Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 653, 626, and 427 SoCs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 18, 2016 - 11:32 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 653, Snapdragon 626, Snapdragon 427, snapdragon, smartphone, qualcomm, mobile

Qualcomm has announced new 400 and 600-series Snapdragon parts, and these new SoCs (Snapdragon 653, 626, and 427) inherit technology found previously on the 800-series parts, including fast LTE connectivity and dual-camera support.

qualcomm-snapdragon-mobile-processor.jpg

The integrated LTE modem has been significantly for each of these SoCs, and Qualcomm lists these features for each of the new products:

  • X9 LTE with CAT 7 modem (300Mbps DL; 150Mbps UL) designed to provide users with a 50 percent increase in maximum uplink speeds over the X8 LTE modem.
  • LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation with up to 2x20 MHz in the downlink and uplink
  • Support for 64-QAM in the uplink
  • Superior call clarity and higher call reliability with the Enhanced Voice Services (EVS) codec on VoLTE calls.

In addition to the new X9 modem, all three SoCs offer faster CPU and GPU performance, with the Snapdragon 653 (which replaces the 652) now supporting up to 8GB of memory - up from a max of 4GB previously. Each of the new SoCs also feature Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 for fast charging.

SD_600_400.png

Full specifications for these new products can be found on the updated Snapdragon product page.

Availability of the new 600-series Snapdragon processors is set for the end of this year, so we could start seeing handsets with the faster parts soon; while the Snapdragon 427 is expected to ship in devices early in 2017.

Source: Qualcomm

Intel Launches Stratix 10 FPGA With ARM CPU and HBM2

Subject: Processors | October 10, 2016 - 02:25 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Intel, FPGA, Cortex A53, arm, Altera

 Intel and recently acquired Altera have launched a new FPGA product based on Intel’s 14nm Tri-Gate process featuring an ARM CPU, 5.5 million logic element FPGA, and HBM2 memory in a single package. The Stratix 10 is aimed at data center, networking, and radar/imaging customers.

The Stratix 10 is an Altera-designed FPGA (field programmable gate array) with 5.5 million logic elements and a new HyperFlex architecture that optimizes registers, pipeline, and critical pathing (feed-forward designs) to increase core performance and increase the logic density by five times that of previous products. Further, the upcoming FPGA SoC reportedly can run at twice the core performance of Stratix V or use up to 70% less power than its predecessor at the same performance level.

Intel Altera Stratix 10.jpg

The increases in logic density, clockspeed, and power efficiency are a combination of the improved architecture and Intel’s 14nm FinFET (Tri-Gate) manufacturing process.

Intel rates the FPGA at 10 TFLOPS of single precision floating point DSP performance and 80 GFLOPS/watt.

Interestingly, Intel is using an ARM processor to feed data to the FPGA chip rather than its own Quark or Atom processors. Specifically, the Stratix 10 uses an ARM CPU with four Cortex A53 cores as well as four stacks of on package HBM2 memory with 1TB/s of bandwidth to feed data to the FPGA. There is also a “secure device manager” to ensure data integrity and security.

The Stratix 10 is aimed at data centers and will be used with in specialized tasks that demand high throughput and low latency. According to Intel, the processor is a good candidate for co-processors to offload and accelerate encryption/decryption, compression/de-compression, or Hadoop tasks. It can also be used to power specialized storage controllers and networking equipment.

Intel has started sampling the new chip to potential customers.

Intel Altera Stratix 10 FPGA SoC.png

In general, FPGAs are great at highly parallelized workloads and are able to efficiently take huge amounts of inputs and process the data in parallel through custom programmed logic gates. An FPGA is essentially a program in hardware that can be rewired in the field (though depending on the chip it is not necessarily a “fast” process and it can take hours or longer to switch things up heh). These processors are used in medical and imaging devices, high frequency trading hardware, networking equipment, signal intelligence (cell towers, radar, guidance, ect), bitcoin mining (though ASICs stole the show a few years ago), and even password cracking. They can be almost anything you want which gives them an advantage over traditional CPUs and graphics cards though cost and increased coding complexity are prohibitive.

The Stratix 10 stood out as interesting to me because of its claimed 10 TFLOPS of single precision performance which is reportedly the important metric when it comes to training neural networks. In fact, Microsoft recently began deploying FPGAs across its Azure cloud computing platform and plans to build the “world’s fastest AI supercomputer. The Redmond-based company’s Project Catapult saw the company deploy Stratix V FPGAs to nearly all of its Azure datacenters and is using the programmable silicon as part of an “acceleration fabric” in its “configurable cloud” architecture that will be used initially to accelerate the company’s Bing search and AI research efforts and later by independent customers for their own applications.

It is interesting to see Microsoft going with FPGAs especially as efforts to use GPUs for GPGPU and neural network training and inferencing duties have increased so dramatically over the years (with NVIDIA being the one pushing the latter). It may well be a good call on Microsoft’s part as it could enable better performance and researchers would be able to code their AI accelerator platforms down to the gate level to really optimize things. Using higher level languages and cheaper hardware with GPUs does have a lower barrier to entry though. I suppose ti will depend on just how much Microsoft is going to charge customers to use the FPGA-powered instances.

FPGAs are in kind of a weird middle ground and while they are definitely not a new technology, they do continue to get more complex and powerful!

What are your thoughts on Intel's new FPGA SoC?

Also read:

Source: Intel

NVIDIA Teases Low Power, High Performance Xavier SoC That Will Power Future Autonomous Vehicles

Subject: Processors | October 1, 2016 - 06:11 PM |
Tagged: xavier, Volta, tegra, SoC, nvidia, machine learning, gpu, drive px 2, deep neural network, deep learning

Earlier this week at its first GTC Europe event in Amsterdam, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang teased a new SoC code-named Xavier that will be used in self-driving cars and feature the company's newest custom ARM CPU cores and Volta GPU. The new chip will begin sampling at the end of 2017 with product releases using the future Tegra (if they keep that name) processor as soon as 2018.

NVIDIA_Xavier_SOC.jpg

NVIDIA's Xavier is promised to be the successor to the company's Drive PX 2 system which uses two Tegra X2 SoCs and two discrete Pascal MXM GPUs on a single water cooled platform. These claims are even more impressive when considering that NVIDIA is not only promising to replace the four processors but it will reportedly do that at 20W – less than a tenth of the TDP!

The company has not revealed all the nitty-gritty details, but they did tease out a few bits of information. The new processor will feature 7 billion transistors and will be based on a refined 16nm FinFET process while consuming a mere 20W. It can process two 8k HDR video streams and can hit 20 TOPS (NVIDIA's own rating for deep learning int(8) operations).

Specifically, NVIDIA claims that the Xavier SoC will use eight custom ARMv8 (64-bit) CPU cores (it is unclear whether these cores will be a refined Denver architecture or something else) and a GPU based on its upcoming Volta architecture with 512 CUDA cores. Also, in an interesting twist, NVIDIA is including a "Computer Vision Accelerator" on the SoC as well though the company did not go into many details. This bit of silicon may explain how the ~300mm2 die with 7 billion transistors is able to match the 7.2 billion transistor Pascal-based Telsa P4 (2560 CUDA cores) graphics card at deep learning (tera-operations per second) tasks. Of course in addition to the incremental improvements by moving to Volta and a new ARMv8 CPU architectures on a refined 16nm FF+ process.

  Drive PX Drive PX 2 NVIDIA Xavier Tesla P4
CPU 2 x Tegra X1 (8 x A57 total) 2 x Tegra X2 (8 x A57 + 4 x Denver total) 1 x Xavier SoC (8 x Custom ARM + 1 x CVA) N/A
GPU 2 x Tegra X1 (Maxwell) (512 CUDA cores total 2 x Tegra X2 GPUs + 2 x Pascal GPUs 1 x Xavier SoC GPU (Volta) (512 CUDA Cores) 2560 CUDA Cores (Pascal)
TFLOPS 2.3 TFLOPS 8 TFLOPS ? 5.5 TFLOPS
DL TOPS ? 24 TOPS 20 TOPS 22 TOPS
TDP ~30W (2 x 15W) 250W 20W up to 75W
Process Tech 20nm 16nm FinFET 16nm FinFET+ 16nm FinFET
Transistors ? ? 7 billion 7.2 billion

For comparison, the currently available Tesla P4 based on its Pascal architecture has a TDP of up to 75W and is rated at 22 TOPs. This would suggest that Volta is a much more efficient architecture (at least for deep learning and half precision)! I am not sure how NVIDIA is able to match its GP104 with only 512 Volta CUDA cores though their definition of a "core" could have changed and/or the CVA processor may be responsible for closing that gap. Unfortunately, NVIDIA did not disclose what it rates the Xavier at in TFLOPS so it is difficult to compare and it may not match GP104 at higher precision workloads. It could be wholly optimized for int(8) operations rather than floating point performance. Beyond that I will let Scott dive into those particulars once we have more information!

Xavier is more of a teaser than anything and the chip could very well change dramatically and/or not hit the claimed performance targets. Still, it sounds promising and it is always nice to speculate over road maps. It is an intriguing chip and I am ready for more details, especially on the Volta GPU and just what exactly that Computer Vision Accelerator is (and will it be easy to program for?). I am a big fan of the "self-driving car" and I hope that it succeeds. It certainly looks to continue as Tesla, VW, BMW, and other automakers continue to push the envelope of what is possible and plan future cars that will include smart driving assists and even cars that can drive themselves. The more local computing power we can throw at automobiles the better and while massive datacenters can be used to train the neural networks, local hardware to run and make decisions are necessary (you don't want internet latency contributing to the decision of whether to brake or not!).

I hope that NVIDIA's self-proclaimed "AI Supercomputer" turns out to be at least close to the performance they claim! Stay tuned for more information as it gets closer to launch (hopefully more details will emerge at GTC 2017 in the US).

What are your thoughts on Xavier and the whole self-driving car future?

Also read:

Source: NVIDIA

Qualcomm Releases the Snapdragon 821 Mobile Processor

Subject: Processors, Mobile | August 31, 2016 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 821, snapdragon, SD821, qualcomm, processor, mobile, adreno

Qualcomm has officially launched the Snapdragon 821 SoC, an upgraded successor to the existing Snapdragon 820 found in such phones as the Samsung Galaxy S7.

snapdragon821_1.jpg

"With Snapdragon 820 already powering many of the premier flagship Android smartphones today, Snapdragon 821 is now poised to become the processor of choice for leading smartphones and devices for this year’s holiday season. Qualcomm Technologies’ engineers have improved Snapdragon 821 in three key areas to ensure Snapdragon 821 maintains the level of industry leadership introduced by its predecessor."

Specifications were previously revealed when the Snapdragon 821 was announced in July, with a 10% increase on the CPU clocks (2.4 GHz, up from the previous 2.2 GHz max frequency). The Adreno 530 GPU clock increases 5%, to 650 MHz from 624 MHz. In addition to improved performance from CPU and GPU clock speed increases, the SD821 is said to offer lower power consumption (estimated at 5% compared to the SD820), and offers new functionality including improved auto-focus capability.

snapdragon-821.jpg

From Qualcomm:

Enhanced overall user experience:

The Snapdragon 821 has been specifically tuned to support a more responsive user experience when compared with the 820, including:

  • Shorter boot times: Snapdragon 821 powered devices can boot up to 10 percent faster.
  • Faster application launch times: Snapdragon 821 can reduce app load times by up to 10 percent.
  • Smoother, more responsive user interactions: UI optimizations and performance enhancements designed to allow users to enjoy smoother scrolling and more responsive browsing performance.

Improved performance and power consumption:

  • CPU speeds increase: As we previously announced, the 821 features Qualcomm Kryo CPU speeds up to 2.4GHz, representing an up to 10 percent improvement in performance over Snapdragon 820.
  • GPU speeds increase: The Qualcomm Adreno GPU received a 5 percent speed increase over Snapdragon 820.
  • Power savings: The 821 is engineered to deliver an incremental 5 percent power savings when comparing standard use case models. This power savings can extend battery life and support OEMs interested in reducing battery size for slimmer phones.

New features and functionality:

  • Snapdragon 821 introduces several new features and capabilities, offering OEMs new options to create more immersive and engaging user experiences, including support for:
  • Snapdragon VR SDK (Software Development Kit): Offers developers a superior mobile VR toolset, provides compatibility with the Google Daydream platform, and access to Snapdragon 821’s powerful heterogeneous architecture. Snapdragon VR SDK supports a superior level of visual and audio quality and more immersive virtual reality and gaming experiences in a mobile environment.
  • Dual PD (PDAF): Offers significantly faster image autofocus speeds under a wide variety of conditions when compared to single PDAF solutions.
  • Extended Laser Auto-Focus Ranging: Extends the visible focusing range, improving laser focal accuracy over Snapdragon 820.
  • Android Nougat OS: Snapdragon 821 (as well as the 820) will support the latest Android operating system when available, offering new features, expanded compatibility, and additional security compared to prior Android versions.

Qualcomm says the ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the first phone to use this new Snapdragon 821 SoC while other OEMs will be working on designs implementing the upgraded SoC.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm and OSIsoft Announce Snapdragon-Powered Smart Ballpark

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: utilities, SoC, snapdragon, Smart Ballpark, San Diego, qualcomm, Padres, OSIsoft, iot, industrial, baseball

Ever wonder how efficiently a major venue operates when it's only full of fans on game days? It turns out they don't operate all that efficiently, and the overhead is very expensive. This is where Qualcomm and OSIsoft step in, collaborating on a new “Smart Ballpark” project for San Diego's Petco Park.

Ballpark_1.jpg

“The San Diego Padres are utilizing edge intelligence gateways, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, to collect data from critical infrastructure systems and stream it in real-time to OSIsoft’s PI System in order to monitor utilities, improve operating efficiencies and drive sustainability across the team’s entire Petco Park ballpark.”

With usage monitoring for utilities (electrical and gas energy, potable and non-potable water) the Padres - San Diego’s Major League Baseball team that calls Petco Park home - see the potential to save more than 25% in the next five years.

“The edge intelligence gateways, using Snapdragon processors, connect to sensors and legacy systems throughout the ballpark using a broad range of communication methods, including wired and wireless technologies, analog and digital inputs and multiple communication protocols. These edge intelligence gateways acquire, store and stream data in real-time to the OSIsoft PI System which then presents the data to the Padres’ facilities managers using OSIsoft’s Visualization Suite and analytics, providing the operations team with deep situational awareness of everything happening in the venue.”

Diagram_Updated (002).png

This is a mammoth implementation of IoT (Internet of Things), with OSIsoft’s PI system a major player on the industrial side. Qualcomm naturally needs no introduction, as the smartphone SoC maker found in so many devices across virtually all brands. Qualcomm has also worked on improving mobile data performance in large venues such as ballparks, with products like the X16 modem (expected in products starting in the second half of 2016) offering improved connections via carrier and link aggregation, and use of unlicensed spectrum.

Full press release after the break:

Source: Qualcomm

Intel's new SoC, the Joule

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2016 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: Intel, joule, iot, IDF 2016, SoC, 570x, 550x, Intel RealSense

Intel has announced the follow up to Edison and Curie, their current SoC device, called Joule.  They have moved away from the Quark processors they previously used to a current generation Atom.  The device is designed to compete against NVIDIA's Jetson as it is far more powerful than a Raspberry Pi and will be destined for different usage.  It will support Intel RealSense, perhaps appearing in the newly announced Project Alloy VR headset.  Drop by Hack a Day for more details on the two soon to be released models, the Joule 570x and 550x.

intel-joule-1-2x1-720x360.jpg

"The high-end board in the lineup features a quad-core Intel Atom running at 2.4 GHz, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 16GB of eMMC, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.1, CSI and DSI interfaces, and multiple GPIO, I2C, and UART interfaces."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Report: ARM Holdings Purchased by SoftBank for $32 Billion

Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 18, 2016 - 12:03 AM |
Tagged: softbank, SoC, smartphones, mobile cpu, Cortex-A73, ARM Holdings, arm, acquisition

ARM Holdings is to be aquired by SoftBank for $32 billion USD. This report has been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, who states that an official annoucement of the deal is likely on Monday as "both companies’ boards have agreed to the deal".

arm-holdings.jpg

(Image credit: director.co.uk)

"Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has reached a more than $32 billion deal to buy U.K.-based chip-designer ARM HoldingsPLC, marking a significant push for the Japanese telecommunications giant into the mobile internet, according to a person familiar with the situation." - WSJ

ARM just announced their newest CPU core, the Cortex-A73, at the end of May, with performance and efficiency improvements over the current Cortex-A72 promised with the new architecture.

ARM_01.png

(Image credit: AnandTech)

We will have to wait and see if this aquisition will have any bearing on future product development, though it seems the acquisition targets the significant intellectual property value of ARM, whose designs can be found in most smartphones.

Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 821 SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2016 - 11:44 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 821, snapdragon, qualcomm, adreno 530

Announced today, the Snapdragon 821 offers a modest CPU frequency increase over the Snapdragon 820, with clock speeds of up to 2.4 GHz compared to 2.2 GHz with the Snapdragon 820. The new SoC is still implementing Qualcomm's custom quad-core "Kryo" design, which is made up of two pairs of dual-core CPU clusters.

Screenshot_20160711-112828~2.png

Quoting Anandtech, who also reported on the Snapdragon 821 today:

"What isn’t in this announcement is that the power cluster will likely be above 2 GHz and GPU clocks look to be around 650 MHz but without knowing whether there are some changes other than clock relative to Adreno 530 we can’t really estimate the performance of this part."

Specifics on the Adreno GPU were not mentioned in the official announcement. The 650 MHz GPU clock reported by Anandtech would offer a modest improvement over the SD820's 624 MHz Adreno 530 GPU. Additionally, the "power cluster" will reportedly move from 1.6 GHz with the SD820 to 2.0 GHz with the SD821.

No telling when this updated SoC will find its way into consumer devices, with the Snapdragon 820 currently available in the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG G5, OnePlus 3, and a few others.

Source: Qualcomm

AMD Announces Joint Venture with NFME

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2016 - 12:33 AM |
Tagged: SoC, nfme, gpu, cpu, amd

Nantong Fujitsu Microelectronics Co., Ltd. (NFME) is a Chinese company that packages and tests integrated circuits. Recently, AMD has been working with China to reach that large market, especially given their ongoing cash concerns. This time, AMD sold 85% of its stake in two locations, AMD Penang, Malaysia and AMD Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, to NFME and formed a joint venture with them, called TF-AMD Microelectronics Sdn Bhd.

AMD_2016-Logo.png

I see two interesting aspects to this story.

First, AMD gets about $320 million USD in this transaction, after taxes and fees, and it also retains 15% of this venture. I am curious whether this will lead to a long-term source of income for AMD, even though the press release claims that this structure will be “cost neutral”. Either way, clearing a third of a billion dollars should help AMD to some extent. That equates to about two-to-three quarters of net-loss for the company, so it gives them about six-to-nine extra months of life on its own. That's not too bad if the transaction doesn't have any lasting consequences.

Second, NFME now has access to some interesting packaging and testing technologies. NFME's website claims that this allows them to handle dies up to 800mm2, substrates with up to 18 layers, and package sizes up to 75mm. These specifications sound like it pulls from their GPU experience, which could bring all of that effort and knowledge to completely different fields.

The press release states that 1,700 employees will be moved from AMD to this venture. They do not state whether any jobs are affected over and above this amount, though.

Canonical’s First Ubuntu Tablet Available For Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, mediatek, SoC, arm, tablet

Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, is now offering up its first Ubuntu tablet with Spanish manufacturing partner BQ. The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is a 10-inch tablet powered by ARM and loaded with Ubuntu 15.04.

The tablet features an all black (or white) case with rounded edges and a matte back. Mobilegeeks managed to get hands on with the Android version of the Aquaris M10 which you can check out here. The internals are a bit different on the Ubuntu Edition, but the chassis and design remains the same. It measures 8.2mm thick and weighs in at 470 grams (1.03 pounds). The front is dominated by a 10.1” AHVA touchscreen display that comes in either 1280 x 800 or Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution depending on the model. A capacitive home button sits below along with two 0.7W speakers while a 5MP webcam is positioned above the display. There is an 8MP rear camera, and the sides hold Micro HDMI, Micro USB, Micro SD, and 3.5mm audio ports.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition Tablet PC.jpg

The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is powered by a quad core MediaTek SoC with Mali-T720MP2 graphics, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of eMMC storage (with approximately 10GB usable by end users) that can be expanded via Micro SD cards up to 64GB. The Full HD model uses the MediaTek MT8163A clocked at 1.5 GHz while the HD Aquaris M10 uses the slightly lower clocked MT8163B running at 1.3 GHz.

Wireless capabilities include 802.11n (dual band) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. It is powered by a 7,280 mAh Li-Po battery. BQ has pre-loaded the tablet with Ubuntu 15.04 which users will likely want to update once drivers are ready as it is End-of-Life.

The Aquaris M10 is available for pre-order now, with expected ship dates in early April. The HD Ubuntu Edition tablet is listed at €259.90 ($295) while the Full HD version will run you €299.90 ($340). Currently, the Full HD tablet comes in black and the HD tablet is all white. Both models come with a screen protector and case as a pre-order bonus.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition Tablet.jpg

It is interesting to see an official Ubuntu tablet, but I wonder if this is too little, too late for the open source OS. Canonical is positioning this as a daily driver that can be a tablet when you want to be mobile, a PC when propped up with a case and paired with wireless keyboard and mouse, and a media streamer when connecting it to the big screen with HDMI. I would expect performance to improve over time once the community gets a hold of it and starts tweaking it though the hardware is going to be a limiting factor. I want a Linux tablet to succeed, and hopefully this will open the door for higher end models. I don’t see myself jumping on this particular one though at this price.

Are you excited for the Ubuntu Edition M10?

Source: Canonical