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Flex Logix Shows First AI Chip

November 17, 2020

Author: Bob Wheeler

Flex Logix has the InferX X1 running in its lab, marking its transition from pure-play intellectual-property (IP) vendor to AI-chip supplier as well. At the recent Linley Fall Processor Conference, the startup disclosed new X1 chip details and announced its X1P1 PCI Express accelerator card. It expects to qualify both the chip and board for production in 2Q21. The roadmap includes the X1P4 card with four X1 chips and the X1M M.2 card with a single chip. Flex Logix also revealed its first benchmark data for the Yolo v3 neural-network model, showing its InferX X1 outperforming Nvidia’s Jetson Xavier NX.

Flex Logix had previously disclosed the X1 architecture, which combines programmable logic, multiply-accumulate (MAC) blocks, and embedded memories. Its compiler produces configuration images that reside in a single DRAM attached to the X1’s LPDDR4 interface. It generally creates a different image for each neural-network layer, but it combines multiple layers where possible. The run-time software then controls device programming using the preloaded images, allowing it to “rewire” the chip in only four microseconds.

The X1 instantiates four tiles with 1,024 MACs each, so the reconfiguration time is amortized over numerous operations. Aside from this overhead, the 16nm chip operates at near ASIC speeds. Flex Logix had a 1.0GHz design target, but it’s initially releasing 533MHz, 667MHz, and 800MHz speed grades, with a 933MHz version slated for 2H21 availability. In 1,000-unit quantities, the X1 starts at $99 for the slowest device and climbs to $199 for the 933MHz grade. The company says budgetary pricing for very high volumes is about one-third of the respective list prices.

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