ARM is Serious About Graphics
Ask most computer users from 10 years ago who ARM is, and very few would give the correct answer. Some well informed people might mention “Intel” and “StrongARM” or “XScale”, but ARM remained a shadowy presence until we saw the rise of the Smartphone. Since then, ARM has built up their brand, much to the chagrin of companies like Intel and AMD. Partners such as Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Rockchip, and NVIDIA have all worked with ARM to produce chips based on the ARMv7 architecture, with Apple being the first to release the first ARMv8 (64 bit) SOCs. The multitude of ARM architectures are likely the most shipped chips in the world, going from very basic processors to the very latest Apple A7 SOC.
The ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures are very power efficient, yet provide enough performance to handle the vast majority of tasks utilized on smartphones and tablets (as well as a handful of laptops). With the growth of visual computing, ARM also dedicated itself towards designing competent graphics portions of their chips. The Mali architecture is aimed at being an affordable option for those without access to their own graphics design groups (NVIDIA, Qualcomm), but competitive with others that are willing to license their IP out (Imagination Technologies).
ARM was in fact one of the first to license out the very latest graphics technology to partners in the form of the Mali-T600 series of products. These modules were among the first to support OpenGL ES 3.0 (compatible with 2.0 and 1.1) and DirectX 11. The T600 architecture is very comparable to Imagination Technologies’ Series 6 and the Qualcomm Adreno 300 series of products. Currently NVIDIA does not have a unified mobile architecture in production that supports OpenGL ES 3.0/DX11, but they are adapting the Kepler architecture to mobile and will be licensing it to interested parties. Qualcomm does not license out Adreno after buying that group from AMD (Adreno is an anagram of Radeon).
Subject: General Tech, Processors | October 28, 2013 - 07:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, Broadwell-K, Broadwell
Ivy Bridge-E was confirmed for this holiday season and Haswell-E was proclaimed to follow in Holiday 2014 bringing good tidings of comfort and joy (and DDR4). Broadwell, the Haswell architecture transitioned to a 14nm process technology, was expected to be delayed until at least 2015 because it was not on any roadmap before that.
Image credit: VR-Zone China
Until recently when something called "Broadwell-K" popped up slated for late Holiday 2014.
VR-Zone China, the site which broke this story (machine translated), cautiously assumes Broadwell-K signifies the platform will first arrive for the mainstream enthusiast. This would align with Intel's current "K" branding of unlocked processors and make sense to be introduced for the Consumer product segment without a Business offering.
If true, which seems likely, the question then becomes why. So let us speculate!
One possible (but almost definitely incorrect) reason is that Intel was able to get the overclocking challenges at 22nm solved and, thus, they want to build hype over what the enthusiasts can accomplish. Josh Walrath, our monitor of the fabrication industry's pulse at PC Perspective, did not bother entertaining the idea. His experiences suggest 14nm and 22nm are "not so different".
But, in the same discussion, Ryan wondered if Intel just could not get power low enough to release anything besides the upper mainstream parts. Rather than delay further, release the parts as they can fit in whatever TDP their market demands. Josh believes that is "as good [of a theory] as any". This also seems like a very reasonable possibility to me, too.
Two other theories: yields are sufficient for the "K" market (but nowhere else) or that Intel could be throwing a bone to the mid-range (lower than Haswell-E) enthusiast by letting them lead. It could also be almost any combination of the above or more.
Or, of course, Broadwell-K could refer to something completely arbitrary. At this point, no-one knows but anyone can guess.
So then, your turn? Comments await.
Subject: Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 26, 2013 - 11:13 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: techcon, iot, internet of things, arm
This year at the Santa Clara Convention Center ARM will host TechCon, a gathering of partners, customers, and engineers with the goal of collaboration and connection. While I will attending as an outside observer to see what this collection of innovators is creating, there will be sessions and tracks for chip designers, system implementation engineers and software developers.
Areas of interest will include consumer products, enterprise products and of course, the Internet of Things, the latest terminology for a completely connected infrastructure of devices. ARM has designed tracks for interested parties in chip design, data security, mobile, networking, server, software and quite a few more.
Of direct interest to PC Perspective and our readers will be the continued release of information about the Cortex-A12, the upcoming mainstream processor core from ARM that will address the smartphone and tablet markets. We will also get some time with ARM engineers to talk about the coming migration of the market to 64-bit. Because of the release of the Apple A7 SoC that integrated 64-bit and ARMv8 architecture earlier this year, it is definitely going to be the most extensively discussed topic. If you have specific questions you'd like us to bring to the folks at ARM, as well as its partners, please leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be sure it is addressed!
I am also hearing some rumblings of a new ARM developed Mali graphics product that will increase efficiency and support newer graphics APIs as well.
Even if you cannot attend the event in Santa Clara, you should definitely pay attention for the news and products that are announced and shown at ARM TechCon as they are going to be a critical part of the mobile ecosystem in the near, and distant, future. As a first time attendee myself, I am incredibly excited about what we'll find and learn next week!
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Networking, Processors, Mobile | October 19, 2013 - 01:45 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, p5600, MIPS, imagination
Imagination Technologies, a company known for its PowerVR graphics IP, has unleashed its first Warrior P-series MIPS CPU core. The new MIPS core is called the P5600 and is a 32-bit core based on the MIPS Release 5 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture).
The P5600 CPU core can perform 128-bit SIMD computations, provide hardware accelerated virtualization, and access up to a 1TB of memory via virtual addressing. While the MIPS 5 ISA provides for 64-bit calculations, the P5600 core is 32-bit only and does not include the extra 64-bit portions of the ISA.
The MIPS P5600 core can scale up to 2GHz in clockspeed when used in chips built on TSMC's 28nm HPM manufacturing process (according to Imagination Technologies). Further, the Warrior P5600 core can be used in processors and SoCs. As many as six CPU cores can be combined and managed by a coherence manager and given access to up to 8MB of shared L2 cache. Imagination Technologies is aiming processors containing the P5600 cores at mobile devices, networking appliances (routers, hardware firewalls, switches, et al), and micro-servers.
A configuration of multiple P5600 cores with L2 cache.
I first saw a story on the P5600 over at the Tech Report, and found it interesting that Imagination Technologies was developing a MIPS processor aimed at mobile devices. It does make sense to see a MIPS CPU from the company as it owns the MIPS intellectual property. Also, a CPU core is a logical step for a company with a large graphics IP and GPU portfolio. Developing its own MIPS CPU core would allow it to put together an SoC with its own CPU and GPU components. With that said, I found it interesting that the P5600 CPU core was being aimed at the mobile space, where ARM processors currently dominate. ARM is working to increase performance while Intel is working to bring its powerhouse x86 architecture to the ultra low power mobile space. Needless to say, it is a highly competitive market and Imagination Technologies new CPU core is sure to have a difficult time establishing itself in that space of consumer smartphone and tablet SoCs. Fortunately, mobile chips are not the only processors Imagination Technologies is aiming the P5600 at. It is also offering up the MIPS Series 5 compatible core for use in processors powering networking equipment and very low power servers and business appliances where the MIPS architecture is more commonplace.
In any event, I'm interested to see what else IT has in store for its MIPS IP and where the Warrior series goes from here!
More information on the MIPS 5600 core can be found here.
Subject: Processors | October 1, 2013 - 02:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, atom, Bay Trail, Z3000, silvermont
Silvermont has a lot of work cut out for it to get out from the shadow of its poorly performing predecessors. The new Z3000 is much more than just a low powered chip, it is Intel's first SoC aimed at taking market share from ARM. It has been out for almost a month now and so it is worth rounding up a few of the reviews to remind you of Intel's plans in the low powered mobile market as well as the new modular server market. The Tech Report benchmarked this chip running both Win8.1 and Android OSes against a variety of products powered by ARM, Snapdragon and Tegra as well as against a Core-i3 and an A4-5000 from AMD. Check out the results in their full review.
"Intel has just pulled back the curtain on the Atom Z3000 series, based on the "Bay Trail" SoC. Equipped with the potent new "Silvermont" CPU architecture, this chip is intended to challenge ARM for supremacy in tablets and convertibles. We have a first look at its architecture and performance."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Atom Z3770 Bay Trail tablet review: Intels new tablet chip tested with Windows 8.1 and Android 4.2 @ Hardware.info
- Intel Atom Processor Z3770 Bay Trail First Look and Performance Testing @ Legit Reviews
- Overclocking The Ivy Bridge Extreme Core i7 4930K @ Ninjalane
- Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition Review @ Techgage
- Intel Z87 and Haswell 24/7 OC Guide @ techPowerUp
- Intel i7-4930K & i7-4820K Ivy Bridge-E Review @ Hardware Canucks
- ntel Core i7 4960X Extreme Edition @ eTeknix
- Intel Ivy Bridge-E 4960X CPU Review (LN2 inside) @ Madshrimps
- Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E Processor Review @ Legit Reviews
- Intel Iris Pro 5200 graphics review: the end of mid-range GPUs @ Hardware.info
- Intel Xeon E5-2600 v2 review: Ivy Bridge-EP for servers @ Hardware.info
- Xeon E5-2600 v2 series brings Ivy Bridge-EP to servers, workstations @ The Tech Report
Another Next Unit of Computing
Just about a year ago Intel released a new product called the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC for short. The idea was to allow Intel's board and design teams to bring the efficient performance of the ultra low voltage processors to a desktop, and creative, form factor. By taking what is essentially Ultrabook hardware and putting it in a 4-in by 4-in design Intel is attempting to rethink what the "desktop" computer is and how the industry develops for it.
We reviewed the first NUC last year, based on the Intel Ivy Bridge processor and took away a surprising amount of interest in the platform. It was (and is) a bit more expensive than many consumers are going to be willing to spend on such a "small" physical device but the performance and feature set is compelling.
This time around Intel has updated the 4x4 enclosure a bit and upgrade the hardware from Ivy Bridge to Haswell. That alone should result in a modest increase in CPU performance with quite a bit of increase in the integrated GPU performance courtesy of the Intel HD Graphics 5000. Other changes are on the table to; let's take a look.
The Intel D54250WYK NUC is a bare bones system that will run you about $360. You'll need to buy system memory and an mSATA SSD for storage (wireless is optional) to complete the build.
A Whole New Atom Family
This past spring I spent some time with Intel at its offices in Santa Clara to learn about a brand new architecture called Silvermont. Built for and targeted at low power platforms like tablets and smartphones, Silvermont was not simply another refresh of the aging Atom processors that were all based on Pentium cores from years ago; instead Silvermont was built from the ground up for low power consumption and high efficiency to compete against the juggernaut that is ARM and its partners. My initial preview of the Silvermont architecture had plenty of detail about the change to an out-of-order architecture, the dual-core modules that comprise it and the power optimizations included.
Today, during the annual Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco, we are finally able to reveal the remaining details about the new Atom processors based on Silvermont, code named Bay Trail. Not only do we have new information about the designs, but we were able to get our hands on some reference tablets integrating Bay Trail and the new Atom Z3000 series of SoCs to benchmark and compare to offerings from Qualcomm, NVIDIA and AMD.
A Whole New Atom Family
It should be surprise to anyone that the name “Intel Atom Processor” has had a stigma attached to it almost since its initial release during the netbook craze. It was known for being slow and hastily put together though it was still a very successful product in terms of sales. With each successive release and update, Diamondville to Pineview to Cedarview, Atom was improved but only marginally so. Even with Medfield and Clover Trail the products were based around that legacy infrastructure and it showed. Tablets and systems based on Clover Trail saw only moderate success and lukewarm reviews.
With Silvermont the Atom brand gets a second chance. Some may consider it a fifth or sixth chance, but Intel is sticking with the name. Silvermont as an architecture is incredibly flexible and will find its way into several Intel products like Avoton, Bay Trail and Merrifield and in segments from the micro-server to smartphones to convertible tablets. Not only that, but Intel is aware that Windows isn’t the only game out there anymore and the company will support the architecture across Linux, Android and Windows environments.
Atom has been in tablets for some time now, starting in September of last year with Clover Trail deigns being announced during IDF. In February we saw the initial Android-based options also filter out, again based on Clover Trail. They were okay, but really only stop-gaps to prove that Intel was serious about the space. The real test will be this holiday season with Bay Trail at the helm.
While we always knew these Bay Trail platforms were going be branded as Atom we now have the full details on the numbering scheme and productization of the architecture. The Atom Z3700 series will consist of quad-core SoCs with Intel HD graphics (the same design as the Core processor series though with fewer compute units) that will support Windows and Android operating systems. The Atom Z3600 will be dual-core processors, still with Intel HD graphics, targeted only at the Android market.
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:47 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: idf, idf 2013, Intel, keynote, live blog
We are preparing for the second day of keynotes at IDF so sign up below to get a reminder for our live blog! After the first keynote saw the introduction of Intel Quark SoCs, showcases of the first 14nm Broadwell processor and a 22nm LTE smartphone, day 2 could be even more exciting!
The event starts at 9am PT / 12pm ET on Wednesday the 11th!
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:31 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: quark, Intel, idf 2013, idf
In a very interesting and surprising announcement at the first Intel Developer Forum keynote this morning, Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich showed the first samples of Quark, a new SoC design that will enter into smaller devices that even Atom can reach.
Quark is the family name for the new line of SoCs that are open, synthesizable and support with industry standard software. An open SoC is simply one that will allow third-party IP integration with the processor cores while a synthesizable one can be moved and migrated to other production facilities as well. This opens up Intel to take Quark outside of its own fabrication facilities (though Krzanich said they would prefer not during Q&A) and allow partners to more easily integrate their own silicon with the Quark DNA. Intel had previously announced that Atom would be able to integrate with third-party IP but that seems to have been put on the back burner in favor of this.
Quark will not be an open core design in the same way that ARM's core can be, but instead Intel is opening up the interface fabric for direct connection to computing resources.
The Quark SoC is square in the middle
Krzanich showed off the chip on stage that is 1/5 the size of Atom and 1/10 the power levels of Atom (though I am not sure if we are referring to Clover Trail or Bay Trail for the comparison). That puts it in a class of products that only ARM-based designs have been able to reach until now and Intel displayed both reference systems and wearable designs.
UPDATE: Intel later clarified with me that the "1/5 size, 1/10 power" is for a Quark core against an Atom core at 22nm. It doesn't refer to the entire SoC package.
Intel hasn't yet told us what microarchitecture Quark is based on but if I were a betting man I would posit that it is related to the Silvermont designs we are looking at on Bay Trail but with a cut down feature set. Using any other existing design from Intel would result in higher than desired power consumption and die size levels but it could also be another ground up architecture as well.
I'll be poking around IDF for more information on Quark going forward but for now, it appears that Intel is firmly planting itself on a collision course with ARM and Qualcomm.
UPDATE 1: I did get some more information from Intel on the Quark SoC. It will be the first product based on the 14nm manufacturing process and is a 32-bit, single core, single thread chip based on a "Pentium ISA compatible CPU core." This confirms that it is an x86 processor though not exactly what CPU core it is based on. More soon!
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 11:02 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: live blog, keynote, Intel, idf 2013, idf
UPDATE: You can see the replay of our live blog below from Day 1 of IDF but be sure you head over to the Day 2 Live Blog page to set a reminder! Join us on Wednesday at 9am PT / 12pm ET!!
Today is the beginning of the 2013 Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco! Join me at 9am PT for the first of three live blogs of the main Intel keynotes where we will learn what direction Intel is taking on many fronts!