Hardware stub

HW News - RGB Software Steals Crypto, Ryzen Gains Market Share, DDR5 Due Q3

Posted on May 11, 2021

Another busy week in hardware news as we settle into the month of May. We have substantial news items from Intel, as the company continues to explore fab options in Europe. Additionally, Intel is ratcheting up its fab investments, and possibly looking to sell off its Sport Technology Group, which is home to its True View tech. Rounding-out the headline stories is IBM announcing a breakthrough in “2nm” semiconductors using nanosheet FETs. 

In slightly lesser news, TSMC is deploying AMD’s Epyc CPUs in the data centers that not only power its R&D, but its manufacturing as well -- a bragging point for AMD, to be sure. There’s also news regarding Arm, Sony, Steam, and more. 

At GN, we recently reviewed Cooler Master’s MF700 case, in addition to reviewing the Phanteks P360A case. Spoiler alert: Only one of those cases impressed us. We also dove into a decade’s worth of GPU data from AMD and Nvidia to discuss price creep, release patterns, and greed.


01:04 | Intro Technology & Wallpapers

We spent a couple minutes talking about some of the technology in our new GN intro animation in the news video above. We also created some GN Desktop Wallpapers for viewers -- you can find those linked in the video description above.

03:43 | Spoofed RGB Software Steals Crypto Wallets

In a new chain of tweets from malware advertising researcher ConfiantIntel on twitter, we’ve learned of malicious lookalike software spoofing MSI’s Dragon Center & Afterburner. Misleading URLs are being used that, to anyone familiar, should look sketchy and hopefully reduce the likelihood of being clicked. In short, if it’s not explicitly “msi.com” and it has some other hyphenated phrase or odd TLD (like .io), then don’t click on it.

The trouble, though, is that fake Dragon Center and Afterburner software is being run in advertisements. ConfiantIntel wrote on twitter:

“Users are redirected to a chain of fake MSI themed websites [GN: Redacted websites], offering users to download MSI dragon center and MSI afterburner. The download links are pointing to a  malware (discussed below) hosted in @discord  again! The discord CDN servers are heavily used to host malware, targeting large number of users [...] it is a new variant RedLine Infostealer, with additional features.”

“This variant was configured to steal cold Crypto Currency Wallets like Electrum, Exodus, Jaxx, etc.. VPN profiles, and it came with an new Remote Task command  ‘cmd’ allowing backdoor access and executing further commands on the hosts/hands-on keyboard attacks.”

This type of scam will likely become common. To be clear, from what we’re reading, this does not look like the genuine Afterburner or Dragon Center software were compromised, but rather it is spoofed download links that download an unrelated exploit.

Our advice is this: If you’re dealing in large amounts of cryptocurrency -- or really just large amounts of any currency, including via traditional banks -- it’s wise to use a system that is known secure with as few applications installed and as little web browsing done as possible.

Source: https://twitter.com/ConfiantIntel/status/1389935499599618052/photo/1

07:03 | Steam Survey April 2021: RTX 3060 & Ryzen

Another month has come and gone, and that means only one thing: Another Steam survey is here, this one tracking the month of April 2021. The data hasn’t changed a whole lot here month-over-month, but there are two interesting highlights in the data. 

First and foremost, this is the first month that Nvidia’s RTX 3060 has broken into the Steam charts, indicating that the card does actually exist, and at least a few actual customers got their hands on it. The elusive RTX 3060 appears toward the bottom of the list, sandwiched between Nvidia’s GTX 970M and Intel’s Sandy Bridge iGPU, with a mere 0.17% share.

The other interesting point is that, months after the initial Radeon RX 6800/6800 XT launch, there is still no presence of AMD’s 6000-series cards on the Steam charts. AMD is faring better in the realm of CPUs though, as it continues to eat away at Intel share. AMD now holds a share of 29.48%, leaving Intel with the remaining 70.51%.

The top GPUs are mostly unchanged, with the GTX 1060 still leading the way, albeit the card has continued to lose share for months now, notching a -0.19% share loss for April 2021. In CPU land, quad-core CPUs (40.77%) are still king, but their days are numbered as 6-core CPUs approach the 30% mark, a trend we’ve been highlighting in these surveys for some time now. This makes sense, as the R5 series of CPUs has been a top recommendation from our outlet and others for years now.

As for operating systems, Windows now commands a 96.27% share (+0.10%), leaving MacOS and Linux to fight over the remaining ~3%.         

Source: https://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/Steam-Hardware-Software-Survey-Welcome-to-Steam

09:46 | IBM Creates First Chip Built on 2nm Nanosheet

Out of left field, IBM announced that it has produced the first chip using a 2nm process technology based on nanosheets. You’ll likely recognize that last word, as we’ve had a continued discussion surrounding nanosheet FETs and how they’ll eventually replace FinFETs. 

Before getting into the details, this is the part where we insert the disclaimer regarding the growing disconnect between node names and the actual size of the transistors/features on the chip. So, while IBM is describing this as a 2nm chip, there’s no metric that clearly defines what exactly IBM is calling 2nm. For a primer on how node names and transistor measurements have increasingly become decoupled, check out this research on a proposed LMC density metric.  

That aside, IBM’s recent breakthrough is no less impressive. IBM has been toying with stacked nanosheets since at least 2017 (in actual designs, anyway), when it introduced a nanosheet design at 5nm. IBM is claiming that with its 2nm design using nanasheets, up to 50 billion transistors can be packed onto a chip the size of a fingernail. IBM notes that its 2nm design is capable of a 45% performance improvement or 75% reduction in power consumption compared to today’s 7nm silicon. 

IBM is also listing a few highlights of what it thinks the research can mean in end-use products. These include quadrupling the battery life of smartphones, reducing the carbon footprint of data centers (a growing problem), increasing performance in laptops, and improved detection and reaction in autonomous vehicles. 

IBM shows images with GAA/nanosheet transistors using a stack of 3 nanosheets, with a gate length of 12nm. IBM notes that with EUV patterning, it can achieve nanosheet widths varying between 15nm and 70nm. IBM’s research will go forward to benefit partners like GlobalFoundries and Samsung, as well as Intel, as the latter recently announced it would be collaborating with IBM on R&D.   

Source: https://newsroom.ibm.com/2021-05-06-IBM-Unveils-Worlds-First-2-Nanometer-Chip-Technology,-Opening-a-New-Frontier-for-Semiconductors


12:36 | Overclocking DDR5 RAM Due for 2021 EOY

Kingston Technology and subdivision HyperX announced this past week that it shipped out overclocking-focused DDR5 modules to its motherboard partners for QVL validation. Kingston noted that the modules are likely due in Q3 of 2021, and noted that it remains the “largest third-party memory manufacturer in the world,” claiming 80% market share. We’re not sure how that number is derived, but Corsair has been the closest competitor in our space that Kingston has had to battle; likely, Kingston’s dominance comes from its presence in enterprise and OEM systems.

Kingston said that the DDR5 modules it’s working on have XMP and allow motherboard manufacturers to “adjust the power management integrated circuit (PMIC) beyond the 1.1V DDR5 spec.” This would allow full overclocking.

Source: https://www.kingston.com/unitedstates/us/company/press/article/62341?ArticleTitle=Kingston%20Technology%20DDR5%20Overclockable%20Modules%20%20One%20Step%20Closer%20to%20Reaching%20Market%20-%20(May%2006)

14:36 | TSMC Uses AMD Epyc CPUs in Their Fabs

In what can only be described as the great silicon circle of life, a new case study released from AMD shows how TSMC uses AMD’s Epyc CPUs -- the very same ones it manufactures for AMD -- to power some of its manufacturing tools.

The news points out that TSMC began testing AMD Epyc CPUs in its general workloads for its data centers some time ago, and apparently to great effect. Additionally, following the general testing, TSMC notes that AMD’s Epyc CPUs are now being deployed with its research and development teams. 

TSMC is currently using HPE’s ProLiant DL325 G10 servers, configured with AMD’s 64-core Epyc 7702P. TSMC notes that each of its production tools is linked to an x86 virtual machine, and the company uses path alternation protocol (PAP) software to ensure redundancy; that is, in case a VM goes down the PAP software will automatically reconnect the production tool to another VM in the cluster. 

“For automation with the machinery inside our fab, each machine needs to have one x86 server to control the operation speed and provision of water, electricity and gas, or power consumption. These machines are very costly. They might cost billions of dollars, but the servers that control them are much cheaper. I need to make sure that we have high availability in case one rack is down, then we can use another rack to support the machine. With a standard building block, I can generate about 1,000 virtual machines, which can control 1,000 fab tools in our cleanroom,” says TSMC’s Simon Wang, Director of Infrastructure and Communication.   

Source: https://www.amd.com/system/files/documents/tsmc-optimizes-workloads-with-amd-epyc-cpus.pdf

17:56 | Intel Courts Subsidies for Fabs in US & EU

Just a couple of weeks ago, Reuters reported that Gelsinger was slated to travel to Europe to meet with European Union officials and customers, presumably to explore options for a new fab site that is part of Intel’s new IDM 2.0 strategy. The net result of Gelsinger’s visit to Europe is that Intel is seeking roughly $9.7B in subsidies to construct a new European fab. 

"What we're asking from both the U.S. and the European governments is to make it competitive for us to do it here compared to in Asia," Gelsinger told Politico Europe. Gelsinger also made a stop in Germany, where he met with Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and Bavarian governor Markus Soeder, and pointed to the idea of Germany being a prime spot for a new Intel fab. 

"We think of Germany as a good candidate - not the only, but a good candidate - for where we might build our fabrication capabilities," Gelsinger said to Politico. According to reports, Gelsinger also met with executives from BMW, Deutsche Telekom (German telecom company), and Volkswagen. 

Outside of Europe, Intel also announced that it will be investing $3.5B into its Rio Rancho campus in New Mexico. The investments will allow Intel to expand and upfit the facility to bolster the manufacturing of Intel’s advanced 3D packaging technologies, namely Foveros. Intel’s press release only mentioned Foveros, although we assume Intel’s Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) will also see continued investment at the site.

It seems the increased investments will strictly focus on post-production capabilities and packaging, as AnandTech confirmed with Intel. “Intel has confirmed to AnandTech that the facility is aimed purely at building its advanced 3D packaging and testing facilities for end products, rather than R&D into some of Intel’s other on-site activities, such as 3D XPoint, which had been postulated in the media,” says Dr. Ian Cutress.

The expansion is slated to begin later this year, with an expected completion date targeted for late 2022. 

Finally, Intel is also rumored to be weighing a sale for its Sports Technology Group, which mostly consists of Intel's True View technology. Intel’s Sports Technology Group -- of which Intel has never broke out revenue for on its public earnings releases -- was formed in 2016 around several of Intel’s acquisitions, including Replay Technologies and Voke VR. Intel’s True View is a continued evolution of Replay’s freeD video format, focusing on capturing and rendering 3D video from multiple cameras to produce 360-degree replays. True View is currently used in several NFL and NBA arenas, as well as being used by several European soccer teams. Intel even has a partnership with the International Olympic Committee to provide technology for the Olympic Games.

According to the report from Sportico, Intel has retained PJT Partners to explore any possible sales. Intel has been criticized in the past for its expensive and frivolous acquisitions. That said, it seems that under Gelsinger’s direction, Intel may be divesting itself of such acquisitions to refocus on its core catalogue.             

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/intel-seeks-8-bln-euros-subsidies-european-chip-plant-politico-2021-04-30/



20:09 | Arm Co-Founder Still Opposes Acquisition 

When Nvidia announced its first data center CPU, named Grace, we pointed out that it had some contentious implications given Nvidia's pending Arm acquisition. Namely, Nvidia’s proprietary NVLink -- which Nvidia is billing as a big focus for Grace -- is of chief concern, and one feature we pointed to as being suspect given Nvidia’s continued promises to compete fairly should it be allowed to acquire Arm.

Arm co-founder Hermann Hauser sees the situation through a similar lens. In speaking with The Telegraph, Hauser expressed concern that Nvidia baking in a proprietary interconnect -- and one that’s notably faster than other technologies -- into its Arm design is proof that it will not be competing on even ground, and is a thinly veiled attempt to steer customers toward Nvidia products. 

In response to Huaser’s comments, Nvidia told The Telegraph that Hauser “does not understand what Grace will do or its benefits to Arm" and that "we have been working on Grace using off-the-shelf Arm technology, available to all Arm licensees, long before we agreed to acquire Arm."

This is tone deaf and dangerously aggressive as a stance for Nvidia, especially considering how plainly visible it is that NVLink, as a proprietary interconnect, gives Nvidia an unfair advantage.

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/arm-co-founder-says-nvidia-already-showing-compete-unfairly-arm

22:46 | Sony Announces Discord Integration for PS

On the heels of reports claiming the rumored Microsoft-Discord deal was off the table, Sony has announced an actual partnership with Discord to bring some level of integration to PlayStation consoles. Neither Sony nor Discord offered any details on how the partnership will work, nor how much Discord functionality is making its way to PlayStation.

That said, Sony did mention that its teams were “hard at work connecting Discord with your social and gaming experience on PlayStation Network.” Additionally, Sony said that “Our goal is to bring the Discord and PlayStation experiences closer together on console and mobile starting early next year, allowing friends, groups, and communities to hang out, have fun, and communicate more easily while playing games together.”

Microsoft does offer a very basic level of integration with Discord, whereby users can link their Discord and Xbox accounts to display what games are being played. Sony appears to suggest chat, and maybe even cross platform chat capability.

Interestingly enough, Sony announced this partnership just as it bought a minority stake in the company as part of Discord’s Series H round of funding. This is also amidst rumors that Discord is planning to go public with an IPO, which at this point, is beginning to seem more likely.     

Source: https://www.sie.com/en/blog/announcing-playstations-new-partnership-with-discord/

24:25 | TSMC Has Multiple Arizona Expansions Planned

Around a year ago, TSMC announced that it was planning a $12B megafab to be built in Arizona, and focus on TSMC’s 5nm technology process. Construction was set to begin this year, with a 2024 completion date. Not too long ago, we also pointed out that TSMC has already begun hiring for its new Arizona campus.

We bring this up due to a new report from Reuters claiming that TSMC is planning to build “several more chipmaking factories'' in Arizona, in addition to the one previously announced. According to Reuters, TSMC is planning up to five more fabs in Arizona. Moreover, Reuters’ sources claim that when TSMC purchased the land for the Arizona fab, they did so with multiple fabs in mind -- up to six, allegedly. Also, in TSMC’s latest earnings report, TSMC CEO C.C. Wei commented on the future Arizona site. 

"But in fact, we have acquired a large piece of land in Arizona to provide flexibility. So further expansion is possible, but we will ramp up to Phase 1 first, then based on the operation efficiency and cost economics and also the customers' demand, to decide what the next steps we are going to do."   


25:33 | Dell Patches Vulnerability From 2009

As evidenced from research done by SentinelLabs, Dell’s update driver version 2.3 (dbutil_2_3.sys) suffers from five previously undisclosed vulnerabilities. Dell’s firmware updater has been in use with Dell machines running Windows since at least 2009, meaning that these security issues have persisted unnoticed for some 12 years. 

The five security flaws discovered by SentinelLabs consist of two memory corruption issues, two lack of input validation issues, and one code logic issue. All five vulnerabilities have been assigned one CVE tracking number, CVE-2021-21551, and are marked with a CVSS Score 8.8. SentinelLabs notes that all of the aforementioned security flaws can be exploited to gain kernel-level privileges.

Dell lists the vulnerability and its mitigations here, but Dell is instructing users to remove the vulnerable dbutil_2_3.sys driver and download Dell’s remediated dbutil driver.      

Source: https://labs.sentinelone.com/cve-2021-21551-hundreds-of-millions-of-dell-computers-at-risk-due-to-multiple-bios-driver-privilege-escalation-flaws/


27:12 | TeamGroup Is Ready for the Chia Crypto Wave

TeamGroup, like a lot of other storage product makers, we’re sure, has dollar signs in its eyes over the ongoing Chia craze. We’re also sure that as with all things crypto-related, those dollar signs will become surprised Pickachu faces when this growing Chia bubble eventually implodes. But alas, that’s a story for 6 months from now.

Snark aside, TeamGroup is the first company to trot out a storage product -- an SSD, in this case -- specifically aimed at Chia mining. TeamGroup’s T-Create Expert SSD is a PCIe 3.0 SSD of the M.2 variety, and as far as we know, marks the industry’s first 12-year warranty. Catering even more to prospective Chia miners, TeamGroup also lists a MTBF of 3M hours and a TBW rating of up to 12,000 TB. Those ratings are well into enterprise SSD territory, so we have to suspect TeamGroup is also planning to target enterprise pricing. TeamGroup didn’t disclose any details on the NAND type or controller, but did say the SSD will come in capacities of 1TB and 2TB.      

Source: https://www.teamgroupinc.com/en/news/ins.php?index_id=161

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