Tag: CPU

Intel earnings Jump: it’s memory bundling

Intel Q4_14_Results

Intel released its fourth quarter 2014 results yesterday afternoon with income jumping 39 percent on improved demand for personal computer and server system chips. The company allowed that it is  expecting a somewhat flat first quarter for 2015 which led shares 1.9% lower in after-hours trading. The PC Client Group’s earnings improved by three percent while the Data Centre Group’s earnings improved by 25 percent. Overall revenue increased by six percent  year-on-year and gross profit margin exceeded 65 percent.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share earnings of 66 cents and revenue of $14.71 billion.

For the current first quarter, Intel projected revenue between $13.2 billion and $14.2 billion and gross margin of 60 percent, plus or minus a couple percentage points. Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of $13.76 billion and gross margin of 61.2 percent, according to Reuters.

For the year, Intel projected revenue to rise by a mid-single digits percentage rate and achieve a gross margin of 62% of revenue, plus or minus a couple percentage points. Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue to rise 4% and gross margin of 63.4%, according to Reuters.

PC Client Group Improves

Intel’s integral attachment to the PC market greatly affected earnings as the PC market growth slowed and consumer market demand was satisfied with less costly tablets and high capacity smartphones. The uptick in PC demand last spring has had a positive effect on earnings and aided in the company’s turnaround effort to become “the” dominant supplier in the mobile market. With Intel’s 14 nm manufacturing muscle Brian Krzanich is now “loaded for ARM” vowing to place 40 million Intel chips into tablets now dominated by ARM Holdings PLC.

3D 256 Gb NAND-Flash Bundling?

No mention was made by Intel of its  recently announced 3D 256 Gb NAND-Flash devices. Intel has what can only be called an obsession with its ability to control the memory side of the sales equation without owning any of the fixed assets to produce it.

Analysts have been wondering why Micron was not more upbeat on the announcement; it is,  after all the controlling partner in Intel-Micron Flash Technologies, Inc. (IMFT). Sources indicate that Intel will most likely begin bundling Processors and Memory kits with Intel claiming the lion’s share of margin leaving Micron to its own pursuits with its share of output.

Last but Not Least

The Data Centre Group is rumoured to be the earnings darling of the coming quarters with sources indicating market moving announcements over the first half of 2015. Those announcements concern Intel’s SDN for Cloud Computing efforts…




Hard drives may become CPUs

tornadoUniversity of Sheffield scientists believe that hard drives used for storage on computers could act as CPUs as well.

Dr Tom Hayward, from the university’s Faculty of Engineering, said: “Magnetic materials are useful for data storage because they can retain information without consuming energy.  A computer built around a CPU made of magnetic materials should be much more power efficient than existing technologies, as it should be able to function with minimal energy consumption.”

How can it be done?

The team said it is possible to create logic gates from magnetic materials.  “In wires of magnetic material, magnetism can form into swirling ‘tornadoes’, known as magnetic vortex domain walls,” said Dr Hayward.

The team used vortices where the magnetism turns clockwise to represent 0 and anticlockwise vortices to represent 1.

While the work so far has focused on simulations, the team is now ready to build experimental prototypes of logic gates and see whether they can be made smaller and run faster.

Assassins bemoan poor console chip performance

assassins-creedAssassin’s Creed Unity senior producer Vincent Pontbriand has waded into AMD’s console performance saying that his new game’s 900p frame rate and 30 fps target on consoles is a result of weak CPU performance.

He said that while the GPUs on the machines are really powerful and the graphics look good, the game was technically CPU-bound and the CPU has to process the AI, the number of NPCs we have on screen. All these systems running in parallel.

Speaking to Hot Hardware, Pontbriand  said game designers were quickly bottlenecked and it was a bit frustrating.

“We thought that this was going to be a tenfold improvement over everything AI-wise, and we realised it was going to be pretty hard. It’s not the number of polygons that affect the framerate. We could be running at 100fps if it was just graphics, but because of AI, we’re still limited to 30 frames per second,” he said.

The comments are being seen as damning AMD’s APU. The Jaguar CPU inside both the Sony PS4 and Xbox One has a relatively low clock speed and, while both consoles may offer eight threads on paper, but it appears that games can’t access them.

Pontbriand said that one thread is reserved for the OS and several more cores will be used for processing the 3D pipeline. Between the two, Ubisoft may have only had 4-5 cores for AI and other calculations. This means that the performance is about the same as the last generation of Xbox 360 and PS3 CPUs.  In fact these were clocked much faster than the 1.6 / 1.73GHz frequencies of their replacements.

To be fair it is hardly AMD’s fault. Microsoft or Sony could’ve specced out a variant of the core clocked at 2-2.4GHz and boosted total CPU throughput, but they didn’t. The programmable nature of the GCN architecture inside the Xbone and PS4 is meant to compensate for the relatively lightweight core, but AI calculations may simply be beyond this.  GPU calculations tend to be high latency, and AI typically requires fast response times.

Intel releases eight core desktop CPU

Core-i7-EE-chip-538x600Chipzilla has released its first eight core desktop CPU targeted at gamers and computer users who need a little extra.

Dubbed  Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition processor, the chip has 16 computing threads which, along with support for the latest DDR4 memory.  On paper at least it should create some of the fastest desktop systems yet seen.

Lisa Graff, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Desktop Client Platform Group claimed that the whole thing was a reinvention of the desktop’ which is a mantra Intel has come up with since the beginning of the year.  After all chucking more power at desktop units has never been tried before, and Intel seems to think that doing what it always has done is going to stop people saying that the PC is dead.

To be fair, outfits like Alienware seem to think that the eight-core extreme processor is pretty good too. It has installed it under the bonnet of its new Alienware Area-51. Using new overclocking and monitoring features in Alienware Command Center 4.0, it has got the processors to go like the clappers.

Intel has released a slightly less interesting six-core version and the prices in its new range start from $389 and range to $999.

Intel plans another “new era”

broadwellChipmaker Intel is has been telling hacks and hackettes that it is going to be lifting the kimono on a “new era” of hardware next month.

It’s unclear what Intel could be announcing at IFA 2014 on September 5, 2014, in Berlin, Germany.  The smart money is on the company applying liberal coats of candle grease to wax lyrical about its next gen CPUs.

For those who came in late, Intel is widely expected to release new 5th-generation processors based on the company’s Broadwell architecture towards the end of this year.

After all Intel has already spilled the beans on its Core M, a super-thin processor that could pave the way for ultra-thin laptops and hybrids. They have also talked about Llama Mountain, a concept device powered by Core M that’s only 7.2mm thick and wears a 12.5-inch display.

Intel’s IFA 2014 presentation could also contain more information about these two devices as well, but that would be old news.

Intel needs to grab a few headlines its Devil’s Canyon CPU was found to offer a modest performance boost over older Intel chips and was greeted by a loud sounding yawn from the press.

Semicon market shows signs of life

silicon-waferThe global semiconductor market appears to be recovering. According to Semiconductor Intelligence, the market was up 6 percent sequentially in the second quarter, which was the best result in two years. What’s more, the firm now expects to see six percent growth on an annual basis.

However, forecasts for 2014 are a mixed bag. Semiconductor Intelligence expects 15 percent of growth, while IDC sees only 2.9 percent and there are a few other outfits in the middle. The average forecast is 9.4 percent, reports Digitimes.

Guidance greatly varies from vendor to vendor. AMD is expecting 22 percent growth thanks to new design wins, we are guessing console custom chips. STMicroelectronics hopes to stay flat, but excluding wireless ST expects 3.5 percent growth. Samsung is not saying much, although it expects growth for DRAM, NAND and image sensors. Micron has not provided guidance either.

Semiconductor Intelligence expects much of the growth in the semiconductor market next year will be generated as a result of the improving global economy. However, the economy is still volatile and the same is true of the tech industry.

The real problem is that much of the growth appears to be coming from SoCs and memory, rather than big processors which tend to carry the highest margins.

PC slump may actually benefit AMD in long run

AMD, SunnyvaleIt is often said that a crisis is merely an opportunity in disguise. It is often said but it’s rarely true. However, the steep drop in PC shipments could in fact be good news for AMD.

Ten years ago AMD taught Intel a costly lesson in the high end, forcing Intel to regain its footing and invest heavily in R&D and manufacturing. As a result Intel squeezed AMD out of the high-end consumer CPU market, relegating it to the mid range and low end.

AMD wasted its opportunity, but eventually it picked up ATI a couple of years after its CPU design peaked. Things looked bright for a moment, just before they went terribly wrong. AMD suffered from poor execution and its high end chips just weren’t good enough to keep up with Intel. The K8 glory days are long gone and AMD is now a different company, it is fabless, but it also has plenty of IP, competitive graphics and very interesting APU and x86 SoC designs.

So how could the weak PC market benefit AMD, especially now that mobile chips are the new black, and AMD hasn’t got any?

Long upgrade cycles are one indicator that the era of “good enough” computing is already here. The average PC is more than four years old, few people need costly high end processors and attention is shifting to low end and mid range silicon. This is what AMD is becoming good at. Its new Jaguar based APUs are brilliant and they are superior to Intel’s current generation of Atoms. Richland based APUs aren’t as competitive, but they offer relatively good value for money and they are making inroads in the ULV market as well. The bad news is that AMD is still suffering from execution problems. Kaveri was supposed to replace Richland later this year, but it has been pushed back to early 2014, along with desktop Jaguar-based Kabini parts. AMD’s propensity for delays makes any forecast extremely difficult.

With very little need for Intel’s high-end x86 chips in the consumer market, gamers and professionals aren’t enough. This is an obvious opportunity for AMD and CEO Rory Read seems to get it. That might explain why AMD is focusing its efforts elsewhere. APUs are just part of the story, they were the logical next step in CPU evolution. AMD’s next big thing is custom chip design. The Xbox One and PS4 are based on Jaguar, with AMD graphics in tow. Now for some geeky figures.

Most people associate Jaguar with cheap and small APUs, but custom console SoCs are neither. Built using TSMC’s 28nm process, the SoC used in the Xbox One actually features eight Jaguar CPU cores, coupled with powerful graphics and plenty of SRAM embedded on the die. They pack around 5 billion transistors, while Intel’s mid-range Haswells are said to feature between 1.4 billion and 1.2 billion, depending on the SKU.

AMD hasn’t forgotten how to do huge, immensely complex chips – it’s just not doing big x86 cores anymore. Its high-end GPUs also have upwards of 4 billion transistors. What’s more, AMD can apply the same custom approach to server parts and it’s also working on ARM based server chips as well. This flexible, modular approach sounds very interesting indeed, but it’s still too early to say whether AMD will put it to good use in server chips, so to speak,  whether it will manage to find enough customers for custom parts, as the orders have to be relatively big to justify the expense of developing and producing such chips.

As far as AMD’s graphics business goes, it is doing rather well at the moment. Time and again AMD has proven that it can go toe to toe with Nvidia and win a few rounds. We’ve been looking at a virtual stalemate for the past five years. This year AMD managed to increase its GPU market share, despite the fact that Nvidia won nearly all Haswell notebook design wins. The trouble for Nvidia is that notebook graphics are a dying market. In the consumer space AMD is doing well, while Nvidia still maintains a big lead in high-margin professional graphics. The recent console wins should also help AMD’s consumer GPU business, as developers should find it easier to optimise their games for AMD’s architecture on three different platforms.

The big question is mobile. A couple of months ago Nvidia announced that it would license its Kepler GPU and future GPU IP to third-party ARM SoC builders. AMD has not made the same commitment, but some AMD graphics tech is already used in mobile chips, in the form of Qualcomm’s Adreno graphics. The ARM SoC business will continue to grow and we are bound to see more consolidation. Nvidia has a small presence in the ARM SoC market and if it is willing to license its technology to its own competitors, AMD could and should enter the market as well. It is worth noting that Adreno is running out of steam, as it is based on old AMD/ATI tech. We’re not sure it would make financial sense for Qualcomm to continue development in-house, it might reach out to AMD instead. There is very little overlap between Qualcomm and AMD at the moment, and such a marriage of convenience would make perfect sense. If that happens, AMD could end up with a huge market share in ARM SoC graphics, trumping Nvidia, ARM and Imagination.

AMD is still in a world of trouble, but looking ahead it might actually be in a better position to weather the storm than Intel, at least in the consumer space. High end chips and server parts are still Intel’s turf, although AMD could score some custom server wins in the future. Intel is pushing mobile now and it has a good chance of penetrating the market a couple of years from now, but in reality if AMD starts licensing GPU IP to the likes of Qualcomm, it could make heaps of cash in mobile, with a lot less investment and risk than Intel.

AMD slashes high-end CPU, GPU prices

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD has slashed the price of its flagship FX-9590 processor from a whopping £699 to just £299. That is the new channel price, reports KitGuru. To be honest, the FX-9590 was overpriced to begin with, so the cut comes as no surprise.

On the APU front, most prices are stable. Kaveri won’t hit the channel before February 2014 and AMD probably won’t mess around with Richland pricing over the next few months.

However, AMD is expected to launch new Volcanic Islands Radeons in late September and it appears it is already thinking about clearing inventory. The sweet-spot HD 7870 GHz edition is now available for as little as €149 on the continent, which appears to be a 10 percent price cut. The HD 7770 retail price also appears to be a bit lower than a few weeks ago.

The biggest drop, however, was reserved for the speedy HD 7970, which is now available for as little as €299 in European retail/e-tail. This appears to represent a 15 percent drop and it’s probably the result of Nvidia’s recent GTX 770 launch.