ARM lays out specs for 64-bit Cortex-A50 mobile processors, sets release date for 2014

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Date: Wednesday, October 31st, 2012, 06:15
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

No matter how nifty your devices are, it’s the next-gen stuff that smacks of awesome promises.

Per AppleInsider, processor company ARM on Tuesday unveiled new its next-generation of high-performance, power sipping 64-bit chips — CPUs that could power future devices from companies like Apple as soon as 2014.

ARM’s new Cortex-A50 processor series is based on the ARMv8 architecture. The series will initially include the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57 processors with new energy-efficient 64-bit processing technology.

ARM said its new system-on-chips will be available for use in products ranging from smartphones to servers. The new chips will be 64-bit-capable, but will also support 32-bit software.

ARM said the addition of 64-bit execution to its A50 chip line will “enable new opportunities in networking, server, and high-performance computing.” The new chips are expected to boost smartphone and tablet speeds while also reducing power consumption.

The Cortex-A57 will be the most advanced high-performance applications processor, while the Cortex-A53 has the distinction of being the world’s smallest 64-bit processor, and ARM’s most power-efficient application processor.

Currently, Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV are all powered by custom chips based on ARM’s reference designs. Apple’s work in this area has grown over the years, as the new A6 chip in the iPhone 5 represents Apple’s first custom-designed CPU core.

The A6 chip is based on Apple’s own ARMv7-based processor design, and is not based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 or Cortex-A15 designs. The chip features a gigabyte of RAM with two CPU and three GPU cores, and Apple’s first-ever control of the design allowed the company to customize the performance as they chose.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may be looking to move away from Intel chipsets, begin using its own processors for certain products

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Date: Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012, 07:15
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, Processors, Rumor

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It’s been six years.

Maybe it’s time for a change.

Per Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple has reportedly “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change apparently isn’t “imminent.”

The details come from a profile of Apple’s current state under CEO Tim Cook published Wednesday by Bloomberg Businessweek. Citing two unnamed sources familiar with Apple’s discussions, the report indicated that Apple would like to move away from Intel’s CPUs in its Macs.

“Such a shift would be difficult and isn’t imminent, though it would allow Apple to further distinguish its laptops and desktops from competitors that run Intel’s chips and Microsoft’s Windows software,” authors Brad Stone, Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows wrote.

Apple’s interest in moving away from Intel is not new, but Wednesday’s report is an indication that the desire still exists at the company. Per AppleInsider, Apple had discussions with Intel’s chief competitor, AMD, about switching to its chips for future Macs.

Apple previously differentiated its Mac lineup from Windows PCs by utilizing PowerPC chips built by IBM and Motorola. But in 2005, Apple announced it would switch to Intel microprocessors for all of its Mac hardware. The transition was complete by August of 2006, and starting with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in 2009, support for legacy PowerPC Macs no longer existed.

While Intel currently powers Apple’s Mac lineup, the company is absent from Apple’s more popular iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Intel has instead pushed its own “Atom” processors for mobile devices, but tests have shown that Apple’s latest A6 CPU found in the iPhone 5 outperforms Atom.

While AMD would be an option if Apple were to abandon Intel, Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

A6 processor found to vary speeds for best possible performance

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Date: Friday, September 28th, 2012, 07:22
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Processors

They say the A6 processor has some cool tricks up its sleeve.

They A6 processor doesn’t have sleeves, but it does have some interesting performance variations. No sleeves, though.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, one possible reason the iPhone 5 has such great battery life is the clever way the A6 changes its clock speed. While originally thought to be clocked at 1GHz, the chip has been clocked at 1.1GHz as well as 1.3GHz by Current Editorials.

While 9to5Mac saw the chip’s speed drop as low as 550MHz, this seemed to do more with an as-yet-updated Geekbench app testing the chip (which also resulted in the 1GHz assumption). A Geekbench update seems to paint a different picture now. By all accounts it appears the chip can change “speeds,” however, resulting in better battery life and dynamically tuning itself to the demand for CPU.

Nifty stuff…now if Apple could just release a much-improved iOS 6 Maps app, most of its problems would be over and it could sit and relax with a margarita this Friday.

Intel releases 14 low-voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs

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Date: Friday, June 1st, 2012, 05:30
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

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It’s just a question of when Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors arrive within an updated MacBook Air notebook.

Per Engadget, Intel on Thursday announced 14 new Ivy Bridge processors, four of which are ultra-low voltage chips that could find their way into Apple’s updated MacBook Air lineup.

All of the ultra-low voltage lineup has two cores and four threads running at 17 watts thermal power design, along with integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.

Leading off the new batch of Intel’s third-generation processors is the i7-3667U, with a CPU base frequency of 2 gigahertz running as fast as 3.2 gigahertz with Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Max Frequency, and 4 megabytes of L3 cache. Next down the lists the i7-3517U, which has a base speed of 1.9 gigahertz that ramps up to 3 gigahertz, along with 4 megabytes of L3 cache.

The lower-end Core i5 ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge CPUs are led by the i5-3427U, which has a base frequency of 1.8 gigahertz that runs as fast as 2.8 gigahertz with Intel Turbo Boost, with 3 megabytes of L3 cache. And the lowest ultra-low voltage CPU announced Thursday is the i5-3317U, with a base frequency of 1.7 gigahertz, max frequency of 2.6 gigahertz, and 3 megabytes of L3 cache.



All of Intel’s Ivy Bridge “Ultra Processors” have support for PCIe Generation 3, as well as Intel’s Secure Key, OS Guard, AES/TXT/vPro and Virtualization technology.

The MacBook Air lineup was last updated nearly a year ago, in July of 2011. The notebooks were equipped with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors, and gained backlit keyboards and Thunderbolt ports.

Also announced by Intel on Thursday were a handful of dual-core traditional mobile chips that could find their way into other products in Apple’s Mac lineup, specifically the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, or the Mac mini. The Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors run at 35W TDP, feature four threads, include Intel HD Graphics 4000, and range in speed from 3.1 gigahertz to 3.6 gigahertz with Intel Turbo Boost.

Intel launched its first batch of Ivy Bridge processors in late April, declaring them the “world’s first 22-nanometer product.” A total of 13 high-end quad-core chips were released in the first round, and it’s believed some of them could make their way into Apple’s updated MacBook Pro lineup.

Rumors have suggested that Apple plans to launch new Macs at its forthcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, which will kick off on June 11. Some reports have indicated that Apple will unveil new MacBook Pros and iMacs at the event, but little has been said of an impending MacBook Air refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel launches Ivy Bridge architecture, includes 3D transistors in hardware

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Date: Monday, April 23rd, 2012, 06:53
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived.

Or at least one of them.

Because really good health-related news or the birth of a new child tends to rank up there as well.

Per MacNN, Intel has officially launched the first wave of its Ivy Bridge processors with a new tri-gate transistor technology, touting the new chips as the “world’s first 22 nanometer product.”

The chipmaker released 13 quad-core processors on Sunday and promised that new dual-core processors will arrive later in the spring. The web site reported that the first batch of chips are from the Core i5 and i7 families.

CEO Paul Otellini said earlier this month that the “bulk” of the initial Ivy Bridge lineup would arrive in desktop PCs. However, Apple is expected to use the new quad-core chips in an update to its MacBook Pro line.

After moving to a 22nm process for Ivy Bridge, Intel boasts 20 percent more performance while using 20 percent less power. Intel PC business chief Kirk Skaugen told the BBC that the launch will be Intel’s “fastest ramp ever.”

“There will be 50% more supply than we had early in the product cycle of our last generation, Sandy Bridge, a year ago. And we’re still constrained based on the amount of demand we’re seeing in the marketplace,” he said.

Ivy Bridge also introduces a transistor technology 11 years in the making. By moving from flat two-dimensional transistors to new three-dimensional “tri-gate transistors,” Intel has managed to improve both performance and energy efficiency with minimal cost increases.

Graphics are a key area of improvement for the new processors. Ivy Bridge supports 4K resolution and will feature as much as a 60 percent performance boost over the current-generation Sandy Bridge chips.

Stay tuned and we’ll bring you additional details (and details of anything Apple-related using the new Ivy Bridge architecture) as soon as it becomes available.

Intel to focus “bulk” of initial Ivy Bridge shipments to desktop market

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Date: Wednesday, April 18th, 2012, 06:39
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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Intel revealed on Tuesday that the first wave of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will feature quad-core models, the bulk of which are headed for desktop computers, followed by a second launch of dual-core chips for “mainstream notebooks.”

Per CNET, CEO Paul Otellini relayed the information to investors during a quarterly earnings call on Tuesday.

“The first versions of Ivy Bridge that we’re shipping are quad cores, and then bulk of those are going into desktops,” Otellini said, according to a transcript by Seeking Alpha.

“And then the second launch of the products is in the dual core, which is the mainstream notebooks. So I think that helps put a profile over the course of quarter as well.”

Intel pushed the Ivy Bridge launch back by three weeks in order to “make sure that there was enough inventory in the pipeline,” the company’s CFO said. The chipmaker is expected to launch its first batch of Ivy Bridge chips next week.

Otellini’s comments could still leave room for a MacBook Pro release within the first wave of chips. Apple could potentially obtain enough inventory for initial MacBook Pro shipments even if the “bulk” of Intel’s new processors are headed for desktops. Currently, both the 15-inch and 17-inch versions of the MacBook Pro make use of a quad-core Intel processor, while the 13-inch model has a dual-core processor.

Availability of 15-inch MacBook Pros has been constrained among authorized resellers, often a reliable indicator of an imminent update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Intel to announce Ivy Bridge architecture on April 23rd

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s gotta be some truth to this somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, Intel has moved up the announcement of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors from the original date of April 29 to April 23 as PC makers ready the second generation of ultrabooks, expected to arrive in May.

The publication claimed on Thursday that sources from notebook players had revealed Intel’s change in plans. The launch comes as Asustek, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard are expected to release Ivy Bridge-powered ultrabooks next month.

Multiple sources have pointed to late April for the Ivy Bridge launch. One report claimed late last month that Intel would announce the new processors between April 22 and April 28 and begin selling them on April 29.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pros will likely be the first Macs to feature the new Intel chips. Sources out of the Far East said last month that the updated laptops could arrive by the end of April.

Following the release of its new notebooks, the Cupertino, Calif., company is expected to release updated Ivy Bridge iMacs as early as June or July.

Other hints that Intel is nearly ready to release its Ivy Bridge architecture also came on Thursday when reports surfaced that Intel is shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers for use with Ivy Bridge chips.

Thursday’s report also quoted Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen as saying that ultrabook prices will fall from US$999 to US$699 in the new few months as volume shipments drive costs down. PC makers have been hard at work at reducing the average price of ultrabook laptops in order to better compete against Apple’s MacBook Air.

Intel declared earlier this month that ultrabooks trump the MacBook Air in functionality and value.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation Apple TV A5 processor studied, second core found

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:50
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News, Processors

This is sort of interesting.

An investigation into the custom A5 chip used in Apple TV has found that the new Application Processor uses both a smaller, more efficient 32nm die process and actually incorporates two cores, one of which is simply turned off.

Per Chipworks, the custom A5 “APL2498″ used in the third generation, 1080p Apple TV has improved upon the 45nm LP CMOS process of the previous A5 “APL0498,” used in both iPad 2 and iPhone 4S last year.

The smaller die size makes the Apple TV’s A5 almost 41 percent smaller than the original part, allowing more chips to be created from a single silicon wafer. That makes producing the part cheaper, and also helps improve performance and lower power consumption (as its components are shrunken down and therefore closer to each other).

In addition to being smaller, Chipworks found that the new version of the A5 actually incorporates two cores. Apple only advertises Apple TV as having a single core chip, so the investigation notes that “either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”

By turning off one core, Apple could reduce the power consumption of a device. However, Apple TV lacks the power constraints of battery-powered mobile devices, making it more likely that the company simply developed a smaller, cheaper version of the A5 and is using the dual core rejects to power Apple TV, where one core is sufficient.

Chipworks explains that such “parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the ‘bad’ core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.”

Chip makers routinely create CPUs and RAM components and test them for the highest speed they can consistently operate at, selling the fastest parts for more and the slower components for less, rated to work at a slower clock speed.

This strategy would allow Apple to use its poorest performing new A5 chips in the US$99 Apple TV, while creating a new supply of fully functional 32nm A5 chips that are faster, smaller and cheaper than last year’s 45nm batch.

Chipworks notes that these chips could either power a new generation of iPhones (or other devices) or help to reduce the cost of existing products such as the iPhone 4S or iPad 2. The latest third generation iPad uses a custom chip Apple calls A5X, which incorporates the same dual ARM cores but delivers quad-core GPUs to drive its Retina Display, with four times the pixels.

Unreleased Intel Ivy Bridge benchmarked on modified version of Mac OS X 10.7.3, promising results reported

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Date: Monday, March 26th, 2012, 06:25
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

The Ivy Bridge architecture is on its way, which will probably be a cool thing.

Per the tonymac86 Blog, a modified version of OS X 10.7.3 has been tested with an unreleased Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge chip, giving a first indication of how Apple’s next-generation Macs will perform.

An anonymous tipster provided screenshots of benchmarks conducted with a Core i7-3770K processor to the blog. The Core i7 CPU is one of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, and was tested at its stock speed of 3.5GHz.

The early test, which used a Z77 motherboard, found that OS X runs well on Intel’s forthcoming Ivy Bridge processors. However, while the tests give an idea of how Ivy Bridge will perform with new Macs, the “Hackintosh” benchmarks do not represent any real Apple products.

The person testing the new Intel processor had to modify the boot kernel of OS X 10.7.3 Lion in order to get it to run on the chip. In addition, the Core i7-3770K is a high-end desktop chip that may never find its way into any of Apple’s shipping products.

Still, the tests offer the first look at Apple’s OS X operating system running on an Ivy Bridge chip. It’s also the first glimpse at Intel’s HD Graphics 4000, which previous tests running Windows 7 found is 55 percent faster than the 3000 series graphics integrated with the Sandy Bridge processors released by Intel last year.

The “Hackintosh” machine earned an overall Geekbench score of 13,453, led by a score of 20,250 for its processor floating point performance. The tests gauged the quad-core processor with 8 gigabytes of 2400MHz DDR3 RAM.

Apple’s new Macs with Ivy Bridge processors are expected to begin debuting in the coming months, starting with new, slimmer 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros that are rumored to already be in production. The new 15-inch model is expected to be offered in variations powered by Intel’s mobile Core i5 and i7 Ivy Bridge CPUs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Early Ivy Bridge benchmark tests show ample gains, huge leaps in graphics tasks

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Date: Wednesday, March 7th, 2012, 12:22
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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Intel’s Ivy Bridge architecture may not be out yet, but some initial tests have been performed and it looks promising.

Per AnandTech and Electronista, an unofficial, pre-release benchmarking of Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge architecture has shown an overall speed up, but most of all in graphics.

Early testing of a 3.5GHz, quad Core i7-3770K desktop chip has shown that the Intel HD 4000 integrated video is about 20 to 40 percent faster than the 3000 video on a roughly comparable earlier Core i7 using the current Sandy Bridge architecture. While still trailing behind AMD’s Fusion in an A8 chip, it’s enough to make games playable that wouldn’t have been practical otherwise, such as running Skyrim smoothly at 1680×1050 and medium detail.

The underlying processor itself has a clear edge over Sandy Bridge. While it’s at a disadvantage with four cores to the very highest-end, six-core Sandy Bridge-E processors, Ivy Bridge is about five to 20 percent faster than any of its quad-core antecedents in general use.

Graphics boosts mostly come from the higher number of execution units, at 16 versus 12, as well as DirectX 11 (OpenGL 4) effects support. Ivy Bridge as a whole gets an inherent benefit from a denser, more efficient 22-nanometer manufacturing process as well as twice the throughput for floating-point and integer divisions. It can dynamically share code elements between program threads and supports up to 2.8GHz DDR3 memory along with low-power DDR3 on slim desktops and notebooks.

Intel is now increasingly seen as shipping the first batch of Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 processors in late April, mixing both desktop and notebook versions. Much of the PC industry is waiting on the later than usual release and could start shipping soon afterwards.

The lineup may have the most significance for Apple, which is holding off on multiple Mac updates. Ivy Bridge should allow for OpenCL support on the integrated graphics and could deliver a larger performance boost than on Windows as a result.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.