Hardware stub

HW News - AMD Zen 3 & RDNA2, RTX 3080 Binning, Liquid-Cooled Silicon, & Xbox Series X & S Specs

Posted on September 13, 2020

It’s been another busy week in hardware news as we move closer towards an official GPU launch (RTX 3000). As an update, NVIDIA has moved the review embargo lift (and we're able to tell you about it) from Monday the 14th to Wednesday the 16th. RTX 3080 reviews will go live on Wednesday. The date was moved because of global shipping delays causing some other regions (outside North America) to receive cards late for reviewers; in effort to keep it fair between reviewers around the world, NVIDIA pushed its review embargo date back. On a similar note, AMD finally decided to let us know when we’ll see “Big Navi” (RDNA 2) and Zen 3. There’s also a bit of speculation on possible price changes for AMD’s upcoming GPUs, in light of Nvidia’s emerging RTX 3000 series. 

Elsewhere, Microsoft finally ended its game of chicken with Sony by revealing prices for its upcoming consoles, so the ball is firmly in Sony’s court. We also have some hardware specs on the now-confirmed Xbox Series S that will launch alongside the Xbox Series X.

Rounding-out the news for this week, there’s some interesting research being done on the possibility of embedded liquid cooling, some news surrounding Western Digital’s “5400 RPM-class” designation, and the return of Cryorig. As usual, the news article and video embed follow below.

01:32 | Der8auer’s Nano-Structures Imaging

Fellow YouTuber Der8auer posted a three-part series that we wanted to bring some attention to. Roman’s series uses a scanning electron microscope to visualize the AMD Ryzen silicon nano-structures at more than 100,000 magnification. Roman and the on-site engineer go through the images in great detail and talk about the structures comprising the CPU: Among other aspects of the silicon, Roman shows just how small the composition of the silicon is, and zooms in on parts of the gates and interconnects within the CPU.

It’s a very educational series and is well-produced. We’d recommend visiting Der8auer on YouTube to check out the series, available in English und auf Deutsch.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYF7Qym9Pq0

03:04 | Researchers Exploring Embedded Liquid Cooling 

Even for all of its modern RGB LEDs, there’s still a certain amount of intrinsic inefficiency in liquid cooling a chip or component -- namely in transferring the heat load into the cold plate, and subsequently getting it into the liquid itself.

New research being done in Switzerland seems to show some promising advances in liquid cooling, though. Primarily in bringing liquid cooling directly to the chip itself, via cooling channels directly on top of the chip package. To demonstrate this on a semiconductor, researchers used  gallium nitride (GaN) atop a silicon wafer to build a simple power conversion chip.

To build the embedded cooling system, slits are cut through the GaN, reaching down to the silicon beneath. Then, these slits are etched at the silicon level to widen them into channels. Then, the cuts made through the GaN are then sealed with copper. Water flows through the channels underneath the silicon via feeds and sinks. 

The researchers then packaged this cooling system by using a double-sided adhesive with laser-cut channels to accommodate the chip’s cooling, and the entire package was affixed to a PCB with connections for both power and water supply. Overall, the researchers noted that the design is able to handle heat loads up to 1,700W per square centimeter, while keeping the chip temperature from rising beyond 60°C. While adapting this system to modern processors and silicon would be far more complicated, it’s promising research nonetheless.           

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2666-1


05:14 | AMD: Big Navi and Zen 3 in October

AMD finally made it clear when we’d be able to see Zen 3 and RDNA 2 (Big Navi) parts by announcing a future announcement -- such is the current trend. NVIDIA did it for 21 days straight leading into RTX and ASUS did it after that, and now it’s AMD’s turn to pre-announce an announcement, with the RDNA2 announcement landing suspiciously one day after its earnings call.

AMD announced that it will reveal Ryzen 4000 “Vermeer” CPUs based on Zen 3, and RDNA 2-based GPUs on October 8th and 28th, respectively. These types of announcements typically predate product availability by at least a week or two, although it’s possible AMD is doing availability at announcement, depending on how confident it is. If this gets announced first and is available later, AMD would need to hit the Black Friday buying window to maximize impact -- but it’s also splitting silicon for consoles and CPUs, since so much of what AMD is presently making is on the same wafer supply. AMD will have to figure out how to split the limited supply between its products: Consoles will have purchase orders that probably can’t be changed on-the-fly, especially with anticipated high volume, but will provide some cash flow; CPUs, if using shared wafer supply, could potentially be higher margin per portion of wafer, which will be a tough balance if inventory is in demand on Ryzen CPUs. Dedicated GPUs seem the easiest to scale down if supply is needed for higher margin elsewhere, especially with larger dies for the GPUs that will have lower yield than smaller CPU silicon.

Previously, there was also an easter egg in Fortnite suggesting the new GPUs would be called the RX 6000 series. The easter egg is way cooler as a pre-announcement tease, and is product teasers done right, we think. 

Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see just exactly how AMD is going to position its new GPUs, but there’s plenty of precedent for last minute price cuts between AMD and Nvidia. AMD pulled a similar stunt with its RX 5000 series as a countermeasure to try and deflate Nvidia’s RTX Super series. Similarly, Nvidia would end up dropping the price of its RTX 2060 in response to AMD’s aggressive pricing in the segment.

Source:  https://hothardware.com/news/amd-big-navi-radeon-6000-16gb-priced-undercut-rtx-3080

Radeon RX 6000 Series: https://twitter.com/Radeon/status/1303726639013036033

Zen 3/Ryzen 4000: https://twitter.com/AMDRyzen/status/1303732899506774022

10:35 | Xbox Series X & S Pricing, Promising AMD SOCs

After a leak that claimed a $299 price tag for the then-unconfirmed Xbox Series S, Microsoft came out and confirmed both the console and the price. Microsoft also announced that the Xbox Series X will be priced at $499, and that both consoles will be available on November 10th. Alongside the new consoles, Microsoft is rolling-out a revamped Game Pass Ultimate subscription that comes with an EA Play subscription at no additional cost, as well as financing options for purchasing the new consoles.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest changes come in the form of a pared-down GPU, less GDDR6 memory, and less solid state storage. The Series S uses a 7nm, 8C Zen 2 SoC, but is offset with a slightly lower CPU clock speed of 3.6GHz. Meanwhile, the GPU runs at 1.56GHz across 20 CUs. That’s compared to the 52 CUs clocked at 1.82GHz for the Series X.

Additionally, the Series S will come equipped with 10GB of GDDR6, apportioned as 8GB @ 224 GB/s, and 2GB at 56GB/s. For storage, there’s a 512GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD, and Microsoft’s proprietary 1TB expansion card slot.

Interestingly, there are implications with Xcloud here: The 20 CU vs. 52 CU configurations should be widely varied in capabilities, but if Microsoft intends to effectively ship a massively more powerful Chromecast-style device, it could tie into Xcloud for the more demanding games. That’s doubly true when considering the new push on game pass subscriptions.

The Xbox Series S is targeting 4 TFLOPs of compute, compared to the 12.15 TFLOPs rating for the Xbox Series X. This is largely a useless number, but it's one that both Microsoft and Sony insist on pushing, so here we are. The Xbox Series S will be primarily aimed at 1440p/120FPS gaming, and looks to be positioned as a successor to the Xbox One S.

While all eyes are squarely on Sony now, there’s already been a rumor that suggests its PS5 hardware was priced a bit more exorbitantly than Microsoft's. According to the rumor, Sony is now likely looking to match prices with Microsoft in response to the pricing of the Xbox Series X and Series S.

AMD’s console GPUs look really promising this generation, too, and we’re excited to test the new consoles and see how they do. Remember that, with console GPUs, there’s always a major inherent advantage in that developers only have one (or two) standard sets of hardware to build for. If everyone has that hardware, it’s theoretically easier to optimize against it. That’s why you see consoles running games that look more impressive than you might find equivalent performance for in a PC application.

Source:  https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2020/09/09/introducing-xbox-series-s/


15:21 | Western Digital’s “5400 RPM-Class” Designation 

It seems Western Digital is keen on attracting yet more ire from consumers. This time, it seems Western Digital is muddying the water on spindle speeds, as it relates to its WD Red line of NAS HDDs.

According to Ars Technica, this issue actually came to light around a year ago via german hardware site Hardwareluxx.de, but it’s only recently been lit aflame in earnest thanks to a post on r/DataHoarder. The crux of the issue is Wesern Digital identifying certain WD Red HDDs as “5400 RPM-class” despite evidence that the drives actually spin at 7200 RPMs. Additionally, the 5400 RPM-class designation doesn’t seem to be limited to just WD Reds, but also certain models from the My Elements and My Book lines. However, the 5400 RPM-class issues do seem to only affect 8TB models. 

Again, this issue isn’t entirely new; another reddit user, u/Amaroko, previously posted his findings with the WD Elements WD80EMAZ and WD My Book WD80EZAZ models. Not only are HDDs being advertised as 5400 RPMs models, but the firmware also reports a spindle speed of 5400 RPMs. User findings are contradicting that.  

“Last year, I bought a few of these drives myself (both WD80EMAZ-00WJTA0 and WD80EZAZ-11TDBA0). When someone on a German forum told me that they were actually 7200 rpm, I didn't believe them at first either. But then I took a microphone and started measuring. You see, 7200 rpm is equal to 120 rotations per second, which should manifest as a base frequency of 120 Hz. Plus maybe integer multiples of that frequency (240 Hz, 360 Hz, 480 Hz, etc.), so-called overtones/harmonics. 5400 rpm on the other hand corresponds to 90 Hz. Therefore, it should be easy to tell the difference between the two,” writes u/Amaroko. 

Amoroko came to this conclusion after a quick frequency analysis on the hard drives, whereby the HDDs were placed on a cardboard box with a Yeti mic positioned above them, and recording the drives being powered on. Spectral views were then captured with Adobe Audition, which showed a baseline frequency of 120Hz.

There have also been reports of affected drives receiving complaints regarding noise and temperature, which likely stems from the drives not actually being 5400 RPM drives. A primary reason some users and applications prefer 5400 RPM drives is lower noise and operating temperatures. 

Ars Technica reached out to Western Digital, and received the following statement:

“For select products, Western Digital has published RPM speed within a ‘class’ or ‘performance class’ for numerous years rather than publishing specific spindle speeds. We also fine-tune select hard drive platforms and the related HDD characteristics to create several different variations of such platforms to meet different market or application needs. By doing so, we are able to leverage our economies of scale and pass along those savings to our customers. As with every Western Digital product, our product details, which include power, acoustics and performance (data transfer rate), are tested to meet the specifications provided on the product’s data sheet and marketing collateral.”  

Source:  https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/09/western-digital-is-trying-to-redefine-the-word-rpm/

18:46 | RTX 3090/3080 Waterblocks Surface

When Nvidia showed off its new RTX 3000-series cards, they boasted a new flow-through cooling design from Nvidia aimed at getting more air through the card, and subsequently more hot air out of it. In facilitating this, the FE cards use a truncated custom PCB. Nvidia has a more traditional reference design that will go out to AIB partners, and companies like EKWB are already working on water blocks based on this design.

However, it seems Bykski has already produced water blocks that are compatible with the PCB found in the FE cards, specifically that of the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080. The blocks are listed over at ezmodding, and come in different finishes (acrylic, acetal, etc.) and are stated to be full coverage water blocks -- meaning the blocks should provide coverage for not only the GPU, but also the VRAM and VRM. 

These blocks appear to be available for preorder, and ezmodding also has placeholders for upcoming AIB models as well.    

Source: https://ezmodding.com/index.php?k=199&lang=eng

21:26 | Cryorig Returns With R5 CPU Cooler and Crona RGB Fans

We’ve been talking about the potential return of Cryorig to the US market for some time. Most recently, the company teased an upcoming product with the word “5OON.” And while we had some laughs at the marketing, what Cyrorig was actually teasing was the now official Cryorig R5 CPU cooler, which will serve as the latest entry in Cryorig’s R-series of coolers.

The R5 cooler is a CPU tower cooler with dual fans, and has some interesting features and claims, such as a “quick-mount” mounting system that supposedly allows for one-handed installation. The R5 uses 6 heat pipes, and comes with a TDP rating of 200W. Cyrorig hasn’t mentioned many technical details on how the mounting system works. Cyrorig is listing a front fin density of 48, and front fin measurements of T = 0.4 mm,  gap = 2 mm.

Cyrorig also announced its new Crona RGB fans. That’s Crona, not to be confused with a certain demonetizing human malware epidemic that may or may not have a similar enunciation. At any rate, the Crona RGB fans are 120mm fans that feature a circular RGB LED design and use Cryorig’s HPLN (High Precision Low Noise) bearing design.

Price and availability are TBA.    

Source: http://www.cryorig.com/news.php?id=90&page=1

23:39 | RTX 3090/3080 Binning 

A new report from Igor’s Lab suggests that the quality of the upcoming RTX 3000 chips may be a bit scattered. If it wasn’t already clear, Igor has a clear pulse on the GPU industry and market, as he recently nailed the RTX 3000 launch. So, this information is likely highly reliable.

Getting into specifics, both the upcoming RTX 3090 and 3080 will make use of the GA102 die, which itself is based on a custom adaptation of Samsung’s 8nm process, dubbed 8N Nvidia. Regardless of node maturity, the GA102 is large and complex, and as ever, it will take some time to fine tune the manufacturing to extract the best chips. 

That said, Igor’s Lab is reporting some binning statistics for some initial production of the GA102-based chips for the RTX 3080. Sorted into bin 0 (average), bin 1 (good), and bin 2 (really good), the early chips seem to skew towards bin 1, reportedly accounting for a 60% average of chips. Another 30% make up bin 0, and 10% of the GA102 chips are bin 2. 

While Igor’s sources claim that they haven’t received nearly as many chips for RTX 3090 models, it’s reported that the overall bins will likely look similar. This data suggests that overall, Samsung’s custom 8nm process for Nvidia is very healthy, as most users stand a good chance at getting a bin 1 chip. Igor is citing undisclosed sources at vendors and board partners for these numbers, but again, Igor’s track record is very good.

Source: https://www.igorslab.de/en/chip-is-not-equal-to-chip-first-information-on-the-possibility-to-binning-and-dispersal-at-the-force-rtx-3080-andrtx-3090/

Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Host, Additional Reporting: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick