Samsung Developing Low-Cost 14nm and High-Performance 10nm Processes

Samsung has revealed its foundry’s roadmap for the next few years, which includes the development of a low-cost 14nm FinFET process (14LPC), with hopes that it can pass on those savings to its customers, and a new 10nm process (10LPP) that increases performance by up to 10% over its previous 10LPE process.

Samsung foundry’s process technology roadmap for the coming years includes:

  • 28nm: addition of RF and eNVM technology to our 28FDS baseline.  RF will be available this year and eNVM will be rolled out in phases in 2017 and 2018;
  • 14nm: 3rd generation 14LPC offering which provides a lower cost option, without design rule changes or performance sacrifice.  To enable connectivity features, we are also introducing RF add-on to 14LPC this year.  We have also expanded solutions on our 14nm FinFET to cover product applications in the Networking/Server and Automotive segments;
  • 10nm:  2nd generation 10nm with higher performance over 10LPE will be introduced.  We call this 10LPP.  10LPP will come with 10% speed boost, maintaining design results with 10LPE;
  • 7nm: we have already begun work on our cost optimized 7LPP node which comes with very competitive PPA scaling;
  • 8” matured node: keeping in mind there are still ample of new designs and applications that can take advantage of 8in technology, we are opening up our differentiated 8in technologies ranging from 180nm to 65nm, covering eFlash, Power devices, Image sensors and High voltage processes.

“There are always concerns about trading off cost versus performance,” Kelvin Low, Samsung’s Senior Director of Foundry Marketing, told EE Times. “LPC has the same PDK of [14nm] LPP. The number of steps has been reduced […]That allows us to achieve a lower cost point on manufacturing and we decide to share that with our customers.”

“We think 10nm will be a much longer node than other foundries are claiming it will be. We think 7nm has to be defined and optimized to be cost effective to the masses, not just the high margin products,” he added. “EUV is an important enabler for a 7m cost affordable node.”

AMD Graphics Roadmap Reveals Fiji Replacement

One of the biggest concerns about Polaris 10 has been whether or not it will be a true replacement for Fury X. With the latest leaks out, most of the information points to about 100W TDP with 2304 shaders and clock speeds around 1050Mhz. Compared to Nvidia’s Pascal GP104, this doesn’t sound very competitive, leading to concerns that Nvidia would dominate the high-end. With the release today of AMD’s more detailed roadmap, our concerns have been laid to rest.

The new official roadmap offers a bit more detail than the one AMD showed back at Capsaicin. The new one offers more detail around Polaris 10 and 11, with both chips working to replace the entire Fury and 300 series lineup. This means the top Polaris 11 chip will offer enough performance to at least match, if not exceed Fury X. This should be competitive enough against GP104. If the 2304 shader report is true, AMD has truly revamped GCN 4.0 into something that is significantly superior to GCN 1.0 while cutting power consumption at the same time.

The layout for Polaris compared to the current lineup also suggests there will be no rebrands for the 400 series. It suggests that Polaris 10 will go from about 490X to 480 while Polaris 11 will fill in 470X down to at least 460. With how well small die low power Polaris 11 has done, rebrands don’t really make any sense. Finally, Vega will drop in 2017 with HBM2 and not in late 2016 as some have hoped.

With the improvements AMD has done, I am really looking forward to what Polaris and GCN 4.0 will bring to the graphics landscape.

AMD Scores Apple Mac Design Wins with Polaris

After many fruitful years of partnerships with Apple, AMD is reportedly continuing the relationship with their latest Polaris based GPUs. Apple has alternated MacBook Pro suppliers between Nvidia and AMD in the past but tended towards AMD more with the Mac Pro. According to the source, the performance per watt of 14nm Polaris combined with the performance per dollar of the chips is what sold Apple.

AMD has long pursued a strategy os using smaller and more efficient chips to combat their biggest rival Nvidia. Prior to GCN, AMD tended to have smaller flagships that sipped less power and had lesser compute abilities. This all changed around with GCN where AMD focused on compute more while Nvidia did the opposite. This lead to Nvidia topping the efficiency charts and combined with their marketing soared in sales. If the rumours are true, Polaris 10 will be smaller than GP104, its main competitor.

With Polaris, AMD should be able to regain the efficiency advantage with both the move to 14nm and the new architecture. We may see Polaris based Macs as soon as WWDC in June, just after the cards launch at Computex. In addition to a ‘superior’ product, AMD is also willing to cut their margins a bit more in order to get a sale as we saw with the current-gen consoles. Perhaps, is AMD plays their cards well, we may see Zen Macs as well.

Nintendo NX May Feature 14nm Polaris GPU

Battered on both the CPU and GPU fronts, consoles have been one of the few areas AMD has managed to outplay the competition. With competitive CPU and GPU architectures in one platform, AMD was able to secure Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s current-gen consoles. Nintendo is also set to continue to use AMD chips for the Nintendo NX console and that device will reportedly use a 14nm Polaris like GPU.

From previous rumours, we’ve already learned that the Nintendo NX will use an x86 architecture chip paired with at least 6-8GB OF DDR4. What more, the new console will also feature 4K support via upscaling, streaming media and likely playback as well. To wrap it all up, AMD is reportedly supplying Nintendo with a 14nm Polaris-like GPU for their upcoming console. This is similar to how the PS4 and Xbox One used GPUs that were a merger of GCN 1.1 and 1.2. The Nintendo NX may use a something beyond the GCN 4 that is Polaris.The OS also will use Vulkan as it’s graphics API.

With a strong Polaris chip on 14nm, Nintendo will have a chance at seizing the performance crown for once. Nintendo consoles have proven weaker generally and have suffered from lesser third-party support as a result. With 4K support, the NX may well match the PS4K and the rumoured replacement for the Xbox One. Hopefully, we will finally get 1080p 60FPS with decent graphics on consoles soon enough.

AMD May Launch Polaris R9 470 and R9 480 at Computex

Polaris 10 and 11 have long been tagged as releasing at Computex later this year. As we know from AMD directly, Polaris 10 will be the flagship chip while Polaris 11 will fill in the gap below. Previously, the expectation has been that Polaris 10 would do battle against GP104/GTX 1080 when that card launched. Now it seems that the card won’t be as high performing as we’ve come to expect.

According to the source, Polaris 10 won’t be the R9 490 and 490X we’ve come to expect as the GP104 challenger. Instead, the approximately 2304 core GPU (up to 2560) will be branded as the R9 480 or 480X. This is largely based on the clock speeds which have been reported as between 800-1050Mhz and the TDP of 110-135W. It’s hard to see how a 125W GPU will match the approx 250W GP104 that Nvidia will launch. Polaris 11 has also had its TDP leaked at 50W which is actually a bit higher than expected.

There is still some hope though as this information is reportedly from last month that has finally leaked out. This means AMD could have tweaked the TDP and clock speeds higher since then, perhaps to around 1200Mhz and 150W+ TDP. AMD has also introduced massive tweaks to GCN to achieve greater efficiency along with the move to 14nm. Nvidia may also have chosen to reintroduce FP64 compute units to Pascal GeForce which could take as much as 30% of the TDP, putting the GP104 at a real 200W worth of gaming performance. Either way, the battle between AMD and Nvidia will be heating up at Computex.

Sony ‘PlayStation 4K’ Probably Won’t Game at 4K

Right now, it has more or less been confirmed that Sony is working on an update to the PlayStation 4. Referred to as the PlayStation 4K by multiple sources, the console won’t be running any games at 4K anytime soon. Contrary to the expectations from its name, the new console probably won’t be able to game at 4K, with the update more of a performance bump rather than a giant leap.

From the various leaks, it looks like the update will be based on the new 14nm process AMD is using for Polaris. With the new process, Sony has a chance to use cheaper and more power efficient dies to either cut cost or grow performance for more or less free. Right now the PS4 has hardware similar to the 7870 based on GCN 1.1. With an update, Sony has a chance to jump to Polaris with GCN 1.3/4.0 along with a significant power efficiency increase, allowing the console to stuff a 7970 class GPU in the console. While not enough for 4K, this should allow many more titles to run at 1080p and at a higher level of quality. From what Sony has hinted at, the PS4K will simply be the same PS4 but with improved graphics and higher FPS. This should allow for a similar gameplay experience for users and ensuring games still work fine with the stock PS4. The update to a new architecture will also bring HDMI 2.0 support, which will allow for 4K at 60fps, a first for a console. This pairs up nicely with the Ultra HD Blu-Ray support we are expecting which will allow for 4K content at 60fps.

Intel Ditches ‘Tick-Tock’ for ‘Process-Architecture-Optimization’

Adopted in the troubled days of 2006 and Netburst, ‘Tick-Tock’ has served Intel well, pushing the processor firm ever forwards. Though it has served Intel well in the past, recent years have shown that the strategy has become untenable. It comes as no surprise now, that Intel has revealed the successor to ‘Tick Tock’, PAO, or better known as ‘Process-Architecture-Optimization’.

Unlike ‘Tick-Tock’, ‘Process-Architecture-Optimization’ carries a much more unwieldy title but it is the natural evolutionary step. While the old way was to introduce a new process on the Tick year  followed by a new architecture in the Tock year, PAO builds on the same idea. Under PAO, the first year is a new process node, which is based on a known architecture. This will then be followed the next year by a new architecture and finally, in the third year, Intel will optimize both the process and architecture for the final release on that process.

The perfect example is this upcoming generation where we saw Broadwell on the new 14nm node in 2014. That was followed the next year with the new Skylake architecture  in 2015 and then Kaby Lake, which is an optimized Skylake architecture still on 14nm will drop this year. The delays and costs Intel faced with 14nm and 10nm simply precluded them moving onto a new node in the 2 years ‘Tick Tock’ requires.

Moving to a 3-year cadence makes much more sense as Intel has already been slipping into a 2.5 year ‘Tick Tock’ cycle since the launch of Haswell/Haswell-Refresh. By changing it to 3 years, Intel is just accepting the reality that moving to newer process nodes is just going to be harder and longer.  PAO is the new normal as Moore’s law is dead and there is nothing anyone can do about until we move past silicon.

AMD Open to Making Mobile GPUs

Looking back, AMD missed a big opportunity to get into the mobile phone and tablet market. According to Raja Koduri, SVP for RTG, AMD may be contemplating getting back into the mobile graphics market, provided the circumstances are right.

Originally a part of ATI, the mobile graphics division, Imageon was acquired by AMD along with the parent company. After running into severe financial hardship, AMD decided to sell the mobile division off to Qualcomm which renamed it Adreno, an anagram of Radeon. Combined with their custom ARM CPUs, Qualcomm has managed to become the largest mobile SoC vendor, putting Adreno into millions of devices. The only other major competitors are Imagination and Mali from ARM itself.

By considering the mobile GPU market if the right customer comes by, AMD is opening yet another market for them to enter. Right now, Adreno is still largely based on the VLIW architecture that ATI and AMD left in 2011. GCN, on the other hand, is a more complex and advanced architecture with arguably better performance per watt. With the rise of GPU based compute being used in gaming, GCN may be a potent force in tablets.

Seeking more custom chip customers makes sense of AMD given that their consoles deals are helping keep the firm afloat as other sources of revenue are dropping. There is a large measure of risk however as Nvidia has demonstrated with their flagging Tegra lineup. By securing a customer first, AMD can pass on the risk and run a much safer course. Perhaps, the next PSP or DS will be running GCN.

AMD Polaris Project F GPU Revealed

With Polaris only months away, more details about what Polaris 10 and 11 will look like are coming out. According to an ex-AMD employee profile on LinkedIn, a dGPU codenamed Project F is set to be built on GlobalFounrdies and Samsung 14nm LPP process. What’s more, the Project F GPU will be 232mm2, making the chips similar in size to the 232mmof Pitcairn and Curacao from the 28nm generation of GCN.

At 232mm2, Project F is a relatively small chip for a new process. This should give AMD a low-risk option to evaluate the 2nd generation 14nm process from GlobalFounrdies and Samsung focused on performance. With the use of the new process, the number of transistors will grow massively due to the increased transistor density over 28nm. This should let Project F to pack in at least 4-5 million transistors, putting it at least into the R9 380 and 380X (359mm2) performance range before considering any architectural improvements.

Finally, by using 14nm, Project F is most likely the GPU that AMD showed off back at CES that severely trounced the GTX 950 in performance per watt. With the larger die size, it stands to reason that the demo unit was likely underclocked a bit or not allowed to turbo, letting it be much more efficient. Even at full power, AMD likely has a card that will be much more efficient than Maxwell while offering significantly improved performance over the last generation at a similar cost.

Intel Admits End to Scaling and Moore’s Law

Even though everyone has pretty much already seen the writing on the wall by now, Intel has remained staunch publicly. At long last, the chip giant is admitting that scaling will have to rely on improvements other than clock speeds. In fact, Intel is going as far to say that the future of semiconductors will rely on technologies that reduce power consumption rather than performance.

According to William Holt, the head of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group, the semiconductor industry will see “major transitions” and the new technology will be “fundamentally different.” In order to continue moving forward, most of the new technologies mostly present a reduction in power consumption but at the cost of clock speeds due to lower switching speeds. This means all performance gains will have to come from improved IPC, new instruction sets and more cores.

With industry leader Intel already having delayed both 14nm and 10nm, it looks like silicon is nearing the end of the road. Even with the use of problematic EUV, the move to alternatives like lead telluride, carbon, Indium antimonide and indium gallium arsenide will likely happen within the decade. Even without major performance gains though, there is going to be a lot of excitement as laptops and mobile devices get better and better battery life.

Expensive $1600 AMD Polaris GPU Spotted Shipping

Remember the $600 and $700 Polaris GPUs we spotted last month in a shipping manifest? It turns out that those chips may not be the top end Polaris chip launching this year. According to the shipping tracker, a ‘Video Graphic Card’ labelled C993 shipped from Canada on February 1st and was valued at 110,603 INR. That’s $1600 or nearly 3x the value of the C981 and C980 that we spotted earlier.

According to AMD, they plan to launch both a Polaris 10 and Polaris 11, with one being a high-end card while the other would service the budget/mainstream market. We had expected the $600-700 C981/980 to be the top end flagship while the $200-$300 C924/913 would be the budget model. With the C993 at $1600, this card completely blows the other cards out of the water and makes it seem like that might be the flagship Polaris card.

At $1600 though, this card would be one of the most expensive cards AMD has released in a long time. At $1600, it would be beyond what Nvidia has charged for the Titan (X, Black), though it would make sense as a dual-GPU utilizing 2 Polaris chips like the C981 and C980. Maybe this is why there are only 2 Polaris chips technically launching but they may have multiple variants and different configurations.

AMD Radeon Polaris GPUs Spotted in HWiNFO Changelog

More and more information is pointing to the state of readiness for AMD’s upcoming Polaris GPUs. According to information spotted in AIDA64 and HWiNFO Changelog, support for 3 new GPUs, Ellesmere, Baffin and Greenland has appeared. As these nomenclatures predate AMD’s Polaris announcement, we can assume that Greenland is Vega 10 while Baffin and Ellesmere are one of Polaris 10 and 11. With AMD going around and handing out the PCI-e ID for Polaris, this means engineering samples are just around the corner.

Switching away from the Islands based noncom lecture, the new architecture maintains it’s GCN roots but is otherwise heavily improved. Graphics guru Raja Koduri noted that the new GCN 4.0 is built purposefully for use with the new 14/16nm process and FinFETs. Combined other redesigned blocks and units on the GPU, the new cards will offer a revolutionary improvement over the past. The use of HBM2 and GDDR5X also means these cards will be both more power efficient and able to push higher resolutions easier.

With Polaris set to arrive in mid-2016, it’s only a matter of time before we get more information and leaks out of AMD. Once launched, the new architecture will usher in a new era for GPUs and hopefully for AMD as well.

Samsung Ramps Up 14nm LPP Production

With their 14nm LPE (Low Power Early) process behind them, Samsung has moved on and started mass production for their new 14nm LPP (Low Power Performance) process. This is very important for the PC market as AMD is slated to use the 14nm LPP process from Samsung/GlobalFoundries for their upcoming Zen CPUs and Polaris GPUs. A ramp up now means that any major issues with 14nm LPP have been fixed and chips can start being produced.

Unlike the earlier LPE process, LPP is meant for higher power parts that clock faster, perfect for use with CPUs and GPUs. While AMD has not confirmed if they will be using Samsung or GlobalFoundries, this time around, the tight partnership between the two fabs means that a successful ramp for one is a success for the other partner. So even if Samsung is focused on producing their own mobile chips, GlobalFoundries is probably ready for Zen and Polaris.

Once Zen and Polaris production starts up, it will take around six to eight months for products to become available to us. This fits right into the timeline for when Zen and Polaris will launch in 2H 2016. Keep in mind that since Polaris will also use TSMC’s 16nm process, Polaris could arrive before Zen. With 14nm LPP on-track and Polaris and Zen taped out, it is only a matter of time before we see AMD launch their new lineup.

AMD Polaris Will use HBM2 and GDDR5

Ever since HBM1 was revealed and launched with Fury X, many have been looking forwards to what HBM2 would bring along in 2016. While HBM1 brought large power savings and a major boost in memory bandwidth, it was largely limited to a relatively low 4GB capacity. HBM2, however, is set to provide a boost in capacity and bandwidth by increasing the number of stackable dies. We’re now getting reports that AMD’s upcoming Polaris chips will utilize HBM2.

As a major revamp of the GCN architecture, a Polaris flagship GPU would be the natural product to debut HBM2. A flagship GPU much more powerful than current generation chips due to the new architecture and process node would likely require more memory bandwidth to feed it and a high memory capacity as it would be meant for VR and 4K gaming. Being the largest chip in the lineup, the flagship would also benefit from the major power savings, helping offset its core power consumption. The confirmation of HBM2 also suggests that we will be getting high-end Polaris chips this year.

At the same time, AMD is also confirming that they will continue to use GDDR5 and likely GDDR5X as well. At CES, AMD showed off a low powered Polaris chip using GDDR5 that was able to provide the same performance as Nvidia’s GTX 950 but with a significantly lower power consumption. With such a leap in efficiency, the HBM2 chips will likely be light years ahead of current cards in terms of efficiency if GDDR5 already shows such massive gains.

AMD Polaris GPUs Spotted Shipping

When AMD unveiled their new Polaris architecture last week, details about the timeline were a bit scarce. Other than previous confirms about a mid -2016 launch for one of the Polaris cards, AMD had been mum about when Polaris would actually arrive. Now information has surfaced about Polaris shipments has been spotted. According to a shipment tracking site, 4 Polaris cards have already been shipped around, with the earliest from Jan 2015.

The more recent models were the C981 and C980 which shipped in late December and early January. Valued at 47,578 and 40,790 INR respectively, these should fall into the product lineup around the R9 390/390X. Surprisingly, the earliest Polaris shipment, the 913, was in January 2015, nearly a year ago. this means AMD has had working Polaris silicon for nearly a year. A 924 was also shipped in August. Given their reported value, these 2 chips will likely be mid-tier about where the R7 370 and R9 380 fall.

If AMD had Polaris working for them for nearly a year, it suggests that  a launch may come sooner than expected. This bolstered by the fact that AMD already has development advanced enough to show off a working demo at CES. Whatever the case, Polaris is fast approaching and will likely launch within 6 months.

AMD Polaris GPU Architecture Offically Unveiled

First leaked yesterday, we’re now able to bring you the full AMD presentation on their upcoming Polaris GPU architecture. Set to ship mid-2016, Polaris will be using a 14/16nm FinFET process and bring massive power consumption and efficiency improvements. According to RTG SVP Raja Koduri, AMD says the massive potential that would come out of moving to FinFETs and a lower process node at the same time and decided to design a new architecture just for that.

Not surprisingly, the biggest focus is on the efficiency side of things. AMD is claiming a historic leap in performance per watt that any Radeon GPU has ever seen. The key to this is the new compute units for Polaris, or GCN 4.0. While we can expect much remains similar to past GCN revisions, the new release will be adding more parts to make the chip more efficient. A more efficient hardware scheduler, primitive discard accelerator and improved memory compression are expected to help as well. While HBM(2) will help reduce power consumption, GDDR5X models will be launched first.

To show off their improved efficiency, AMD showed off working Polaris silicon with presumably GDDR5X. Facing off against a GTX 950 in an identical system, the Polaris part managed to pull 1.65x less power from the wall as a whole. Using only 86W total compared to the 140W on the Nvidia card. This was while both cards were running Star Wars Battlefront at 1080p 60fps. Even if some of the gains are coming from the FinFETs and die shrink, that is still pretty impressive as AMD has been lagging behind on this front. The demo GPU was made using Globalfoundries 14nm FinFET process fo what it’s worth but expect some 16nm parts from TSMC as well.

Just as AMD has done with previous GCN releases, Polaris will also see other parts of the modular system upgraded. These include the Command Processor, Geometry Processor, Multimedia Cores, Display Engine, L2 Cache and Memory Controller. For the Multimedia Cores, the biggest additions are support for 4K HEVC (h.265) encoding and decoding at 60 FPS which should be welcome as well as AMD continues to push HDR. On the connectivity side, DisplayPort 1.3, and, at long last, HDMI 2.0a are supported.

For AMD, 2016 will be a critical year as both their GPU and CPU get a major architectural overhaul at the same time they get a major process upgrade. If executed well, this may finally pull AMD out of it’s slow decline and bring the firmly back into the black. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

AMD to Launch Next-Gen Greenland on 14nm in Summer 2016

AMD has largely been building off of GCN since its initial debut in 2011, with incremental improvements  made via GCn 1.1 and 1.2. Combined with the limitations of having to use the 28nm process, the GPU space hasn’t seen any great gains of late. However, that is set to change soon with the arrival of AMD’s new Greenland and Nvidia’s Pascal architectures. We’re now getting some information that Greenland will launch in Summer 2016 and what’s more, jump straight to 14nm.

Greenland was rumoured to use the 14nm process from Samsung/Globalfoundries, eschewing the 16nm from TSMC, their usual supplier. If this is the case, AMD and Nvidia’s cards will not only have different architectures but finally different process nodes. Greenland manufacturing is to begin in June with the launch to be held sometime in late summer, in time for the back to school and holiday sales.

AMD had previously confirmed that the 14nm process would be used for GPUs but this is a major change in strategy. Globalfoundries and Samsung are also expected to use the 14nm process to make AMD’s next-gen Zen CPU as well. From an integration standpoint, it does make it easier for AMD to produce APUs since both the CPU and GPU will target the same node. Combined with HBM2, next years GPU and CPU launches should be pretty eventful.

GlobalFoundaries Builds First AMD Chips on 14nm FinFET process

GlobalFoundaries has proudly revealed that it has built its first AMD chips on its advanced 14nm FinFET process, involving LPP silicon, with AMD planning to integrate the results into its products, including CPUs, GPUs, and APUs, soon. The process allows chips to deliver greater processing power over a smaller area while drawing less power to do so.

“FinFET technology is expected to play a critical foundational role across multiple AMD product lines, starting in 2016,” Mark Papermaster, AMD‘s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, said. “GlobalFoundaries has worked tirelessly to reach this key milestone on its 14LPP process. We look forward to GlobalFoundaries’ continued progress towards full production readiness and expect to leverage the advanced 14LPP process technology across a broad set of our CPU, APU, and GPU products.”

“Our 14nm FinFET technology is among the most advanced in the industry, offering an ideal solution for demanding high-volume, high-performance, and power-efficient designs with the best die size,” Mike Cadigan, Senior Vice President of Product Management for GlobalFoundaries, added. “Through our close design-technology partnership with AMD, we can help them deliver products with a performance boost over 28nm technology, while maintaining a superior power footprint and providing a true cost advantage due to significant area scaling.”

After qualifying its 14nm process during the third-quarter of this year, GlobalFoundaries will be ” ramping with production-ready yields” and “excellent model-to-hardware correlation” at its Fab 8 facility in New York, with full-scale production intended during 2016.

Intel Cannonlake Delayed Till Mid 2017 Could Help AMD in a Big Way

Despite all the bad news from AMD thus far, it looks like they’ll be getting a break for next year. According to a rumour, Intel is delaying their Cannonlake CPUs from late 2017/early 2017 to at least the second half of 2017. Given AMD’s launch of their new Zen CPUs will take place around the original Cannonlake launch date, AMD has a chance to make their 14nm offerings before Intel launches the 10nm Cannonlake.

After Sky Lake which launched a few months ago, Intel is expected to follow up with a 14nm refresh named Kaby Lake refresh in early/mid-2016. That was expected to be followed up by the 10nm refresh Cannonlake in late 2016/early 2017. With Cannonlake now pushed back, it pretty much confirms that Intel’s Tick-Tock will have to move to at least 1.5 years and likely closer to 2. Kaby Lake is set to target sales up to week 9/18 of 2017 meaning Cannonlake will come sometime afterwards.

With 10nm pushed back, AMD has the opportunity to launch their own 14nm Zen CPUs in late 2016 against Intel’s 14nm Kaby Lake. While the process nodes are different, on marketing, this is a win and likely a better showing in terms of power and die efficiency. It also means that AMD can target the holiday season relatively unaffected by a new Intel lineup. The delay for Cannonlake also means the Sky Lake architecture successor will be pushed back as well, giving AMD more time to catch up with Zen as Kaby Lake and Cannonlake are not expected to improve IPC too much.

A delay to Cannonlake also means that the rumoured core count increase for the mainstream platform won’t be out yet, giving AMD an opportunity to compete on core counts as well if their IPC falls short of Kaby Lake. Overall though, it drives home that fact that even with their massive resources, Intel is still hitting a wall with newer silicon processes and it’s time to start looking for a successor.

Thank you Benchlife for providing us with this information

AMD Zen to use TSMC 16nm as GF 14nm Falters

TSMC has just scored a major CPU customer as AMD is allegedly moving their Zen CPUs over to the fab. Originally meant for GlobalFoundries 14nm process, delays at the once AMD owned fab have led to a change to use the 16nm process at TSMC, the same one used for AMD and Nvidia’s next-gen GPUs. Zen is AMD’s next CPU architecture, aimed at improving IPC by 40% over current Excavator products.

According to the source, GF has been facing issues with getting their 14nm production ramped up. The fab’s main owner, the government of Abu Dhabi, has  been cutting expenses due to low oil prices. Due to that and difficulties in retooling the 28nm equipment to 14nm, volumes and yields on the new process are below expectations. It was also the delays for the 32nm process at GF that caused Bulldozer to launch later than expected back in 2011.

With both TSMC and GF offering FinFET processes, AMD should see good efficiency gains on top of moving to a new process. While AMD had previously been mum about which FinFET process it would use, most had expected GF to win out due to the long relationship between the two firms. With TSMC now confirmed, the biggest question is whether or not the fab can handle all the CPUs, GPUs and SoCs planned for next year. Hopefully, TSMC 16nmFF+ process will be able to hit the clocks speeds required of desktop CPUs.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 vs 810 Compared in Leaked Benchmark

The Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm’s flagship mobile chip and used in a variety of high-end handsets including the LG Flex 2, One Plus 2 and Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. However, many of these devices suffer from overheating and throttling issues on Android 5.0. Thankfully, this has been somewhat fixed in the Android 5.1 update. Nevertheless, the negative media coverage resulted in many manufacturers opting for the 808 or 805 chip instead. It’s no surprise that Qualcomm has been tirelessly working on a new elite-grade chip, the Snapdragon 820.

A leaked report provides an early insight into the performance gains between the Snapdragon 810 and 820. The green field shows the 810’s performance in AnTuTu and the red marker is the latest version of Qualcomm’s new CPU. Interestingly, the orange bar provides information about an earlier prototype and shows how the 820 is progressing. The results are very impressive and features a 1.38x single threaded integer and 1.77x single threaded floating point scores compared to the 810.

It will also be interesting to see how the new 14nm FinFET manufacturing process impacts on battery life and operating temperatures. Apparently, the orange and red columns are two versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7. If this is the case, expect an enormous amount of processing power from Samsung’s upcoming handset.

Nvidia Will Use TSMC 16nm for Pascal

While there had been some rumours that Nvidia would turn to Samsung’s 14nm process for GPUs, it appears those were wrong. For the longest time, Nvidia has relied on TSMC to manufacture their chips and it appears this relationship is continuing. Set to launch next year, Nvidia’s Pascal architecture will reportedly use TSMC’s latest 16nm process. This will be the same process used for AMD’s upcoming Greenland GPUs.

As with AMD’s Greenland, Pascal will be a new architecture with new features and other improvements. Most notably, Pascal will be paired with HBM2, allowing for up to 16GB of VRAM and 1TB/s of memory bandwidth. Other additions include support for NVLINK, Nvidia’s GPU interconnect and mixed precision support. With Kepler and later Maxwell, Nvidia had been stripping out compute power, leading to better power efficiency but at the cost of compute performance. Pascal is set to fix this and bring Nvidia’s compute power back on par with AMD’s, though likely at the cost of efficiency.

Even though Samsung lost out this time, the simple fact that they were in competition with TSMC speaks volumes. TSMC has been falling slightly behind in terms of process technology and trying to meet Apple’s insatiable demand. In some ways, using Samsung would have made sense as Samsung is also set to be a major HBM2 supplier as well, simplifying the production for Nvidia. In the end though, it seems that TSMC’s long experience with Nvidia and GPU’s won out.

Thank you BussinessKorea for providing us with this information

AMD to Release Zen in Q4 2016 Suggests Report

Ever since AMD launched the much maligned Bulldozer CPUs, fans have been waiting for chips that would be competitive performance wise with Intel. Next year, however, that is set to change with the launch of the new Zen architecture. Set to provide up to 40% increase in IPC and performance, many are hoping the new chip will provide what it takes to revitalize the CPU market.

While many had hoped that Zen would arrive quickly in 2016, the latest report appears to show that those hopes will be dashed. According to those in the motherboard industry, Zen won’t be launching till Q4 2016, the last 3 months of the year. This will also likely be behind Intel’s Skylake refresh, Kaby Lake and around the time that the enthusiast Skylake-E series launch. With a late 2016 launch, AMD risks introducing a product in between an upgrade cycle. A Q4 launch would also place it behind the back to school season but might make it in time for the 2016 holiday sales.

Sources are speculating that the delayed launch is due to issues with GlobalFoundries’ 14nm process. This process was created in partnership with Samsung so it’s likely Samsung also won;t be able to supply any chips to AMD earlier. GlobalFoundries has been a source of problems for AMD with delays to the 28nm and later 20nm nodes causing either poorer than expected performance or some say even product cancelations.

Thank you DigiTimes for providing us with this information

Snapdragon 820 Promises Astounding 50% Performance Increase

Qualcomm has unveiled the Snapdragon 820 CPU which supposedly offers up to twice the battery life and performance compared to the widely used, Snapdragon 810. The Snapdragon 810 is a modified version of the ARM Cortex A7 containing A53 CPU cores to support 64-bit ARMv8 technology across a range of premium handsets. While the 820 isn’t set for a retail release any time soon, it’s a remarkable improvement and could revolutionize battery life. Personally, this is imperative as users shouldn’t have to charge their exceedingly expensive handset on a daily basis.

Additionally, the 820 features a maximum frequency of 2.2GHz and manufactured on the 14nm FinFET process. This is a complete custom chip and the architecture improvements on 14nm FinFET should create a much more efficient mobile CPU. For example, Qualcomm is claiming the chip is capable of up to 50% improvements whilst utilizing half the power draw of the Snapdragon 810. Of course, this explains why there is a huge difference in battery life. Although, it’s important to reiterate the term, “from”, which means 50% could become a rarity. I’m hopeful we will see performance gains between 40-50% on a regular basis, but only time will tell.

The Snapdragon 820 is expected to release early in 2015 and should become the CPU choice for the latest flagship handsets. As new production lines are matured, mobile CPUs should become faster, more efficient and significantly enhance battery life across all price points.

Thank you Ars Technica for providing us with this information.

AMD Prepping Post-GCN Greenland, Baffin and Ellesmere GPUs

According to multiple sources, AMD is working on 3 new GPUs as part of their 2016 lineup. Likely part of the Arctic Islands release, the 3 chips all fit the theme being called Greenland, Baffin and Ellesmere. Greenland is set to be the flagship product while Baffin and Ellesmere will probably target other segments like performance and mainstream.

While we’ve already gotten some information about what Greenland will look like, we’re also learning that the ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) is undergoing major changes. Since 2011, AMD has been working with GCN, or Graphics Core Next. There have been several iterations from the original GCN 1.0 like 1.1 which powers the R9 290/290X and GCN 1.2 which is found in the R9 285 and Fury/Fiji. With this latest ISA change, AMD is moving beyond GCN to “post-GCN” on a radically new architecture. In some ways, the time spent with GCN highlighted how AMD has a slower cycle than Nvidia but also showcased the staying power of the architectures, which is finally seeing AMD’s early invest pay off with DX12.

This new ISA is also set to net AMD massive gains in the power efficiency department. While Nvidia showed strong gains moving from Kepler to Maxwell, AMD is reporting that their new ISA will double power efficiency. This should leapfrog Maxwell and will likely be a strong competitor to Pascal. Given the use of either 14nm or 16nm FinFETs as well, we may well see even more massive power savings. Combined with up to 32GB of HBM2 which is also pretty power efficient, 2016 looks to be a pretty big year.

Both Baffin and Ellesmere are also expected to be entirely new cards as well. This will bring a much-needed refresh to the AMD lineup which largely consists of rebrands at this point. Hopefully, these new cards and Zen will bring enough to the table and turn things around for the beleaguered firm.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information

Samsung Enters SOC Market by Opening Up Exynos to Third Parties

Folks at Qualcomm, MediaTek and other SoC producers may soon be having sleepless nights. According to a report, Samsung is set on releasing their in-house Exynos SoC including the latest 7420 to third parties, the first being Meizu. The Exynos 7420 is Samsung’s top Soc with 4 A57 and 4 A53 cores respectively tied to a Mali-T760 MP8 GPU. As a giant conglomerate, Samsung probably thinks that maximizing the chip and fab profits will outweigh any risks from supplying competitors with good chips.

While Samsung has long been designing and manufacturing their own Exynos Socs for their own use, they were not shy about using Qualcomm SOCs in certain markets. That practice has dwindled off however in recent years as Samsung moves towards using their Exynos chips exclusively. While cost is likely a big reason, Samsung has also been able to improve their chips be competitive in both the radio connectivity and CPU performance.

If Samsung starts expanding their Exynos business quickly, both Qualcomm and Mediatek should be worried. With the latest 14nm process and their own fabs, Samsung is able to leverage better power efficiency, cost and control their product cycle better. Qualcomm is also hurting heavily with their major misstep with the 810 though the 820 may soon come and save the day. Qualcomm has previously enjoyed a near monopolization, with most major smartphones using their chip. A new competitor that brings as many resources as Samsung does is probably the last thing they need right now.

Thank you Sammobile for providing us with this information

ASUS Z170-A (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Mark today in the Intel history calendar, if you are keeping one, because Skylake, Z170 and mainstream DDR4 are here. We’ve been keeping tight-lipped about this for a few weeks and we can finally show off what we have been working on. You already know almost all of the details regarding the Skylake processors being launched today; the i5-6600K and i7-6700K, but what about Z170? Well, we know it supports DDR4 and features the new 1151 socket, but something that really shines through for this chipset is the absolutely huge connectivity incorporated. Motherboard manufacturers now have up to 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes and up to 10 USB 3.0 ports to play with.

Now some of you may be thinking that you can’t fit 20 PCIe lanes onto a single standard motherboard and you would be correct, to a certain extent. In recent years, M.2 (or mini PCIe) has really taken the expansion world by storm and with Z170, you can start to see M.2 ports crop up in multiples depending on the motherboard. In theory, you could have 3, 4 5 or even more M.2 ports on a single motherboard. What’s more, these ports accept RAID and you can see some truly insane figures if used with U.2 devices such as the Intel NVME 750 SSD.

When you come to think of motherboards, only one name sticks in your mind; ASUS. Topping the manufacturer sales last year, it’s easy to image how it came to be thanks to the huge range of motherboards suiting a wide variety of users and implementing high-quality components. The motherboard range is exceptionally large, from basic desktop units, right up to professional workstations such as the Deluxe range and gaming series in the form of Republic of Gamers (RoG). The motherboard we have in today is the Z170-A which has been based off the X99-A motherboard. This particular board is aimed at the low-mid range segment of the market, but don’t let that fool you. With a simply huge array of connectivity and newly introduced DDR4 support, this could be a very powerful option. Let’s find out how it performs in today’s review.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, ASUS is no exception and has crammed a huge array of features into this motherboard.

  • OC Design
  • 5-Way Optimisation
    • DIGI+ VRM
    • TPU
    • EPU
    • Fan Xpert 3
    • Turbo App
  • UEFI BIOS
  • PC Cleaner
  • Remote Go!
  • Media Streamer
  • HyStream
  • Q-Design
    • Q-LED
    • Q-Slot
    • Q-DIMM
    • Q-Connector
  • EZ DIY
    • USB BIOS Flashback Card
    • UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
  • AI Suite 3
  • LAN Guard
  • Ai Charger+
  • MemOK!
  • EZ XMP
  • USB 3.1 Boost
  • Precision Tweaker 2
  • Overclocking Protection

This board was built with eSports in mind and included the following to give the best possible experience:

  • Turbo LAN
  • Crystal Sound 3
  • Turbo App

Packaging and Accessories

The box is very similar to the previous A range of motherboards with the striking white IO cover and heatsink..

The back of the box details many of the features on this motherboard, but we’ll take a closer look at each of those in a moment.

Inside the box, you will find quite a few accessories; Z170 feature manual, motherboard manual, driver disk, and other leaflets regarding the Z170, 6x SATA 6Gb/s cables, I/O shield, SLI bridge and front panel header extension.

ASUS has designed a great solution for the Z170 range. This new CPU holder enables the user to handle the CPU as minimal as possible. This holder aid the prevention of bent pins and can be left on when the socket latch is secured.

Insert the CPU by whatever your usual handling means; I found it easiest to push the CPU by the centre until it latched.

Simply place it onto the CPU socket, there is only one way you can do this.

And finally close the socket. You may hear some slight creaking of plastic, that is to be expected on some installations.