This round-up is packed with news, although our leading two stories are based on rumors. After talking about Navi's potential reference or engineering design PCB and Intel's alleged Comet Lake plans, we'll dive into Super Micro's move away from China-based manufacturing, a global downtrend in chip sales, Ryzen and Epyc sales growth, Amazon EWS expansion to use more AMD instances, and more.
Show notes are below the embedded video, as always.
Potential Navi Reference Design Might Use GDDR6, Impressive VRM
Leaked images of an AMD PCB, presumably a reference design for some variant of Navi, have given the collective internet much to speculate about. Resident VRM specialist Buildzoid has weighed in on his Actually Hardcore Overclocking channel.
The images show eight DRAM packages surrounding the GPU, and the packages show a BGA package size of 180, indicating the use of GDDR6 memory. The DRAM packages are also single-sided, likely meaning it’s an 8GB configuration with a 256-bit memory bus.
According to Buildzoid, the beefy 8-phase VRM could be making use of 70A Smart Power Stages and using two 8-pin connectors. The card likely approaches a 300W TDP; anything more than that, and the card “becomes a meme,” according to Buildzoid. Screw arrangement aligns with traditional blower fans for AMD, but we’ll see if that’s what the final models use.
We’d strongly encourage you to check out Buildzoid’s video over on his channel. We’ll link that below.
Rumor: Comet Lake to Use 10000-Series Branding, 14nm++
Current leaks suggest that Intel’s upcoming Comet Lake will be another extension of the company's 14nm process node, and will also add another digit to Intel’s already convoluted and crowded naming convention.
Comet Lake is rumored to be using the 10000-series branding, with desktop parts coming with as many as 10 cores. The Comet Lake microarchitecture is an alleged successor to Coffee Lake and Whiskey Lake, and SKUs are expected to arrive sometime in the fourth quarter of the year.
Not much else is known, currently. There will be the Core desktop parts coming, in addition to the lower power U-series. Comet Lake is expected to recycle parts of Skylake such as the IGP from the 9000-series (9th-gen) line up.
Super Micro Looks to Shift Production Outside of China
In a bid to assuage concerns over Chinese backdoors and espionage, Super Micro will begin moving production away from China. Last year, a report from Bloomberg surfaced, alleging that Super Micro’s motherboards made in China had been compromised with a malicious chip acting as a backdoor to hack Super Micro customers like Apple and Amazon.
Pretty much everyone but Bloomberg widley denied the claims, and initial testing failed to substantiate those claims. Yet, it seems Super Micro’s server business has suffered all the same from the bad press. Super Micro is the world's third largest server supplier, sitting behind HP and Dell, respectively.
However, since last October -- when Bloomberg’s report came out -- Super Micro has seen significant declines in sales, especially in the US. According to analysts, it’s possible Super Micro could slide to fourth place behind Amazon. Super Micro has since accelerated its ambitions of being more self reliant, breaking ground on a new $65 million factory in northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan.
AMD reported its 1Q19 earnings whilst also celebrating its 50th anniversary, and while the company’s earnings were a bit mixed, they were stronger than anticipated.
AMD’s GPU and semi-custom sales were sluggish, but were offset by the doubling of Ryzen and EPYC sales. This, according to AMD, has led to its sixth consecutive quarter of market share gain, although no metrics were provided. AMD also doubled down on its projection that it will gain double-digit market share in the server market this year.
AMD reported $1.27 billion in revenue for the quarter, and most importantly, reported increasing margins of 41%, up 5% QoQ. AMD is also predicting a $1.52 billion 2Q19, driven by the launch of its 7nm product stack. AMD CEO Lisa Su said in an earnings call that AMD will deliver its 7nm Navi and EPYC Rome in the third quarter.
According to Su, the first Navi-based graphics card will be situated "below where the Radeon VII is positioned from a pricing standpoint." That said, it seems the first round of Navi cards will indeed address the mid-range segment, and the flagship cards will come later.
Highlighting AMD’s bullish server market expectations is Amazon, as it continues to invest in AMD’s EPYC platform. Amazon Web Services have announced another EPYC-based offering for its EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) instances.
The new EPYC-powered T3a is a mix of cost and throughput, according to AWS. The new T3a instance is for workloads not requiring long, sustained throughput needs, but offers burst performance for when those workloads see a spike in throughput or usage requirements.
The T3a joins other AWS instances powered by EPYC, such as the M5, R5, M5ad, and R5ad instances.
Global Chip Sales Suffer Largest Sequential Decline Since 2001
According to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization, chips sales have declined globally by as much as 15.5% sequentially during the first quarter of 2019, which marks the largest decline since 2001, and the fourth largest decline since 1984.
WSTS stated that first quarter sales were on the decline, sinking to $96.8 billion from $114.7 billion. “Sales in March decreased on a year-to-year basis across all major regional markets and semiconductor product categories, consistent with the cyclical trend the global market has experienced recently,” said John Neuffer, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) trade group.
According to IC Insights, there have only been seven quarters in which global chip sales fell by more than 10% sequentially, dating back to 1984. “The first quarter is usually the weakest quarter of the year for the IC market, averaging a sequential decline of 2.1% over the past 36 years, but the severity of the 1Q19/4Q18 IC market drop has started this year off at a very low level,” said IC Insights.
IC Insights also paints a grim picture for 2019, with a double-digit decline predicted for the rest of the year -- unless 2H19 is marked by a particularly strong rebound. Neuffer also called for U.S. policy makers to draft policies aimed at bolstering and sustaining the semiconductor market.
“To help foster growth and innovation in the semiconductor industry and ensure continued U.S. leadership in semiconductor technology, policymakers in Washington should enact measures that invest in scientific research, attract and retain a top technology workforce, and ensure open markets and strong protection of intellectual property,” Neuffer said.
Razer’s 2016 April Fools prank, the Razer Toaster, has transcended the world of pranks and memes, and will actually end up in front of engineers to become a real product. That’s according to Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, who seemingly relented to fans’ years long wishes of bringing the toaster to market.
“Alright - I didn't think these guys were going to make it - but they did. It was to hit 1M likes and with each Razer Toaster tattoo being equivalent to 100K likes each....and they now have 12 Razer Toaster tattoos.
Well....what can I say. I've just officially liked their page - and I'm going to put together my team of designers and engineers. It will take a few years - but I'll be sure to share the progress - and make it a community affair.
A Razer Toaster - For Razer Toaster Lovers. By Razer Toaster Lovers,” Tan wrote via Facebook.
The “guys” Tan refers to are the members of the Facebook group Give us the Razer Toaster, which recently hit 1 million likes -- or actually 45,000 likes, with 12 tattoos accounting for 100,000 likes each. And yes, you read that right -- 12 tattoos. There are 12 human beings who have permanently inked an image of the Razer Toaster onto their skin.
Nidec Anticipates Massive Decline in HDD Shipments for 2019
Nidec, a Japanese manufacturer of small precision motors, expects HDD shipments to be especially weak in 2019. Nidec supplies around 85% of all spindle motors that power hard drives, so that lends a certain amount of credence to the prediction that the company expects HDD shipments to fall as much as 50% in 2019.
According to the PowerPoint financial presentation, Nidec is preparing for a 50% YoY decline in HDD motor sales for 2019, revising its HDD shipment forecast from 356 million units to 309 million units in 2019. Nidec expects the downward trend to continue into 2020, with just 290 million units expected.
Nidec also notes that this year’s sales will see a steep decline, going from 124 million units in 2018 to just 64 million units in 2019. On a positive note, external drives and nearline storage are expected to see an increase.