Qualcomm Enters Server CPU Space with 24-Core Socketed Processor

Subject: Processors | October 12, 2015 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: servers, qualcomm, processor, enterprise, cpu, arm, 24-core

Another player emerges in the CPU landscape: Qualcomm is introducing its first socketed processor for the enterprise market.


Image credit: PC World

A 24-core design based on 64-bit ARM architecture has reached the prototype phase, in a large LGA package resembling an Intel Xeon CPU.

From the report published by PC World:

"Qualcomm demonstrated a pre-production chip in San Francisco on Thursday. It's a purpose-built system-on-chip, different from its Snapdragon processor, that integrates PCIe, storage and other features. The initial version has 24 cores, though the final part will have more, said Anand Chandrasekher, Qualcomm senior vice president."


Image credit: PC World

Qualcomm built servers as proof-of-concept with this new processor, "running a version of Linux, with the KVM hypervisor, streaming HD video to a PC. The chip was running the LAMP stack - Linux, the Apache Web server, MySQL, and PHP - and OpenStack cloud software," according to PC World. The functionality of this design demonstrate the chip's potential to power highly energy-efficient servers, making an obvious statement about the potential cost savings for large data companies such as Google and Facebook.

Source: PC World

Android to iPhone Day 17: SoC Performance

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 12, 2015 - 11:08 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android, A9

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:


My iPhone experiment continues, running into the start of the third full week of only carrying and using the new iPhone 6s. Today I am going to focus a bit more on metrics that can be measured in graph form – and that means benchmarks and battery life results. But before I dive into those specifics I need to touch on some other areas.

The most surprising result of this experiment to me, even as I cross into day 17, is that I honestly don’t MISS anything from the previous ecosystem. I theorized at the beginning of this series that I would find applications or use cases that I had adopted with Android that would not be able to be matched on iOS without some significant sacrifices. That isn’t the case – anything that I want to do on the iPhone 6s, I can. Have I needed to find new apps for taking care of my alarms or to monitor my rewards card library? Yes, but the alternatives for iOS are at least as good and often times I find there are more (and often better) solutions. I think it is fair to assume that same feeling of equality would be prevalent for users going in other direction, iPhone to Android, but I can’t be sure without another move back to Android sometime in the future. It may come to that.


My previous alarm app was replaced with Sleep Cycle

In my Day 3 post I mentioned my worry about the lack of Quick Charging support. Well I don’t know why Apple doesn’t talk it up more but the charging rate for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus is impressive, and even more so when you pair them with the higher amperage charger that ships with iPads. Though purely non-scientific thus far, my through the day testing showed that I was able to charge the iPhone 6s Plus to 82% (from being dead after a battery test) in the span of 1.5 hours while the OnePlus 2 was only at 35%. I realize the battery on the OnePlus 2 is larger, but based purely on how much use time you get for your charging time wait, the iPhones appear to be just as fast as any Android phone I have used.

Photo taking with the iPhones 6s still impresses me – more so with the speed than the quality. Image quality is fantastic, and we’ll do more analytical testing in the near future, but while attending events over weekend including a Bengals football game (5-0!) and a wedding, the startup process for the camera was snappy and the shutter speed never felt slow. I never thought “Damn, I missed the shot I wanted” and that’s a feeling I’ve had many times over the last several years of phone use.


You don't want to miss photos like this!

There were a couple of annoyances that cropped up, including what I think is a decrease in accuracy of the fingerprint reader on the home button. In the last 4 days I have had more bouncing “try again” notices on the phone than in the entirety of use before that. It’s possible that the button has additional oils from my hands on it or maybe that I am getting lazier about placement of my fingers on the Touch ID, but it’s hard to tell.

Continue reading day 17 of my Android to iPhone editorial!!

Curious just what is special about the AMD Pro line of APUs?

Subject: Processors | October 5, 2015 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged: amd, PRO A12-8800B, Excavator, carrizo pro, Godavari Pro

AMD recently announced a Pro lineup of Excavator based chips which match their Carrizo and Godavari current lineup as far as the specifications go.  This was somewhat confusing as there were no real features at first glance that separated the Pro chips from the non-Pro cousins in the press material from AMD or HP.  Tech ARP posted the slides from the reveal and they note one key feature that separates the two chip families and why businesses should be interested in them.  These are hand-picked dies taken from hand picked wafers which AMD chose as they represent the best of the chips they have fabbed.  You should expect performance free from any possible defects which made it past quality control and if you do have bad enough luck to find a way to get a less than perfect chip they come with a 36 month extended OEM warranty.

In addition to being hand picked, machines with an AMD Pro chip will also come with an ARM TrustZone Technology based AMD Secure Processor onboard.  If you use a mobile device which has TPM and a crypto-processor onboard you will be familar with the technology; AMD is the first to bring this open sourced security platform to Windows based machines.  Small business owners may also be interested the AMD PRO Control Center which is an inventory management client which will not cost as much as ones designed for Enterprise and in theory should be easier to use as well.

This news is of lesser interest to the gamer you never know, if you can secure one of these hand picked chips you may find it gives you a bit more headroom for tweaking than your average run of the mill Godavari or Carrizo would.


"We will now only show you the presentation slides, we also recorded the entire conference call and created a special video presentation based on the conference call for you. We hope you enjoy our work."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:


Source: Tech ARP

Apple Dual Sources A9 SOCs with TSMC and Samsung: Some Extra Thoughts

Subject: Processors | September 30, 2015 - 09:55 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, FinFET, apple, A9, 16 nm, 14 nm

So the other day the nice folks over at Chipworks got word that Apple was in fact sourcing their A9 SOC at both TSMC and Samsung.  This is really interesting news on multiple fronts.  From the information gleaned the two parts are the APL0898 (Samsung fabbed) and the APL1022 (TSMC).

These process technologies have been in the news quite a bit.  As we well know, it has been a hard time for any foundry to go under 28 nm in an effective way if your name is not Intel.  Even Intel has had some pretty hefty issues with their march to sub 32 nm parts, but they have the resources and financial ability to push through a lot of these hurdles.  One of the bigger problems that affected the foundries was the idea that they could push back FinFETs beyond what they were initially planning.  The idea was to hit 22/20 nm and use planar transistors and push development back to 16/14 nm for FinFET technology.


The Chipworks graphic that explains the differences between Samsung's and TSMC's A9 products.

There were many reasons why this did not work in an effective way for the majority of products that the foundries were looking to service with a 22/20 nm planar process.  Yes, there were many parts that were fabricated using these nodes, but none of them were higher power/higher performance parts that typically garner headlines.  No CPUs, no GPUs, and only a handful of lower power SOCs (most notably Apple's A8, which was around 89 mm squared and consumed up to 5 to 10 watts at maximum).  The node just did not scale power very effectively.  It provided a smaller die size, but it did not increase power efficiency and switching performance significantly as compared to 28 nm high performance nodes.

The information Chipworks has provided also verifies that Samsung's 14 nm FF process is more size optimized than TSMC's 16 nm FF.  There was originally some talk about both nodes being very similar in overall transistor size and density, but Samsung has a slightly tighter design.  Neither of them are smaller than Intel's latest 14 nm which is going into its second generation form.  Intel still has a significant performance and size advantage over everyone else in the field.  Going back to size we see the Samsung chip is around 96 mm square while the TSMC chip is 104.5 mm square.  This is not huge, but it does show that the Samsung process is a little tighter and can squeeze more transistors per square mm than TSMC.

In terms of actual power consumption and clock scaling we have nothing to go on here.  The chips are both represented in the 6S and 6S+.  Testing so far has not shown there to be significant differences between the two SOCs so far.  In theory one could be performing better than the other, but in reality we have not tested these chips at a low enough level to discern any major performance or power issue.  My gut feeling here is that Samsung's process is more mature and running slightly better than TSMC's, but the differences are going to be minimal at best.

The next piece of info that we can glean from this is that there just isn't enough line space for all of the chip companies who want to fabricate their parts with either Samsung or TSMC.  From a chip standpoint a lot of work has to be done to port a design to two different process nodes.  While 14 and 16 are similar in overall size and the usage of FinFETS, the standard cells and design libraries for both Samsung and TSMC are going to be very different.  It is not a simple thing to port over a design.  A lot of work has to be done in the design stage to make a chip work with both nodes.  I can tell you that there is no way that both chips are identical in layout.  It is not going to be a "dumb port" where they just adjust the optics with the same masks and magically make these chips work right off the bat.  Different mask sets for each fab, verification of both designs, and troubleshooting the yields by metal layer changes will be different for each manufacturer.

In the end this means that there just simply was not enough space at either TSMC or Samsung to handle the demand that Apple was expecting.  Because Apple has deep pockets they contracted out both TSMC and Samsung to produce two very similar, but still different parts.  Apple also likely outbid and locked down what availability to process wafers that Samsung and TSMC have, much to the dismay of other major chip firms.  I have no idea what is going on in the background with people like NVIDIA and AMD when it comes to line space for manufacturing their next generation parts.  At least for AMD it seems that their partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and their version of 14 nm FF is having a hard time taking off.  Eventually more space will be made in production and yields and bins will improve.  Apple will stop taking up so much space and we can get other products rolling off the line.  In the meantime, enjoy that cutting edge iPhone 6S/+ with the latest 14/16 nm FF chips.

Source: Chipworks

Oh Hey! Skylake and Broadwell Stock Levels Replenish

Subject: Processors | September 27, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, iris pro, Intel, Broadwell

Thanks to the Tech Report for pointing this out, but some recent stock level troubles with Skylake and Broadwell have been overcome. Both Newegg and Amazon have a few Core i7-6700Ks that are available for purchase, and both also have the Broadwell Core i7s and Core i5s with Iris Pro graphics. Moreover, Microcenter has stock of the Skylake processor at some of their physical stores with the cheapest price tag of all, but they do not have the Broadwell chips with Iris Pro (they are not even listed).


You'll notice that Skylake is somewhat cheaper than the Core i7 Broadwell, especially on Newegg. That is somewhat expected, as Broadwell with Iris Pro is a larger die than Skylake with an Intel HD 530. A bigger die means that fewer can be cut from a wafer, and thus each costs more (unless the smaller die has a relatively high amount of waste to compensate of course). Also, if you go with Broadwell, you will miss out on the Z170 chipset, because they still use Haswell's LGA-1150 socket.

On the other hand, despite being based on an older architecture and having much less thermal headroom, you can find some real-world applications that really benefit from the 128 MB of L4 Cache that Iris Pro brings, even if the iGPU itself is unused. The graphics cache can be used by the main processor. In Project Cars, again, according to The Tech Report, the i7-5775C measured a 5% increase in frame rate over the newer i7-6700k -- when using a GeForce GTX 980. Granted, this was before the FCLK tweak on Skylake so there are a few oranges mixed with our apples. PCIe rates might be slightly different now.

Regardless, they're all available now. If you were awaiting stock, have fun.

Intel Will Not Bring eDRAM to Socketed Skylake

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | September 17, 2015 - 09:33 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, iris pro, Intel, edram

Update: Sept 17, 2015 @ 10:30 ET -- To clarify: I'm speaking of socketed desktop Skylake. There will definitely be Iris Pro in the BGA options.

Before I begin, the upstream story has a few disputes that I'm not entirely sure on. The Tech Report published a post in September that cited an Intel spokesperson, who said that Skylake would not be getting a socketed processor with eDRAM (unlike Broadwell did just before Skylake launched). This could be a big deal, because the fast, on-processor cache could be used by the CPU as well as the RAM. It is sometimes called “128MB of L4 cache”.


Later, ITWorld and others posted stories that said Intel killed off a Skylake processor with eDRAM, citing The Tech Report. After, Scott Wasson claimed that a story, which may or may not be ITWorld's one, had some “scrambled facts” but wouldn't elaborate. Comparing the two articles doesn't really illuminate any massive, glaring issues, but I might just be missing something.

Update: Sept 18, 2015 @ 9:45pm -- So I apparently misunderstood the ITWorld article. They were claiming that Broadwell-C was discontinued, while The Tech Report was talking about Socketed Skylake with Iris Pro. I thought they both were talking about the latter. Moreover, Anandtech received word from Intel that Broadwell-C is, in fact, not discontinued. This is odd, because ITWorld said they had confirmation from Intel. My guess is that someone gave them incorrect information. Sorry that it took so long to update.

In the same thread, Ian Cutress of Anandtech asked whether The Tech Report benchmarked the processor after Intel tweaked its FCLK capabilities, which Scott did not (but is interested in doing so). Intel addressed a slight frequency boost between the CPU and PCIe lanes after Skylake shipped, which naturally benefits discrete GPUs. Since the original claim was that Broadwell-C is better than Skylake-K for gaming, giving a 25% boost to GPU performance (or removing a 20% loss, depending on how you look at it) could tilt Skylake back above Broadwell. We won't know until it's benchmarked, though.

Iris Pro and eDRAM, while skipping Skylake, might arrive in future architectures though, such as Kaby Lake. It seems to have been demonstrated that, in some situations, and ones relevant to gamers at that, that this boost in eDRAM can help computation -- without even considering the compute potential of a better secondary GPU. One argument is that cutting the extra die room gives Intel more margins, which is almost definitely true, but I wonder how much attention Kaby Lake will get. Especially with AVX-512 and other features being debatably removed, it almost feels like Intel is treating this Tock like a Tick, since they didn't really get one with Broadwell, and Kaby Lake will be the architecture that will lead us to 10nm. On the other hand, each of these architectures are developed by independent teams, so I might be wrong in comparing them serially.

Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

That is a lotta SKUs!

The slow, gradual release of information about Intel's Skylake-based product portfolio continues forward. We have already tested and benchmarked the desktop variant flagship Core i7-6700K processor and also have a better understanding of the microarchitectural changes the new design brings forth. But today Intel's 6th Generation Core processors get a major reveal, with all the mobile and desktop CPU variants from 4.5 watts up to 91 watts, getting detailed specifications. Not only that, but it also marks the first day that vendors can announce and begin selling Skylake-based notebooks and systems!

All indications are that vendors like Dell, Lenovo and ASUS are still some weeks away from having any product available, but expect to see your feeds and favorite tech sites flooded with new product announcements. And of course with a new Apple event coming up soon...there should be Skylake in the new MacBooks this month.

Since I have already talked about the architecture and the performance changes from Haswell/Broadwell to Skylake in our 6700K story, today's release is just a bucket of specifications and information surround 46 different 6th Generation Skylake processors.

Intel's 6th Generation Core Processors


At Intel's Developer Forum in August, the media learned quite a bit about the new 6th Generation Core processor family including Intel's stance on how Skylake changes the mobile landscape.


Skylake is being broken up into 4 different line of Intel processors: S-series for desktop DIY users, H-series for mobile gaming machines, U-series for your everyday Ultrabooks and all-in-ones, Y-series for tablets and 2-in-1 detachables. (Side note: Intel does not reference an "Ultrabook" anymore. Huh.)


As you would expect, Intel has some impressive gains to claim with the new 6th Generation processor. However, it is important to put them in context. All of the claims above, including 2.5x performance, 30x graphics improvement and 3x longer battery life, are comparing Skylake-based products to CPUs from 5 years ago. Specifically, Intel is comparing the new Core i5-6200U (a 15 watt part) against the Core i5-520UM (an 18 watt part) from mid-2010.

Continue reading our overview of the 46 new Intel Skylake 6th Generation Core processors!!

AMD Releases App SDK 3.0 with OpenCL 2.0

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | August 30, 2015 - 09:14 PM |
Tagged: amd, carrizo, Fiji, opencl, opencl 2.0

Apart from manufacturers with a heavy first-party focus, such as Apple and Nintendo, hardware is useless without developer support. In this case, AMD has updated their App SDK to include support for OpenCL 2.0, with code samples. It also updates the SDK for Windows 10, Carrizo, and Fiji, but it is not entirely clear how.


That said, OpenCL is important to those two products. Fiji has a very high compute throughput compared to any other GPU at the moment, and its memory bandwidth is often even more important for GPGPU workloads. It is also useful for Carrizo, because parallel compute and HSA features are what make it a unique product. AMD has been creating first-party software software and helping popular third-party developers such as Adobe, but a little support to the world at large could bring a killer application or two, especially from the open-source community.

The SDK has been available in pre-release form for quite some time now, but it is finally graduated out of beta. OpenCL 2.0 allows for work to be generated on the GPU, which is especially useful for tasks that vary upon previous results without contacting the CPU again.

Source: AMD

This is your Intel HD530 GPU on Linux

Subject: Processors | August 26, 2015 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, linux, Godavari

Using the GPU embedded in the vast majority of modern processors is a good way to reduce the price of and entry level system, as indeed is choosing Linux for your OS.  Your performance is not going to match that of a system with a discrete GPU but with the newer GPU cores available you will be doing much better than the old days of the IGP.  The first portion of Phoronix's review of the Skylake GPU covers the various versions of driver you can choose from while the rest compares Kaveri, Godavari, Haswell and Broadwell to the new HD530 on SkyLake CPUs.  Currently the Iris Pro 6200 present on Broadwell is still the best for gaming, though the A10-7870K Godavari performance is also decent.  Consider one of those two chips now, or await Iris Pro's possible arrival on a newer socketed processor if you are in no hurry.


"Intel's Core i5 6600K and i7 6700K processors released earlier this month feature HD Graphics 530 as the first Skylake graphics processor. Given that Intel's Open-Source Technology Center has been working on open-source Linux graphics driver support for over a year for Skylake, I've been quite excited to see how the Linux performance compares for Haswell and Broadwell as well as AMD's APUs on Linux."

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Source: Phoronix
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

A third primary processor

As the Hot Chips conference begins in Cupertino this week, Qualcomm is set to divulge another set of information about the upcoming Snapdragon 820 processor. Earlier this month the company revealed details about the Adreno 5xx GPU architecture, showcasing improved performance and power efficiency while also adding a new Spectra 14-bit image processor. Today we shift to what Qualcomm calls the “third pillar in the triumvirate of programmable processors” that make up the Snapdragon SoC. The Hexagon DSP (digital signal processor), introduced initially by Qualcomm in 2004, has gone through a massive architecture shift and even programmability shift over the last 10 years.


Qualcomm believes that building a balanced SoC for mobile applications is all about heterogeneous computing with no one processor carrying the entire load. The majority of the work that any modern Snapdragon processor must handle goes through the primary CPU cores, the GPU or the DSP. We learned about upgrades to the Adreno 5xx series for the Snapdragon 820 and we are promised information about Kryo CPU architecture soon as well. But the Hexagon 600-series of DSPs actually deals with some of the most important functionality for smartphones and tablets: audio, voice, imaging and video.

Interestingly, Qualcomm opened up the DSP to programmability just four years ago, giving developers the ability to write custom code and software to take advantages of the specific performance capabilities that the DSP offers. Custom photography, videography and sound applications could benefit greatly in terms of performance and power efficiency if utilizing the QC DSP rather than the primary system CPU or GPU. As of this writing, Qualcomm claims there are “hundreds” of developers actively writing code targeting its family of Hexagon processors.


The Hexagon DSP in Snapdragon 820 consists of three primary partitions. The main compute DSP works in conjunction with the GPU and CPU cores and will do much of the heavy lifting for encompassed workloads. The modem DSP aids the cellular modem in communication throughput. The new guy here is the lower power DSP in the Low Power Island (LPI) that shifts how always-on sensors can communicate with the operating system.

Continue reading about the Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP!