ARM News

ARM returns to PC market

with 6 comments

Back in September 2009 ARM announced hard macro versions of the Cortex-A9 multi-core processor, and quickly followed this by confirming that a company had licensed it so they could be first to market with a product based on this new super-fast ARM chip. Fast-forward to September 2010 and it seems that the company in question has developed a new low-power, super-charged ARM powered PC.

Nufront is a Chinese company dedicated to Research and Development in many key areas such as Wireless telecommunication and SoC design. Out of this R&D comes their first system-on-chip, the NuSmart 2816 processor that is based on ARM’s cutting edge CPU technology. Incorporating the first hard macro dual-core Cortex-A9 design, the list of impressive specifications include:

  • 2 GHz clock speed
  • Up to 10,000 DMIPS performance
  • Mali-400 GPU core(s)
  • 1080p video decode
  • Fast DDR2/DDR3 memory interfaces
  • SATA II capability
  • Low-power consumption (<2W at 1.6 GHz)

The chip has been designed as a low-cost alternative to an Intel x86 chip found in over 80% of all Personal Computers. A prototype PC has been developed but is not yet ready for mass-market production, which is likely to be during 2011. No demonstration or benchmarks of their new PC is currently available, but it certainly sounds like a very impressive chip.

The processor has been manufactured by TSMC at their 40nm node process unlike most other ARM Application Processors that are 45nm or the older 65nm generation. So are any other companies likely to use this super-chip from china? Well, some months ago, a Motorola executive stated that they would be launching a 2 GHz dual-core ARM smartphone. It seemed very unlikely at the time as no chip manufacturer had announced such a processor. But now, it seems like Motorola could well be planning to consolidate its position as the top selling Android smartphone manufacturer.

The 2816 could usher in a new era of low-cost computing. China is renowned for offering the same product at much lower prices, so this 100% Chinese designed super-chip could well cause a seismic shift in the land of computing.

Not since Acorn Computers stopped trading in the late 90’s has there been a viable ARM PC that could challenge Intel based PCs. We don’t just expect computers based on this chip to match Intel Atoms, we expect them to blow them out of the water. We can’t wait to get our hands on one.

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Written by ARMnews

September 19, 2010 at 7:31 am

6 Responses

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  1. A few years ago, Microsoft introduced a “Media PC” which integrated Hard disc video recorder, Radio, CD/DVD player, internet access, PC games, and other PC applications. Plug it into your TV and Audio system and off you go.

    The problem was, it cost a lot because it had liquid cooling (my PC lives in the spare room because the 3 fans in it make too much noise), it ran Windows XP so it took minutes to boot up. On the other hand, the 50 Watts or so of power meant it was too hungry to be left on all the time. I didn’t buy one.

    But at 2W (6W TDP) and WiFi internet access, this thing fits the bill, and I can foresee my PC being consigned to the scrap heap, freeing up my spare room. Get Ubuntu on it and it will sell like hot cakes.

    Les

    September 22, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    • It certainly opens a huge market for ARM. The PC is slowly evloving into something more like a smartphone where silent, low power devices are a must.

      If Intel cannot deliver this, then ARM certainly can.

      ARMnews

      September 30, 2010 at 4:09 am

  2. Hi: I recently started reading “ARM News” here at armnews.wordpress.com. Would it be possible for you (wordpress.com?) to provide a link to each year’s post? i.e. 2010, 2009, 2008, etc.

    The way it is now, it’s hard with one glance to see what was posted in the past (say year 2009).

    Most companies do this for their press releases. Would be a huge help if you could do that here. TIA.

    fan

    September 27, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    • Hi there
      We are glad you find the articles of interest and have taken your suggestions on board.

      As a result we have replaced the latest article list with a drop down box where you can easily identify the posts by month and year.

      ARMnews

      September 30, 2010 at 4:18 am

  3. Above article ended with: “Not since Acorn Computers stopped trading in the late 90’s has there been a viable ARM PC that could challenge Intel based PCs. We don’t just expect computers based on this chip to match Intel Atoms, we expect them to blow them out of the water. We can’t wait to get our hands on one.”

    Can we look beyond the Atom then?

    Assuming above statement is true, then what’s next on the roadmap? When will future multi-core A9s and A15s be good enough to compete with the entire Intel line of today (Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, i7), and tomorrow?

    I am thinking of Apple’s roadmap for the Mac (both laptop and desktop). Is it thinkable that the entire Mac line may eventually move over to ARM? When will ARM’s technology be good enough for Apple to seriously consider this? (keep in mind the GPU has to be good enough as well, be it Mali or Imaginations or something else)

    There is huge financial incentive for Apple to do this because x86 and GPU chips are very costly (vs. Apple’s own SoC at $20 each). If Apple can pull this off, their margins would explode. They would also have the option of lowering prices to gain PC market shares. They would be able to push form factor design to the next level (smaller, thinner, lighter, less power, longer battery time, cooler, fanless, etc)

    Is this even thinkable? If so, when? With A15s? What’s coming after A15s?

    fan

    September 30, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    • I think it’s a question of marketing.

      ARM is currently recognised as the standard for portability, but the ARM people are asking the question “Why should power efficiency be restricted to mobile?” and there are a number of applications where that power efficiency should be a real selling point.

      I mention the media PC in my first post, and I think this is probably where the big market is, but there’s a lot of noise about making servers more power efficient using ARM CPUs to obviate the need for active cooling (air con). Also, I work in a college where the “computer rooms” become uncomfortably hot, even in winter, because of the heat generated by the PCs. If Marvell’s Mobylize project takes off, not only will schools benefit from a lower energy bill, but interaction between students and teacher will improve, because they’re not facing a PC set against the wall.

      Les

      October 2, 2010 at 7:39 am


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