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Analysts’ Choice Award Winners

January 21, 2013

Author: The Linley Group

To recognize the top processor products of the year, The Linley Group presents its 2012 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, production RTL) in 2012. For example, ARM has yet to ship final RTL for its new Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 cores, so we will consider these products in the 2013 cycle.

Our choice for Best PC or Server Processor of 2012 is Intel's Xeon E5-2600 family. The Xeon E5-2600 topped our list of nominees because it grabbed the performance lead for high-volume dual-socket (2P) servers, delivers leading performance per watt, improves system-level integration, and introduces PCI Express Gen3. Reported SPEC_rate2006 baseline scores show the Xeon E5-2690 delivers about 24% greater integer and floating-point performance than AMD's Opteron 6386 SE. Available SPECpower results show 2P servers using the E5-2660 deliver up to 36% better performance per watt than a server based on AMD's Opteron 6380.

Many new and exciting mobile processors entered production in 2012, but we selected Qualcomm's MSM8960 as Best Mobile Processor of 2012. We selected this processor for several reasons, starting with the impressive performance of its dual Krait CPUs. Furthermore, the MSM8960 was the first product to combine an application processor and an LTE modem on the same chip. The processor was also the first in the industry to integrate the Wi-Fi baseband. Finally, the MSM8960 was the first mobile processor built in 28nm technology.

Keeping in mind the notion that creativity lies at the intersection of distinct points of view, we selected Xilinx's Zynq Z-7020 as the Best Embedded Processor of 2012. From one perspective, Zynq is an FPGA, but from another, it is an embedded processor. It's not exactly either, but the Z-7020 and products like it will change the embedded-processor business—stealing sockets from conventional processors and opening new design opportunities. We chose Zynq for our award because it is unusual, it opens new opportunities for designers, it will be tough for conventional processor suppliers to compete with, and it is the first such device integrating a high-end CPU core to become available.

Our award for Best Processor IP of 2012 goes to MIPS Technologies for its new Aptiv family of 32-bit CPU cores. At the low end, the microAptiv CPU core uses a simple in-order design to target low-cost embedded applications and to compete with ARM's Cortex-M family. For embedded applications requiring more processing power, the interAptiv CPU supports simultaneous multithreading (SMT). The crown jewel in this product family is the proAptiv CPU, whose certified CoreMark scores exceed the expected performance of ARM's top-of-the-line 64-bit Cortex-A57.

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