Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | July 19, 2015 - 06:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Zen, TSMC, Skylake, pascal, nvidia, Intel, Cannonlake, amd, 7nm, 16nm, 10nm
Getting smaller features allows a chip designer to create products that are faster, cheaper, and consume less power. Years ago, most of them had their own production facilities but that is getting rare. IBM has just finished selling its manufacturing off to GlobalFoundries, which was spun out of AMD when it divested from fabrication in 2009. Texas Instruments, on the other hand, decided that they would continue manufacturing but get out of the chip design business. Intel and Samsung are arguably the last two players with a strong commitment to both sides of the “let's make a chip” coin.
So where do you these chip designers go? TSMC is the name that comes up most. Any given discrete GPU in the last several years has probably been produced there, along with several CPUs and SoCs from a variety of fabless semiconductor companies.
Several years ago, when the GeForce 600-series launched, TSMC's 28nm line led to shortages, which led to GPUs remaining out of stock for quite some time. Since then, 28nm has been the stable work horse for countless high-performance products. Recent chips have been huge, physically, thanks to how mature the process has become granting fewer defects. The designers are anxious to get on smaller processes, though.
In a conference call at 2 AM (EDT) on Thursday, which is 2 PM in Taiwan, Mark Liu of TSMC announced that “the ramping of our 16 nanometer will be very steep, even steeper than our 20nm”. By that, they mean this year. Hopefully this translates to production that could be used for GPUs and CPUs early, as AMD needs it to launch their Zen CPU architecture in 2016, as early in that year as possible. Graphics cards have also been on that technology for over three years. It's time.
Also interesting is how TSMC believes that they can hit 10nm by the end of 2016. If so, this might put them ahead of Intel. That said, Intel was also confident that they could reach 10nm by the end of 2016, right until they announced Kaby Lake a few days ago. We will need to see if it pans out. If it does, competitors could actually beat Intel to the market at that feature size -- although that could end up being mobile SoCs and other integrated circuits that are uninteresting for the PC market.
Following the announcement from IBM Research, 7nm was also mentioned in TSMC's call. Apparently they expect to start qualifying in Q1 2017. That does not provide an estimate for production but, if their 10nm schedule is both accurate and also representative of 7nm, that would production somewhere in 2018. Note that I just speculated on an if of an if of a speculation, so take that with a mine of salt. There is probably a very good reason that this date wasn't mentioned in the call.
Back to the 16nm discussion, what are you hoping for most? New GPUs from NVIDIA, new GPUs from AMD, a new generation of mobile SoCs, or the launch of AMD's new CPU architecture? This should make for a highly entertaining comments section on a Sunday morning, don't you agree?
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | July 7, 2015 - 08:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: earnings, amd
The projections for AMD's second fiscal quarter had revenue somewhere between flat and down 6%. The actual estimate, as of July 6th, is actually below the entire range. They expect that revenue is down 8% from the previous quarter, rather than the aforementioned 0 to 6%. This is attributed to weaker APU sales in OEM devices, but they also claim that channel sales are in line with projections.
This is disappointing news for fans of AMD, of course. The next two quarters will be more telling though. Q3 will count two of the launch months for Windows 10, which will likely include a bunch of new and interesting devices and aligns well with back to school season. We then get one more chance at a pleasant surprise in the fourth quarter and its holiday season, too. My intuition is that it won't be too much better than however Q3 ends up.
One extra note: AMD has also announced a “one-time charge” of $33 million USD related to a change in product roadmap. Rather than releasing designs at 20nm, they have scrapped those plans and will architect them for “the leading-edge FinFET node”. This might be a small expense compared to how much smaller the process technology will become. Intel is at 14nm and will likely be there for some time. Now AMD doesn't need to wait around at 20nm in the same duration.
Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tock
A few websites have been re-reporting on a leak from BenchLife.info about Kaby Lake, which is supposedly a second 14nm redesign (“Tock”) to be injected between Skylake and Cannonlake.
UPDATE (July 2nd, 3:20pm ET): It has been pointed out that many hoaxes have come out of the same source, and that I should be more clear in my disclaimer. This is an unconfirmed, relatively easy to fake leak that does not have a second, independent source. I reported on it because (apart from being interesting enough) some details were listed on the images, but not highlighted in the leak, such as "GT0" and a lack of Iris Pro on -K. That suggests that the leaker got the images from somewhere, but didn't notice those details, which implies that the original source was hoaxed by an anonymous source, who only seeded the hoax to a single media outlet, or that it was an actual leak.
Either way, enjoy my analysis but realize that this is a single, unconfirmed source who allegedly published hoaxes in the past.
Image Credit: BenchLife.info
If true, this would be a major shift in both Intel's current roadmap as well as how they justify their research strategies. It also includes a rough stack of product categories, from 4.5W up to 91W TDPs, including their planned integrated graphics configurations. This leads to a pair of interesting stories:
How Kaby Lake could affect Intel's processors going forward. Since 2006, Intel has only budgeted a single CPU architecture redesign for any given fabrication process node. Taking two attempts on the 14nm process buys time for 10nm to become viable, but it could also give them more time to build up a better library of circuit elements, allowing them to assemble better processors in the future.
What type of user will be given Iris Pro? Also, will graphics-free options be available in the sub-Enthusiast class? When buying a processor from Intel, the high-end mainstream processors tend to have GT2-class graphics, such as the Intel HD 4600. Enthusiast architectures, such as Haswell-E, cannot be used without discrete graphics -- the extra space is used for more cores, I/O lanes, or other features. As we will discuss later, Broadwell took a step into changing the availability of Iris Pro in the high-end mainstream, but it doesn't seem like Kaby Lake will make any more progress. Also, if I am interpreting the table correctly, Kaby Lake might bring iGPU-less CPUs to LGA 1151.
Keeping Your Core Regular
To the first point, Intel has been on a steady tick-tock cycle since the Pentium 4 architecture reached the 65nm process node, which was a “tick”. The “tock” came from the Conroe/Merom architecture that was branded “Core 2”. This new architecture was a severe departure from the high clock, relatively low IPC design that Netburst was built around, which instantaneously changed the processor landscape from a dominant AMD to an Intel runaway lead.
After 65nm and Core 2 started the cycle, every new architecture alternated between shrinking the existing architecture to smaller transistors (tick) and creating a new design on the same fabrication process (tock). Even though Intel has been steadily increasing their R&D budget over time, which is now in the range of $10 to $12 billion USD each year, creating smaller, more intricate designs with new process nodes has been getting harder. For comparison, AMD's total revenue (not just profits) for 2014 was $5.51 billion USD.
Subject: Processors | June 26, 2015 - 12:32 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: skylake-s, Skylake-K, Intel Skylake, cpu cooler
A report from Chinese-language site XFastest contains a slide reportedly showing Intel's cooling strategy for upcoming retail HEDT (High-end Desktop) Skylake "K" processors.
Typically Intel CPUs (outside of the current high-end enthusiast segment on LGA2011) have been packaged with one of Intel's ubiquitous standard performance air coolers, and this move to eliminate them from future unlocked SKUs makes sense for unlocked "K" series processors. The slide indicates that a 135W solution will be recommended, even if the TDP of the processor is still in the 91-95W range. The additional headroom is certainly advisable, and arguably the stock cooler never should have been used with products like the 4770K and 4790K, which more than push the limits of the stock cooler (and often allow 90 °C at load without overclocking in my experience with these high-end chips).
Aftermarket cooling (with AIO liquid CPU coolers in particular) has been essential for maximizing the performance of an unlocked CPU all along, so this news shouldn't effect the appeal of these upcoming CPUs for those interested in the latest Intel offerings (though it won't help enhance your collection of unused stock heatsinks).
Qualcomm’s GPU History
Despite its market dominance, Qualcomm may be one of the least known contenders in the battle for the mobile space. While players like Apple, Samsung, and even NVIDIA are often cited as the most exciting and most revolutionary, none come close to the sheer sales, breadth of technology, and market share that Qualcomm occupies. Brands like Krait and Snapdragon have helped push the company into the top 3 semiconductor companies in the world, following only Intel and Samsung.
Founded in July 1985, seven industry veterans came together in the den of Dr. Irwin Jacobs’ San Diego home to discuss an idea. They wanted to build “Quality Communications” (thus the name Qualcomm) and outlined a plan that evolved into one of the telecommunications industry’s great start-up success stories.
Though Qualcomm sold its own handset business to Kyocera in 1999, many of today’s most popular mobile devices are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile chipsets with integrated CPU, GPU, DSP, multimedia CODECs, power management, baseband logic and more. In fact the typical “chipset” from Qualcomm encompasses up to 20 different chips of different functions besides just the main application processor. If you are an owner of a Galaxy Note 4, Motorola Droid Turbo, Nexus 6, or Samsung Galaxy S5, then you are most likely a user of one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets.
Qualcomm’s GPU History
Before 2006, the mobile GPU as we know it today was largely unnecessary. Feature phones and “dumb” phones were still the large majority of the market with smartphones and mobile tablets still in the early stages of development. At this point all the visual data being presented on the screen, whether on a small monochrome screen or with the color of a PDA, was being drawn through a software renderer running on traditional CPU cores.
But by 2007, the first fixed-function, OpenGL ES 1.0 class of GPUs started shipping in mobile devices. These dedicated graphics processors were originally focused on drawing and updating the user interface on smartphones and personal data devices. Eventually these graphics units were used for what would be considered the most basic gaming tasks.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | June 4, 2015 - 04:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, carrizo
My discussion of the Carrizo architecture went up a couple of days ago. The post did not include specific SKUs because we did not have those at the time. Now we do, and there will be products: one A8-branded, one A10-branded, and one FX-branded.
All three will be quad-core parts that can range between 12W and 35W designs, although the A8 processor does not have a 35W mode listed in the AMD Dual Graphics table. The FX-8800P is an APU that has all eight GPU cores while the A-series APUs have six. The A10-8700P and the A8-8600P are separated by a couple hundred megahertz base and boost CPU clocks, and 80 MHz GPU clock.
Also, we have been given a table of AMD Radeon R5 and R7 M-series GPUs that can be paired with Carrizo in an AMD Dual Graphics setup. These GPUs are the R7 M365, R7 M360, R7 M350, R7 M340, R5 M335, and R5 M330. They cannot be paired with every Carrizo APU, and some pairings only work in certain power envelopes. Thankfully, this table should only be relevant to OEMs, because end-users are receiving pre-configured systems.
Pricing and availability will depend on OEMs, of course.
Digging into a specific market
A little while ago, I decided to think about processor design as a game. You are given a budget of complexity, which is determined by your process node, power, heat, die size, and so forth, and the objective is to lay out features in the way that suits your goal and workload best. While not the topic of today's post, GPUs are a great example of what I mean. They make the assumption that in a batch of work, nearby tasks are very similar, such as the math behind two neighboring pixels on the screen. This assumption allows GPU manufacturers to save complexity by chaining dozens of cores together into not-quite-independent work groups. The circuit fits the work better, and thus it lets more get done in the same complexity budget.
Carrizo is aiming at a 63 million unit per year market segment.
This article is about Carrizo, though. This is AMD's sixth-generation APU, starting with Llano's release in June 2011. For this launch, Carrizo is targeting the 15W and 35W power envelopes for $400-$700 USD notebook devices. AMD needed to increase efficiency on the same, 28nm process that we have seen in their product stack since Kabini and Temash were released in May of 2013. They tasked their engineers to optimize their APU's design for these constraints, which led to dense architectures and clever features on the same budget of complexity, rather than smaller transistors or a bigger die.
15W was their primary target, and they claim to have exceeded their own expectations.
Backing up for a second. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
When I met with AMD last month, I brought up the Bulldozer architecture with many individuals. I suspected that it was a quite clever design that didn't reach its potential because of external factors. As I started this editorial, processor design is a game and, if you can save complexity by knowing your workload, you can do more with less.
Bulldozer looked like it wanted to take a shortcut by cutting elements that its designers believed would be redundant going forward. First and foremost, two cores share a single floating point (decimal) unit. While you need some floating point capacity, upcoming workloads could use the GPU for a massive increase in performance, which is right there on the same die. As such, the complexity that is dedicated to every second FPU can be cut and used for something else. You can see this trend throughout various elements of the architecture.
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:10 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, computex 2015, computex, Broadwell
Earlier this morning you saw us post a story about MSI updating its line of 20 notebooks with new Broadwell processors. Though dual-core Broadwell has been available for Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s for some time already, today marks the release of the quad-core variations we have been waiting on for some time. Available for mobile designs, as well as marking the very first Iris Pro graphics implementation for desktop users, Broadwell quad-core parts look to be pretty impressive.
Today Intel gives to the world a total 10 new processors for content creators and enthusiasts. Two of these parts are 65 watt SKUs in LGA packaging for use by enthusiasts and DIY builders. The rest are BGA designs for all-in-one PCs and high performance notebooks and include both 65 watt and 47 watt variants. And most are using the new Iris Pro Graphics 6200 implementation.
For desktop users, we get the Core i7-5775C and the Core i5-5675C. The Core i7 model is a quad-core, HyperThreaded CPU with a base clock of 3.3 GHz and a max Turbo clock of 3.7 GHz. It's unlocked so that overclockers and can mess around with them in the same way do with Haswell. The Iris Pro Graphics 6200 can scale up to 1150 MHz and rated DDR3L memory speeds are up to 1600 MHz. 6MB of L3 cache, a 65 watt TDP and a tray price of $366 round out the information we have.
Click to Enlarge
The Core i5-5675C does not include HyperThreading, has clock speed ranges of 3.1 GHz to 3.6 GHz and only sees the Iris Pro scale to 1100 MHz. Also, it drops from 6MB of L3 cache to 4MB. Pricing on this model will start a $276.
These two processors mark the first time we have seen Iris Pro graphics in a socketed form factor, something we have been asking Intel to offer for at least a couple of generations. They focused on 65 watt TDPs rather than anything higher mostly because of the target audience for these chips: if you are interested in the performance of integrated graphics then you likely are pushing a small form factor design or HTPC of some kind. If you have a Haswell-capable motherboard then you SHOULD be able to utilize one of these new processors though you'll want a Z97 board if you are going to try to overclock it.
From a performance standpoint, the Core i7-5775C will offer 2x the gaming performance, 35% faster video transcoding and 20% higher compute performance when compared to the previous top-end 65 watt Haswell part, the Core i7-4790S. That 4th generation part uses Intel HD Graphics 4600 that does not include the massive eDRAM that makes Iris Pro implementations so unique.
For mobile and AIO buyers, Intel has a whole host of new processors to offer. You'll likely find most of the 65 watt parts in all-in-one designs but you may see some mobile designs that go crazy and opt for them too. For the rest of the gaming notebook designs there are CPUs like the Core i7-5950HQ, a quad-core HyperThreaded part with a base clock of 2.9 GHz and max Turbo clock of 3.8 GHz inside a TDP of 47 watts. The Iris Pro Graphics 6200 will scale from 300 to 1150 MHz so GPU performance should basically be on par with the desktop 65-watt equivalent. Pricing is pretty steep though: starting at $623.
Click to Enlarge
These new processors, especially the new 5950HQ, offer impressive compute and gaming performance.
Compared to the Core i7-5600U, already available and used in some SFF and mobile platforms, the Core i7-5950HQ is 2.5x faster in SPECint and nearly 2x faster in a video conversion benchmark. Clearly these machines are going to be potent desktop replacement options.
For mainstream gamers, the Iris Pro Graphics 6200 on 1920x1080 displays will see some impressive numbers. Players of League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and WoW will see over 60 FPS at the settings listed in the slide above.
We are still waiting for our hardware to show up but we have both the LGA CPUs and notebooks using the BGA option en route. Expect testing from PC Perspective very soon!
Subject: Processors | June 2, 2015 - 08:40 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: rumor, nuc, leak, Intel Skylake, core i5, core i3
A report from FanlessTech shows what appears to be a leaked slide indicating an upcoming Intel 6th-generation Skylake NUC.
The site claims that these new Intel NUCs will be coming out in Q3 for a 6th-generation Core i3 model, and in Q4 for a 6th-gen Core i5 model. and this new NUC will feature 15W TDP Skylake-U processors and 1866 MHz DDR4 memory, along with fast M.2 storage and an SDXC card reader.
True to their name, FanlessTech speculates about the possibility of a passively-cooled version of the NUC: “Out of the box, the Skylake NUC is actively cooled. But fanless cases from Akasa, HDPLEX, Streacom and cirrus7 are to be expected.”
Here are the reported specs of this NUC:
- Intel 6th Generation Core i3 / i5-6xxxU (15W TDP)
- Dual-channel DDR4 SODIMMs 1.2V, 1866 MHz (32GB max)
- Intel HD Graphics 6xxx
- 1 x mini HDMI 1.4a
- 1 x mini DisplayPort 1.2
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the front panel (1 x charging capable)
- 2 x Internal USB 2.0 via header
- Internal support for M.2 SSD card (22x42 or 22x80)
- Internal SATA3 support for 2.5" HDD/SSD (up to 9.5mm thickness)
- SDXC slot with UHS-I support on the side
- Intel 10/100/1000Mbps Network Connection
- Intel Wireless-AC xxxx M.2 soldered-down, wireless antennas
- IEEE 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4, Intel® Wireless Display
- Up to 7.1 surround audio via Mini HDMI and Mini DisplayPort
- Headphone/Microphone jack on the front panel
- Consumer Infrared sensor on the front panel
- 19V, 65W wall-mount AC-DC power adapter
No further information has been revealed about this alleged upcoming NUC, but we will probably know more soon.
Subject: Processors | May 28, 2015 - 03:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Skylake, skylake-s, haswell, devil's canyon
For a while, it was unclear whether we would see Broadwell on the desktop. With the recently leaked benchmarks of the Intel Core i7-6700K, it seems all-but-certain that Intel will skip it and go straight to Skylake. Compared to Devil's Canyon, the Haswell-based Core i7-4790K, the Skylake-S Core i7-6700K has the same base clock (4.0 GHz) and same full-processor Turbo clock (4.2 GHz). Pretty much every improvement that you see is pure performance per clock (IPC).
Image Credit: CPU Monkey
In multi-threaded applications, the Core i7-6700K tends to get about a 9% increase while, when a single core is being loaded, it tends to get about a 4% increase. Part of this might be the slightly lower single-core Turbo clock, which is said to be 4.2 GHz instead of 4.4 GHz. There might also be some increased efficiency with HyperThreading or cache access -- I don't know -- but it would be interesting to see.
I should note that we know nothing about the GPU. In fact, CPU Monkey fails to list a GPU at all. Intel has expressed interest in bringing Iris Pro-class graphics to the high-end mainstream desktop processors. For someone who is interested in GPU compute, especially with Explicit Unlinked MultiAdapter in DirectX 12 upcoming, it would be nice to see GPUs be ubiquitous and always enabled. It is expected to have the new GT4e graphics with 72 compute units and either 64 or 128MB of eDRAM. If clocks are equivalent, this could translate well over a teraflop (~1.2 TFLOPs) of compute performance in addition to discrete graphics. In discrete graphics, that would be nearly equivalent to an NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti.
We are expecting to see the Core i7-6700K launch in Q3 of this year. We'll see.