bit-tech.net

ARM/x86 hybrid PC announced

ARM/x86 hybrid PC announced

The CUPP 'Computicator' is an x86 PC with integrated ARM subsystem - the best of both worlds?

The ARM architecture has much to recommend it over x86 for many uses, not least of which is the extremely low power draw of ARM-based processors, but there's one thing which has kept it from the desktop: lack of Windows support. That could change, with CUPP Computing announcing a hybrid system it calls, for no immediately discernable reason, a Computicator.

The all-in-one PC, which the Norwegian company describes as a demo platform for its patented hybrid technology, combines an Intel Core Duo 2.3GHz processor with dedicated 4GB RAM with a Texas Instruments OMAP 3430 ARM Cortex A8-based processor running at 720MHz with its own 512MB RAM. A single 320GB hard disk and 16" LCD display are shared between both platforms, as is a keyboard and trackpad along with HDMI output and three USB ports.

At its heart, then, it's two computers with a few shared components, but it's the closest thing to an ARM-based desktop likely to make it in to the average person's home or office. CUPP claims that by integrating the ARM processor into the southbridge, a technique for which it owns a patent, it's possible to "deliver functionality previously impractical in a personal computer, and [gives] users the flexibility to use the PC in ways that best suits their needs."

The company isn't above dropping the green card, either, claiming that "if implemented on a wide scale, this technology would have a significant impact on global power consumption."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of CUPP's hybrid system is that both the x86 and the ARM subsystems are active at the same time: an innovative ALT-TAB-style system allows a users to flick between Windows 7 Professional on the Core Duo and Ubuntu LXDE Linux on the TI ARM on the fly with no reboot required.

Although the company has stated its plans to "bring a product to market [by] Q2 [2011]," it's not yet clear what product will appear: although the testbed design is based around a notebook, it's likely that the company will look to an all-in-one desktop for its first real product.

For those curious to see the demo unit in action, the company has posted a series of videos on its YouTube page.

Do you think that hybrid devices such as CUPP's Computicator could be the push ARM needs to make it back into the desktop market, or does it offer too little advantage to the consumer to make a purchase worthwhile? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

22 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
TWeaK 13th September 2010, 11:54 Quote
I want one just because of that name!
r3loaded 13th September 2010, 12:06 Quote
This sounds way too computicated...
Evildead666 13th September 2010, 12:20 Quote
Could get people to transition over to Linux more, and reap the power benefits, especially on battery powered devices.
Elledan 13th September 2010, 13:02 Quote
Why am I getting Amiga x86 expansion card flashbacks?
wuyanxu 13th September 2010, 13:13 Quote
basically have a smart phone level of processor embedded into your desktop for full desktop use....... it's not ready yet.

wait for Cortex A15 and then simply build an instruction decoder to decode x86 commands, and promote use of Linux for full speed.

or instead of trying to give full desktop experience, off load things to the ARM chip as a co-processor. of course, a smartphone SoC won't be needed then.
memeroot 13th September 2010, 13:26 Quote
I super-glued my phone to my pc and connected the usb port

home mod's rule
capnPedro 13th September 2010, 14:25 Quote
2 CPUs 1 CUPP?
tad2008 13th September 2010, 14:29 Quote
I think I'll wait until Microsoft get their own Arm based OS together or a real ARM based PC than this hybrid. The principle idea is good, but hybrids of any sort having always been somewhat flakey, so I think I'll be passing on this hybrid too.
Gareth Halfacree 13th September 2010, 14:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
wait for Cortex A15 and then simply build an instruction decoder to decode x86 commands, and promote use of Linux for full speed.
The daft thing is: this has already been done. All modern x86 processors are RISC at heart, and have an abstraction layer that allows them to pretend to be CISC.

The chances of Intel or AMD letting ARM at its abstraction layer are, of course, "a snowballs in hell's."
Quote:
Originally Posted by capnPedro
2 CPUs 1 CUPP?
I laughed.
wuyanxu 13th September 2010, 15:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
The daft thing is: this has already been done. All modern x86 processors are RISC at heart, and have an abstraction layer that allows them to pretend to be CISC.

The chances of Intel or AMD letting ARM at its abstraction layer are, of course, "a snowballs in hell's."

that's why i suggested it, it'd be much more transparent, and if it allows us to access the RISC instructions, we could see more optimised programs.
DocWolfe 13th September 2010, 15:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by capnPedro
2 CPUs 1 CUPP?

Stolen from The Reg :/

From what I've heard Microsoft has plans in the works to introduce ARM support in it's mainstream operating systems.
Cogwulf 13th September 2010, 15:09 Quote
It would be great if this could be engineering so that the ARM processor handles background tasks, while the x86 CPU handles all the more demanding tasks. So you would have the benefits of multi-core processors, but without the cost and power demand of just adding more identical cores.

Currently those background tasks just use a small fraction of a modern x86 processors power, but that 1% or so of CPU usage takes up an entire processor. Taking an 'asymmetrical' approach to parallel processing would be much more power -and- cost efficient than the "more cores is better" approach
sear 13th September 2010, 15:11 Quote
This would be negligible if it wasn't for the fact that you can alt+tab between the two machines. That feature alone makes it worth considering, even if just for the enthusiast market.
TWeaK 13th September 2010, 22:15 Quote
@Cogwulf: That sounds to me like a short-term solution for lazy coders. What we need is better parallel coding i.e. programs that take full advantage of multiple cores.

Another good thing however is to adapt your idea and have cores that can reduce their power usage when they aren't needed as much. Intel already have this, it just needs to be more adaptive to cover cores that are only partially used as well as ones that aren't active at all.
Lazy_Amp 13th September 2010, 22:16 Quote
I'd like to know what state of idle the x86 core is when you are alt-tabbing. Sure, you can have both going, but how much power are you saving if you are working on the ARM but still have windows running?

Would also be interesting to have a TINY SSD for a linux boot drive for the ARM and a FAIRLY SMALL Win7/XP SSD for the x86, plus a shared HHD.

Reminds me of that... I believe it was a foxconn Mobo that had an integrated Atom processor along with a 775 socket. I like the idea of shared HD space. Too bad the price was far too high and was outclassed at launch by cheap x58 systems
Cthippo 14th September 2010, 03:17 Quote
Sounds like a kludge without any real purpose. With both processors running you're just burning more power without any real advantage.

Does anyone know how Windows CE was put together? MS has some experience with the ARM architecture through that and while I don't know how difficult it would be, it's a starting point. It would also have the advantage of a more restricted hardware base and so a stripped down version of Windows for ARM Seems like it has a lot of potential.

What ever happened to Via's new CPU (Eden?)? The Via low power chips seem like exactly the right answer for this sort of thing, but they haven't caught on.
Saivert 14th September 2010, 08:26 Quote
so it is just ARM which is seen as a competitor to x86 CPUs now? what about PowerPC? is that just dead and remaining a IBM high performance computing CPU?

Also the x86 chip in this hybrid will obviously go into a low-power halt state of some sort when using the ARM chip. I doubt it will even need much power at all. You guys have the ability to think for yourself you know.

Anyways, even if you get Windows for ARM all applications would need to be recompiled for ARM which would take a while. Most open source or free software would be quickly ported across but huge software packages would take longer. Granted this is a non issue in the long term but it had to be said. Seems like some of you think it is just flipping a switch over at Redmond.
And yes Microsoft has lots of experience with multiple architectures. Windows NT was available for MIPS, ALPHA and PowerPC in addition to x86.
Elledan 14th September 2010, 11:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
so it is just ARM which is seen as a competitor to x86 CPUs now? what about PowerPC? is that just dead and remaining a IBM high performance computing CPU?
.

PowerPC is in XBox 360, Cell (PS3) and the Wii. It doesn't seem to have a future in desktop or portable areas ATM. IBM seems much more interested in POWER.

MIPS may turn out to be a competitor, since China seems to have picked that to become its national CPU (Longsoon) architecture. We'll see.
Cthippo 14th September 2010, 12:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
Also the x86 chip in this hybrid will obviously go into a low-power halt state of some sort when using the ARM chip.

If it's so capable of going into such a state, then why have the ARM at all? Intel touts their low power tech, but nowhere will they cite numbers. Historically the difference between full load and idle power on mainstream CPUs has not been very great. If the Intel could drop to a very low power state when operating, then why add the ARM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
Anyways, even if you get Windows for ARM all applications would need to be recompiled for ARM which would take a while. Most open source or free software would be quickly ported across but huge software packages would take longer.

How many "huge software packages" are you going to run on a little mobile ARM ultra-portable?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
I doubt it will even need much power at all. You guys have the ability to think for yourself you know.

Troll much?
Cogwulf 14th September 2010, 14:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TWeaK
@Cogwulf: That sounds to me like a short-term solution for lazy coders. What we need is better parallel coding i.e. programs that take full advantage of multiple cores.
I'm mainly talking about background tasks that are already so small that the OS can distribute them between cores anyway, tasks that are too small to gain any performance increase from splitting them between cores.

Quote:
Another good thing however is to adapt your idea and have cores that can reduce their power usage when they aren't needed as much. Intel already have this, it just needs to be more adaptive to cover cores that are only partially used as well as ones that aren't active at all.
Even with power saving features like underclocking and disabling unused cores, the processors are still hugely overpowered for many of the tasks running on a PC. When my computer is completely idle, the CPU usage is still hovering around about 1-4%, split across a number of different processes in the task manager, and that's with the CPU working at 2Ghz in its power saving mode.
What I'm talking about is off-loading all those processes using just a fraction of the CPU to a low-power processor which will then allow the x86 CPU to be disabled completely.
Cogwulf 14th September 2010, 14:26 Quote
Although, writing code to work on both x86 and ARM would be a nightmare.
But if intel developed a CPU with a separate atom processor integrated onto the same die, it would provide the same sort of power saving but with only a bit of extra code required in the OS to decide what work to allocate to the atom
Saivert 14th September 2010, 14:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cthippo
If it's so capable of going into such a state, then why have the ARM at all?
Because the Intel CPU uses too much power when it actually does workloads. I'm talking about a low power state where you can't use the CPU much. It only idles or might be entirely shut off if that is possible without making it slow to turn it back on. I am only speculating here since I don't know what CUPP is actually capable of. You can't use the CPU until you alt-tab back into whatever OS runs on the Intel. Arm is used because it uses very little power for normal workloads.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cthippo

How many "huge software packages" are you going to run on a little mobile ARM ultra-portable?
Mainly Microsoft Office and other software like it in size and complexity. Huge apps doesn't mean apps that require boatloads of processing power.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cthippo

Troll much?
Sorry but no. Guess you look too hard for trolls so you see them everywhere. even when they aren't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cogwulf
Although, writing code to work on both x86 and ARM would be a nightmare.
But if intel developed a CPU with a separate atom processor integrated onto the same die, it would provide the same sort of power saving but with only a bit of extra code required in the OS to decide what work to allocate to the atom
Yes but that would be similar to CUDA, OpenGL and DirectCompute shaders today. But from what I read in the article it doesn't seem like the ARM chip in this one is a co-processor like the GPU. Time will tell.
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums