Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2012 - 12:26 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, PowerVR, iphone, arm, apple, a6
Apple's latest smartphone was unveiled earlier this month, and just about every feature has been analyzed extensively by reviewers and expounded upon by Apple. However, the one aspect that remains a mystery is the ARM System on a Chip that is powering the iPhone 5. There has been a great deal of speculation, but the officially Apple is not talking. The company has stated that the new processor is two times faster than its predecessor, but beyond that it will be up to reviewers to figure out what makes it tick.
After the press conference PC Perspective's Josh Walrath researched what few hints there were on the new A6 processor, and determined that there was a good chance it was an ARM Cortex A15-based design. Since then some tidbits of information have come out that suggest otherwise, however. Developers for iOS disovered that the latest SDK suggest new functionality for the A6 processor, including some new instruction sets. That discovery tended credence to the A6 possibly being Cortex A15, but it did not prove that it wasn't. Following that, Anandtech posted an article that stated it was in a licensed Cortex A15 design. Rather, the A6 was a custom Apple-developed chip that would, ideally, give users the same level of performance without needing significantly more power – and without waiting for a Cortex A15 chip to be manufactured.
Finally, thanks to the work of the enthusiasts over at Chipworks, we have physical proof that, finally, reveals details about Apple's A6 SoC. By stripping away the outer protective layers, and placing the A6 die under a powerful microscope, they managed to get an 'up close and personal' look at the inside of the chip.
Despite the near-Jersey Shore (shudder) levels of drama between Apple and Samsung over the recent trade dress and patent infringement allegations, it seems that the two companies worked together to bring Apple's custom processor to market. The researchers determined that the A6 was based on Samsung's 32nm CMOS manufacturing process. It reads APL0589B01 on the inside, which suggests that it is of Apple's own design. Once the Chipworks team sliced open the processor further, they discovered proof that Apple really did craft a custom ARM processor.
In fact, Apple has created a chip with dual ARM CPU cores and three GPU cores (PowerVR). The CPU cores support the ARMv7s instruction set, and Apple has gone with a hand drawn design. Rather than employ computer libraries to automatically lay out the logic in the processor, Apple and the engineers acquired from its purchase of PA Semi have manually drawn out the processor by hand. This chip has likely been in the works for a couple of years now, and the 96.71mm^2 sized die will offer up some notable performance improvements.
It seems like Apple has opted to go for an expensive custom chip rather than opt for a licensed Cortex A15 design. That combined with the hand drawn layout should give Apple a processor with better performance than its past designs without requiring significantly more power.
At a time when mobile SoC giant Texas Instruments is giving up on ARM chips for tablets and smartphones, and hand drawn designs are becoming increasingly rare (even AMD has given up), I have to give Apple props for going with a custom processor laid out by hand. I'm interested to see what the company is able to do with it and where they will go from here.
Chipworks and iFixIt also took a look at the LTE modem, Wi-Fi chip, audio amplifier, and other aspects of the iPhone 5's internals, and it is definitely worth a read for the impressive imagery alone.
Trinity's GPU Performance
Editor's Note: Right before the release of this story some discussion has been ongoing at other hardware sites about the methods AMD employed with this NDA and release of information. Essentially, AMD allowed us to write about only the gaming benchmarks and specifications for the Trinity APU, rather than allowing the full gamut of results including CPU tests, power consumption, etc. Why? Obviously AMD wants to see a good message be released about their product; by release info in stages they can at least allow a brief window for that.
Does it suck that they did this? Yes. Do I feel like we should have NOT published this because of those circumstances? Not at all. Information is information and we felt that getting it to you as soon as possible was beneficial. Also, because the parts are not on sale today we are not risking adversely affecting your purchasing decision with these limited benchmarks. When the parts DO go on sale, you will have our full review with all the positives and negatives laid out before you, in the open.
This kind of stuff happens often in our world - NVIDIA sent out GTX 660 cards but not GTX 650s because of lack luster performance for example - and we balance it and judge it on a case by case basis. I don't think anyone looking at this story sees a "full review" and would think to make a final decision about ANY product from it. That's not the goal. But just as we sometimes show you rumored specs and performance numbers on upcoming parts before the NDAs expire, we did this today with Trinity - it just so happens it was with AMD's blessing.
AMD has graciously allowed us the chance to give readers a small glimpse at the performance of the upcoming A series APUs based on the Trinity processor. Today we are covering the SKUs that will be released, general gaming performance, and what kind of power consumption we are seeing as compared to the previous Llano processor and any Intel processor we can lay hands upon.
Trinity is based on the updated Piledriver architecture, which is an update to Bulldozer. Piledriver improves upon IPC by a small amount over Bulldozer, but the biggest impact is that of power consumption and higher clockspeeds. It was pretty well known that Bulldozer did not hit the performance expectations of both AMD and consumers. Part of this was due to the design pulling more power at the target clockspeeds than was expected. To remedy this, AMD lowered clockspeeds. Piledriver fixes most of those power issues, as well as sprinkles some extra efficiency into the design, so that clockspeeds can scale to speeds that will make these products more competitive with current Intel offerings.
The top end model that AMD will be offering of the socket FM2 processors (for the time being) is the A10 5800K. This little number is a dual module/quad core processor running at 3.8 GHz with a turbo speed of 4.2 GHz. We see below the exact model range of products that AMD will be offering. This does not include the rumored Athlon II editions that will have a disabled GPU onboard. Each module features 2 MB of L2 cache, for a total of 4 MB on the processor. The A10 series does not feature a dedicated L3 cache as the FX processors do. This particular part is unlocked as well, so expect some decent overclocking right off the bat.
The A10 5800K features the VLIW 4 based graphics portion, which is significantly more efficient than the previous VLIW 5 based unit in Llano (A8 3870K and brethren). Even though it features the same number of stream processors as the 3870K, AMD is confident that this particular unit is upwards of 20% faster than the previous model. This GPU portion is running at a brisk 800 MHz. The GPU core is also unlocked, so expect some significant leaps in that piece of the puzzle as well.
That is about all I can give out at this time, since this is primarily based on what we see in the diagram and what we have learned from the previous Trinity release (for notebooks).
Subject: Processors | September 18, 2012 - 01:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sandy bridge, Ivy Bridge, Intel
iXBT Labs wanted to see how the two most current generations of Intel processors compare when running identical tasks. To put the processors under maximum load they used Linpack and Furmark as well as looking at video playback. In the case of the Furmark and Linpack+Furmark tests it might have been nice to see a power versus performance metric, as better performance on the benchmarks could make a slightly less power hungry CPU even more attractive. However the video playback is a great example of what you can expect in the way of power draw as no one wants a faster processor to play their movie back at an increased speed, a 2 hour movie should take 2 hours to play. That makes the second metric a little more valuable for those on battery power. Take a quick peek at their 2 page article here.
"We measured consumed power and energy consumption of four configurations based on the same testbed and four different CPUs belonging to two platforms: Intel Core i7-2700K (Sandy Bridge) and Intel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge), Intel Core i5-2400 (Sandy Bridge) and Intel Core i5-3450 (Ivy Bridge)."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Core i5 3470 @ Phoronix
- Ivy Bridge and changing the Thermal Interface Material @ eTeknix
- Intel Core Generations Comparison @ iXBT Labs
- Workstation & Server CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- Desktop CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
Subject: Processors | September 13, 2012 - 01:03 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, fm2, cpu, athlon, APU, AMD A series, amd, a75
NVIDIA’s new Kepler graphics cards (such as the GTX 660 we recently reviewed) will be getting most of the PC enthusiast attention today, but there is a bit of news about AMD to talk about as well.
The Trinity APU die.
Thanks to a Gigabyte motherboard compatibility list that was accidentally leaked to the internet, it was revealed that Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) would be repurposing Trinity APU dies that don’t quite make the cut due to non-operative graphics cores. Instead of simply discarding the processors, AMD is going to bin the chips into at least three CPU-only Athlon-branded processors. The Athlon X4 730, X4 740, and X4 750K are the three processors that are (now) public knowledge. All three of the CPUs have TDP ratings of 65W, and the X4 750K is even unlocked – allowing for overclocking. Further, the processors are all quad core parts with a total of 4MB of L2 cache (1MB per core).
The new Athlon-branded processors will be supported by the A75 chipset and will plug into FM2-socket equipped motherboards.
The following chart details the speeds and feeds of the Athlon processors with Trinity CPU cores.
|Athlon X4 730||2.8GHz||65W|
|Athlon X4 740||3.2GHz||65W|
|Athlon X4 750K||3.4GHz||65W|
Unfortunately, there is no word on pricing or availability. You can expect them to be significantly cheaper than the fully fledged Trinity processors to keep them price-competitive and in-line with the company's traditional CPU-only processors.
Would you consider rolling a Trinity-based Athlon in a budget build?
Read about the new direction of AMD as it moves to producing Vishera processors and beyond.
Apple Produces the new A6 for the iPhone 5
Today is the day that world gets introduced to the iPhone 5. I of course was very curious about what Apple would be bringing to market the year after the death of Steve Jobs. The excitement leading up to the iPhone announcement was somewhat muted as compared to years past, and a lot of that could be attributed to what has been happening in the Android market. Companies like Samsung and HTC have released new high end phones that are not only faster and more expansive than previous versions, but they also worked really well and were feature packed. While the iPhone 5 will be another success for Apple, for those somewhat dispassionate about the cellphone market will likely just shrug and say to themselves, “It looks like Apple caught up for the year, but too bad they really didn’t introduce anything really groundbreaking.”
If there was one area that many were anxiously awaiting, it was that of the SOC (system on a chip) that Apple would use for the iPhone 5. Speculation went basically from using a fresh piece of silicon based on the A5X (faster clocks, smaller graphics portion) to having a quad core monster running at high speeds but still sipping power. It seems that we actually got something in between. This is not a bad thing, but as we go forward we will likely see that the silicon again only matches what other manufacturers have been using since earlier this year.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2012 - 09:34 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mineral oil, Intel
Intel has been dunking servers in oil for the last year and found the practice to be both safe and effective. Ironically it has been almost a year since we played around with mineral oil cooling – and when we did – we did not want to upgrade or fix anything. Intel agrees.
Intel inside, slick mess outside.
Often cooling a computer with a radiant that is not air focuses on cooling a handful of specific components and leaving the rest exposed to air. Gigabyte in their recent live presentation showed how the company reduced waste heat on the motherboard as it delivers power to the CPU as the latter likely receives more cooling than the former. With mineral oil you are able to more efficiently cool the entire system by immersing it in a better coolant than air.
This still makes Ken wake up in a cold sweat… is what we convince ourselves.
After a full year of testing servers, Intel has decided that oil immersion cooling should be utilized by more server hosts to cut costs over traditional air conditioning. In their test they used heat sinks which were designed for air and dunked them pretty much unmodified into the mineral oil dielectric. Apart from the mess of it – Intel engineers always carried cleaning cloths just in case – Intel seems to only sing praise for results of their study.
Of course Intel could not help but promote their upcoming Phi platform which you may know as the ancestor of Larabee.
Now the real question is whether Intel just wanted to shamelessly plug themselves – or whether they are looking so closely at alternative cooling solutions as a result of their upcoming Phi platform. Will we eventually see heat dissipation concerns rear their heads with the new platform? Could Intel either be sitting on or throttling Phi because they are waiting for a new heat dissipation paradigm?
Could be interesting.
Ah, IDF – the Intel Developer Forum. Almost every year–while I sit in slightly uncomfortable chairs and stare at outdated and color washed projector screens–information is passed on about Intel's future architectures, products and technologies. Last year we learned the final details about Ivy Bridge, and this year we are getting the first details about Haswell, which is the first architecture designed by Intel from the ground up for servers, desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.
While Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge were really derivatives of prior designs and thought processes, the Haswell design is something completely different for the company. Yes, the microarchitecture of Haswell is still very similar to Sandy Bridge (SNB), but the differences are more philosophical rather than technological.
Intel's target is a converged core: a single design that is flexible enough to be utilized in mobility devices like tablets while also scaling to the performance levels required for workstations and servers. They retain the majority of the architecture design from Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge including the core design as well as the key features that make Intel's parts unique: HyperThreading, Intel Turbo Boost, and the ring interconnect.
The three pillars that Intel wanted to address with Haswell were performance, modularity, and power innovations. Each of these has its own key goals including improving performance of legacy code (existing), and having the ability to extract greater parallelism with less coding work for developers.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors | September 11, 2012 - 11:52 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, idf, idf 2012, keynote
The Intel Developer Forum is one of the best places in the world to get information and insight on the future of technology directly from those that creat it. Join me as I live blog (Wi-Fi connection dependent as always!) the keynotes from all three days at http://pcper.com/live!!
Be sure to stop by our PC Perspective Live page at 9am PT on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday!!
Subject: Processors | September 6, 2012 - 01:10 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, haswell, cpu, 10w tdp
Intel’s next generation Haswell CPU architecture is set to lower the bar even further on power efficiency by requiring only 10W of cooling. As the company’s mainstream processor, and replacement for Ivy Bridge, it is set to launch in the first half of 2013.
Haswell will be based on a new socket called LGA 1150, and is said to feature incremental performance improvements over Ivy Bridge. Further, Haswell CPUs will include one of three tiers of GT1, GT2, or GT3 processor graphics along with the AVX2 instruction set.
What is interesting about the recent report by The Verge is that previous rumors suggested that Haswell would have higher TDP ratings than both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge. Considering Ivy Bridge has several 35W desktop models, and a few 17W mobile parts, the reported 10W TDP of Haswell seems to indicate that at least the mobile editions of Haswell will actually have much lower TDPs than Ivy Bridge. (It is not clear if detkop and non ultra-low-voltage (ULV) chips will see similar TDP improvements or not.)
The 10W TDP would mean that ultrabooks and other thin-and-light laptops could use smaller heatsinks and suggests that the processors will be more power efficient resulting in battery life improvements (which are always welcome). The Verge further quoted an Intel representative in stating that "It's really the first product we're building from the ground up for ultrabook."
While the lowest-power Haswell chips won’t be powerhouses on the performance front, with the improvements over Ivy Bridge to the CPU and GPU it should still handily best the company’s Atom lineup. Such a feat would allow Haswell to secure a spot powering future Windows 8 slates and other mobile devices where Atom is currently being used.
Just the fact that Intel has managed to get its next generation mainstream CPU architecture down to 10W is impressive, and I’m looking forward to see what kinds of devices such a low power x86-64 chip will enable.
Stay tuned for more Haswell news as the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) next week should be packed with new information. Here's hoping that the desktop chips manage some (smaller) TDP improvements as well!
Subject: Processors | September 4, 2012 - 10:46 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sandy bridge, Ivy Bridge, Intel, core i3, 35w
Back in March of this year, Intel launched a slew of third generation Core Ivy Bridge processors. At the high end sat the Core i7-3770K with 4 cores, hyperthreading, 3.5 GHz clockspeed (3.9 GHz Turbo Boost), 8 MB L3 cache, and a 77W TDP for $332. The lineup went down in features – and price – from there all the way to the Core i5-3330S. The 3330S had four cores, 6 MB of L3 cache, a 65W TDP, and a clockspeed of 2.7 GHz (3.2 GHz Turbo Boost). Further, just about every CPU that was not a K, S, or T edition came equipped with the older HD 2500 integrated processor graphics. While the list comprised 18 new processors, the lower-end Core i3 Ivy Bridge CPUs were noticeably absent.
Fortunately, FanlessTech has managed to get ahold of pricing and specifications for five of those lower cost Intel chips. The new additions to Intel's lineup include three Ivy Bridge processors and two Sandy Bridge CPUs. Specifically, we have the i3-3240T, i3-3220T, Pentium G2100T, Pentium G645T, and Pentium G550T. All of those parts have a TDP of 35W and are priced very affordably.
|Model||Cores / Threads||Clockspeed||L3 Cache||TDP||Launch Price ($USD)|
|i3-3240T||Ivy Bridge||2/4||2.90 GHz||3MB||35W||$138|
|i3-3220T||Ivy Bridge||2/4||2.80 GHz||3MB||35W||$117|
|Pentium G2100T||Ivy Bridge||2/2||2.60 GHz||3MB||35W||$75|
|Pentium G645T||Sandy Bridge||2/2||2.50 GHz||3MB||35W||$64|
|Pentium G550T||Sandy Bridge||2/2||2.20 GHz||2MB||35W||$42|
The Core i3-3240T and i3-3220T are dual core Ivy Bridge processors build on a 22nm process, and are priced at just over $100. The cheapest Ivy Bridge CPU is actually the Pentium G2100T at $75 so the barrier to entry for Intel’s latest chips is much lower than it was a few months ago. Intel’s second generation Core architecture is still alive and kicking as well with the Pentium G645T and G550T at $64 and $42 respectively.
Two specifications are still unkown: Turbo Boost clockspeeds (if any) and which version of processor graphics these chips will feature. On the graphics front, I think HD 2500 is a safe bet but Intel may throw everyone a curve ball and pack the higher-end processor graphics into the low end units – which are arguably the (computers) that need the better GPU the most.
Granted, these lower cost processors are not going to give you near the performance of the i7-3770K that we recently reviewed, but they are still important for low power and budget desktops. Bringing the power efficiency improvements of Ivy Bridge down to under $100 is definitely a good thing.
As far as availability, you can find some of the new low TDP processors at online retailers now (such as the Core i3-3220T), but others are not for sale yet. While I do not have any exact dates, they should be available shortly.
How would you put these low TDP dual cores to work?
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