Amlogic S905, S905X, and S912 Processors Appear to be Limited to 1.5 GHz, not 2 GHz as Advertised

Orange Pi Development Boards

When I compared the performance Amlogic S905 and Rockchip RK3368 processors  last year, I noticed Amlogic S905 single thread performance not being much faster than the one of Rockchip RK3368, despite the former allegedly clocked at 2.0 GHz against the latter 1.2 GHz. But early this month one member (koschi) on ODROID forums started a thread entitled “No performance difference between 1.5, 1.75 & 2GHz” about ODROID-C2 board.

Amlogic_S905_1.5-GHz

The first post link to Ant-computing website about choosing a processor for a build farm, and one of the tables comparing various ARM and x86 processors with the claim that Amlogic S905 was listed to 1.536 GHz, because “the device claims to run at 2.016 GHz but the kernel silently ignores frequencies above 1.536 GHz!”

ARM_x86_CPU_Comparison_TableSo koschi did his own tests with 7z and sysbench, using cpufreq-set -u $FREQ to set a fixed frequency between test, and could confirm the issue:


So it looks like Amlogic is cheating with the frequencies, and anything above 1.536 GHz does not change the results… There has been many comments in the thread with others confirming the issue. Hardkernel investigated the issue, and the answer while truthful is disappointing:

Please don’t waste your valuable time.
All the Coretex-A53 based Amlogic SoCs have the same issue. S905, S905 Rev-C(S905H), S905X and even S912.
The kernel clock frequency 1.75 and 2Ghz do not exist in the BL3x blobs.
It must be Amlogic’s fault. But we should detect it earlier in our internal development stage. Really sorry about that mistake.

We’ve been modifying/testing the BL3x code to find a maximum feasible/stable clocks like 1.53Ghz, 1.58Ghz, 1.61Ghz, 1.65Ghz, 1.68Ghz, 1.71Ghz, etc for a couple of weeks.
But 1.65Ghz seems to be the maximum one due to some power and heat issues. We will run the burnA53 on Ubuntu and the Stress app on Android with 10 set of C2 boards in this weekend (for 48 hours stability test) to make sure it.
Once we will have a test result, we will report it on this thread with update package for further sampling test in early next week.

If we disable two cores, the SoC can run up to 1.75Ghz probably. But we need further stability test too.
And yes. I fully agree most people don’t like this approach.

Anyway, we know well 1.65Ghz or 1.75Ghz is still very far from the 2Ghz. So we will change the C2 specification in our home page next week as per the test result.
And we must consider some compensation for C2 users. But we need to check what we can do first.

Please accept my sincere apologies for the mistake and kindly understand our situation.

The only good news is that the limit might not be 1.5 GHz, and possibly closer to 1.7 GHz, with the final number pending Hardkernel burn-in test results. That issue will not only affect ODROID boards, but also any other devices based on Amlogic S905, S905X, and S912 processors.

Thanks to Tim for the tip.

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Christian
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Christian

On one side I am always amazed how cheap Allwinner and Amlogic offer their SoCs if you see what they offer especially regarding accelerated video performance comparing to what you have to pay for that in the x86 camp (often there you also have gaming performance, but I am not interested in that at all).

On the other side they don’t play fair. All those BLOBs, license violations, lacking support for mainline kernels and now outright cheating …

Ned Scott
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Ned Scott

@Christian

While Amlogic has done something very shady/bad here, I still wouldn’t consider them as bad as Allwinner. That’s two very different levels.

theguyuk
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theguyuk

This has knock on effects if proven true, 3Dmark on results graph shows my mini m8s s905 (firmware 03 ( from freaktab.com update ) ) running up to 2GHz at end of tests.

So that would mean 3Dmark tests results are in doubt too?

Here is result screen on tinypic, right of screen

http://i68.tinypic.com/11ce9vl.png

I captured the result screen but don’t know how to post it here.

theguyuk
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theguyuk

And resulting 2GHz graph from 3Dmark Ice Storm Unlimited,

http://i67.tinypic.com/dr34g0.png

neomode
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neomode

This is like Rockchip with the RK3188-T.
Nobody where aware they exist and then it turn out they only run @ 1.4 GhZ stable.

diegor
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diegor

Ned Scott :
@Christian
While Amlogic has done something very shady/bad here, I still wouldn’t consider them as bad as Allwinner. That’s two very different levels.

Do you mean that there is no gpl violation in amlogic firmware? Or are you talking about something else?

Just wondering…

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Use an efficient cooling system ( big heatsink & fan ) to make sure temperatures stay low at all times,
then repeat the test.

All this may be caused by an internal CPU safety feature to prevent CPU burn. Makes sense for this mechanism to kick in as we all know how POOR is factory thermal design in all those mini systems

mrmaso
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mrmaso

Amlogic wants to ruin their reputation? Just like allwinner did? If rockchip would get their software part right the two A Company’s could dissappear….

RK
Guest
RK

@Andrew

My thoughts exactly. Embedded customers glue these chips to their boards and throw them into an oven post SMT while stress-testing functionality, sensor readings & performance. This isn’t something a fab would have any hopes at getting away with so they wouldn’t even try.

A more likely scenario is that it’s a cooling issue, software issue or even, a voltage scaling issue. Hell, for all we know they have something like Intel Trubo Boost mentioned in the Chinese fine print that didn’t carry over the translation or something… Happens all the time.

mdrjr
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mdrjr

@RK

Nope, its not a cooling issue.

theguyuk
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theguyuk

@mrmaso
Rockchip for me have been a pain. I had a 3188 TV box that I sent back ( under eBay, not as advertised ) because it was really a crippled 3188T as mentioned above. Had terrible video playback problems too.

I had a RK3066 stick PC, for over a year for browsing and Kodi, internet TV. That was stable after I update to a unofficial firmware with same Bluetooth, WiFi chip.

My s905, mini m8s, has been and so far is stable ( I updated to 03 firmware off freaktab, but not by the suggested method ).

The box is good but, yes claiming 2GHz when not, leaves a bad taste in the mouth and reminds of the VW exhaust scam, maker deceives customers.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

@mdrjr

Possible. Saying again. Possible.

Yet, it should take much more than a statement “Nope its not that”

It takes a test conducted with a decent PSU that will be providing a stable voltage even if there is a demand for high amperes, and an infrared external measurement tool pointed at the CPU during test, to make sure cooling heatsink is within reasonable limits at all times

theguyuk
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theguyuk

@cnxsoft
Does that work in the other direction too, can manufactures fool 3Dmark, by running a tweaked special one off product at 2.5GHz, but report 2GHz to 3Dmark test, to bump their product up the scores?

Who knows?

mo123
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mo123

@theguyuk
Yes
Here is how Allwinner cheated Antutu Benchmarks
http://www.cnx-software.com/2015/01/11/so-this-is-how-allwinner-a80-cheats-at-antutu-benchmark/
A user there also mentioned Amlogic has background services that detect Antutu or 3DMark and overclock the device for a while to bump up the score while the device can’t run for more than a few minutes at that speed normally.

tkaiser
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tkaiser

@cnxsoft
Same with RPi 3, kernel reports running at 1200 MHz while SoC in reality already throttled down to a way lower frequency. There you can never trust what’s reported through userspace utilities or sysfs (/sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/cpuinfo_cur_freq) but you have to call

instead which reports the real cpufreq the ARM cores are running (the whole thing happens in ‘firmware’ — in other words the VideoCore does cpufreq and dvfs scaling and the kernel on the ARM cores is pretty much clueless about all of this).

Regarding S905/S912: I don’t understand why users believe in miracles. Running 4 CPU cores at top speed generates insane amounts of heat and next to the CPU cores are video encoding/decoding engines and GPU cores all adding to the problem. So maybe Amlogic started with a budget cooling strategy allowing single-threaded CPU workloads run at up to 2 GHz while limiting multi-threaded stuff to lower cpufreqs. And then got lost somewhere due to too much problems while marketing chitchat already had been spread?

RK
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RK

@Andrew And don’t forget it could be a specific bad batch. Samsung & Motorola had a few notorious examples of those back in the day. But they happen all the time and you just don’t hear about it since the OEM calls up the sales rep, tells them they think it’s a bad batch, they hand him over to an engineer which comes over on the next airline flight and inspects the test facilities and collects samples for conformation.

There’s procedures to these things… Not sure what gives people the impression a factory just orders 40-100k chips at 10-20$ a unit without any checks & practices in place. Sure some startup might pick up a few samples and hack on them with inexperienced engineers and no facilities. But once it’s on the fab’s floor, you have line engineers and PMIC designers that have numbers for plants world-wide since they substitute anything from resistors and capacitors to micro-controllers all the time. It’s VERY hard to get away with so much as a 3% performance drop… Let alone going form 2Ghz to 1.6Ghz…

Very strange.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

ARM DVFS = We just lie to customers by having the software report wrong facts.

I am waiting for next years ARM 900099 GHz DVFS soc. ?????

Member

From my X86 experience every chip has a sort of a ceiling where it needs a higher core voltage to go faster. The problem is even with a higher core voltage there’s a certain point where you just don’t get any further and sometimes for 100 MHz more in clock speed you have to increase the core voltage to really high levels where it’s probably not worth it.
More voltage and better cooling will only take you so far but of course with water or liquid nitrogen you could probably get 2 GHz on this 🙂

xsi
Guest
xsi

Hardkernels response seems to indicate they knew about the issue but kept quiet aboiut it until now, when people questioned it…Why ? Were they worried about the potential impact on sales of the C2

blu
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blu

That reminds me of the RK3368 geekbox where the product is advertised as 1.5GHz, but that happens only for the big cluster, and only when the LITTLE cluster is limited to 1.1GHz, which is not what happens when you set cpufreq governor to performance – then LITTLE cluster tops at 1.2GHz and big at 1.296GHz.

thesandbender
Guest

@Andrew / All: It’s not a cooling issue. The ODroid C2 has a proper heat sink on the S905. Additionally, Hardkernel (ODroid’s manufacturer) has confirmed that the boot blobs are capping the clock at 1.5ghz and just ignoring any values above that. Hardkernel is being rather polite about this publicly but my guess is that they’re pretty pissed and Amlogic just lost a vendor unless they can come up with a really good explanation about what’s going on, and I can’t imagine what that would be. I won’t complain if Hardkernel goes back to Exynos based ODroids, a 7870 or 8890 based board would be very niiycce (or even a 7920 for that matter).

thesandbender
Guest

@theguyuk – Don’t conflate ARM with vendors implementing questionable ARM chips. There are good vendors out there (Samsung, Apple, Nvidia, etc), the problem is they charge more for their chips which prices them out of this market. The new Cavium based servers are a good example, they’re very fast for most applications but they also cost a few grand (http://www.servethehome.com/gigabyte-r270-t61-2u-96-core-cavium-thunderx-server-review/)

blu
Guest
blu

@theguyuk
DVFS has nothing to do with this.

boudyka
Guest
boudyka

isn’t this always the case……with everything….dodgy cache chips (Xray’ed empty), Fake Caps with amazing uF, Bios tricked to report stuff that doesn’t exist or speeds that were never possible, DTS audio without the chip being capable and hard wired 2 channel, 4K/with all sorts of codecs speced but audio only, HD Ready, UHD Ready, HDCP compliant that just isn’t. For the British and buying TV’s that are Iplayer ready that are either not or die before the next update. Co2 emissions, say no more.

If you believe the written spec, you are a sucker waiting to be caught, you could even say without a doubt, the written spec, is just another phishing scam….you bought it so you are just been conned!….Never believe the hype, buyer beware….there’s sharks everywhere. if its too good to be true, it probably is.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

@blu
Are AMLogic acting within ARM licence rules?

Do ARM have any clause banning venders misleading customers?

Allwinner H3 over heats does not do the original suggested 1.6 GHZ

AMLogic s905 now also seems not to do the claimed speed.

DVFS chip shut down cores when to hot, yet chips are sold at claimed higher speeds than can be run for long periods. ARM design!

Tim
Guest
Tim

I was curious whether the old generation Cortex-A9 boxes from Amlogic had the same “problem”. Tested a S812 box, which is sold as “2.0 GHz”. The kernel says it has these frequencies:

96000 192000 312000 408000 504000 600000 696000 816000 912000 1008000 1104000 1200000 1296000 1416000 1512000 1608000 1800000 1992000

From 1.6 GHz to 1.99 GHz there’s only a 6% speedup (but should be 24%). 1.8 GHz benchmarks much slower than both (why?). The other frequencies behave pretty linear compared to 1.6 GHz.

So the actual frequency is really only 1.7 GHz and not the advertised 2.0 GHz.

I ran the tests for a very short time, then went idle at the lowest frequency for a minute. I got repeatable results.

Cooling is OK on this box. The PMU is a Ricoh RN5T618M. The DVFS settings in the DTB look OK.

thesandbender
Guest

@theguyuk
DVFS has nothing to do with this. This is a hard set cap that’s kicking in at startup. It doesn’t matter how many threads your running or what type of heatsink is in place. Your question about ARM licensing is a good one, even though this is not Arm’s fault, if enough vendors do this is makes ARM over all look bad.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

@thesandbender
I hear what you say but Digital Voltage Frequency Scaling was originally designed to save battery power by lowering power used. ARM and Licence holders are selling Soc chips rated at high GHz when in truth they only run at such speeds for micro seconds, longer periods and heat causes GHz to lower by design. Hence I allege they conspire by design.

nobitakun
Guest
nobitakun

And all of this is caused because the damn companies don’t want to move to 14nm. It is nonsense to make chips in 2016 with 28nm, a tecnology from 5 years ago. The reason is to save 5$ per chip? nonsense?

thesandbender
Guest

@xsi
No, Hardkernel’s response indicates that they are investigating and trying to determine exactly what’s happening. There’s a big difference between saying 7-zip see’s no performance increase between 1.5ghz and 2.0ghz and having specific confirmation that the clock speed is locked at 1.5ghz (not to belittle the person who originally found this, good investigative work). There could be some reason we haven’t anticipated, HK is just trying to figure out exactly what’s going on so they can fix it or have enough proof to go back to Amlogic and get a refund/recall/etc. You’ll note that HK is already talking about a possible refund. HK has a solid and well earned reputation in the community but it will take a while to get this all squared away properly. And I should note that I have no affiliation with HK other than I own a few ODroid boards.

mlinuxguy
Guest
mlinuxguy

The key issue with the C2 is that there are no entries for frequencies higher than 1.5ghz in the binary blob from Amlogic
On a previous issue with lockups they had to work with Amlogic to change DVFS voltage entries and fix the buggy PWM driver (controls the CPU voltage). At the time I assumed Amlogic let them see the volt/freq tables and adjust those for the thermal issue. Having missing entries for freq > 1.5ghz suggests otherwise, that instead Amlogic did the tables for them and HK fixed the PWM driver.

Hiding frequency control in signed binary blobs is a bad idea, it lets chip vendors get away with inflated specs. I suppose a TV set-top box re-seller doesn’t care, it’s just a marketing bullet point.

I am campaigning for volt/freq table control from the C2’s boot.ini similar to what the RPI allows in config.txt to let the individual user choose their max clock.

Some of us have pools of liquid nitrogen sitting around unused…. :p

blu
Guest
blu

@theguyuk
Conspire by design? As proven by DVFS? You’re jesting, right?

GanjaBear
Guest
GanjaBear

Odroid/HK is a scam, C1’s USB problems have never been fixed and now this! False marketing all day long with some bait-and-switch tactics thrown in. (C1 had problems handling certain brands of SD cards so hey, they introduced C1+, all the while marketing that crap as some sort of Rpi alternative).

cruz
Guest
cruz

As a C2 owner this is disappointing. More from a hardware enthusiasts perspective. The only reason I went for the C2 instead of the Pi3 was the perceived higher performance, and I paid double, and more with customs and taxes. If it was 1.5 it would have been a closer decision.

I don’t regret it, we can only make decisions with the information we have, but I don’t see how I can trust Amlogic moving forward and while I still trust Hardkernel I am disappointed their QA process did not get this, so this taints them slightly too.

On a related note I think the extreme closed nature of ARM and its partners and kicking the ball back and forth, making life difficult for open source developers had damped my enthusiasm for ARM as a future potential competitor to Intel and x86.

Many of us are expecting ARM to crash the party but their closed nature and unwillingness to divert resources or help open source developers make an ARM desktop possible can only mean there are factors beyond logic and business at play here.

So let ARM be content being a mobile phone SOC, and work with Google and other partners in secrecy for their devices. Linux and this entire rich platform we have today happened because of open source. For hardware too we will need open source initiatives. I think struggling with ARM is a waste of effort.

rasz_pl
Guest
rasz_pl

@boudyka

Yes, Chinese LIE all the time. Its called Face (mianzi).
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/culture-matters-chinese-asians-liars-dr-vivencio-ven-ballano
http://www.china-mike.com/chinese-culture/understanding-chinese-mind/cult-of-face/

Someone at amlogic assumed their SoCs would be able to reach 2GHz after tapeout, this turned not to be the case, but it was already too late, marketing got hold of 2GHz number and retracting would be a HUGE blow to their image (in china). Lying is perfectly acceptable, after all who are you going to believe? some laowai idiots on on internet or successful national company?

Chinese mAh battery ratings, gadgets spontaneously combusting because someone omitted overvoltage circuit altogether, 50W LED lights that consume 20W from the socket, all that is just another day in China.

How can you tell if Chinese person is lying? Check if their lips are moving.

thesandbender
Guest

@GanjaBear
Right… because RPi’s work with every SD card out there (hint – they don’t http://elinux.org/RPi_SD_cards). SD cards aren’t just a hunk of flash memory, they have an embedded controller and sometimes there are compatibility issues. Even $3000-4000 Canon and Nikon camera’s have some cards they won’t work with and those companies have a much bigger testing budget then smaller groups like HK or even RPi have. I have few C2’s and RPi3B’s… both have their strengths and weaknesses but neither is perfect.

Pepe
Guest
Pepe

GanjaBear what are you talking about? USB problems on C1? WTF? Post here forum link or visit us on IRC #odroid.
False marketing? Are you sure? Please tell me that you’re not troll. It’s because of AMLogic. This isnt HK fault!
Read it again!

GanjaBear
Guest
GanjaBear

@pepe Sod off HK shill! I know exactly what I’m talking about, go read the shitty forum yourself if you need proof.

Member

I think this is deviating from the subject here. I’m not sure what problems HK has or doesn’t have as I’ve always avoided them due to the high shipping charges.
The main problem here is Amlogic and their lies. I remember thinking 2 GHz, who, nice, I wonder how they’re doing this when everyone else is at 1.6 max ( a fake 1.6 too from what I understand ). Now we know how Amlogic was getting those high clock speeds.
What surprises me is that their competition didn’t expose them ( probably because they were too busy with their own cheating ? 🙂

MarkW
Guest
MarkW

Why is this a surprise for anyone? When was the last time you’ve seen any Chinese product with accurate specs? It’s all gross exaggerations and bad translations. Safer to assume nothing works as advertised until proven otherwise.

RK
Guest
RK

@cnxsoft
With enough time on dev lists and irc channels, you’ll learn that knowing the issues doesn’t mean squat. Even experienced engineers & devs who should know better talk trash all the time. A one liner “it’s not the cooling” might be right. But take 10 minutes to go through just the irc logs of people git bisecting issues and you’ll see how fast those “it’s the x” or “it’s not the y” turn a 180.

Personally, my money is on a simple bug in the blob. Nothing nefarious. Maybe even a bug limited to some blob releases and some batches.

But, conspiracies make headlines better I guess :/

noone
Guest
noone

Amlogic is an *American* company. They just do the majority of their business in China.

I can’t wait for Risc-V to be a thing so I can put all this ARM nonsense behind me.

bob
Guest
bob

@nobitakun

You’re complaining about AMlogic using 28nm while Broadcom is still using 40nm with the rpi3?

Pepe
Guest
Pepe

@GanjaBear
Obvious troll w/o proof. 🙂
@Marius
Buy it from distributor ( http://www.hardkernel.com/main/distributor.php ) some distributor like RLX provides 24 months warranty

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

@cnxsoft
My issue with ARM DVFS and this AMLogic outing is Soc with DVFS cannot run constant all the time at their supposedly claimed higher speeds.

Its like driving from London to Paris in a car and speeding at 200 miles a hour for 2 minutes then driving the rest of the trip at 50 miles an hour, but when you get to Paris you tell people that you drove the whole journey at 200 miles an hour.

Now it seem AMLogic are driving the whole London journey to Paris at 50 miles an hour but claiming they did 200 miles an hour the whole journey.

I understand what you say CNX, present software within the s905 Soc line, block real over clocking of the GHz.

As mentioned above by Tim, can the s802, 805, 812 Socs be trusted too?