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Can AMD Launch Ryzen This Quarter?

January 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD indicated that the official Ryzen launch date will be sometime before March.

While they haven’t specifically given an exact date, a talk to be given by AMD at the annual Game Developer Conference (GDC) says the following: “Join AMD Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU followed by advanced optimisation topics.”

Obviously for this to be the subject of the talk Ryzen would have had to be recently launched which means that it is probably timed for that week.

GDC event runs from 27 February to 3 March and has not been put on the schedule yet and it could appear any day during the event.

AMD has not disclosed an exact date either, launching the new set of Ryzen CPUs right in the middle of both GDC and Mobile World Congress would be insane as the news would end up being buried under other GDC and smartphone announcements.

It would make sense to do it the week before all that, if not two.


MediaTek Has A Strong Quarter

January 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek, the fabless semiconductor company from Taiwan that provides SoCs for HDTVs, Blu-ray players and wireless products, saw its revenues jump by 29.2 percent year-over-year to a record high of $8.6 billion (¥$275.51 billion), according to the latest industry reports.

Deemed one of the fastest growing chip companies in 2016, MediaTek’s upswing in performance last year is attributed to a larger share of the worldwide smartphone SoC market, along with higher sales in local China and Taiwan markets. In Q4 2016, revenues totaled $2.18 billion (¥68.68 billion) which is down 12.4 percent over the previous quarter, but still falls within the company’s projection of $2.11 and $2.31 billion (¥66.6 to 72.9 billion).

In Q3 2016, revenues totaled $2.49 billion (¥78.4 billion), an increase of 8.1 percent over Q2 and a 37.6 percent increase over the previous year. Net profits also rose to $248.4 million (¥7.83 billion) in Q3, an increase of 18.8 percent over the previous quarter but down 1.6 percent over the previous year.

Going forward into 2017, company officials now want to shift its focus from increasing market share to improving gross margins and profitability. This will include an effort to market its high-end Helio X30 and X35 mobile processors more effectively to compete against the likes of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 830 and 835 and Samsung’s Exynos 8895, as all three companies are now using ARM cores with 10-nanometer designs.

MediaTek MT5597 supports Dolby Vision and HLG

The Taiwanese chip designer was the first to develop an 4K Ultra HD-capable SoC for Android TVs with the introduction of the MT5595 for Android TV 5.0 back at CES 2015. It followed up a year later with the MT5996 for Android TV 6.0, another world’s first featuring four 64-bit CPU cores based on the Cortex A53 design.

Now in 2017, the company is releasing its third-generation Ultra HD SoC for Android TV 7.0, the MT5597. This chip also features a quad-core Cortex A53 design but now includes support for Dolby Vision HDR and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), the standard expected to be used in UHD television broadcasts when providers are ready to roll out HDR terrestrial and satellite services.


Should Virtual Reality Become More Of A Open Platform?

January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Tim Sweeney has urged virtual reality platform holders to ensure their devices and marketplaces are open to other providers in order to avoid the same monopoly that affects a significant portion of the smartphone market.

Speaking to Glixel, the co-founder of Epic Games said he say “a lot going on that’s wrong” in other tech sectors, and points to Apple as a prime example. While he thinks its fine for the firm to be the only distributor of its hardware, he disagrees with their monopoly on distributing software and collecting in-app revenue.

His added that virtual reality pioneer Oculus seems to be operating in a similar way to Apple, adding that this is “the wrong model” for virtual reality and something Sweeney “argued passionately against”.

“When you install the Oculus drivers, by default you can only use the Oculus store,” he said. “You have to rummage through the menu and turn that off if you want to run Steam. Which everybody does. It’s just alienating and sends the wrong message to developers. It’s telling developers: ‘You’re on notice here. We’re going to dominate this thing. And your freedom is going to expire at some point.’ It’s a terrible precedent to set.”

Sweeney believes that ultimately the open platforms will win as they will have a better selection of software. He praised HTC Vive for being such a platform and noted that the device is currently outselling Oculus two-to-one around the world, a trend he expects to continue.

The Epic Games founder acknowledged that his firm is making a closed-platform game for Oculus in the form of Robo Recall, a title that stemmed from Unreal Engine’s Bullet Train VR demo. However, he attributed this to the fact that the game is funded by Oculus and could never have been built on a budget based purely on sales.

“The Oculus store… is an awesome store [but] should run on all PC and VR devices,” he said. “Oculus would do best if they tried to bring users into their store by supporting HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and any other PC hardware that comes out. I think if they don’t do that, they’re going to pretty quickly fail, because you’re not going to want to buy a multiplayer game that you can’t play with half of your VR friends.”

Sweeney previously spoke out about the need for open virtual reality platforms during his keynote at the latest Steam Dev Day, saying: “It would be really tragic if we let the future metaverse, that binds all humanity together into shared online environments, were a closed platform controlled by a giant corporation.

“As always, they’d use it to spam you with advertising, they’d use it to gather information about your private life and sell it to the highest bidder, and they’d act as the universal intermediary between all users, content creators, and transactions, ensuring that everything has to be approved by them.”

Will AMD Unlock RYZEN ?

January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

A set of new AMD Ryzen slides that have surfaced recently has confirmed that the entire Ryzen CPU lineup will have an unlocked multiplier and be ready for launch by the end of Q1 2017.

Although AMD has mostly been talking about its high-end 8-core/16-thread Ryzen SKU, there will be a full line of Zen-based Ryzen CPUs, including the rumored 6-core/12-thread and 4-core/8-thread version, probably coming with different clock speeds.

The newest set of slides confirms that every AMD Ryzen CPU will actually be unlocked, which means an unlocked multiplier, which should also make them quite overclocking friendly. Of course, the actual overclocking potential is still unknown but we hope there will be plenty of it.

The slide also reveals that AMD will actually have all-new lineups of both system integrators and OEM systems as well as an extensive lineup of 3rd party cooling solutions.

As mentioned by Robert Hallock, AMD is not targeting the very last day of Q1 2017 as the launch date so hopefully, these will come pretty soon.

As we wrote earlier, AMD’s CTO, Mark Papermaster, has confirmed that the company expects Ryzen to have a four-year lifespan, which is quite common for a new architecture.


It Appears That The Video Games Market Had A Bang-Up Year

December 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Games generated $91 billion worldwide in 2016, according to a report from beancounters at SuperData Research who have been adding up some numbers on Christmas Party napkins.

Most of the cash was made in the mobile game segment some $41 billion (up 18 percent), followed by $26 billion for retail games and $19 billion for free-to-play online games.

Beancountrs at SuperData said that the new categories such as virtual reality, esports, and gaming video content were small in size, but they are growing fast and holding promise for next year. Hardware firms like Sony and HTC to take the lead in 2017. Still,

VR grew to $2.7 billion in 2016. Gaming video reached $4.4 billion, up 34 percent.

Mobile gaming was driven by Pokémon Go and Clash Royale. The mobile games market has started to mature and now more closely resembles traditional games publishing, requiring ever higher production values and marketing spend. Monster Strike was the top mobile game, with $1.3 billion in revenue.

The esports market generated $892 million (up 19 percent) in revenue. A string of investments in pursuit of connecting to a new generation of media consumers has built the segment’s momentum, as major publishers like Activision, Riot Games, and EA are exploring new revenue streams for selling media rights, according to the report.

Consumers increasingly download games directly to their consoles, spending $6.6 billion on digital downloads in 2016 which has helped improve margins.

PC gaming continues to do well, earning $34 billion (up 6.7 percent) and driven largely by free-to-play online titles and downloadable games. League of Legends together with newcomers like Overwatch are driving the growth in PC games.

PC gamers also saw a big improvement with the release of a new generation of graphics cards.


Will Apple’s A11 SoC Start Production In April?

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

appleThe folks at Boston-based BlueFin Research Partners have recently given some much-needed commentary on the state of 10nm chip production at TSMC for Apple’s next-generation iPhone units.

For the past three years, production of TSMC’s leading-edge process nodes  – 20nm, 16nm and 16FF+ –  has always ramped up following orders of a new iPhone SoC – the Apple A8, A9 and A10. In 2017, it appears this will not be the case as the researchers claim that TSMC’s 10nm yields are currently still below 50 percent.

Apple A10 undergoing small pilot runs

In response, TSMC is now scheduled to be doing small pilot runs of Apple’s A11 SoC right now in Q4 2016 and will instead begin ramping up production in late April. The report suggests that the foundry’s 10nm process should be able to exceed 20,000 wafers per month in Q1 2017 following the small pilot runs.

Back in May, we wrote that TSMC had finished taping out the company’s A11 chips, with certification coming in Q1 2017. and that they would likely start generating revenues for TSMC in the third quarter of 2017.

Apple A10X production for next iPad Pro will also ramp slowly

Meanwhile, TSMC’s 10nm volumes for Apple’s A10X chip slated for the next iPad Pro models are reported to be roughly half of MediaTek’s 10nm Helio X30 and X35 SoC volumes, with just 7,500 wafers per month expected from January to March.

As Ashraf Eassa from The Motley Fool notes in his own report, however, Apple’s A10X and MediaTek’s X30 and X35 are still relatively low-volume products compared to Apple’s A11 for the next-gen iPhone. Even if TSMC’s 10nm yields are below 50 percent, it would suggest that shipment volumes should be relatively modest up until the end of April, without TSMC’s overall gross profit margins being diluted too much.

Given the estimated $120 million design cost for developing 10nm chips, according to Gartner at least, TSMC really does not want to have any issues with low yields once production begins to ramp up in just a few months from now.


Is MediTek Facing Supply Issues?

December 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

A recent report from Chinese-based Economic Daily News claimed that MediaTek would be slashing orders for its upcoming ten-core, 10-nanometer chips by at least 50 percent.  Now, the company has publicly dismissed the rumor, saying it was not the source.

The report originally claimed that MediaTek had revised its 10nm chip outlook for 2017, which would affect its overall competitiveness with TSMC’s other customers including Apple, Hisilicon and Spreadtrum.

The company’s upcoming deca-core Helio X30 and X35 chips are expected to compete with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 by using a tri-cluster configuration – two Cortex A73 cores at 2.8GHz, four Cortex A53 cores at 2.2GHz, and four Cortex A35 cores at 2GHz. 

In September, the company announced its partnership with TSMC for volume production of the Helio X30-series SoCs for the high-end market, along with X35 SoCs for the lower-end market. The latter are expected to use a lower standard of the company’s 10nm process design. Production on both chips is scheduled to have already begun this month through January, while sales revenue is expected to begin in the first quarter of next year.


ARM Buys HPC Software

December 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

The Japanese-owned British fabless chip-maker ARM has written a cheque for an undisclosed sum for the HPC software maker Allinea.

Allenia makes developer tools to help squeeze the maximum performance from high performance computing (HPC) setups.

Javier Orensanz, general manager of ARM’s Development Solutions Group, says the company “will use its newly acquired capabilities to accelerate its adoption in HPC and new markets.”

Allinea’s CEO David Lecomber says he’s on board and that Allinea’s organization will remains together as one HPC Tools team within ARM. Now that that team will keep working multiple CPU architectures.

This buyout will save ARM from having to work on tools similar to Allinea’s. It has been doing that for a while now and hired people to help out. Now its efforts will be combined.

ARM wants to push into the HPC market as an alternative to the Xeon and Power CPUs. It has not been doing too badly. Fujitsu picked ARM for a 1,000-PFLOPS super computer in Japan and replaced a SPARC-powered, version of that machine.


Will AMD Launch Its Naples ZEN Server In Q2 2017?

December 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

naplesAMD’s CEO Lisa Su said that Summit Ridge, the processor that we will know as Ryzen, will arrive in Q1 2017 and she mentioned that Naples Zen for server will appear in Q2 and Raven Ridge, Zen APU will deliver in the second half of 2017.

It looks like 2017 might be a good year for AMD as the company plans to fill its void in the desktop, server and even the notebook market. Ryzen is an eight core CPU clocked at 3.4GHz or higher – it is the first one and AMD told us to expect it in Q1 2017.

The more interesting part is codenamed Naples and Fudzilla exclusively posted the news about this,  including a diagram.

Since AMD said that Ryzen has 20MB of total cache it is easy to work out that there are eight cores each with 512KB L2 cache and 16GB of L3 cache. We posted these details a few months ago. This means that Summit Ridge and an eight core Snowy Owl server will be based on the same core.

AMD has two separate codenames in the server market, Snowy Owl for 8 and 16 core server chip while Naples is reserved for 24 and 32 core versions. They are all based on Zeppelin blocks of eight Zen cores Fudzilla mentioned earlier this year.

The information we gathered lists 16 core, 24 core and 32 core version of Naples server architecture core too. Obviously an eight-core version of Naples shares the DNA of Summit Ridge. The obvious reason is that the desktop version uses the AM4 socket while the server versions will use the SP3 and SP4 sockets.

One can only hope that Ryzen’s desktop part is going to ship to customers in Q1 2017 while the server Naples could launch in Q2 2017, in customer designs of course. One obvious reason to firstly launch a desktop part and follow up with servers is that desktops need less qualifications and all AMD needs is a few motherboards and some OEMs to launch the products.

Launching Naples is a bigger deal, as it means higher margins, higher revenues and an attack on the highly profitable server market. This is a market where Intel controls 99 percent of sales. This advantage is going to go, and AMD will win some server market back. Intel doesn’t have a 32-core server based part to compete with Zen.

The Skylake-SP processor that is supposed to launch in Q2 2017 supports up to 28 cores indicating that AMD will put pressure on Intel’s server market cash cow. Again the Skylake-SP processor might as well be a 32 core processor that has 28 cores enabled (due to yield problems) which could likely mean Intel will have a 32-core response soon. If such a core is possible, we would expect limited availability but again, maybe Intel didn’t want to show all  its cards, while waiting for AMD to show its Naples hand first.


With AMD’s Forthcoming Ryzen Processore Should Intel Worry

December 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

ryzenAMD was keen to show some performance figures of its upcoming eight core Ryzen SKU at the New Horizon event and has compared it to Intel’s US $1049.99 priced Core i7-6900K eight core Broadwell-E CPU.

AMD noted that Intel’s Core i7-6900K is currently the only eight core/16-thread CPU on the market so it was impressive to see it compared to AMD’s Ryzen SKU, core to core and thread to thread. While these two might be matched in terms of cores and threads, AMD’s Ryzen SKU was running at a 3.4GHz base clock  rate without Boost while Intel’s Core i7-6900K was left at the starting gate with a  3.2GHz base and a  3.7GHz Turbo CPU frequency.

AMD picked two CPU “intense benchmarks”, Blender and Handbrake tests, both which ought to scale well with multi-core and multi-thread CPUs.

In Blender, both AMD Ryzen SKU and Intel Core i7-6900K were neck to neck, although running at different clocks, which is quite impressive. In the Handbrake test, an open-source video transcoder, AMD’s Ryzen was actually faster in transcoding the Ryzen video to AppleTV 3 preset.


Can Virtual Reality Hot 2 Million By Years End?

December 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Analyst at Canalys think that there will be more than two million VR units sold in 2016 and the figure will grow to 20 million by 2020.

The bulk of 2016 shipments are basic VR headsets that rely on other devices, generally being tethered by cable to a desktop PC.

Shipments of smart VR headsets, which can function independently, will only be 100,000 units.

These estimates only include VR headsets with integrated displays and exclude viewers, such as Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View. These are shipping in the millions.

Sony is the VR market leader, with its affordable PlayStation VR catering to the vast PlayStation 4 installed base. Canalys expects over 800,000 shipments in less than three months on the market.

HTC will ship around half a million units in 2016, putting the Vive in second place. Facebook’s Oculus Rift, meanwhile which has been boosted from its long-awaited Touch motion controllers and will reach almost 400,000 shipments in 2016.

More than 300,000 VR headsets are estimated to ship in Greater China in 2016, with HTC leading the charge, while local vendors, such as Deepoon, Idealens, 3Glasses and ANTVR, have provided their own unique innovations and localization efforts that are vital for the massive China market, Canalys said.


Does AMD and nVidia Have A Bright Future Ahead?

December 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

The divination team from Pacific Crest have been shuffling their tarot cards and are seeing some dark clouds forming for AMD and Nvidia.

Chief diviner Michael McConnell claims that his “dark clouds forming” note was after listening to comments from Asia’s supply chain and not the whispering demons who spoke to him after chewing on laurel leaves.

McConnell, writes that he was surprised by the sudden negative tone about “desktop” graphics cards:

“Our specific findings were as follows: High-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 card inventory levels have risen to two to 2.5 months in the channel versus targeted levels of one to 1.5 months due to weaker-than-expected sell-through in late October and November,” he said.

Two weeks ago, desktop graphics card manufacturers began to experience order pushouts and cancellations of GTX 1080 and 1070 cards from channel customers ahead of the holiday season.

Given the excess supply, GeForce GTX 1080 pricing dropped 10 per cent in the channel, with desktop card manufacturers now unwilling to order product due to perceived working capital risk.

“Given the weaker-than-expected sell-through of higher ASP GeForce GTX 1080/1070 product and higher sales mix of mainstream GeForce GTX 1060/1050, not one desktop graphics card manufacturer we surveyed is expecting sequential revenue growth in calendar Q4, with forecasted sales declines of five to 15 per cent,” he wrote.

This contrasts with Nvidia’s guidance for sequential revenue growth in its gaming segment (62 per cent of sales) in the fourth quarter, after record-high sales in the third.

Sales of AMD’s desktop Radeon 480/470 graphics cards were also disappointing, he added.

“Given weaker-than-expected desktop graphics card sell-through and oversupply, we believe Nvidia and AMD have now implemented inventory controls to channel card manufacturers. Desktop graphics card manufacturers believe that sell-through trends over the Chinese New Year holiday are likely to determine whether channel card inventory can be reduced at end customers in January, or if this sales correction will continue into February and the remainder of calendar 1Q17 given weaker seasonality,” he said.


Will Samsung Spin-Off It’s Foundry Business?

December 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Samsung seems likely to spin off its foundry business as part of a restructuring program.

The outfit has been selling divisions that are weighing down its core businesses and has been taking additional steps to adopt a leaner corporate structure. Now it seems that Samsung is thinking about reorganizing its foundry business that comes under the System LSI division to systematically grow this business.

Samsung is reportedly planning to separate the design and manufacturing operations into the new business unit and spin it off to the fabless and foundry divisions.

Samsung’s System LSI division has four core segments which include the system on chip team that develops mobile processors, the LSI development team which works on camera sensors and display driver chips, the foundry business team and the support team.

The company’s cunning plan appears to be to spice up the fabless division by bringing together the system on chip and LSI development teams and separating them from the foundry business. This will help Samsung separate its semiconductor design and manufacturing capabilities.

This is just a rumor and Samsung has not yet commented on this report, but it does make some sense.


Is MediaTek Going Automotive?

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Nvidia has already announced that its integrated automotive solution won the hearts of Tesla and Volvo, while Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 820A for automotive in early 2016. Now MediaTek has announced a plan to bring holistic, fully integrated system solutions to the automotive industry beginning in Q1 2017.

This is hardly a surprise, as MediaTek just like Nvidia and Qualcomm, has an SoC that fits phones and tablets that can be easily tweaked into an automotive SoC. What we have learned so far is that the high end mobile phone SoC can do quite good job in machine learning, image recognition and machine learning. Of course you need to train the system on some dedicated server but a modern SoC such as Helio X30 with its three-cluster ten cores, should do a good job. Transportation companies are expected to lead in the self-driving revolution and Uber is currently running trials in Pittsburg. Apparently even Apple wants a piece of this self-driving pie

The time seems right as there is a big interest for advanced technology that will lead toward assisted driving ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and eventually autonomous, self-driving cars. MediaTek has rather good cards in its hand as it can provide SoCs for infotainment, has its own in house modem, can power a digital animated dashboard and has a self-driving component too. Intel and Qualcomm are the other two who have self-driving, all kinds of digital displays and infotainment and have a 4G modem. Nvidia doesn’t have a modem but it was very clear last time it talked to Fudzilla about this subject. The Nvidia platform supports multiple modems but it doesn’t plan to revive its own in-house modem.

MediaTek believes that the automotive industry and car makers demand advanced technologies equipped with a blend of power efficiency, processing power and affordability. Since it has many chipset designs for mobile, home entertainment, connectivity and IoT that positions the company well to bring innovative multimedia, connectivity and sensor solutions to the automotive industry.

JC Hsu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the New Business Department Business Unit at MediaTek said:

“The demands of connected and autonomous vehicles require a unique portfolio of technologies. MediaTek’s core competencies create a natural progression for us to design for the future of driving.

We have a strong technology portfolio generated from $10 billion in research and development investment over the past 12 years from modem and RF advancements, computing technologies and connectivity to intelligent algorithms.

We are developing semiconductor solutions to make an impact in the automotive industry and are focused on core areas of in-vehicle Infotainment, Telematics and safety ADAS to further the evolution toward autonomous driving.”

MediaTek’s solution for automobile manufacturers will cover four key areas, including Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (Vision-based ADAS), Precision Millimeter Wave (mmWave) Radar, superior in vehicle Infotainment and Enhanced Telematics plus a wide variety of connectivity standards (Cellular 4G/3G/2G, Wi-Fi, BT/BLE ) and map-based applications.

Nvidia started early and got quite a few automotive designs with infotainment and has big aspirations about self-driving ADAS, but bear in mind that MediaTek, Qualcomm and Intel won’t give up this market without a fight. Power consumption will play a role at some point, as a solution that needs less energy will drive your car a few more miles that you will be able to spend on driving instead of poweing on board computing devices. But price difference will definitely play a big role.


Is Intel Going With AMD’s GPUs Inside?

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

amd-intelAlthough the information is scarce and there is certainly no confirmation from either Intel or AMD, the rumor states that these two companies have signed a licensing deal that should put AMD GPU in future Intel CPUs.

The rumor was started by Kyle Bennett, Editor-in-Chief at HardOCP, who is not known for posting information without something to back it up. HardOCP Forums, said that “The licensing deal between AMD and Intel is signed and done for putting AMD GPU tech into Intel’s iGPU. Intel in no way wants this to be public.”

This is a big surprise since AMD and Intel are always competing for the CPU market. AMD has done similar licensing deals before, with the latest being for x86 IP signed with THATIC (Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co., Ltd), a Chinese joint venture that will build SoC for the Chinese server market and with a total value of US $293 million.

Intel and AMD are tied with Intel with x86 patent agreements so, if this rumor is true, it won’t be anything new. Intel has been struggling to create a decent iGPU so it would make sense for Intel to make such a deal with AMD.

Intel has been in trouble with Nvidia for infringing some of its GPU patents, which ended with a settlement in 2011 where Nvidia got US $1.5 billion over six years and access to some Intel microprocessors patents but also left it without DMI/QPI bus and x86 license. A deal with AMD could probably solve Intel problems in that part of the market too.

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that either company will confirm this rumor but we guess that the cat will be out of the bag eventually, at least as soon as we get a better look at Intel’s future CPUs that could end up with AMD Radeon IGP.

In any case, it is a rather neat rumor to start the day.


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