the GPU is a bit polarizing.
Image Credit: Chipworks via Ars Technica
Most sources, including Chipworks, Ars Technica, Anandtech, and so forth believe that it is a quad-core graphics processor from Imagination Technologies. Specifically, they expect that it is the GX6450 from the PowerVR Series 6XT. This is a narrow upgrade over the G6430 found in the Apple A7 processor, which is in line with the initial benchmarks that we saw (and not in line with the 50% GPU performance increase that Apple claims). For programmability, the GX6450 is equivalent to a DirectX 10-level feature set, unless it was extended by Apple, which I doubt.
Image Source: DailyTech
DailyTech has their own theory, suggesting that it is a GX6650 that is horizontally-aligned. From my observation, their "Cluster 2" and "Cluster 5" do not look identical at all to the other four, so I doubt their claims. I expect that they heard Apple's 50% claims, expected six GPU cores as the rumors originally indicated, and saw cores that were not there.
Which brings us back to the question of, "So what is the 50% increase in performance that Apple claims?" Unless they had a significant increase in clock rate, I still wonder if Apple is claiming that their increase in graphics performance will come from the Metal API even though it is not exclusive to new hardware.
But from everything we saw so far, it is just a handful of percent better.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2014 - 02:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, spreadtrum, rda, Rockchip, SoC
A few months ago, Intel partnered with Rockchip to develop low-cost SoCs for Android. The companies would work together on a design that could be fabricated at TSMC. This time Intel is partnering with Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. and, unlike Rockchip, also investing in them. The deal will be up to $1.5 billion USD in exchange for a 20% share (approximately) of a division of Tsinghua.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Intel is hoping to use this partnership to develop mobile SoCs, for smart (and "feature") phones, tablets, and other devices, and get significant presence in the Chinese mobile market. Tsinghua acquired Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics within the last two years. The "holding group" that owns these division is apparently the part of Tsinghua which Intel is investing in, specifically.
Spreadtrum will produce SoCs based on Intel's "Intel Architecture". This sounds like they are referring to the 32-bit IA-32, which means that Spreadtrum would be developing 32-bit SoCs, but it is possible that they could be talking about Intel 64. These products are expected for 2H'15.
Subject: Processors | September 25, 2014 - 02:56 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, X99, core i7-5960x, Haswell-E
After the smoke from their previous attempt at testing the i7 5960X CPU Phoronix picked up a Gigabyte X99-UD4-CF and have now had a chance to test Haswell-E performance on Linux. The new processor is compared to over a dozen others on machines running Ubuntu and really showed up the competition on benchmarks that took advantage of the 8 cores. Single threaded applications that depended on a higher clock speed proved to be a weakness as the 4790K's higher frequency allowed it to outperform the new Haswell-E processor. Check out the very impressive results of Phoronix's testing right here.
"With the X99 burned-up motherboard problem of last week appearing to be behind us with no further issues when using a completely different X99 motherboard, here's the first extensive look at the Core i7 5960X Haswell-E processor running on Ubuntu Linux."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel's Xeon E5-2687W v3 @ The Tech Report
- Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme @ Benchmark Reviews
- Intel Core i7-4790K and Core i5-4690K @ X-bit Labs
- Return of the Athlon: AMD Brings Kabini to the desktop @ Bjorn3d
- AMD FX8370E @ Kitguru
- AMD FX-8370E @ eTeknix