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Linley Wire

Analysts’ Choice Award Winners

January 23, 2012

Author: Linley Gwennap

To recognize the top processor products of the year, The Linley Group presents its 2011 Analysts’ Choice Awards. To choose each winner, The Linley Group’s team of technology analysts gathered to discuss the merits of the leading products that entered production (or, in the case of IP, released to RTL) in 2011. We selected the winners on the basis of their performance, power, features, and cost as appropriate for their target applications.

Our choice for Best Server Processor of 2011 is AMD’s Opteron 6200 family. Also known by its Interlagos code-name, the Opteron 6200 rose to the top of our list of nominees because of its leading performance for high-volume dual-socket (2P) servers. The Opteron 6282 SE also costs nearly 40% less than the Xeon X5690.

For the Best PC Processor of 2011, we chose Intel’s second-generation Core i7/5/3 family, better known by the code-name Sandy Bridge. This processor is the company’s first mainstream processor to have an on-die graphics processor unit (GPU). Relative to AMD’s processors, Sandy Bridge offers industry-leading performance for PC price points ranging from value to enthusiast.

Choosing the Best Mobile Processor of 2011 was difficult, but we selected Nvidia’s Tegra 3 application processor. Tegra 3 is the first mobile processor with four primary CPU cores, delivering twice the peak CPU performance of competing dual-core processors. To balance the power equation, Nvidia added a unique low-power core that takes over when peak performance is unneeded, extending battery life.

Cavium’s Octeon II CN6880 gets our nod as Best Embedded Processor of 2011. Anchoring the high end of the Octeon line, the CN6880 integrates 32 CPU cores, four 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and more offload engines compared with competing processors. The CN6880’s aggregate CoreMark score tops 153,000, making the pro­cessor more powerful than all but the 64-thread 3.55GHz IBM Power7.

ARM’s Big.Little approach is the Best Processor IP of 2011. Big.Little delivers both high performance and power efficiency by combining the high-performance Cortex-A15 with the power-efficient Cortex-A7. This approach preserves the existing software model for OS-directed power management, dynamically adjusting power and performance by moving tasks between symmetric clusters with up to four CPUs each. We believe Big.Little will have a lasting impact on the way microprocessors are designed for years to come.