SoCs and Graphics

Intel isn’t talking about implementations of Silvermont today other than to say that it will show up in smartphones (Merrifield), tablets (Baytrail), automotive (unannounced), communications infrastructure products (Rangeley) and microservers (Avoton). Baytrail, the tablet implementation of Silvermont, will be available by the end of this year running both Windows 8 (8.1/Blue?) and Android. Silvermont based Merrifield phones will show up early in 2014.

What we know about Baytrail is that it will be a quad-core implementation of Silvermont paired with Intel’s own Gen 7 graphics. Although we don’t know clock speeds, we do know that Baytrail’s GPU core will feature 4 EUs - 1/4 the number used in Ivy Bridge’s Gen7 implementation (Intel HD 4000). Ultimately we can’t know how fast the GPU will be until we know clock speeds, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see something at or around where the iPad 4’s GPU is today. Given Intel’s recent announcements around Iris and Iris Pro, it’s clear that the mobile team hasn’t yet had the graphics wakeup call that the Core team just got - but I suspect the Atom group will get there sooner rather than later. Intel’s eDRAM approach to scaling Haswell graphics (and CPU) performance has huge implications in mobile. I wouldn’t expect eDRAM enabled mobile SoCs based on Silvermont, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see something at 14nm.

Penryn-Class Performance

When Atom first came out, I put its CPU performance in perspective by comparing it to older Pentium M based notebooks. It turned out that a 1.6GHz Atom performed similarly to a 1.2GHz Pentium M. So how does Silvermont stack up in PC notebook terms?

On single threaded performance, you should expect a 2.4GHz Silvermont to perform like a 1.2GHz Penryn. To put it in perspective of actual systems, we’re talking about around the level of performance of an 11-inch Core 2 Duo MacBook Air from 2010. Keep in mind, I’m talking about single threaded performance here. In heavily threaded applications, a quad-core Silvermont should be able to bat even further up the Penryn line. Intel is able to do all of this with only a 2-wide machine (lower IPC, but much higher frequency thanks to 22nm).

There’s no doubt in my mind that a Baytrail Android tablet will deliver amazing performance, the real unknown is whether or not a Baytrail Windows 8 detachable/convertible will be fast enough to deliver a good enough legacy Windows experience. I suspect it’ll take Airmont before we really get there by my standards, but it’ll be close this round for sure.

What’ll really be interesting to see is how Silvermont fares in smartphones. Max clock speeds should be lower than what’s possible in a tablet, but not by all that much thanks to good power management. When viewed in that light, I don’t know that there’s a more exciting mobile architecture announced at this point. The ability to deliver 2010 11-inch MacBook Air performance in a phone is insane.

The Silvermont Module and Caches Tablet Expectations & Performance
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  • t.s. - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    If Intel play fair few years back, maybe now we have competitive offerings from AMD. That practice Intel's doing hurt AMD alot. Until now. Reply
  • Homeles - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    I'm sure Anand would be drawing plenty of comparisons if he had a Temash tablet in hand. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    As an owner of two Bobcat systems (laptop/mini-itx), I don't think a 25% boost from Jaguar is going to get us into the realm of "good enough" cpu performance for general computing in Windows. The same goes for Intel unless Silvermont is significantly faster than Jaguar. I'm excited that Intel is finally bringing something interesting to the table, even if we end up two to three generations away from a good experience in Windows with their (and AMD's) mobile offerings. This sounds like it will make for a beastly dual core Android phone though, even at lower clocks. Reply
  • jjj - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    Hilarious difference in attitude when it comes to Intel.
    Tegra 4 gets into phones by "aggressively limiting frequency." while Intel " Max clock speeds should be lower than what’s possible in a tablet, but not by all that much thanks to good power management. "
    Objectivity at it's best.
    Reply
  • Homeles - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    Your scenario is a false equivalency. Reply
  • Krysto - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    Is it? I wouldn't accuse Anand of "objectivity" when it comes to Intel, whether it's on purpose, or involuntary. Reply
  • nunomoreira10 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    The point is tegra 4 was not exactly made for phones while Intel was, for that you have tegra4i

    its not exacly nvidia fault, everybody complained that tegra 3 was lacking, now tegra 4 which is competitive consumes to much, atleast there is a choice.
    Reply
  • Homeles - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    A15s are big cores in relation to its relatives. The only way to fit not 2, not 4, but *5* of them in a phone on 28nm is to downclock them agressively. Just like the only way to fit Ivy Bridge in a tablet is to downclock it agressively.

    Anand did point out that the "the only A15 SoCs we've seen have been very leaky designs optimized for high frequency," and that if power consumption were prioritized instead (which I believe Tegra 4i is supposed to be), it would be less of a blowout.

    It's silly getting defensive about stock ARM cores anyways. It's not an attack on Nvidia by saying their stock ARM cores aren't all too spectacular -- it's not like they poured blood, sweat and tears into making their A15s the best thing ever.

    Finally, Tegra 4 is on a process that is rather significantly inferior to Intel's 22nm process. You think Nvidia would have to downclock agressively if they were on a level playing field and using Intel's 22nm process? I sure don't. But jjj and others here feel the need to get defensive whenever songs of praise are being sung about Intel, even when it's well deserved.
    Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    I am in agreeance with what you said, but I do believe Tegra 4i is Cortex A9, not A15 like Tegra 4. Reply
  • Wilco1 - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    The Korean Galaxy S4 has a 1.8GHz Exynos Octa, Tegra 4 does 1.9GHz. In what way are these "aggressively downclocked"? They run at their maximum frequency! Reply

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