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


View All Comments

  • Hector2 - Friday, May 17, 2013 - link

    There are only 3 companies right now left in the world who have the muscle and volume to afford high tech fabs -- Intel, Samsung & TSMC. And Intel has about a 2 year lead. That means not just higher performance and lower power than before, but lower cost. Making the chips smaller multiplies the number of chips on a single, fixed-cost wafer and lowers costs. If the chip area is 1/2, the costs to make it are about 1/2 as well. 22nm tech gives Intel faster chips with less power than their competition. 14nm hits it out of the park. Reply
  • BMNify - Wednesday, June 05, 2013 - link

    You're absolutely wrong about "lower cost". x86 requires more die area. The process is more volatile (more failed wafers).

    If we combine the 2 above factors with better performance, lower power consumption and toss in a lack of experience we get GT3e. A technological marvel that few (OEMs) want.
  • BMNify - Wednesday, June 05, 2013 - link

    Spot on Krysto - It's Intel's process advantage that is shining through. Soon they'll hit the point of diminishing returns and/or the rest of the market will catch up/get close enough. When I see AMD at 32nm (Richland) having lower power draw at idle than Intel at 22nm (Ivy Bridge) I wonder how special their "secret sauce" actually is.

    How long can Intel loss-lead? Probably as long as Xeon continues to make up for it but ARM is getting into the server market now too (looking forward to AMD and Calexda ARM SoCs for the server market). Should be interesting in 3-5 years
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    only issue, though, is when you put that richland chip under load. all of a sudden, intel is using much less power. Reply
  • t.s. - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    "The mobile market is far more competitive than the PC industry was back when Conroe hit. There isn’t just one AMD, but many competitors in the SoC space that are already very lean fast moving. There’s also the fact that Intel doesn’t have tremendous marketshare in ultra mobile."

    Well, with their 'strategy' back then when facing AMD (, they surely'll win. :p
  • nunomoreira10 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    It´s kinda suspicious that there are many comparisons against arm but none against Amd jaguar or even bobcat.
    jaguar will probably be a much better tablet cpu and gpu, while intel competes on the phone market.
  • Khato - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    Which AMD Jaguar/Bobcat SKU runs at 1.5 watts? They aren't included in the comparison because they're a markedly higher power level. Reply
  • nunomoreira10 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    they will both be used on fan-less tablet designs... Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    Totally different markets. Jaguar/Bobcat will likely line up next to low end Core/Haswell, not an Atom/Silvermont Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    Both will sadly be way to underpowered when it comes to the GPU, and that matters greatly on general OS's and applications like running a desktop OS X or Windows (or GNU/Linux) machine. You won't really be able to game on them at all as it's not smartphone games people want to run. GPGPU won't really be fast enough for anything and we talk about ~100-200 GFLOPs GPU-power on the AMD side for what is essentially a full blown computer.

    Intel is clearly targeting the phone market. Something AMD/ATI divested from years back with their mobile GPU tech going to Qualcomm (Adreno, which isn't Radeon-based) and Broadcom. ATIs/AMDs mobile GPU-tech was before that previously licensed to or used together with the likes of Intel (PXA/XScale – not integrated though), Samsung and Freescale among others. Their technology already is the mainstay of the mobile business and was departed from the company but in effect their technology know how was successful in the market without their leadership so why would they compete with that, of course they wouldn't.

    AMD simply has not and will not likely any time soon invest in an alternate route to dominate their own part of the smartphone/ARM-tablet market while Intel has with integrated designs replacing the custom ARMv5TE design. AMD going after ARM-business is different since they will license the core and their manufacturer GloFo already does manufactures and even offers hard macros for ARM-designs that they sell a bunch of to other customers already. It's also going after other embedded fields and the emerging ARM-server/appliance space all without designing custom cores.

    While PXA (Intel) was quite successful in the market, moving to x86 and doing away with stuff like ARM-based network processors, raid-processors allows Intel to focus on delivering great support for modern ISA across all sorts of devices, while it didn't make it into phones (until lately) like PXA which continued to power Blackberrys under Marvell, was the main Windows Mobile platform for years after Intels departure and so on it was able to become a multimediaplatform, and a widely adopted chip for embedded use, driving NAS-devices and the like. Thanks to the Intel purchase of Infineons Wireless portfolio including many popular 3G radios/modems and them forming a new wireless division their actual business and sales in the mobile market is also much higher than when they still had their custom PXA/XScale lineup. Plus they couldn't have competed with their XScale lineup without designing new ARM-ISA compatible cores/designs to be able to match Cortex A8, A9, A7, A15, Krait 600 etc. Plus puts them in a much better place to be a wireless/terminal supplier when they can support customers who want advanced wireless modems/baseband, Application processors, bt, wifi etc. While Nvidia will have Tegra 4i with integrated modem AMD couldn't offer anything similar as they have no team capable of producing radio baseband. Having modern compilers and x86-ISA sure makes it convenient now for Intel, as well as integrating their own GPU, just licensing ARM Ltd designs wouldn't have put them in a better position to continue their presence in the mobile field. They have basically developed and scaled their desktop GNU/Linux drivers in the Linux Kernel, added mobile features and so on years before they put the hardware and can leverage that software in mobile platforms (Android) but it makes sense and they don't have to rely on IP cores and third party drivers for graphics with the coming Bay Trail. They couldn't have shared that much tech if they were anything else then x86. Of course AMD won't be in the same place and scaling down a GPU designed for thousands of stream processors and Windows/OS X drivers to put it into phones is not the same. It would be awful if it is just scaled down to fit the power usage, even if Nvidia has kinda custom mobile gpu it's still worse then the competitors which has no presence in desktop computing. Drivers for QNX, Android/Linux, iOS etc is not the same as with Windows either. It takes a long time to start over when they did away with an okay solution (z460), and they haven't but other have and thats fine, there is more competition here then elsewhere. x86 is no stopper for Intel.

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