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HW News - Worse 14nm Shortage for Intel, NVIDIA Reviving RTX 2070 to Fight AMD

Posted on November 2, 2019

This week’s hardware news talks about NVIDIA’s reported revival of the RTX 2070, Intel’s ongoing 14nm shortage issues, AMD and Intel earnings reports, and more. Among the hardware items, GN also discusses its new ongoing partnership with the Eden Reforestation Projects to contribute 10 trees planted for each item sold via the GN store through November.

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Partnering with Eden Reforestation Projects & GN Modmats in Stock

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RTX 2070 Coming Back

Our board partner contacts have told us that they’ve ordered more RTX 2070 GPU dies, and that NVIDIA is reviving the previously-retired 2070 line because AMD RX 5700 XT sales are outpacing 2060 Super sales. NVIDIA had originally told us (on record) that the RTX 2070 would be replaced with the 2060 Super and 2070 Super, but the company looks to be prolonging the life of its 2070 to better compete with AMD.

AMD Q319 Earnings: AMD’s Best Quarter Since 2005

Driven by AMD’s success with its 7nm portfolio, AMD recorded its most profitable quarter since 2005, as stated by AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su. “Our first full quarter of 7nm Ryzen, Radeon and EPYC processor sales drove our highest quarterly revenue since 2005, our highest quarterly gross margin since 2012 and a significant increase in net income year-over-year,” said Su. 

AMD reported a revenue of $1.8B for the third quarter, a 9% YoY increase and an 18% QoQ increase. AMD’s Computing and Graphics segment saw a 36% YoY increase, thanks to burgeoning demand for Ryzen 3000. AMD also notched record Epyc sales thanks to the 7nm Rome, which so far has seen adoption from Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Cray. 

AMD’s GPU business saw a slight decrease QoQ due to increased mobile sales, but AMD reports the the ASP (Average Selling Price) is up YoY, thanks to increased sales in retail channels. AMD’s Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom segment (consoles, etc.) recorded a 27% YoY decrease, but was partially offset by increased Epyc sales.    

Source: http://ir.amd.com/financial-information/quarterly-results

Rumor: Intel’s i5 CPUs May Get Hyper-Threading With Comet Lake

Intel’s offense against AMD thus far has been less cutting prices, and more of exposing highly price-segmented features to downstream products in the stack, including more cores, PCIe lanes, or even binning. Last week, we discussed Intel’s i3 models purportedly gaining hyper-threading with the upcoming Comet Lake, but it seems Intel could also extend that feature to i5 models as well.

Another SiSoftware benchmark entry was spotted by Twitter user momomo_us, that seemingly indicates Comet Lake will include 6C/12T i5 parts. The entry in the database doesn’t offer anything particularly identifying, other than it being an Intel CPU with 6 cores and 12 threads. This reinforces the idea that Intel is willing to bolster its entry-level and mid-range chips with features traditionally reserved for higher-end SKUs, such as the i7 models. 

Again, reports suggest that Intel is also going to bulk up the flagship i9 model with 10 cores and 20 threads, and that Comet Lake will debut with a new chipset -- meaning new motherboards.    

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/hyper-threading-coming-to-intels-comet-lake-core-i3-lineup-benchmark-submission

Intel Locked In Patent War With Fortress

Intel has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the SoftBank owned Fortress Investment Group after Fortress filed suit against Intel, alleging that the chipmaker’s entire catalogue since 2011 is infringing on patents owned by Fortress.

In Intel’s filings, Intel states that Fortress acquired more than 1,000 patents with the intent of stockpiling them in anticompetitive aggregation. Intel’s filings suggest that Fortress is willing to bet companies would pay up, rather than go to court and challenge the patents. 

 “One way in which Fortress has tried to turn around its performance and justify SoftBank’s investment in it is through increased speculation on patent assertions.

Intel brings this complaint to end a campaign of anticompetitive patent aggregation by Fortress and a web of (patent assertion entities) that Fortress owns or controls,” the filing reads.

“Fortress’ aggregation is intended for an anticompetitive purpose—to invest in patents at costs lower than the holdup value of the patents,” Intel continues.

The patents in contention are the ones SoftBank and its companies acquired from NXP Semiconductors. SoftBank also owns ARM, another Intel competitor with a warchest full of patents. Intel, for its part, seems more than willing to see how SoftBank and its companies' patents hold up in court.  

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-intel-softbank/intel-files-antitrust-case-against-softbank-backed-firm-over-patent-practices-idUSKBN1X12FR

NordVPN Was Hacked In 2018

NordVPN, one of the more popular virtual network providers, confessed that one of its servers was hacked last year. This admission comes after speculation that NordVPN had suffered a data breach and that private keys had been leaked, meaning anyone could theoretically set up a server. 

NordVPN stated that a single server in Finland was hacked in March 2018, as NordVPN was renting the server from an unnamed provider. According to NordVPN, the breach was facilitated thanks to a poorly configured server setup by the data center provider. NordVPN states that when the data center provider became privy to the breach, they didn’t immediately disclose it to NordVPN. NordVPN has since terminated its contract with the provider and launched an internal security audit. 

NordVPN states that no other servers were affected, and no user credentials were affected. 

According to NordVPN, the hacker did acquire an expired TLS key that, under “extraordinary circumstances,” could be used to perpetuate a Man-In-the-Middle attack. NordVPN also stated that the expired key could not and will not allow for the decryption of VPN traffic on any server.

Since discovering the breach, NordVPN has admitted it could’ve done more to prevent the intrusion, and that it intends to enhance security in the future. Also worth noting is it seems that TorGaurd and VikingVPN were also affected.     

Source: https://nordvpn.com/blog/official-response-datacenter-breach/

After Nearly 14 Months, OEMs Expect Intel’s CPU Shortage Will Persist

If comments from HP and Lenovo executives are to be believed, then Intel’s 14nm CPU shortage isn’t quite over yet, even though there have been signs of improved availability in recent months.

At the Canalys Channels Forum in Barcelona, Alex Cho, president of HP's Personal Systems Business and Gianfranco Lanci, COO at Lenovo, offered their insight into Intel’s persistent CPU shortage.

 “No surprise that it's been a hard year, it makes life more complex and expect it to continue for another quarter or two,” said Cho. Cho also indicated that Intel’s CPU shortages weren’t SKU-specific, and affected its entire portfolio. Lanci says that Lenovo has been repeatedly told that Intel’s supply of 14nm chips would improve, but Lanci notes that quarter-over-quarter, those improvements have not transpired. Lanci also attriubted the less than stellar growth in the PC segment to Intel’s inability to deliver chips.

Steve Brazier, CEO of Canalys, also chimed in, saying "short answer is that we don't know. And they are not telling anybody, so nobody completely knows why. All we can do is speculate that they made a serious software design flaw." Brazier also added that "The interesting thing is the PC vendors do not know, they have no better information than we have. There is no sign of a short-term fix."

Source:  https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/18/intel/

TSMC Will Invest Heavily To Increase 7nm and 5nm Capacity

In an earnings call, TSMC announced it would inflate its CapEx spending by as much as $4B for 2019, in anticipation of strong demand for its advanced nodes. TSMC will also revise its 2020 CapEx in a similar fashion.

The increased CapEx will be used to bolster capacity for both TSMC’s 7nm-class nodes, as well as the upcoming 5nm node. Specifically, TMSC will spend $1.5B to increase 7nm capacity, and $2.5B will be allocated for 5nm capacity. TSMC’s N7+ node already uses EUV on critical layers, but N6 and N5 nodes will greatly expand the use of EUV. As such, we know that the bulk of TSMC’s spending on 5nm is being allocated for EUV equipment. 

ASML, a provider of lithography equipment, recently reported record sales of EUV lithography equipment. Furthermore, TSMC has already confirmed its orders with ASML. Responding to an investor’s question regarding securing tools from ASML, TSMC CEO C.C. Wei said “The answer is yes, we secure whatever we need. We work with ASML very closely and we are ordering all the tools that we need.”

Source: https://www.tsmc.com/uploadfile/ir/quarterly/2019/3d36C/E/TSMC%203Q19%20transcript.pdf

Razer Enters Monitor Market With The Razer Raptor 27

Originally shown at CES last January, Razer is finally ready to enter the market with its first monitor: The Razer Raptor 27. As the name suggests, the Raptor is a 27” display based on an IPS panel, with a WQHD resolution of 2560 x 1440. The Raptor 27 offers a 144Hz refresh rate, and 4ms response time -- or a 1ms response time with motion blur reduction. 

The Raptor 27 technically supports HDR, but its 420 nit brightness rating is far too low to do HDR any sort of justice. The Raptor 27 supports AMD’s FreeSync technology, and is also G-sync compatible. The panel will also tilt back 90 degrees to allow for easier access to cables. The Razer Raptor 27 is also replete with plenty of RGB lighting, if that’s your thing. Connectivity options include HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4, USB Type-C, and USB 3.0. The MSRP for the Raptor 27 is a bit ambitious, starting at $700.         

Source: https://www.pcgamer.com/razers-first-gaming-monitor-27-inch-144hz-is-now-available-for-dollar699/

Microsoft’s Secured-Core PC Initiative 

Microsoft announced a new security intiave, dubbed the Secured-Core PC initiative. Essentially, Microsoft is partnering with key hardware vendors to defend against firmware-level attacks and exploits. Microsoft notes that firmware attacks are on the rise, and as operating system and software level security measures have limited visibility into the firmware layer, Microsoft has aimed to create a new way to deflect firmware threats.

Microsoft will be working with silicon makers such as Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm to implement System Guard Secure Launch. SGSL will make use of Dynamic Root of Trust for Measurement (DRTM) that’s being built into newer silicon from chipmakers, and is aimed at protecting the boot process from firmware attacks. In a nutshell, the firmware will still initialize the hardware and software on the device, but the firmware’s trust will be limited; it’ll call upon the processor for a “well-known and verifiable code path” to launch the OS. Basically, the bootloader will sit between the processor and firmware, providing instructions on a boot path that prevents attacks. 

Microsoft and AMD both have some technical dives into the material, should it be of interest.   

Source: https://www.microsoft.com/security/blog/2019/10/21/microsoft-and-partners-design-new-device-security-requirements-to-protect-against-targeted-firmware-attacks/


Intel Q319 Earnings

Intel is on its way to a record year after reporting a record third quarter. Despite the 14nm silicon drought and the plagued 10nm manufacturing woes (which to Intel’s credit, are improving), Intel still recorded $19.2B for Q319 -- a $1.2B increase over Intel’s previous guidance. Intel CEO Robert Swan extolled the quarter as “the best quarter in our company's history.”

The record quarter comes on the back of Intel’s new data-centric focus, which has seen Intel repositioning its portfolio to capture market share in IoT, edge computing, data-center and cloud computing. All of Intel’s data-centric segments -- that is, the Data Center Group (DCG), the Internet of Things Group (IOTG), and the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG) -- enjoyed record revenue, and accounted for almost 50% of Intel’s revenue this quarter.

Intel expects Q419 to bring another $19.2B in revenue for the company, with data-centric business growing by another 6% to 8%. Intel’s PC-centric business declined 5% YoY for Q319 and are expected to remain flat for Q419. 

Interestingly, Intel offered some rare introspection regarding its execution on multiple fronts. Intel confirmed that it’s still struggling with demand, suggesting supply will continue to be tight in Q4, Intel expects to balance supply and demand at some point in 2020. Also, Intel expressed a desire to return to a two-year development cadence after 10nm, and reattaining process leadership.      

Source: https://www.intc.com/investor-relations/investor-education-and-news/investor-news/press-release-details/2019/Intel-Reports-Third-Quarter-2019-Financial-Results/


TSMC & GlobalFoundries Dismiss All Litigation Efforts

As much as we love a good patent infringement spat between multi-billion dollar companies, alas, TSMC and GlobalFoundries have reached an agreement that will see all litigation efforts dismissed out of court.

Initially, GlobalFoundries sued TSMC, alleging patent infringement; however, TSMC quickly responded in kind with a countersuit of its own. Both foundries were seeking to halt the import and sales of any chips that were part of the impacted patents, threatening to disrupt the wafer supply for clients such as AMD, Nvidia, and Apple, just to name a few. As of writing, both foundries have issued identical press releases, replete with a joint statement.

"TSMC and GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF) today announced they are dismissing all litigation between them as well as those that involve any of their customers. The companies have agreed to a broad life-of-patents cross-license to each other’s worldwide existing semiconductor patents as well as those patents that will be filed during the next ten years as both companies continue to invest significantly in semiconductor research and development.

This resolution guarantees TSMC and GF freedom to operate and ensures that their respective customers will continue to have access to each foundry's complete array of technologies and services."

Source: https://www.tsmc.com/tsmcdotcom/PRListingNewsAction.do?action=detail&language=E&newsid=THHKHIPGTH


Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Host, Additional Reporting: Steve Burke
Video: Josh Svoboda, Andrew Coleman