Allwinner was the No.1 vendor in Android tablet AP shipments worldwide for 2013. So the company got the above China Partner Award from ARM this April. (Note that ARM knows exactly who is the No. 1 from the royalty payments.) And now Allwinner is going to strengthen its position even more with the UltraOcta A80 SoC to be available in mass produced tablets from Shezhen by the end of May. This was also the reason why Allwinner’s booth at the recent China Sourcing Fair in Hong-Kong was built around the A80 message:
Allwinner’s latest flagship UltraOcta A80 application processor is a revolutionary advance in mobile processor technology. The A80 packs octa-core big.LITTLE CortexTM-A15/7 architecture, which means the following:
ARM big.LITTLE Technology Explained [ARMflix YouTube channel, April 8, 2014]
- The 3G version of Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 1.9 GHz octa core application processor in big.LITTLE configuration (Exynos 5 Octa 5420 [Nov 15, 2013], 4xA15 1.9 GHz + 4xA7 1.3 GHz cores).
- The Galaxy S4 i9500 has a 1.6 GHz octa core application processor (Exynos 5 Octa 5410 [April 8, 2013], 4xA15 1.6 GHz + 4xA7 1.2 GHz cores).
- Programming for Multicore & ARM big.LITTLE technology (GDC 2014) [ARMflix YouTube channel, March 21, 2014] at [6:17-6:55] is showing the real impact of big.LITTLE arrangements for which the second shows the performance improvement over Cortex-A15 alone. As far as the Antutu benchmark is concerned you could see that even for the latest v4 Antutu version the performance improvement is only 15%, while there is much power saving improvement:
So there is no surprise that in the latest ranking in Antutu benchmarks the big.LITTLE octa cores actually are performing only somewhat better than the normal quad-cores:
But you should not forget that in other benchmarks even the performance gain is much higher, as the 40+% in the case of CF-Bench (as was already presented on a previous chart).
Application usage is extremely diverse on tablets and smartphones: users listen to music, watch movies, browse the web, share photos, play games, send emails, and more. Each application requires different levels of processing power, and that means different applications run more efficiently on different cores. To deliver optimal efficiency, the Allwinner A80 features all-new CoolFlexTM technology that enables devices to seamlessly run different applications on different CPU cores – saving power by giving applications just the right amount of juice that they need.
Fast, smooth, and fluid graphics drive the user experience on premium devices. A80 features the lightning-fast PowerVR 64-core G6230 GPU* from Imagination Technologies, delivering industry-leading graphics performance and enabling console-class performance even on the most graphics-intensive games.
[* According to Imagination’s PowerVR Series6 GPU enables GPU leadership in Allwinner UltraOcta A80 processor [press release, Feb 25, 2014] was the world’s first octa-core heterogeneous SoC design to include a PowerVR Series6 GPU. The very first use of the Series6 technology was—however—with LG’s H13 is the first SoC to feature PowerVR Series6 graphics, aims at smart TVs [Imagination Blog, Jan 9, 2013]. ]
PowerVR GPUs, the leading solution for mobile graphics [Imagination YouTube channel, Sept 5, 2013]
Bringing advanced graphics to embedded devices [such as mobile phones and tablets] with PowerVR Series6 GPUs [Imagination YouTube channel, Sept 5, 2013]
Allwinner and Imagination at GDC2014 [Imagination YouTube channel, March 24, 2014]
– Allwinner UltraOcta A80 processor packs a PowerVR Series6 GPU with 64 cores [Imagination Blog, Feb 24, 2014]
– Graphics cores: trying to compare apples to apples [Imagination Blog, Feb 24, 2014]
– From PowerVR G6230 and G6430: family values gone ‘Rogue’ [Imagination Blog, July 9, 2012]:
A while ago we introduced the first PowerVR Series6 GPUs cores, the PowerVR G6200 and G6400, which are designed to offer the best performance while also keeping the smallest area possible and staying true to our ultra-low power approach. Here are Imagination Technologies’ Tony King-Smith, VP of Marketing and Kristof Beets, Business Development Manager, detailing some of the benefits of the new PowerVR Series6 architecture:
Imagination Technologies details Power VR series 6 – CES 2012 [EE Times YouTube channel, Jan 19, 2012]
With PowerVR G6230 and G6430, we’ve “gone all out”, aiming to set a new benchmark for high performance. They have been optimised for maximum efficiency but still manage to keep power consumption to a minimum even with an incremental increase in area. Consequently, they complement the G6200 and G6400 cores by delivering an unmatched power and performance per area rating without sacrificing anything from the Series6 standard feature set.
In addition to superior graphics performance, the A80 excels in multimedia with an advanced HawkViewTM ISP supporting cameras up to 16M, innovative video engine technology with 4Kx2K video encoding/decoding, high resolution displays up to 2560×1600, advanced HD DRM support, and low power LTE connectivity.
For premium devices, without the premium cost.
I copied a screen-shot from the end of the below video in order to present another important Allwinner strategy with UltraOcta A80. Note that:
- For Android, ChromeOS, Ubuntu and Firefox OS the adoptation of big.LITTLE is straightforward given they are all based on Linux kernel. Mass-market Android tablets will be available by the end of May, followed with Android TV boxes etc.
- With a tablet reference design available now, an additional momentum will come with the mass delivery of the already announced A80 Optimus Board in May for a very attractive, below $100 price. This is a universal development device with which the A80 SoC could be designed into any application.
- As far as Windows is concerned they already have it running on the 4xCortex-A7-based A31 SoC based tablets. For delivery this year they should negotiate the commercial issue with Microsoft, as well as make the optimization for Windows RT**, especially in terms of the A80 with big.LITTLE configuration. Here is the full video of their China Sourcing Fair exhibition from Charbax (Nicolas Charbonnier), the incredible video blogger:
[** Although the latest Windows RT 8.1 Update came out together with Windows 8.1 Update on April 8, there could be in the future a single Windows on ARM as a follow up to Windows Phone 8.1 as well. Windows Phone 8.1 came out in Developer Preview version on April 14. The RTM version is rumored to come out by the end of May.]
Windows RT on Allwinner A31/A80 Octa big.LITTLE in Tablets, performance/power [Charbax YouTube channel, April 13, 2014]
Further Specifications on Allwinner UltraOcta A80 [news release from the company, April 12, 2014]
With the debut of Allwinner UltraOcta A80-powered devices at the HongKong Fair 2014 today, further specifications on A80 are disclosed, including its support for 64-bit memory architecture, 4K multimedia processing, H.265, eDP, USB 3.0 and HSIC, etc. Related product videos and demos can be found at Allwinner’s booth (3H14, Hall 3, Asia World Expo).
Since its launch at CES 2014, Allwinner UltraOcta A80 has successfully drawn the attention of the industry with its industry-leading ARM big.LITTLE Cortex-A15/7 CPU and cutting-edge 64-core PowerVR G6230 GPU, aiming at delivering outstanding system performance at affordable price points.
Based on the big.LITTLE architecture, UltraOcta A80 is capable of achieving the best balance between peak performance and low power consumption by assigning intensive tasks like graphically rich gaming or HD video playback to Cortex-A15 cores, and less intensive tasks like emails to Cortex-A7 cores. Additionally, all the eight cores of A80 can work at the same time thanks to its HMP*** (Heterogeneous Multi-Processing) support, providing the highest flexibility and efficiency for the performance and power that is essential to the mobile CPU.
[*** More generally called Global Task Scheduling, especially by ARM]
High resolution is the new trend in mobile devices. A80 packs the latest 64-core PowerVR G6230 from Imagination Technologies to deliver high resolution graphics performance. Advanced graphics APIs are supported, including OpenGL ES 3.X, OpenCL 1.X, DirectX 9.3/10.0, etc. A80 also comes with interfaces like eDP, MIPI, HDMI to meet different display resolution requirements.
When it comes to multimedia processing, A80 takes the lead by supporting 4K video playback, 4K video capture, H.265 video codec, and 4K HDMI display, etc. Other noteworthy specifications include its supports for 64-bit memory architecture, USB 3.0, LTE HSIC, etc.
The A80 samples are available at this point, A80 OptimusBoard is expected to ship in May, and A80 powered devices can be expected at the end of Q2 2014.
From USB article in Wikipedia:
USB 2.0 High Speed Inter Chip (HSIC) is a chip-to-chip variant of USB 2.0 that eliminates the conventional analog transceivers found in normal USB. It was adopted as a standard by the USB Implementers Forum in 2007. The HSIC physical layer uses about 50% less power and 75% less board area compared to traditional USB 2.0. HSIC uses two signals at 1.2 V and has a throughput of 480 Mbit/s using 240 MHz DDR signaling. Maximum PCB trace length for HSIC is 10 cm. It does not have low enough latency to support RAM memory sharing between two chips.