interesting tidbits about ARM CPU pricing from 2nd tier makers

pxc

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http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-...-Calling-Did-Allwinner-outsell-Intel-Qualcomm

(ignore the title, it's speculation long, fact short)

Sravann Kundojjala, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics pointed out that the Chinese vendors are selling dual-core ARM chips at $4 or $5 and quad-cores at $8 or $9, less than half what Nvidia is selling its equivalent chips for and so probably the Chinese vendors, while significant in volume, do not yet have 10 percent of the market by value.

These are probably for Cortex A7-based models (ARMv7 ISA like A9, in-order execution like A8, higher clock speed to make up for lower IPC), but that's still impressive. An entire quad core SoC for only $8 or $9? Wow, that's cheap.
 

Peteman100

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Sure. But horrible software support makes them a bad option, no matter the price.
 

pxc

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What do you mean? Many of the SoCs mentioned, particularly Allwinner's models, go into Android Jelly Bean tablets and handsets and work as well as other chips running the same OS, considering the differences in CPU/GPU performance. Even many of the low cost tablets using those have support for Google Play.

I'd understand your comment if it were about low cost MIPS chips, since those do have horrible Android software support, but the article is about ARM processors (Cortex A7 or A9) which certainly don't have "horrible software support". :confused:
 

PurduEE

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What do you mean? Many of the SoCs mentioned, particularly Allwinner's models, go into Android Jelly Bean tablets and handsets and work as well as other chips running the same OS, considering the differences in CPU/GPU performance. Even many of the low cost tablets using those have support for Google Play.

I'd understand your comment if it were about low cost MIPS chips, since those do have horrible Android software support, but the article is about ARM processors (Cortex A7 or A9) which certainly don't have "horrible software support". :confused:

If I had to guess, his comment is essentially saying that it won't run Windows 8, which, to his mind, is the paragon of software.
 

kirbyrj

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I think he means more that there are less firmware updates to "older" models. What you get on purchase is the last upgrade you're likely to get.
 

PurduEE

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Assuming it is a Cortex A7, that product is brand new. ARM product numbers appear to have more to do with capability (i.e., A7 < A15), rather than numbering products based on release date.
 

rudy

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What's amazing is just the pricing in general a high end ARM SOC goes for $15 maybe $30? this is why people are pushing tablets so hard because they can charge as much for a tablet as they can for cheaper but still full PC but the CPU is like 1/8 the price meaning pure profit. IMO there is no way this will ever be rectified on intels front until they just strait up lower prices on their x86 chips. Because chances are ARM chips are not going to get more expensive over time. IMO ARM CPUs have not offered us much value because the profit margins on the devices are just way too high. But it seems we should be able to see tablets and phones come way down in price and still be profitable.
 

pxc

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Yeah, but I don't think many manufacturers get the huge margins Apple does, which are around 40% (or higher) for mainstream, high volume products. That rivals what other manufacturers get for high end products, but comprising a much smaller portion of overall sales.
 

Metaluna

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What this article is saying, in essence, is that ARM has commoditized the CPU into oblivion. In a few years, it won't even be worthwhile to hold an ARM license to make power-saving or performance tweaks. The margins will be so tiny that you will never get any ROI.

This is good news for companies like Apple and Samsung, because they have very vertical control of their entire supply chain from chips to tablets, so they can make their margins on the finished products. It's probably bad news for companies who only make chips (e.g. Intel, Nvidia, AMD), and don't have diversified product lines like Qualcomm and Broadcom. It will be interesting to see if anyone can make money with the notion of a "premium" ARM chip with high-end GPU or with special features targeted for microservers. That seems to be what Nvidia and AMD are banking on. I kind of doubt it though.
 

Gman1979

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I'm not familiar with how ARM licenses are structured, but are the licensees allowed to make their own improvements to the core designs?
 

Spazturtle

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What's amazing is just the pricing in general a high end ARM SOC goes for $15 maybe $30? this is why people are pushing tablets so hard because they can charge as much for a tablet as they can for cheaper but still full PC but the CPU is like 1/8 the price meaning pure profit. IMO there is no way this will ever be rectified on intels front until they just strait up lower prices on their x86 chips. Because chances are ARM chips are not going to get more expensive over time. IMO ARM CPUs have not offered us much value because the profit margins on the devices are just way too high. But it seems we should be able to see tablets and phones come way down in price and still be profitable.

An Intel 3770k costs around £15, the profit on CPUs is always huge.
 

kirbyrj

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There must be R&D for ARM cpus too, and fabs.

ARM does the R&D and licenses the tech and it's much less costly to fab because of the nature/complexity of RISC vs. CISC (most places farm out the fab work to someone else...Apple -> samsung, etc.).
 

rudy

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But is ti 10x the cost for intel lol?

Also kirbyrj your statement has some logical anomalies in it. Just because you do not directly pay for a cost does not mean the cost is gone. ARM has to charge enough money in licensing to pay all their costs and make money that is unless the UK is subsidizing it. Like wise all the Asian Fabs at Samsung, TMSC and so on also must charge enough to make money. In fact one could argue that since each of those separate entities all have to make a profit that the costs could be higher for complete implementation of ARM. Lets not forget all the in house engineers to string company X or Ys GPU, or other parts into your chip. So there is still R&D and Fabs, the only difference then that makes sense is your argument that RISC is just less complex and therefore cheaper to make period. In that case you have to say that Intel is screwed because no change in their fabs or engineering will fix that unless they build new architectures that are easier to implement in the whole process.
 

Cheetoz

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The article seems to imply that both these Chinese vendors and Nvidia don't just buy the ARM ISA, but the physical architecture as well, but nvidia just stamps their name on it and sells it for more...

Is this the case? Is Qualcomm the only one doing custom design?
 

kirbyrj

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But is ti 10x the cost for intel lol?

Also kirbyrj your statement has some logical anomalies in it. Just because you do not directly pay for a cost does not mean the cost is gone. ARM has to charge enough money in licensing to pay all their costs and make money that is unless the UK is subsidizing it. Like wise all the Asian Fabs at Samsung, TMSC and so on also must charge enough to make money. In fact one could argue that since each of those separate entities all have to make a profit that the costs could be higher for complete implementation of ARM. Lets not forget all the in house engineers to string company X or Ys GPU, or other parts into your chip. So there is still R&D and Fabs, the only difference then that makes sense is your argument that RISC is just less complex and therefore cheaper to make period. In that case you have to say that Intel is screwed because no change in their fabs or engineering will fix that unless they build new architectures that are easier to implement in the whole process.

Ok then...RISC is just less complex and cheaper to make.
 

Cheetoz

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In that case you have to say that Intel is screwed because no change in their fabs or engineering will fix that unless they build new architectures that are easier to implement in the whole process.

They realized this in like 2000. Intel CPUs are a RISC architecture.
 

Cheetoz

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No they aren't. At best it's a CISC/RISC hybrid. Definitely owes more to CISC than RISC at this point.

So they send CISC instructions to one part of the pipeline, and RISC to the other?

That would be a mess.
 

jwcalla

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The article seems to imply that both these Chinese vendors and Nvidia don't just buy the ARM ISA, but the physical architecture as well, but nvidia just stamps their name on it and sells it for more...

Is this the case? Is Qualcomm the only one doing custom design?

Qualcomm and Apple are doing custom core designs. NVIDIA does a custom CPU but uses ARM-licensed cores like Cortex-A9, etc. Samsung tends to do vanilla ARM CPUs, as did TI I believe. There are a variety of different GPU designs being used, including the Mali that's licensed from ARM.


Regarding the cost situation. The Atoms are pretty competitive from a cost perspective (I think they're like $35ish too). So the cost is very much based on the market. The 3770K can sell for $300 because that's what the market can sustain. I suspect that is a huge profit margin for Intel. I can't imagine that a 3770K is significantly more expensive to produce than an Atom. There is the potential that the bottom might fall out here when many people are no longer willing to pay $300 for a processor.
 

Darakian

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So they send CISC instructions to one part of the pipeline, and RISC to the other?

That would be a mess.

IIRC x86 is a CISC instruction set and intel/amd translate that CISC code into RISC code internally on the chip.
 

Red Falcon

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IIRC x86 is a CISC instruction set and intel/amd translate that CISC code into RISC code internally on the chip.

You would be correct.
In other words, it's RISC packaged within CISC, though all x86 processors are technically defined as a CISC processor.
 

pxc

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You would be correct.
In other words, it's RISC packaged within CISC, though all x86 processors are technically defined as a CISC processor.
Well, that's confusing. ;)

To be more correct, both Intel (since Pentium Pro in 1995) and AMD (since K5* in 1996) have broken down CISC instructions to one or more RISC-like micro-ops, which is what is executed by the integer pipelines. Intel's last CISC processor, which directly executed CISC instructions, was the Pentium MMX**. Similarly, AMD's last processor to do the same was its Am5x86.

You can label the x86 instruction set CISC, but it's hard to call somewhat modern x86 processors "CISC" because they're more of a hybrid between CISC (instruction set) and RISC (execution). Even modern "RISC" processors like ARM and PPC are far more complex than classic RISC architecture and share many performance improvement tricks with modern semi-CISC processors. There are still somewhat significant differences between the two types, but it's not as sharply divided as it was back in 1994.

* the K5 reused the AM29K (AMD RISC processor) execution back end.

**the "new" Intel Quark X1000, based on the 486, is a classic CISC design.
 
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