Rumor: Intel and Xiaomi "Special Deal"

Subject: Processors, Mobile | January 7, 2016 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: xiaomi, Intel, atom

So this rumor cites anonymous source(s) that leaked info to Digitimes. That said, it aligns with things that I've suspected in a few other situations. We'll discuss this throughout the article.

Xiaomi, a popular manufacturer of mobile devices, are breaking into the laptop space. One model was spotted on pre-order in China with an Intel Core i7 processor. According to the aforementioned leak, Intel has agreed to bundle an additional Intel Atom processor with every Core i7 that they order. Use Intel in a laptop, and they can use Intel in an x86-based tablet for no additional cost.

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A single grain of salt... ...
Image Source: Wikipedia

While it's not an explicit practice, we've been seeing hints of similar initiatives for years now. A little over a year ago, Intel's mobile group reported revenues that are ~$1 million, which are offset by ~$1 billion in losses. We would also see phones like the ASUS ZenFone 2, which has amazing performance at a seemingly impossible $199 / $299 price point. I'm not going to speculate on what the actual relationships are, but it sounds more complicated than a listed price per tray.

And that's fine, of course. I know comments will claim the opposite, either that x86 is unsuitable for mobile devices or alleging that Intel is doing shady things. In my view, it seems like Intel has products that they believe can change established mindsets if given a chance. Personally, I would be hesitant to get an x86-based developer phone, but that's because I would only want to purchase one and I'd prefer to target the platform that the majority has. It's that type of inertia that probably frustrates Intel, but they can afford to compete against it.

It does make you wonder how long Intel plans to make deals like this -- again, if they exist.

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Source: Digitimes

Photonic IC Created by University of Colorado Boulder

Subject: Processors | December 29, 2015 - 02:03 AM |
Tagged: optical, photonics

A typical integrated circuit pushes electrical voltage across pathways, with transistors and stuff modifying it. When you interpret those voltages as mathematical values and logical instructions, then congratulations, you have created a processor, memory, and so forth. You don't need to use electricity for this. In fact, the history of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace was their attempts to perform computation on mechanical state.

ucolorado-2015-opticalic.jpg

Image Credit: University of Colorado
Chip contains optical (left) and electric (top and right) circuits.

One possible follow-up is photonic integrated circuits. This routes light through optical waveguides, rather than typical electric traces. The prototype made by University of Colorado Boulder (and UC Berkeley) seem to use photonics just to communicate, and an electrical IC for the computation. The advantage is high bandwidth, high density, and low power.

This sort of technology was being investigated for several years. My undergraduate thesis for Physics involved computing light transfer through defects in a photonic crystal, using it to create 2D waveguides. With all the talk of silicon fabrication coming to its limits, as 14nm transistors are typically made of around two-dozen atoms, this could be a new direction to innovate.

And honestly, wouldn't you want to overclock your PC to 400+ THz? Make it go plaid for ludicrous speed. (Yes, this paragraph is a joke.)

Intel Adds New Processors to Broadwell and Skylake Lineups

Subject: Processors | December 28, 2015 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: skylake-u, Skylake, mobile cpu, Intel, desktop cpu, core i7, core i5, core i3, Broadwell

As reported by CPU World Intel has added a total of eight new processors to the 5th-gen “Broadwell” and 6th-gen “Skylake” CPU lineups, with new mobile and desktop models appearing in Intel’s price lists. The models include Core and Celeron, and range from dual core (five with Hyper-Threading) to a new quad-core i5:

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Chart of new Intel models from CPU-World

“Intel today added 8 new Broadwell- and Skylake-based microprocessors to the official price list. New CPUs have unusual model numbers, like i5-6402P and i5-5200DU, which indicates that they may have different feature-set than the mainstream line of desktop and mobile CPUs. Intel also introduced today Celeron 3855U and 3955U ultra-low voltage models.”

It is unclear if the desktop models (Core i3-6098P, Core i5-6402P) listed with enter the retail channel, or if they are destined for OEM applications. The report points out these models have a P suffix “that was used to signify the lack of integrated GPU in older generations of Core i3/i5 products. There is a good chance that it still means just that”.

Source: CPU-World
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

May the Radeon be with You

In celebration of the release of The Force Awakens as well as the new Star Wars Battlefront game from DICE and EA, AMD sent over some hardware for us to use in a system build, targeted at getting users up and running in Battlefront with impressive quality and performance, but still on a reasonable budget. Pairing up an AMD processor, MSI motherboard, Sapphire GPU with a low cost chassis, SSD and more, the combined system includes a FreeSync monitor for around $1,200.

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Holiday breaks are MADE for Star Wars Battlefront

Though the holiday is already here and you'd be hard pressed to build this system in time for it, I have a feeling that quite a few of our readers and viewers will find themselves with some cash and gift certificates in hand, just ITCHING for a place to invest in a new gaming PC.

The video above includes a list of components, the build process (in brief) and shows us getting our gaming on with Star Wars Battlefront. Interested in building a system similar the one above on your own? Here's the hardware breakdown.

  AMD Powered Star Wars Battlefront System
Processor AMD FX-8370 - $197
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - $29
Motherboard MSI 990FXA Gaming - $137
Memory AMD Radeon Memory DDR3-2400 - $79
Graphics Card Sapphire NITRO Radeon R9 380X - $266
Storage SanDisk Ultra II 240GB SSD - $79
Case Corsair Carbide 300R - $68
Power Supply Seasonic 600 watt 80 Plus - $69
Monitor AOC G2460PF 1920x1080 144Hz FreeSync - $259
Total Price Full System (without monitor) - Amazon.com - $924

For under $1,000, plus another $250 or so for the AOC FreeSync capable 1080p monitor, you can have a complete gaming rig for your winter break. Let's detail some of the specific components.

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AMD sent over the FX-8370 processor for our build, a 4-module / 8-core CPU that runs at 4.0 GHz, more than capable of handling any gaming work load you can toss at it. And if you need to do some transcoding, video work or, heaven forbid, school or productivity work, the FX-8370 has you covered there too.

cooler.jpg

For the motherboard AMD sent over the MSI 990FXA Gaming board, one of the newer AMD platforms that includes support for USB 3.1 so you'll have a good length of usability for future expansion. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO cooler was our selection to keep the FX-8370 running smoothly and 8GB of AMD Radeon DDR3-2133 memory is enough for the system to keep applications and the Windows 10 operating system happy.

Continue reading about our AMD system build for Star Wars Battlefront!!

Overclocking Locked Intel Skylake CPUs Possible - i3 6100 Benchmarked

Subject: Processors | December 11, 2015 - 07:08 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, overclocking, Intel, Core i3-6100, bios, BCLK, asrock

The days of Intel overclocking being limited to their more expensive unlocked parts appear to be over, as TechSpot has posted benchmarks from an overclocked Intel Core i3-6100 using a new (pre-release) BIOS update from ASRock.

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Image credit: TechSpot

"In overclocking circles it was recently noted that BCLK (base clock) overclocking might become a possibility in Skylake processors. Last night Asrock contacted us with an updated BIOS that enabled this. We jumped at the opportunity and have already tested and benched a Core i3-6100 Skylake CPU with a 1GHz overclock (4.7GHz) on air cooling."

The 1.0 GHz overclock was achieved with a 127 MHz base clock on the i3 processor, with a vcore of ~1.36v. Apparently the ASRock motherboard requires the processor's graphics portion to be disabled for overclocking with this method, and TechSpot used an NVIDIA GTX 960 for test system. The results were impressive, as you might imagine.

The following is a small sampling of the benchmark results available from the sourced TechSpot article:

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Image credit: TechSpot

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Image credit: TechSpot

The overclocked i3-6100 was able to come very close to the multi-threaded performance of the stock AMD FX-8320E (8-core) processor in Cinebench, with double the per-thread performance. Results from their Handbrake encode test were even better, with the overclocked i3-6100 essentially matching the performance of the Core i5-4430 processor tested.

Gaming was underwhelming, with very similar performance from the GTX 960 from all CPUs at the settings tested.

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Image credit: TechSpot

So what did the article say about this new overclocking-friendly BIOS availability? "We are told this updated BIOS for their Z170 motherboards will be available to owners very soon." It will be interesting to see if other vendors offer the same, as there are results out there using a SuperMicro board as well.

Source: TechSpot

AMD HSA Patches Hoping for GCC 6

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | December 8, 2015 - 01:07 PM |
Tagged: hsa, GCC, amd

Phoronix, the Linux-focused hardware website, highlighted patches for the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) that implement HSA. This will allow newer APUs, such as AMD's Carrizo, to accelerate chunks of code (mostly loops) that have been tagged with a precompiler flag as valuable to be done on the GPU. While I have done some GPGPU development, many of the low-level specifics of HSA aren't areas that I have too much experience with.

amd-2015-carrizo-8.jpg

The patches have been managed by Martin Jambor of SUSE Labs. You can see a slideshow presentation of their work on the GNU website. Even though features froze about a month ago, they are apparently hoping that this will make it into the official GCC 6 release. If so, many developers around the world will be able to target HSA-compatible hardware in the first half of 2016. Technically, anyone can do so regardless, but they would need to specifically use the unofficial branch on the GCC Subversion repository. This probably means compiling it themselves, and it might even be behind on a few features in other branches that were accepted into GCC 6.

Source: Phoronix

Intel Skylake Processors Can Bend Under Pressure, Damage CPU and LGA Socket

Subject: Processors | December 5, 2015 - 04:35 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, heatsink, damage, cpu cooler, Core i7 6700K, Core i7 6600K, bend, 6th generation, 3rd party

Some Intel 6th-gen "Skylake" processors have been damaged by the heatsink mounts of 3rd-party CPU coolers according to a report that began with pcgameshardware.de and has since made its rounds throughout PC hardware media (including the sourced Ars Technica article).

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The highly-referenced pcgameshardware.de image of a bent Skylake CPU

The problem is easy enough to explain, as Skylake has a notably thinner construction compared to earlier generations of Intel CPUs, and if enough pressure is exerted against these new processors the green substrate can bend, causing damage not only to the CPU but the pins in the LGA 1151 socket as well.

The only way to prevent the possibility of a bend is avoid overtightening the heatsink, but considering most compatible coolers on the market were designed for Haswell and earlier generations of Intel CPU this leaves users to guess what pressure might be adequate without potentially bending the CPU.

Intel has commented on the issue:

"The design specifications and guidelines for the 6th Gen Intel Core processor using the LGA 1151 socket are unchanged from previous generations and are available for partners and 3rd party manufacturers. Intel can’t comment on 3rdparty designs or their adherence to the recommended design specifications. For questions about a specific cooling product we must defer to the manufacturer."

It's worth noting that while Intel states that their "guidelines for the 6th Gen Intel Core processor using the LGA 1151 socket are unchanged from previous generations", it is specifically a change in substrate thickness that has caused the concerns. The problem is not limited to any specific brands, but certainly will be more of an issue for heatsink mounts that can exert a tremendous amount of pressure.

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An LGA socket damaged from a bent Skylake CPU (credit: pcgameshardware)

From the Ars report:

"Noctua, EK Water Blocks, Scythe, Arctic, Thermaltake, and Thermalright, commenting to Games Hardware about the issue, suggested that damage from overly high mounting pressure is most likely to occur during shipping or relocation of a system. Some are recommending that the CPU cooler be removed altogether before a system is shipped."

Scythe has been the first vendor to offer a solution to the issue, releasing this statement on their support website:

"Japanese cooling expert Scythe announces a change of the mounting system for Skylake / Socket 1151 on several coolers of its portfolio. All coolers are compatible with Skylake sockets in general, but bear the possibility of damage to CPU and motherboard in some cases where the PC is exposed to strong shocks (e.g. during shipping or relocation).This problem particularly involves only coolers which will mounted with the H.P.M.S. mounting system. To prevent this, the mounting pressure has been reduced by an adjustment of the screw set. Of course, Scythe is going to ship a the new set of screws to every customer completely free of charge! To apply for the free screw set, please send your request via e-mail to support@scythe.com or use the contact form on our website."

Substrate.jpg

The thickness of Skylake (left) compared to Haswell (right) (credit: pcgameshardware)

As owner of an Intel Skylake i5-6600K, which I have been testing with an assortment of CPU coolers for upcoming reviews, I can report that my processor appears to be free of any obvious damage. I am particularly careful about pressure when attaching a heatsink, but there have been a couple (including the above mentioned Scythe HPMS mounting system) that could easily have been tightened far beyond what was needed for a proper connection.

We will continue to monitor this situation and update as more vendors offer their response to the issue.

Source: Ars Technica

Rumors Surrounding the LG NUCLUN 2 SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | December 1, 2015 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, LG, Intel, arm

So this story came out of nowhere. Whether the rumors are true or false, I am stuck on how everyone seems to be talking about it with a casual deadpan. I spent a couple hours Googling whether I missed some big announcement that made Intel potentially fabricating ARM chips a mundane non-story. Pretty much all that I found was Intel allowing Altera to make FPGAs with embedded ARM processors in a supporting role, which is old news.

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Image Credit: Internet Memes...

The rumor is that Intel and TSMC were both vying to produce LG's Nuclon 2 SoC. This part is said to house two quad-core ARM modules in a typical big.LITTLE formation. Samples were allegedly produced, with Intel's part (2.4 GHx) being able to clock around 300 MHz faster than TSMC's offering (2.1 GHz). Clock rate is highly dependent upon the “silicon lottery,” so this is an area that production maturity can help with. Intel's sample would also be manufactured at 14nm (versus 16nm from TSMC although these numbers mean less than they used to). LG was also, again allegedly, interesting in Intel's LTE modem. According to the rumors, LG went with TSMC because they felt Intel couldn't keep up with demand.

Now that the rumor has been reported... let's step back a bit.

I talked with Josh a couple of days ago about this post. He's quite skeptical (as I am) about the whole situation. First and foremost, it takes quite a bit of effort to port a design to a different manufacturing process. LG could do it, but it is questionable, especially for a second chip ever sort of thing. Moreover, I still believe that Intel doesn't want to manufacture chips that directly compete with them. x86 in phones is still not a viable business, but Intel hasn't given up and you would think that's a prerequisite.

So this whole thing doesn't seem right.

Source: Android

Intel to Ship FPGA-Accelerated Xeons in Early 2016

Subject: Processors | November 20, 2015 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Intel, FPGA

UPDATE (Nov 26th, 3:30pm ET): A few readers have mentioned that FPGAs take much less than hours to reprogram. I even received an email last night that claims FPGAs can be reprogrammed in "well under a second." This differs from the sources I've read when I was reading up on their OpenCL capabilities (for potential evolutions of projects) back in ~2013. That said, multiple sources, including one who claim to have personal experience with FPGAs, say that it's not the case. Also, I've never used an FPGA myself -- again, I was just researching them to see where some GPU-based projects could go.

Designing integrated circuits, as I've said a few times, is basically a game. You have a blank canvas that you can etch complexity into. The amount of “complexity” depends on your fabrication process, how big your chip is, the intended power, and so forth. Performance depends on how you use the complexity to compute actual tasks. If you know something special about your workload, you can optimize your circuit to do more with less. CPUs are designed to do basically anything, while GPUs assume similar tasks can be run together. If you will only ever run a single program, you can even bake some or all of its source code into hardware called an “application-specific integrated circuit” (ASIC), which is often used for video decoding, rasterizing geometry, and so forth.

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This is an old Atom back when Intel was partnered with Altera for custom chips.

FPGAs are circuits that can be baked into a specific application, but can also be reprogrammed later. Changing tasks requires a significant amount of time (sometimes hours) but it is easier than reconfiguring an ASIC, which involves removing it from your system, throwing it in the trash, and printing a new one. FPGAs are not quite as efficient as a dedicated ASIC, but it's about as close as you can get without translating the actual source code directly into a circuit.

Intel, after purchasing FPGA manufacturer, Altera, will integrate their technology into Xeons in Q1 2016. This will be useful to offload specific tasks that dominate a server's total workload. According to PC World, they will be integrated as a two-chip package, where both the CPU and FPGA can access the same cache. I'm not sure what form of heterogeneous memory architecture that Intel is using, but this would be a great example of a part that could benefit from in-place acceleration. You could imagine a simple function being baked into the FPGA to, I don't know, process large videos in very specific ways without expensive copies.

Again, this is not a consumer product, and may never be. Reprogramming an FPGA can take hours, and I can't think of too many situations where consumers will trade off hours of time to switch tasks with high performance. Then again, it just takes one person to think of a great application for it to take off.

Source: PCWorld

Intel Launches Knights Landing-based Xeon Phi AIBs

Subject: Processors | November 18, 2015 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, knights landing, Intel

The add-in board version of the Xeon Phi has just launched, which Intel aims at supercomputing audiences. They also announced that this product will be available as a socketed processor that is embedded in, as PC World states, “a limited number of workstations” by the first half of next year. The interesting part about these processors is that they combine a GPU-like architecture with the x86 instruction set.

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Image Credit: Intel (Developer Zone)

In the case of next year's socketed Knights Landing CPUs, you can even boot your OS with it (and no other processor installed). It will probably be a little like running a 72-core Atom-based netbook.

To make it a little more clear, Knights Landing is a 72-core, 512-bit processor. You might wonder how that can compete against a modern GPU, which has thousands of cores, but those are not really cores in the CPU sense. GPUs crunch massive amounts of calculations by essentially tying several cores together, and doing other tricks to minimize die area per effective instruction. NVIDIA ties 32 instructions together and pushes them down the silicon. As long as they don't diverge, you can get 32 independent computations for very little die area. AMD packs 64 together.

Knight's Landing does the same. The 512-bit registers can hold 16 single-precision (32-bit) values and operate on them simultaneously.

16 times 72 is 1152. All of a sudden, we're in shader-count territory. This is one of the reasons why they can achieve such high performance with “only” 72 cores, compared to the “thousands” that are present on GPUs. They're actually on a similar scale, just counted differently.

Update: (November 18th @ 1:51 pm EST) I just realized that, while I kept saying "one of the reasons", I never elaborated on the other points. Knights Landing also has four threads per core. So that "72 core" is actually "288 thread", with 512-bit registers that can perform sixteen 32-bit SIMD instructions simultaneously. While hyperthreading is not known to be 100% efficient, you could consider Knights Landing to be a GPU with 4608 shader units. Again, it's not the best way to count it, but it could sort-of work.

So in terms of raw performance, Knights Landing can crunch about 8 TeraFLOPs of single-precision performance or around 3 TeraFLOPs of double-precision, 64-bit performance. This is around 30% faster than the Titan X in single precision, and around twice the performance of Titan Black in double precision. NVIDIA basically removed the FP64 compute units from Maxwell / Titan X, so Knight's Landing is about 16x faster, but that's not really a fair comparison. NVIDIA recommends Kepler for double-precision workloads.

So interestingly, Knights Landing would be a top-tier graphics card (in terms of shading performance) if it was compatible with typical graphics APIs. Of course, it's not, and it will be priced way higher than, for instance, the AMD Radeon Fury X. Knight's Landing isn't available on Intel ARK yet, but previous models are in the $2000 - $4000 range.

Source: PC World