Linley Newsletter: January 4, 2018

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Linley Newsletter

(Formerly Processor Watch, Linley Wire, and Linley on Mobile)

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Issue #581

January 4, 2018


Independent Analysis of Microprocessors and the Semiconductor Industry

Editor: Tom R. Halfhill

Contributors: Mike Demler, Linley Gwennap


In This Issue:

- Gemini Lake Targets Tiny PCs

- Year in Review: IP Suppliers Take More RISC-V

- Year in Review: Embedded Chips Soar to 100GbE


Gemini Lake Targets Tiny PCs

By Linley Gwennap

Just in time for the new year, Intel released new PC processors for 2-in-1s (devices that combine a tablet and a keyboard) and other small Windows-based systems. Code-named Gemini Lake, the new Atom-based chips replace the older Apollo Lake models, adding a faster CPU, faster memory, and a smaller package. The first systems using the new chips should begin shipping in late 1Q18.

Gemini Lake features the Goldmont+ CPU, upgrading Apollo Lake's Goldmont microarchitecture. According to the company, the new design improves per-clock performance (IPC) by 10-15%. The processor employs the same 14nm manufacturing process as its predecessor, so the base clock speeds remain the same; Intel offers a 200MHz boost in the maximum turbo speed, however, benefiting applications that don't use the GPU. Some software will see additional performance gains from the 4MB shared L2 cache, which doubles the size of Apollo Lake's. In addition, the DRAM controller now supports DDR4-2400, a big jump from the previous DDR3L-1866. All of these improvements help boost the SysMark score by 30% between the older N4200 and the new N5200.

Gemini Lake changes the GPU model number to UHD 605, but the basic graphics unit is similar, having 18 EUs running at a maximum speed of 800MHz. The new GPU adds HEVC/VP9 video decoding at 4K resolution and support for Direct3D 12_1. The new part also integrates an 802.11ac Wi-Fi baseband, although it still requires a low-cost Intel RF module to complete the solution. The company also trimmed the package size 20% to 25mm x 24mm.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

http://www.linleygroup.com/mpr/article.php?id=11909

Year in Review: IP Suppliers Take More RISC-V

By Mike Demler

In its first two years, the RISC-V Foundation has grown rapidly and now comprises more than 100 members, including AMD, MediaTek, Nvidia, Qualcomm, NXP, Samsung, and other leading processor suppliers. RISC-V has also drawn interest from Andes, Cortus, VeriSilicon, and other small vendors of CPU intellectual property (IP).

Whereas RISC-V began at the CPU market's low end, more-lucrative growth segments such as automotive, deep learning, and virtual reality (VR) have an insatiable appetite for higher performance. In 2017, processor-IP vendors targeted these markets with new high-end cores, in some cases far surpassing the designs they introduced just 12 months earlier.

Arm and Imagination introduced new premium GPUs that compete with Qualcomm's next-generation graphics core in the Snapdragon 845. Neural-network acceleration is a hot market as well: new licensable cores from AImotive, Cadence, Imagination, and Synopsys are competing with Ceva products for the performance lead.

In 2017, DSP-IP vendors targeted new opportunities in 5G and the IoT. CommSolid entered the market with a complete modem subsystem for NB-IoT clients. IP suppliers also developed new solutions to address IoT security, including Arm's Platform Security Architecture, Inside Secure's IP for monitoring a chip's internal operations, and SecureRF's quantum-resistant cryptography cores. In 2018, we expect automotive, deep learning, IoT, and virtual reality to continue leading processor-IP growth, along with new designs targeting high-performance computing.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

http://www.linleygroup.com/mpr/article.php?id=11910

Year in Review: Embedded Chips Soar to 100GbE

By Tom R. Halfhill

In 2017, embedded processors attained new heights: 100 Gigabit Ethernet (100GbE) is becoming the new networking standard, and one ARMv8-compatible chip has 24 CPU cores. Another ARM-based processor pushed clock speeds to 3.0GHz, while 4K UltraHD is becoming the must-have feature in the latest media processors.

To keep up, PCI Express Gen4 and DDR4 DRAM interfaces are appearing in some new chips. In media processors, 4K-resolution video, high dynamic range (HDR), and new content-protection schemes are becoming standard. The ARM architecture continues to steamroll through the industry, dominating almost all new designs. The usual exception is Intel, whose new Skylake-SP embedded processors raise the performance bar.

FPGAs made headlines in 2017, too. They're winning more sockets in emerging markets, such as autonomous vehicles and machine learning. Intel (which acquired Altera in 2015) began shipping the first FPGAs to integrate High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2), and Xilinx began sampling a new class of mixed-signal devices. In December, yet another FPGA startup rose to challenge the established players.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2017 was that 2016 and 2015 still won't die. Sure, the calendar says they're expired, but industry consolidation marches on. We had expected the pace of acquisitions to slow after the merger mania of the previous two years, if only because fewer companies were left to acquire. Instead, the surging costs of designing and manufacturing high-performance processors are forcing vendors to expand their resources faster than organic growth permits. Acquisitions enable companies to expand by leaps and bounds -- and when the competition does it, everyone else has to keep up.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

http://www.linleygroup.com/mpr/article.php?id=11911

About Linley Newsletter

Linley Newsletter is a free electronic newsletter that reports and analyzes advances in microprocessors, networking chips, and mobile-communications chips. It is published by The Linley Group and consolidates our previous electronic newsletters: Processor Watch, Linley Wire, and Linley on Mobile. To subscribe, please visit:

http://www.linleygroup.com/newsletters/newsletter_subscribe.php

Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors
SEMICONDUCTOR ANALYTICS

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