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HW News - RAM Price Fixing Evidence, CPU Shortage Through March

Posted on November 29, 2018

The memory supplier price-fixing investigation has been going on for months now, something we spoke about in June (and before then, too). The Chinese government has been leading an investigation into SK Hynix, Samsung, and Micron regarding memory price fixing, pursuant to seemingly endless record-setting profits at higher costs per bit than previous years. That investigation has made some headway, as you'll read in today's news recap, but the "massive evidence" claimed to be found by the Chinese government has not yet been made public. In addition to RAM price fixing news, the Intel CPU shortage looks to be continuing through March, coupled in news with rumors of a 10-core desktop CPU.

Show notes below the video for our weekly recap, as always.


Chinese Government Claims Evidence of Price Fixing

We’ve been covering the Chinese government’s investigation into DRAM makers -- that is, SK Hynix, Samsung, and Micron -- for some time now. The investigation stems from the theory of price fixing and anti-competitive behavior amidst skyrocketing memory prices. In DRAM manufacturers’ defense, they appear to be cooperating with proceedings. Not in their defense, they’ve have been caught doing this before.

According to a story broken by Financial Times, that investigation has yielded evidence that the aforementioned companies conspired to increase DRAM prices. Wu Zhenguo, head of China’s anti-monopoly bureau, stated that the investigation has “yielded massive evidence;” however, no evidence has been made public yet.

Until the Chinese Government decides to be more forthcoming with the evidence, it’s worth taking this information with a grain of salt. So far, none of the big three have responded to the allegations, either. When more information comes into the public sphere, we’ll keep you informed accordingly.    

SK Hynix, Samsung, and Micron make up the great memory triumvirate, controlling an estimated 95% of the world’s DRAM market. China has since been trying to break into the memory market, with no shortage of its own controversy. As a reminder, Samsung and Hynix were both fined in 2005 and 2010 for price fixing, but past behavior doesn’t guarantee current behavior, and the China’s attempt at state-controlled memory manufacturers does require additional scrutiny.

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/d626833a-ebb5-11e8-89c8-d36339d835c0

Rumor: Intel Allegedly Bringing 10 Cores To Desktop

When AMD launched its first Zen-based Ryzen chips in 2017, they both returned to competition and set the stage for a reignited core war with Intel. That said, 2018 has been a good year for CPUs, with both companies firing core-laden chips out of their product cannons and attempting to leapfrog one another with price/performance.

Intel has gone from comfortably putting quad-core chips at the top of their product stack, to almost overnight, coming out with 6- and 8-core CPUs, with the i7-8700K and i9-9900K, respectively. Not to mention Intel finally went back to solder on their halo products, in an effort to take some shine off of AMD. Intel and AMD continue to trade blows in the HEDT and server space as well.

Now, a new rumor from Taiwanese forums that has been churned on the rumor mill suggests Intel could be readying 10-core parts for mainstream with their Comet Lake-S line up. Details are scarce, as the rumor only alludes to 10 cores based on Intel’s 14nm, and that there could be an additional ring bus introduced in the design. Comet Lake is rumored to be the microarchitectural successor to Coffee Lake and Whiskey Lake, and is supposedly slated for mid-2019.

As with all rumors--well, by now the routine should be clear: generous amounts of salt, and such.       

Nvidia Nose-Dives 19% in Market

This news is adjacent to the aforementioned hardware problems going into 2019. In a recent earnings report, NVIDIA announced it expects fourth quarter earnings to only be $2.7 billion, which is much less than the anticipated $3.4 billion.

The primary reasons for the shrunken earning are NVIDIA’s lackluster RTX launch and a  miscalculation of the cryptomining boom, which have led to oversupply of 10-series cards--specifically GTX 1060 cards. NVIDIA’s stock dropped nearly 19% after the news broke, which is the lowest recorded one-day drop for the company in 10 years.

This news overshadowed record profits in the data center and automotive segments. NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang has called this a “crypto hangover”, and stated that the excess inventory of mid-range cards would take one to two quarters to correct. As such, NVIDIA plans to halt delivery of GTX 1060 cards entirely during the final quarter this year.

Another consequence is that mid-range Turing cards, like the RTX 2060, are of uncertain ship dates while inventories recede.     

Source: https://nvidianews.nvidia.com/news/nvidia-announces-financial-results-for-third-quarter-fiscal-2019

Board Partners Have Too Much Inventory

According to a new report from Digitimes, motherboard and GPU makers in Taiwan are facing revenue declines and shrinking margins stemming from multiple factors in 3Q18, such as Intel’s CPU shortage, the erosion of demand from crypto miners, and the US-China trade war. ASUS and Gigabyte are both Taiwan-based, EVGA has a large headquarters there, and MSI also has an HQ in Taiwan. All of these companies do their largest volume manufacturing in China with HQs in Taiwan, although Gigabyte has some Taiwan manufacturing capabilities.

These ill effects have caused companies like ASUS and Gigabyte to report excess inventories, as motherboard and video card shipments are down from last year. This means that revenue was below peak expectations for the holiday season, as well as the quarter.

For instance, ASUS saw a 43% dip in profits for 3Q18. Gigabyte, for their part, only netted 4.27M in profits for 3Q18, which is the lowest recorded since 3Q08. What’s worse is these trends are expected to continue into 2019. Gigabyte is expecting to see its profits cut in half for 1Q19 compared to the same quarter last year and, according to Digitimes, may swing into the red for 4Q18.

Intel and NVIDIA are also affected. Intel’s widely publicized CPU shortage and NVIDIA’s pricey new GPUs are problems for both companies, as well as board partners and motherboard makers. NVIDIA has seen slow sales and growth regarding their RTX-series, and is also suffering from a gluttony of 10-series cards still in the channel.

Intel and NVIDIA are expected to hike prices in 2019 for their chips in a bid to maintain profits, which will further put pressure on motherboard and add-in board partners. This will likely lead to hardware makers raising prices in 2019.     

Source: Digitimes -- https://www.digitimes.com/news/a20181122PD205.html

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/asus-gigabyte-gpu-motherboard-sales-decline0cpu-shortage,38092.html

RTX 2060 Benchmark Leak

The Final Fantasy XV database is a popular place these days. The RX 590 showed up there ahead of its eventual release, and now it appears the RTX 2060 has surfaced. We use the RTX moniker unassumingly here, as there’s plenty of speculation that mid-range Turing cards won’t pack ray-tracing and could maintain the GTX branding.

At any rate, the RTX 2060 was purportedly benchmarked at 3840 x 2160 with the high quality preset. With a score of 2,589 points, it handily beats both the new RX 590 and GTX 1060, and barley trails the GTX 1070 at 2,748.

As with all leaks and rumors, take this with a liberal amount of salt; however, as the RX 590 proved, these leaks aren’t all that far fetched.

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/nvidia-rtx-2060-leaked-benchmarks,38116.html

Data Centers Command 2% of Global Power

As cloud computing becomes more pervasive in daily life, data centers’ demand for energy errs on the side of insatiable. Data centers across the globe are currently using 416 terawatt hours of electricity, which is an estimated 2% of global power. Global power for data centers has been a concern for some time, as they consume -- and waste -- enough energy to power small cities.

Data in the cloud is expected to quintuple between 2016 and 2021, with cloud traffic estimated to account for over 95% of data center traffic. This exceeds previous predictions that global cloud traffic would double every four years, and as such, data centers are becoming increasingly more scrutinized.

Going forward, data centers will be expected to reduce IT emissions, store data more efficiently, and build more scalable facilities. The SNIA ( The Storage Networking Industry Association) Emerald Program aims to do just that. Follow the link for more information.   

Source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/data_centers_consume_2_of_worlds_energy_hyper_efficient_new_solutions_usher_in_new_paradigm/prweb15925619.htm


Samsung 860 QVO SSDs Based on QLC NAND

SSD makers are getting onboard with QLC NAND, which is being used to bring terabyte SSDs into the fold at more aggressive pricing. Samsung announced the intention to bring QLC SSDs to market as part of their roadmap back in October. Now, those drives seem to be appearing online.

The Samsung QVO will adhere to the 2.5” form factor and will use the SATA III interface. Likely no surprise to anyone there. The drives will use QLC 3D NAND, which focuses on density, rather than performance. Early tests show QLC lacking in write performance and endurance, with endurance being the biggest point of concern that buyers should consider. The drives offer dense storage at a low cost, though, so take that for what it’s worth to your use case.

Despite that, Samsung’s QVO drives are rated for 550/520 MB/s of sequential read/write speeds and up to 96,000/89,000 read/write IOPS. So far, there look to be three capacities: 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB. Official pricing hasn’t been revealed, but the QVO drives should be cheaper than the Evo/Pro family at similar capacities -- that is the point of QLC, after all.

Samsung’s QVO drives are currently expected in December 2018, although Samsung hasn’t made that official.    

Source: https://www.techpowerup.com/249834/the-new-samsung-860-qvo-ssd-with-qlc-nand-gets-listed-online-will-be-cheaper-than-the-evo-family

Intel’s Shortage Puts Partners on Hold Through March

Multiple PC vendors have come forward in confirming that Intel’s 14nm CPU shortage is affecting business. Just last week, Intel made clear its plans to slash DIY CPUs for retail by up to 2 million units, instead directing chips to the OEM channel.

Now, it seems that Gemini Lake SoCs are so backlogged, vendors are expecting to wait until February or March 2019 for orders. Hardkernel’s ODROID H2 is an x86-based, single board mini PC that uses the Celeron J4105. Apparently, the company undershot demand for the system, and sold through all 2,000 produced units in 24 hours.

Now, Intel reports that they can’t deliver anymore Gemini Lake chips until February or March, and can’t even confirm that delivery schedule until January. Intel has already offloaded some of its entry-level chip production to TSMC, and rumors have suggested SoCs may become outsourced as well.     

Souce: https://www.anandtech.com/show/13629/short-supply-of-intels-gemini-lake-confirmed-by-pc-maker