Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2018 - 12:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: apple, SoC, A12X
Apple made a lot of claims with their new USB-C carrying iPad Pro and the A12X inside of it, stating it offer 90% better multicore performance of the previous A10X as well as twice the graphical power, they describe it as equivalent to the GCN 1.0 GPU in the XBone S, and finally that it is faster than 92% of all portable PCs. That last claim is the one to raise the most eyebrows but in at least some cases it is not completely inaccurate.
Ars Technica sat down with Anand Shimpi and Phil Schiller from Apple to discuss how the A12X is capable of so much more than the A12 and other previous generation SoCs. As is common with Apple they don't offer a lot of specifics on the design but there are certainly some interesting tidbits revealed.
"Apple's new iPad Pro sports several new features of note, including the most dramatic aesthetic redesign in years, Face ID, new Pencil features, and the very welcome move to USB-C. But the star of the show is the new A12X system on a chip."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Mything the point: The AI renaissance is simply expensive hardware and PR thrown at an old idea @ The Register
- Huawei's Mate 20 Pro has a strange screen bleed issue @ The Inquirer
- Google Sends Final Software Update To Legacy Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P Phones @ Slashdot
- Qualcomm forced to license modem chip tech to rivals @ The Inquirer
- Lightsaber Uses Pogo Pins to Make Assembly a Breeze @ Hackaday
- Mobile ops and Wi-Fi set to scrap for spectrum in the glorious 5G future @ The Register
- The Best Routers 2018 @ Techspot
- 20th Anniversary Giveaway Week 6 - Pocophone F1 @ TechARP
Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2018 - 04:24 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, mobile, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iphone, ios, apple, A12 Bionic, 7nm
Apple’s event today included expected (and previously leaked) iPhone announcements for the faster “S” variant of the iPhone X, as well as a new, larger iPhone XS Max, and finally the new, lower-cost iPhone XR. All three phones include Apple’s latest mobile processor, the A12 Bionic, as well as new cameras and other improvements.
The design is unchanged, but the 6.5-inch form-factor is new (image via Apple)
Beginning with the primary announcement, the new 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch iPhone XS and XS Max phones both feature Super Retina OLED displays which Apple says now offer wider dynamic range, and the glass protecting them is “the most durable glass ever” in a smartphone. The new XS Max offers the same 458 ppi density as the iPhone XS with its 2688x1242 resolution (the iPhone XS has the same 2436x1125 resolution as the iPhone X), and both phones are now IP68 water and dust resistant and dual-SIM capable (using eSIM).
Apple says the A12 Bionic chip will be the first to market at 7nm (Hauwei's 7nm Kirin 980 was previously announced but not shipping until mid-October), and the move to this smaller process should allow for lower power consumption and increased performance.
The A12 Bionic has a 6-core CPU design as we saw with the A11, and uses the same Apple-designed Fusion architecture. Apple says its two performance cores are “up to 15% faster and 40% lower power”, and the four efficiency cores offer “up to 50% lower power” with no stated increase in performance. Other than stating that it is a proprietary design little was revealed about the GPU other than it is now a 4-core design, which Apple says is “50% faster” than before.
The camera system on the new phones offers a new “advanced bokeh” feature which allows for f-stop adjustment after the photo has been taken, and during the presentation this feature appears to work in a very realistic way comparable to dedicated lenses with a DSLR. Other features include improved speakers, stereo audio recording with video, and "Gigabit-class" LTE.
The iPhone XR is an LCD variant with lower cost (image via Apple)
The “one more thing” at the even was a new lower-cost iPhone based on the iPhone X design, but with an LCD display that Apple is calling “Liquid Retina”. This 6.1-inch device has a display resolution of 1792x828 (326 ppi), uses the new A12 chip, and while it is a single-camera phone like the iPhone 8 it uses the latest wide-angle camera from its “S” model siblings.
The display also features “120 Hz touch-sensing” - which may be independent of display refresh, but that is unknown at this point - a wide color gamut, and is a True Tone display like the iPhone X. The phone drops 3D Touch, using instead what appears to be a long-press detection with haptic feedback. The phone does not offer the "Gigabit-class LTE" of the XS/XS Max, is IP67 rather than IP68 water and dust resistant, but does retain the new “most durable glass” from the "S" models.
Pricing for the new lineup is as follows:
- iPhone XS 64GB - $999
- iPhone XS 256GB - $1149
- iPhone XS 512GB - $1349
- iPhone XS Max 64GB - $1099
- iPhone XS Max 256GB - $1249
- iPhone XS Max 512GB - $1449
- iPhone XR 64GB - $749
- iPhone XR 128GB - $799
- iPhone XR 256GB - $899
The new iPhones XS and XS Max will be available next week, with a September 21 launch day (pre-ordering begins on Friday, September 14). The iPhone XR launches on October 26 (pre-order October 19).
Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 2, 2018 - 11:45 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, octa-core, mobile, Mali-G76, Kirin, Huawei, HiSilicon, gpu, cpu, Cortex-A76, arm, 8-core
Huawei has introduced their subsidiary HiSilicon’s newest mobile processor in the Kirin 980, which, along with Huawei's claim of the world's first commercial 7nm SoC, is the first SoC to use Arm Cortex A76 CPU cores and Arm’s Mali G76 GPU.
Huawei is aiming squarely at Qualcomm with this announcement, claiming better performance than a Snapdragon 845 during the presentation. One of its primary differences to the current Snapdragon is the composition of the Kirin 980’s eight CPU cores, notable as the usual 'big.LITTLE' Arm CPU core configuration for an octa-core design gives way to a revised organization with three groups, as illustrated by AnandTech here:
Of the four Cortex A76 cores just two are clocked up to maximize performance with certain applications such as gaming (and, likely, benchmarks) at 2.60 GHz, and the other two are used more generally as more efficient performance cores at 1.92 GHz. The remaining four A55 cores operate at 1.80 GHz, and are used for lower-performance tasks. A full breakdown of the CPU core configuration as well as slides from the event are available at AnandTech.
Huawei claims that the improved CPU in the Kirin 980 results in "75 percent more powerful and 58 percent more efficient compared to their previous generation" (the Kirin 970). This claim translates into what Huawei claims to be 37% better performance and 32% greater efficiency than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845.
The GPU also gets a much-needed lift this year from Arm's latest GPU, the Mali-G76, which features "new, wider execution engines with double the number of lanes" and "provides dramatic uplifts in both performance and efficiency for complex graphics and Machine Learning (ML) workloads", according to Arm.
Real-world testing with shipping handsets is needed to verify Huawei's performance claims, of course. In fact, the results shown by Huawei at the presentation carry a this disclaimer, sourced from today’s press release:
"The specifications of Kirin 980 does not represent the specifications of the phone using this chip. All data and benchmark results are based on internal testing. Results may vary in different environments."
The upcoming Mate 20 from Huawei will be powered by this new Kirin 980 - and could very well provide results consistent with the full potential of the new chip - and that is set for an official launch on October 16.
The full press release is available after the break.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | August 3, 2018 - 04:41 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Zen, Vega, SoC, ryzen, China, APU, amd
Continuing down the path with its semi-custom design division, AMD today announced a partnership with Chinese company Zhongshan Subor to design and build a new chip to be utilized for both a Chinese gaming PC and Chinese gaming console.
The chip itself will include a quad-core integration of the Zen processor supporting 8 threads at a clock speed of 3.0 GHz, no Turbo or XFR is included. The graphics portion is built around a Vega GPU with 24 Compute Units running at 1.3 GHz. Each CU has 64 stream processors giving the “Fenghuang” chip a total of 1536 SPs. That is the same size GPU used in the Kaby Lake-G Vega M GH part, but with a higher clock speed.
The memory system is also interesting as Zhongshan Subor has integrated 8GB of GDDR5 on a single package. (Update: AMD has clarified that this is a GDDR5 memory controller on package, and the memory itself is on the mainboard. Much more sensible.) This is different than how Intel integrated basically the same product from AMD as it utilized HBM2 memory. As far as I can see, this is the first time that an AMD-built SoC has utilized GDDR memory for both the GPU and CPU outside of the designs used for Microsoft and Sony.
This custom built product will still support AMD and Radeon-specific features like FreeSync, the Radeon Software suite, and next-gen architecture features like Rapid Packed Math. It is being built at GlobalFoundries.
Though there are differences in the apparent specs from the leaks that showed up online earlier in the year, they are pretty close. This story thought the custom SoC would include a 28 CU GPU and HBM2. Perhaps there is another chip design for a different customer pending or more likely there were competing integrations and the announced version won out due to cost efficiency.
Zhongshan Subor is a Chinese holding company that owns everything from retail stores to an education technology business. You might have heard its name in association with a gluttony of Super Famicom clones years back. I don’t expect this new console to have near the reach of an Xbox or PlayStation but with the size of the Chinese market, anything is possible if the content portfolio is there.
It is interesting that despite the aggressiveness of both Microsoft and Sony in the console space in regards to hardware upgrades this generation, this Chinese design will be the first to ship with a Zen-based APU, though it will lag behind the graphics performance of the Xbox One X (and probably PS4 Pro). Don’t be surprised if both major console players integrate a similar style of APU design with their next-generation products, pairing Zen with Vega.
Revenue for AMD from this arrangement is hard to predict but it does get an upfront fee from any semi-custom chip customer for the design and validation of the product. There is no commitment for a minimum chip purchase so AMD will see extended income only if the console and PC built around the APU succeeds.
Enthusiasts and PC builders have already started questioning whether this is the type of product that might make its way to the consumer. The truth is that the market for a high-performance, fully-integrated SoC like this is quite small, with DIY and SI (system integrator) markets preferring discrete components most of the time. If we remove the GDDR5 integration, which is one of the key specs that makes the “Fenghuang” chip so interesting and expensive, I’d bet the 24 CU GPU would be choked by standard DDR4/5 DRAM. For now, don’t hold out hope that AMD takes the engineering work of this Chinese gaming product and applies it to the general consumer market.
Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2018 - 05:55 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, SFF, sapphire, ryzen v1000, ryzen embedded, ryzen, APU, amd
Sapphire Technologies is now partnering with AMD to offer up a new small(ish) 5"x5" form factor system for embedded applications featuring AMD's Ryzen Embedded V1000 SoC APUs. The Sapphire FS-FP5V is a 5.8"x5.5" motherboard that pairs the V1000 SoC with Zen CPU cores and Vega GPU with dual channel DDR4 3200 MHz SODIMM memory slots, two M.2 slots, a single SATA 3 port, dual Ethernet, and four DisplayPort outputs supporting up to four 4K displays.
The 5x5 motherboard uses a V1000 APU that is soldered to the board though the website does not specify which model Sapphire is using. The V1000 series includes APUs ranging from 12W to 54W with up to four (Zen) cores / 8 threads, a Vega-based GPU with up to 11 CUs, 2MB L2 cache, and 4MB shared L3 cache. The SoC further has AMD's PSP security processor and support for dual 10GbE though Sapphire's board only uses two Gigabit NICs (Realtek RTL8111G). Realtek chips are also used for the four channel audio solution (ALC262). The M.2 2280 can operate in PCI-E 3.0 x4 or SATA modes while the smaller M.2 2242 slot uses PCI-E x1 and can accommodate Wi-Fi cards or smaller SSDs. The FS-FP5V board also features serial RS232 and GPIO support and the motherboard is powered by a single 19V DC input.
Rear I/O includes two USB 2.0 ports (there's also one on the front), one USB 3.1 Type-C, four DisplayPort outputs, two RJ-45 GbE jacks, and a single audio output.
Sapphire plans to sell its new 5x5 board to system integrators as well as directly through their website. A video from AMD shows off the board as well as examples from Sapphire partners of SFF cases and 2x2 display walls. The new platform is aimed at video gaming systems (think casinos, arcades, and video gambling machines in bars), digital signage, large display walls, point of sale systems, and medical imaging (high resolution display outputs for medical scanning and diagnostics devices). There is no word on pricing or availability, but if you are interested there is a form you can fill out to get more information. It is nice to see AMD getting some design wins in the SFF space even if its not in consumer products yet (it's time for an AMD NUC competitor).
Update: Tom's Hardware managed to get their hands on some pricing details which show Sapphire will offer four models that vary by Ryzen Embedded processor used including:
- Ryzen Embedded V1202B (2 core / 4 thread + Vega 3) for $325
- Ryzen Embedded V1605B (4 core / 8 thread + Vega 8) for $340
- Ryzen Embedded V1756B (4 core / 8 thread + Vega 8) for $390
- Ryzen Embedded V1807B (4 core / 8 thread + Vega 11) for $450
The first two options are 12W to 25W TDP SoCs while the latter two are 35W to 54W processors. The V1202B is clocked at 2 GHz base and up to 3.6 GHz. Moving up to the V1605B gets two more cores at an every so slightly higher 2.06 GHz base and moves from Vega 3 to Vega 8 graphics (though still at the same 1,100 MHz clockspeeds). Stepping up to the V1756B gets a processor with a much higher 3.25 GHz base but hte same maximum boost and graphics as the V1605B. Finally, moving to the flagship V1807B SoC gets an APU clocked at 3.35 GHz base and 3.8 GHz boost with Vega 11 graphics clocked at 1,300 MHz. The boards will reportedly be available later this year (relatively soon) while the UDOO Bolt will be available next year at similar price points. In all the Sapphire board seems like a decent deal for setting up a homelab or media box (though I wish the storage situation was better) while the UDOO Bolt board is aimed more at developers and makers with the inclusion of Aruino pinouts and eMMC storage (The UDOO appears to top out at the V1605B chip as well.)
(End of Update.)
The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results
The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!
The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device
While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.
Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:
- Baseband Chipset: SDM845
- Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
- Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
- Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
- Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
- No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
- 4 Digital Microphones
- Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
- DisplayPort over USB-C
At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.
Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2018 - 06:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm, QCC5100, low power, bluetooth, aptX HD, aptX, ANC, active noise cancellation
Qualcomm has announced a new low-power Bluetooth SoC with the QCC5100 series, a single-chip solution targeting wireless earbuds and other audio devices with the promise of longer battery life and better audio quality than existing solutions. The QCC5100 integrates ANC (active noise cancellation), aptX HD audio, and 3rd-party voice assistant support, among other features.
Qualcomm Biometric Headset Example Design
Features for the QCC5100 from Qualcomm:
- Low power design and ultra-small form factor
- Dual-core 32-bit processor application subsystem
- Dual-core Qualcomm® Kalimba™ DSP Audio subsystem
- Support for aptX and aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo, and Enhanced ANC (Feed- Forward, Feed-Backward, Hybrid)
- Voice Assistant Services, low power wake word detection
- Bluetooth 5.0 and 2 Mbps Bluetooth® Low Energy support
- Embedded ROM + RAM and support for external Flash memory
- 2-ch 98dBA headset class D (integrated amplifier)
- 2-ch 99dBA line inputs (single ended)
- 192kHz 24-bit I2S & SPDIF interfaces
- Flexible software platform with powerful new IDE support
Qualcomm Occluded Earbuds Example Design
Qualcomm says this new chip - a ground-up design with a quad-core processor architecture (2x APs and 2x DSPs) - offers power savings of up to 65% and provides up to 3x playback time of current Bluetooth devices on the market.
Qualcomm has shown device designs using the new SoC including occluded earbuds (no wire connecting the two) and a biometric headset, and while there are no announcements on shipping products Qualcomm expects to have examples for manufacturers in the first half of 2018.
Full press release after the break.
Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2017 - 03:50 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 636, snapdragon, qualcomm, octa-core, mobile platform, Kryo 260, Kryo, cpu, adreno, 8-core
Qualcomm's latest mobile platform is the Snapdragon 636, positioned (at least numerically) between the Snapdragon 630 and 660 introduced earlier this year, and offering a very impressive set of features for mid-range devices - even reaching parity with the Snapdragon 800-series in some respects.
Qualcomm claims CPU performance gains of up to 40% from the Kryo 260 cores in the Snapdragon 636 compared to the ARM Cortex-A53 cores found in the Snapdragon 630, and the switch to Kryo brings the new Snapdragon 636 closer to the specs of the Snapdragon 660 - also an 8-core Kryo 260 design (though the higher-numbered platform does boast slightly higher clocks from its eight CPU cores at 2.2 GHz vs. 1.8 GHz from the 636).
The Snapdragon 636 also features the same X12 LTE modem found in the existing Snapdragon 630/660, which is capable of up to 600 Mbps download speeds (3 x 20 Hz carrier aggregation, 256-QAM) and 150 Mbps peak upload (2 x 20 Hz aggregation, 64-QAM).
Graphics duties are performed by the Adreno 509, and 18:9 FHD+ displays are supported. The Snapdragon 636 also includes the Hexagon 680 DSP (which we first saw in the Snapdragon 820) with Spectra 160 ISP for supported image capture "of up to 24 megapixels with zero shutter lag while supporting smooth zoom, fast autofocus and true-to-life colors for outstanding image quality", according to Qualcomm.
This new Snapdragon 636 also offers Qualcomm's Aqstic codec (another feature inherited from the 800-series) for high-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, along with dual-oscillator support (separate clock generators for 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz based sample rates!) and a 130dB dynamic range with a very low THD+N of -109dB.
To expand on what the Aqstic codec in the SD636 provides, the separate clock generators are a fascinating addition in a world where many codecs resample the common 44.1 kHz - pretty much all digital music at or below CD quality - to 48 kHz during playback. Having a proper 44.1 kHz clock means native playback without the interpolation and subsequent filtering required when altering the original signal to an incompatible sample rate.
The Snapdragon 636 - which is both "pin and software-compatible" with existing Snapdragon 660 and 630 mobile platforms, according to Qualcomm - is expected to ship to customers beginning in November.
Subject: Mobile | October 16, 2017 - 10:23 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, phone, Oreo, mobile, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10, Kirin 970, Huawei, Android 8, Android
Huawei has announced the successor(s) to the Mate 9 smartphone with the new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which feature a new "3D Glass Body" industrial design along with the new Kirin 970 processor and other improvements.
The key features from Huawei include:
- Kirin 970, the world’s first AI processor for smartphones with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU)
- A 3D Glass Body featuring a barely-there-bezel, HUAWEI FullView Display and HDR10 supported technology for intensely vivid and brighter colors
- TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge and 4000 mAh battery with AI-powered Battery Management
- New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses, with both featuring an aperture of f/1.6, and intelligent photography including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and AI-powered Bokeh Effect;
- An all-new, simplified EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0
The Mate 10 Pro features an 18:9 OLED display
The Mate 10 is a 5.9-inch device with a 16:9 IPS display supporting HDR10, while the Mate 10 Pro offers an 18:9 OLED display (also with HDR10 support).
The new dual-camera system is again a joint effort with Leica, and combines a 12 MP color sensor with a 20 MP monochrome sensor, using lenses with a aperture of f/1.6 - and Huawei says this aperture is the "world's largest" for a smartphone. The digital zoom and bokeh effects are AI-powered, along with real-time scene and object recognition.
The new Kirin 970 combines an 8-core CPU with a 12-core Mali-G72 GPU, and includes an NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-related tasks as well as a new dual ISP for the AI-powered camera features mentioned above.
Both phones include a 4000 mAh battery which offers "smart battery management" which Huawei states "understands user behavior and intelligently allocates resources to maximize battery life". The new TÜV-certified fast charging feature supports low-voltage charging of 4.5V / 5A, and Huawei states this will charge the phones from 1% to 20% in 10 minutes, or 1% to 58% in 30 minutes.
The Mate 10 lineup
The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro ship with Android 8.0 and a new "simplified" version of Huawei's EMUI interface. Pricing and availablity for the U.S. was not revealed, but the phones will go on sale internationally starting this month for the Mate 10, and mid-November for the Mate 10 Pro.
The Mate 10 Pro lineup
While we don't have U.S. pricing yet, European pricing for the Mate 10 with 64GB of storage and 4GB memory is set at €699, and the Mate 10 Pro with 128GB/6GB will be €799.
A New Standard
With a physical design that is largely unchanged other than the addition of a glass back for wireless charging support, and featuring incremental improvements to the camera system most notably with the Plus version, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are interesting largely due to the presence of a new Apple SoC. The upcoming iPhone X (pronounced "ten") stole the show at Apple's keynote annoucement earlier this month, but the new A11 Bionic chip powers all 2017 iPhone models, and for the first time Apple has a fully custom GPU after their highly publicized split with Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR graphics found in previous Apple SoCs.
The A11 Bionic powering the 2017 iPhones contains Apple’s first 6-core processor, which is comprised of two high performance cores (code-named ‘Monsoon’) and four high efficiency cores (code-named ‘Mistral’). Hugely important to its performance is the fact that all six cores are addressable with this new design, as Apple mentions in their description of the SoC:
"With six cores and 4.3 billion transistors, A11 Bionic has four efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip, and two performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster. The CPU can even harness all six cores simultaneously when you need a turbo boost."
It was left to improvments to IPC and clock speed to boost the per-core performance of previous Apple SoCs, such as the previous A10 Fusion part, which contained a quad-core CPU split in an even arrangement of 2x performance + 2x efficiency cores. Apple's quad-core effort did not affect app performance beyond the two performance cores, with additional cores limited to background tasks in real-world use (though the A10 Fusion did not provide any improvement to battery life over previous efforts, as we saw).
The A11 Bionic on the iPhone 8 system board (image credit: iFixit)
Just how big an impact this new six-core CPU design will have can be instantly observed with the CPU benchmarks to follow, and on the next page we will find out how Apple's in-house GPU solution compare to both the previous A10 Fusion PowerVR graphics, and market-leading Qualcomm Adreno 540 found in the Snapdragon 835. We will begin with the CPU benchmarks.