Intel Might Become a Foundry -- For ARM? If Apple Goes x86

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | December 4, 2012 - 07:28 PM |
Tagged: Intel, arm, apple

Hopefully I did not make your head hurt too much with that title.

Intel announced early in the year the opening of their fabrication labs to certain other developers, none of which competing with anything Intel does. We joked about how this is the end of the world as we know it although we feel fine. As it turns out, the world might end December 2012: RBC rumors that Intel might fulfill orders of ARM processors taking away that responsibility from Samsung.

Of course, there will always be a catch. It is possible that Intel will allow Apple to manufacture their ARM-based processors at Intel if Apple switches their tablets to x86-based products. No-one said the apocalypse must be an irrational event.

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When pigs fly? Challenge accepted.

If this rumor comes to fruition - and that is a mighty large if - we finally know that a line of apathy exists within Intel. Intel fabricating an architecture that they directly compete with is a big deal, ignore their motive.

Intel has allegedly made a compromise, definitively this time. We debated fairly heavily whether Intel made a compromise when they allowed FBGAs to be manufactured at their facilities. This time there is no question about whether Intel will make a concession to better its company as a whole.

I have no doubt that Intel desires to stomp competing platforms but we should all doubt that Intel would never step into some middle ground. After all, Intel is not even suffering at this point by any measure. Imagine if the situation actually begins to look dire.

Source: CNN

The A10 5800K on LN2

Subject: Processors | December 4, 2012 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: amd, APU, A10 5800K, overclocking, LN2

It is worth remembering the AMD A10 5800K for a number of reasons, a mere $120 gets you not only a relatively decent CPU, the onboard 7660D will function quite effectively for streaming HD video or light gaming.  As well it is unlocked which means you can overclock both processors; MadShrimps hit 1186MHz on the 7660D from the 800MHz base clock and could easily reach 4.5GHz on the CPU cores.  Make sure to pick up memory of 1600MHz or more to feed that GPU and don't expect to see these overclocks on air, but perhaps a good liquid cooler might get you close to some of these scores.  If you know someone who needs a new multipurpose PC and looks at you blankly when you ask if it needs to be able to play Crysis, you could do worse than AMD's A10 5800K.

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"Who hasn't heard about the following phrase? The Future is Fusion! Unless you have been living under a rock for the last years, this AMD marketing slogan was pretty much everywhere. AMD wanted to create a platform that was mainly very affordable, where a dedicated graphics card was not a must, while being power efficient, especially for the mobile market and up to the task to satisfy our multimedia, digital desires/needs. One option already existed in the form of an integrated graphic chips solutions on the motherboard. However the latter had non-conforming performance for todays standards. This all lead to the creation of the APU, Accelerated Processing Unit. The first steps to make Fusion a reality. The FM1 socket Llano CPUs was AMD's first succesful try in this new market. As usual the competition caught up, so time for a new revision of the AMD APU. Hello world this is platform Virgo calling... Time to have a look at AMD's latest Trinity socket FM2 APU."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: MadShrimps
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Moving Towards BGA Only?

The sky is falling.  Does this mean that Chicken Little is panicking for no reason or is Chicken Little the Cassandra of our time?  It has been widely reported that Intel will not be offering the next generation Broadwell architecture as a LGA based product.  Broadwell is a 14 nm product that will integrate southbridge functions into the chip, making it essentially a SOC.  It will be offered only as a BGA only product, which means that it will be soldered onto a motherboard with no chance of being able to be swapped out.  Broadwell is the successor to the upcoming Haswell, itself a 22 nm product that features many architectural changes to both the CPU and graphics portion as compared to the current 22 nm Ivy Bridge.

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Will Broadwell be the death of the desktop industry and enthusiasts?  Will LGA become as scarce as chicken teeth?  Will we ever see a product with a swappable CPU after 2014?

Broadwell is aimed at TDPs ranging from 10 watts to 57 watts.  Current high end Ivy Bridge parts max out at 77 watts and do not feature any southbridge type functionality.  So that means that another 5 to 7 watts are added in for the chipset when discussing basic system TDPs.  So we are looking at around 87 watts for a top end product when including SATA and USB functionality.  30 watts is a pretty big deal in OEM circles.  We see right off the bat that Intel is aiming this architecture at a slightly different market, or at least a changing marketplace.

The unease that we are seeing is essentially this; Intel appears to be trying to take more profits from this setup and pass more costs onto the motherboard industry.  This is not necessarily new for Intel, as they did this when transitioning to the LGA socket.  LGA sockets are more expensive and more troublesome for the motherboard manufacturers as compared to a more traditional pin based interface.  AMD continues to use pin based chips as this lowers the cost that is incurred by the motherboard manufacturers, and it also lowers overall support issues.  LGAs are pretty solid, but it is very easy to bend one or more of those contacts so that they in fact do not create a solid connection with the CPU.  This is something that is uncommon with pin based CPUS, but the downside of pin based is that it is more expensive to produce the CPU in the first place as compared to a LGA chip which only features the pads on the substrate of the CPU.

Continue reading our thoughts on Intel's move to BGA processors...

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Ivy Bridge without the HD Graphics

The processor market is kind of stale these days; there aren't a lot of releases and the dominance of Intel in the high-end CPU market kind of makes things uninteresting.  We still have lot of great AMD processors in the low and mid-range markets but if you want a $200+ card part you will probably find your way into the world of Intel.

Today's processor review cuts across segments with a unique twist.  The Intel Core i5-3350P can be picked up at Newegg.com for $189 putting it right in the price point of the AMD FX-8150 (Zambezi) and the AMD FX-8320 (Vishera).  It also undercuts the very popular Intel Core i5-3570K by $50 or so while still offering some impressive performance results.

The only catch: this Ivy Bridge based processor does not include any integrated graphics.

The Intel Core i5-3350P

Intel recently released a couple of Ivy Bridge based processors that have disabled the integrated graphics completely, the 3350P being one of them.  This allows Intel to sell processor die that might have a defect on the GPU portion to increase the relative yield rate of their 22nm process and also gives them another weapon to fight off any pricing competition from AMD.

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Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i5-3350P Ivy Bridge Processor!!

Intel CEO Paul Otellini Resigns in May 2013, Two Years Early

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 23, 2012 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: Intel, CEO

Intel has not had any financial or directional problems nor have they experienced a revolving door in upper management, at least to my knowledge. Paul Otellini was expected to remain at the helm of the chip giant until he turned 65 at which point he would enjoy a wonderful retirement. He would have commanded the company for a full decade.

Intel recently announced that Otellini will leave the company and retire at 62.

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Possibly the most important part of the story might be the non-story piece: there does not appear to be any reason for him to leave. The board apparently did not want him to go. ARM holds a large lead in momentum over Intel, during Paul’s watch, in the mobile market but even then the future looks promising with early commentaries about Clover Trail. If I had to guess I would posit that his decision to step down is entirely for personal and possibly sudden circumstances. That was just a guess, however.

To further speculation about its abruptness, Intel does not seem to have anyone in mind as a replacement in just 6 months’ time. For the first time Intel will consider fulfilling the position from outside the company.

In related news, Intel’s stock made a slight dip in value after the abrupt announcement. While the decline was slight it does echo the reluctance mentioned earlier and shows that even the stock market approved of Intel’s performance over the last eight years.

Author:
Manufacturer: Nintendo

We go inside the Wii U

Last night after the midnight release of the new Nintendo Wii U gaming console, we did what any self respecting hardware fan would do: we tore it apart.  That's right, while live on our PC Perspective Live! page, we opened up a pair of Wii U consoles, played a couple of games on the Deluxe while we took a tri-wing screwdriver to the second.  Inside we found some interesting hardware (and a lot more screws) and at the conclusion of the 5+ hour marathon, we had a reassembled system with only a handful of leftover screws!

If you missed the show last night we have archived the entire video on our YouTube channel (embedded below) as well as the photos we took during the event in their full resolution glory.  There isn't much to discuss about the teardown other than what we said in the video but I am going to leave a few comments after each set of four images.

OH!  And if you missed the live event and want to be apart of another one, we are going to be holding a Hitman: Absolution Game Stream on our Live Page sponsored by AMD with giveaways like Radeon graphics cards and LOTS of game keys!  Stop by again and see us on http://pcper.com/live on Tuesday the 20th at 8pm ET.

 

During the stream we promised photos of everything we did while taking it apart, so here you go!  Click to get the full size image!

 

Getting inside the Wii U was surprisingly easy as the white squares over the screws were simply stickers and we didn't have to worry about any clips breaking, etc.  The inside is dominated by the optical drive provided by Panasonic.

Continue reading to see ALL the images from our Nintendo Wii U Teardown!!

AMD Facing Even More Layoffs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | November 17, 2012 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: layoffs, amd

Personally, I am starting to get numb to AMD restructuring news -- and that is never good.

Less than a month ago we reported on the semiconductor design company’s decision to cut 15% of their workforce. The company still has life in it and has a respectable presence in all upcoming videogame consoles along with its inclusion within many consumer laptops and desktops but it is clearly not as much life as they need.

Original rumors stated that cuts could be on the order of 10-30% which 15% would be on the lighter side of. With rumors of more cuts coming in January I wonder if this was a last minute decision to break up the layoffs into two less dramatic installments.

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One of the beauties of the tech industry is the low cost of starting or turning a company around; it would be irresponsible to completely count out a player while it still has access to millions of capital. AMD is also sitting upon lots of assets which could be liquidated and their employees have ridiculous talent to be employable elsewhere. I have been noticing that most chatter about the topic is not based in concern with AMD and their employee’s future but with concern about an x86 competitor to Intel.

This is pretty much the same concern which I have been having about Windows 8: the house of cards may be standing but it is still a house of cards. We rely upon the proprietary standards which Intel and others impose upon the art, the word being used both in literal and “artisan / practical art” contexts which includes utensil applications.

Concern mounts but practically no-one grafts it to similar instabilities in other platforms.

No I am not saying abolish technology patents or anything like that: I am simply saying that this is yet another drop in the torrent of concerns with content upstream to proprietary platforms.

These issues rightfully cause alarm but are not isolated events.

Source: All Things D

Finally something new for the server team from AMD

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 6, 2012 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: piledriver, opteron 6300, amd, Abu Dhabi

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Low power, high density server designs are very important but it is nice to see updates on the more powerful server processors as well, something quite rare so far in 2012.  AMD has finally released their Opteron 6300 family, with ten members bearing between 8 to 16 cores and all running at over 3GHz.  We don't have any reviews to offer, so the only performance benchmarks are from AMD's press releases, but you can expect more change than just an increase in frequency as this is a Piledriver based chip.  The Register has put together a high level overview of the new Opterons or you can head on over to AMD to check out the information on offer there.  Cray is already shipping servers based on these chips, with Dell and HP releasing a variety of servers in the near future.

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"Customers using big ol' fat x86 servers didn't have much to jump for joy about this year. There just isn't a lot going on. But to make things interesting, AMD is now goosing the performance of its top-end parts with the launch of its "Abu Dhabi" Opteron 6300s, which sport the "Piledriver" cores that already debuted in the FX Series of high-end desktop chips."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

AMD Launches Piledriver-based Opteron 6300 Server Chips

Subject: Processors | November 6, 2012 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: server, piledriver, opteron, datacenter, cpu, amd

AMD announced new server processors on Monday based on the same Piledriver architecture used in the Trinity APUs and Vishera desktop CPUs we recently reviewed. With the release of the Opteron 6300 series, AMD is bringing Piledriver to the server room.

The new chips – similar to the desktop counterparts – bring several performance improvements over the previous generation 6200 series Opterons based on the Bulldozer architecture. AMD is positioning the chips as a upgrade path to existing servers and on merits of performance-per-dollar efficiency. As is AMD's fashion, the new chips are competitively priced and "good enough" performance-wise. With 6300, AMD has stated the goal is to reduce the TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership for servers used in data centers, supercomputers, and enterprises by being compatible with existing AMD server platforms with a BIOS upgrade and representing efficiency improvements over previous chips.

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The Opteron 6300 series CPUs themselves build upon the Vishera desktop parts by adding more cores and more L3 cache. The server parts will have up to 16 cores clocked at 2.8GHz base and 3.2GHz turbo. They will have TDP ratings between 85W and 140W and will feature prices from $500 to $1,400. On the cache front, the chips have a 16KB L1 data cache per core, 64KB L1 instruction cache per module, 1MB L2 cache per core, and a shared 16MB cache per socket. AMD has included a quad channel memory controller that supports DDR3 up to 1866 MHz and 1.5TB per server in 4P configurations. AMD has rounded out the chips with four x16 HyperTransport 3.0 links rated at 6.4 GT/s per link. Up to 4 processors per server will be supported, which means a maximum of 64 cores.

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With Piledriver, AMD added a number of new instructions including FMA3, BMI, and F16c. The company has also implemented server tweaks to the Bulldozer design to improve branch prediction, instructions per clock, scheduling, and reduced the power draw at higher clockspeeds allowing for the chps to clock higher while staying within the same power envelope of the Bulldozer-based Opteron 6200 series.

AMD is using the same socket as the 6200 series processors, and the new chips can be deployed as an upgrade to the old servers without needing a new motherboard.

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When pitting the new Opteron 6380 to the previous-generation 6278, AMD is claiming a number of performance increases, including a 24-percent and 40-percent improvement in SPECjob2005 and SPECpower_ssj2008 respectively.

Further, the company is claiming competitive performance in server workloads with the Intel competition. AMD offers up benchmarks showing the Opteron 6380 and Xeon E5-2690 trading wins, with the AMD part being slower in the STREAM benchmark, but being slightly faster in LAMPS and NAMD. The allure of the Opteron, according to AMD is that the AMD part is almost half the price of the Intel processor, and is hoping the lower priced parts will encourage adoption. AMD argues that the money saved could easily go towards more RAM or more storage (or simply be saved of course).

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The company has announced that its first major design win is Big Red II supercomputer at Indiana University. Built by Cray, the Big Red II will feature 21,000+ Opteron 6300-series CPU cores paired with NVIDIA GPUs. It represents a massive increase in computing power over IU’s previous Big Red supercomputer with 4,100 CPU cores, and will be used for medical, physics, chemistry, and climate research. Beyond that, AMD has stated more that 30 hardware vendors are slated to introduce servers based on the new Piledriver-based Opteron processors including HP, Dell, Cray, SGI, Supermicro, Sugon, and (of course) SeaMicro. On the software side of things, AMD is working with Microsoft, VMware, Xen, Red Hat, and Openstack. The company also stated that it is leaning on the experience and knowledge gained from the HSA Foundation to improve software support and guide the future direction of Opteron development.

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The Opteron 6300 series is an interesting release that brings several improvements to the company’s server chip offerings. At launch, there are 10 processors to choose from, ranging from the quad core 6308 clocked at 3.5GHz for $501 to the top-end 6386 SE with 16 cores (2.8GHz base, 3.5GHz max turbo) and a $1,392 price tag. The 6366HE is an interesting part as well. It is the same price as the 12-core, 115W TDP Opteron 6348, but its has 16 lower-clocked cores and an 85W TDP. With the non-HE edition processors with 16 cores starting at $703, the 6366HE for $575 is a decent deal if you need multi-threading more than a fewer number of higher clocked cores.

Another bit that I found intriguing is that in a few years, AMD will (likely, if all goes according to plan) be offering processors for just about every type of server. They will have low cost, low power ARM Cortex-A57 based chips, Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) well suited to mixed workloads including GPU-accelerated tasks, and CPU-only chips with lots of traditional x86-64 cores. It seems that Intel will continue to hold the high end on pure performance, but AMD and its SeaMicro server division have not given up competing in the server room by a long shot.

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Further reading:

The Piledrive architecture and Vishera desktop CPU review and The future of AMD: Vishera and Beyond at PC Perspective.

Intel Wants To See 48-Core Processors In Future Smartphones

Subject: Processors | October 31, 2012 - 02:25 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, R&D, prototype, Intel

Intel researchers located at the company’s Barcelona, Spain labs are working on multi-core solutions. Specifically, the researchers are looking to bring massive numbers of processing cores to smartphones and tablets. The x86 chip giant hopes to see as many as 48 core processors powering mobile devices within the next five to ten years.

Currently, quad core System on a Chip (SoC) processors represent the highest number of cores in a mobile device, so a 48 core processor would be an absolutely massive jump. Of course, there are several issues that Intel will need to address in order for such a chip to be feasible. The package size, TDP, and power draw will all need to be drastically reduced in order to fit into the power envelope and form factor of smartphones in particular. The biggest issue standing in the way of such a chip though is software. Massively multi-threaded software is still extremely rare, and on mobile devices is no where close to effectively utilizing the number of cores Intel wants to provide.

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Image credit: Computer Wold. A prototyping platform running software to research efficient multi-core processing.

Analyst Patrick Moorhead argues that five to ten years is effectively an eternity in technology-time, and by the time the hardware with massive numbers of cores is feasible, the software will be there. Intel is a bit less optimistic, but hopeful that developers will embrace the idea of multiple low power cores versus a few high clocked, power hungry cores. Such a transition in the software industry would allow smartphones to multitask much more efficiently than they do now, and would no longer have to comprise on the extent of background tasks in order to keep the user interface stable and snappy.

Intel is currently using cloud computers to analyze multi-threading and what tasks can be parallelized. The company envisions being able to encrypt email, listen to media, sync with backup services, and use voice recognition without needing to reach out to Internet-connected servers at the same time. Cores would be able to split the work or dedicate certain numbers of cores to tasks like the UI or video playback. Intel has already demonstrated the ability to turn off unused portions of the CPU to save power as well as its turbo boost modes to increase clockspeeds when there is TDP headroom. It will be interesting to see a 48 core chip, especially if software developers can be coerced into doing tasks with massive numbers of cores in mind.

Interestingly, AMD is going for heterogeneous cores (CPU cores, GPU cores, ARM cores, etc) while Intel is using its process node and chip technology lead to throw large numbers of homogenous cores at the problem of processing. In the end though, it all comes down to battery tech and software enabling these kinds of advancements. I'm hopeful that I'll see these kinds of currently mind-blowing chips in my future smartphone, however.

Computer World has a write-up with quotes from the Intel engineers working on the multi-core smartphone chip, which is worth a read. What do you think about the prospects of a 48 core chip in your handheld mobile device?