back to article Arm says its Cortex-X3 CPU smokes this Intel laptop silicon

Arm has at least one of Intel's more capable mainstream laptop processors in mind with its Cortex-X3 CPU design. The British outfit said the X3, revealed Tuesday alongside other CPU and GPU blueprints, is expected to provide an estimated 34 percent higher peak performance than a performance core in Intel's upper mid-range Core …

  1. Alistair
    Windows

    Something is not quite right here.

    Arm claimed that it can provide an even greater boost in multi-threaded performance using a configuration of eight X3 cores and four A715 cores. The biz estimated this could increase multi-threaded workloads by 125 percent compared to a processor using one X2 core, three A710 cores, and four A510 cores from last year, based on a simulation of the design.

    I suspect there is an error in this paragraph, as the comparators do not line up appropriately, i.e *old config* is 8 cores, in a 1 - 3 - 4 mix and *newconfig* is 12 cores in an 8 - 4 - 0 mix, where I would expect a substantial increase in performance, *and* power consumption.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Something is not quite right here.

      Yeah pretty sure the 1-3-4 mix would be for smartphones, and the 8-4 mix for (high end) laptops. Not really comparable.

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        System targets

        Yeah, the 8-core example is for things like smart TVs and the 12-core one for laptops and PCs. I've made this clearer in the article - thanks.

        C.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: System targets

          Why on earth would TVs need that kind of grunt? Specialised instruction sets for decoding AV1, 4K, 8K, etc. PiP is done through the GPU so no need for lots of CPU power.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      That's the comparison Arm gave

      That's indeed the comparison Arm gave. 12 cores with the latest gen versus eight in the previous generation.

      So yes, there's a performance boost there, enabled by Arm's support for 12 cores in its latest DSU.

      C.

  2. bazza Silver badge

    Girding of Loins

    I wonder if ARM are getting close to the point of taking on Intel head on? It's a big ask, but with MS and Apple being ARMed up (especially Apple), and literally every open source operating system also being ready too, there is perhaps a market there to supply.

    1. msobkow Silver badge

      Re: Girding of Loins

      The problem has never been a lack of technology that could have competed with Intel, if they could only have gained a foothold against them. SPARC was viable; Motorola spawned several viable lines that could have continued if they had survived. Another old CPU instruction set/architecture is even being resurrected in the form of RISC-V, another architecture hoping to seriously compete with Intel (and with admittedly the best chance of doing so long-term due to Chinese buy-in on the technology.)

      The biggest issue with serving the markets isn't immediately obvious: you need a supplier that provides mil-spec cores for the instruction set. Without that, the military won't use your CPUs from any supplier, and without their buy in, an awful lot of tech companies are going to look elsewhere for their hardware and software stack.

      A lot of companies keep dreaming of the public just magically buying into their "better than Intel" architecture, but until someone can compete with Intel's mindshare they can't hope to compete with Intel's marketshare.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Girding of Loins

        DEC Alpha processors were the highest performing microprocessors on the planet for an entire decade, but Intel had the volume markets with Microsoft Windows for desktop, laptop, and server markets, and lots of businesses with legacy x86 applications, so Intel won.

        1. NeilPost Silver badge

          Re: Girding of Loins

          Well Intel acquired Alpha and with Compaq as it’s partner in crime shut it down in favour of Itanium.

          With Intel’s other catastrophic mistake of flogging it’s XScale/StrongARM business … the rest is history… helping lead to Samsung, NVidia,TSMC, Qualcomm etc and the rise of the non-Intel mobile chippery (now encroaching on desktop, server and edge) domination and Itanium being a dead end.

        2. _andrew

          Re: Girding of Loins

          I tried to buy a reasonable Alpha based system for most of that decade, even after Samsung produced a couple of lines with the usual PC-style PCI peripheral interfaces in it. Lots of press releases and magazine articles, but would anyone sell me one? No, they would not. Pretty hard to gain market share when you won't sell a system to anyone with money in their pocket.

          I'm in much the same situation right now with Arm: there are some pretty nice "server" parts that have been announced and are supposedly going into racks in data centers, but has it occurred to anyone to plop one on a MiniITX motherboard and sell it to me? Gigabyte claimed to have such a thing a few years ago, but no response to enquiry. As expected.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Girding of Loins

        It's not mindshare, it's cold hard sales tactics. Intel offers deals to manufacturers to be more or less Intel exclusive and Microsoft does something similar with volume deals for MS Windows, providing each and every machine comes with Windows pre-installed. Given that Window on ARM isn't ready for primetime yet, that's not changing any time soon. Then again, these designs will be for next year's chips with PCs towards the end of the year.

    2. Tom Womack

      Re: Girding of Loins

      They've already done it - Amazon has warehouses full of its c7g Arm-based units, Apple sells Arm processors by the million.

      Or is the only interpretation of "taking on Intel head-on" that you'd accept one in which Arm itself sells physical objects in the retail market to plug into sockets on motherboards, which they've been absolutely clear for twenty years they're never going to do.

  3. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

    Capability based CPU

    I'd like to suggest ARM add Capability Based Computing to its instruction set.

    https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~levy/capabook/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Capability based CPU

      October 2019: Arm announced Morello, an experimental CHERI-extended, multicore, superscalar ARMv8-A processor, System-on-Chip (SoC), and prototype board to be available from late 2021. Morello is a part of the UKRI £187M Digital Security by Design Challenge (DSbD) supported by the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, including a commitment of over £50M commitment by Arm.

      https://www.arm.com/blogs/blueprint/morello

      See also

      https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/research/security/ctsrd/cheri/cheri-morello.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Capability based CPU

        PS I know some people who have received their Morello capability enhanced Arm prototype boards, so it is real, not vaporware. It requires a huge software investment from the operating systems and other software vendors to adopt a capability architecture, hence the prototype board so that the industry can explore and experiment before - hopefully - moving to commitment.

  4. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Although it would be good to see ARM CPUs being able to compete with Intels top end laptop CPUs, I still don't see there is much demand for ARM Windows laptops, and that's partly MS fault by treating Windows on ARM as a second class OS, not even porting over a lot of their own software for years after launching.

    And although Chromebooks can have some success with ARM versions, they tend to be priced to compete with low end Celeron laptops rather than anything at the top end.

  5. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "The British outfit ..."

    You been listening to BoJo again?

  6. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Apples, meet Oranges.

    It looks like they are comparing a processor design, available in the near future, with an actual processor, that I can buy now. Is that fair?

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