Subject: Processors | October 1, 2016 - 06:11 PM | Tim Verry
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'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?
- NVIDIA Teases Xavier, a High-Performance ARM SoC for Drive PX & AI @ AnandTech
- Tegra Related News @ PC Perspective
- Tesla P4 Specifications @ NVIDIA
- CES 2016: NVIDIA Launches DRIVE PX 2 With Dual Pascal GPUs Driving A Deep Neural Network @ PC Perspective
Subject: Processors | September 27, 2016 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overclock, Bristol Ridge, amd
Update 9/27 @ 5:10pm: Added a link to Anandtech's discussion of Bristol Ridge. It was mentioned in the post, but I forgot to add the link itself when I transfered it to the site. The text is the same, though.
While Zen is nearing release, AMD has launched the AM4 platform with updated APUs. They will be based on an updated Excavator architecture, which we discussed during the Carrizo launch in mid-2015. Carrizo came about when AMD decided to focus heavily on the 15W and 35W power targets, giving the best possible experience for that huge market of laptops, in the tasks that those devices usually encounter, such as light gaming and media consumption.
Image Credit: NAMEGT via HWBot
Bristol Ridge, instead, focuses on the 35W and 65W thermal points. This will be targeted more at OEMs who want to release higher-performance products in the holiday time-frame, although consumers can purchase it directly, according to Anandtech, later in the year. I'm guessing it won't be pushed too heavily to DIY users, though, because they know that those users know Zen is coming.
It turns out that overclockers already have their hands on it, though, and it seems to take a fairly high frequency. NAMEGT, from South Korea, uploaded a CPU-Z screenshot to HWBot that shows the 28nm, quad-core part clocked at 4.8 GHz. The included images claim that this was achieved on air, using AMD's new stock “Wraith” cooler.
Subject: Processors | September 19, 2016 - 10:35 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Socket AM4, processor, FX, cpu, APU, amd, 1331 pins
Image credit: Bit-Tech via HWSW
AMD's newest socket will merge the APU and FX series CPUs into this new AM4 socket, unlike the previous generation which split the two between AM3+ and FM2+. This is great news for system builders, who now have the option of starting with an inexpensive CPU/APU, and upgrading to a more powerful FX processor later on - with the same motherboard.
The new socket will apparently require a new cooler design, which is contrary to early reports (yes, we got it wrong, too) that the AM4 socket would be compatible with existing AM3 cooler mounts (manufacturers could of course offer hardware kits for existing cooler designs). In any case, AMD's new socket takes more of the delicate copper pins you love to try not to bend!
Subject: Processors | September 13, 2016 - 06:51 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FD-SOI, 12FDX, process technology
In addition to the company’s efforts to get its own next generation FinFET process technology up and running, GlobalFoundries announced that will continue to pursue FD-SOI process technology with the addition of a 12nm FD-SOI (FDX in GlobalFoundries parlance) node to its roadmap with a slated release of 2019 at the earliest.
FD-SOI stands for Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator and is a planar process technology that uses a thin insulator on top of the base silicon which is then covered by a very thin layer of silicon that is used as the transistor channel. The promise of FD-SOI is that it offers the performance of a FinFET node with lower power consumption and cost than other bulk processes. While the substrate is more expensive with FD-SOI, it uses 50% of the lithography layers and companies can take advantage of reportedly easy-to-implement body biasing to design a single chip that can fulfill multiple products and roles. For example, in the case of 22FDX – which should start rolling out towards the end of this year – GlobalFoundries claims that it offers the performance of 14 FinFET at the 28nm bulk pricing. 22FDX is actually a 14nm front end (FEOL) and 28nm back end of line (BEOL) combined. Notably, it purportedly uses 70% lower power than 28nm HKMG.
A GloFo 22nm FD-SOI "22FDX" transistor.
The FD-SOI design offers lower static leakage and allows chip makers to use body biasing (where substrate is polarized) to balance performance and leakage. Forward Body Biasing allows the transistor to switch faster and/or operate at much lower voltages. On the other hand, Reverse Body Biasing further reduces leakage and frequency to improves energy efficiency. Dynamic Body Biasing (video link) allows for things like turbo modes whereby increasing voltage to the back gate can increase transistor switching speed or reducing voltage can reduce switching speeds and leakage. For a process technology that is aimed at battery powered wearables, mobile devices, and various Internet of Things products, energy efficiency and being able to balance performance and power depending on what is needed is important.
22FDX offers body biasing.
While the process node numbers are not as interesting as the news that FD-SOI will continue itself (thanks to marketing mucking up things heh), GlobalFoundries did share that 12FDX (12nm FD-SOI) will be a true full node shrink that will offer the performance of 10nm FinFET (presumably its own future FinFET tech though they do not specify) with better power characteristics and lower cost than 16nm FinFET. I am not sure if GlobalFoundries is using theoretical numbers or compared it to TSMC’s process here since they do not have their own 16nm FinFET process. Further, 12FDX will feature 15% higher performance and up to 50% lower power consumption that today’s FinFET technologies. The future process is aimed at the “cost sensitive mobile market” that includes IoT, automotive (entertainment and AI), mobile, and networking. FD-SOI is reportedly well suited for processors that combine both digital and analog (RF) elements as well.
Following the roll out of 22FDX GlobalFoundries will be preparing its Fab 1 facility in Dresden, Germany for the 12nm FD-SOI (12FDX) process. The new process is slated to begin tapping out products in early 2019 which should mean products using chips will hit the market in 2020.
The news is interesting because it indicates that there is still interest and research/development being made on FD-SOI and GlobalFoundries is the first company to talk about next generation process plans. Samsung and STMicroelectronics also support FD-SOI but have not announced their future plans yet.
If I had to guess, Samsung will be the next company to talk about future FD-SOI as the company continues to offer both FinFET and FD-SOI to its customers though they certainly do not talk as much about the latter. What are your thoughts on FD-SOI and its place in the market?
Also read: FD-SOI Expands, But Is It Disruptive? @ EETimes
Subject: Motherboards, Processors | September 7, 2016 - 08:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Zen, Summit Ridge, Excavator, Bristol Ridge, amd, A12-9800
This week AMD officially took the wraps off of its 7th generation APU lineup that it introduced back in May. Previously known as Bristol Ridge, AMD is launching eight new processors along with a new desktop platform that finally brings next generation I/O to AMD systems.
Bristol Ridge maintains the Excavator CPU cores and GCN GPU cores of Carrizo, but on refreshed silicon with performance and power efficiency gains that will bring the architecture started by Bulldozer to an apex. These will be the last chips of that line, and wil be succeeded by AMD's new "Zen" architecture in 2017. For now though, Bristol Ridge delivers as much as 17% higher per thread CPU performance and 27% higher graphics performance while using significantly lower power than its predecessors. Further, AMD has been able to (thanks to various process tweaks that Josh talked about previously) hit some impressive clock speeds with these chips enabling AMD to better compete with Intel's Core i5 offerings.
At the top end AMD has the (65W) quad core A12-9800 running at 3.8 GHz base and 4.2 GHz boost paired with GCN 3.0-based Radeon R7 graphics (that support VP9 and HEVC acceleration). These new Bristol Ridge chips are able to take advantage of DDR4 clocked up to 2400 MHz. For DIY PC builders planning to use dedicated graphics, AMD has the non-APU Athlon X4 950 which features four CPU cores at 3.5 GHz base and 3.8 GHz boost with a 65W TDP. While it is not clocked quite as high as its APU counterpart, it should still prove to be a popular choice for budge builds and will replace the venerable Athlon X4 860 and will also be paired with an AM4 motherboard that will be ready to accept a new Zen-based "Summit Ridge" CPU next year.
The following table lists the eight new 7th generation "Bristol Ridge" processors and their specifications.
|CPU Cores||CPU Clocks Base / Boost||GPU||GPU CUs||GPU Clocks (Max)||TDP|
|4||3.8 GHz / 4.2 GHz||Radeon R7||8||1,108 MHz||65W|
|A12-9800E4||4||3.1 GHz / 3.8 GHz||Radeon R7||8||900 MHz||35W|
|A10-9700||4||3.5 GHz / 3.8 GHz||Radeon R7||6||1,029 MHz||65W|
|A10-9700E||4||3.0 GHz / 3.5 GHz||Radeon R7||6||847 MHz||35W|
|A8-9600||4||3.1 GHz / 3.4 GHz||Radeon R7||6||900 MHz||65W|
|A6-9500||2||3.5 GHz / 3.8 GHz||Radeon
|A6-9500E||2||3.0 GHz / 3.4 GHz||Radeon
|Athlon X4 950||4||3.5 GHz / 3.8 GHz||None||0||N/A||65W|
To expand on the performance increases of Bristol Ridge, AMD compared the A12-9800 to the previous generation A10-8850 as well as Intel's Core i5-6500. According to the company, the Bristol Ridge processor handily beats the Carrizo chip and is competitive with the Intel i5. Specifically, when comparing Bristol Ridge and Carrizo, AMD found that the A12-9800 scored 3,521.25 in 3DMark 11 while the A10-8850 (95W Godavari) scored 2,880. Further, when compared in Cinebench R11.5 1T the A12-980 scored 1.21 versus the A10-8850's 1.06. Not bad when you consider that the new processor has a 30W lower TDP!
With that said, the comparison to Intel is perhaps most interesting to the readers. In this case, the A12-9800 is about where you would expect though that is not necessarily a bad thing. It does pull a bit closer to Intel in CPU and continues to offer superior graphics performance.
|AMD A12-9800 (65W)||Intel Core i5-6500 (65W)||AMD A10-8850 (95W)|
3DMark 11 Performance
|PCMark 8 Home Accelerated||3,483.25||3,702||Not run|
|Cinebench R11.5 1T||1.21||Not run||1.06|
Specifically, in 3DMark 11 Performance the A12-9800's score of 3,521.25 is quite a bit better than the Intel i5-6500's 1,765.75 result. However, in the more CPU focused PCMark 8 Home Accelerated benchmark the Intel comes out ahead with a score of 3,702 versus the AMD A12-9800's score of 3,483.25. If the price is right Bristol Ridge does not look too bad on paper, assuming AMD's testing holds true in independent reviews!
The AM4 Platform
Alongside the launch of desktop 7th generation APUs, AMD is launching a new AM4 platform that supports Bristol Ridge and is ready for Zen APUs next year. The new platform finally brings new I/O technologies to AMD systems including PCI-E 3.0, NVMe, SATA Express, DDR4, and USB 3.1 Gen 2.
According to Digital Trends, AMD's AM4 desktop platform wil span all the way from low end to enthusiast motherboards and these boards will be powered by one of three new chipsets. The three new chipsets are the B350 for mainstream, A320 for "essential," and X/B/A300 for small form factor motherboards. Notably missing is any mention of an enthusiast chipset, but one is reportedly being worked on and will arive closer to the launch of Zen-based processors in 2017.
The image below outlines the differences in the chipsets. Worth noting is that the APUs themselves will handle the eight lanes of PCI-E 3.0, dual channel DDR4, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, and two SATA 6Gbps and two NVMe or PCI-E 3.0 storage devices. This leaves PCI-E 2.0, SATA Express, additional SATA 6Gbps, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 connection duties to the chipsets.
As of today, AMD has only announced the availability of AM4 motherboards and 7th generation APUs for OEM systems (with design wins from HP and Lenovo so far). The company will be outlining the channel / DIY PC builder lineup and pricing at a later (to be announced date).
I am looking forward to Zen and in a way the timing of Bristol Ridge seems strange. On the other hand, for OEMs it should do well and hold them over until then (heh) and enthusiasts / DIY builders are able to buy into Bristol Ridge knowing that they will be able to upgrade to Zen next year (while getting better than Carrizo performance with less power and possibly better overclocking) is not a bad option so long as the prices are right!
The full press blast is included below for more information on how they got their benchmark results.
Subject: Processors | September 6, 2016 - 03:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Zen, single thread, geekbench, amd
Over the holiday weekend a leaked Geekbench benchmark result on an engineering sample AMD Zen processor got tech nerds talking. Other than the showcase that AMD presented a couple weeks back using the Blender render engine, the only information we have on performance claims come from AMD touting a "40% IPC increase" over the latest Bulldozer derivative.
The results from Geekbench show performance from a two physical processor system and a total of 64 cores running at 1.44 GHz. Obviously that clock speed is exceptionally low; AMD demoed Summit Ridge running at 3.0 GHz in the showcase mentioned above. But this does give us an interesting data point with which to do some performance extrapolation. If we assume perfect clock speed scaling, we can guess at performance levels that AMD Zen might see at various clocks.
I needed a quick comparison point and found this Geekbench result from a Xeon E7-8857 v2 running at 3.6 GHz. That is an Ivy Bridge based architecture and though the system has 48 cores, we are only going to a look at single threaded results to focus on the IPC story.
Obviously there are a ton of caveats with looking at data like this. It's possible that AMD Zen platform was running in a very sub-optimal condition. It's possible that the BIOS and motherboard weren't fully cache aware (though I would hope that wouldn't be the case this late in the game). It's possible that the Linux OS was somehow holding back performance of the Zen architecture and needs update. There are many reasons why you shouldn't consider this data a final decision yet; but that doesn't make it any less interesting to see.
In the two graphs below I divide the collection of single threaded results from Geekbench into two halves and there are three data points for each benchmark. The blue line represents the Xeon Ivy Bridge processor running at 3.6 GHz. The light green line shows the results from the AMD Zen processor running at 1.44 GHz as reported by Geekbench. The dark green line shows an extrapolated AMD Zen performance result with perfect scaling by frequency.
Subject: Processors | September 2, 2016 - 01:39 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: IBM, power9, power 3.0, 14nm, global foundries, hot chips
Earlier this month at the Hot Chips symposium, IBM revealed details on its upcoming Power9 processors and architecture. The new chips are aimed squarely at the data center and will be used for massive number crunching in big data and scientific applications in servers and supercomputer nodes.
Power9 is a big play from Big Blue, and will help the company expand its precense in the Intel-ruled datacenter market. Power9 processors are due out in 2018 and will be fabricated at Global Foundries on a 14nm HP FinFET process. The chips feature eight billion transistors and utilize an “execution slice microarchitecture” that lets IBM combine “slices” of fixed, floating point, and SIMD hardware into cores that support various levels of threading. Specifically, 2 slices make an SMT4 core and 4 slices make an SMT8 core. IBM will have Power9 processors with 24 SMT4 cores or 12 SMT8 cores (more on that later). Further, Power9 is IBM’s first processor to support its Power 3.0 instruction set.
According to IBM, its Power9 processors are between 50% to 125% faster than the previous generation Power8 CPUs depending on the application tested. The performance improvement is thanks to a doubling of the number of cores as well as a number of other smaller improvements including:
- A 5 cycle shorter pipeline versus Power8
- A single instruction random number generator (RNG)
- Hardware assisted garbage collection for interpreted languages (e.g. Java)
- New interrupt architecture
- 128-bit quad precision floating point and decimal math support
- Important for finance and security markets, massive databases and money math.
- IEEE 754
- CAPI 2.0 and NVLink support
- Hardware accelerators for encryption and compression
The Power9 processor features 120 MB of direct attached eDRAM that acts as an L3 cache (256 GB/s). The chips offer up 7TB/s of aggregate fabric bandwidth which certainly sounds impressive but that is a number with everything added together. With that said, there is a lot going on under the hood. Power9 supports 48 lanes of PCI-E 4.0 (2 GB/s per lane per direction), 48 lanes of proprietary 25Gbps accelerator lanes – these will be used for NVLink 2.0 to connect to NVIDIA GPUs as well as to connect to FPGAs, ASICs, and other accelerators or new memory technologies using CAPI 2.0 (Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface) – , and four 16Gbps SMP links (NUMA) used to combine four quad socket Power9 boards into a single 16 socket “cluster.”
These are processors that are built to scale and tackle the big data problems. In fact, not only is Google interested in Power9 to power its services, but the US Department of Energy will be building two supercomputers using IBM’s Power9 CPUs and NVIDI’s Volta GPUs. Summit and Sierra will offer between 100 to 300 Petaflops of computer power and will be installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory respectively. There, some of the projects they will tackle is enabling the researchers to visualize the internals of a virtual light water reactor, research methods to improve fuel economy, and delve further into bioinformatics research.
The Power9 processors will be available in four variants that differ in the number of cores and number of threads each core supports. The chips are broken down into Power9 SO (Scale Out) and Power9 SU (Scale Up) and each group has two processors depending on whether you need a greater number of weaker cores or a smaller number of more powerful cores. Power9 SO chips are intended for multi-core systems and will be used in servers with one or two sockets while Power9 SU chips are for multi-processor systems with up to four sockets per board and up to 16 total sockets per cluster when four four socket boards are linked together. Power9 SO uses DDR4 memory and supports a theoretical maximum 4TB of memory (1TB with today’s 64GB DIMMS) and 120 GB/s of bandwidth while Power9 SU uses IBM’s buffered “Centaur” memory scheme that allows the systems to address a theoretical maximum of 8TB of memory (2TB with 64GB DIMMS) at 230 GB/s. In other words, the SU series is Big Blue’s “big guns.”
A photo of the 24 core SMT4 Power9 SO die.
Here is where it gets a bit muddy. The processors are further broken down by an SMT4 or SMT8 and both Power9 SO and Power9 SU have both options. There are Power9 CPUs with 24 SMT4 cores and there are CPUs with 12 SMT8 cores. IBM indicated that SMT4 (four threads per core) was suited to systems running Linux and virtualization with emphasis on high core counts. Meanwhile SMT8 (eight threads per core) is a better option for large logical partitions (one big system versus partitioning out the compute cluster into smaller VMs as above) and running IBM’s Hypervisor. In either case (24 SMT4 or 12 SMT8) there is the same number of total threads, but you are able to choose whether you want fewer “stronger” threads on each core or more (albeit weaker) threads per core depending on which you workloads are optimized for.
Servers supporting Power9 are already under development by Google and Rackspace and blueprints are even available from the OpenPower Foundation. Currently, it appears that Power9 SO will emerge as soon as the second half of next year (2H 2017) with Power9 SU following in 2018 which would line up with the expected date for the Summit and Sierra supercomputer launches.
This is not a chip that will be showing up in your desktop any time soon, but it is an interesting high performance processor! I will be keeping an eye on updates from Oak Ridge lab hehe.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | August 31, 2016 - 07:30 AM | Sebastian Peak
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.
"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.
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.
What's new and what's not
While spending time learning about upcoming products and technologies at the Intel Developer Forum earlier this month, I sat down with the company to learn about the release of Kaby Lake, now known as the 7th Generation Core processor family. We have been seeing and reporting on the details of Kaby Lake for quite some time here on PC Perspective – it became a more important topic when we realized that this would be the product that officially killed off the ‘tick-tock’ design philosophy that Intel had implemented years ago and that was responsible for much of the innovation in the CPU space over the last decade.
Today Intel released new information about the 7th Gen CPU family and Kaby Lake. Let’s dive into this topic with a simple and straight forward mindset in how it compares to Skylake.
What is the same
Actually, quite a lot. At its core, the microarchitecture of Kaby Lake is identical to that of Skylake. Instructions per clock (IPC) remain the same with the exception of dedicated hardware changes in the media engine, so you should not expect any performance differences with Kaby Lake except with improved clock speeds we’ll discuss in a bit.
Because of this lack of change many people will look down on the Kaby Lake release as Intel’s attempt to repackage an existing product to make sure it meets a financial market required annual product cadence. It is a valid but arguable criticism, but Intel is making changes in other areas that should make KBL an improvement in the thin and light ecosystem.
Also worth noting is that Intel is still building Kaby Lake on 14nm process technology, the same used on Skylake. The term “same” will be debated as well as Intel claims that improvements made in the process technology over the last 24 months have allowed them to expand clock speeds and improve on efficiency
What is changed
Dubbing this new revision of the process as “14nm+”, Intel tells me that they have improved the fin profile for the 3D transistors as well as channel strain while more tightly integrating the design process with manufacturing. The result is a 12% increase in process performance; that is a sizeable gain in a fairly tight time frame even for Intel.
That process improvement directly results in higher clock speeds for Kaby Lake when compared to Skylake when running at the same target TDPs. In general, we are looking at 300-400 MHz higher peak clock speeds in Turbo Boost situations when compared to similar TDP products in the 6th generation. Sustained clocks will very likely remain voltage / thermally limited but the ability spike up to higher clocks for even short bursts can improve performance and responsiveness of Kaby Lake when compared to Skylake.
In these two examples, Intel compares the 15 watt Core i7-6500U (a common part in currently shipping notebooks) and the upcoming 15 watt Core i7-7500U, both with dual-core HyperThreaded configurations. In SYSmark 2014 a 12% score improvement is measured while WebXPRT shows a 19% advantage. Double digit performance increases are pretty astounding for a new generational jump that does not include a new microarchitecture or a new process technology (more or less) though we should temper expectations for other applications and workload profiles like content creation.
Clean Sheet and New Focus
It is no secret that AMD has been struggling for some time. The company has had success through the years, but it seems that the last decade has been somewhat bleak in terms of competitive advantages. The company has certainly made an impact in throughout the decades with their 486 products, K6, the original Athlon, and the industry changing Athlon 64. Since that time we have had a couple of bright spots with the Phenom II being far more competitive than expected, and the introduction of very solid graphics performance in their APUs.
Sadly for AMD their investment in the “Bulldozer” architecture was misplaced for where the industry was heading. While we certainly see far more software support for multi-threaded CPUs, IPC is still extremely important for most workloads. The original Bulldozer was somewhat rushed to market and was not fully optimized, while the “Piledriver” based Vishera products fixed many of these issues we have not seen the non-APU products updated to the latest Steamroller and Excavator architectures. The non-APU desktop market has been served for the past four years with 32nm PD-SOI based parts that utilize a rebranded chipset base that has not changed since 2010.
Four years ago AMD decided to change course entirely with their desktop and server CPUs. Instead of evolving the “Bulldozer” style architecture featuring CMT (Core Multi-Threading) they were going to do a clean sheet design that focused on efficiency, IPC, and scalability. While Bulldozer certainly could scale the thread count fairly effectively, the overall performance targets and clockspeeds needed to compete with Intel were just not feasible considering the challenges of process technology. AMD brought back Jim Keller to lead this effort, an industry veteran with a huge amount of experience across multiple architectures. Zen was born.
Hot Chips 28
This year’s Hot Chips is the first deep dive that we have received about the features of the Zen architecture. Mike Clark is taking us through all of the changes and advances that we can expect with the upcoming Zen products.
Zen is a clean sheet design that borrows very little from previous architectures. This is not to say that concepts that worked well in previous architectures were not revisited and optimized, but the overall floorplan has changed dramatically from what we have seen in the past. AMD did not stand still with their Bulldozer products, and the latest Excavator core does improve upon the power consumption and performance of the original. This evolution was simply not enough considering market pressures and Intel’s steady improvement of their core architecture year upon year. Zen was designed to significantly improve IPC and AMD claims that this product has a whopping 40% increase in IPC (instructions per clock) from the latest Excavator core.
AMD also has focused on scaling the Zen architecture from low power envelopes up to server level TDPs. The company looks to have pushed down the top end power envelope of Zen from the 125+ watts of Bulldozer/Vishera into the more acceptable 95 to 100 watt range. This also has allowed them to scale Zen down to the 15 to 25 watt TDP levels without sacrificing performance or overall efficiency. Most architectures have sweet spots where they tend to perform best. Vishera for example could scale nicely from 95 to 220 watts, but the design did not translate well into sub-65 watt envelopes. Excavator based “Carrizo” products on the other hand could scale from 15 watts to 65 watts without real problems, but became terribly inefficient above 65 watts with increased clockspeeds. Zen looks to address these differences by being able to scale from sub-25 watt TDPs up to 95 or 100. In theory this should allow AMD to simplify their product stack by offering a common architecture across multiple platforms.