Hardware stub

HW News - AMD AM5 Big Changes, Windows "11," Steam's Switch Competitor, & PCIe Gen6

Posted on June 5, 2021

This week, we have news regarding the looming Alder Lake, and how Alder Lake-S CPUs will require updated mounting kits for CPU cooler compatibility. Alder Lake will see the arrival of the new LGA1700 socket, and a slightly different shape for the CPU itself, as well as a reduced package height. Also in Intel news, the company has made good on its previous declaration to tape-in its 7nm Meteor Lake compute tiles this quarter, which overall bodes well for Intel’s recently realigned 7nm process. 

In other news, there’s talk of Dynamic Flash Memory (DFM) as a potential alternative to DRAM, Valve’s reported Switch-like gaming handheld, Windows news, an update on PCIe 6.0, and more. 

At GN, we reviewed Cyperpower’s Gamer Xtreme i3200BST, and detailed how it almost didn’t suck. We also took a look at the Yeston RX 6700 XT Sakura graphics card, and detailed some big upcoming changes at GamersNexus.

01:17 |  AMD Moving to LGA Package with Socket AM5

Several months ago, we received an anonymous leak that we withheld because we were unable to cross-verify it anywhere. That now becomes more relevant than before, because it aligns with the tweet by ExecuFix on twitter just recently. One quick red flag is that the ExecuFix tweet uses a rendered image, not a real photo, of the rumored AMD part, but parts of it do align with previous rumors that we received in March of 2020.

ExecutableFix said, “Raphael is the first Zen 4 consumer chip and here’s a first look.” The tweet claims DDR5 support, which makes sense for the timeline, and notes 28 PCIe Gen4 lanes on a 120W TDP. 

Pulling up our own information from an early 2020 leak, AMD was at least at the time targeting 45W-105W desktop CPUs with codename Durango CCDs on Zen 4. We previously received this block diagram of AM5, but again, this is over a year old at this point, so things could have changed.

All told, though, it does align with ExecuFix’s claims of LGA and DDR5-only support.

Source: https://twitter.com/ExecuFix/status/1397173117487828992

04:16 | Unreal Engine Lumen

Quick note on the Lumen stuff from Epic's documentation that further clarifies what it's doing: "Lumen uses Software Ray Tracing through Signed Distance Fields by default, but can achieve higher quality on supporting video cards when Hardware Ray Tracing is enabled."

Epic Games this week posted major announcements about its Unreal Engine 5, and we’ve already been using it internally for our upcoming memory timings animations. The Unreal Engine 5 update is important for the hardware market, too, and the reason is made obvious by looking at Epic’s new interface: Ray Tracing is now marked as “deprecated.” Epic determined that real-time ray tracing is, at this point, too costly in performance and too unreliable in deployment, and so has developed its own globally applicable solution called “Lumen.”

Epic said:

“In Unreal Engine 4, features such as Screen Space Global Illumination were not reliable and Ray Tracing Global Illumination (RTGI) was not performant for games with a high enough quality, and didn't integrate with other important systems.”

“Lumen is our fully dynamic real-time global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light change, making for more believable experiences. The GI hooks in directly with our time of day settings, allowing for true physically-based settings for photorealistic environments. Lumen solves dynamic diffuse indirect lighting. For example, light bouncing diffusely off of a surface picks up the color of that surface and reflects the colored light onto other nearby surfaces; this effect is called color bleeding. Meshes in the scene also block indirect lighting, which also produces indirect shadowing.”

Lumen is usable for indirect lighting, global illumination, emissive materials, reflections, and all light types. That includes directional, sky, point, spot, and rect lights. NVIDIA and Epic are still working directly together on RT support, though, and Lumen can accelerate more with RT hardware.

Additionally, Epic announced its Temporal Super Resolution solution to help upscale image quality. Epic said:

“UE5’s new anti-aliasing solution, temporal super resolution, keeps up with all this geometric detail to create sharper, more stable images than before, with quality approaching true native 4K at the cost of 1080p.”

08:02 | “SteamPal” Is Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC

In an exclusive report from Ars Technica, Valve is attempting to resurrect its hardware ambitions, as the company mostly known for its Steam software client and video games is working on a Switch-like handheld.

“Valve has been secretly building a Switch-like portable PC designed to run a large number of games on the Steam PC platform via Linux—and it could launch, supply chain willing, by year's end,” says Ars Technica, citing sources familiar with the matter. 

The alleged “SteamPal'' has reportedly been in development for some time now, and as Ars reports, there’s even been code spotted in Steam’s code base that vaguely points towards the device. This news comes not long after Valve co-founder Gabe Newell teased the company’s console plans for the end of the year.

Accord ing to Ars’ reporting, Valve is going for a wider footprint than that of the Nintendo Switch, reportedly to accommodate more control options, and will likely use an SoC from AMD or Intel -- we’d be more inclined to think AMD, but anything’s possible. The SteamPal is presumed to have at least a D-pad, and will also incorporate the standard fare of gamepad buttons, triggers, and joysticks. At present, Ars can’t confirm other specifications like battery size, screen size or resolution, memory or storage, etc. 

The SteamPal is also reported to be Linux-based, and will rely on Valve's Proton compatibility layer to drive games. 

“I can confirm the device's existence and development, and I can point to Newell's very loud hints that something console-related will be announced later this year, but Valve is still in a position to change gears (pun intended) at a moment's notice,” says Ars Technica. “Valve loves to create, incubate, and then cancel things.”

Source: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/05/exclusive-valve-is-making-a-switch-like-portable-gaming-pc/

10:32 | Alder Lake-S Will Require New Cooler Hardware

Anytime Intel introduces a new socket, there’s always a chance that there’s going to be a shakeup in terms of cooler specifications. Through various leaks and rumors at this point (some more credible than others), one recurring theme we’ve seen is that Alder Lake-S will eschew the more square shape and take on a more rectangular, oblong form. 

That in and of itself is enough to warrant new coolers, or at least new mounting hardware to ensure proper contact and mounting pressure. However, according to Igor from Igor’s Lab, Intel has also designed its new LGA1700 (Socket V) socket around a much shorter z-height for Alder Lake-S. Furthermore, Igor notes that Intel has also redesigned the hole patterns for the new socket.

A shorter height of the CPU can improve transfer efficiency, depending on how it’s pulled off. More material isn’t necessarily better if the surface area remains the same, and getting the heat into the coldplate faster is better for cooling efficiency.

Shrinking the overall package height and having the CPU sitting lower in the socket doesn’t necessarily mean new coolers per se, but almost guarantees that cooler manufacturers will be designing new mounting kits for existing LGA115x coolers. Intel’s Rocket Lake also debuted with a new LGA1200 socket, but that socket was cooler-compatible with older LGA115x mounting hardware. 

Overall, this tracks with what Noctua said back in April, in that users should hang onto their existing LGA115x coolers, as Noctua assured users that coolers like the Noctua NH-U12A would be compatible with Alder Lake CPUs via an updated mounting kit. 

Source: https://www.igorslab.de/en/intels-alder-lake-s-with-boxed-kuehler-and-cryo-kuehler-velvet-peltier-element-exclusive-details-and-preview/

14:18 | Intel Tapes in 7nm Meteor Lake Compute Tile

At Intel’s Intel Unleashed: Engineering the Future event a couple of months ago, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger took the stage and declared that Intel’s 7nm process was back on track. Gelsinger then stated that Intel’s first client 7nm product, Meteor Lake, was set to tape-in some time in Q2 2021.

Both Intel’s Pat Gelsinger and Gregory Bryant confirmed this news. "We've got past some of the stumbles at 10 and now 7, and the daily updates that we're getting on wafers coming out of fab, the full embrace of EUV, we're very confident that we have that back on track. In fact, right now, we're taping out the compute tile, the Meteor Lake compute tile, is finishing tape-in as we speak," said Gelsinger during the J.P. Morgan Global TMC event. 

“Great way to start the week! We are taping in our 7nm Meteor Lake compute tile right now,” Bryant said in a tweet. 

You’ll note that Gelsinger seems to intermingle the terms tape-in and tape-out; he later clarified via Twitter. Taping-in is somewhat newer slang, and is used to describe one piece of IP, block, or modular element being ready for production. Tape-out refers to the entire IC or photomask being ready for production. The term “tape-in” is being used increasingly more in the wake of large SoCs that make use of several dies and components, in contrast to the more traditional monolithic die approach.

So, within the context of Intel’s announcement, its 7nm compute tile for Meteor Lake is validated and ready, but Intel may or may not be waiting on other parts of the design before heading to a broad tape out. Intel’s Meteor Lake isn’t on the menu until at least 2023, and is allegedly set to arrive after Intel’s Raptor Lake.     

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-tapes-in-7nm-meteor-lake

15:44 | NAND Flash Creator Proposes Dynamic Flash Memory As Potential DRAM Successor

Unisantis Electronics, a company helmed by the creator and inventor of NAND as we know it, Dr. Fujio Masuoka, is proposing a new DRAM alternative. Recently, Unisantis outlined some brief specifications on its development of Dynamic Flash Memory (DFM), and how it relates to DRAM and other types of volatile memory. 

DFM was invented by Drs. Koji Sakui and Nozomu Harada from Unisantis, and was presented for the first time at the 13th IEEE International Memory Workshop. Unisantis contends that DRAM’s time in the sun is coming to an end, and also highlights the deficits that DRAM memory has, and how DFM could address them. 

“The memory industry has long-since accepted DRAM technology is nearing the end of its life, but its significant market means any replacement technologies must provide the right balance of performance, costs and future scalability.After significant internal research and testing, we are delighted to unveil DFM to the market as the leading long-term viable option to DRAM,” said Dr.  Koji Sakui.  

As for why this needs to exist, it has to do with the efficiency of traditional DRAM. DRAM and DFM differ in their use of capacitors: DRAM requires capacitors to store a charge, whereas DFM won’t. The nature of being volatile memory, rather than non-volatile storage like an SSD, is that the data is impermanent. This impermanence allows DRAM to operate much faster than an SSD, but relegates it to generally lower capacities and to transience of data. When DRAM reads data from a cell, the capacitance drains and a refresh circuit and sense amplifiers have to be used as a temporary store. This is an overall inefficient process, but the best one we’ve had to-date.

While DFM is also a type of volatile memory, it doesn’t rely on capacitors. And while DFM also still leaks a charge, it supposedly has fewer leak paths than DRAM, and its read process is also non-destructive. DFM also incorporates a couple of key features from flash memory: Block refresh and erase. With this, Unisantis claims that “DFM reduces the frequency and the overhead of the refresh cycle and is capable of delivering significant improvements in speed and power compared to DRAM.”

Unisantis also claims that DFM has the potential to scale well past the 16Gb plateau that DRAM chips have hit, saying that DFM could theoretically offer a 4x density improvement over today’s DRAM -- up to 64Gb compared to 16Gb. 

Unisantis doesn’t produce or manufacture its products, and instead is a licensing company. To that end, Unisantis is looking to develop foundry and memory partnerships to test the possibilities of DFM, as well as furthering its overall development.  

Source: https://blocksandfiles.com/2021/05/21/nand-inventors-company-invents-dynamic-flash-memory-a-theoretical-dram-replacement/


18:57 | Microsoft Teases the “Next Gen.” of Windows   

At its Build 2021 event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella offered a tease of the upcoming “next generation” of Windows. The brief tease came during the Build 2021 keynote, where Nadella also mentioned he’d been hosting (testing) a new version of Windows.

“Soon we will share one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators. I’ve been self-hosting it over the past several months, and I’m incredibly excited about the next generation of Windows. Our promise to you is this: we will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications. We look forward to sharing more very soon.”

Among other things, Nadella seems to be referring to how Microsoft is overhauling its Windows Store so that it will be open to all apps and games, not just ones packaged as MSIX. There’s also speculation that Microsoft will allow for third party commerce in the Windows Store, allowing developers to bypass Microsoft’s revenue cut on games and apps. That last point is especially relevant in the wake of the ongoing trial between Epic Games and Apple over app store monopolization and revenue cuts. 

Additionally, Microsoft recently announced that its Windows 10X OS destined for tablets, dual-screen devices, and hybrids, is no longer shipping. Instead, Microsoft will port over the best parts of Windows 10X into mainstream Windows 10. We suspect that’s a big part of what Microsoft is teasing here. Microsoft is currently working on a significant update to Windows 10, codenamed Sun Valley, that includes many visual improvements to the UI, Start Menu, File Explorer, new system icons, and more. This “next generation” of Windows may very well be part of that.     

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/microsoft-build-nadella-teases-windows-update-teams-azure-improved.html

20:57 | PCIe 6.0 Headed for End-Of-Year Release

Another brief update on the PCIe 6.0 specification that the PCI-SIG group has been incubating. As part of its PCIe-SIG DevCon 2021, the group offered an update on PCIe 6.0 development, and the important thing is that the group remains on track to ratify the final version by year's end. 

Last November, we reported that PCI-SIG released version 0.7 of its PCIe 6.0 draft, which was an important milestone for the standard. This draft fleshed-out bandwidth, electrical specifications, and signaling, among other things. Usually, at this point, the draft would head to version 0.9, the final version before a full 1.0 release of the standard.    

However, PCI-SIG has elected to hold the draft in 0.7x state a bit longer, as the version is moving to 0.71. This is to allow for the group to collect feedback on the draft and capture new protocol and electrical updates, which will be detailed in version 0.9, due for release after a 30-day review period of 0.71.

After the group issues the 0.9 draft, there will be another two month review period before a full 1.0 version. Version 0.9 will nail down the final specifications and requirements for the PCIe 6.0 bus, and the PCI-SIG reaffirmed that PCIe 6.0 standard will be released and ratified by the end of the year.

In the meantime, we’re just now preparing to see PCIe 5.0 hardware trickle into the enterprise market. Intel will support PCIe 5.0 with Alder Lake, and Marvell just announced the first PCIe 5.0 ready SSD controller for data centers. That said, there won’t be any PCIe 6.0 hardware for at least a couple of years yet.    

Source: https://www.anandtech.com/show/16704/pci-express-60-status-update-draft-071-coming-soon-final-release-by-end-of-year

PCIe-SIG DevCon 2021 -- https://pcisig.com/newsroom

23:30 | Police Drug Bust Finds Cryptominers Instead

As it turns out, the similarities between a large-scale mining operation and illicit operations are uncanny, especially as it relates to absurd power consumption. Case in point: Police in the UK moved to bust what they suspected was an illegal drug operation, but instead discovered a cryptocurrency mining operation.

According to the BBC, police were tipped off about a site that had been seeing lots of traffic throughout the day, and police drones had picked up a lot of heat coming from the building. According to the police, they were expecting to find a ... farm, and not the chia hard drive kind. Rather, the police discovered a cryptomining farm and “a bank of about 100 computer units.” They look to be ASICS.

Additionally, police discovered that the miners had stolen thousands of pound sterling worth of electricity. Police confirmed this with Western Power Distribution, who stated that their network and supply had been bypassed. As of this writing, the computers and hardware have been seized, but no arrests have been made.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-57280115

Writer: Eric Hamilton
Host: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick