Alternatives Implementations

By: Doug S (foo.delete@this.bar.bar), July 14, 2020 9:03 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
tarlinian (tarlinian.delete@this.gmail.com) on July 14, 2020 8:22 am wrote:
> designs?) I think the real issues come with something like the Mac Pro, where volumes are so low that the
> mask set and validation expenses become a significant part of unit costs.


I see two ways to address this. One, "who cares"? If volume is such that per unit mask/validation costs divided out to something that sounds crazy high like $100, should Apple care? Consider how much they're paying to Intel for the Mac Pro / iMac Pro CPU on an average per unit basis. After paying TSMC they would still come out ahead (or certainly be no worse off) in the Mac Pro BOM. They sell Mac Pro starting at $5000, these aren't low margin products they are ever going to be in danger of losing money on.

Two, if they go with a chiplet strategy they use 8 core chips for smaller Macs and if properly designed those 8 core chips can double as chiplets for the bigger Macs and amortize the mask cost across many more units. They'd probably still need some sort of separate I/O chip which still has the low volume mask costs, but AMD made theirs on an older process so if Apple did that it would keep those costs lower.

When I first started thinking about the ARM Mac transition in earnest (when it looked like the rumors might finally prove true) I was thinking in terms of "how can Apple leverage this to save money" and thinking about how an A14X designed for the iPad Pro could be leveraged across the line as standalone in most units and as chiplets for the higher end stuff would be good enough to be comparable to the Intel CPUs they replaced. But thinking about it further I decided that's not how Apple will look at it. I don't think saving money is a primary goal - if it were they would have looked at AMD years ago and inked a deal with Intel's hungrier competitor eager for good press at a huge discount.

I think Apple is doing it primarily to control their own feature set and schedule, and because they earnestly believe they can do better than Intel. That's why they waited so long to do something they could have done several years ago, because they didn't want to settle for "good enough". I've seen a lot of opinions about this all over the internet, and a lot of people (who are either clueless about how well Apple's SoCs perform or believe that ARM is somehow only suited to mobile devices and can't scale to something like a Mac Pro) are assuming that Apple is going to produce inferior Macs just to save a buck. I think Apple may go the extra mile to really prove them wrong by not just eaking out a small performance boost over the Intel Macs they replace (which honestly they would get by just using the phone cores unchanged) but do their utmost to blow their doors off. If that means using TSMC's HPC cells instead of low power cells and other process modifiers to boost performance (at least on the desktop side, but perhaps even in laptops) they will. If that means monolithic dies near the reticule limit for the Mac Pro, that's what they'll design.

Their engineers may not only have license to spend as much as per unit as they do with Intel, but perhaps to spend MORE for the initial ARM Mac line. Simply because they know the first generation of ARM Macs from the Macbook Air all the way up to the Mac Pro will have their performance heavily scrutinized and compared to their Intel counterparts by naysayers looking for a chink in the armor - not only in native performance but also emulated x86 performance - and they will want to make a big impression and make the critics of the move eat crow.
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TopicPosted ByDate
Skylake-SP area breakdownDavid Kanter2020/07/12 05:13 PM
  Skylake-SP area breakdownanon22020/07/12 06:01 PM
    Skylake-SP area breakdownTravis Downs2020/07/12 07:02 PM
      Skylake-SP area breakdownanon2020/07/12 07:44 PM
  Skylake-SP area breakdownTravis Downs2020/07/12 07:03 PM
    Skylake-SP area breakdownDavid Kanter2020/07/12 07:20 PM
      To elaborateDavid Kanter2020/07/12 07:22 PM
        To elaborateTravis Downs2020/07/13 06:03 AM
          To elaborateAnon2020/07/13 06:36 AM
            To elaborateAdrian2020/07/13 12:45 PM
              To elaborateAnon2020/07/13 01:06 PM
                To elaborateChester2020/07/13 07:30 PM
  Alternatives ImplementationsKyle Siefring2020/07/13 05:02 PM
    Alternatives ImplementationsTravis Downs2020/07/13 07:41 PM
    Alternatives ImplementationsMaynard Handley2020/07/13 09:37 PM
      Alternatives ImplementationsDoug S2020/07/13 10:25 PM
        Mask costsDavid Kanter2020/07/14 07:13 AM
        Alternatives Implementationstarlinian2020/07/14 07:22 AM
          Alternatives ImplementationsDoug S2020/07/14 09:03 AM
          Alternatives ImplementationsMaynard Handley2020/07/14 09:12 AM
        Alternatives ImplementationsMaynard Handley2020/07/14 09:10 AM
          Alternatives ImplementationsDoug S2020/07/14 09:47 AM
            Alternatives ImplementationsBrett2020/07/14 12:38 PM
            Alternatives Implementationstarlinian2020/07/14 01:30 PM
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