Three Dimensional transistors in the news again. Previously Intel announced they were adopting a new design for their next generation next smaller design rule for the Ivy Bridge generation Intel CPUs. Now ARM is also doing work to integrate similar technology into their ARM cpu cores as well. No doubt in order to lower Thermal Design Point and maintain clock speed as well are both driving this move to refine and narrow the design rules for the ARM architecture. Knowing Intel is still the top research and development outfit for silicon semi-conductors would give pause to anyone directly competing with them, but ARM is king of the low power semi-conductor and keeping pace with Intel’s design rules is an absolute necessity.
I don’t know how quickly ARM is going to be able to get a licensee to jump onboard and adopt the new design. Hopefully a large operation like Samsung can take this on and get the chip into it’s design, development, production lines at a chip fabrication facility as soon as possible. Likewise other contract manufacturers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) should also try to get this chip into their facilities quickly too. That way the cell-phone and tablet markets can benefit too as they use a lot of ARM licensed cpu cores and similar intellectual property in their shipping products. And my interest is not so much invested in the competition between Intel and ARM for low power computing but more the overall performance of any single ARM design once it’s been in production for a while and optimized the way Apple designs its custom CPUs using ARM licensed cpu cores. The single most outstanding achievement of Apple in their design and production of the iPad is the battery charge duration of 10 hours. Which to date, is an achievement that has not been beaten, even by other manufacturers and products who also license ARM intellectual property. So if the ARM design is good and can be validated and proto-typed with useful yields quickly, Apple will no doubt be the first to benefit, and by way of Apple so will the consumer (hopefully).
The newest generation of Intel chips was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some of the technology fanboi websites got early samples of chips and motherboards that use the new chips and chipsets. Aside from having the memory controller on the CPU, another benefit is the integrated graphics chip can be re-purposed to accelerate video transcoding. Intel calls it QuickSync, and I call it effing magic.
Quick Sync is just awesome. Its simply the best way to get videos onto your smartphone or tablet. Not only do you get most if not all of the quality of a software based transcode, you get performance thats better than what high-end discrete GPUs are able to offer. If you do a lot of video transcoding onto portable devices, Sandy Bridge will be worth the upgrade for Quick Sync alone.
For everyone else, Sandy Bridge is easily a no brainer. Unless you already have a high-end Core i7, this is what youll want to upgrade to.
Previously in this blog I have recounted stories from Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech.com surrounding the wicked cool idea of tapping the vast resources contained within your GPU while you’re not playing video games. Producers of GPUs like nVidia and AMD both wanted to market their products to people who not only gamed but occasionally ripped video from DVDs and played them back on ipods or other mobile devices. The amount of time sunk into doing these kinds of conversions were made somewhat less of a pain due to the ability to run the process on a dual core Wintel computer, browsing web pages while re-encoding the video in the background. But to get better speeds one almost always needs to monopolize all the cores on the machine and free software like HandBrake and others will take advantage of those extra cores, thus slowing your machine, but effectively speeding up the transcoding process. There was hope that GPUs could accelerate the transcoding process beyond what was achievable with a multi-core cpu from Intel. An example is also Apple’s widespread adoption of OpenCL as a pipeline to the GPU to send rendering requests for any video frames or video processing that may need to be done in iTunes, QuickTime or the iLife applications. And where I work, we get asked to do a lot of transcoding of video to different formats for customers. Usually someone wants a rip from a DVD that they can put on a flash drive and take with them into a classroom.
However, now it appears there is a revolution in speed in the works where Intel is giving you faster transcodes for free. I’m talking about Intel’s new Quick Sync technology using the integrated graphics core as a video transcode accelerator. The speeds of transcoding are amazingly fast and given the speed, trivial to do for anyone including the casual user. In the past everyone seemed to complain about how slow their computer was especially for ripping DVDs or transcoding the rips to smaller more portable formats. Now, it takes a few minutes to get an hour of video into the right format. No more blue Monday. Follow the link to the story and analysis from Anandtech.com as they ran head to head comparisons of all the available techniques of re-encoding/transcoding a Blue-ray video release into a smaller .mp4 file encoded in as h.264. They did comparisons of Intel four-core cpus (which took the longest and got pretty good quality) versus GPU accelerated transcodes, versus the new Intel QuickSync technology coming out soon on the Sandy Bridge gen Intel i7 cpus. It is wicked cool how fast these transcodes are and it will make the process of transcoding trivial compared to how long it takes to actually ‘watch’ the video you spent all that time converting.