News this week will talk about rumored AMD RX 6600 & 6600 XT video cards (and a 6500 series card), alongside rumors of the NVIDIA RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti GPUs. We'll also be covering PlasticARM, an interesting project investigating the utility of plastic rather than silicon for semiconductors, and we'll recap Cooler Master's latest round-up of announcements, like the HAF 500 case.
There's other news, of course, as you’ll find the article and video embed below. If you haven’t already, check out our new GN Explosion & Repair poster, of which part of the proceeds are benefiting the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Fight to Repair organizations -- both of which are focused on the right to repair.
00:55 | Brief Break from Publishing Coming Up
We'll leave this in the news video.
04:04 | MSI Announces an Oven
You may have previously seen our MSI Sekira 500X review, in which case you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the next MSI case release.
MSI today announced its new MSI MPG Quietude 100S. As a reminder, MSI stands for Micro-Star International, and MPG stands for MSI Performance Gaming, so we have a GNU of self-contained acronyms here. To make it really simple and easy to follow, the full, proper name of the case is: Micro-Star International MSI Performance Gaming Quietude 100S.
There's not much to say about it. It's another limited-airflow case.
05:41 | AMD Now More Than 50% of Puget Pre-Built Recommendations
Puget Systems has some of the most in-depth testing from a first-party in the space, and is known to us largely for building innovative testing tools for validating performance in workstation applications like Adobe Premiere and Photoshop.
The company recently tweeted the following:
“AMD has made enormous improvements to its CPU line year over year. In fact, more than 50% of our recommended systems are powered by AMD Ryzen or Threadripper CPUs.”
This is a big boost for AMD, who have long struggled -- by their own admission -- with getting into OEM pre-built machines. AMD has done well in the DIY market, but the company has needed to break down walls at the likes of HP and Dell to get mainstream spread. Of course, Dell is busy sticking aluminum hockey pucks on its Intel coolers and arts-and-craftsing them onto its AMD CPUs, so there’s a ways to go yet.
Puget is recommending systems with 5950X, 5900X, 5800X, and 5600X CPUs regularly now. Threadripper is in its HEDT list.
Mark this one as a rumor: 3DCenter.org published a tweet that listed a “graphics card launch schedule” for the rest of the year. 3DCenter’s source claims that the new AMD Radeon RX 6600 and RX 6600 XT series video cards will launch on August 11th, with the RX 6600 marked as either August 11 or September to October -- so that’s a much wider range than the more pinpointed 6600 XT.
Separately, the list included allegations of an RX 6700 launch in September to October and an RX 6500 XT launch by EOY. Configurations were rumored as ranging from 16 CUs to 32 CUs, with memory ranging from 4GB to 8GB, with the 6700 allegedly running 6/12GB configurations.
The RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti listings were referenced as before September. We’ve heard less of the 3050 series, but we’d suspect that NVIDIA would try to launch in direct competition to AMD’s launch. That’s how these two companies normally play it, and that’s a good thing.
10:08 | New World Beta Reportedly Bricking and Overheating RTX 3090 Cards
Amazon’s perpetually delayed and generally unknown MMO finally launched in the form of an invite only beta, and it’s already off to a bad start. The game briefly posed a significant risk to video cards, notably RTX 3090s, although we saw some reports of AMD cards being affected. EVGA and Gigabyte were the most prominent in reports of impact. The diagnoses was death of affected devices, and Amazon’s studio issued a patch within about 20 hours of the story getting widespread attention. We’d imagine this is actually the reason Bezos went to space on his specially shaped rocket: His plan was to flee earth before his game studio started killing cards.
Although, to be fair, Bezos’ response to this would have probably been “my company makes games?”
Not long after users were able to get into the closed beta, reports surfaced that RTX 3090 owners were seeing their cards overheating or being bricked. The majority of the affected users seem to be owners of EVGA's GeForce RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra card, though whatever the issue is, it doesn’t appear to be wholly exclusive to EVGA cards.
Users flooded Reddit and the New World forums with complaints of the game adversely affecting their RTX 3090. The issues range from mild crashes, all the way to to black screens with no signal or video output from the GPU. Amazon, for its part, initially seemed reluctant to believe there was any correlation between the game and the card failures in a statement it sent out to press. That said, Amazon also noted that a patch would be issued to cap frame rates for in-game menus, as at least part of the problem seems to have come from leaving the game running in the menu screens with no frame limiter.
Now, just several days after that directive, the FTC has successfully and unanimously voted to approve a policy statement and move forward with addressing repair constrictions. "The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions and today's policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor," FTC Chair Lina Khan said.
Furthermore, the FTC said that “The policy statement adopted today is aimed at manufacturers' practices that make it extremely difficult for purchasers to repair their products or shop around for other service providers to do it for them.”
The policy statement outlined by the FTC details key steps the group will take to combat anti-competitive -- and often blatantly illegal -- repair practices.
“While unlawful repair restrictions have generally not been an enforcement priority for the
Commission for a number of years, the Commission has determined that it will devote more
enforcement resources to combat these practices. Accordingly, the Commission will now
prioritize investigations into unlawful repair restrictions under relevant statutes such as the
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”
Additionally, the policy urges consumers to submit complaints and information to aid in an effort to more broadly enforce the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act -- a law that manufacturers have long used as toilet paper with impunity. The FTC will also begin scrutinizing repair restrictions as they relate to other antitrust laws, such as the Sherman Act.
The FTC also says it “will bring an interdisciplinary approach to this issue, using resources
and expertise from throughout the agency to combat unlawful repair restrictions. The FTC will
also closely coordinate with state law enforcement and policymakers to ensure compliance and
to update existing law and regulation to advance the goal of open repair markets.”
18:46 | PlasticARM: Using Plastic as a Semiconductor
According to a research paper published over at Nature, researchers at Arm, in collaboration with PragmatIC, have achieved the world’s first microprocessor based on plastic, rather than silicon. The paper outlines the two key factors for the rise of silicon in semiconductors: it’s widely available as the second most abundant element on the planet, and it’s relatively cheap. Furthermore, silicon can also serve as a semiconductor or an insulator, depending on its configuration.
The research paper also details that while silicon is cheap, it may never be cheap enough for certain applications. Moreover, silicon is often brittle and inflexible, meaning it's ill-suited to be implemented in cheap, everyday objects or in biological applications. To that end, PlasticARM is working towards advancing the use of non-silicon microcontrollers and microprocessors.
As we know, plastic is completely naturally occurring and grows in oceans, streams, rivers, and even humans. If Apple didn’t already do such a good job at making sure its products were single-use by restricting repair, we’d suggest single-use plastic SoCs.
“Unlike conventional semiconductor devices, flexible electronic devices are built on substrates such as paper, plastic or metal foil, and use active thin-film semiconductor materials such as organics or metal oxides or amorphous silicon. They offer a number of advantages over crystalline silicon, including thinness, conformability and low manufacturing costs,” reads the research paper.
As thin-film transistors can be built on top of flexible substrates, their purpose isn’t to replace silicon, but rather to complement it. According to the paper, TFTs could enable the rise of novel form factors and cultivate a new range of applications for these types of processors.
PlasticARM is an SoC that uses a 32-bit Arm microarchitecture and is based on Arm’s M0 core design. Additionally, the SoC has Cortex-M CPU, over 18,000 logic gates, 28 bytes of RAM, 456 bytes of ROM, as well as an interconnect and bus interfaces. PlasticARM was manufactured with PragmatIC FlexLogIC, using the PragmatIC 0.8-μm process.
As for the scope of the research and what future non-silicon chips could have, Arm and its research points to examples like disposable health monitoring applications, or embedding microchips into milk cartons to monitor for the chemical signs indicative of spoilage.
“As ultra-low-cost microprocessors become commercially viable, all sorts of markets will open with interesting use cases such as smart sensors, smart labels and intelligent packaging. Products using these devices could help with sustainability by reducing food waste and promote the circular economy with smart life-cycle tracking. Personally, I think that the biggest impact could be in healthcare – this technology really lends itself to building intelligent disposable health monitoring systems that can be applied directly to the skin,” says Arm engineer John Biggs.
Cooler Master recently held its Summer Summit 2021, where it announced several new products. The whole event was digital, replete with some virtual gimmicks, but some of the products themselves were interesting enough.
Cooler Master had several case announcements, such as adding four new colorways to its NR200P line of mITX cases. The company said: “Cooler Master cases are known for pushing limits.”
Generally, Cooler Master has been on an uptrend over the last few years. The H500P Mesh and the H500 Blank, alongside the H500M, were all good improvements that performed well.
One of the new cases announced is the HAF 500, which is a return of the 2x 200mm fan enclosure. Cooler Master’s previous installations have done well here. The biggest change we noticed was the top panel change: The HAF 500’s top panel can be completely removed, similar to the Phanteks cases of late, and marks a great accessibility feature for accessing the top of the motherboard. Cooler Master also notes a 120mm fan on top of the hard drive cage for more directional GPU cooling. This is an old idea that has come in and out of vogue.
The new MasterBox 500 case is claimed to be “inspired by sci-fi battle suits.” The case lacks CPU-side airflow from what we can see, but maybe there’s enough of a gap in the front panel for it to breathe. We’d need to test it.
Cooler Master also announced a couple of case accessories for graphics cards: Its MasterAccessory PCIe Gen4 Riser Cable and the Universal Vertical Graphics Card Holder Kit.
Moving on, Cooler Master also unveiled its foray into chairs with its Caliber line, as well as its Motion 1 hybrid -- a collaboration with D-Box. Elsewhere in furniture, there were also Cooler Master-branded gaming desks (whatever those are), as well as new FreeSync monitors. Oh, there was also the Orb X pod, which looks like a $10,000 gaming egg.
Cooler Master also announced its usual updates and refinements to its core cooling line, such as the new Hyper H6/H6DT ARGB air cooler and MasterLiquid ML240P/ML360P Flux AIOs. The Flux AIOs could be interesting, as Cooler Master claims to have improved the flow rate and pump pressure to combat hot spots.
Cooler Master is also entering the streaming market with its StreamEnjin device. The StreamEnjin, poor naming aside, is a livestream mixer meant to compete with Elgato’s Stream Deck.
27:17 | Microsoft’s DirectStorage API Will Come To Windows 10
In a developer blog post, Microsoft is either correcting -- or walking back -- its statement that its DirectStorage API would be exclusive to Windows 11. Now, Microsoft is attempting to clarify the situation, saying that DirectStorge will in fact land on Windows 10, but ultimately, users will have the most optimized experience on Windows 11.
Microsoft's DirectStorage API is part of the Xbox Series X|S Velocity architecture, and at a high level, redirects I/O requests for graphics assets directly to the GPU and bypasses the CPU. This not only helps to improve load times, but increases the amount of assets that can be rendered in real time, instead of using in-game tricks to obscure the time it takes to load them in.
According to Microsoft, DirectStorage will be available to users running Windows 10, version 1909 and up. However, Microsoft notes that as Windows 11 has been built with DirectStorage in mind, users on Windows 11 will benefit from new storage stack optimizations. And by storage stacks, Microsoft is referring to the chain of drivers for a given device/storage volume. Presumably with Windows 11, there will be less overhead and theoretically improved system performance when using DirectStorage.
GlobalFoundries had been teasing some sort of announcement for the past couple of weeks via Twitter, and in light of the Intel acquisition rumor, many thought it could be an official announcement on that front. Instead, the company announced an updated look (logo, branding, etc.) that already seems to have been implemented across the company’s physical locations and website.
In addition to a broad rebranding, GlobalFoundries CEO Tom Caulfield also announced new expansion plans for the company. The highlight of GlobalFoundries’ expansion plans is breaking ground on a new fab in Malta, New York. The new facility will be a product of a private-public partnership between GlobalFoundries and the state of New York, and will exist on the same campus as GlobalFoundries’ Fab 8.
GlobalFoundries didn’t offer any details on the nature of the private-public partnership, other than it would include “customers, federal and state investments.” The announcement is being framed as a way to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing and address the global silicon shortage.
Additionally, GlobalFoundries is set to invest $1B to increase the wafer capacity of Fab 8 by ~150,000 wafers per year, which would effectively double the site’s annual wafer capacity.