For 4 years, Intel has struggled to move into the market for mobile devices. Conventional wisdom holds that x86 is too inefficient for smart phones. The recently announced 32nm Medfield proves that x86 is a viable option and that Intel can design smart phone products. We explore the Medfield SoC and analyze the impact on Intel’s mobile strategy.
With all the recent changes, AMD seems like a ship adrift at sea with no clear strategy or vision. We look at AMD and where they are likely to head in the coming years for tablets and phones and explain why they will stick with x86, rather than embrace ARM as some have suggested.
Highlights of the upcoming 2012 ISSCC include the first 22nm disclosures from Intel and several SoC papers from AMD, Cavium Networks and Oracle. Looking out further to the future, the clear focus is power consumption. There are several papers from Intel on low-power logic, one from IBM discussing 3D integration of embedded DRAM and a third from Fujitsu on system level power for the K supercomputer.
Nvidia’s Kal-El sports a novel 5th ‘companion’ core to lower idle power. We look at the trade-offs and benefits to this approach and explain why it will be a strong tablet SoC, but only an incremental gain for smartphones.
AMD’s Hot Chips presentation delved into Llano, the first mainstream Fusion product, with details and results for power management. Previous disclosures painted a poor picture, which is far from the truth. Given the older CPU and GPU designs and time-to-market pressure, the results are quite good. Llano’s power management focuses on the most important aspects and is a solid foundation for future generations that will be much more power aware and optimized.
AMD has a grand vision for software and physical integration of CPUs and GPUs. The first Fusion generation focused on time to market, but created a solid foundation. Llano is a surprisingly attractive mid-range and value notebook product, due to the vastly enhanced power management. Future Fusion products will upgrade the CPU, GPU and media hardware and move towards a more tightly integrated computing model.
Enthusiasts and engineers know cooling is vital; it raises frequency and dramatically lowers power by reducing CPU or GPU temperatures. The world’s fastest supercomputer shows that thermal management can increase CPU performance/watt by 20% and cooling is critical for 3D integration and Moore’s Law.
Rumors aside, Apple will not switch their laptops to ARM any time soon. Despite Apple’s previous migrations, there are too many technical and business challenges and too few benefits. Moreover, Apple’s chip designers are better suited to enhancing the iPhone and iPad to fend off commodity Android systems. We look at the reasons Apple will stay with x86 notebooks for now, and how they might consider using ARM in the future.
For over 40 years, the planar transistor has been the keystone of the semiconductor industry. Intel’s new 22nm tri-gate transistor is revolutionary, moving transistors into a three dimensional world. After 10 years of research, this novel structure is the next step for Moore’s Law and promises to substantially improve performance and power efficiency.
Memory bandwidth is a critical to feeding the shader arrays in programmable GPUs. We show that memory is an integral part of a good performance model and can impact graphics by 40% or more. The implications are important for upcoming integrated graphics, such as AMD’s Llano and Intel’s Ivy Bridge – as the bandwidth constraints will play a key role in determining overall performance.