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Intel’s 10nm Elkhart Lake Atom chips feature Cortex-M7 and triple 4K

Sep 23, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 953 views

Intel unveiled a dozen 10nm “Elkhart Lake” Atom x6000E, Pentium, and Celeron SoCs at up to 3.0GHz Turbo with 4.5W to 12W TDPs and a Cortex-M7. The SoCs support 64GB RAM, triple 4K displays, 3x 2.5GbE with TSN, and OOB and safety features.

At the Intel Industrial Summit 2020, Intel announced a new generation of low-power, 10nm fabricated Atom-class processors that it claims offers up to 1.7x better single-thread, 1.5x better multi-thread, and 2x better graphics performance compared to the 14nm Goldmont Plus Gemini Lake and Gemini Lake Refresh. The high-end, quad-core Atom x6425E with 12W TDP is clocked at 1.8GHz with 3.0GHz Turbo Burst and 500MHz/750MHz Intel UHD Graphics with up to 32EU Intel Gen11 technology.

The Atom x6000E, Pentium, and Celeron SoCs run on 2x or 4x Tremont cores built with a 10nm SuperFin fabrication technology similar to that found on Willow Cove cores used on the 11th Gen Tiger Lake Core CPUs. Tremont has already found its way into the server-class Atom P5900 and will appear on Intel’s upcoming Lakefield SoC.

Today Intel also formally launched its previously announced new Tiger Lake models including three new UP3 models with additional embedded-targeted features such as -40 to 100ºC support. We will cover them in a separate report.

 
Elkhart Lake: the first Intel IoT processor?

According to Intel, the Atom x6000E family is its first product line to specifically target Internet of Things applications. This is not entirely true, considering that Atom SoCs such as Bay Trail E3800 and Apollo Lake E3900 have targeted IoT duty since the IoT term was invented. IoT was also the main focus of Intel’s discontinued line of super low-power Quark processors.



Elkhart Lake models(left) and reference platform block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Nevertheless, Intel has added a host of embedded-focused features starting with an Intel Programmable Services Engine (Intel PSE) built around a real-time Arm Cortex-M7 companion core. Intel PSE hosts new functions like remote, network proxy, embedded controller, and sensor hub. The Cortex-M7 is designed to run the open source, Intel-derived Zephyr RTOS.

Intel PSE provides both remote out-of-band (OOB) and in-band (INB) device management for monitoring and remotely managing devices. OOB provides power control for edge devices even when the OS is unresponsive, letting users restart, power down, or power up from sleep states. INB facilitates over-the-air (OTA) firmware and software updates.


Intel splits the eight Atom x6000E parts into three sub-families with E, RE, and FE suffixes. The 3x RE and 2x FE models support Intel Time Coordinated Computing (Intel TCC) and Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN). TCC and TSN synchronize data, communications, and executions across networks of IoT devices to improve worst-case execution-time. The RE and FE models lack the Turbo modes of the other models.

The FE processors also add a new Intel technology called Intel Safety Island, which offers functional safety (FuSa) features compliant with IEC 61508 and ISO 13849 requirements. Intel Safety Island orchestrates Intel-on-chip diagnostics and reports errors while monitoring customer-safety applications.

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All the processors provide hardware-based security including Intel Boot Guard and integrated TPM 2.0 via Intel Platform Trust Technology (Intel PTT). Dedicated cryptography accelerators enable Intel AES New Instructions (Intel AES-NI), Intel Secure Key, and Intel SHA Extensions.

AnandTech notes that AMD goes one step further by offering SHA-acceleration hardware rather than relying on instruction-level optimization. The story also says that the performance claims noted above are not based on tests with actual silicon. Production is scheduled for early 2021.

All the Elkhart Lake models have 1.5MB cache except for the dual-core, 4.5W TDP Atom x6200FE, which has 1MB. The x6200FE is also the only model with a low 1.0GHz base clock rate.

For the first time in an Atom-class SoC, you can run triple [email protected] displays simultaneously using DisplayPort 1.3 and HDMI 2.0b. The Intel UHD Graphics provides up to 32x EUs, which “can double as deep learning inference and computer vision engines,” says Intel.

In another first, Elkhart Lake supports DDR4 and LPDDR4 RAM at up to an Intel Core-like 64GB. The Atom models support ECC RAM and all the models support faster RAM at up to LPDDR4 @ 4267 MT/s and DDR4 @ 3200 MT/s.



Elkhart Lake block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The CPUs provide 3x 2.5GbE MACs with TSN support. As you can see from the diagrams above, I/O includes 6x PCIe Gen3 for 8x lanes overall, as well as 4x USB 3.0/3.1, 10x USB 2.0, 2x SATA 3.2, 2x UFS, CAN, and more. You may also notice that like the upcoming Lakefield, the integrated PCH uses 14nm rather than 10nm fabrication.

Software support includes Yocto Project, Ubuntu, Wind River Linux LTS, Android 10, and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. There is also support for Intel’s OpenVINO toolkit, with pre-optimized libraries for AI, ML, and computer vision acceleration.

 
Further information

The Elkhart Lake family of Atom x6000E, Pentium, and Celeron processors will enter production availability in early 2021. More information may be found in Intel’s Atom x6000E and 11th Gen Tiger Lake ULP3 announcement, as well as the Elkhart Lake product page and Atom x6000E family Platform Brief (PDF).
 

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