Podcast #442 - ARM DynamIQ, Optane Launch, Gigabit LTE, Vulkan

Subject: Editorial | March 23, 2017 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: Yoga Book, vulkan, topre, snapdragon 835, SC17, qualcomm, podcast, Optane, LG 32UD99, Lenovo, Gigabit LTE, evga, DynamIQ, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #442 - 03/23/17

Join us for Topre and CORSAIR Keyboards, ARM DynamIQ, Optane Launch, EVGA 4K gaming laptop, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:35:25

 

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Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

A new start

Qualcomm is finally ready to show the world how the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform performs. After months of teases and previews, including a the reveal that it was the first processor built on Samsung’s 10nm process technology and a mostly in-depth look at the architectural changes to the CPU and GPU portions of the SoC, the company let a handful of media get some hands-on time with development reference platform and run some numbers.

To frame the discussion as best I can, I am going to include some sections from my technology overview. This should give some idea of what to expect from Snapdragon 835 and what areas Qualcomm sees providing the widest variation from previous SD 820/821 product.

Qualcomm frames the story around the Snapdragon 835 processor with what they call the “five pillars” – five different aspects of mobile processor design that they have addressed with updates and technologies. Qualcomm lists them as battery life (efficiency), immersion (performance), capture, connectivity, and security.

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Starting where they start, on battery life and efficiency, the SD 835 has a unique focus that might surprise many. Rather than talking up the improvements in performance of the new processor cores, or the power of the new Adreno GPU, Qualcomm is firmly planted on looking at Snapdragon through the lens of battery life. Snapdragon 835 uses half of the power of Snapdragon 801.

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Since we already knew that the Snapdragon 835 was going to be built on the 10nm process from Samsung, the first such high performance part to do so, I was surprised to learn that Qualcomm doesn’t attribute much of the power efficiency improvements to the move from 14nm to 10nm. It makes sense – most in the industry see this transition as modest in comparison to what we’ll see at 7nm. Unlike the move from 28nm to 14/16nm for discrete GPUs, where the process technology was a huge reason for the dramatic power drop we saw, the Snapdragon 835 changes come from a combination of advancements in the power management system and offloading of work from the primary CPU cores to other processors like the GPU and DSP. The more a workload takes advantage of heterogeneous computing systems, the more it benefits from Qualcomm technology as opposed to process technology.

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Continue reading our preview of Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 performance!

Sprint, Qualcomm, and Motorola Team up to demonstrate Gigabit Class LTE Network in New Orleans

Subject: Mobile | March 16, 2017 - 11:15 AM |
Tagged: x16, Sprint, snapdragon 835, qualcomm, new orleans, motorola, LTE Plus, LTE Advanced, LTE, gigabit-class

Demoing improvements to mobile phone networks is difficult. Where an individual vendor such as Intel or AMD can show off an improved CPU architecture mostly by themselves, it takes a lot of cooperation between companies to show off advanced mobile data initiatives.

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This is just what Sprint, Qualcomm, and Motorola teamed up to do last week at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The first part of the story revolves around Sprint’s unique placement in the US mobile network market.  While network operators such as Verizon, ATT, and T-Mobile in the US currently operate their LTE networks on low and mid-band LTE frequencies, the vast majority of Sprint's allocated frequency into the high-band range of 2.5GHz. The reason that Sprint has this spectrum is from their short-lived rollout of WiMax technology with Clear.

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High-band frequencies can provide several advantages when deploying technologies enabling Gigabit-class LTE and on the road to 5G.

First, the antenna size needed in the 2.5GHz range is substantially smaller than the antenna size for a more common LTE frequency like 1900MHz. This means that when looking to deploy cellular sites utilizing technologies like 4X4 MIMO antenna arrays, Sprint can make smaller cell sites and be more nimble by placing them in areas where they are seeing substantial network load.

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Continue reading about the push to Gigabit LTE from Qualcomm, Sprint and Motorola!

ARMing the Cloud; Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 Platform will power Microsoft Azure instances

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 8, 2017 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, OCP, microsoft, falkor, centriq 2400, azure, arm, 10nm

Last December Qualcomm announced plans to launch their Centriq 2400 series of platforms for data centres, demonstrating Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux as well as a Java demo.  They announced a 48 Core design based on ARM v8 and fabbed with on Samsung's 10nm process, which will compete against Intel's current offerings for the server room.

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Today marks the official release of the Qualcomm Falkor CPU and Centriq 2400 series of products, as well as the existence of a partnership with Microsoft which may see these products offered to Azure customers.  Microsoft has successfully configured a version of Windows Server to run on these new chips, which is rather big news for customers looking for low powered hosting solutions running a familiar OS.  The Centriq 2400 family is compliant with Microsoft's Project Olympus architecture, used by the Open Compute Project Foundation to offer standardized building blocks upon which you can design a data centre from scratch or use as an expansion plan.

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Enough of the background, we are here for the specifications of the new platform and what can be loaded onto a Centriq 2400.  The reference motherboard supports SOCs of up to 48 cores, with both single and dual socket designs announced.  Each SOC can support up to six channels of DDR4 in either single or dual channel configurations with a maximum of 768GB installed.  Falkor will offer 32 lanes of PCIe 3.0, eight SATA ports and a GbE ethernet port as well as USB and a standard 50Gb/s NIC.  NVMe is supported, one design offers 20 NVMe drives with a PCIe 16x slot but you can design the platform to match your requirements.  Unfortunately they did not discuss performance during their call, nor any suggested usage scenarios.  We expect to hear more about that during the 2017 Open Compute Platform US Summit, which starts today.

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The submission of the design to Open Compute Project ensures a focus on compatibility and modularity and allows a wide variety of designs to be requested and networked together.  If you have a need for HPC performance you can request a board with an HPC GPU such as a FirePro or Tesla, or even drop in your own optimized FPGA.  Instead of opting for an impressive but expensive NVME storage solution, you can modify the design to accommodate 16 SATA HDDs for affordable storage.

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Qualcomm have already announced Windows 10 support on their Snapdragon, but the fact that Microsoft are internally running Windows Server on an ARM v8 based processor is much more impressive.  Intel and AMD have long held reign in the server room and have rightfully shrugged of the many times in which companies have announced ARM based servers which will offer more power efficient alternatives.  Intel have made huge advances at creating low power chips for the server room; AMD's recently announced Naples shows their intentions to hold their market share as well.

If the submission to the OPC succeeds then we may see the first mainstream ARM based servers appear on the market.  Even if the Windows Server instances remain internal to Microsoft, the Centriq series will support Red Hat, CentOS, Canonical and Ubuntu as well as both GCC and LLVM compilers. 

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(click to seriously embiggen)

ARM may finally have reached the server market after all these years and it will be interesting to see how they fare.  AMD and Intel have both had to vastly reduce the power consumption of their chips and embrace a diametrically opposite design philosophy; instead of a small number of powerful chips, servers of the future will consist of arrays of less powerful chips working in tandem.  ARM has had to do the opposite, they are the uncontested rulers of low powered chips but have had to change their designs to increase the processing capabilities of their chips in order to produce an effective product for the server room.  

Could Qualcomm successful enter the server room; or will their ARMs not have the necessary reach?

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Announces First 3GPP 5G NR Connection, X50 5G NR Modem

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 27, 2017 - 11:12 AM |
Tagged: x50, Sub-6 Ghz, qualcomm, OFDM, NR, New Radio, MWC, multi-mode, modem, mmWave, LTE, 5G, 3GPP

Qualcomm has announced their first successful 5G New Radio (NR) connection using their prototype sub-6 GHz prototype system. This announcement was followed by today's news of Qualcomm's collaboration with Ericsson and Vodafone to trial 5G NR in the second half of 2017, as we approach the realization of 5G. New Radio is expected to become the standard for 5G going forward as 3GPP moves to finalize standards with release 15.

"5G NR will make the best use of a wide range of spectrum bands, and utilizing spectrum bands below 6 GHz is critical for achieving ubiquitous coverage and capacity to address the large number of envisioned 5G use cases. Qualcomm Technologies’ sub-6 GHz 5G NR prototype, which was announced and first showcased in June 2016, consists of both base stations and user equipment (UE) and serves as a testbed for verifying 5G NR capabilities in bands below 6 GHz."

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The Qualcomm Sub-6 GHz 5G NR prototype (Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm first showed their sub-6 Ghz prototype this past summer, and it will be on display this week at MWC. The company states that the system is designed to demonstrate how 5G NR "can be utilized to efficiently achieve multi-gigabit-per-second data rates at significantly lower latency than today’s 4G LTE networks". New Radio, or NR, is a complex topic as it related to a new OFDM-based wireless standard. OFDM refers to "a digital multi-carrier modulation method" in which "a large number of closely spaced orthogonal sub-carrier signals are used to carry data on several parallel data streams or channels". With 3GPP adopting this standard going forward the "NR" name could stick, just as "LTE" (Long Term Evolution) caught on to describe the 4G wireless standard.

Along with this 5G NR news comes the annoucement of the expansion of its X50 modem family, first announced in October, "to include 5G New Radio (NR) multi-mode chipset solutions compliant with the 3GPP-based 5G NR global system", according to Qualcomm. This 'multi-mode' solution provides full 4G/5G compatibility with "2G/3G/4G/5G functionality in a single chip", with the first commercial devices expected in 2019.

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"The new members of the Snapdragon X50 5G modem family are designed to support multi-mode 2G/3G/4G/5G functionality in a single chip, providing simultaneous connectivity across both 4G and 5G networks for robust mobility performance. The single chip solution also supports integrated Gigabit LTE capability, which has been pioneered by Qualcomm Technologies, and is an essential pillar for the 5G mobile experience as the high-speed coverage layer that co-exists and interworks with nascent 5G networks. This set of advanced multimode capabilities is designed to provide seamless Gigabit connectivity – a key requirement for next generation, premium smartphones and mobile computing devices."

Full press releases after the break.

Source: Qualcomm

Podcast #438 - Vulkan, Logitech G213, Ryzen Preorders, and more!

Subject: Editorial | February 23, 2017 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: podcast, vulkan, ryzen, qualcomm, Qt, mesh, g213, eero, corsair, bulldog

PC Perspective Podcast #438 - 02/23/17

Join us for Vulkan one year later, Logitech G213 Keyboard, eero home mesh networking, Ryzen Pre Orders, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom

Program length: 0:58:01

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: SS64.com - Nifty programmer's reference for scripting, web, db
    2. Ken: Dell refurbished XPS 13
  4. Closing/outro
 

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Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2017 - 08:19 AM |
Tagged: X20, snapdragon, qualcomm, modem, LTE, DSDV, Category 18, Carrier Aggregation, CA, 5x20 MHz

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, their 2nd-generation Gigabit LTE solution built on 10nm FinFET and offering what Qualcomm says are “a number of industry firsts”, which include first to Category 18 (downlink) and first to receive up to 12 spacial LTE data streams simultaneously.

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“It is the first commercially announced Gigabit LTE chipset designed to deliver fiber-like LTE Category 18 download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, a 20 percent improvement in download speeds over the previous generation. Additionally, it allows support for up to 5x20 MHz downlink Carrier Aggregation (CA) across licensed and unlicensed FDD and TDD radio frequencies, as well as 4x4 MIMO on up to three aggregated LTE carriers. Lastly, it supports integrated Dual SIM Dual VoLTE (DSDV) capability, a first for Snapdragon LTE modems. These leading-edge features of the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem are supported by the first commercially announced single-chip RF transceiver capable of simultaneously receiving up to 12 spatial streams of LTE data.”

Compared the the X16 modem featured in the upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem moves from Cat 16 to Cat 18 on the downlink, with support for 5x20 MHz (vs. the X16’s 4x20 MHz) Carrier Aggregation and “can simultaneously receive 12 unique streams of data on as few as three 20 MHz carriers”, with up to 256-QAM and 100 Mbps per stream. Uplink is at the same 2x20 MHz/64-QAM as the X16 modem, for speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

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The X20 LTE modem now includes VoLTE for both cards in a dual-SIM implementation:

“The Snapdragon X20 LTE modem also features more advanced dual SIM functionality and, as the first Snapdragon LTE modem to support DSDV, it provides users with the benefits of Ultra HD Voice and other IMS-based services on both SIMs inserted into the device.”

Qualcomm has begun to sample the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem to customers, with the first commercial devices expected 1H 2018.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Qualcomm

Podcast #435 - Qualcomm aptX, FSP Twin 500w PSU, Micro 5100 Enteprise SSDs, AMD Fiscal Results, ASUS Tinker Board, ZeniMax

Subject: Editorial | February 2, 2017 - 10:34 AM |
Tagged: podcast, zenimax, UHD Blu-Ray, toshiba, tinker board, Reundant PSU, qualcomm, micron, Laser Networking, fsp, enterprise ssd, DirectX, delidding, asus, aptX, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #435 - 02/02/17

Join us this week as we discuss Qualcomm aptX, FSP Reundant PSUs, Micron Enterprise SSDs, 5G LTE, AMD Fiscal Year, ZeniMax lawsuit, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom, Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:46:22

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro
 

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

Introduction

Introduction

In conjunction with Ericsson, Netgear, and Telstra, Qualcomm officially unveiled the first Gigabit LTE ready network. Sydney, Australia is the first city to have this new cellular spec deployed through Telstra. Gigabit LTE, dubbed 4GX by Telstra, offers up to 1Gbps download speeds and 150 Mbps upload speeds with a supported device. Gigabit LTE implementation took partnership between all four companies to become a reality with Ericsson providing the backend hardware and software infrastructure and upgrades, Qualcomm designing its next-gen Snapdragon 835 SoC and Snapdragon X16 modem for Gigabit LTE support, Netgear developing the Nighthawk M1 Mobile router which leverages the Snapdragon 835, and Telstra bringing it all together on its Australian-based cellular network. Qualcomm, Ericsson, and Telstra all see the 4GX implementation as a solid step forward in the path to 5G with 4GX acting as the foundation layer for next-gen 5G networks and providing a fallback, much the same as 3G acted as a fallback for the current 4G LTE cellular networks.

Gigabit LTE Explained

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Courtesy of Telstra

What exactly is meant by Gigabit LTE (or 4GX as Telstra has dubbed the new cellular technology)? Gigabit LTE increases both the download and upload speeds of current generation 4G LTE to 1Gbps download and 150 Mbps upload speeds by leveraging several technologies for optimizing the signal transmission between the consumer device and the cellular network itself. Qualcomm designed the Snapdragon X16 modem to operate on dual 60MHz signals with 4x4 MIMO support or dual 80MHz signals without 4x4 MIMO. Further, they increased the modem's QAM support to 256 (8-bit) instead of the current 64 QAM support (6-bit), enabling 33% more data per stream - an increase of 75 Mbps to 100 Mbps per stream. The X16 modem leverages a total of 10 communication streams for delivery of up to 1 Gbps performance and also offers access to previously inaccessible frequency bands using LAA (License Assisted Access) to leverage increased power and speed needs for Gigabit LTE support.

Continue reading our coverage of the Gigabit LTE technology!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Qualcomm aptX

Introduction

Bluetooth has come a long way since the technology was introduced in 1998. The addition of the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) in 2003 brought support for high-quality audio streaming, but Bluetooth still didn’t offer anywhere near the quality of a wired connection. This unfortunate fact is often overlooked in favor of the technology's convenience factor, but what if we could have the best of both worlds? This is where Qualcomm's aptX comes in, and it is a departure from the methods in place since the introduction of Bluetooth audio.

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What is aptX audio? It's actually a codec that compresses audio in a very different manner than that of the standard Bluetooth codec, and the result is as close to uncompressed audio as the bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth technology can possibly allow. Qualcomm describes aptX audio as "a bit-rate efficiency technology that ensures you receive the highest possible sound quality from your Bluetooth audio device," and there is actual science to back up this claim. After doing quite a bit of reading on the subject as I prepared for this review, I found that the technology behind aptX audio, and its history, is very interesting.

A Brief History of aptX Audio

The aptX codec has actually been around since long before Bluetooth, with its invention in the 1980s and first commercial applications beginning in the 1990s. The version now found in compatible Bluetooth devices is 4th-generation aptX, and in the very beginning it was actually a hardware product (the APTX100ED chip). The technology has had a continued presence in pro audio for three decades now, with a wider reach than I had ever imagined when I started researching the topic. For example, aptX is used for ISDN line connections for remote voice work (voice over, ADR, foreign language dubs, etc.) in movie production, and even for mix approvals on film soundtracks. In fact, aptX was also the compression technology behind DTS theater sound, which had its introduction in 1993 with Jurassic Park. It is in use in over 30,000 radio stations around the world, where it has long been used for digital music playback.

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So, while it is clear that aptX is a respected technology with a long history in the audio industry, how exactly does this translate into improvements for someone who just wants to listen to music over a bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth connection? The nature of the codec and its differences/advantages vs. A2DP is a complex topic, but I will attempt to explain in plain language how it actually can make Bluetooth audio sound better. Having science behind the claim of better sound goes a long way in legitimizing perceptual improvements in audio quality, particularly as the high-end audio industry is full of dubious - and often ridiculous - claims. There is no snake-oil to be sold here, as we are simply talking about a different way to compress and uncompress an audio signal - which is the purpose of a codec (code, decode) to begin with.

Continue reading our review of Qualcomm aptX audio technology!