Linley Newsletter: July 26, 2018

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Linley Newsletter

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

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Issue #610

July 26, 2018


Independent Analysis of Microprocessors and the Semiconductor Industry

Editor: Tom R. Halfhill

Contributors: Linley Gwennap, Mike Demler, Bob Wheeler


In This Issue:

- Snapdragon 400-Series Shrinks to 12nm

- Flex Logix Diversifies eFPGA

- MediaTek Advances in 5G


Coming Soon: Communications Semiconductor Market Forecast 2017-2022

The Linley Group is pleased to announce the upcoming release of the 12th edition of our "Communications Semiconductor Market Forecast."

This report provides the detailed information needed to understand the complexities of the communications semiconductor market. Chip vendors, investors, and OEMs can readily see how large are the mature product markets and how fast the emerging categories are growing. New in this edition is a forecast for 400G Ethernet switch and PHY chips.

A detailed description of the report, including the table of contents, is available on our web site:

http://www.linleygroup.com/comms-forecast

Special offer: Get a pre-publication discount of $500 off the corporate license or $300 off a single license until August 13, 2018. For more information or to order the report, please email us at

cs@linleygroup.com.


Snapdragon 400-Series Shrinks to 12nm

By Mike Demler

Qualcomm is bringing advanced 12nm FinFET technology to its low-cost Snapdragon 400-series. The new smartphone processors increase performance and power efficiency compared with the previous 400-series, which (except for the 450) the company manufactures in an older 28nm LPP process. Along with the new low-cost devices, Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon 632, a Cortex-A73/Cortex-A53 Big.Little upgrade for the low end of its midrange processor family. All the new Snapdragon chips are sampling now, and the company expects the first smartphones to begin production before the end of the year.

The Snapdragon 439 will replace the two-year-old Snapdragon 430, but OEMs that need faster LTE will stick with the Snapdragon 450. The 439 retains the 430's X6 modem, as well as the same CPU, GPU, Hexagon 536 DSP, and multimedia subsystems. Qualcomm also developed a new 12nm quad-core chip: the Snapdragon 429, which is pin compatible with the 439. It replaces the 28nm Snapdragon 425, but as with the 439 and 430, the 429 and 425 use the same X6 modem. The 12nm process allows the 429 to run its CPUs 40% faster than the 425's. The new chip includes an upgrade to a higher-performance Adreno 504 GPU, but the camera, display, Hexagon 536 DSP, and video subsystems are the same as those of its predecessor.

The Snapdragon 632 refreshes the bottom of the 600-series lineup. The company positions it as an upgrade from the Snapdragon 626, which also uses the X9 modem. The two parts are pin compatible. The 632 employs the same 14nm process as the 626, as well as the same Adreno 506 GPU, but the switch from octa-core Cortex-A53s to the A73/A53 combo delivers a big CPU-performance boost.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

http://www.linleygroup.com/mpr/article.php?id=12007

Flex Logix Diversifies eFPGA

By Bob Wheeler

Embedded FPGAs are starting to take off, driven by customer demand in diverse applications. In a little more than four years from its founding, Flex Logix has responded to that demand by proving its embedded-FPGA (eFPGA) core in several IC processes while improving its core technology with a second-generation design. By using standard-cell designs, the startup has delivered an impressive roadmap despite having a small team. Its primary target markets are networking, wireless infrastructure, and aerospace/defense. Investors have rewarded its progress with two funding rounds, most recently $5 million raised in May 2017.

Flex Logix proved its first-generation cores in a TSMC 28nm process in 2015. To address a secondary market in microcontrollers (MCUs), it added in 2016 a 40nm version of its low-end core. Learning from early customer engagements, the startup developed a second-generation core, the EFLX4K, targeting 16nm FFC technology at TSMC. The most important change to the second-generation EFLX core is a move from four- to six-input LUTs, enabling greater logic density and higher performance. Both generations scale to 7x7 arrays, but the company made undisclosed improvements to its interconnect to boost large-array performance. In the maximum 7x7 configuration, the EFLX4K delivers up to 123,500 LUT6s, equivalent to 185,000 LUT4s.

Meant for integration in ASICs, ASSPs, and MCUs, eFPGAs seldom replace external FPGAs. Instead, they add some programmability to a fixed-function device or one that performs signal processing. Wireless-infrastructure OEMs have adopted them for use in ASICs, which may appear in baseband processors or digital front ends. An Ethernet switch-ASSP vendor can use an eFPGA to add programmability to its packet-processing pipeline. MCU vendors employ eFPGAs to create product variants (SKUs) from a single mask set. The technology has the potential to accelerate other workloads, including machine-learning inference.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

http://www.linleygroup.com/mpr/article.php?id=12005

MediaTek Advances in 5G

By Linley Gwennap

While competitors such as Qualcomm and Intel touted their progress on the next-generation cellular standard, MediaTek kept quiet, but it was hard at work. The company recently disclosed plans to ship its first 5G chip next year, in time for the launch of China's first 5G network.

The Helio M70 is a thin modem with full multimode support targeting wireless-broadband equipment and large mobile devices, putting MediaTek on a path to delivering a 5G smartphone processor soon afterward. The Taiwanese company will announce full product details next year, as the M70 gets closer to production.

Focusing on China Mobile, MediaTek will initially support sub-6GHz 5G, although the modem chip can function on any 5G band. The modem includes backward compatibility with 2G, 3G, and 4G signals. The company also sells an RF transceiver and a reference design for the RF front end (RFFE), which comes in multiple versions for different band combinations. Because MediaTek doesn't supply RFFE components, this subsystem comprises third-party chips. About 6-9 months after the sub-6GHz reference design, the company plans to release a version for millimeter-wave systems, but they will require a more complex RF transceiver and RFFE.

Even with this advanced process, the M70 will be too hot for typical smartphones. Like many operators, China Mobile will use 5G to deliver broadband service, wirelessly bridging the last 100m to the home; the M70 is well suited to this type of gear. The chip could also appear in mobile hot spots, tablets, and maybe some oversize "phablet" phones. MediaTek plans to integrate the 5G baseband into a future smartphone (Helio) SoC, but to do so, it must reduce the modem's size and power.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

http://www.linleygroup.com/mpr/article.php?id=12006

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

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Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors

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