Subject: Processors | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: amd, APU, carrizo, Carrizo-L, Kaveri, Excavator, Steamroller, SoC, Intel, mobile
AMD has certainly gone about doing things in a slightly different manner than we are used to. Today they announced their two latest APUs which will begin shipping in the first half of 2015. These APUs are running at AMD and are being validated as we speak. AMD did not release many details on these products, but what we do know is pretty interesting.
Carrizo is based on the latest iteration of AMD’s CPU technology. Excavator is the codename for these latest CPU cores, and they promise to be smaller and more efficient than the previous Steamroller core which powers the latest Kaveri based APUs. Carrizo-L is the lower power variant which will be based on the Puma+ core. The current Beema APU is based on the Puma architecture.
Roadmaps show that the Carrizo APUs will be 28 nm products, presumably fabricated by GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Many were hoping that AMD would make the jump to 20 nm with this generation of products, but that does not seem to be the case. This is not surprising due to the limitations of that particular process when dealing with large designs that require a lot of current. AMD will likely be pushing for 16 nm FinFET for the generation of products after Carrizo.
The big Carrizo supposedly has a next generation GCN unit. My guess here is that it will use the same design as we saw with the R9 285. That particular product is a next generation unit that has improved efficiency. AMD did not release how many GCN cores will be present in Carizzo, but it will be very similar to what we see now with Kaveri. Carrizo-L will use the same GCN units as the previous generation Beema based products.
I believe AMD has spent a lot more time hand tuning Excavator instead of relying on a lot of automated place and route. This should allow them to retain much of the performance of the part, all the while cutting down on transistor count dramatically. Some rumors that I have seen point to each Excavator module being 40% smaller than Steamroller. I am not entirely sure they have achieved that type of improvement, but more hand layout does typically mean greater efficiency and less waste. The downside to hand layout is that it is extremely time and manpower intensive. Intel can afford this type of design while AMD has to rely more on automated place and route.
Carrizo will be the first HSA 1.0 compliant SOC. It is in fact an SOC as it integrates the southbridge functions that previously had been handled by external chips like the A88X that supports the current Kaveri desktop APUs. Carrizo and Carrizo-L will also share the same infrastructure. This means that motherboards that these APUs will be soldered onto are interchangeable. One motherboard from the partner OEMs will be able to address multiple markets that will see products range from 4 watts TDP up to 35 watts.
Finally, both APUs feature the security processor that allows them access to the ARM TrustZone technology. This is a very small ARM processor that handles the secure boot partition and handles the security requests. This puts AMD on par with Intel and their secure computing solution (vPro).
These products will be aimed only at the mobile market. So far AMD has not announced Carrizo for the desktop market, but when they do I would imagine that they will hit a max TDP of around 65 watts. AMD claims that Carrizo is one of the biggest jumps for them in terms of power efficiency. A lot of different pieces of technology have all come together with this product to make them more competitive with Intel and their process advantage. Time will tell if this is the case, but for now AMD is staying relevant and pushing their product releases so that they are more consistently ontime.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel
Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.
And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.
At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.
The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.
Core M 5Y70 Specifications
Back in August of this year, Intel invited me out to Portland, Oregon to talk about the future of processors and process technology. Broadwell is the first microarchitecture to ship on Intel's newest 14nm process technology and the performance and power implications of it are as impressive as they are complex. We finally have the first retail product based on Broadwell-Y in our hands and I am eager to see how this combination of technology is going to be implemented.
If you have not read through my article that dives into the intricacies of the 14nm process and the architectural changes coming with Broadwell, then I would highly recommend that you do so before diving any further into this review. Our Intel Core M Processor: Broadwell Architecture and 14nm Process Reveal story clearly explains the "how" and "why" for many of the decisions that determined the direction the Core M 5Y70 heads in.
As I stated at the time:
"The information provided by Intel about Broadwell-Y today shows me the company is clearly innovating and iterating on its plans set in place years ago with the focus on power efficiency. Broadwell and the 14nm process technology will likely be another substantial leap between Intel and AMD in the x86 tablet space and should make an impact on other tablet markets (like Android) as long as pricing can remain competitive. That 14nm process gives Intel an advantage that no one else in the industry can claim and unless Intel begins fabricating processors for the competition (not completely out of the question), that will remain a house advantage."
With a background on Intel's goals with Broadwell-Y, let's look at the first true implementation.
Subject: Processors | November 3, 2014 - 02:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Sempron 2650, low cost, Intel, Celeron J1800, asus AM1M-A, ASRock D1800M, amd
For a mere $60 you can get the ASRock D1800M motherboard with a Celeron J1800 installed, or for about $8 more you can get a socketed Sempron 2650 and compatible motherboard. After that it is merely a matter of adding a PSU, RAM and storage and you have a working machine for very little cost. Those were the systems which Hardware Secrets tested out to see which low cost, low powered system made more sense to purchase for light browsing and media consumption. As you would expect the 1Ghz clock advantage that the Celeron enjoys pushed its performance above the Sempron in all tests but 3D Mark but what is interesting is that the performance gap was nowhere near as large a percentage difference as the clock speed. While it is clear that the Celeron runs cooler, quieter and faster the fact that the AMD solution is socketed might sway some buyers decision. Check out the full review if you are interested in working machines that cost less than $200 to assemble.
"Both AMD and Intel recently released new families of low cost, low TDP desktop CPUs. AMD launched the AM1 platform with Sempron and Athlon "Kabini" processors, while Intel released the "Bay Trail-D" Celeron and Pentium CPUs, recognizable by the use of the letter "J" on the model naming. Among the lowest-end models of each family are, respectively, the AMD Sempron 2650, and the Intel Celeron J1800. Let's compare the performance of those CPUs and discover which one is the best buy in the low-end market segment."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD FX-9590 Processor Review: Brute Almighty @ Modders-Inc
- AMD FX-8370 and FX-8370e Review @HiTech Legion
- Intel Core i7 5820K Haswell-E @ Kitguru
- Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition, Core i7-5930K and Core i7-5820K @ X-bit Labs
- Core i7-5960X 5930K 5820K Overclocking & Performance @ [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Processors | October 29, 2014 - 05:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, Haswell-EX, Ivy Bridge-EX
Last February, Intel launched the Xeon E7 v2 line of CPUs. Based on the Ivy Bridge architecture, they replaced the original Xeon E7s, developed from Sandy Bridge, that were released in April 2011. Intel is now planning to release Haswell-EX in the second quarter of 2015. No specific SKUs are listed, this information describes the product family as a whole.
This is Ivy Bridge-EX. Haswell-EX will have 3 extra cores (and look a bit different).
To set the tone, these are not small chips. Using the previous generation as an example, Ivy Bridge-EX was over twice the size (surface area) of Ivy Bridge-E, and it contained over twice the number of transistors. While Ivy Bridge-EX was available with up to 15 physical cores per processor, double that with HyperThreading, Haswell-EX is increasing that to 18, or 36 simultaneous threads with HyperThreading. If that is not enough cores, then you can pick up an eight-socket motherboard and load it up with multiple of these.
Other than their gigantic size, these chips are fairly similar to the Xeon E5 processors that are based on Haswell-E. If you need eighteen cores per package, and can spare several thousand dollars per processor, you should be able to give someone your money in just a handful of months.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 04:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: arm, mali-T800, mali
While some mobile SoC manufacturers have created their own graphics architectures, others license from ARM (and some even have a mixture of each within their product stack). There does not seem to be a specific push with this generation, rather just increases in the areas that make the most sense. Some comments tout increased energy efficiency, others higher performance, and even API support got a boost to OpenGL ES 3.1, which brings compute shaders to mobile graphics applications (without invoking OpenCL, etc.).
Three models are in the Mali-T800 series: the T820, the T830, and the T860. As you climb in the list, the products go from entry level to high-performance mobile. GPUs are often designed in modularized segments, which ARM calls cores. You see this frequently in desktop, discrete graphics cards where an entire product stack contains a handful of actual designs, but products are made by disabling whole modules. The T820 and T830 can scale between one to four "core" modules, each core containing four actual "shader cores", while the T860 can scale between one to sixteen "core" modules, each core with 16 "shader cores". Again "core modules" are groups that contain actual shader processors (and L2 cache, etc.). Cores in cores.
This is probably why NVIDIA calls them "Streaming Multiprocessors" that contain "CUDA Cores".
ARM does not (yet) provide an actual GFLOP rating for these processors, and it is up to manufacturers to some extent. It is normally a matter of multiplying the clock frequency by the number of ops per cycle and by the number of shader units available. I tried, but I assume my assumption of instructions per clock was off because the number I was getting did not match with known values from previous generations, so I assumed that I made a mistake. Also, again, ARM considers their performance figures to be conservative. Manufacturers should have no problem exceeding these, effortlessly.
As for a release timeline? Because these architectures are designed for manufacturers to implement, you should start seeing them within devices hitting retail in late 2015, early 2016.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Chipsets | October 23, 2014 - 03:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell, Broadwell-E, Haswell-E
VR-Zone China got hold of an alleged Intel leak, go figure, that talks about their next enthusiast processor platform, Broadwell-E. This architecture is mostly Haswell-E that has its (rated) feature size shrunk down to 14nm. Given an available BIOS, it is expected to support at least some existing LGA 2011-v3 motherboards with the X99 chipset. Like Haswell, they are sticking with a maximum of 40 PCIe lanes. We will need to wait for individual SKUs to see whether one or more models will be limited to 28 lanes, like the Haswell-E-based Core i7-5820K.
Image Credit: Chinese VR-Zone
Intel claims 140W TDP, which is identical to the current three offerings of Haswell-E, for all options. The slide claims six and eight core models will be available (also identical to Haswell-E).
One bullet-point that baffled me is, "Integrated Memory Controller: 4 Channels DDR4 2400, 1 DIMM per Channel". Double-checking with the other writers here, just to make sure sure, it seems like the slide claims that Broadwell-E will only support four sticks of DDR4. This makes zero sense for a couple of reasons. First, one of the main selling points of the enthusiast platform has been the obscene amount of RAM that workstation users demand. Second, and more importantly, if it is compatible with existing motherboards, what is it going to do? Fail to POST if you install a fifth stick? This has to be a typo or referring to something else entirely.
When will you be able to get it? A bit later than we were hoping. It is expected for Q1 2016, rather than late 2015.
Subject: Processors | October 22, 2014 - 10:02 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Richland, Q3 results, lisa su, Kaveri, APU, amd, A10 7850K
While AMD made a small profit last quarter, the Q4 outlook from the company is not nearly as rosy. AMD estimates that Q4 revenues will be around 12% lower than Q3, making for a rare drop in what is typically a robust season for sales. Unlike Intel, AMD is seeing a very soft PC market for their products. Intel so far has been able to deliver parts that are as fast, if not faster than the latest APUs, but they also feature lower TDPs while at a comparable price. The one area that AMD has a significant advantage is in terms of 3D performance and better driver support.
To keep the chips selling during this very important quarter, AMD is cutting the prices on their entire lineup of FM2+ parts. This includes the entire Kaveri based lineup from the top end A10-7850K to the A6-7400K. AMD is also cutting the prices on the previous Richland based parts, which include the A10-6800K. Also of interest is that buyers of A10 APUs will be able to select one of three game titles (Murdered: Soul Suspect, Thief, or Sniper Elite 3) for free, or use the included code to purchase Corel’s Aftershot Pro 2 for only $5.
|Compute Cores||12 (4+8)||12 (4+8)||10 (4+6)||10 (4+6)||6 (2+4)|
|TDP (cTDP)||95 (65/45)||65 (45)||95 (65/45)||65 (45)||65 (45)|
The A10-7850K is a pretty good part overall, though of course it does suffer at the hands of Intel when it comes to pure CPU performance. It still is a pretty quick part that competes well with Intel’s 2 core/4 thread chips. 3D performance from the integrated graphics is class leading, and the potential for using that unit for HSA applications is another checkmark for AMD. We have yet to see widespread adoption of HSA, but we are seeing more and more software products coming out that support it. Having tested it out myself, the GPU portion of the APU can be enabled when using a standalone GPU from either AMD or NVIDIA. The Kaveri chips also support TrueAudio, which will show up in more titles throughout the next year.
One aspect of AMD’s latest FM2+ platform that cannot be ignored is the pretty robust selection of good and interesting motherboards that are offered at very low prices. Products such as the Gigabyte G1.Sniper.A88X and the MSI A88X-G45 Gaming motherboards are well rounded products that typically sell in the $90 to $110 range. Top end products like the Asus Crossblade Ranger are still quite affordable at around $160. Budget offerings are still pretty decent and they come in the $50 range.
One other product that has sparked interest is the Athlon X4 860K Black Edition. This product is clocked between 3.7 GHz and 4.0 GHz, features two Steamroller modules, and is priced at a very reasonable $90. The downside is that there is no GPU portion enabled, while the upside is that there is potentially more thermal headroom for the CPU portion to be clocked higher than previous A10-7850K parts. This will of course differ from individual chips, but the potential is there to have a pretty solid CPU for a very low price. Add in the low motherboard prices, and this has the making of a nice budget enthusiast system.
So why the cuts now? We can simply look at last week’s results for AMD’s previous quarter, as well as how the next quarter is stacking up. While AMD made a small profit last quarter, predictions for Q4 look grim. AMD is looking at around a 12% decrease in revenue, as stated above. AMD has a choice in that they can keep ASPs higher, but risk shipping less product in the very important 4th quarter; or they can sacrifice ASPs and potentially ship a lot more product. The end result of cutting the prices on their entire line of APUs will be of course lower ASPs, but a higher volume of parts being shipped and sold. In terms of cash flow, it is likely more important to see parts flowing rather than having higher inventories with a higher ASP. This also means that more APUs being sold will mean more motherboards from their partners moving through the channel.
Intel does have several huge advantages over AMD in that they have a very solid 22 nm process, a huge workforce that can hand tune their processors, and enough marketing money to make any company other than Apple squirm. AMD is at the mercy of the pure-play foundries in terms of process node tweaks and shrinks. AMD spent a long time at 32 nm PD-SOI before it was able to migrated to 28 nm HKMG. It looks to be 2015 before AMD sees anything below 28 nm for their desktop APUs, but it could be sooner for their smaller APUs and ARM based products on planar 20 nm HKMG processes. We don’t know a all of the specifics of the upcoming 16/14nm FinFET products from TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, so it will be hard to compare/contrast to Intel’s 2nd generation 14 nm TriGate line. All we know is that it will most assuredly be better than the current 28 nm HKMG that AMD is stuck at.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | October 8, 2014 - 05:54 PM | Scott Michaud
In an abrupt announcement, Rory Read has stepped down from his positions at AMD, leaving them to Dr. Lisa Su. Until today, Mr. Read served as president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the x86 chip designer and Dr. Su as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Today however, Dr. Su has become president and CEO, and Mr. Read will stay on for a couple of months as an adviser during the transition.
Josh Walrath, editor here at PC Perspective, tweeted that he was "Curious as to why Rory didn't stay on longer? He did some good things there [at AMD], but [it's] very much an unfinished job." I would have to agree. It feels like an odd time, hence the earlier use of the word "abrupt", to have a change in management. AMD restructured just four months ago, which was the occasion for Dr. Su to be promoted to COO. In fact, at least as far as I know, no-one is planned to fill her former position as COO.
These points suggest that she was planned to take over the company for at least several months.
I have been told that timing is everything. I guess this rings true, but only if you truly know the circumstances around any action. Today’s announcement by AMD was odd in its timing, but it was not exactly unexpected. As Scott mentioned above, I was confused by this happening now. I had expected Rory to be in charge for at least another year, if not two. Rory had hinted that he was not planning on being at AMD forever, but was aiming at creating a solid foundation for the company and to help shore up its finances and instill a new culture. While the culture is turning due to pressure from up top as well as a pretty significant personnel cuts, AMD is not quite as nimble yet as they want to be.
Rory’s term has seen the return of seasoned veterans like Jim Keller and Raja Koduri. These guys are helping to turn the ship around after some fairly mediocre architecturse on the CPU and GPU sides. While Raja had little to do with GCN, we are seeing some aggressive moves there in terms of features that are making their products much more competitive with NVIDIA. Keller has made some very significant changes to the overall roadmap on the CPU side and I think we will see some very solid improvements in design and execution over the next two years.
Lisa Su was brought in by Rory shortly after he was named CEO. Lisa has a pretty significant background in semiconductors and has made a name for herself in her work with IBM and Freescale. Lisa attained all three of her degrees from MIT. This is not unheard of, but it is uncommon to stay in one academic setting when gaining advanced degrees. Having said that, MIT certainly is the top engineering and science school in the nation (if not the world). I’m sure people from RPI, GT, and CalTech might argue that, but it certainly is an impressive school to have on your resume.
Dr. Su has seemingly been groomed for this transition for quite some time now. She went from a VP to COO rather quickly, and is now shouldering the burden of being CEO. Lisa has been on quite a few of the quarterly conference calls and taking questions. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Analog Devices.
I think that Lisa will continue along the same path that Rory set out, but she will likely bring a few new wrinkles due to her experience with semiconductor design and R&D at IBM. We can only hope that this won’t become a Dirk Meyer 2.0 type situation where a successful engineer and CPU architect could not change the course of the company after the disastrous reign of Hector Ruiz. I do not think that this will be the case, as Rory did not leave the mess that Hector did. I also believe that Lisa has more business sense and acumen than Dirk did.
This change, at this time, has provided some instability in the markets when regarding AMD. Some weeks ago AMD was at a near high for the year at around $4.66 per share. Right now it is hovering at $3.28. I was questioning why the stock price was going down, and it seems that my question was answered. One way or the other, rumors of Rory taking off reached investors’ ears and we saw a rapid decline in share price. We have yet to see what Q3 earnings look like now that Rory has rather abruptly left his position, but people are pessimistic as to what will be announced with such a sudden departure.
Subject: Processors | September 30, 2014 - 06:02 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: arm, cortex, Cortex-A, cortex-m, 90 nm, 40 nm, 28 nm, 32 bit
Last week ARM announced the latest member of their Cortex-M series of embedded parts. The new Cortex-M7 design is a 32 bit processor designed to have good performance while achieving excellent power consumption. The M7 is a fully superscalar design with 6 pipeline stages. This product should not be confused with the Cortex-A series of products, as the M series is aimed directly at embedded markets.
This product is not necessarily meant for multi-media rich applications, so it will not find its way into a modern smart phone. Products that it is leveraged at would be products like the latest generation of smart watches. Industrial control applications, automotive computing, low power and low heat applications, and countless IoT (Internet of Things) products can utilize this architecture.
The designs are being offered on a variety of process nodes from 90 nm down to 28 nm. These choices are made by the licensee depending on the specifics of their application. In the most energy efficient state, ARM claims that these products can see multiple years of running non-stop on a small lithium battery.
This obviously is not the most interesting ARM based product that we have seen lately, but it addresses a very important market. What is perhaps most interesting about this release not only is the pretty dramatic increase in per clock performance from the previous generation of part, but also how robust the support is in terms of design tools, software ecosystem, and 3rd party support.
Cortex-M7 can also be utilized in areas where a more complex DSP has traditionally been used. In comparison to some common DSPs, the Cortex-M7 is competitive in terms of specialized workload performance. It also has the advantage of being much more flexible than a DSP in a general computing environment.
ARM just keeps on moving along with products that address many different computing markets. ARM’s high end Cortex-A series of parts powers the majority of smart phones and tablets while the Cortex-M series have sold in the billions addressing the embedded market. The Cortex-M7 is the latest member of that family and will find more than its fair share of products to be integrated into.