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HW News - TSMC Moving Past Silicon, RTX 3080 Official Info, Corsair Does $1B in Revenue

Posted on August 31, 2020

As we move ever closer towards Nvidia’s upcoming GeForce event -- scheduled for September 1st -- we’re seeing this week’s news recap highlight images of the emergent 12-pin PSU connector. The new 12-pin connector is something GN independently confirmed a few weeks ago, but it seems some legitimate images of the new connector have made their way online, including a tease from Nvidia itself. Alongside the new PSU connector, Nvidia also showed off its new cooler design for GeForce Ampere cards as well.

Aside from Nvidia and Ampere related news, TSMC detailed its future roadmap for upcoming process technologies during its Technology Symposium. And speaking of PSUs, it looks as if MSI is ready to enter that market with its first product. Elsewhere, we have a somewhat vague tease from ASUS, an IPO filing from Corsair, and some brief highlights on the GPU market from JPR.

01:05 | Nvidia Officially Shows Ampere Cooler, 12-Pin

Nvidia published a video via its GeForce YouTube channel titled “The Remarkable Art & Science of Modern Graphics Card Design” offering some details on the design process of its upcoming cards, and how this process has evolved over the years. It’s worth mentioning that Nvidia isn’t specifically confirming any model names or SKUs here, but is subtly confirming some of the leaks that have emerged over the past few months.

The video starts off with a crash course in thermal dynamics from David Haley, one of Nvidia’s Thermal Architects. Haley goes on to mention that as the GPU has evolved, so too have the challenges of removing heat from a GPU. Haley goes on to say that to offer a focus on keeping graphics cards cool and quiet, Nvidia had to overhaul its PCB design, cooling design, and software stack driving the GPU. 

Andrew Bell, Nvidia’s VP of Product Design then details how Nvidia’s mechanical engineers take new cooling designs and ambitions and transform them into something that can be manufactured and shipped in volume. Traditionally, GPU coolers are affixed to the PCB through springs. In the video, Nvidia outlined how it has developed a new leaf spring with a shorter profile to bring the cooling solution closer to the PCB, and also allow for a backplate. As a note, we’ve produced factory tour videos in the past showing the process of assembly, often at Cooler Master on behalf of NVIDIA.

Then, Gabriele Gorla, Nvidia’s Director of System Engineering discusses the challenges of funnelling an increasing amount of power into a PCB, and dealing with the resulting power density. It’s here that Nvidia talks about freeing up space on the PCB and adding layers to the PCB to mitigate crosstalk, where you see signal corruption and degradation between two wires in close proximity. This is where Nvidia discusses the idea behind a 12-pin power connector. 

The 12-pin connector is smaller than the traditional 8-pin connector while also being able to carry more power. The 12-pin connector will also be mounted to the PCB in a vertical orientation, which saves even more space on the PCB itself. The 12-pin connector will also be compatible with 8-pin connectors, via an included adapter. 

There’s been a lot of chatter around this decision to move to a 12-pin connector, and some of it has resulted in some publications getting carried away with speculation and conjecture on needing to upgrade your PSU, which we debunked previously. In short, that’s largely false and unfounded. Assuming your PSU is already of adequate capacity (and most users have criminally oversized PSUs anyway), there’s no need for a new PSU. Additionally, there’s no indication that the 12-pin connector is going to appear on anything but Nvidia’s halo GPU, which will likely be the 3090/xx90. Moreover, as usual, AIB partners will be free to use their own PCBs and cooling designs, and it’s entirely possible AIB partners will stick to the traditional 8-pin connector.

Lastly, there’s some discussion on Nvidia’s new cooler design, which is intended to balance both mechanical and thermal function. Nvidia didn’t offer many details, other than a focus on a shorter PCB design, and pulling more air through the bottom of the card. The video offers an interesting look from Nvidia’s design teams into how its GPUs are designed, both mechanically and thermally. We won’t have to wait long to get more details, as Nvidia’s GeForce event is scheduled for next week, on September 1st.              


07:33 | Intel Drops Ball on Major Supercomputer

We previously reported on the new Aurora supercomputer for Argonne National Laboratory, a supercomputer previously marketed by the organizations involved as being American-made and proud, which is relevant because of just how much public exposure it got as a result. Now, Intel has managed to drop the ball on this $500 million supercomputer for the Department of Energy.

Intel CEO Bob Swan has recently been the face of several announcements of Intel delays, and one of the latest was a 12-month delay for CPUs slated for the new supercomputer and, better still, that those CPUs are likely to be manufactured by a fab not owned by Intel.

This is one of the worst combinations of things for a nasty PR hit: It’s a computer that’s meant to be marketed as American-made and showing American innovation, but might have to rely on TSMC or other fabs for its silicon rather than Intel’s; further, it’s delayed 12 months. Further still, Aurora is built for researching cures of traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, and mapping the human brain, making it one of the few supercomputers not heavily leveraged for military research. That’s not the kind of project you want to miss the window on. It was a PR homerun.


10:05 | Cryorig’s Secret Cooler

Cooler company Cryorig picked up a lot of popularity a few years ago, but suddenly vanished following increased tariffs for US imports. Since then, Cryorig has mostly vacated the US market, but it’s trying to make a return.

As of now, we literally have one image to go off of: “Foon,” it says, or “fiveoon,” we’re not sure. We don’t know what that word could possibly be -- maybe it’s a hexadecimal joke, like Silicon Valley’s 9xF = fleventy five.


11:34 | Seasonic’s Nvidia 12-pin PCIe Molex Micro-Fit Connector 

In a bit more news regarding the upcoming 12-pin connectors for Nvidia’s Ampere GeForce cards, some images of the connector and cables have surfaced. These particular images are from Seasonic, and were found on bilibili forums by Twitter user HXL.

The images show what appears to be a legitimate Seasonic box, replete with what Seasonic is calling a Nvidia 12P cable, which is a 2x 8-pin to 1x 12-pin cable. The images do seem to suggest that a single 12P connector isn’t much bigger than a traditional 8-pin connector. Also noteworthy is a label on the cable’s box, saying “It is recommended to use a power supply rated 850W or higher with this cable.” 

Before anyone goes putting down money for a 1Kw PSU, it’s best to wait and see what we learn from Nvidia next week.  


13:27 | Corsair Files IPO, Looks to Go Public 

It seems Corsair is looking to go public, following in the footsteps of Razer, according to new information from Forbes and Corsair’s own S1-form filing. There’s some interesting things to glean from Corsair’s IPO filing. 

First, Corsair has been on a buying spree the last couple years: It’s acquired Origin PC, Elgato, and Scuf, just to name a few. As it’s brought several new business segments under its corporate umbrella, Corsair is showing some obvious losses from those transactions; however, Corsair is still a billion dollar company. Specifically, Corsair managed to earn $1.097B in revenue for 2019. Corsair also highlights that it made around $23M in profit just between January 2020 and June 2020 alone. 

A few highlights:

  • Corsair is estimated to have 18% of the gaming peripheral market in the US
  • Corsair is estimated to have 42% of the PC component market in the US
  • Corsair claims to have a number one market share position for the following product segments: Keyboards, DRAM modules, cases, PSUs, and cooling solutions. 
  • Corsair has shipped 190 million gaming and streaming products as of June 30, 2020
  • DRAM still accounts for almost half of Corsair’s business: DRAM revenue accounted for 43.7%, 41.8%, and 39.1% of Corsair’s revenue for 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively.
  • Corsair relies heavily on Amazon, and its customer base is limited. “In 2017, 2018, 2019 and for the six months ended June 30, 2020, sales to Amazon, accounted for 17.7%, 22.4%, 25.1% and 26.8% respectively, of our net revenue, and sales to our ten largest customers accounted for 43.4%, 51.0%, 51.6% and 52.4% of the same periods, respectively, of our net revenue.” 

Corsair also had an interesting take on cloud computing, and seems to not know the difference between cloud computing and cloud gaming. Here’s a quote from Corsair’s filing, in which it addresses several of its risk factors as a business -- of which it considers cloud computing to be one of. 

“Cloud computing refers to a computing environment in which software is run on third-party servers and accessed by end-users over the internet. In a cloud computing environment a user’s computer may be a so-called “dumb terminal” with minimal processing power and limited need for high-performance components. Through cloud computing, gamers will be able to access and play graphically sophisticated games that they may not be able to otherwise play on a PC that is not fully equipped with the necessary, and often expensive, hardware. If cloud computing is widely accepted, the demand for high-performance computer gaming hardware products such as the PC high-performance memory, prebuilt and custom gaming PCs and laptops, and other PC gaming components we sell, could diminish significantly.”

At any rate, we’ll keep an eye on this as it develops. It’s possible that before the year is over, Corsair could be a publicly traded company. 


17:36 | TSMC Technology Symposium 2020

TSMC recently shared some details regarding its future 5nm and 3nm process nodes at its annual Technology Symposium. TSMC also discussed a new branding for its various packaging technologies, and how it may be ditching silicon for sub-3nm designs. 

TSMC is still working on 7nm, and recently shared that it has shipped over 1 billion 7nm dies. TSMC has extensively used its N7 and N7P nodes, and we’re still looking ahead to N7+, which will mark the first use of EUV for critical layers. N7+ is currently in volume production, and TSMC is looking down the road to N6, which will be an IP-compatible node offering an 18% density improvement. 

Moving on to 5nm, TSMC will extend the use of EUV even further. While TSMC didn’t offer numbers, it’s believed N5 will use 11-13 EUV masks. N5 is currently ramping into volume production, and should provide a 15% performance increase at iso-power, or a 30% power reduction at iso-performance compared to N7. The first 5nm design to ship may be Apples A14 Bionic SoC for the iPhone 12. TSMC is also working on an N5P node that will offer iterative performance and power improvements, similar to N7P. 

TSMC also shared some light news about its N4 node, which will offer undisclosed power and performance improvements over N5 and N5P. N4 is scheduled to enter risk production in late 2021, with volume production coming online in 2022. 

For 3nm, TSMC’s N3 will be a full node advancement from N5, offering a 10% - 15% performance improvement at iso-power, or a 25% - 30% power reduction at iso-performance compared to N5. TSMC states that N3 will offer a 1.7x density improvement over N5, and that N3 will continue to use FinFET transistors. However, it’s possible that N3 may be TSMC’s last node to make use of conventional silicon.

For sub 3nm, TSMC is looking into other materials as alternatives to silicon, in an effort to maintain scaling as transistor geometry continues to shrink. TSMS is currently using and researching materials like nanosheets and nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and 2D transistors. TSMC also debuted the 3DFabric brand, which looks to bring all of TSMC’s 3D packaging technologies -- like Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate (CoWoS) and Chip on Wafer (COW) -- under one roof. 


20:29 | MSI Announces MPG GF Power Supply Series

In what’s already a crowded market, MSI has decided to throw its hat into the PSU ring. MSI’s  

MPG GF Series will span three models initially. These include the A650GF, A750GF, and A850GF. As you may have guessed, these are 650W, 750W, and 850W units, respectively. MSI’s MPG GF Series units are all 80 PLUS Gold certified, are of modular design, and come with a 10-year warranty. 

All of MSI’s MPG GF PSUs come with the standard heavy duty protections (OVP, OCP, OPP, OTP, SCP, UVP) and a FDB bearing fan type. MSI didn’t share any details on who the OEM for these units is (HEC, Channel Well, Super Flower, etc.) or pricing. It also appears MSI will be bundling the PSUs with a 12-pin Micro Fit 3.0 cable similar to what we saw from Seasonic. 

MSI did not reveal any release dates either, but we’d expect the release to coincide with Nvidia’s upcoming GeForce announcement next week.  


22:11 | ASUS Teasing Keyboard Switches, Possibly More

ASUS appears to be teasing something via its ROG Twitter account. The tweet shows what clearly looks to be a keyboard switch, but the tweet links to an event page with a countdown timer. Maybe ASUS can make some software that announces announcement announcements in the future. 

The event page is called “ROG Metabuffs” and the countdown coincides with Nvidia’s upcoming GeForce Event, scheduled for next Tuesday, September 1st. 

Separately, ASUS is also teasing another event, with yet another countdown timer. This time, the event is called “Built For Brilliance” and is scheduled for September 2, the day after Nvidia’s GeForce event. This event also appears to have something to do with Intel.

If we’re offering some speculation: The ROG event will almost certainly herald the arrival of ROG-branded mechanical keyboard switches, and likely some ROG-branded RTX 3000 cards. The Built For Brilliance event is probably more device focused, likely announcing new laptops, convertibles, etc.    


23:50 | JPR Q2 2020 GPU Market Report

Jon Peddie Research has released an overview of its Q2 2020 GPU market report. While the full report is obviously paywalled, JPR does make some highlights available for free. 

JPR notes that overall, GPU shipments are up 2.5% QoQ. Specifically, AMD’s shipments are up 8.4% over last quarter, while Nvidia’s shipments have increased by 17.8%. Intel’s shipments have decreased 2.7%. The overall attach rate for GPUs to PCs in Q2 2020 was 126%, up 2.3% QoQ. The overall PC market has increased by 0.68% QoQ, and 12.54% YoY. 

JPR notes that usually the second quarter of the year is down, or remains flat. Yet, the impact of the pandemic has had interesting effects on the PC and gaming market. 

“The pandemic has been disruptive and had varying effects on the market. Some sales that might have occurred in Q3 (such as notebooks for the back-to-school season) have been pulled in to Q2 while desktop sales declined. Intel’s manufacturing challenges have also negatively affected desktop sales. We believe the stay at home orders have continued to increase demand in spite of the record-setting unemployment levels. As economies open up, consumer confidence will be an important metric to watch,” says Jon Peddie, President of JPR.

As for total dGPU market share, JPR finds that Nvidia now commands 80% of the market, while AMD holds the remaining 20%. This marks a 5% gain for Nvidia, and a 5% decrease for AMD QoQ.