Subject: Processors | May 28, 2014 - 05:09 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: tablet, SoC, Rockchip, mobile, Intel, atom, arm, Android
While details about upcoming Haswell-E processors were reportedly leaking out, an official announcement from Intel was made on Tuesday about another CPU product - and this one isn't a high-end desktop part. The chip giant is partnering with the fabless semiconductor manufacturer Rockchip to create a low-cost SoC for Android devices under the Intel name, reportedly fabricated at TSMC.
We saw almost exactly the opposite of this arrangement last October, when it was announced that Altera would be using Intel to fab ARMv8 chips. Try to digest this: Instead of Intel agreeing to manufacture another company's chip with ARM's architecture in their fabs, they are going through what is said to be China's #1 tablet SoC manufacturer to produce x86 chips...at TSMC? It's a small - no, a strange world we live in!
From Intel's press release: "Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will deliver an Intel-branded mobile SoC platform. The quad-core platform will be based on an Intel® Atom™ processor core integrated with Intel's 3G modem technology."
As this upcoming x86 SoC is aimed at entry-level Android tablets this announcement might not seem to be exciting news at first glance, but it fills a short term need for Intel in their quest for market penetration in the ultramobile space dominated by ARM-based SoCs. The likes of Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, TI, and others (including Rockchip's RK series) currently account for 90% of the market, all using ARM.
As previously noted, this partnership is very interesting from an industry standpoint, as Intel is sharing their Atom IP with Rockchip to make this happen. Though if you think back, the move is isn't unprecedented... I recall something about a little company called Advanced Micro Devices that produced x86 chips for Intel in the past, and everything seemed to work out OK there...
When might we expect these new products in the Intel chip lineup codenamed SoFIA? Intel states "the dual-core 3G version (is) expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year, the quad-core 3G version...expected to ship in the first half of 2015, and the LTE version, also due in the first half of next year." And again, this SoC will only be available in low-cost Android tablets under this partnership (though we might speculate on, say, an x86 SoC powered Surface or Ultrabook in the future?).
Subject: Processors | May 27, 2014 - 06:58 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: X99, rumors, octocore, lga2011, Intel, Haswell-E, cpu
As with any high-profile release there have been rumors circulating around Intel's upcoming high-end desktop processors for the X99 chipset, and a report today from Chinese site Coolaler claims to have the specs on these new Haswell-E CPU's.
Of particular interest are the core counts, which appear to have been increased compared to the current Ivy Bridge-E products. The lineup will reportedly include a 6-core i7-5820K, 6-core i7-5930K, and 8-core i7-5960X. Yep, not only are we looking at an octo-core desktop part but now even the "entry-level" Extreme part might have 6 cores.
Nothing wrong with more cores (and this will be especially attractive if we see the same MSRP's as Ivy Bridge-E) but there might be one caveat with the i7-5820K, as the reported specs show fewer PCIe lanes on this CPU with 28, compared to the 40 lanes found on the higher Haswell-E parts (and all current Ivy-Bridge-E parts).
Haswell-E would still provide more lanes than the current desktop i7 parts (an i7-4770K has only 16), but the disparity would create an interesting quandary for a potential adopter. Though x8 connections for multi-GPU setups is par for the course already on non-X79 desktop systems, the SATA Express and M.2 standards will put more of a premium on PCIe lane allocation for storage going forward.
Of course no official word from Intel on the matter yet, and only speculation on pricing. This is completely unsubstantiated, but is certainly of interest - particularly as hex-core i7's previously commanded the pricing of a more premium part in each prior iteration.
Subject: Processors | May 19, 2014 - 11:13 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell, z97, krzanich
Apparently attending Maker Faire gets you more than a look at the latest hacked gadgets produced by the community. Reuters got to talk with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich who confirmed that the company's upcoming Broadwell architecture processors using the new 14nm process technology would be on store shelves in time for the holidays.
"I can guarantee for holiday, and not at the last second of holiday," Krzanich said in an interview. "Back to school - that's a tight one. Back to school you have to really have it on-shelf in July, August. That's going to be tough."
Dissecting that comment we can assume that Broadwell will likely be made available in September or October of this year. This becomes the most precise word from the mouth of Intel about the release of these new parts but of course there wasn't much detail to be had. Though "computers" was mentioned he did not specify notebooks, all-in-ones or desktops. And more importantly for our readers, he did not specify anything about the socketed parts we have been promised would run on the newly released Intel Z97 chipset.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | May 15, 2014 - 05:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, xaiomi, mipad, tegra k1
Tegra K1 is NVIDIA's new mobile processor and this first to implement the Kepler graphics architecture. In other words, it has all of the same graphics functionality as a desktop GPU with 364 GigaFLOPs of performance (a little faster than a GeForce 9600 GT). This is quite fast for a mobile product. For instance, that amount of graphics performance could max out Unreal Tournament 3 to 2560x1600 and run Crysis at 720p. Being Kepler, it supports OpenGL 4.4, OpenGL ES 3.1, DirectX 11 and 12, and GPU compute languages.
Xiaomi is launching their MiPad in Beijing, today, with an 8-inch 2048x1536 screen and the Tegra K1. They will be available in June (for China) starting at $240 USD for the 16GB version and going up to $270 for the 64GB version. Each version has 2GB of RAM, an 8MP rear-facing camera, and a 5MP front camera.
Now, we wait and see if any Tegra K1 devices come to North America and Europe - especially at that price point.
Another Boring Presentation...?
In my old age I am turning into a bit of a skeptic. It is hard to really blame a guy; we are surrounded by marketing and hype, both from inside companies and from their fans. When I first started to listen in on AMD’s Core Innovation Update presentation, I was not expecting much. I figured it would be a rehash of the past year, more talk about Mullins/Beema, and some nice words about some of the upcoming Kaveri mobile products.
I was wrong.
AMD decided to give us a pretty interesting look at what they are hoping to accomplish in the next three years. It was not all that long ago that AMD was essentially considered road kill, and there was a lot of pessimism that Rory Read and Co. could turn AMD around. Now after a couple solid years of growth, a laser-like focus on product development based on the IP strengths of the company, and a pretty significant cut of the workforce, we are seeing an AMD that is vastly different from the one that Dirk Meyers was in charge of (or Hector Ruiz for that matter). Their view for the future takes a pretty significant turn from where AMD was even 8 years ago. x86 certainly has a future for AMD, but the full-scale adoption of the ARM architecture looks to be what finally differentiates this company from Intel.
Look, I’m Amphibious!
AMD is not amphibious. They are working on being ambidextrous. Their goal is not only to develop and sell x86 based processors, but also be a prime moving force in the ARM market. AMD has survived against a very large, well funded, and aggressive organization for the past 35 years. They believe their experience here can help them break into, and thrive within, the ARM marketplace. Their goals are not necessarily to be in every smartphone out there, but they are leveraging the ARM architecture to address high growth markets that have a lot of potential.
There are really two dominant architectures in the world with ARM and x86. They power the vast majority of computing devices around the world. Sure, we still have some Power and MIPS implementations, but they are dwarfed by the combined presence of x86 and ARM in modern devices. The flexibility of x86 allows it to scale from the extreme mobile up to the highest performing clusters. ARM also has the ability to scale in performance from handhelds up to the server world, but so far their introduction into servers and HPC solutions has been minimal to non-existent. This is an area that AMD hopes to change, but it will not happen overnight. A lot of infrastructure is needed to get ARM into that particular area. Ask Intel how long it took for x86 to gain a handhold in the lucrative server and workstation markets.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 11, 2014 - 11:41 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ulv, mobile apu, laptop, Kaveri, APU, amd
According to leaked information, AMD will allegedly be releasing mobile versions of its Kaveri APU later this year. There are reportedly seven new processors aimed at laptops and tablet that follow the same basic design as their desktop counterparts: steamroller CPU cores paired with a GCN-based graphics portion and an integrated memory controller.
According to information obtained by WCCF Tech, AMD will release four ULV and three standard voltage parts. All but one APU will have four Steamroller CPU cores paired with an Radeon R4, R5, R6, or R7 graphics processor with up to 512 GCN cores. The mobile APUs allegedly range in TDP from 17W to 35W and support various AMD technologies including TrueAudio, Mantle, and Eyefinity.
An AMD slide showing a die shot of the desktop "Kaveri" Accelerated Processing Unit (APU).
Of the seven rumored APUs, two of them are OEM-only parts that feature the “FX” moniker. The FX-7500 is the fastest ULV (ultra-low voltage) APU while the FX-7600P is AMD’s flagship mobile processor.
The FX-7600P is the chip that should most interest mobile gamers and enthusiasts looking for a powerful AMD-powered laptop or tablet. This processor allegedly features four CPU cores clocked at 2.7GHz base (that turbo to a maximum of 3.6GHz), a GPU with 512 GCN cores clocked at a base of 600MHz and a boost clock of 666MHz. The chip further uses 4MB of L2 cache and is a 35W TDP part. This should be a decent processor for laptops, offering acceptable general performance and some nice mobile gaming with the beefy integrated GPU!
The leaked AMD mobile Kaveri APU lineup via WCCF Tech.
Of course, for productivity machines where portability and battery life are bigger concerns, AMD will reportedly be offering up the dual core A6-7000. This 17W ULV processor combines two cores clocked at 2.2GHz (3.0GHz boost), a GPU based on the Radeon R4 with 192 GCN cores (494MHz base and 533MHz boost), and 2MB of L2 cache. Compared to the FX-7600P (and especially the desktop parts), the A6-7000 sips power. We will have to wait for reviews to see how it performs, but it will be facing stiff competition from Intel’s Core i3 Haswell CPUs and even the Bay Trail SoCs which come in at a lower TDP and offer higher thread counts. The GPU capabilities and GPGPU / HSA software advancements (such as LibreOffice adding GPGPU support) will make or break the A6-7000, in my opinion.
In all, the leaked mobile chips appear to be a decent upgrade over the previous generation. The new mobile APUs will bring incremental performance and power saving benefits to bear against competition from Intel. I’m looking forward to more official information and seeing what the OEMs are able to do with the new chips.
Subject: Processors | May 8, 2014 - 12:26 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: TrustZone, server, seattle, PCI-E 3.0, opteron a1100, opteron, linux, Fedora, ddr4, ARMv8, arm, amd, 64-bit
AMD showed off its first ARM-based “Seattle” processor running on a reference platform motherboard at an event in San Francisco earlier this week. The new chip, which began sampling in March, is slated for general availability in Q4 2014. The “Seattle” processor will be officially labeled the AMD Opteron A1100.
During the press event, AMD demonstrated the Opteron A1100 running on a reference design motherboard (the Seattle Development Platform). The hardware was used to drive a LAMP software stack including an ARM optimized version of Linux based on RHEL, Apache 2.4.6, MySQL 5.5.35, and PHP 5.4.16. The server was then used to host a WordPress blog that included stream-able video.
Of course, the hardware itself is the new and interesting bit and thanks to the event we now have quite a few details to share.
The Opteron A1100 features eight ARM Cortex-A57 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz (or higher). AMD has further packed in an integrated memory controller, TrustZone encryption hardware, and floating point and NEON video acceleration hardware. Like a true SoC, the Opteron A1100 supports 8 lanes of PCI-E 3.0, eight SATA III 6Gbps ports, and two 10GbE network connections.
The Seattle processor has a total of 4MB of L2 cache (each pair of cores shares 1MB of L2) and 8MB L3 cache that all eight cores share. The integrated memory controller supports DDR3 and DDR4 memory in SO-DIMM, unbuffered DIMM, and registered ECC RDIMM forms (only one type per motherboard) enabling the ARM-based platform to be used in a wide range of server environments (enterprise, SMB, and home servers et al).
AMD has stated that the upcoming Opteron A1100 processor delivers between two and four times the performance of the existing Opteron X series (which uses four x86 Jaguar cores clocked at 1.9 GHz). The A1100 has a 25W TDP and is manufactured by Global Foundries. Despite the slight increase in TDP versus the Opteron X series (the Opteron X2150 is a 22W part), AMD claims the increased performance results in notable improvements in compute/watt performance.
AMD has engineered a reference motherboard though partners will also be able to provide customized solutions. The combination of reference motherboard and ARM-based Opteron A1100 is known at the Seattle Development Platform. This reference motherboard features four registered DDR3 DIMM slots for up to 128GB of memory, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, support for standard ATX power supplies, and multiple PCI-E connectors that can be configured to run as a single PCI-E 3.0 x8 slot or two PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots.
The Opteron A1100 is an interesting move from AMD that will target low power servers. the ARM-based server chip has an uphill battle in challenging x86-64 in this space, but the SoC does have several advantages in terms of compute performance per watt and overall cost. AMD has taken the SoC elements (integrated IO, memory, companion processor hardware) of the Opteron X series and its APUs in general, removed the graphics portion, and crammed in as many low power 64-bit ARM cores as possible. This configuration will have advantages over the Opteron X CPU+GPU APU when running applications that use multiple serial threads and can take advantage of large amounts of memory per node (up to 128GB). The A1100 should excel in serving up files and web pages or acting as a caching server where data can be held in memory for fast access.
I am looking forward to the launch as the 64-bit ARM architecture makes its first major inroads into the server market. The benchmarks, and ultimately software stack support, will determine how well it is received and if it ends up being a successful product for AMD, but at the very least it keeps Intel on its toes and offers up an alternative and competitive option.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 7, 2014 - 03:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: conflict-free, Intel, Congo
The Intel and Google keynote speech closed out with a video and an announcement. Each Chrome OS device that they mentioned will be among the first to use Haswell and Bay Trail processors manufactured with conflict-free minerals. They are not abandoning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rather they seem to be forcing their suppliers to adhere to human rights standards if they want to do business with Intel.
This initiative has apparently led to the creation of the "Conflict-Free Smelter Program" which is run by the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative. This industry body includes several other companies, such as AMD, Apple, Foxconn, IBM, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Pegatron, Qualcomm, every laptop manufacturer that I could think of, and over 150 others.
Intel has been discussing this for a little while, and taking positive steps toward this goal along the way. There really is not that many other ways to say it: reducing the suffering in the world is a great goal.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 6, 2014 - 03:19 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, Broadwell
VR-Zone is returning to their "leak everything Intel has" gig with a few light details about Skylake, the architecture after Broadwell, and its accompanying 100-Series chipset. The main detail is that Skylake, despite Broadwell and its delays, is still expected for 2015. This sort of makes sense, because this architecture runs on the same 14nm fabrication process as Broadwell, but it is surprising nonetheless. Intel could have slowed down its entire release cycle to compensate for how difficult it is to make smaller transistors and keep a steady "Tick-Tock".
Or maybe they hope that the process shrink after Skylake, Cannonlake at 10nm, will be on schedule?
Image Credit: VR-Zone
The second major detail is the available sockets. A couple of years ago, there was a fear that Intel would drop LGA sockets, starting with Broadwell, and switch entirely to the non-replaceable BGA soldered-to-the-motherboard format. Intel has later decided to support LGA with Broadwell and that will continue with Skylake.
This leads us to the third major detail - product categories. There will be four of them in the consumer range: H (BGA) for regular notebooks, Y (BGA) for desktops and all-in-ones, U (BGA) for ultrabooks, and S (LGA) for standard desktop computers. The slide lists a few more details which I believe signify core count and GPU version. If so, the lineup of Skylake processors would be the following:
- (BGA) Quad Core Skylake-H with GT2 Graphics
- (BGA) Quad Core Skylake-H with GT4e Graphics, the successor to Iris Pro.
- (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-Y with GT2 Graphics
- (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-U with GT2 Graphics
- (BGA) Dual Core Skylake-U with GT3e Iris Pro Graphics
- (LGA) Quad Core Skylake-S with GT2 Graphics
- (LGA) Dual Core Skylake-S with GT2 Graphics
- (LGA) Quad Core Skylake-S with GT4e Graphics, the successor to Iris Pro.
The inclusion of an enthusiast, LGA SKU with GT4e graphics is promising, especially for us. We, of course, continue to want products that we can, you know, buy and put into our desktops at will. It will certainly be interesting to see how these GPUs perform and it could lead to some healthy SteamOS builds.
There's a lot of information here. Expect us to chew on this over the next little while.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | April 30, 2014 - 07:06 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, clover trail, Bay Trail, arm, Android
While we are still waiting for those mysterious Intel Bay Trail based Android tablets to find their way into our hands, we met with ARM today to discuss quite few varying topics. One of them centered around the cost of binary translation - the requirement to convert application code compiled for one architecture and running it after conversion on a different architecture. In this case, running native ARMv7 Android applications on an x86 platform like Bay Trail from Intel.
Based on results presented by ARM, so take everything here in that light, more than 50% of the top 250 applications in the Android Play Store require binary translation to run. 23-30% have been compiled to x86 natively, 20-21% run through Dalvik and the rest have more severe compatibility concerns. That paints a picture of the current state of Android apps and the environment in which Intel is working while attempting to release Android tablets this spring.
Performance of these binary translated applications will be lower than they would be natively, as you would expect, but to what degree? These results, again gathered by ARM, show a 20-40% performance drop in games like Riptide GP2 and Minecraft while also increasing "jank" - a measure of smoothness and stutter found with variances in frame rates. These are applications that exist in a native mode but were tricked into running through binary conversion as well. The insinuation is that we can now forecast what the performance penalty is for applications that don't have a natively compiled version and are forced to run in translation mode.
The result of this is lower battery life as it requires the CPU to draw more power to keep the experience close to nominal. While gaming on battery, which most people do with items like the Galaxy Tab 3 used for testing, a 20-35% decrease in game time will hurt Intel's ability to stand up to the best ARM designs on the market.
Other downsides to this binary translation include longer load times for applications, lower frame rates and longer execution time. Of course, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is based on Intel's Atom Z2560 SoC, a somewhat older Clover Trail+ design. That is the most modern currently available Android platform from Intel as we are still awaiting Bay Trail units. This also explains why ARM did not do any direct performance comparisons to any devices from its partners. All of these results were comparing Intel in its two execution modes: native and translated.
Without a platform based on Bay Trail to look at and test, we of course have to use the results that ARM presented as a placeholder at best. It is possible that Intel's performance is high enough with Silvermont that it makes up for these binary translation headaches for as long as necessary to see x86 more ubiquitous. And in fairness, we have seen many demonstrations from Intel directly that show the advantage of performance and power efficiency going in the other direction - in Intel's favor. This kind of debate requires some more in-person analysis with hardware in our hands soon and with a larger collection of popular applications.
More from our visit with ARM soon!