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Aujourd’hui — 5 mars 2021AnandTech

Axiomtek Unveils IMB700 Motherboard, LGA4189 For Intel Ice Lake-SP

Par Gavin Bonshor

Everyone wants to know what's in Intel's new Ice Lake Xeon server platform, right? Well the first promited board has been disclosed: Axiomtek (who?) has unveiled its latest motherboard compatible with Intel's Xeon Scalable Ice Lake processors based on the LGA4189 socket. The Axiomtek IMB700 is an ATX-sized solution with six memory slots capable of supporting up to 384 GB in hex-channel, with two Gigabit Ethernet ports six SATA-600 storage slots.

During the virtual Hot Chips 2020 industry event show, during our live blog of Intel's segment, Intel unveiled some details about its upcoming Ice Lake Xeon Scalable processors. Based on Intel's 10nm+ manufacturing process, we confirmed that Intel had started production on its Ice Lake-SP chips at the beginning of the year. With not much furor surrounding expected motherboard models at the moment, Axiomtek has unveiled its IMB700 with a single LGA4189 socket based on Intel's C621A chipset. Note that this is the same family of chipsets as current Skylake and Cascade Lake Xeons.

The Axiomtek IMB700 features an ATX PCB with a very simplistic green PCB which is common on professional and industrial-grade motherboards. Some of its key features include a single LGA4189 transposed socket, with six memory slots that can accommodate both LRDIMM and RDIMM DDR4-3200 memory, with a total capacity of up to 384 GB. For storage, the IMB700 features a single PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 2280 slot and six SATA-600 ports, including support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays.

Located in the center of the board are three full-length PCIe slots, with the top two operating at PCIe 4.0 x16, with the other operating at either PCIe 3.0 x16 or x8. There's also three half-length PCIe 3.0 x8 slots, although one of the half-length slots shares bandwidth with the blue-colored full-length slot. 

On the rear panel is a basic array of input and outputs, including four USB 3.1 G1 Type-A ports, one D-Sub video output, a PS/2 keyboard, and mouse combo port, as well as an RS-232/422/485 port, and dual Intel i210-AT Gigabit Ethernet. In regards to audio, Axiomtek offers its AX93242 HD audio converter board as an additional extra.

At present, Axiomtek hasn't unveiled any pricing information, but the official product page does state the IMB700 is coming soon. We're waiting for Intel to fully disclose its Ice Lake Xeon platform.

Source: Axiomtek

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Hier — 4 mars 2021AnandTech

Qualcomm Announces "Snapdragon Sound" Initiative

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Today Qualcomm is announcing the new “Snapdragon Sound” branding initiative, essentially an umbrella term that covers the company’s various audio related hardware and software products, promising improved end-to-end interoperability for a better audio experience.

GlobalFoundries to Invest $1.4B in Expansion, Potential Earlier IPO

Par Anton Shilov

GlobalFoundries this week reiterated plans to invest $1.4 billion this year in expansion of its manufacturing capacities across the world. Around one third of the sum will be co-invested by GlobalFoundries' customers who want to ensure that they have capacity allocation for years to come. The world's fourth largest foundry is also mulling to bring forward its IPO to late 2021 ahead of its original 2022 date.

In any typical year, GlobalFoundries spends about $700 million on expansion of its production capacities, however growing demand for chips has made clear the need for faster than normal groth - as a result the company is to invest $1.4 billion on expansion this year. The money will be divided equally between GlobalFoundries' sites in Dresden, Malta (New York) and Singapore, according to Reuters. Production capacity is expected to increase by 13% this year and by 20% next year as a result of the increased funding.

Last year GlobalFoundries said that it planned to significantly increase capacity it its Fab 1 located near Dresden. The company's German facility produces chips using 22FDX, 28SLP, 40/45/55NV as well as BCDLite technologies that are particularly important for automotive, mobile, IoT, and industrial applications. Capacity of Fab 1 in 2021 is expected to be in the range between 400,000 and 500,000 wafer starts per year. Increasing that number means that GlobalFoundries will be able to better address high-growth applications.

GlobalFoundries expects to raise around a third of $1.4 billion from its customers that will pre-pay to guarantee supply over the following years, the CEO of the company told Reuters. He did not name the clients.

In addition to boosting its existing production facilities, GlobalFoundries is also looking forward building another fab adjacent to its Fab 8 located in Malta, New York. Funding of the new facility will largely depend on subsidies and incentives provided by the U.S. Government and the state of New York as parts of the CHIPS for America act introduced last year. It should also be noted that Fab 8 in Malta recently recieved ITAR certification for DoD production on its 45 nm process, expanding GlobalFoundries' value as a home-grown chip manufacturer to the US government.

Back in 2020 GlobalFoundries earned approximately $5.7 billion in revenue, down from $6.176 billion in 2017. The company projects that in 2021 its revenue will grow by 9% to 10% year-over-year as a result of unprecedented demand. 

Since demand for chips is growing and governments have investments almost ready to go, it would seems to be a good time for GlobalFoundries' initial public offering. Previously GlobalFoundries planned to go public in late 2022 or early 2023, but the company appears to be thinking about bringing it forward into the late 2021 timeframe. Currently GlobalFoundries is wholly owned by Mubadala, an Emerati state-owned holding company.

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Xiaomi Announces Redmi Note 10 Series: Pro Hands-On at $279

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Today Xiaomi is updating one of its most popular and successful phone models with a slew of new Redmi Note 10 variants. Alongside the Note 10, Note 10S and the Note 10 5G, we’ve had the Redmi Note 10 Pro for a few days to get our first impressions of the low-cost device.

First AMD B550 With Thunderbolt 4: The ASUS ProArt B550-Creator

Par Gavin Bonshor

From a post by ASUS's Technical Product Marketing Manager (u/ASUSTechMKTJJ) on Reddit, ASUS looks to be readying up a new B550 motherboard based on its ProArt series. The ASUS ProArt series primarily aims to provide to creators, and its new ProArt B550-Creator is the first AMD AM4 motherboard to benefit from Intel's updated Thunderbolt 4 controller. Also included are an advertised 12+2 phase power delivery and dual 2.5 GbE networking.

Similar to previous iterations of its ProArt motherboard, such as the ASUS ProArt Z490-Creator 10G, it follows a simplistic design with straight lines provided by a pair of rectangular M.2 and an L-shaped power delivery heatsink. Keeping in line with its basic theme, it omits any integrated RGB LED lighting. ASUS advertises the B550-Creator as including a 12+2 phase power delivery with teamed power stages, with an 8-pin and 4-pin 12 V ATX CPU power input pairing providing power to the processor. 

Currently, ASUS hasn't revealed detailed specifications, but we can see that the ProArt B550-Creator includes three full-length PCIe slots, with the top likely conforming to PCIe Gen4 with the bottom slot most probably driven by the B550 chipset. It includes two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, with four SATA ports for storage, with possibly two PCIe M.2 slots due to the location and length of the pair of M.2 heatsinks featured on the board. It includes four memory slots with up to 128 GB of capacity, but ASUS hasn't provided information on supported speeds.

Much of the fanfare surrounding this announcement is the inclusion of Intel's latest Thunderbolt 4 controller, which looks to be the first time it has been implemented on an AM4 model. This is present on the rear panel of the ProArt B550-Creator with two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports, a single DisplayPort input, four USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, and two USB 2.0 ports. Also present on the rear panel is a pair of 2.5 GbE ports which ASUS hasn't specified which controller it's using, with a PS/2 combo port, one HDMI video output, and a small BIOS Flashback button. Finishing off the rear panel is five 3.5 mm audio jacks and single S/PDIF optical output, which is powered by a Realtek ALC1220A HD audio codec.

The ASUS ProArt B550-Creator motherboard is expected to be released sometime in April with an expected MSRP of $299. 

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À partir d’avant-hierAnandTech

AMD Announces Radeon RX 6700 XT: RDNA2 For 1440p, Coming March 18th For $479

Par Ryan Smith

As part of AMD’s latest Where Gaming Begins product presentation, the prolific processor designer announced the next member in its Radeon family of video cards, the Radeon RX 6700 XT. Following the tried and true scale-down release strategy that has come to define the GPU industry, the company is preparing its second RDNA2 GPU to further flesh out its lineup of video cards. Set to be released on March 18th, the Radeon RX 6700 XT will be AMD’s anchor card for 1440p gaming, succeeding the last-generation RX 5700 XT and giving AMD’s product lineup a more wallet-friendly option than their 4K-focused 6800/6900 series cards. The launch for the latest Radeon card will be an all-out affair, with both reference and partner custom cards launching the same day, with prices starting at $479.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro: Retail Offering Starts Today

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

Today AMD is officially going to start offering its Ryzen Threadripper Pro processors at retail, effectively ending the exclusivity deal with Lenovo on the product line. To date, Lenovo is the only company to have offered Threadripper Pro in the Thinkstation P620 platform. In the past few months, beginning with the CES trade show, we have seen three motherboard manufacturers showcase models of compatible motherboards for the retail market, and today is supposed to be the day that systems with those motherboards can be purchased.

At the launch of the Threadripper Pro platform, AMD advertised four different models from 12 cores up to 64 cores, built upon its Zen 2 architecture and mirroring the Threadripper 3000 family of hardware. The Pro element is an upgrade, giving the processor eight memory channels rather than four, support for 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, support for up to 2 TB of ECC memory per CPU, and Pro-level admin tools. In essence, sometimes it is easier to think of Threadripper Pro more as ‘Workstation EPYC’, as these new processors are aimed at the traditional workstation crowd.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro
AnandTech Cores Base
Freq
Turbo
Freq
PCIe
4.0
L3
Cache
DDR
Cap
Price
SEP
3995WX 64 / 128 2700 4200 128 256 MB 2 TB $5490
3975WX 32 / 64 3500 4200 128 128 MB 2 TB $2750
3955WX 16 / 32 3900 4300 128 64 MB 2 TB $1150
3945WX 12 / 24 4000 4300 128 64 MB 2 TB *
*Special OEM model
TR
3990X
64 / 128 2900 4300 64 256 MB 256 GB $3990
EPYC
7702P
64 / 128 2000 3350 128 256 MB 4 TB $4425

Out of the four processors, only three are being made at retail – that final 12-core processor is going to remain for specific OEM projects only. Pricing for these units is also being announced today, with the 64-core model sitting at $5490, the 32-core model at $2750, and the 16-core model at $1150.

These prices are larger than the equivalent Threadripper processors by up to 40%, despite our benchmarks showing the difference between the 64-core parts actually around 3% on average. This is because of all the extra features that Threadripper Pro brings to the table.

Motherboards from three manufacturers will be made available: the Supermicro M12SWA-TF, the GIGABYTE WRX80-SU8-IPMI, and the ASUS Pro WS WRX80E-SAGE SE WiFi. Prices for these motherboards are currently unknown, however we did have a short hands on with the ASUS motherboard which you can find in the link below.

We have already reviewed both the Threadripper Pro 3995WX and the Lenovo ThinkStation P620, which you can find here:

Exactly where and when these CPUs will start at the usual retail places is unclear - we do know that system integrators have been developing configurations with the hardware for several weeks now, so we might see these parts first hit the pre-built area before going fully retail.

We are hoping to get review units for the other CPUs in later this month, along with a few of these motherboards.

 

Update 1: Scan in the UK is currently selling the 64-core (£5000) and 32-core (£2500), with the 16-core (£1050) on preorder. They also have the ASUS motherboard for sale for £890.

The Intel Moonshot Division: An Interview with Dr. Richard Uhlig of Intel Labs

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

Some analysts consider Intel to be a processor company with manufacturing facilities – others consider it to be a manufacturing company that just happens to make processors. In the grand scheme of things, Intel is a hybrid of product, manufacturing, expertise, investment, and perhaps most importantly, research. Intel has a lot of research and development on its books, most of it aimed at current product cycles in the 12-36 month time span, but beyond that, as with most big engineering companies, there’s a team of people dedicated to finding the next big thing over 10-20+ years. This is usually called the Moonshot Division in most companies, but here we find it called Intel Labs, and leading this team of path-finding gurus is Dr. Richard Uhlig.

Crucial X6 Portable SSD 4TB Launches at $490: Phison's U17 Flash Controller Enters Retail

Par Ganesh T S

Crucial introduced the X6 Portable SSD last year as an entry-level alternative to their NVMe-based X8 Portable SSD. Launched in capacities of up to 2TB, the X6 adopted a 96L 3D TLC version of the BX500 SATA SSD along with an ASMedia ASM235CM SATA to USB 3.2 Gen 1 bridge chip. Today, the company is launching a unique high-performance product in the external SSD space within the same X6 family.

Direct flash-to-USB controllers have traditionally been used only in thumb drives, where compactness is the primary feature. These controllers present a number of advantages including significant reduction in bill-of-materials (BOM) cost and overall device power consumption. However, such controllers have typically been restricted to speeds of around 400MBps. Taking advantage of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 2x2 interfaces, Phison introduced a couple of high-speed flash controllers with a direct USB interface at CES 2021. The U17, sporting a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) upstream interface and a 2-channel 1200 MT/s downstream NAND interface, is the one on which Crucial's Portable SSD 4TB is based.

Crucial claims speeds of up to 800MBps for both reads and writes. This is significantly higher than the 540 MBps numbers possible with the SATA-based external SSDs. Officially, the X6 drives have 'Micron 3D NAND' and there is no specification of the generation / layer count. However, Crucial indicated that the X6 4TB drives being shipped today come with 96L Micron 3D NAND (QLC). As is usual with Micron / Crucial, it is likely that the NAND generation may get updated in the future to allow Micron to offer even lower price points.

The new 4TB X6 Portable SSD is priced at $490. At this price point, it compares quite favorably with the other QLC-based external SSDs such as the Sabrent XTRM-Q (though the latter comes with a Thunderbolt interface). The other 4TB external SSDs in the market are from Western Digital, with prices ranging from $680 to $750. Given their 3D TLC flash and the usage of a NVMe drive behind a bridge chip, they can offer much better performance, endurance, and additional flexibility (such as the ability to salvage the internal SSD in the case of a bridge chip failure) for professional use-cases. However, for the average consumer, the price per GB as well as price to performance ratio are both in Crucial's favor with the new X6 Portable SSD based on the Phison U17 controller.

Intel Discontinues Performance Tuning Protection Plan for Overclocking Warranties

Par Ryan Smith

After a 9-year run, Intel today has begun to wrap up its Performance Tuning Protection Plan service, the company’s optional extended warranty for CPU overclocking. As of today, Intel is no longer selling new PTP plans, and the program will be shifting to servicing existing warranties while those are still active. Intel’s warranty service was quite unique throughout the industry; given the potentially destructive nature of overclocking, it’s almost unheard of to be covered, even by optional warranties.

Intel originally launched the Performance Tuning Protection Plan back in January of 2012, right in the middle of the heyday of Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge CPU overclocking (ed: has it really been that long?). At the time, for anywhere between $20 and $35, Intel would offer a one-time warranty that specifically covered damages incurred by overclocking – something that Intel’s standard warranty explicitly does not cover. Should a retail boxed processor fail due to overclocking, intel would replace a PPTP warrantied chip once and only once, free of charge.

When Intel kicked off the program, it was initially started as a six-month trial, where saw enough success to become a long-term offering for Intel, covering all overclockable Intel consumer chips including their massive HEDT parts. Even though the program made it very affordable to overcook an Intel CPU for little more than the price of a pizza, the one-time replacement restriction seemingly did its job, as stories of people trying to abuse the program have been few and far between.

None the less, the PTPP’s days have finally come to an end. In a message posted to the plan’s website, Intel announced that the program was being discontinued, citing that “As customers increasingly overclock with confidence, we are seeing lower demand for the Performance Tuning Protection Plans”.

And while Intel doesn’t provide any specific numbers to back that up, broadly speaking it’s not at all surprising to hear that demand is down. Since the Sandy Bridge era overclocking has become a lot less fruitful; with Turbo Boost Max 3.0, Thermal Velocity Boost, and other turbo technologies, Intel has begun wringing out the bulk of clockspeed headroom from their CPUs right out of the box. At the same time peak clockspeeds have stalled at a bit over 5GHz, and the much larger core counts of today’s CPUs means that Intel differentiates its parts based on core count more than it does based on clockspeeds. So unlike the Sandy Bridge era, where you could easily expect to add another 1GHz (or more) to a $216 i5-2500K, a modern i5-10600K is lucky to achieve half of that thanks to already starting at a peak clockspeed of 4.8GHz. Ultimately, although CPU overclocking is far from dead, it’s no longer delivering big, easy performance boosts as it once did.

At any rate, with the retirement of the PPTP, Intel is transitioning to servicing existing warranties. Intel chip owners who have already purchased a plan are still covered for the length of their warranty, which rides on top of Intel’s standard 3-year warranty. So Intel will still be replacing a handful of chips for a couple more years yet.

The Intel SSD 670p (2TB) Review: Improving QLC, But Crazy Pricing?!?

Par Billy Tallis

Intel's third generation QLC SSD delivers much-needed performance improvements due to its new 144-layer 3D QLC NAND and a new low-cost SSD controller from Silicon Motion.

Report: Semi Demand 30% Above Supply, 20% Year-on-Year Growth

Par Anton Shilov

Semiconductor foundry offerings are thriving due to unprecedented demand for semiconductors and processors in recent quarters. Analysts from TrendForce believe that in Q1 2021 foundries will increase their revenue by 20% year-over-year as their capacities are fully loaded. Since the demand for chips is projected to continue to exceed the constrained supply for several quarters, market observers predict that manufacturers will be busy for a long time, and beyond this, will take a long time to catch up. This is good news for foundry revenue, and may encourage others to widen their foundry offerings. Warnings however about fab equipment are coming into play - being fully loaded means equipment now wears out faster, which increases risks of disruptions should that equipment also be short on supply.

Launching Today: NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3060 - Aiming For Mainstream At $329

Par Ryan Smith

NVIDIA this morning is launching their previously announced GeForce RTX 3060. First unveiled back at CES 2021, the latest member of the GeForce RTX 30 series is continuing NVIDIA’s ongoing top-to-bottom launch of Ampere-based video cards, with today’s card in some respects being the most popular one. Aimed at the mainstream market, the RTX 3060 is designed to be a more balanced option for the larger market of gamers who probably aren’t trying to drive high-end 4K displays, but still want the latest graphical features on a 1080p or 1440p display. RTX 3060 cards will go on sale a bit later this morning – at 9am Pacific – with prices starting at $329.

NVIDIA Closes Out Q4 & FY2021 With Another Round of Record Earnings

Par Ryan Smith

NVIDIA this afternoon closed the book on another record fiscal year, announcing their FY 2021 and Q4 2021 earnings results for the company. For the last quarter of their fiscal year, NVIDIA booked just over $5B in revenue with a profit of $1457M, marking NVIDIA’s first five billion dollar quarter, and setting earning records across the board. Meanwhile for the full fiscal year, NVIDIA has recorded just under $16.7B in revenue, with a net income for the year of $4.3B.

AMD To Unveil Next Radeon RX 6000 Video Card On March 3rd

Par Ryan Smith

It looks like AMD is getting ready to launch the next part in their RDNA2/RX 6000 family of video cards. This afternoon the company sent out a save the date invitation to the press and public, announcing that the company will be holding a Radeon-related announcement next Wednesday, March the 3rd. And with a picture of a previously unseen Radeon video card included with the announcement, AMD is leaving little ambiguity about their plans.

The event, officially dubbed “Where Gaming Begins Episode 3”, will be another Radeon-focused event, where AMD will “introduce the newest addition to the Radeon RX family of high-performance graphic cards.” AMD’s previous two WGB events have been pre-recorded presentations, so we’re expecting the same here.

The cornerstone of the announcement will be the introduction of a new Radeon video card. Essentially giving us half of the product announcement up-front, AMD has also posted a short, looping video of the card, highlighting the fairly sizable card and its open air cooler with dual axial fans. Given this, we’re almost certainly looking at what will be a Radeon RX 6700 card. AMD started the RDNA2 family with the top cards and GPU (Navi 21) first, so this is the next step in the expected filtering down of RDNA2 into cheaper video cards.

On March 3rd, the journey continues for #RDNA2. Join us at 11AM US Eastern as we reveal the latest addition to the @AMD Radeon RX 6000 graphics family. https://t.co/5CFvT9D2SR pic.twitter.com/tUpUwRfpgk

— Radeon RX (@Radeon) February 24, 2021

We’ll find out more about the card next week of course, but I would expect to see it positioned to compete against NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3060 series, with today’s announcement by AMD clearly intended to be a bit of a spoiler ahead of NVIDIA’s launch tomorrow. Currently AMD’s product stack stops at the $579 RX 6800, so it will be interesting to see just where this upcoming video card lands – if it’ll be positioned closer to the $400 RTX 3060 Ti, or the (nominally) $329 RTX 3060. AMD and NVIDIA’s GPUs have been slightly out of alignment this generation, as evidenced by Navi 21’s performance, so I won’t be too surprised if this next Navi GPU (Navi 22) similarly floats between NVIDIA’s GA106 and GA104.

Finally, I suspect we’ll hear some software-related news from AMD as well. The company has demonstrated an aptness for bundling software news into these hardware announcements, looking to make the most of these large, highly visible product launches. So I don’t expect AMD to solely talk about the new video card for 15+ minutes.

At any rate, we’ll find out more on March 3rd at 11am ET. So please join us then for the full details on AMD’s next Radeon video card.

HP is Acquiring HyperX for $425 Million

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

In some unexpected news today, HP and HyperX (formerly a division of Kingston) have jointly released a statement that HP is to acquire HyperX gaming peripherals portfolio, and the brand, for $425 million USD. Kingston retains the DRAM, Flash, and SSD products (those that are branded HyperX will probably be renamed). Perhaps it is indicative that Kingston wants to remain focused on the memory and storage markets, and divest away from a variable commodity market, while at the same time HP is looking to boost its presence in the space alongside its HP OMEN branding.

Pending regulatory review, the deal is expected to go close in Q2 2021, with the acquisition accretive on a non-GAAP to HP in the first full year. The HyperX peripheral line-up, which includes gaming headsets, microphones, keyboards, mouse pads, mice, power supplies, console accessories and apparel, is expected to be used by HP’s broader gaming ecosystem to expand potential add-ons for its OMEN series gaming desktops and laptops, as well as build that ecosystem for hardware, software, and services.

HyperX as a brand has always been a distinct element somewhat separate from Kingston – over the last few years, every trade show we’ve attended we have made separate meetings for each company, whereas a decade ago we would cover both in the same room. This disaggregation of the business has obviously allowed Kingston to package it up should it ever need to offload, as it has now done with HP. Kingston still retains the gaming focused RGB-laden DRAM and SSD businesses, although these are likely to be sold either under Kingston or a separate new brand that we will learn about in due course. It is unclear whether HyperX sponsorships of eSports teams is also part of the deal, if those will transfer to HP, or they will remain with Kingston.

In the press release, HP quotes that the PC hardware industry is set to have a $70 billion addressable market by 2023, with the global peripherals market (gaming and non-gaming) to grow to $12.4 billion by 2024. HP states that gaming peripherals will be a disproportionally large element of that year-on-year growth, and that HyperX’s brand recognition will help HP ‘advance its leadership in personal systems by modernizing compute experiences and expanding into valuable adjacencies’. In non-corporate speak, that just means that HP sees collective value in enabling its own systems with top-brand accessories to improve the overall experience. For a price, naturally, although there will no doubt be some synergies as HP can mothball some of its own HP OMEN peripherals that may not have had large distribution.

With the deal expected to close in Q2, it will be interesting to see if HP does any brand reorganization with HyperX, such as ‘HyperX by HP’, or leave it as it is. If we get more information we will add to this news post.

Lenovo Updates ThinkPads: New Intel and AMD Processors, New Displays, New Designs

Par Brett Howse

Today Lenovo is announcing a slew of updates across a large portion of their ThinkPad lineup, and updating their business-focused products for 2021. Some of the big changes for this year are impressive and welcome, with Lenovo committing to bringing feature-parity between their AMD and Intel offerings, as well as refreshing some of their laptops with 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and continuing the trend of bringing back 16:10 aspect ratio displays for a better productivity experience.

ThinkPad X13 and X13 Yoga

Although some of the ThinkPad X lineup got refreshed back at CES, Lenovo is continuing the 2021 updates today on the X13 and X13 Yoga products, and the changes make these already impressive devices even more so.

On the processor side, Lenovo is offering either 11th Gen Intel Core – aka Tiger Lake – processors with vPro optional, as well as AMD Ryzen 5000 Pro options. Lenovo says they have heard the feedback from customers and are working hard to close the feature and option gap between the two platforms. For the most part, customers choosing AMD or Intel will have the same specifications and options available for the rest of the product, such as displays, memory, and so on, other than the platform specific features such as Intel supporting Thunderbolt 4 and PCIe 4.0.

The X13 and X13 Yoga will also be getting Wi-Fi 6E meaning 6 GHz support, and for those that want connectivity when out and about, sub-6 5G is an option on the X13, or 4G is available on both models.

Lenovo is also continuing to move to 16:10 displays, with the taller displays filling out more of the body and providing more vertical pixels for productivity. This is a great trend, and one that should not have taken this long to come back to, as of course the original widescreen ThinkPads were all 16:10 before the entire industry moved to 16:9. Lenovo is also proud to offer low-blue light hardware support on the displays, and unlike most low-blue light technologies which cause a red-shift on the display, the backlight physically produces less of the stressful blue lights, allowing the display to still keep the proper white balance.

As this is a proper business machine, there is also addition security such as Match-On-Chip fingerprint readers built into the power button, and the Intel models will support Human Presence Detection which allows the machine to lock when you are away and unlock when you get back. This will be through the IR camera, and as far as the visual camera, Lenovo is including an option for both HD with IR, as well as FHD with IR, the latter being a nice addition thanks to the increase in video conferencing over the last year.

The updated ThinkPad X13 will be available in May starting at $1139 USD, and the X13 Yoga will be available in April starting at $1379.

ThinkPad T14, T14s, and T15

ThinkPad T14

When most people imagine ThinkPad, they likely think of the venerable T Series. Lenovo said they are working on feature parity between Intel and AMD, and one of the changes is not branding the products differently based on the CPU, but for the T series, it doesn’t look like they’ve quite gotten there yet. There will be ThinkPad T14 i, ThinkPad T14s i, and ThinkPad T15 powered by Intel, and for the 14-inch models, the ones branded without the i will be AMD Ryzen based.

Although the T series is, at least for this gen, sticking with 16:9 aspect ratios, with several options for the 14-inch and 15-inch range including UHD displays with Dolby Vision. Lenovo is also offering its PrivacyGuard displays for extra security, and some low-power options depending on how you configure it.

ThinkPad T14s

As far as performance, the laptop will offer up to Core i7 11th Gen with vPro options, or AMD Ryzen 5000 Pro. Memory will be up to 32 GB on the S model, and up to 48 GB on the non-S. Storage is up to 2 TB of PCIe storage, with the Intel platforms supporting PCIe 4.0 speeds. The non-S model T14 and the T15 also offers an optional NVIDIA GeForce MX450 with 2 GB of GDDR6, if extra graphics compute is needed over the Intel Iris Xe or AMD Vega 8 graphics.

As with much of the ThinkPad lineup, Lenovo is offering Wi-Fi 6, 6E, and cellular capabilities with 4G and 5G options. As with the ThinkPad X13 range, Lenovo will also be offering FHD webcams with IR as optional upgrades.

Although the T14s is smaller and lighter than the T14, it includes a larger battery at 57 Wh, compared to just 50 Wh in the larger model. The 15-inch T15 also has the 57 Wh battery.

The ThinkPad T14s is one of my favorite laptops around, and it is always nice to see it get updated. The new models will be available starting in March and going through May depending on the model, with prices starting at $1149 for the ThinkPad T14 AMD model.

ThinkPad P14s and P15s

Also getting an update is a couple of the mobile workstation models under the P-Series, and as with the other units there will be both 11th Gen Intel Core with vPro as well as AMD Ryzen 5000 Pro CPU offerings.

The P14s and P15s will both offer 8 GB or 16 GB of soldered memory, as well as a SO-DIMM slot, which will allow for up to 48 GB maximum memory in these thinner and lighter versions of the P-series laptops. Lenovo is also offering the NVIDIA T500 which is the workstation class graphics based on the Turing MX450 and featuring 4 GB of VRAM.

Both the P14s and P15s will offer FHD displays as standard, with a few options such as ePrivacy or Low-Power, and both will offer an optional UHD display with HDR 400 and Dolby Vision HDR. The UHD displays will come with X-Rite factor color calibration.

For those that need a Linux version, Lenovo will be offering Ubuntu 20.04 LTS installs, as well as Red Had as factory options.

Wireless will be Intel Wi-Fi 6E for 6 GHz support thanks to the Intel AX210 on the Tiger Lake models, and the AMD offerings will still support Wi-Fi 6, but without the 6 GHz support.

Although some of the other ThinkPads are being offered with a FHD webcam, the P14s and P15s are not, at least for now. The newer webcam is physically larger, and would take a more comprehensive redesign of the chassis, but the HD webcam does offer IR if needed.

The Intel powered P14s i, and the P15s will be available in March, starting at $1389 for either, with the AMD powered P14s coming in May, and starting at $1169.

ThinkPad L14 and L15

Rounding out the lineup is the least-expensive way to get into a ThinkPad, and that is the L Series. Also being offered in a L14/15 i Intel based, or L14/15 AMD based design, the least expensive offerings still offer some powerful options.

With 11th gen Intel Core with vPro, and AMD Ryzen 5000, there will be two SODIMM slots, thanks to the thicker and heavier design, which means the least expensive models here can be outfitted with the most RAM, at up to 64 GB. There will be Intel Iris Xe, or AMD Vega graphics, and purchasers can opt for NVIDIA GeForce MX 450 as well.

One of the sad realities of a budget device is the display, and the base model comes with a (Yuck) 1366x768 TN panel. Luckily Lenovo offers FHD IPS offerings on both.

Storage is up to 1 TB PCIe SSD, or up to 2 TB spinning hard drive, but you do get Wi-Fi 6 across the range, and optional cellular options.

The L series is really all about entry price, and the new L14 and L15 will be available in May starting at $689.

Source: Lenovo

 

Lenovo Introduces The ThinkVision P40w: 40-inch Thunderbolt 4 Display With Intel AMT

Par Brett Howse

Alongside a raft of ThinkPad updates, Lenovo is also announcing a new monitor to pair nicely with those Thinkpads. The Lenovo ThinkVision P40w is a rather impressive looking product, offering a 39.7-inch 21:9 panel, featuring a 5120x2160 WUHD resolution. And that’s not all.

The new P40w is also a dock for your laptop, thanks to the single-cable Thunderbolt 4 port which can charge the laptop at up to 100 Watts. It can provide up to 12 ports from the monitor, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and one USB Type-C. Not only that, but Lenovo includes an eKVM, which allows you to control two devices from this single monitor and dock combination. The extra Thunderbolt 4 port also would allow you to daisy-chain another 5K monitor.

Lenovo ThinkVision P40w
Specification Display
Display Size 39.7-inches
2.0 mm bezels top/sides
Resolution 5120x2160 WUHD 75 Hz
140 PPI
Curvature 2500R
Color Gamut 98% P3
Factory Calibrated
Brightness 300 nits
1000:1 Contrast IPS
Response Time 4 ms (Extreme Mode)
6 ms (Normal Mode)
Ports (Video) 2 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x DisplayPort 1.4
1 x 3.5 mm Audio Out
Ports (I/O) Output Ports:
4 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
1 x Thunderbolt 4
Input Ports:
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-B
1 x Thunderbolt 4
RJ-45
Power Delivery USB Type-C : Up to 27 W
Thunderbolt 4: Up to 100 W
Power Consumption 60 Watts (Typical)
0.5 Watts Sleep Mode
Tilt (`)-5° to 22°
Swivel 45° Plus/Minus
VESA 100 x 100 and 200 x 100
Weight 14.65 kg / 32.30 lbs with stand

The 21:9 panel offers 98% of the P3 color space, and is factory calibrated for an error level of less than 2.0, and includes hardware-level blue light reduction, to keep the proper white balance while still reducing blue light emissions.

There is a built-in RJ-45 jack as well, allowing the monitor to be your network hub, and it supports Wake-On-LAN, PXE, and MAC pass-through. Lenovo is the first manufacturer to retail a professional monitor with Intel Active Management Technology built-in to integrate with the vPro on ThinkPads, and provide the extra management capabilities that provides.

If you have always wanted a big monitor with high resolution, wide gamut support, and of course the management capabilities of Intel AMT, Lenovo has you covered.

The new ThinkVision P40w will be available in June, starting at $1699 USD.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra & S21 Review: The Near Perfect and The Different

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Today we’re reviewing the Galaxy S21 Ultra in both Exynos and Snapdragon SoC flavours, as well the baseline Galaxy S21 – contrasting two very different devices in Samsung’s new series, coming in at two very different price points.

AMD To Probe Potential USB Connectivity Issue on Ryzen Systems

Par Gavin Bonshor

Some AMD users have been posting on social media, including Reddit, about experiencing intermittent connectivity problems when using USB ports on their 500-series motherboards. In response, AMD has reached out through a Reddit post that it has been made aware of the connectivity issues, and is requesting more information from specific users with the issue to help them resolve it. Since this announcement, many users have been reaching out to AMD.

AMD's X570 motherboards have been readily available since July 2019, and its B550 models have been available since June 2020 and have both become well established over the course of the last year and a half. The fact that users are now having USB issues begs the question whether the issues have been present all along but are now rising above the noise, or there is something related to the longevity of these systems.

AMD 500 Series Motherboard and USB Connectivity Issues?

The most common reproduction of this issue appears to be during the use of Virtual Reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, with an intermittent connection issue being more prevalent to these users. As USB is the main method to power and communicate with VR headsets and peripherals, any dropout, even slightly to the high-powered VR applications, would instantly be highlighted. That isn't the only problem it can cause, as streaming devices and USB audio interfaces could also experience power dropouts, which could be quite noticeable, especially if doing a recording.

While AMD hasn't pinpointed the exact cause of the issue yet, it asks its users to reach out to them over on Reddit by u/AMDOfficial, which is an official support channel for AMD. Extensively combing through user comments on Reddit, it doesn't seem to be solely related just to one section of hardware. Some of the issues that users report seem to stem from the release of PCIe 4.0 graphics cards on 500 series motherboards. Reddit user u/duddy32 also states that they have been having these issues with a B450 motherboard and a Ryzen 7 3700X processor, which precede the 500-series chipset. 


AMD's B550 Chipset layout, including USB connectivity.

One possible workaround touted to reduce (but importantly not completely stop) the issues is users changing the motherboards' settings from PCIe 4.0 to PCIe 3.0. Users on Reddit have been reporting although it has reduced the frequency of dropouts, it hasn't eliminated them, which could point to an issue between the USB hub controller and other parts of the chipset. Some users are also reporting the issue to be primarily on USB 2.0 ports, and some have had success by switching devices to USB 3.1 ports. It is also recommended to update the firmware to the latest AGESA version on models, which could reduce issues. Although at this point, it's possible to presume that none of the workarounds could fix these problems users are experiencing with random and intermittent USB cutouts.

Although AMD hasn't notified the reddit audience if it has been able to pinpoint the issue internally, it is asking users experiencing these issues to detail their hardware configurations and other relevant system information to allow AMD to recreate the issues on its end. AMD is also openly encouraging users to directly raise online service requests with AMD customer support to help correlate data and compare notes with other support claims to narrow down the problem potentially.


The rear panel of an X70 motherboard with USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports.

It should be noted that not all users have experienced these issues - we've tested several dozen AMD AM4 motherboards and have used them extensively over the last 15 months, with exactly zero issues related to this. This is why this issue might only be being highlighted now - either users haven't noticed the issue, as a very slight cutout from a mouse or keyboard may not be very apparent, or they might be lucky that this issue doesn't affect them. However, enough users are coming forward with these intermittent USB connectivity issues to make the issue widespread across multiple models and processor combinations. This means the issue isn't specifically down to a certain manufacturer and looks more like an issue with AMD's chipset or how it connects from the USB hub to the chipset. 

If AMD does manage to pinpoint the issue with its in-house team and collaboration of consistent data points provided by its users, it's possible a future AGESA firmware update could alleviate the issues. Of course, if it is directly related to a design and hardware problem, which could be a much tougher nut to crack for AMD.

AMD's official statement posted on 02/20/21 can be found on Reddit herehttps://www.reddit.com/r/Amd/comments/lnmet0/an_update_on_usb_connectivity_with_500_series/

Related Reading

2021 NAND Flash Updates from ISSCC: The Leaning Towers of TLC and QLC

Par Billy Tallis

The annual IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference covers a range of topics of interest to AnandTech. Every year the conference includes a session on non-volatile memories where most of the NAND flash memory manufacturers share technical details of their latest developments. At the conference we get more information than these companies are usually willing to share in press briefings, and the presentations are usually about technology that will be hitting the market during the coming year.

At ISSCC 2021 this week, four of the six major 3D NAND flash memory manufacturers are presenting their newest 3D NAND technology. Samsung, SK hynix and Kioxia (+Western Digital) are sharing their latest 3D TLC NAND designs and Intel is presenting their 144-layer 3D QLC NAND. Not participating this year are Micron (who announced their 176L 3D NAND late last year) and Chinese newcomer YMTC.

3D TLC (3-bit per cell) Updates

Samsung, SK hynix, and Kioxia/WD presented information about their upcoming generations of 3D TLC. Not shown here is Micron's 176L TLC, because they haven't released most of this data for their latest generation of 3D NAND.

3D TLC NAND Flash Memory
ISSCC Presentations
  Samsung SK hynix Kioxia (Toshiba)
WD
Year Presented at ISSCC 2021 2019 2021 2021 2019 2018
Layers   128 176 >170 128 96
Die Capacity 512 Gb 512 Gb 512 Gb 1 Tb 512 Gb 512 Gb
Die Size (mm2)   101.58   98 66 86
Density (Gbit/mm2) 8.5 5 10.8 10.4 7.8 5.95
IO Speed 2.0 Gb/s 1.2 Gb/s 1.6 Gb/s 2.0 Gb/s 1.066 Gb/s 533 Mb/s
Program Throughput 184 MB/s 82 MB/s 168 MB/s 160 MB/s 132 MB/s 57 MB/s
Read Latency (tR) 40 µs 45 µs 50 µs 50 µs 56 µs 58 µs
Erase Block Size         24 MB 18 MB
Planes 4? 2 4 4 4 2
CuA / PuC Yes No Yes Yes Yes No

Unsurprisingly, it looks likely that Samsung will again be in the lead for performance, with the lowest read latency and fastest write speeds. However, their bit density is still clearly lagging even though they're claiming a 70% jump with this generation. In the past, their lagging density hasn't been as much of a downside as it might appear at first glance, because Samsung has been able to avoid using string stacking and can manufacture a stack of 128 layers as a single deck while their competitors have all had to split their stack into two decks, increasing the number of fab steps required. This might be the generation that brings Samsung's inevitable adoption of string stacking, but if that's the case then their lingering density disadvantage is rather disappointing. On the other hand, if they've managed to put off that transition for one more generation and achieved this kind of density increase only using a combination of other techniques (most notably a CMOS under Array layout), then it's a very impressive advance and it would be safe to say that Samsung is years ahead of the competition when it comes to the high aspect ratio etching of the vertical channels that is the most critical fab step in scaling 3D NAND. We'll know more once Samsung discloses the actual layer count, but they're keeping that secret for now—which hints that they don't expect to have the highest layer count to brag about.

The TLC parts described by SK hynix and Kioxia/WD look fairly similar, save for the big difference that SK hynix is talking about a 512Gb die and Kioxia is talking about a 1Tb die. Both designs look to have similar performance and density, though Kioxia is touting a higher NAND interface speed. Kioxia and Western Digital have put out a press release announcing 162-layer 3D NAND, so they're a bit behind SK hynix and Micron for total layer count. That press release also mentions a 10% improvement in the horizontal density of their cell array, so Kioxia and Western Digital are probably packing the vertical channels closer together than any of their competitors.

3D QLC (4-bit per cell) Updates

The only company with updates this year on QLC is Intel.

3D QLC NAND Flash Memory
ISSCC Presentations
  Intel Samsung SK hynix Kioxia
WD
Year Presented at ISSCC 2021 2020 2020 2018 2020 2019
Layers 144 96 92 64 96 96
Die Capacity 1 Tb 1 Tb 1 Tb 1 Tb 1 Tb 1.33 Tb
Die Size (mm2) 74.0 114.6 136 182 122 158.4
Density (Gbit/mm2) 13.8 8.9 7.53 5.63 8.4 8.5
IO Speed 1.2 Gb/s 800 Mb/s 1.2 Gb/s 1.0 Gb/s 800 Mb/s 800 Mb/s
Program Throughput 40 MB/s 31.5 MB/s 18 MB/s 12 MB/s 30 MB/s 9.3 MB/s
Program Latency (tPROG) 1630 µs 2080 µs 2 ms 3 ms 2.15 ms 3380 µs
Read Latency
(tR)
Avg 85 µs 90 µs 110 µs 145 µs 170 µs 160 µs
Max 128 µs 168 µs       165 µs
Erase Block Size 48 MB 96 MB   16 MB 24 MB 24 MB
Planes 4 4 2 2 4 2

In general, Intel has been more focused on QLC NAND than any of its competitors. This 144L QLC is the first generation of 3D NAND Intel hasn't co-developed with Micron, and it is unique in several respects. Intel is taking its 3D NAND technology in different directions from the rest of the industry will have interesting ramifications for their agreement to sell the NAND flash business to SK hynix, but in the short term it seems like Intel is getting the NAND they want to be selling. With only 144 layers, Intel is almost certainly now in the last place for total layer count. Compared to 9x-layer QLC, Intel has much better performance and density—but QLC versions of the new TLC described by SK hynix and Kioxia should have comparable density. Intel has backed off from the frankly astronomical erase block size their 96L QLC used, but the 48MB block size of their new 144L QLC still seems a bit high.

CMOS Under Array From Everyone

Intel and Micron's now-dissolved joint venture was the second NAND flash manufacturer to make the switch to 3D NAND, after Samsung. The most significant innovation the Intel/Micron 3D NAND brought to the industry was the CMOS Under the Array (CuA) design. This places most of the NAND die's peripheral circuitry—page buffers, sense amplifiers, charge pumps, etc.—under the vertical stack of memory cells instead of alongside.

This change saves a big chunk of die space and allows for over 90% of the die area to be used for the memory cell array. SK hynix was next to make this switch, which they call "Periphery under Cell" (PuC). The rest of the manufacturers are now also onboard: Kioxia (then Toshiba) and Western Digital presented a 128-layer CuA design at ISSCC 2019 but their fifth generation BiCS 3D NAND ended up going into production as a 112L design without CuA. Their ISSCC presentation this year is for a "170+" layer design with CuA, and they've put out a press release confirming that their sixth generation BiCS 3D NAND will be a 162-layer design with CuA.

Aside from saving die space, a CuA/PuC style design for 3D NAND allows for a die to include more peripheral circuitry than would otherwise be cost-effective. This makes it practical to divide a die's memory array into more separate planes, each with their own copies of much of the peripheral circuitry. Most 3D NAND that has been built without a CuA layout has used just two planes per die, but now that everyone is using CuA the standard is four planes per die. This provides extra parallelism that increases the performance per die and offsets the overall SSD performance drop that usually comes from using fewer dies to reach the same total capacity.

A CuA structure is not without its challenges and downsides. When a manufacturer first switches to CuA they get a big increase in available die space for peripheral circuitry. But after that, each successive generation that adds layers means there's less die space available for managing the same number of memory cells, so peripheral circuitry still has to shrink. Putting peripheral circuitry under the memory cell array also introduces new constraints. For example, Samsung's ISSCC presentation this year mentions the challenges of constructing large capacitors for the charge pumps when they can no longer use the tall metal structures that are simple to include alongside the 3D NAND stack.

Better On-Die Parallelism: Four Planes Per Die

Dividing a NAND flash die into four planes allows for the die to handle more operations in parallel, but doesn't make it behave quite like four independent dies. There are restrictions on what can be done in parallel: for example, simultaneous writes still have to go to the same word line within each plane. But as the number of planes in a flash die grows, manufacturers have been working to loosen some of those restrictions. In previous years, manufacturers have introduced *independent* multi-plane reads, meaning simultaneous reads in different planes don't have any restrictions on the locations within each plane that are being read—a big win for random read throughput.

Now, another restriction on multi-plane operations is being relaxed: the timing of read operations in different planes doesn't need to line up. This makes it possible for one plane to perform multiple reads from SLC pages while another plane is performing a single slower read from TLC or QLC pages. This capability is called Asynchronous Independent (Multi-)Plane Read. The practical effect is that for read operations, a large 4-plane die can now match the performance of four smaller 1-plane dies. This mitigates many of the performance downsides that higher per-die capacity brings to SSDs that only have one or two dies per channel.

Kioxia and WD reported that implementing this capability required them to stop sharing charge pumps between planes, in order to avoid poorly-timed voltage and current fluctuations that would have resulted from unsynchronized read operations. Intel is also halfway to this capability with their 4-plane 144L QLC: planes are paired up into plane groups, and each plane group can perform reads without needing to align with the timing of reads in the other plane group.

 

NAND IO Speeds Outpacing SSD Controller Support

The new TLC NAND parts described at ISSCC support IO speeds ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 Gb/s for communication between the NAND flash dies and the SSD controller. The fastest NAND in SSDs currently on the market runs at 1.2-1.4Gb/s. The NAND manufacturers can benefit from vertical integration by ensuring that their own SSD controller designs used for their own SSDs will be ready to support these higher IO speeds, but other SSD vendors that rely on third-party controllers may be left behind. Phison's latest E18 8-channel controller for high-end PCIe 4.0 SSDs only supports 1.2Gb/s IO speeds, and their upcoming E21T 4-channel NVMe controller supports 1.6Gb/s. Silicon Motion's 8-channel SM2264 and 4-channel SM2267 support 1.6Gb/s and 1.2Gb/s IO speeds respectively.

 

Since 8 channels running at 1.2Gb/s is already enough for a SSD to saturate a PCIe 4.0 x4 connection, these new higher IO speeds will not be of much use to high-end SSDs until PCIe 5.0 arrives. But more affordable 4-channel consumer SSD controllers will be able to use these higher speeds to move up well into PCIe 4.0 performance territory, matching or exceeding the throughput that the first PCIe 4.0 SSD controller (Phison E16, 8ch @ 800Mb/s) offered. As demonstrated by drives like the SK hynix Gold P31, an advanced 4-channel controller supporting high IO speeds on each channel can be very competitive on performance while operating with far higher power efficiency than 8-channel controllers.

Hitting these higher IO speeds requires major upgrades to the interface logic on the NAND dies, and as we've seen with other high-speed interfaces like PCI Express, increasing power consumption is a major concern. Samsung is addressing this by using dual-mode drivers and termination. When higher drive strength is needed because of more load on the bus (from more dies per channel), the'll use a PMOS transistor for pull-up, and otherwise they can use a NMOS transistor and cut the power consumption of the driver by more than half. This gives Samsung a single interface design that will work well for both small consumer SSDs and large enterprise drives with many more dies per channel. (In the past Samsung has added separate retimer dies to multi-chip packages that stack lots of NAND dies together on the same one or two channels. We're not sure if Samsung is still using this technique.)

 

String Stacking: First Triple-Deck NAND

String stacking has been viewed as something of a necessary evil for scaling up 3D NAND to higher layer counts. Only Samsung has managed to build more than 100 layers of 3D NAND at a time, and everyone else has long since switched to stacking two decks each with a more reasonable layer count. This means that eg. Micron's 176-layer 3D NAND is built as 88 layers of memory cells, then another 88 layers are constructed on top. This drives up cost compared to doing all the layers at once, and it requires careful alignment at the interface between decks. But the alternative would be to make the vertical channels much wider, so that the aspect ratio (width vs depth) would stay within the realm of what can be feasibly etched by current fab techniques.

Intel's 144L QLC design includes the surprise that they are already moving to a 3-deck stack: 48+48+48 layers rather than the 72+72 we would expect. Since their previous generation is a 48+48 layer (96L total) design, it's possible that they have changed very little about how the memory array itself is fabricated aside from repeating the same sequence of deposition, etch and fill steps a third time. Intel is taking a hit on fab throughput with this approach, but it probably helps them better control the variation in channel and cell dimensions from the top to bottom of the stack, which may be more of a concern given their focus on QLC and their unique decision to still use a floating gate memory cell rather than switching to a charge trap cell like everyone else.

To go along with this triple-deck structure, Intel has reorganized how they handle erase blocks, and now each of the three decks constitutes a separate collection of erase blocks. That means the middle third of a 144L string can now be erased without interfering with the data stored in the other two thirds of the string. Dividing blocks by decks is also how Intel was able to reduce the 96 MB block size with their 96L QLC down to a less extreme 48MB block size.

 

A Small Caveat about Academic Conferences

It's important to understand that ISSCC, where these updates are presented, is an academic conference. The presentations are not product announcements and the papers are not product spec sheets. The designs presented at ISSCC don't always match what goes into mass production. For example, Kioxia/WD in the past have presented designs for 128L and "170+" layer NAND, but their actual fifth and sixth generation BiCS NAND as mass produced are 112L and 162L designs. They also, despite mentioning it in their 2019 talk, deferred a switch to a more dense 'CMOS under Array (CuA) structure' to a later product line.  Specifications such as write performance are also often presented as best-case, and real world products end up being a notch below what is presented.

Despite the coming together of all these companies under one conference, even when the presentation does match the eventual product, what we learn from ISSCC is usually imperfect and incomplete information. The companies are inconsistent about what metrics they report, and we usually get information for only one die design per generation—a company might present their 512Gbit design even if they're planning to manufacture both 512Gbit and 256Gbit parts. In recent years several companies seem to be alternating between talking about their QLC one year and TLC the next. In spite of all of that, ISSCC presentations on 3D NAND are still a great way to gauge how the state of the art has progressed and where the industry as a whole is headed.

About half the content of these presentations is clever schemes for micromanaging voltages applied to various wires to optimize the read, program and erase processes. There are complex tradeoffs between speed, accuracy, wear and other factors. we're not going to dig into all of these details, other than to say that programming a cell to the desired voltage (and without disturbing other cells) is not a simple process, and even reading from a TLC or QLC cell is quite a bit more complicated than reading from a DRAM or SRAM cell. We're more interested in any major structural changes in the dies themselves, and the end results of all the finessing of voltages: the speeds at which a page of memory can be read or programmed.

Source Material: 68th ISSCC, Feb 13-22nd 2021

Toshiba Unveils World's First FC-MAMR HDD: 18 TB, Helium Filled

Par Anton Shilov

Toshiba this week announced the industry's first hard drive featuring flux-control microwave-assisted magnetic recording (FC-MAMR) technology. The new MG09-series HDDs are designed primarily for nearline and enterprise applications, they offer an 18 TB capacity along with an ultra-low idle power consumption. 

The Toshiba MG09-series 3.5-inch 18 TB HDD are based on the company's 3rd generation nine-platter helium sealed platform that features 18 heads with a microwave-emitting component which changes magnetic coercivity of the platters before writing data. The HD disks are made by Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), a long-time partner of Toshiba. Each aluminum platter is about 0.635 mm thick, it features an areal density of around 1.5 Tb/inch2 and can store up to 2 TB of data. The MG09 family also includes a 16 TB model which presumably features a lower number of platters (based on the same performance rating).

For modern enterprise and nearline 3.5-inch HDDs, Toshiba's MG09-series drives uses a motor with a 7200-RPM spindle speed. The HDDs are also equipped with a 512 MB buffer and are rated for a 281 MB/s maximum sustained data transfer rate. Unfortunately, Toshiba has not updated the random access performance of the new products, though it is likely that their per-TB IOPS performance is lower when compared to predecessors. The manufacturer will offer its new drives both with SATA 3.3 (6 Gbps) and SAS 3.0 (12 Gbps) interfaces as well as a selection of logical data block length.

One of the noteworthy things about Toshiba's MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs is their power consumption. In active idle mode, they typically consume 4.16/4.54 Watts (SATA/SAS models), which is considerably lower when compared with Seagate's Exos X18 as well as Western Digital's Ultrastar DC HC550. As far as power consumption efficiency at idle (large hard drives could spend plenty of time idling) is concerned, the 18 TB MG09 is an undeniable champion consuming just 0.23 Watts per TB (in case of the SATA version). Meanwhile, the new drives are rated for 8.35/8.74 Watts (SATA/SAS SKUs) during read/write operations, which is higher when compared to the DC HC550 as well as predecessors from the MG07 and the MG08-series.

Brief Specifications of Toshiba's MG09 HDDs
Capacity 18 TB 16 TB
Platters 9 8
Heads 18 16
Recording Technology Flux-control microwave-assisted
magnetic recording (FC-MAMR)
RPM 7200 RPM
Interface SATA 6 Gbps/SAS 12 Gbps
DRAM Cache 512 MB
Persistent Write Cache Yes
Helium-Filling Yes
Sequential Data Transfer Rate (host to/from drive) 281 MB/s
MTBF 2.5 million
Rated Annual Workload 550 TB
Acoustics (idle) 20 dB
Power Consumption Random read/write SATA: 8.35 W
SAS: 8.74 W
Idle SATA: 4.16 W
SAS: 4.54 W
Warranty 5 Years

As the MG09 family of hard drives are intended for datacenter racks that accommodate hundreds of vibrating HDDs, they feature numerous enhancements to ensure consistent performance, reliability, and durability. Typically such enhancements include top and bottom attached motors, RVFF, as well as environmental sensors. Like all modern drives for 24/7 applications, Toshiba's MG09-series units are rated for a 550 TB average annualized workload, 2.5 million hours MTBF, and are covered with a standard five-year warranty.

Also, the new MG09 hard drives support Toshiba’s persistent write cache (PWC) with power loss protection (PLP) technology, which is crucial for 4K sector drives that emulate 512B sectors. The PWC with PLP feature guards data in case of power loss while performing read-modify-write (RMW) operation to align the source write request with the physical sectors it has to modify. This capability allows the company to address its clients who run legacy systems that still require high capacities. Also, the new MG09 family includes Sanitize Instant Erase (SIE) and Self Encrypting Drive (SED) models.

Toshiba has been working on its MG09-series FC-MAMR HDDs for at least two years already. Last year the company said it had made 'significant investments in manufacturing facilities' and promised to start shipments of its 18 TB hard drives by March 31, 2021. This week the company reaffirmed its plan and said it would begin sample shipments of its 18 TB MG09-series MAMR HDDs 'at the end of March 2021.'

Source: Toshiba

NVIDIA Nerfs Ethereum Hash Rate & Launches CMP Dedicated Mining Hardware

Par Ryan Smith & Dr. Ian Cutress

One of the critical points during this period of high demand for graphics cards is that a portion of them are being purchased by professional users looking to mine cryptocurrencies. The recent launch of new cards coupled with record highs in the cryptocurrency market has led to a rebirth of the mining community, who as of recently could earn ~$15 per RTX 3090 graphics card. These professional miners buy graphics card by the pallet load, sometimes bypassing retailers and going direct to distributors, as they can guarantee a complete shipment sale in one go. The knock on effect is fewer cards available for gamers looking to build new systems, leading to empty shelves and causing prices to spike for the handful of cards that ever make it to retailers.

In order to at least offer a fig leaf to gamers, in the past certain graphics board partners started producing mining-only graphics cards. These had no graphical outputs, making them almost impossible for gaming use cases, but it filtered off some of the mining market into buying those rather than taking stock away from shelves for gamers. This was a poor band-aid, and now NVIDIA has gone one step further to separate mining from gaming.

NVIDIA’s announcement today is two-fold: firstly addressing the upcoming launch of the RTX 3060 graphics on February 25th, and secondly announcing a new range of dedicated mining hardware.

The Samsung 870 EVO (1TB & 4TB) Review: Does the World Need Premium SATA SSDs?

Par Billy Tallis

Samsung is one of the few brands still launching new high-end SATA SSDs in the consumer market. The new Samsung 870 EVO is a fine update to a very successful product line, but sticking with their long-time strategy of being the premium option doesn't make much sense when NVMe has taken over the high-end SSD market segment.

Lenovo ThinkStation P620 Review: A Vehicle for Threadripper Pro

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

The workstation line of machines from Lenovo have been extremely successful for the company. While ThinkStation might not have as much brand identity as the more recognizable ThinkPad, for the markets that require them Lenovo’s ThinkStation range has been at the front of high-performance under-the-desk offerings since 2008. Lenovo has focused on everything from small form factor entry ThinkStation systems, all the way up to high-end dual socket P-series tower designs. The system we are reviewing today actually marks a major milestone for the ThinkStation business; the ThinkStation P620 is Lenovo’s first AMD workstation system, and it comes in to replace the whole range of Intel-based high-performance ThinkStations previously offered.

Xbox Series X SoC: Power, Thermal, and Yield Tradeoffs

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

This week at ISSCC (International Solid State Circuits Conference), Microsoft presented a talk titled ‘Xbox Series X SoC: A Next Generation Gaming Console’, with hardware engineer Paul Paternoster presenting. The 30 minute presentation covered a lot about Microsoft’s latest console processor, most of which was a repeat about what we saw at Hot Chips in August last year, however there was a new element in this presentation talking about how the console design team balanced acoustics, power, thermal performance, and processor yield, discussing where the hotspots in the design originate and where the performance/power targets of the final silicon were optimized.

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3060 Gets a Release Date: February 25th

Par Ryan Smith

NVIDIA this morning has sent over a quick note revealing the release date for their next GeForce desktop video card, the RTX 3060. The mainstream(ish) video card, previously revealed at CES 2021 with a late February release date, has now been locked in for a launch on February 25th, with prices starting at $329.

As a quick recap, the RTX 3060 is the next card down in NVIDIA’s Ampere architecture consumer video card stack. Using the new GA106 GPU – which is already shipping in RTX 3060 laptops – the RTX 3060 follows the traditional price/performance cadence for video card launches, with NVIDIA releasing a cheaper and lower performing video card for the mainstream-enthusiast video card market. NVIDIA’s 60-tier cards have long been the company’s workhorse parts for 1080p gaming – as well as some of their highest-volume parts in North America – and the RTX 3060 is expected to fill the same role within the Ampere/30-series family.

NVIDIA GeForce Specification Comparison
  RTX 3060 RTX 3060 Ti RTX 2060 GTX 1060
CUDA Cores 3584 4864 1920 1280
ROPs 64? 80 48 48
Boost Clock 1.78GHz 1.665GHz 1.68GHz 1.709GHz
Memory Clock 14Gbps? GDDR6 14Gbps GDDR6 14Gbps GDDR6 8Gbps GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 192-bit 256-bit 192-bit 192-bit
VRAM 12GB 8GB 6GB 6GB
Single Precision Perf. 12.8 TFLOPS 16.2 TFLOPS 6.5 TFLOPS 4.4 TFLOPS
Tensor Perf. (FP16) 51.2 TFLOPS 64.8 TFLOPS 51.6 TFLOPS N/A
Tensor Perf. (FP16-Sparse) 102.4 TFLOPS 129.6 TFLOPS 51.6 TFLOPS N/A
TDP 170W 200W 160W 120W
GPU GA106 GA104 TU106 GP106
Transistor Count ?B 17.4B 10.8B 4.4B
Architecture Ampere Ampere Turing Pascal
Manufacturing Process Samsung 8nm? Samsung 8nm TSMC 12nm "FFN" TSMC 16nm
Launch Date 02/25/2021 12/02/2020 01/15/2019 07/19/2016
Launch Price MSRP: $329 MSRP: $399 MSRP: $349 MSRP: $249
Founders $299

NVIDIA has already published most of the specifications for the card back in January. Including the fact that it offers 28 SMs (3584 CUDA cores), and 12GB of GDDR6 running on a 192-bit memory bus. As with previous 60-tier cards, the non-power-of-two memory bus means that NVIDIA is shipping with a somewhat odd amount of memory, in this case 12GB, which is actually more than what comes on even the RTX 3080. However with the only other option being an anemic-for-2021 6GB, NVIDIA is opting to make sure that the card isn’t for want of VRAM capacity.

Meanwhile, for better or worse the RTX 3060 is all-but-guaranteed to fly off of shelves quickly. With every video card more powerful than a GTX 1050 Ti seemingly getting shanghaied into mining Ethereum, desperate gamers will be fighting with hungry miners for supplies. Even with the 192-bit memory bus, I would be shocked if the RTX 3060 wasn’t profitable, especially with Ethereum reaching record highs. So for anyone thinking of grabbing the card, best be prepared to camp out at your favorite retailer or e-tailer on that Thursday morning.

On a final note, unlike the other RTX 30 series cards launched to date, NVIDIA will not be producing any Founders Edition cards for the RTX 3060 series. So all of the cards released will be AIB cards with their own respective designs. And, if tradition holds, don't be surprised if we see the AIBs outfit their cards with premium features and raise their prices accordingly.

Samsung Foundry: New $17 Billion Fab in the USA by Late 2023

Par Anton Shilov

Samsung Foundry has filed documents with authorities in Arizona, New York, and Texas seeking to build a leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing facility in the USA. The potential fab near Austin, Texas, is expected to cost over $17 billion and to create 1,800 jobs. If everything goes as planned, it will go online by the fourth quarter of 2023. There is an intrigue about the new fab though: Samsung hasn't stated which process node it will be designed for. 

Qualcomm Announces X65 & X62 5G Modems on 4nm

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Qualcomm yesterday has announced a slew of new 5G communication platforms, representing their next-generation modems, and RF front-end solutions that will be powering the next flagship devices later in 2021 as well as 2022. This includes two new 5G modems in the form of the new Snapdragon X65 and X62, a new RFFE portfolio with new envelope trackers, new antenna tuners, and new power amplifiers, alongside a 4th generation mmWave antenna module that supports more frequency bands and a larger frequency bandwidth.

Starting off with the new X65 modem, it’s a rather large generational upgrade compared to the current X60 modem that increases the amount of frequency bands as well as bandwidth that a vendor can deploy in an end user device.

In terms of sub-6GHz frequencies, the new X65 modem increases the bandwidth from 200MHz to 300MHz, essentially a 50% increase in aggregate spectrum that can be used. Such a wide breadth of spectrum is currently extremely rate in terms of 5G network deployments, but as the US is freeing up new mid-band frequencies for 5G usage over the next years, as well as other global markets deprecate 3G frequencies and reallocate them into 5G usage, we’ll be seeing more possible carrier aggregation combinations across larger variety of frequency bands.

On the mmWave side, things have also seen improvements as the available bandwidth goes from 800MHz to 1000MHz, and now adopts support for the TDD 41GHz n259 band, important for mmWave deployments in countries such as China and Japan.

The new modem, when aggregating across sub-6GHz and mmWave networks with the new increased bandwidth capabilities thus advertises maximum download speeds of up to 10Gbps. Of course, such peak figures aren’t too realistic in the real world, but they do showcase the vast increase in spectrum bandwidth available, which will translate to better transmission speeds in crowded situations.

Alongside the super-high-end X65 modem, we’re also seeing the release of the X62, which is essentially its little brother. In terms of frequency bands and standards capabilities, it’s of the same calibre as the X65, however it differs in terms of its spectrum bandwidth capabilities; sub-6GHz is reduced to 120MHz, and mmWave is reduced to 300MHz across 4 carriers, rather than 10. Undoubtedly this modem solution will be targeting devices at lower price points than the X65 flagship.

Interestingly, both new X65 and X62 modems are manufactured on a 4nm node – this should be Samsung’s 4LPE node which is a further iterative improvement of their current 5LPE technology.

The new 5G modem solutions and their RFFE companion chips are set to hit the market in late 2021.

Related Reading:

64 Cores of Rendering Madness: The AMD Threadripper Pro 3995WX Review

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

Knowing your market is a key fundamental of product planning, marketing, and distribution. There’s no point creating a product with no market, or finding you have something amazing but offer it to the wrong sort of customers. When AMD started offering high-core count Threadripper processors, the one market that took as many as they could get was the graphics design business – visual effects companies and those focused on rendering loved the core count, the memory support, all the PCIe lanes, and the price. But if there’s one thing more performance brings, it’s the desire for even more performance. Enter Threadripper Pro.

Xiaomi Launches Mi 11 Globally: Starting at 749€

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Today Xiaomi is launching their new Mi 11 flagship for the global market, following their domestic launch of the phone in China almost 6 weeks ago.

The Mi 11 is an interesting device as it really balances out its features as a affordable flagship device. The European prices for the new phone start at 749€, featuring the new Snapdragon 888 SoC, and what seems to be a top-of-the line 1440p 120Hz OLED display, all while featuring a high-end 108MP camera module, though the phone compromises on its other cameras.

The Snapdragon 888 vs The Exynos 2100: Cortex-X1 & 5nm - Who Does It Better?

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Ahead of our full device review of the Galaxy S21 Ultra (and the smaller Galaxy S21), today we’re focusing on the first test results of the new generation of SoCs, the Snapdragon 888 as well as the Exynos 2100, putting them through their paces, and pitting them against each other in the new 2021 competitive landscape.

Best AMD Motherboards: February 2021

Par Gavin Bonshor

One of the most talked-about situations in recent times regarding AMD is current stock availability on its Ryzen 5000 processors. With stock shortages spreading throughout its entire processor range, retailers are struggling to keep up with the current demands. Even Ryzen 3000 prices have risen substantially. As a result, it has had a knock-on effect over motherboard availability, with some X570 models coming in and out of stock sporadically. For users already on the AM4 socket looking to upgrade to Ryzen 5000, vendors have been constantly updating its firmware to support the latest chips on B450 and X470, which does help somewhat. While B450 and X470 currently don't support PCIe 4.0, most of what's being recommended is still on X570 and B550.  Here are our AMD based motherboard selections for February 2021.

Intel's Tiger Lake NUC11: Panther Canyon for Asia Alone

Par Ganesh T S

The electronics industry supply chain is facing a number of issues due to the ongoing pandemic. Companies are unable to meet product demand, and are being forced to fine-tune their product distribution strategies. Intel's Panther Canyon NUC was announced at CES 2021, with no official pricing or availability information. Yesterday, Intel provided some updates with the rather disappointing news that the Panther Canyon NUC family will only be distributed in the Asia-Pacific region.

The other markets will still get a wide range of Tiger Lake-based NUC products such as the NUC11 Pro (Tiger Canyon), Compute Element (Elk Bay), and the dGPU-equipped NUC11 Enthusiast (Phantom Canyon). Intel is citing tight supply of a few third-party components as the cause for the APAC-only focus of Panther Canyon. We expected the NUC11 Performance units to provide an affordable entry point for Tiger Lake mini-PCs. The other Tiger Lake NUC products are bound to be priced higher, given their target markets [Update: Intel clarified that the the Panther Canyon and non-vPro Tiger Canyon NUCs were supposed to be priced similarly across different markets. Given this disclosure, we believe that the non-vPro Tiger Canyon NUCs are going to be an almost like-to-like replacement for the Panther Canyon units across all aspects].

The APAC-only focus of the Panther Canyon products provides an opportunity for vendors such as ASRock Industrial to gain market share elsewhere. The company already has the NUC1100 series of Tiger Lake UCFF PCs available for purchase in the North American market with prices ranging from $600 for the top-end Core i7 version to $350 for the Core i3 one.

The Redragon Devarajas K556 RGB Mechanical Keyboard Review: Jack Of Most Trades

Par E. Fylladitakis

Today we are having a close look at the Devarajas K556 RGB gaming keyboard from Redragon, a Chinese manufacturer of gaming peripherals. The company boasts excellent quality, performance, RGB backlighting, and advanced features, all while keeping the retail price very low. 

Sponsored Post: 5 Reasons PDFelement 8 is Perfect for Small Businesses

Par Sponsored Post

Wondershare's PDFelement 8 is here, and brings with it a wealth of improvements over the previous version. Improvements which, as a small business owner, you should find very, very exciting.

Microchip Announces First PCIe 5.0 Switches

Par Billy Tallis

Building on their recent announcement of PCIe 5.0 retimers, Microchip has announced their first PCIe 5.0 switches, as part of their Switchtec PFX product line. On paper these look like a very straightforward update to their existing Switchtec PFX switches for PCIe 4.0, carrying over all the important features but doubling the speed.

The final version of the PCI Express 5.0 specification was released in May 2019, but significant adoption is not expected to begin until Intel's Sapphire Rapids Xeon processors ship, planned for later this year. Microchip is positioning themselves to be one of the most important vendors helping enable the transition, and they expect to be the only company offering both switches and retimers for PCIe 5.0. Components like switches and retimers are becoming increasingly important with each iteration of PCIe as higher speeds are achieved at the cost of range; servers using PCIe 5.0 will only be able to put a handful of devices close enough to the CPU to operate at PCIe 5.0 speeds without some kind of repeater. Retimers like Microchip's XpressConnect parts are simple pass-through repeaters, while switches like the new Switchtec PFX parts can fan out PCIe connectivity from one or more uplink ports to numerous downstream ports.

As with the PCIe 4.0 members of the Switchtec PFX product line, the new PCIe 5.0 switches will be available with lane counts from 28 to 100. These switches support port bifurcation down to x2 links, with bifurcation down to x1 supported by some of the lanes on the switch. The switches also support up to 48 Non-Transparent Bridges (NTBs), allowing for large multi-host PCIe fabrics to be assembled using several switches. However, initial demand for PCIe is expected to center around GPUs, machine learning accelerators and high-speed NICs, so many of those advanced features will be underutilized early on, and the chips will be primarily used to feed those extremely bandwidth-hungry peripherals with an x16 link each. SSDs using just two or four lanes each are expected to be slower about moving to PCIe 5.0.

The new PCIe 5.0 Switchtec PFX switches are currently sampling to select customers, including a development/evaluation board based around the 100-lane switch. Microchip wouldn't disclose any pricing information for the new switches, but they are bound to be more expensive than the PCIe gen4 switches with the same lane counts. Power consumption is also going up, but Microchip wouldn't quantify the change.

Microchip's lineup of PCIe switches for earlier generations also includes the Switchtec PSX and PAX families with more advanced functionality than the PFX switches. PCIe 5.0 versions of the PSX and PAX families have not been announced, but it's normal for those versions to come later. Microchip's only competition for leading-edge PCIe switches comes from Broadcom/PLX PEX switches. Broadcom has not yet publicly announced their PCIe 5.0 switches, but they are doubtless also planning to take advantage of the launch of Intel's Sapphire Rapids platform.

Source: Microchip

Best CPUs for Gaming: February 2021

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

Sometimes choosing a CPU is hard. So we've got you covered. In our CPU Guides, we give you our pick of some of the best processors available, supplying data from our reviews. Our Best CPUs for Gaming guide targets most of the common system-build price points that typically pair a beefy graphics card with a capable processor, with the best models being suitable for streaming and encoding on the fly.

Investigating The Galaxy S21 Ultra New OLED Emitter: Huge Efficiency Improvements

Par Andrei Frumusanu

As a prelude to our full review, today we’re investigating the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s new display, which beyond QHD 120Hz and VRR capabilities, also brings a new emitter technology with huge power efficiency gains.

ASUS Bundles MemTest86 With its ROG Z590 Firmware

Par Gavin Bonshor

Back at the all-digital CES 2021 trade show, ASUS and the other big motherboard vendors announced its Z590 models designed for Intel's LGA1200 processors. With many of the models now common knowledge, Twitter technology enthusiast @momomo_us points out that ASUS is bundling MemTest86 inside the BIOS of its Republic of Gamers motherboards.

MemTest86 is a well known piece of software for diagnosing memory failures, not just in faulty memory, but also provides troubleshooting capabilities for unstable memory overclocks. It is known that Intel's Rocket Lake processors will have a stronger integrated memory controller (IMC) than its current Comet Lake counterparts, as we finally move up to DDR4-3200 native support. This is also prevalent in the available Z590 motherboard memory listings, with many boards including kits as fast as DDR4-5333 in its QVL lists for overclocked memory. 

As per @momomo_US's tweet, it looks as though ASUS has penned a deal with PassMark software to allow it to integrate MemTest86 directly into its UEFI firmware. This looks as though it will be only available on select Republic of Gamers models. MemTest86 is also available to all users, although without UEFI integration, users can download it onto a bootable USB flash drive and diagnose memory faults and unstable overclocks this way. 

With Intel and AMD both making strides in its out of the box Turbo and Boost clock speeds, it seems ASUS is emphasizing memory performance. It uses its own 'secret sauce', which it calls Optimem. It is a primary feature on its motherboards, which ASUS states should allow for tighter memory latencies at equivalent voltages. 

At present, it is not entirely clear exactly which Z590 models will be distributed with MemTest86 integrated into the UEFI firmware. As more Z590 models hit the retail shelves in the coming months, we should see a clearer picture.

Related Reading

How We Test PCIe 4.0 Storage: The AnandTech 2021 SSD Benchmark Suite

Par Billy Tallis

Our new SSD test suite is ready, updated and expanded for the latest trends in storage including PCIe 4.0 and QLC NAND.

The MSI Z590 Godlike, Comparing it to the Z490 Godlike

Par Gavin Bonshor

One of MSI's most prominent motherboard ranges is its Godlike series, set as the premium model no matter which platform it is aimed at. As Intel has recently launched its new Z590 desktop chipset, MSI got in contact and shipped us a qualification sample of the new Z590 Godlike model. Designed as the flagship motherboard, in this article we are looking at how the MSI MEG Z590 Godlike has changed from the previous generation for Intel's Rocket Lake processors.

OnLogic’s New Fanless Systems Contain Intel's Elkhart Lake (10nm Atom)

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

Earlier this year Intel indicated that it was launching its new Jasper Lake platform very soon, built on a foundation of 10nm manufacturing with the latest Tremont Atom cores. While Jasper Lake is geared towards consumers and commercial use cases, Intel also has a similar line of processors built for the industrial and IoT markets, also using Tremont on 10nm, called Elkhart Lake. Onlogic, a business built around supplying the industrial and IoT markets, is introducing new fanless designs built around Elkhart Lake.

The four new fanless industrial designs from OnLogic are the Helix 310, Helix 330, Karbon 410, and Karbon 430 – all customizable passively cooled systems for ‘Industry 4.0’. The processors at the heart are all the variants of Elkhart Lake, with the Helix models focusing on dual core Celeron N6211 or quad-core Pentium J6425, while the Karbon models go for dual-core Atom x6211E and quad-core Atom x6425E, the main differentiation of these last two models being the wider thermal support from -40ºC to 70ºC.

OnLogic’s main selling point here is the coupling of its ModBay expansion technology, allowing customers additional connectivity through the M.2 and PCIe slots (effectively making the M.2 a simple PCIe x4 link), with Intel’s Programmable Services Engine, or PSE. Intel’s PSE is described by OnLogic as a dedicated offload engine for IoT built from an Arm Cortex-M7 microcontroller, enabling real-time compute and data tracking. Combined with the compute power of Atom cores, the aim is to provide a complete real-time monitoring and communication system for a wide array of industrial deployments. OnLogic provides solution services enabling custom OS deployments, branding, imaging, fulfilment, and lifecycle support.

The Helix 310 and Helix 330 are built on the same platform but afford different levels of customization. Both models include support for 32 GB of DDR4, at least one M.2 slot, 3 USB 3.2 ports, 3 USB 2.0 ports, three DisplayPort outputs and two COM ports. Where they differ is that the Helix 310 is the base model, featuring 1-2 gigabit Ethernet ports and two M.2 slots with optional 4G/DIO/COM/CAN support, but the Helix 330 uses one of those M.2 slots for dual additional gigabit Ethernet by default.

The Karbon 410 and 430 are similarly on a singular platform together, build for a wider temperature window as well as MIL-STD-810H shock and vibration standards. The base platform has up to 32 GB of DDR4, support for M.2 and mSATA storage, dual gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.2 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, 1 Display Port, 1 CAN bus, 1 micro-SIM slot, dual M.2 slots, 1 mPCIe slot, and optional 4G/DIO/COM/PoE/TPM. The Karbon 410 is the base model, and the Karbon 430 adds in another pair of M.2 slots, a second micro-SIM slot, and allows for additional networking or USB.

In the last couple of years, when Intel had record demand for its silicon, the main market segments to lose out were the low-end compute market, namely Intel’s Atom portfolio. Now that Intel has sufficient capacity for its demand, along with increased production of its 10nm manufacturing node, it is refocusing its efforts in this embedded compute market with product lines such as Jasper Lake and Elkhart Lake. This also means that OEMs like OnLogic can redesign their portfolio using the latest updates, such as PSE, as well as the latest technologies at low power, enabling a new generation of fanless designs.

OnLogic states that the new Elkhart Lake embedded systems will be available for purchase in Q2, with pricing updates available to customers that get in touch.

Source: OnLogic

Related Reading

Hands-On with the ASUS Pro WS WRX80E-SAGE SE WiFi

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

One of the criticisms levied at AMD last year was that it released its new Threadripper Pro platform in September but it was vendor-locked at the time to the Lenovo Thinkstation P620. The P620 seems to have sold like hot cakes, and the system design is really neat (we have one in for testing), but the fact that interested parties only have Lenovo as an option was considered a limiting factor for some. Fast forward to the beginning of 2021, and AMD has announced that TR Pro will be made available at retail, allowing other OEMs to also build systems. Alongside this, three motherboard manufacturers have also showcased their upcoming motherboard offerings, and the most anticipated model that received the most plaudits on looks alone was the ASUS. Today, in what appears to be a worldwide exclusive, we have some hands-on access to the ASUS Pro WS WRX80E-SAGE SE WiFi. Yes, it’s a mouthful to say.

Corsair Launches MP600 CORE and MP600 PRO PCIe 4.0 SSDs

Par Billy Tallis

Corsair is launching a new round of PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSDs based on the latest reference designs from Phison plus Corsair's own heatsink designs. Starting off, the Corsair MP600 CORE is their first PCIe 4.0 SSD with QLC NAND flash memory. This uses the older Phison E16 controller so peak performance only pushes a little bit beyond what would be possible with PCIe 3.0, but it's still a step up from the Corsair MP400.

Corsair MP600 CORE Specifications
Capacity 1 TB 2 TB 4 TB
Form Factor M.2 2280 PCIe 4 x4
Controller Phison E16
NAND Flash 3D QLC
DRAM 1 GB 2 GB
Sequential Read (MB/s) 4700 4950
Sequential Write (MB/s) 1950 3700 3950
Random Read IOPS (4kB) 200k 380k 630k
Random Write IOPS (4kB) 480k 580k
Power Consumption Read 5.6 W 6.3 W 6.0 W
Write 5.7 W 6.8 W 7.4 W
Warranty 5 years
Write Endurance 200 TB
0.1 DWPD
400 TB
0.1 DWPD
800 TB
0.1 DWPD
MSRP $154.99
(15¢/GB)
$309.99
(15¢/GB)
$644.99
(16¢/GB)

We have a sample of the 2TB MP600 CORE in hand, waiting for its turn to run through our new SSD test suite.

Next is Corsair's new top of the line SSD, the MP600 PRO based on the Phison E18 controller and TLC NAND flash memory. The MP600 PRO takes over the top spot from the original MP600, Corsair's Phison E16 + TLC product that launched in 2019 alongside the first AMD Ryzen CPUs to support PCIe 4.0. The new MP600 PRO will be available with either the standard aluminum heatsink, or with a water block in a variant sold as the MP600 PRO Hydro X.

Corsair MP600 PRO Specifications
Capacity 1 TB 2 TB 4 TB
Form Factor M.2 2280 PCIe 4 x4
Controller Phison E18
NAND Flash 3D TLC
Sequential Read (MB/s) 7000 7000 TBD
Sequential Write (MB/s) 5500 6550 TBD
Random Read IOPS (4kB) 780k 800k TBD
Random Write IOPS (4kB) 360k 660k TBD
Warranty 5 years
Write Endurance 700 TB
0.4 DWPD
1400 TB
0.4 DWPD
TBD
MSRP $224.99
(22¢/GB)
$434.99
(22¢/GB)
TBD
MSRP (Hydro X)   $459.99
(23¢/GB)
 

The performance specs for the MP600 PRO are pretty similar to other Phison E18 drives, with 7GB/s reads and write speeds limited more by the flash than the controller. The MP600 PRO will initially be available with capacities up to 2TB, and a 4TB model is coming later. The MP600 PRO Hydro X is only offered in the 2TB capacity, but Corsair is also selling the water block separately as the XM2 for $39.99.

AMD Reports Q4 2020 Earnings: Analyst Q&A Transcript

Par Dr. Ian Cutress

At the end of every financial call, invited financial analysts have an opportunity to probe the key members of the company on the numbers, as well as future products. We just had AMD’s Q4 2020 Financial call, covering all of Q4 developments as well as 2020 as a whole. On the call was CEO Dr. Lisa Su and CFO Davinder Kumar.

AMD Reports Q4/FY 2020 Earnings: Record Revenues Repeat

Par Ryan Smith

Needing no introduction, AMD this afternoon is the second of the PC chip titans to announce their earnings for the quarter and for the full 2020 calendar year. The company has continued to ride high on the success of its Zen architecture-based CPUs and APUs, as well as the recent launch of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. As a result, these products have propelled AMD to another record quarter and another record year, as the company continues to hit revenue records while recording an increasingly tidy profit in the process.

For the fourth quarter of 2020, AMD reported $3.24B in revenue, a 53% jump over the same quarter a year ago. As a result, Q4’2020 was (once again) AMD’s best quarter ever, built on the back of strong sales across virtually the entire company. And AMD’s gross margin has held steady at 45%, the same as Q4’19.

Meanwhile, in what was already a strong quarter for the company, AMD also realized some one-off gains related to an income tax valuation allowance, which added another $1.3B to AMD’s net income. As a result, the company booked a massive profit of $1.78B for the quarter alone. Otherwise, excluding that one-off gain and looking at AMD’s non-GAAP results, the company still booked 66% more in net income in Q4’20 than they did the year-ago quarter. So not only is AMD pulling in record revenues for the quarter, but that is translating into much higher profits as well.

AMD Q4 2020 Financial Results (GAAP)
  Q4'2020 Q4'2019 Q3'2020 Y/Y Q/Q
Revenue $3.2B $2.1B $2.8B +53% +16%
Gross Margin 45% 45% 44% Flat +1pp
Operating Income $570M $348M $449M +64% +27%
Net Income $1781M* $170M $390M +948% +357%
Earnings Per Share $1.45 $0.15 $0.32 +867% +353%

As for AMD’s full-year earnings, the company has been having strong quarters all year now, so unsurprisingly this is reflected in their full-year results. Overall, for 2020 AMD booked $9.76B in revenue, which was an increase of 45% over 2019, and once again a record for the company. Amusingly, AMD’s gross margin for the entire year was also 45%, which is one percentage point higher than 2019’s.

Like AMD’s quarterly results, their full-year results are also distorted a bit by their one-off tax benefit. By GAAP standards AMD booked an incredible $2.49B in net income for 2020. However removing that tax benefit brings their net income down to around $1.4B – or a non-GAAP $1.56B – which is still a huge year-over-year increase in profitability for the company, more than doubling their 2019 non-GAAP performance. Despite AMD’s gross margin only improving by a single point, AMD is increasingly enjoying the benefits of scale, with record-breaking product shipments turning into profits for the company.

AMD FY 2020 Financial Results (GAAP)
  FY 2020 FY 2019 FY 2018 Y/Y
Revenue $9.8B $6.7B $6.5B +45%
Gross Margin 45% 43% 38% +2pp
Operating Income $1369M $631M $451M +117%
Net Income $2490M* $341M $337M +630%
Earnings Per Share $2.06 $0.30 $0.32 +587%

Moving on to individual reporting segments, 2020 marks an interesting year for AMD given the company’s unusual split into two major segments. Normally AMD’s Compute and Graphics segment is by far and away the flag bearer for the company’s earnings, but the launch of the latest generation of consoles, combined with ever-improving EPYC sales, means that the Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom segment also saw a very strong quarter.

For Q4’20, AMD’s Computing and Graphics segment booked $1.96B in revenue, an 18% improvement over the year-ago quarter. According to the company, the biggest contributor to the increase here is strong sales of Ryzen processors. AMD does not break down the numbers by chip sales volumes, but Ryzen chip average selling prices (ASPs) themselves were actually down year-over-year, which AMD attributes to increased (and record) Ryzen mobile sales. The recent release of AMD’s Ryzen 5000 desktop CPUs did bring up ASPs on a quarterly basis, but Ryzen 5000 CPUs as a small piece of a larger whole, especially as they remain in short supply.

As for AMD’s GPU operations, the company reports that Radeon ASPs increased year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter, thanks to the recent launch of the Radeon RX 6000 series. Perhaps tellingly, the company is not offering any volume comparisons on a year-over-year basis, a likely indicator that AMD’s GPU sales are getting throttled by their supply constraints, especially as the company continues to ramp up the RX 6000 family.

AMD Q4 2020 Reporting Segments
  Q4'2020 Q4'2019 Q3'2020
Computing and Graphics
Revenue $1960M $1662M $1667M
Operating Income $420M $360M $384M
Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom
Revenue $1284M $465M $1134M
Operating Income $243M $45M $141M

Meanwhile, AMD’s Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom segment booked $1.28B in revenue for the quarter. The 176% year-over-year increase in revenue was driven by a mix of both improved EPYC sales, and of course the launch of the latest-generation gaming consoles. Unfortunately AMD doesn’t break down how much each of these product groups contributed, so it’s hard to say how much of this growth is the EPYC side of matters as opposed to the more irregular game console revenue. At any rate, according to AMD Q4 of 2020 was another record quarter on the server side of matters, with AMD recording record server revenue thanks to continued cloud and enterprise sales growth.

Looking forward, AMD is expecting a very promising first quarter of 2021 and beyond, albeit with expectations tempered by ongoing supply shortages. At this point the company has little trouble selling everything it can make, especially with the continued high demand for tech products spurred on by the pandemic. So a lot of what’s driving AMD’s future, especially over the next quarter or two, is based on just how many 7nm wafers the company can get out of TSMC. For that reason, AMD’s 2021 revenue forecast is relatively conservative for a growing AMD, as the company is projecting a 37% increase in non-GAAP revenue.

On the product side of matters, AMD will be enjoying a largely new and refreshed slate of product lines. The company’s Zen 3 architecture has begun shipping in laptops in the form of the new Cezanne APU, and the EPYC Milan family of server CPUs is set to launch later in the quarter. On top of that, they have ongoing sales of their Ryzen 5000 desktop CPUs, as well as the continued ramp-up and further releases of Radeon RX 6000 (RDNA2) GPUs, with new desktop and mobile parts expected in the first half of this year. Consequently, AMD is expecting a good year across all of its product lines, with all of its product lines expecting to see further growth.

NVIDIA Launches Server Certification Program, Offering Direct Technical Support

Par Ryan Smith

While a good deal of NVIDIA’s success in servers over the last decade has of course come from their proficient GPUs, as a business NVIDIA these days is much more than a fabless GPU designer. With more software engineers than hardware engineers on staff, it’s software and ecosystem plays that have really cemented NVIDIA’s position as the top GPU manufacturer, and created a larger market for their GPUs. At the same time, it’s these ecosystem plays that have allowed NVIDIA to build a profit-printing machine, diversifying beyond just GPU sales and moving into systems, software, support, and other avenues.

To that end, NVIDIA this morning is formally rolling out a new ecosystem play aimed at high-end deep learning servers, which the company is branding as NVIDIA-Certified Systems. Soft-launched back in the fall, today the company is giving the program a more proper introduction, detailing the program and announcing some of the partners. Under NVIDIA’s plan, going forward customers can opt to buy NVIDIA-Certified systems if they want an extra guarantee on system performance and reliability, as well as opt in to buying support contracts to get access to direct, full-stack technical support from NVIDIA.

Conceptually, the certification program is rather straightforward, due in large part to its hardware requirements. Systems first need to be using NVIDIA’s A100 accelerators, along with Mellanox Ethernet adapters and DPUs. Or in other words, the servers already need to be using NVIDIA silicon where available. OEMs can then submit systems meeting these hardware requirements to NVIDIA, who will test the systems across multiple metrics, including multi-GPU and multi-node DL performance, network performance, storage performance, and security (secure boot/root of trust). Systems that pass these tests can then be labeled as NVIDIA-Certified.

Those certified systems, in turn, are eligible for additional full-stack technical support through NVIDIA and the OEM. Customers can opt to buy multi-year support contracts, which entitles them to support through the OEM and NVIDIA. NVIDIA essentially assumes responsibility for all software support above the OS, including their hardware drivers, CUDA, their wide collection of frameworks and libraries, and even major open source libraries like TensorFlow. The latter is what makes NVIDIA’s support proposition particularly valuable, as they’re essentially committing to helping customers with any kind of GPU or deep learning-related software issue.

Of course, that support won’t come for free: this is where NVIDIA will be making their money. While NVIDIA is not charging OEMs for certification (so there’s no additional certification tax baked into the hardware), support contracts are priced based on the number of GPUs. In one example, NVIDIA has stated that a 3 year support contract for a dual-A100 system would be $4,299, or about $715 per-year per-GPU for support. So one can imagine how quickly this ratchets up for larger 4 and 8 way A100 systems, and then again for multiple nodes.

For NVIDIA and its OEM partners, the creation of a certification program is a straightforward way to try to further grow the market for deep learning servers, especially for mid-sized businesses. The market for AI hardware has been booming, and NVIDIA wants to keep it that way by making it easier for potential customers to use their wares. NVIDIA already has the top-end of the market covered in this respect with their direct relationships with the hyperscalers – and by extension their small-cap cloud computing customers – so a hardware certification program fills the middle tier for organizations that are going to run their own servers, but aren’t going to be a massive customer that gets personalized attention.

As for those customers, NVIDIA’s server certification and support programs are designed to eliminate (or at least mitigate) the risks of making significant investments into NVIDIA hardware. That means being able to buy a system where the vendor (in this case the duo of NVIDIA and the OEM) can vouch for the performance of the system, as well as guarantee it will be able to properly run various AI packages, such as NVIDIA’s NGC catalog of GPU-optimized and containerized software.

Altogether, NVIDIA is launching with 14 certified systems, with the promise of more certified systems to come. For the first wave of systems, participating OEMs include Dell, Gigabyte, HPE, Inspur, and Supermicro, all of whom are frequently participants in new NVIDIA server initiatives.

With all that said, NVIDIA’s server certification program is unlikely to significantly change how things work for most of the company’s customers; but it’s a program that seems primed to address a specific niche for NVIDIA and its OEM partners. For companies that are interested in GPU computing but are looking for a greater degree of support and certainty, this would address those needs. Which, to bring things full circle, it’s exactly by addressing those sorts of needs with ecosystem plays like server certification that NVIDIA has been so successful in the server GPU market over the last decade.

Intel Teases Ponte Vecchio Xe-HPC Power On, Posts Photo of Server Chip

Par Ryan Smith

In what’s turning into an Xe sort of day, Intel’s GPU guru and frontman for their GPU division, Raja Koduri, has tweeted that the company is getting ready to begin power on testing for their forthcoming high-end server GPU, the Xe-HPC based Ponte Vecchio. And along with this announcement, Koduri has also posted a somewhat redacted photo of the sizable chip.

Xe HPC ready for power on!
7 advanced silicon technologies in a single package
Silicon engineers dream
Thing of beauty @intel pic.twitter.com/RF8Prsy05f

— Raja Koduri (@Rajaontheedge) January 26, 2021

According to Koduri, Ponte Vecchio incorporates “7 advanced silicon technologies,” likely referring to everything from the four different process nodes used to make the chiplets, to memory stacks, and including the Foveros packaging.

Ponte Vecchio is a keystone project for Intel’s GPU division. Along with being the largest and grandest of their Xe GPUs, the chip will be at the heart of the Aurora supercomputer, Intel’s most recent supercomputer win. So a lot is riding on the chip, and no doubt Intel’s engineers are eager to see a successful power-on test.

Sony Launches Xperia PRO 5G ... for $2499

Par Andrei Frumusanu

Last year in February Sony had launched the Xperia 1 II, as well as teasing a sibling device called the Xperia PRO. This latter variant of the phone was meant to be a professional variant of the Xperia 1 II, in a more rugged form-factor, as well as integrating a HDMI input port.

Today, almost a whole year later, Sony is ready to finally to launch the Xperia PRO 5G, with availability starting today at a staggering price tag of $2499.

The peculiarity about the Xperia PRO 5G are two key features: a HDMI input port alongside the usual USB-C port, as well as additional mmWave 5G connectivity in the form of four antennas, more than the usual two or three we find in other consumer models.

Sony is trying to position the Xperia PRO as a professional accessory for broadcast video, where the phone directly attaches to your camera feed via HDMI and is able to directly upload to the internet. It’s a very niche use-case, however Sony is trying to replace several discrete devices in one: The Xperia PRO can serve simultaneously as a high-quality monitor, and actually outperform most other dedicated camera monitors out there thanks to its 6.5” 3840 x 1644 HDR OLED screen, as well as serving as a cellular video streamer, a kind of device that usually alone goes for $1000 to $1500.

Furthermore, Sony is doing a lot of fanfare about the phone’s 4 mmWave antennas and how it’ll be able to achieve much better, stable, and uniform reception compared to other devices in the market which employ only 2 or 3 antennas. The caveat here is of course that this will only ever get used when under actual mmWave coverage, which is still a very limited number of locations in the US. Of course, the phone will fall back to sub-6GHz 5G and LTE whenever there’s no mmWave coverage.

So, while the $2499 price tag might sound absolutely outrageous at first, it’s not much more expensive than other discrete solutions such as a dedicated monitor as well as competing, feature poorer cellular streaming devices. Where I do think Sony dropped the ball here is in terms of software features: the Xperia PRO lacks more commonly found features in dedicated monitors such as wave forms or vector scopes, and also lacks any kind of camera control or status features, even with Sony’s own line-up of cameras. For the device being now launched almost a whole year after its initial announcement, that’s extremely disappointing. During the Q&A briefing, it seems that Sony is aware of these features missing, but offered no concrete answers on whether they’ll continue to evolve the product from a software standpoint.

The Xperia PRO is otherwise feature identical to an Xperia 1 II – including the Snapdragon 865 SoC, the triple-camera setup, screen, and battery size, though DRAM and storage are upped to 12GB and 512GB. Furthermore, Sony says that the Xperia PRO is only launching in the US for $2499, with no current plans for availability in other markets.

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