Linley Newsletter: January 31, 2019

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Issue #637

January 31, 2019

Independent Analysis of Microprocessors and the Semiconductor Industry

Editor: Tom R. Halfhill

Contributors: Linley Gwennap, Mike Demler, Bob Wheeler

In This Issue:

- AI Benchmarks Remain Immature

- Helio P90 Raises Mid-Premium Bar

Save the Dates: Linley Spring and Fall Processor Conferences

Don't miss the Linley Spring Processor Conference on April 10-11 and the Linley Fall Processor Conference on October 23-24. Both events are in Santa Clara, California. These annual events will cover a broad variety of processor-related topics, including processors and IP for deep-learning, embedded, communications, automotive, IoT, server, and networking applications.

Each two-day conference will feature curated technical presentations from leading chip and IP vendors, including several new announcements. Popular sessions include keynotes by industry thought leaders and analysts from The Linley Group as well as panel discussions. Our events are a great place to meet industry experts and network with your peers during breaks, lunches, and the exhibition and reception on the first evening of each conference.

For information about the Spring Processor Conference, access:

For information about the Fall Processor Conference, access:

Interested in being a sponsor? Speakers are usually technical leaders from chip and IP vendors. Our events provide a great opportunity to present your latest product or technology to a knowledgeable and interested audience packed with potential customers and partners. For more information on sponsoring, please contact us at

AI Benchmarks Remain Immature

By Linley Gwennap

Several popular benchmark programs evaluate CPU and graphics performance, but even as AI workloads have become more common, comparing AI performance remains a challenge. Many chip vendors quote only peak execution rate in floating-point operations per second or, for integer-only designs, operations per second. But like CPUs, deep-learning accelerators (DLAs) often operate well below their peak theoretical performance owing to bottlenecks in the software, memory, or some other part of the design. Everyone agrees performance should be measured when running real applications, but they disagree on what applications and how to run them.

To solve this problem, several leading vendors have joined to develop a broad set of benchmarks covering AI training and inference. MLPerf started as a collaboration between academia and industry involving Google, Stanford, Harvard, and Baidu. The list of supporters has since grown to include data-center-processor vendors AMD, Intel, and Nvidia as well as startups such as Cerebras, Esperanto, SambaNova, and Wave; mobile-processor developers Huawei, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung; intellectual-property (IP) vendors Arm, Cadence, and Synopsys; and five of the "Super 7" cloud-service providers. Amazon, Apple, and Ceva are notably absent from the official supporters. The group recently completed its first benchmark suite, which measures the training of large networks; Google, Intel, and Nvidia posted initial results.

Addressing a different aspect of AI, researchers at ETH Zurich -- a leading technical university -- developed a set of tests to measure AI inference on smartphones. The generically named AI-Benchmark employs small neural networks and is available as an Android app, generating thousands of results. Many of the tests use Android's Neural Network API (NNAPI, pronounced "nappy") to take advantage of integrated accelerators for which the processor vendor supplies drivers. Results are available for all popular mobile processors except Apple's, since the app doesn't run on iOS.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

Helio P90 Raises Mid-Premium Bar

By Tom R. Halfhill

Although overall smartphone sales are stagnant, vendors are still investing in the growing mid-premium segment. MediaTek's new Helio P90 does its part by boosting performance across the board -- particularly for AI processing, which enables vendors to add more smarts to their phones. By targeting handsets that sell for $300 to $500, the Helio P90 brings some premium features to this lower price tier.

These devices are pricier than higher-volume midrange phones but more affordable than the premium phones whose prices can soar to $1,000 or more. Last year, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 710 breathed fire into the mid-premium segment by scorching MediaTek's contemporaneous Helio P60 in almost every metric. The new Helio P90 pours some water on the 710 and raises the standard for this tier.

The Helio P90 easily surpasses the Helio P60 and its slightly enhanced sibling, the Helio P70 -- two recent products now demoted to the midrange. The P90 is a veritable forklift upgrade. It cranks up the CPUs, GPU, AI engine, camera interface, video accelerators, LTE baseband, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Only the display output and other I/O interfaces remain the same. Despite the extensive redesign, MediaTek is manufacturing the P90 in the same low-cost 12nm technology as its two predecessors. Slated to ship in phones in 1Q19 or 2Q19 (depending on customer schedules), the P90 sets a new standard in mid-premium features and performance that competitors will be hard pressed to beat this year.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

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. To subscribe, please visit:

Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors

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