Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Intel Prepares Assault with 35W Quad-Core, Dual-Core Processors for Desktops

In addition to low-power quad-core processors for desktop computers, Intel Corp. also intends to release a broad family of chips with 35W thermal envelope designed for small form-factor, yet high-performance, desktop systems. The processors will be the same as the company’s mobile offerings in terms of specs, but will be compatible with desktop infrastructure.

As reported earlier, the first breed of 35W chips for high-performance desktops made using 45nm process technology will be released already this month, whereas additional chips will be added into family on the 28th of December, according to certain documents. The family of ultra low-power chips for desktop computers will include both dual-core and quad-core central processing units, which are projected to be compatible with already available LGA775
infrastructure.

















Last year Advanced Micro Devices released a broad lineup of desktop processors with 35W or 45W thermal envelopes, but the company has not updated that family for some time now and many chips have become outdated.

Even though the line of Intel’s 35W chips consists of microprocessors developed for mobile computers and it was not hard for Intel to change their packaging from FCBGA6/FCPGA6 to LGA775, the new products may face demand from numerous system builders and end-users, who are looking forward truly high-performance PCs in very small form-factors. Since AMD is unable to supply up-to-date offerings with 35W power consumption, Intel’s line will have no rivals on the market and the CPUs will not be very affordable.

Diversification of the product mix will also help Intel to boost its revenues and profits amid global economic downturn.

Intel did not comment on the news-story.

Intel Set to Refresh High-End Desktop Processor Lineup in Q2 2009

Intel Corp. plans to speed up its enthusiast-class and high-end desktop microprocessor lineup sometime in Q2 2009. Considering the fact that Advanced Micro Devices plans to introduce its high-end Phenom II microprocessors in early January, it is nearly evident that Intel is confident of its product family.

According to documents seen by X-bit labs, Intel plans to replace the Core i7 965 Extreme Edition processor with something more powerful in Q2 2009. At the same time, the firm will also introduce a chip that will be offer higher performance than current high-end Core i7 940 central processing unit. It is likely that in the second quarter of next year Intel will also release chips that will fit between the currently available models 920 and 940 in terms of performance and price.

Sketchy, without any specifications, details about the long-planned refresh point to the fact that Intel does not want to give its arch-rival any information about its future products and is also confident in competitive advantages of its own microprocessors against incoming AMD Opteron II central processing units.

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

Initially there are three Intel Core i7/Bloomfield processors for high-performance desktops available:

* Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition at 3.20GHz for $999 (in 1000-unit quantities)
* Intel Core i7 940 at 2.93GHz for $562 (in 1000-unit quantities)
* Intel Core i7 920 at 2.66GHz for $284 (in 1000-unit quantities)

All three chips have 4 cores, 1MB L2 cache (256KB per core), 8MB unified L3 cache, triple-channel DDR3 memory controller, simultaneous multi-threading technology. The new central processing units will require Intel X58-based motherboard with LGA1366 socket as well as sophisticated CPU cooler since all chips feature 130W thermal design power.

AMD’s Partners Initiate Shipments of 45nm Server Processors

Advanced Micro Devices said late last week that its highly-anticipated quad-core AMD Opteron microprocessors made using 45nm process technology code-named "Shanghai" are now available for purchase from leading server makers. The new chips are projected to deliver higher performance, lower power consumption as well as many other improvements.

“Flawless execution in bringing the 45nm quad-core AMD Opteron processor to market early results in new performance leadership on x86 servers. […] This enhanced AMD Opteron processor represents the most dramatic performance and performance-per-watt increases for AMD products since the introduction of the world’s first x86 dual-core processors by AMD nearly four years ago. Simply put, the quad-core AMD Opteron processor is the right technology at the right time,” said Randy Allen, senior vice president of computing solutions group at AMD.

According to AMD, the new quad-core Opteron chips deliver up to 35% more performance compared to predecessors thanks to higher clock-speeds as well as large 6MB level-three cache as well as up to a 35% decrease in power consumption at idle due to thinner 45nm silicon-on-insulator process technology.

The new AMD quad-core chips maintain socket and thermal compatibility with previous-generation chips in socket 1207 form-factor that also utilize dual-channel PC2-6400 (DDR2 800MHz) memory. As a result, server makers can easily install new microprocessors into existing machines as they do not need to test and validate their products once again.

Dell, IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems are ready with the new servers powered by 45nm quad-core AMD Opteron chips. In addition, many smaller local server makers will be able to create servers powered by the new central processing units.

The latest quad-core AMD Opteron processors with 75W thermal envelope and clock-speeds ranging from 2.30GHz to 2.7GHz are available immediately for both dual-processor and multi-processor servers; enhanced quad-Core AMD Opteron HE (55W) and SE (105W) processors planned to follow in Q1 2009. Pricing of quad-core AMD Opteron chips 8380, 8382 and 8384 for MP machines ranges from $1514 to $2149; models 2376, 2378, 2380, 2382 and 2384 for DP solutions ranges from $377 to $989.

Since server chips are sold at higher margins compared to desktop central processing units, it is a positive news that AMD has managed to start volume shipments of the new breed of chips. Still, the company will have to work hard in order to fight back market share from Intel, which it lost after its previous-gen AMD Opteron code-named "Barcelona" chip was released much later than anticipated and also faced delay of shipments due to a design glitch.

SuperSpeed USB Specification Now Available for Implementers

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group today announced the completion of the USB 3.0 specification, the technical map for device manufacturers to deliver SuperSpeed USB technology to the market.

“SuperSpeed USB is the next advancement in ubiquitous technology. Today’s consumers are using rich media and large digital files that need to be easily and quickly transferred from PCs to devices and vice versa. SuperSpeed USB meets the needs of everyone from the tech-savvy executive to the average home user,” said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF president and chairman.

SuperSpeed USB brings significant power and performance enhancements to the popular USB standard while offering backward compatibility with billions of USB-enabled PCs and peripheral devices currently in use by consumers. Delivering data transfer rates up to ten times faster than Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0), or at 4.8Gb/s, meaning that a file as large as 600MB could be transferred in just a second in the best case scenario, with optimized power efficiency, SuperSpeed USB is the next step in the continued evolution of USB technology.

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, comprised of Hewlett-Packard, Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., NEC Corp., ST-NXP Wireless and Texas Instruments, developed the USB 3.0 specification. The group now has transitioned the specification’s management to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the managing body of USB specifications. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group is now accepting adopters of the USB 3.0 specification, which has been finalized at the 1.0 level.

It is anticipated that initial SuperSpeed USB discrete controllers will appear in the second half of 2009 and consumer products will appear in 2010, with adoption continuing throughout 2010. The first SuperSpeed USB devices will likely include data-storage devices such as flash drives, external hard drives, digital music players and digital cameras.

Pirates Start to “Replicate” Blu-Ray Movies

The Blu-ray disc format was designed in order to stop software pirates from creating and selling movies in high-definition resolution. But while the copyright protection technologies do affect user experience and make consumers download new firmware, they do not stop pirates from selling pirated Blu-ray movies, it appears.

Authorities in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen last month unearthed a pirated warehouse collection with 800 of Blu-ray discs, reports theWall Street Journal. In fact, the media was not exactly Blu-ray with 25GB or 50GB capacities, instead, pirates sold consumers typical DVDs packaged like Blu-ray with video in 1280x720 resolution (720p).

Average consumers may not be able to determine whether he or she watches a true BD movie in 1920x1080 (1080p) resolution with high-quality audio, or a pirated movie in 720p with compressed moderate quality audio. Still, even 720p looks much sharper compared to usual DVD resolution. Since DVD media costs much less than Blu-ray blank discs, it made a lot of sense for pirates to use lower-cost solution.

"When we created the specifications for Blu-ray, we were very serious about trying to stem the tide of pirate discs regardless of where they were in the world," said Andy Parsons, a senior vice president at Pioneer Electronics’ Home Entertainment Group and the U.S. chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association promotions committee.

It is still possible to pull off high-definition video from Blu-ray using AnyDVD HD software from Slysoft. In fact, there are loads of web-sites that allow to download ripped Blu-ray copies. But since the media itself is pretty expensive, the popularity of such services is not high.

Even though counterfeited “Blu-ray” movies were discovered only in China, it makes sense for consumers in other parts of the world to ensure that what they buy are true Blu-ray discs, not DVDs packaged into blue boxes.

TSMC Begins Volume Manufacturing of Products Using 40nm Process Technology

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. on Monday announced volume production of the first semiconductor foundry 40nm logic manufacturing process with the successful ramp of its 40nm General Purpose (G) and Low Power (LP) versions.

TSMC’s 40nm G and the 40nm low power (LP) manufacturing processes timetables were formally announced in March this year. The 40G process targets performance-driven applications including central processing units, graphics processing units, chips for game consoles, networking applications, field programmable gate arrays (FPGA), hard disc drives and other devices. The 40LP process targets low-power applications including cellular baseband, application processors, portable consumer and wireless connectivity devices.

TSMC’s 40nmG and 40nm LP processes both passed process qualification, reaching “first wafers out” status as planned and completed product qualification in October when first customer wafers entered production. As with every TSMC process node, the 40G and 40LP processes offer a full range of mixed-signal and RF options, along with embedded memory to support a broad range of analogy/RF-intensive and memory-rich applications.

TSMC's 40G and 40LP processes offer designers up to a 2.35 times raw gate density improvement over the 65nm node. The 40G process is up to 30% faster than TSMC’s 65nm GP process at the same leakage, or up to 70% lower leakage at the same speed. In addition, it provides up to 45% lower active power than the 65GP process. The 40LP process provides up to 46% lower leakage and up to 50% lower active power than TSMC’s 65LP at the same speed. It also features the smallest SRAM cell size, 0.242um2, and macro size in production today.

Multiple customers at 40nm have adopted Reference Flow 9.0, a production-proven design infrastructure that allows designers to take full advantage of 40G and 40LP processes. TSMC’s Reference Flow includes a number of innovative power reduction techniques and tools that allow designers considering 45nm design rules to transparently target their designs to 40nm processes without explicitly dealing with a multitude of scaling factors. Reference Flow also facilitates enhanced timing, statistical design and design for manufacturing (DFM).

The 40nm process is one of the semiconductor industry’s most advanced available for production manufacturing process and is expected to play a key role in the development of next generation products in global consumer electronics, mobile, and computer end markets.

The first customers to adopt TSMC’s 40nm process technologies are graphics processors developers ATI, graphics product group at Advanced Micro Devices, and Nvidia Corp. Altera, a designer of field-programmable gate arrays.

“We view 40nm as an important process node for the cost-effective development of graphics chips and other devices, especially in 2009. This is another example of a long and successful history of AMD and TSMC ramping leading edge processes,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice-president and general manager at ATI, graphics product group at Advanced Micro Devices.

“High-performance GPUs are only continuing to grow in importance for a variety of industries. The advantages that TSMC's 40nm G process provides to designing a GPU will allow us to continue pushing the limits of what's currently possible,” said Debora Shoquist, Nvidia senior vice president of operations.