Intel’s taking its 48-core processor and applying it to a field beyond academia: the world of mobile electronics. The company this morning announced intentions to slip the 48-core bad boy into future tablets and smartphones (emphasis on future), with CTO Justin Rattner saying the mobile implementation could arrive “much sooner” than the 10-year window predicted by researchers.
Aside from the thrilling world of linear algebra and fluid dynamics that the chipset is currently used for, Intel says it could offload processor-intensive functions across several cores, effectively speeding up various functions (say, video streaming). The availability of so many cores also means faster multitasking possibilities than the current dual- or quad-core offerings in modern smartphones and tablets — just imagine a world where two Angry Birds games can run simultaneously in the background without affecting the paradoxical game of Tiny Wings you decided to play instead. Hey, we understand — it’s just a better bird game. No big. Sadly, few software developers are crafting their wares (warez?) to take advantage of multi-core processing as is, so it’s gonna take more than just the existence of Intel’s 48-core chip to make its vision a reality.
AMD updates its FX processors: 8-core chip has 4GHz base clock, ’15 percent’ more oomph, $195 price tag
If you get the impression that AMD is diverting its energy away from traditional CPUs and towards APUs and fresher PC form factors such as all-in-ones, then you’re certainly right — but you’re also slightly ahead of the game. The company promises there’s a still a good few years of life left in its CPU-only chips and the AM3+ socket, and it’s putting today’s announcement forward as evidence. As of now, last year’s eight-core FX-8150 has been superseded on retailers’ shelves by the FX-8350, which notches the stock clock speed up to 4GHz, or 4.2GHz on turbo (alas with no obvious sign of that resonant mesh we once heard about). The full stack (codenamed ‘Vishera’) includes eight-, six- and four-core options, all based on the new Piledriver architecture which — when combined with these higher clock speeds — promises an overall performance uplift of around 15 percent versus the old Bulldozer cores. To be fair though, those Bulldozers weren’t so snappy to begin with, and besides, the most significant performance claims with this upgrade relate to multi-threaded applications and a few gaming titles like Skyrim and Civ 5. Judging from the slide deck below, gains in other areas of performance may be lower — perhaps in the region of seven percent — so as usual we’re going to roundup a bunch of reviews later today before we jump to any conclusions.
If it turns out that stock performance alone isn’t enough to sell these chips, then potential buyers still ought to check out FX’s pricing relative to Intel — not least because, as is typical, AMD sells overclockable chips at no extra charge. The top-end FX-8350 will hit the market at $195, which is not only cheaper than some earlier leaks suggested, but also $40 cheaper than an unlocked Core i5-3570K that has a lower clock speed and a smaller L3 cache — although the relative performance of these two chips remains to be independently tested. Meanwhile, the entry-level quad-core FX-4300 will virtually match the price of a locked i3-2120 at $122, but can be readily overclocked to 5GHz with water-cooling. AMD is also making a few claims based on the cost of multiple components in a rig: for example, that you can spend $372 on an FX-8350 and Radeon HD 7850 combo that delivers a 25 to 70 percent gaming advantage over a similarly priced Core i5 3570K with a GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Again, stay tuned for our roundup and we’ll figure out just how compelling this really is.
Intel details Clover Trail tablets: three weeks on standby, 10 hours of use, ‘full’ Windows 8 experience
You only have to look at the tidal wave of Ultrabooks to know that Intel design specifications can carry a lot of influence with manufacturers. That’s why the chip-maker’s claims about its latest reference tablet, built around a dual-core Atom Z2760 processor (aka “Clover Trail”), likely give us a broad hint of what to expect from devices like the forthcoming Lenovo Think Pad 2, ASUS Vivo Tab and Samsung ATIV Smart PC.
In particular, Intel has shown us slides claiming that the dual-core 1.8GHz chip with Imagination SGX545 graphics will offer the “best Windows 8 experience” on a tablet with “compatibility and support for traditional apps and peripherals.” And if you think that sounds like a subtle jibe at ARM-based tablets running Windows RT — a version of the OS that doesn’t even try to play nice with existing software — then you could be right. To be fair though, the point of RT is to offer superior portability, and that’s why Intel is also keen to emphasize that Clover Trail won’t impact too heavily on your freedom of movement. Tablets should come in below 1.5 pounds (680 grams — similar to the RT spec and much lighter than a Windows 8 Pro tablet) and 8.5mm in thickness, with built-in 3G, 4G and NFC. You shouldn’t need to carry a charger either, since a new power management system promises a distinctly un-laptop-like three weeks on standby and a full day of “active use” — defined as being at least 10 hours.
Windows 8 tablets won’t be like Windows 8 Pro machines, however, so don’t go expecting USB 3.0, or a guarantee of 1080p visuals (most Clover Trail devices we’ve seen are 1,366 x 768) or souped-up security — the Atom Z2760 is very much an evolved Medfield processor, with similar silicon and firmware, rather than a shrunken laptop chip.
Needless to say, what really matters is how well manufacturers adopt this design and what price points they manage to hit. Intel says that at least 20 different Clover Trail tablets are already in the works, and early price tags seem to be around the $799 mark — a hefty demand for sure, but perhaps one worth paying for those who need full-fledged Windows 8 and true portability at the same time. RT tablets, meanwhile, will have to come in much cheaper than that in order to be worthwhile.
Today’s business jargon gem: TAM, Total Addressable Market. AMD feels that Windows 8 comes with plenty of the stuff, so it sees no commercial need to make its forthcoming tablet chip — codenamed Hondo — play nice with Android as well. Speaking to The Inquirer, corporate VP Steve Belt said it was a “conscious decision” not to go after compatibility with Google’s OS, because AMD doesn’t want to spread itself into “other markets.” What could this mean for us tablet-buyers? No dual-booting Windows / Android magic on AMD devices, for one thing, which is perhaps a shame now that ASUS has shown off the combo’s potential. On the other hand, Belt made it clear that Hondo will support Linux, which — for now, at least — is more than can be said of Intel’s rival low-power silicon, Clover Trail.
It seems like every ARM chip manufacturer wants a piece of Windows 8 here at Computex 2012 — and for good reason. Hot on the heels of Asus’ Tegra 3-equipped Tablet 600 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4-based development tablet, Texas Instruments is showing Windows RT on its very own OMAP 4470-based system. The 1.5GHz dual-core SoC features a PowerVR SGX544 GPU and leads the competition with a dual-channel memory interface. We chatted with Bill Crean, Product Manager of the OMAP Processor Business Unit who showed us Microsoft’s latest OS running on TI’s development tablet. The demo looked snappy enough, providing some insight about what to expect from some of Toshiba’s upcoming devices. No word yet on a quad-core version. Enjoy our hands-on gallery below and take a peek after the break for our demo video.
Texas Instruments demos first OMAP 5, Android 4.0-based reference design, promises it in laptops next year (video)
Texas Instruments promised us a new helping of OMAP right around a year ago, and sure enough, OMAP 5 processors will be sampling to partners as early as next week. Texas Instruments’ Remi El-Ouazzane (VP of OMAP) just debuted an OMAP 5-based reference design (or “development platform,” if you will) on our CES stage, a solid four years after OMAP 3 debuted on a nondescript Archos tablet. OMAP 5 brings along a pair of cores and plenty of power savings, a dual-GPU architecture and more raw horsepower than the average simpleton is used to handling in a single palm. We saw quite a bit of swiping through Android 4.0.1, and as you’d expect, everything looked decidedly snappy. 720p video at 30 frames per second is no real chore, with the platform capable of pushing 1080p material at 64 frames per second (130 frames per second without screen refresh limitations). Of course, with everything being hardware accelerated, we can’t feign surprise about its future on netbooks and laptops. To quote Remi:
Fancy a glimpse of the future? That little psychedelic beauty on the right is ARM’s brand new Cortex-A7 processor. Its spec sheet might not seem so colorful at first glance, because it doesn’t really do things any faster than existing high-end smartphone processors. However, this UK-based manufacturer isn’t known for bumping its gums, so it pays to look a little deeper. For a start, the Cortex-A7 is built using a 28nm process that makes it five times smaller and more efficient than the current-gen Cortex-A8. It’s also cheap enough to power sub-$100 handsets, so we could be pulling GSII-like tricks on budget phones within a couple of years.
Is that it? Nope, there’s more: perhaps the most important feature of the A7 is that it can be combined with much higher-power cores like the Cortex-A15 side-by-side on the same chip. This allows a super-phone or tablet to switch between two totally different processing units depending on how much power is needed at the time. ARM calls this “Big.LITTLE” computing,” and a similar concept is already in use on NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 (aka Kal-El) SoC, which we’ll see imminently in the next Asus Transformer. However, the Tegra 3 uses five identical Cortex-A9 cores, whereas a device that mix-and-matches the A15 and A7 could potentially deliver higher highs and lower lows, giving you speed when you need it and amazing battery life when you don’t. How cute is that? Full PR after the break.
Intel already showcased the future of solar-powered computing, but if you’re wondering what silicon from 2013 looks like today… well, have a gander! The chip shown above (and in the gallery / videos below) is Intel’s Haswell microarchitecture, a platform that is destined to slip into slimmer-than-slim laptops and Ultrabooks of the future. As mentioned yesterday, it’s built on 22nm process technology, relies on the company’s 3D Tri-gate transistors and should lead to over ten full days of connected standby battery life in mobile devices. So, now you know what it feels like to be in The Twilight Zone.
During a sitdown with reporters yesterday, NVIDIA Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang discussed his company’s near- and long-term financial outlook, while providing some insight into the chipmaker’s quad-core future. According to Huang, NVIDIA expects to rake in between $4.7 and $5 billion in revenue during fiscal year 2013, with revenue from its mobile chip unit projected to mushroom tenfold by 2015, to a whopping $20 billion. Huang acknowledged that these predictions could be affected by external factors, including the ongoing patent wars between tablet and smartphone manufacturers, but didn’t seem too concerned about their immediate impact. “At this point, it looks like it’s much ado about nothing,” he said. In fact, Huang foresees rather robust growth in the mobile processing sector, estimating that there are about 100 million devices that will need chips this year — a figure that could soon rise to one billion, on the strength of more affordable handsets, efficient ARM processors and the rise of ultra-thin notebooks. And, despite his recent disappointment, Huang expects Android tablets to comprise a full 50 percent of the market in the near future, claiming that NVIDIA’s Tegra chips can currently be found in 70 percent of all slates running Google’s OS, and about half of all Android-based smartphones.
In the short-term, meanwhile, NVIDIA is busy developing its quad-core mobile processors — which, according to the exec, should appear in tablets during the third or fourth quarter of this year (quad-core smartphones, however, may be further down the road). Huang also sees room to develop wireless-enabled, Snapdragon-like processors, thanks to NVIDIA’s recent acquisition of Icera, but he hasn’t given up on GPUs, either, predicting that demand for graphics performance will remain stable. The loquacious CEO went on to divine that Windows 8 will support apps designed for Windows 7 (implying, perhaps, that Microsoft’s Silverlight platform will play a major role in future cloud-based developments), while contending that smaller, “clamshell devices” with keyboards will ultimately win out of over the Ultrabook strategy that Intel has been pursuing. For the moment, though, Huang seems pretty comfortable with NVIDIA’s position in the mobile processing market, citing only Qualcommas primary competition. “We’re the only people seriously on the dance floor with Qualcomm,” he argued, adding that companies without a solid mobile strategy are “in deep turd.” You can find more of Huang’s insights at the source links below.
Fan of ASUS’ affordable, yet competitively specced Eee Pad Transformer, but still haven’t committed your credit to its 10.1-inches? Well, if this bout of rumor-mongering proves true, you might want to put the wallet down until early fall. Harbinger of supply chain gossip Digitimes is reporting that the electronics maker has just enlisted Wintek to provide touch panels for its next gen tablet, slated to launch this October. The parts supplier is said to be working in tandem with HannStar Display to ramp up production should this iteration be met with its predecessor’s unforeseen popularity. Adding more ambiguity to the speculative fire, ASUS’ Chairman Jonney Shih recently confirmed to Forbes that an updated Transformer is on its way, saying only that it’d be very “impressive,” and would be available before CES. Jonney didn’t comment on the upcoming slate’s supposed use of NVIDIA’s quad-core Kal-El, but with the chip’s promised August launch date, we wouldn’t rule it out. While talks of a Transformer 2 are still just gossamer promise, you can always snag that Eee Pad Sliderwhile you sit and wait.
Intel may still be king of the microprocessing hill, but from the looks of IDC’s latest market report, scrappy underdog AMD is starting to claim more of the $9.5 billion dollar pie. The semiconductor stalwarts faced off in four separate market categories with runner-up AMD seeing gains in all, save for servers where its paltry 5.5 percent share dropped 0.6 percent versus Intel’s commanding 94.5 percent lead. The Q2 2011 report pegged Intel’s overall worldwide share at 79.3 percent, a 1.5 percent decrease from the previous quarter, while AMD saw a 1.5 percent increase to 20.4 percent. For the mobile PC realm, Intel once again saw a decline as its 84.4 percent share took a 1.9 percent quarter to quarter tumble, with AMD again seeing a nearly 2 percent gain in its 15.2 percent stake. In the desktop PC segment, AMD grabbed an additional 1.5 percent, bringing its stake to 28.9 percent, with Intel’s 70.9 percent share dropping 1.5 percent versus Q1 2011. Wondering where the second place chip maker got its second quarter stride? According to the research firm, its new Fusion platform, along with Intel’s Sandy Bridge, now accounts for “more than 60% of total PC processor unit volume in 2Q11.” You paying attention, Sandy? It’s time to sleep with one eye open.
Intel took the opportunity at Computex to update the tech-loving world on its processor plans, and it looks like those whispers we heard about low power and an accelerated Atom roadmap were spot on. Executive VP Sean Maloney didn’t divulge specific TDPs but did confirm that we could look forward to reduced power consumption and sleek designs in 2012. The Intel exec declared that new class of PC, dubbed “Ultrabooks,” will make up 40-percent of the market by the end of 2012. These machines, powered by the 22nm Ivy Bridge, will be less than 0.8-inches thick and start at under $1,000 — which sounds just like the lines we were fed about CULV chips back in 2009.
Maloney also confirmed that, going forward, the Atom line would be getting a die shrink every year, as opposed to every two. The upcoming, 32nm Cedar Trail will usher in the new Moore’s Law-smashing era with promises of a 10 hour battery life and weeks of standby, and will be succeeded by 22nm and 14nm models. Intel even talked up Medfield, it’s Atom variant designed specifically for smartphones and tablets, and showed off more than 10 tablets based on the Oak Trail-flavored Z670. With AMD merely a fading blip in the company’s rearview mirror it looks like Chipzilla is gunning for all those ARM-touting manufacturers.
We’ve already heard rumors that chip designer ARM has been trying to get its wares into the Macbook Air. While we can’t add anything to that particular story, we do have further evidence that ARM is going beyond smartphones and tablets in order to target bigger form factors. The company’s president, Tudor Brown, has just appeared at Computex to declare that ARM wants to conquer the “mobile PC market”, where the company currently only has a 10 percent share. He’s aiming for 15 percent by the end of this year, and an Intel-provoking 50 percent by 2015. “Mobile PC” is a pretty ambiguous category, but we think it’s safe to assume the focus is on low- and mid-power netbooks and ultraportables. Such devices could potentially run off ARM’s forthcoming multi-core chips — like perhaps the quad-core beast inside NVIDIA’s mind-blowing Kal-El processor, or the more distant Cortex-A15. It’s hard to imagine these tablet-centric chips ever competing with Intel’s top performers, but four years is a mighty long time in this business.
Madfinger Games, the Czech Republic-based company behind Samurai II: Vengeance, has just announced Shadowgun — a futuristic, shoot ‘em up game for Tegra 2-equipped Android phones and tablets. Available on both the Tegra Zone app and Android Market, Shadowgun promises to bring console-quality graphics and performance to mobile platforms — presumably with the extra geometric detail and high-res textures we’ve seen in other Tegra 2-tailored games. Madfinger is also developing a version for devices powered by NVIDIA’s forthcoming quad-core processor, alluringly known as Project Kal-El. Price and availability have yet to be announced, but you can find more information in the PR after the break.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, Qualcomm currently enjoys a stranglehold on processing hardware inside Windows Phone handsets. Its Snapdragon chip stars in both Microsoft’s original and updated chassis spec for the platform, but its hegemony may soon be coming to an end. STMicroelectronics (the ST in ST-Ericsson) boss Carlo Bozotti is cited by Forbes as saying that Nokia will use ST-Ericsson hardware to power at least some of its Windows Phones. The dual-core U8500, a long-time Nokia favorite, is touted as the first such system-on-chip to appear, with its successors helping to populate Nokia’s expansive WP lineup in 2012. The only intel we’ve had so far on Nokia’s initial handsets for the new OS revolved around Qualcomm-based devices, so even if ST-Ericsson is indeed going to infiltrate the Windows Phone ecosystem, it doesn’t look likely to be among the very first Nokias out of the gate.