Saturday, March 29, 2008

Intel to Offer Six-Core Microprocessors for Desktops in 2010

Even though Intel Corp.’s chief executive officer once promised to start shipping octa-core microprocessors based on Nehalem micro-architecture in 2008, there will be now processors with eight cores for mass desktop market for a while. According to unofficial information, high-end desktop processor code-named Westmere due in 2010 will have six cores.
Intel’s first processor from the Nehalem family aimed at servers, workstations and high-end desktops code-named Bloomfield that is due in the second half of 2008 and is made using 45nm process technology will have four processing engines with simultaneous multi-threading technology, built-in triple-channel memory controller, 8MB of shared L3 cache as well as QuickPath interconnect bus.

Intel’s code-named Westmere processors, which are second-generation Nehalem micro-architecture processors for servers, workstations and high-end desktops, will be made using 32nm process technology and will not have many differences compared to code-named Bloomfield chips apart from six processing cores and 12MB of L3 cache. Still, it will also have certain minor enhancements, e.g., code-named La Grande SX technology (enhanced Trusted Execution Technology), AES-NI encryption support and some other, reports PC Watch web-site.

Thanks to multi-threading technology, Westmere chips will be able to execute up to 12 threads at once.

Just like Bloomfield, the six-core Westmere processor will utilize LGA1366 form-factor, though, it is unclear whether the chips will be able to share the same platform.

Officials from Intel Corp. did not comment on the news-story.

Advanced Micro Devices Formally Unveils World’s First Triple-Core x86 Microprocessors

Advanced Micro Devices late on Wednesday unveiled the world’s first x86 desktop microprocessors. The announcement is purely formal as earlier the company already confirmed that it had begun shipments of its AMD Phenom X3 processors to customers among large system builders.

“AMD understands that today’s PC applications are best accelerated with a range of multi-core products from quad- to triple- to dual-core processors, and that’s why we now deliver the broadest multi-core desktop lineup in the industry,” said Bob Brewer, corporate vice president of strategic marketing at AMD.

AMD Phenom X3 8000 triple-core microprocessors are based on AMD’s latest micro-architecture and have 1.5MB level-two cache (512KB per core) as well as 2MB of unified level-three cache. Initially AMD ships only two models: AMD Phenom X3 8400 at 2.10GHz and AMD Phenom X3 8600 at 2.30GHz. Both models are based on the B2 stepping of the Phenom chips which feature well-known TLB erratum which is fixed by BIOS or software update.

The world’s second largest maker of x86 microprocessors does not produce specially-designed chips with three cores, but disables a core in its quad-core AMD Phenom microprocessors, which substantially improves manufacturing efficiency of the company and allows it to sell chips with a [disabled] processing engine that does not work properly.

At first AMD Phenom X3 microprocessors will be positioned as cost-efficient multi-core solutions for users not seeking for ultimate performance in games and other demanding applications, but in the next few quarters the clock-speed of AMD Phenom X3 chips will gain clock-speed and become a good choice for gamers, said Leslie Sobon, director of desktop product marketing for AMD.

The number of chip models as well as shipments of triple-core AMD Phenom X3 microprocessors will also improve greatly in the incoming quarters as AMD plans to aggressively ramp up manufacturing of multi-core chips, Ms. Sobon said. Nevertheless, she acknowledged that single-core and dual-core microprocessors will still dominate shipments of AMD’s central processing units.

The AMD Phenom X3 8400 will be priced in the neighborhood of ~$150 and the model X3 8600 will cost around $175, AMD said. The company does not reveal exact pricing as the chips are available for system integrators only.

THX Believes in Blu-Ray, Clarifies Comments by Scientist

THX, a Lucasfilm subsidiary, said on Friday that its chief scientist never said that the future of Blu-ray disc format in the movie industry was doomed. Instead, THX fully supports the Sony- and Philips- developed format, though, there are other possibilities to distribute movies.

Recently Laurie Fincham, director of research and development for the THX division of Lucasfilm said in an interview that it was too late for Blu-ray format as end-users would shortly demand high-definition movies on flash memory cards. He also said that downloads of movies will also make a lot of sense.

“Personally, I think it’s too late for Blu-ray. I think consumers will only become interested in replacing DVD when HD movies become available on flash memory. Do we really need another spinning format?” he said.

Officials for THX were quick to issue a statement claiming that the company fully supports Blu-ray disc format and the perception of its chief scientist’s claims were rather a misunderstanding.

“Neither THX nor Mr. Fincham have ever stated that “Blu ray has no chance” or is on the demise. Quite the contrary, THX is dedicated to supporting Blu-ray with many new technologies, certification programs and other initiatives. Mr. Fincham was simply discussing the future of movies on downloads, optical discs and other emerging media,” said Graham McKenna, senior manager of global public relations at THX.

Considering the fact that many consumers nowadays do not see the value in Blu-ray movies compared to DVD, the Blu-ray disc association will have to prove advantages of Blu-ray to end-users. Considering that many consumers these days rent or download movies from the Internet, it is natural that certain analysts will doubt that Blu-ray will share the destiny with DVD.

HD DVD Promotional Group Dissolves Itself

Following Toshiba Corp.'s cancellation of HD DVD support, other companies involved in promotion of the format have decided to cease their efforts as well. On the 28th of March the HD DVD promotion group said that it dissolves.

"The HD DVD Promotion Group was dissolved as of March 28, 2008, and the website was closed accordingly. Please access to DVD Forum for HD DVD formats, and DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation for format books and its license. Regarding the HD DVD products, please contact each selling agency directly," a short statement located on the web-site of the group reads.

With no support from any company among the 70 backers of the HD DVD, which were in promotional group, the are almost no chances that the format will continue to be on the market in any form. Still, it is possible that companies like LG Electronics will continue to support existing movie collection with players capable of both Blu-ray disc and HD DVD playback.

Back in mid-February Toshiba announced that it would stop making HD DVD equipment and will not support the format any longer. Following the announcements, studios who exclusively backed HD DVD - Paramount/Dreamworks and Universal Pictures - announced plans to release movies on Blu-ray disc format. As a result the future of HD DVD was doomed.

Nvidia Set to Develop Chipsets for Via Microprocessors - Reports

There is no secret that both Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp. are pushing their own platforms consisting of microprocessors and chipsets with or without their own integrated graphics core. As a consequence, companies who sell their own core-logic sets compatible with AMD or Intel chips do not have a lot of success opportunities. Considering the situation, Nvidia Corp. decided to offer core-logic for microprocessors developed by Via Technologies.

Nvidia Corp., the world's largest supplier of discrete graphics chips and a developer of chipsets for AMD and Intel processors, will offer core-logic dets for Via Isaiah microprocessors, various reports claim (1, 2). The decision is needed to stay on the market of chipsets, where the leading developers of x86 microprocessors expanding currently, and also rival AMD and Intel with low-cost low-power x86-based platform.

It is believed that Nvidia and Via has signed a strategic partnership under which Nvidia will offer feature-rich chipsets compatible with Via microprocessors.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that Via Technologies will cease to develop its own chipsets for its processors. Via's wholly-owned subsidiary S3 Graphics will also continue to develop discrete graphics chips.

Nvidia has an arsenal of feature-rich chipsets for AMD and Intel platforms. However, microprocessors from Via use proprietary bus incompatible with competing central processing units (CPUs), which means Nvidia will have to considerably redesign existing core-logic sets to make them work with Via CPUs. It is also crucial for Nvidia to make its Via-compatible chipsets low-power and low-cost so that to address the markets of inexpensive systems with low energy consumption.

Neither Nvidia nor Via commented on the news-story.

AMD Intros New Quad-Core Processors with Higher Performance

Advanced Micro Devices, the world’s second largest maker of x86 central processing units (CPUs), unveiled this week its new quad-core AMD Phenom X4 microprocessors that lack the well-known TLB erratum and also boast higher clock-speed compared to predecessors, thus, providing higher performance and efficiency.

“These new AMD Phenom X4 processors unlock even greater visual computing performance to showcase the unparalleled scalability of the AMD enthusiast platform,” said Mario Rivas, executive vice president of computing solutions group at AMD.

As expected, AMD unveiled AMD Phenom processors 9550 (2.20GHz), 9650 (2.30GHz,), 9750 (2.40GHz) and 9850 Black Edition (2.50GHz) which feature 2MB of level two cache (512KB per core) as well as 2MB of level-three cache. All the chips utilize B3 stepping of the core that lacks TLB erratum present on B2 stepping central processing units. All the new microprocessors have 95W thermal design power (TDP), except model 9850 Black Edition and certain versions of model 9750, which have TDP of 125W.

Earlier AMD could only offer quad-core microprocessors for desktops at 2.20GHz and 2.30GHz clock-speeds, which substantially limited the company’s ability to successfully compete against Intel’s quad-core chips on the market. But while, according to performance benchmarks by X-bit labs, performance-wise AMD Phenom X4 chips are not as fast as Intel Core 2 Quad, price-wise the new chips by AMD are truly competitive.

“The most important thing is that AMD have adjusted their price policy in a very smart way. Namely, the official price for AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition processor is set at $235, which is less than what the cheapest quad-core Intel processor is currently selling for. AMD Phenom X4 9750 will be offered for $215, while the youngest model – Phenom X4 9550 – is priced at $195,” said Ilya Gavrichenkov, CPU and platform analyst at X-bit labs.

The new chips from AMD are available commercially now.

Intel Adds Two New Low-Voltage Quad-Core Processors into Lineup

Intel Corp. this week added two new low-voltage quad-core Intel Xeon processors into the lineup, boosting overall performance and reducing power consumption of each core down to 12.5W, an exceptionally low figure. The new chips, which are made using 45nm process technology, will allow Intel’s partners to create low-power high-density servers with considerably higher performance.

Intel’s new microprocessors are quad-core Intel Xeon L5420 and L5410 chips that operate at 2.50GHz and 2.33GHz, respectively. Both central processing units utilize 1333MHz processor system bus (PSB) and feature 12MB of level-two cache. The new low-voltage Xeon processors are intended for dual-processor (DP) servers or workstations and have only 50W thermal design power (TDP), or 12.5W per core.

Previous-generation low-voltage Intel Xeon processors with 50W TDP for DP machines operated at clock-speeds in the range of 1.60GHz – 2.00GHz and featured 8MB of L2 cache, thus, providing substantially lower performance.

“Using Intel’s hafnium-infused high-k metal gate transistors has allowed our quad-core 45nm low-voltage server chips to attain new heights in power-efficient performance. These chips deliver the speed needed while using meager amounts of energy,” said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel’s server platforms group.

Next quarter, Intel will also begin shipping a new dual-core low-voltage processor that will boast a 40W TDP and clock speed of 3.0GHz, with a 6 MB cache size and a 1333MHz PSB. Intel is also extending the existing quad-core Intel Xeon processor 5400-series for embedded market segments by offering the processor model L5410 with support for a 7-year life cycle.

Intel quad-core Xeon processor L5410 and L5420 are priced at $320 and $380, respectively, in 1000-unit quantities.

TSMC to Make Chips Using 40nm Fabrication Process

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a leading contract maker of semiconductors, on Monday unveiled the foundry's first 40nm manufacturing process technology. The new fabrication process is an optical shrink of TSMC's 45nm process tech and will allow customers of the company to cut-down their manufacturing costs without significant additional investments.

"Our design flow can take designs started at 45nm and target it toward the advantages of 40nm. A lot of TSMC development work has gone into ensuring that this transition is truly transparent. Designers need only concentrate on achieving their performance objectives," said John Wei, senior director of advanced technology marketing at TSMC.

The new node supports a performance-driven general purpose (40G) technology and a power-efficient low power (40LP) technology. It features a full design service package and a design ecosystem that covers verified third party IP, third party EDA tools, TSMC-generated SPICE models and foundation IPs. First wafers out are expected in the second quarter of 2008.

The 45nm node provided double the gate density of 65nm, while the new 40nm node features manufacturing innovations that enable its LP and G processes to deliver a 2.35 raw gate density improvement of the 65nm offering. The transition from 45nm to 40nm low power technology reduces power scaling up to 15%.

TSMC has developed the 40LP for leakage-sensitive applications such as wireless and portable devices and its 40G variant targeting performance applications including central processing units, graphics processing units, chips for game consoles, networking, FPGA designs and other high-performance consumer devices.

The 40nm footprint is linearly shrunk and the SRAM performance is fully maintained when compared to its 45nm counterpart, its SRAM cell size is now the smallest in the industry at 0.242┬Ám2.

The 40nm process employs a combination of 193nm immersion photolithography and extreme low-k (ELK) material. The logic family includes a low-power triple gate oxide (LPG) option to support high performance wireless and portable applications. Both the G and the LP processes offer multiple Vt core devices and 1.8V, 2.5V I/O options to meet different product requirements.

TSMC’s CyberShuttle prototyping service can be booked for 40nm designs in April, June, August, October and December this year and first wave 45/40nm customers have already used above 200 blocks on completed multi-project wafer runs. The 40G and LP processes will initially run in TSMC’s 12" wafer Fab 12 and will be transferred to Fab 14 as demand ramps.

Acer to Introduce Rival for Asustek's Eee PC

Acer, a leading maker of personal computers, plans to roll out a low-cost system that will be even more affordable than Asustek Computer's Eee PC., market rumours say. There is almost no information about Acer's entry-level personal computer (PC), but the device is projected to become available in May, 2008.

A news-story at DigiTimes web-site claims that Acer plans to sell the low-cost PC with 8.9" screen for $250 - $300, which is lower compared to Asus Eee PC with 8.9" screen. End-users should be able to get Acer's affordable computer for about $350 - $400, it is reported. It is unclear which microprocessor and core-logic will be used by one of the world's largest makers of PCs to power the entry-level system, however, a natural guess will be Intel Atom, which is gaining popularity among system makers.

Asustek demonstrated its Asus Eee PC with 8.9" screen at CeBIT 2008 in Hannover, Germany, whereas Acer yet has to reveal details about its device in the coming months.

Low-cost computers are projected to take a significant market share in 2008 due to present economic conditions in the U.S. and some other countries. Many PC manufacturers see entry-level systems as a way to boost their revenues and enter new markets, however, there are also companies who do not believe in affordable computers. For example, Sony Corp. sees competition between Asus Eee PC and its future competitors as a "race to bottom", where is no place for innovation.

Acer did not comment on the news-story.