SemiAnalysis: Some of Apple's embedded cores are accelerating the shift to RISC-V architecture

Dylan Patel, an analyst at the semiconductor industry analysis agency SemiAnalysis, said that Apple is shifting its embedded chip core instruction set from the ARM architecture to the RISC-V architecture, and Google will also apply the SiFive X280 on the TPU. The core part of the design.

For example, the existing Apple A15 Bionic chip has more than a dozen Arm-based CPU cores distributed on the chip for various functions that are not directly user-facing. SemiAnalysis can confirm that these cores are actively moving to the RISC-V architecture in future generations of hardware.

Some people also pointed out that RISC-V, as an open source hardware architecture on BSD, according to Apple's consistent style of doing things, they will definitely not use RISC-V directly, and after magic modification, it will be closed source (maybe named Apple ISA). ) with its own closed-source system for overall marketing, similar to the instruction set mode in the CPU after A10.

In the Apple Silicon design, the core is a very important part. For example, in the M1, there are more than 30 cores responsible for various workloads that are not related to the system, such as WiFi/Bluetooth, interface retiming, touchpad control, cores for NAND chips etc., they all have their own firmware and provide support for SoC peripheral function circuits.

At present, most of these cores are based on Arm M-series or low-end A-series IP, and Apple is currently looking for ways to replace these cores with RISC-V.

Given that a large portion of the software relies on the main big.LITTLE to run, other minor SoC tasks migrate to the heterogeneous ISA with only a few firmware tweaks. More importantly, Apple can save a huge amount of licensing fees with this. According to Cook's thinking, there is no reason for Apple not to do it.

Apple recently released new models of the iPhone 14 series, including iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus , iPhone 14 Pro , and iPhone 14 Pro Max , starting at 5,999 yuan.

In terms of pre-sale, most people may prefer iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max (with A16 chip), and the shipment has been delayed until October, while iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus (with A15 chip) are still available at Bought on launch day.

According to Apple's official introduction, the A16 bionic chip is composed of two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores . Graphics processor with up to 50% more memory bandwidth, ideal for running graphics-intensive games and apps, and a new 16-core neural network engine capable of processing up to 17 trillion operations per second Provides higher performance in low conditions and enables all-day battery life.

However, the A16 Bionic's GPU and neural engine core are exactly the same as last year's A15 Bionic. Thanks to the improvement of TSMC's N4 (third-generation 5nm, about 6% density increase) process, the CPU finally achieved "nearly 16 billion transistors." ”, which is slightly higher than the 15 billion A15, and the power consumption should be improved.

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