Apple's special sauce, the A12X SoC

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2018 - 12:50 PM |
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.

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"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."

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Source: Ars Technica

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November 7, 2018 | 01:23 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

Thank the lord my favorite tech site is resisting providing a propaganda outlet for AMD and it's over blown Zen 2/EPYC 2 drivel.

I trust Ryan over at Intel still has the final say on this site to keep it on track.

November 7, 2018 | 02:14 PM - Posted by ROFLMAAAndPeedAtThatMarketingTripe (not verified)

Just you show yourself to be a fanatic for Intel in a likewise manner to those other AMD, Apple, Whetever Maker's fanatics.

"I trust Ryan over at Intel still has the final say on this site to keep it on track"

Not if Ryan wants to keep his Intel job, and ditto for Anand Lal Shimpi(Apple) and his relationship with AnandTech, or Scott Wasson(AMD) and his relationship with The TechReport.

They are all devested of their past business relationships or they are out of a job!

Let any of thsoe Folks try and influnce their former Press Related Business Holdings and the FTC and SEC will be all over that like flys on a freshly pooped dung pile!

Anand, Scott, and now Ryan are all in corporate marketing now and that comes with regulations and limitations!

November 7, 2018 | 03:54 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

Oh my, did I forget the /S at the end?

Seriously, where is the article on THE most revolutionary CPU technology in over a decade? A simple CPU change out that DOUBLES the per socket performance of a server. That has NEVER happened before.

The 7nm Instinct article was up right away. There should have been SOMETHING up on the 7nm EPYC 2.

This is beyond supicious. I notice Linus, who is known to have full full Intel retard has nothing up on ZEN 2 either.

Whatever. Too late for PC Per to look neutral now no matter what kind of article eventually shows up. IF it shows up.

November 7, 2018 | 05:18 PM - Posted by AtleastCoverTheBreakingNewsYouReportersOfTheCutandPasteKind (not verified)

No PCPer is just going to Xbitlabs out of existance if the cut and paste Reporters do not even cover any and all of the breaking news subjects on PCs and related hardware.

So Yes Vega 20 was covered but not really well by the press in the US and the UK. The Australian Tech Press was more thorough with Vega 20 and took the time to point out Vega 20's new AI oriented Instruction Extentions added to Vega 20's VEGA ISA and the Improved DP FP ratio that's now 1/2 DP to 1 SP FP instead of 1/16 to 1 as was only supported on Vega 10.

There is also the xGMI support and the new MxGPU (multiuser GPU) in hardware GPU virtualization support as well but really most of the Tech Press is only interested in gaming and gaming specific affiliate marketing income mostly. So the Tech Press are a thinly vailed marketing operation with mmot of the website founders moving on to jobs with the very folks that do the making of the products that are being marketed by this "Tech Press" that's really not what one would call reporters in the true sense of the word.

One thing must be noted that it's not just One Website but the entire industry that has the same questionable sorts of conflects of interests. And the UK technical press is no longer the goto for a deeper dive into any high technology subject matter also. There are YouTube Based sites doing more "Press" like work as of letely and that's going to become more compromised also just like TOM's Hardware, after Tom was no longer involved and the remainder of the small websites that are geting bought out by the larger media interests that have even less interest in technology other than the marketing of the products.

To be fair the "Technology Press" did a piss poor job reporting on Nvidia's RTX IP along with not indicationg to the consumer that the better parts of Nvidia's NVLink IP will not be turned on for any Non Professional RTX branded parts such as the RTX Gaming SKUs that will not be benifiting as much from NVLink over that past SLI IP.

Really though the Epyc-2 systems are not the only Zen-2 based design that AMD has to copy in the consumer market unless there is some advantage to having that large central I/O die for any gaming workloads. But mostly that AMD event was just a preview of some data center product lines and not a deep dive into the Zen-2 Micro-Arch as of yet. So whatever the Next Technical Trade Show is scheduled before Epyc-2/Zen-2 products are to market I'd exppect AMD's chief CPU architect to do the usual talk along with detailed slide presentation.

Really there are folks over at r/AMD complaining about Vega 20 being more oriented towards Compute/AI that do not even realise that Vega 10 was also more oriented towards compute/AI and AMD was never really concerned about competing with Nvidia in gaming only GPU designs. Because AMD most certianly knew about Nvidia's GP102 Base DIE Tapeout and its 96 available ROPs that was binned down to create the GTX 1080Ti with 88 out of those 96 ROPs enabled and had the highest Pixel Fill Rate of any Gaming Branded GPU SKU.

Vega 10 was compute heavy as a matter of AMD's intended focus on the Compute/AI market where the better markups produce sufficient revenues to pay for all that uber expensive GPU R&D and costlty Mask Set and DIE tapeout costs. AMD could only afford at the time One "Vega 10"(Big Die) tapeout and related Mask Set costs/fab costs as Zen(First generation) took the larger share of AMD's Very Limited remaining Funds.

AMD was very lucky with Vega 10(Big Die Tapeout) as the mining craze stars alligned at just the right time to make that Vega 10 more popular for mining compute than for gaming. That's beacuse with only 64 ROPs max available on the Vega 10 Big Die Tapeout AMD was never in a prosition to compete with Nvidia's GP102 base die tapeout with all those extra ROPs and much higher GPixel/s fill rates that translates into more FPS for raster oriented gaming workloads.

November 7, 2018 | 06:48 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Inconceivable that AMD sent me official information on one product but not the other, eh?

November 7, 2018 | 07:46 PM - Posted by OnNosToThatExcuse (not verified)

That just means you are not a reporter if you need to be spoon-fed to publish. Reporters do a thing on their own called research. And technology Reporters also need to keep up with current industry events on their own.

The Xbitlabs Fate is coming sooner to your publication rather than later it appears!

November 7, 2018 | 09:28 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Who is claiming I am a reporter?

November 7, 2018 | 08:32 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

"Inconceivable that AMD sent me official information on one product but not the other, eh?"

??? WTH does that even mean???


AMD released the slide deck of the event on it's site shortly after the event concluded. Videos of the breakout sessions were on you tube last night. The event was independently live cast on YouTube as it happened.


And PC Per had NOTHING to say about it because it didn't get an 'official' release pack from AMD?


The ONLY thing that makes sense at this point is that PC Per is now totally Intel's *****. Along with Linus Tech.

November 7, 2018 | 09:29 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom


November 7, 2018 | 10:08 PM - Posted by James

Both of these are enterprise products, so I don’t know if I would have expected AMD to send you anything on either of them. For pieces like this about the A12x, where you are pointing to another site, do you have a promotional agreement with them (Arstechnica in this case)? Do they request that you do a promotion of this specific article?

What are the criteria for writing an article about such an event? I assume you can’t just copy what is written else where, but I really have no idea what your sources are beyond official information packages from the company involved. Do you guys subscribe to some kind of wire service?

November 8, 2018 | 12:55 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Well, the criteria for my posts is that I have a bit of time to do it in and that something about it amuses me ... or I can make a good title out of it.

As for the sources, they are mainly from two places.  I am on the mailing lists of a vast number of sites so I can aggregate the ones that are of interest and on topic.  There's no promotion, just the hope they will return the favour and link to a review one of our gang publishes.

I also get an amazing amount of emails from PR firms, including AMD's.  They sent me two emails on the new HPC cards but nothing on EPYC 2.  I did email asking if they had something to send or if I was just to dumb to find it on the AMD site but never heard back.

Once in a blue moon insider stuff comes, but we honour NDAs so a lot of it doesn't get posted before everyone else does.  That's not to say I would never post and link to an article on a site that doesn't exactly follow NDAs. ;) 

November 7, 2018 | 01:56 PM - Posted by ROFLMAAAndPeedAtThatMarketingTripe (not verified)

Anand Lal Shimpi can't say anything with Shiller in the room and what a wortless "Interview" so full of Shiller's marketing Speak.

Apple's Market Cap has fallen below that trillion dollar+ high and the Majic has worn off for the public to Apple's overpriced products.

Apple is too secretive to the point of Insulting those in the Real Technology Trade Press. Apple does not even show up at the Hot Chips Symposium and any of that Apple Technology and IP is not that much different from what others are likewise offering in the Phone Market. Apple only has it's more controlled OS/App ecosystem and all that other Hardware/IP is not much different maker to maker as far as DSP, AI, and the other integrated IP that's used across all phone maker's/OEM's products.

I read that "Interview" and think to myself who the hell does Apple think they are dealing with using that marketing tinged gobbledygook that Schiller spews. You can actually feel sorry for Anand Lal Shimpi having to suffer Apple's tightly held reins in the form of that Marketing Monkey Extraordinaire Phil Schiller! Anand wants to talk technology but Schiller wants to market to Apple's legions of morons. And even the legions of Morons are not buying Apple's line anymore and it's been past peak Apple for a good while now with less unit sales in the future unless Apple begins lowering its excessive markups to a much greater degree.

November 7, 2018 | 03:12 PM - Posted by James

I have been wondering where the Epyc 2 story is; at least a mention? It kind of makes Intel’s attempt at a marketing part (2 24-core parts on a MCP) look ridiculous. Epyc 2 is an interesting design. I hadn’t seen the rumors, so I expected just 4 16-core cpus connected together like Epyc 1. That was a wasteful design in some respects since all Zen parts had the massive interconnect for a full Epyc 1 on die, even if sold as a single chip. This design allows them to not have any wasted space on the consumer part, although it is unclear whether the consumer part will just use the same chiplet with a tiny IO die or if it will be a separate die with IO on the die.

November 7, 2018 | 05:19 PM - Posted by Bob, do something! (not verified)

I am wondering as to why is Apple still using Intel chips. Why not stick this into their laptops? The new macbook is a dual-core, pathetic! They should really phase them out for their own architecture.

November 7, 2018 | 07:37 PM - Posted by TheLockinning2020IsUponYeLaptopPeasants (not verified)

Because with the A12/12X processors it will still take time for Apple to properly Port Full MacOS support over and get that MacOS support all vetted and certified. And it's not really because the A12/12X can not be made to run MacOS. It's going to take time before Apple will get that MacOS porting done and running in a stable error free manner.

And if Apple thinks that they can get their macbook user base to go all cloud based hanging off of iOS then Apple is in for even more Market Cap losses.

Apple's chips need to also be reworked to operate at higher clocks and/or have more CPU and GPU cores. That AI Hardware needs to be made available via an API to graphics software, and I mean Apple's fully documented API and not just some parts of the API that are currently only available for Apple's internal application software's usage.

Laptops in general are going to start becoming more locked down after 2020 when any non Volume licensees with not be able to purchase extended windows 7 support. M$ is continuing support for windows 7 for some licensees until 2023 becuse Windows 8.1(EOL 2023) is essentially windows 7 under the hood with that god awful TIFKAM grafted on. So for a price some windows 7 Volumne licensees will be able to purchase extended windows 7 security patches until 2023.

Even with Intel CPUs that Apple T2 security Chip needs updated certificates to boot linux or the user will have to disable T2 completely, more hoops to jump through there.

I think that now is the time to start saving those old laptops that come with scoketed MBs, and many Business Laptops offer socketed CPUs as opposed to BGA. The business laptops that are most popular with the enterprise customers from a few generations back have many laptop SKUs that come with socketed CPUs and can be repaired easily and used with a linux distro. But for the newer the hardware look for more locking down and less user control.

P.S. r/Amd folks I know that those current generation Epyc/SP3 MBs look like a deal and while they will be able to be used with Zen-2/Epyc-2 SKUs. But the current Crop of first generation Zen Epyc/SP3 Motherboards are only certified to work with PCIe 3.0 and Zen-2/Epyc-2 SKU's PCIe 4.0 support and certification/vetting for PCIe 4.0 signaling will be lacking on any first generation Zen Epyc/SP3 MBs. The PCI-SIG standards all support the eariler standards signaling as that suppot is backwards compatable. But it's not forwards compatable on Motherboards where the MB's Traces need to be laid-out/engineered for the Faster PCIe 4.0 standard.

But the good news is that Zen-1/Epyc-1 SKUs will be coming down in Price as the 2nd generation Zen-2/Epyc-2 SKUs become available. And 128 lanes of PCIe 3.0 still represents one boatload of available PCIe connectivity even though 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes is double the bandwidth. So the deals on Epyc 7000 series CPUs/MBs will be getting better and better for folks that need 8 full memory channels pre socket and 128 PCIe 3.0 capable lanes in addition to up to 32 cores per socket that first generation Zen/Epyc provides.

I'm even looking at Raptor's Power9 based systems(Talos II, and lower cost Blackbird offerings) and the Power9 systems come with open source firmware support and even more end user comtrol. So it's not all about x86 for any home systems based on Power9 low cost servers. The deals are getting better as the competition increases.

November 14, 2018 | 12:14 AM - Posted by McD (not verified)

You’re really not Apple’s target customer. Nobody with a Power9 server at home will be.

The reason they haven’t released an A-series MacBook is because there are two ways to do this and they’re not ready for either;

1) Pro Macs: integrate their APU with a T3 running OS, 1st party apps, 3rd party ARM software as it arrives (having got MS + Adobe onboard already) and gradually relegate the x86 to coprocessor status.

2) go all-in at the low-end with Xcode/App Store conversion plus x86 emulation (Apple’s microcode extends way beyond but emulates Aarch64 so extend it to x86).

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