Hardware stub

HW News - Sony PS5 & Zen Architecture, Cringy Mining Ad

Posted on May 22, 2018

Hardware news always slows slightly before Computex, but the industry still seems to be operating at full bore. If you're not already tuned-in, be sure to pay attention during June 4th to June 11th (or thereabouts) for major news from all aspects of the industry. Computex will be in full swing then, and there's always some straggler (and some early) coverage that's worth checking. We'll be at the show for its duration, plus some time for a short trip to Japan.

This week's hardware news recap can be found in video form below, or if you prefer written articles, we have the show notes below that. The anchor item for the week is Sony's PlayStation 5 and its potential usage of Zen architecture CPUs.


Rumored Zen Arch in PS5

Leading Linux publication Phoronix noted that a Sony programmer has been submitting code updates for something known as Znver1, specifically including Low-Level Virtual Machine updates, or LLVM. LLVM is used in software compiling, and a Sony engineer’s work on LLVM would align with PlayStation’s utilization of virtualization to compile software.

Phoronix notes the following: “On Friday, Simon Pilgrim submitted a cleanup for the znver1 code, last week were more Znver1 changes across multiple commits, and these upstream Znver1 LLVM improvements by this Sony programmer have been going back at least two weeks with this just not being some one-off cleanup attempt. Thanks to Phoronix reader Stephane for helping to spot this trend.” Phoronix then indicates that the LLVM updates are for Zen architecture. If you’re one for connecting dots and conspiracy theories, this one seems to soundly suggest Zen architecture in future consoles from Sony. It’ll be interesting to see if AMD’s Raven Ridge work finds derivative implementation in the next-generation consoles.

Source: https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Sony-LLVM-Ryzen-Improvements

Spectre Attack Can Access Firmware

The security firm Eclypsium has published a new application of Spectre variant 1 which allows access to System Management Mode (SMM), an element of the BIOS. Eclypsium is headed by Yuriy Bulygin, former “Chief Threat Researcher and Senior Director of Advanced Threat Research” at Intel. According to Eclypsium, “this runtime part of firmware (often referred to as SMI Handler) has long been of interest to security researchers and a target for advanced attackers, since this code has high privileges and operates outside the view of other software including the OS and any security applications.” The exploit could be used to reveal secrets in memory, as well as expose the confidential workings of SMM and further vulnerabilities. Eclypsium has been working with Intel since March, and both Intel and Eclypsium agree that Intel’s Spectre mitigations should apply to this vulnerability. However, Eclypsium raises the point that fixing the problem will require customers to manually update firmware, which not everyone will do.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/ex-intel-security-expert-this-new-spectre-attack-can-even-reveal-firmware-secrets/

Source: https://blog.eclypsium.com/2018/05/17/system-management-mode-speculative-execution-attacks/

Bitcoin Alone Using 0.5% World’s Electricity

A new report on Livemint.com suggests that Bitcoin specifically and alone is consuming 0.5% of the world’s electricity -- about as much as the country of Ireland. Estimates are that Bitcoin processing consumes 2.55 gigawatts, and that a single transaction can use as much power as the average household in the Netherlands in a month. What we don’t know is what the website means when it says “transaction.”

Regardless, there’s a bigger aspect to this: Just like there’s an ecological cost to make any other product, like an electric vehicle, there’s a cost to make all the ASICs fueling Bitcoin mining.

Source: https://www.livemint.com/Money/3wU3b1IuMYZTl47zYkkcmN/Bitcoin-to-use-05-of-worlds-electricity-by-end-of-2018.html

AMD Unifies dGPU + APU Drivers

AMD has unified their dGPU and APU driver packages, maybe, probably. Anandtech points out that the release notes for “Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition Q2 2018 WHQL” only list support for the 2400G and 2200G, but that AMD has called it a unified driver and users have installed it successfully with a range of other APUs and discrete GPUs. This is also the first new official driver release for Ryzen APUs since their launch in February.

Source: https://www.anandtech.com/show/12782/amd-releases-unified-graphics-driver-for-dgpus-and-raven-ridge

Source: https://twitter.com/cavemanjim/status/997503640817500161

Intel Expands Fab28

Intel has put forth a plan to invest $5 billion in Fab 28, their factory in Kiryat Gat, Israel. The plan is set to be approved by the Israeli government “in coming weeks.” As part of the deal, Intel would receive a 5% tax rebate until 2027, a ~$195 million government grant, and a further $195 million if they “make a further strategic investment to significantly upgrade its plant technologically.” Intel made a $6 billion investment in Fab 28 back in 2014, probably with the intention of gearing up for 10nm, which has since been delayed to 2018-2019.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/intel-green-lights-5-billion-investment-in-israel-plant/

Embarrassing Mining Ad

Biostar would like you to know that you too could take part in the exciting world of cryptocurrency mining, just like these smiling stock photo models. They’ve released three models of prebuilt “iMiner” systems, filled with either RX 560s or 570s and ready to mine. The marketing seems eager to prove that crypto isn’t just for sweaty nerds, it “CAN BE SO FASHIONABLE AND EASY.” No price is yet listed, but Anandtech’s spec table does note “FIAT Only, Sorry.” Specs for each model can be found on Biostar’s site.

Source: https://www.anandtech.com/show/12771/biostar-iminer

Lian Li Bora Lite Fans

Lian Li has announced new BORA Lite 120 fans with a range of 900-1500RPM and a max CFM of 48.31. Features include 12 RGB LEDs for “majestic illumination” in the central hub and an outer frame of CNC milled aluminum. Visually, they’re very similar to the aluminum-framed BORAs Lian Li sent us for our O11 Dynamic review, but the frame on the new model is more circular and overhangs the edge of the fan blades slightly. Most importantly, they have normal PWM and RGB headers rather than those 6-pin connectors that only fit Lian Li controllers. The fans are available in packs of three with six-way fan splitter (with PWM cable), three-way RGB splitter, and anti-vibration pads for $40.

Source: http://www.lian-li.com/bora-lite-120

Source: https://techreport.com/news/33661/lian-li-does-its-aluminum-thing-with-the-bora-lite-rgb-fans

GPX Eisblock for AMD & NVIDIA

Aphacool has announced the GPX Eisblock full coverage GPU cooler for AMD and NVIDIA cards. The block includes a backplate, completely enclosing the PCB. There are two variants: the 150 euro GPX Plexi is the fancier one, with a large window and RGB lighting, while the 120 euro Acetal is exactly the same but with a metal cover and no lighting. The RGB lighting is compatible with ASUS Aurora Sync, Biostar VIVID LED DJ, Gigabyte RGB Fusion, and MSI Mystic. Alphacool claims performance of the two versions is identical. NVIDIA GTX TITAN X Pascal/1080 Ti and AMD RX Vega models are available. Check the product listing for compatibility with specific cards.

Source: https://www.alphacool.com/eisblock-gpx

Source: https://www.techpowerup.com/244320/alphacool-announces-eisblock-gpx-waterblocks-for-amd-and-nvidia-graphics-cards

HW Sales

For this week, we spotted an EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Gaming pretty close to MSRP, which is a refreshing site. Find that on Amazon here. We also spotted an Acer 1440p/144Hz display at a steep discount on Newegg, available here.

Editorial: Steve Burke, Patrick Lathan
Video: Andrew Coleman