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Intel reveals Broxton Atoms with Gen9 GPUs

Aug 22, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1,324 views

At IDF, Intel revealed some new details on the 14nm “Broxton” Atom T5700 and T5500 SoCs. Highlights include Gen9 graphics, DDR4, and more memory bandwidth.

Although there were plenty of interesting embedded computing announcements (namely: Joule, Aero, and Euclid) at last week’s Intel Developer Conference — almost all of them tied to the Intel RealSense 3D camera — there was not much on the latest Intel CPUs coming out this fall. Still, Intel offered some new details in IDF sessions about “Goldmont”-based Atom SoCs code-named “Broxton” (see farther below).

There were apparently no new details on the ”Apollo Lake,” the code name for the expected Goldmont-based upgrades to Braswell-based Celeron and Pentium SoCs. Apollo Lake will likely be aimed at high-end tablets and 2-in-1’s, as well as high-end embedded gear. Back in June, CPU-World reported on Intel Product Change Notification (PCN) documents that listed several Apollo Lake SoC names: the Pentium J4205 and N4200, and the Celeron J3355, J3455, N3450, and N3350.

Intel also had little new to say about its 7th Generation Kaby Lake Core processors, despite the fact they are already on their way to manufacturers. This CNET post covers what little detail Intel added at IDF.

Of principle interest to gamers, Intel demonstrated Overwatch playing on a new Dell XPS 13 laptop running a 7th Gen ULV Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, and there were leaks about a quad-core Kaby Lake-S Core i7 7700K running at an unprecedented base clock of 4.2GHz, with a turbo mode of 4.5GHz. There’s also a leak of a Kaby Lake-X for gamers that might conceivably hit 5GHz turbo rates.

Broxton: the Goldmont Atom

As reported by AnandTech and Digital Trends, Intel revealed new details about “Broxton” Atom SoCs, with specific mentions of the “Broxton-M” quad-core Atom T5700 and T5500 models, which drive the new, Linux-driven Intel Joule computer-on-module. In addition to the charts shown in these reports, we found some additional Intel slides from the Broxton briefings.

Preliminary Goldmont Atom “Broxton” block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Broxton, which was originally intended as a follow-on to the similarly 14nm-fabricated, smartphone-targeted “Cherry Trail” Atom x5-Z8x- and x7-Z8x processors, is now aimed at embedded applications. It’s more clear than ever that Intel is withdrawing from the smartphone SoC market.

Goldmont Atom comparisons with Silvermont and Airmont Atoms
(click images to enlarge; source: Intel via AnandTech)

Broxton includes Intel Gen9 “Low Power” graphics, similar to the Gen9 graphics on 6th Gen Skylake Core chips, and up from the Gen8 graphics on Cherry Trail and Braswell. Compared to the lower-end Cherry Trail Atom x5-Z8500 model, Broxton offers “slightly better performance in games using DirectX 9 and OpenGL ES 2.0, better single-thread performance in integer compute intensive applications, and better throughput with multiple threads in the same applications,” says Digital Trends.

Atom T5700/T5500 block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The Intel slides, meanwhile, claim the 1.5GHz Atom T5700 and 1.7GHz (2.4GHz burst) Atom T5500 support up to 10 times the application performance compared to the older, 22nm “Tangier”-based Atom Z34xx found on the Intel Edison. Another slide claims a 50 percent overall performance improvement relative to the previous generation, x5-Z8500 Cherry Trail Atoms, which are also fabbed in 14nm.

Atom T5700/T5500 comparisons with Intel Edison’s 22nm Tangier Atom Z34xx (left) and with the Cherry Trail Atom x5-Z8500
(click images to enlarge)

The Atom T5700 and T5500 SoCs also include an image processing unit, as well as audio and security chips. Broxton supports up to six cameras,, Bluetooth 4.1 FMR, multi-lane PCIe, and eMMC 5.0, says Digital Trends.

According to AnandTech, Broxton is similar to Braswell in that it offers “two sets of dual cores sharing a common L3 cache.” The SoCs are said to offer 1.8GHz to 2.6GHz clock rates — slightly faster than Braswell and Cherry Trail.

The Broxton family also provides 6-12W TDPs, a slight step backward. By comparison, TDPs were never released for Cherry Trail SoCs, although they were said to have 2W Scenario Design Power (SDP) ratings, which are almost always lower than TDPs. Braswell quad-core SoCs have 6W TDPs, while the dual- and single-core models have 4W and 3W TDPs, respectively.

Perhaps since battery-powered devices are no longer the main target for Broxton, Intel opted for graphics firepower over power efficiency. Indeed, graphics are the main story here. The Gen9 graphics will offer 12 or 18 execution units and more reliably support [email protected] encode and decode than Cherry Trail, says Intel. The architecture is said to support VP8 and H.264 encode and decode, as well as HEVC decode.

In addition to the details supplied by Digital Trends, other highlights noted by AnandTech include support for more USB ports and MIPI cameras, as well as industrial temperature versions with a -40 to 110°C range. Linux, Android, VxWorks, and Windows 10 (including IoT Core) are said to be the typical OS targets.

Broxton supports dual channel ECC memory, with 50 to 80 percent higher memory bandwidth than Cherry Trail. The Atom T5700 and T5500 models used on the Joule are the first Atoms to support LPDDR4 RAM. Yet, the comparison slide above notes only DDR3L support. According to AnandTech, Intel said only DDR3L is guaranteed, and that DDR4 may or not make it into the final product, or only in certain SKUs such as the chips found on the Joule. Sounds like an availability issue.

Other features noted on the Intel slides include support for high-speed UARTs and a SCSI Parallel Interface. There’s also precision time management and a built-in sensor hub.

Like just about every other recent Intel product, Broxton offers optimized support for Intel’s RealSense Camera ZR300. Also at IDF, Intel announced an upcoming RealSense 400 camera featuring “improved accuracy with more than double the number of 3D points captured per second and more than double the operating range compared with the previous generation,” according to Intel. Intel had few other details except to say the depth-sensing camera would be “coupled with support for indoor and outdoor uses.”

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