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Analysts’ Choice Winners for 2016

January 17, 2017

Author: Linley Gwennap

To recognize the top semiconductor offerings of the year, The Linley Group presents its 2016 Analysts’ Choice Awards. This year’s winner for Best Server Processor is Intel’s Xeon Phi 7200 family (formerly Knights Landing), which offers an innovative and novel system architecture for HPC. Because the CPUs are fully x86 compatible, the Xeon Phi 7200 is bootable and can run an operating system. The cumulative benefit of these changes is that the processor comprises a nearly complete HPC node, so it avoids the system-level complexity of a coprocessor-compute model.

In the embedded-processor category, Marvell’s Armada 88SP1000 edged out NXP’s LS2088A. Setting Marvell apart are its integration, performance, and low power. For the 88SPxxx-series, Marvell combined SiP (system-in-package) with its MoChi (modular chip) technology to offer three lines. We selected Cavium’s Xpliant Ethernet switch as our best networking chip. The Xpliant CNX88091 stands out thanks to its customer programmability. Although it trailed Broadcom’s Tomahawk in reaching production, multiple OEMs have announced systems with unique features enabled by the Xpliant architecture.

We chose the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 as our Best Mobile Processor for best addressing the needs of premium smartphones. Its custom-designed Kryo CPU delivers better single-core performance than any merchant smartphone processor, and its custom Adreno GPU leads in graphics performance. The 820’s LTE modem is rated at 600Mbps, another market-leading speed. For the best mobile chip (not including processors), we chose the SmarTuner from Cavendish Technologies. The SmarTuner enables capacitive aperture tuning, increasing antenna efficiency, enhancing reception, and saving power. Its 32 levels handle a wide range of LTE bands and antenna types.

Our choice of Best Processor IP is the Synopsys ARC SEM CPU family. The SEM110 and SEM120D address the critical need for more-secure IoT clients. They employ a tamper-resistant pipeline that uses address scrambling along with in-line encryption of data and instructions. Finally, the RISC-V (“risk-five”) instruction-set architecture (ISA) wins our Best Technology Award. RISC-V is a general-purpose architecture that’s BSD licensed, extensible, and royalty free. It’s flexible enough for all markets, from microcontrollers to server processors. The ISA has attracted support from industry leaders such as Google and Oracle as well as academic partners.

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