HW News - Xbox Series X Console Announced, Intel's 2013 CPUs Come Back, & Plundervolt CPU Vulnerability

By Published December 14, 2019 at 2:20 am
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We're always sort of surprised when hardware news steamrolls right through major holidays. It doesn't slow down. As we approach end of year, Microsoft dropped a major bombshell with its Xbox Series X console announcement, Intel has committed to making more 22nm CPUs, Plundervolt threatens CPU security, and more.

As always, show notes continue after the embedded video.

GamersNexus Viewers Plant ~90,000 Trees

For all of November, we ran a campaign with Eden Reforestation Projects to restore deforested regions of the world by funding the replanting of those trees. We announced this in early November, but the heart of it was that we had a donation match setup at edenprojects.org/gamersnexus, where we’d match up to $1500 of donations, and we also contributed ten trees per item purchased on the GamersNexus store. Some orders had enough items to plant 50 trees or more. Between viewer contributions, our match, the store sales, and other notables in the tech sphere, we all worked together to drive a total of $8,961 to Eden Reforestation Projects. The charity has extremely low overhead, so this works out to almost 90,000 trees planted in just one month from GamersNexus viewers. That also means employment for locals who will be planting the trees and employment for people to protect the new forests. The attrition rate is also low for these trees, and Eden typically sees natural regeneration takeover within just a couple of years. I should also note again that these are native species and diversified such that a single disease can’t wipe out the forest. We appreciate the charity’s scientific approach to things.

Eden Reforestation Projects wanted us to share this message with you all:

"Thanks to GamersNexus and their supporters, the GamersNexus Campaign has raised $8,961! That will help alleviate people in extreme poverty and plant 89,610 trees around the world in Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Madagascar, and Mozambique! GamersNexus, their viewers, and supporters truly showed what a community can accomplish when they join together to support a cause to change the world. Eden Reforestation Projects' team would like to thank everyone at GamersNexus, their viewers, and supporters for your compassionate heart and support! Your generosity makes our mission possible."


Thanks again to everyone for contributing to a cause we really care about here. As another note on positivity, we’re actively working on putting together a charity auction for a local no-kill cat shelter, so keep an eye out for video cards, iconic products we’ve reviewed, the modmat from this very set table, and more. We’ll announce that in the next week or so.

Talking About that Xbox and Playstation Imagery

A new Xbox image was posted by Microsoft this week, with the console’s name being revealed as the Xbox Series X, because gamers like Xs -- or is it Xen? -- and that means more sales. The Verge, famous for, well… The Verge’s headline read “The Xbox Series X is basically a PC, and that’s why you’ll want one,” because we sure don’t know how to build one. Steve may have added that last bit.

The Xbox Series X looks a lot like the Corsair ONE, in that it’s a vertical chimney with exhaust at the top. The renders don’t show enough space at the bottom for adequate intake, but as these are renders, that could change. We’d be concerned that these things will often be on carpet and unlikely to breathe through anything less than a 1” spacing on the bottom. The Series X is advertised as having “four times the processing power of the Xbox One X,” whatever that means, and stated as being “quiet and efficient.” Microsoft noted that one fan is present in the system.

Microsoft says that the Series X is as “wide as an Xbox One” controller, which we think is probably part of the metric system that Europeans use. We converted Xbox One controller width into furlongs and it’s about 0.0008 furlongs, or roughly 0.34 cubits. If that’s not helpful, we also measured it in normal people numbers and found it to be about 15.5 cm, so it’s likely that a 140mm fan is used, or potentially a 120mm fan for higher static pressure. The console will still support discs, probably best for most the world, and is advertised as being able to “handle” 4K at “60FPS” and “up to 120FPS.”

There was also a leak a few weeks ago of the Playstation 5 and we’ve seen a lot of comments of people talking about how ugly it looks. While we’re not certain what the final design will look like, we wanted to note that the one showing-up in leaks is a dev kit, and so has special requirements. Big development houses will often stack the consoles to save space, and so the V-shaped inlet design in the center is for ventilation. We doubt that consumer version will look like this -- though it’s possible -- as it’s mostly for functionality with stacked developer consoles. You can also see the pegs to lock the consoles together when stacked.

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/13/xbox-series-x-morning-after/

Source PS5: https://interestingengineering.com/game-developers-have-sonys-playstation-5-early-prototype-and-fans-are-abuzz

Intel Haswell CPU Dies, Comes Back

Update: Looks like Intel issued a statement that discontinuing the G3420 was actually a mistake on its part, and that's why it "brought it back" from the briefly-dead. Intel said to Tom's: "On December 5, a PCN was erroneously posted on product discontinuance of the Intel Pentium Processor G3420. There is no change to the Intel Pentium Processor G3420 product roadmap, and that product continues to be supported by Intel." (source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-we-arent-stepping-back-to-22nm-haswell-we-never-left)

-- original report --

In a somewhat baffling move, Intel recently issued a Product Change Notification indicating it was resurrecting the Haswell-rea Pentium G3420 CPU. The G3420 initially launched in 2013, being manufactured on Intel’s 22nm process node. The G3420 was discontinued in 2015, although now it’s set to see a short lived revival. 

Despite a vaguely worded PCN, the only real reason for Intel to bring back such a chip is in attempt to curtail shortages, sating customers who don’t need higher-end compute products. In theory, Intel shouldn’t have much issue producing 22nm silicon -- it’s 14nm and beyond that’s had the company in the throes of shortages for some 18 months now. In accordance with the PCN, customers can expect supply of the G3420 through May 26, 2020, with the last orders being shipped December 20, 2020. 

Source: https://hothardware.com/news/intel-revives-zombie-22nm-pentium-g3420-haswell-cpu#8pOA2w81czMDHC4I.02

ARM-Powered Workstation with Ampere eMAG CPU

Some time ago, we reported on an interesting chip startup, known as Ampere Computing, being headed by former Intel president Renee James. Ampere set out to focus on Arm-based silicon for servers, recognizing the potential advantage Arm-based chips could leverage over x86 chips. 

However, that doesn’t seem to have stopped Ampere Computing from getting its eMAG CPUs into workstations. Ampere’s eMAG 8180, a 32-core chip built on TSMC’s 16nm FinFET node, is now being offered in the Ampere eMAG 64-bit Arm Workstation from Avantek. The Ampere eMAG workstation comes as a single-socket workstation, offering up to 512 GB of DDR4-2666 memory and can be ordered with a variation of NVMe and SATA storage.

Additionally, the workstation can be configured with one of three GPUs: the AMD FirePro W2100 2GB, a Radeon Pro WX 5100 8GB, or the Nvidia Quadro GV100 32GB. Linux is the only OS on tap, with a few different distros being offered. Those include Ubuntu, centOS, Linux SUSE, or openSUSE.

Source: https://www.anandtech.com/show/15165/arm-server-cpus-you-can-now-buy-amperes-emag-in-a-workstation

https://store.avantek.co.uk/ampere-emag-64bit-arm-workstation.html

Intel’s Days of 90% Market Share Dominance Are Over

While presenting at the annual Credit Suisse technology conference, Intel CEO Bob Swan offered a sobering view of the internal mindset at Intel; or rather, the one he’s trying to foster as Intel continues to diversify and settle into its data-centric era. 

“We think about having 30% share in a $230B [silicon] TAM [total addressable market] that we think is going to grow to $300B [silicon] TAM over the next 4 years, and frankly, I'm trying to destroy the thinking about having 90% share inside our company because I think it limits our thinking, I think we miss technology transitions. We miss opportunities because we're, in some ways, pre-occupied with protecting 90, instead of seeing a much bigger market with much more innovation going on, both Inside our four walls and outside our four walls. We come to work in the morning with a 30% share, with every expectation over the next several years, that we will play a larger and larger role in our customers success, and that doesn't just mean CPUs,” said Swan, as transcribed by Wccftech. 

“It means GPUs, it means Al, it does mean FPGAs, it means bringing these technologies together so we're solving customers' problems. So, we’re looking at a company with roughly 30% share in a $288B silicon TAM, not CPU TAM but silicon TAM. We look at the investments we've been making over the last several years in these kind of key technology inflections: 5G, autonomous, acquisitions, including Altera, that we think is more and more relevant both in the cloud but also ai the network and at the edge, and we see a much bigger opportunity, and our expectations are that we're going to gain our fair share at that much larger TAM by Investing in these key technology inflections," Swan concludes. 

While this isn’t exactly a new perspective from Swan -- he’s mentioned this before -- he does offer a more candid take this time. This also comes at a time when Intel has been forced to be as competitive as ever, harkening back to the Athlon 64 days. Intel is also in an interesting position as it relates to its manufacturing, both in terms of its ability to produce and deliver. Intel has been ensnared in 14nm CPU shortages for well over a year, and has firmly ceded its process node lead to TSMC. Swan’s comments seem to suggest Intel is willing to surrender market share to AMD -- voluntarily or otherwise -- if it fits into Intel’s long game of gaining a 30% share in the total semiconductor market.      

Source: https://siliconangle.com/2019/12/08/intels-bob-swan-eyes-30-market-share-silicon/

Intel’s 7nm Process Will Match TSMC’s 5nm Process

More interesting news that came out of the Credit Suisse conference was that Intel expects its 7nm process to match TSMC’s 5nm process. Additionally, Intel also expects that it’s 5nm process will be on par with TSMC’s 3nm process. On top of Intel effectively conceding process defeat to TSMC, what’s more crucial is that Intel’s 7nm process isn’t slated to arrive until 2021, while TSMC’s 5nm node is expected to ramp and produce chips in the second half of 2020. 

As Tom’s Hardware points out, when Intel moved to a 22nm FinFET process node, it signaled the beginning of Intel’s process leadership reign. Not only were other fabs still on a larger process node, Intel’s process also featured an aggressive transistor density that no one could match. Ultimately, this is what led to Intel’s current troubles, and even caused problems early on when Intel moved down to 14nm with Broadwell.  

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-now-content-to-match-tsmcs-process-technology

New Plundervolt Attack Leverages Intel’s Overclocking Features 

In continuing the Intel news show this week, we arrive at the latest in a string of security vulnerabilities affecting Intel’s chips. As if Intel needed yet another arena in which to compete unfavorably against AMD, the security battle is turning out to be very lopsided. 

The newest attack is aptly titled “Plundervolt,” as it effectively plunders otherwise secure data from what’s supposed to the most secure area on Intel chips by manipulating CPU voltage parameters. While we’ll leave the technical breakdown to ZDNet, who already have a thorough analysis of the attack and attack surface, Plundervolt alters voltage and frequency states to extract data from the SGX enclave. Pluncervolt has also proven to operate more quickly at obtaining protected data than that of side channel attacks like Spectre or Meltdown. 

Intel’s SGX enclaves exist on CPU memory and are intended for application isolation for security. Plundervolt leverages existing attack principles from Rowhammer and CLKSCREW to manipulate the data within those isolated SGX enclaves, breaching the security meant to be afforded by them.

Researchers told ZDNet that Plundervolt can’t be executed via JavaScript on a website, and that it must instead be executed from a localized application with elevated permissions. Local access isn’t required, but it’s not a web attack. Plundervolt also cannot work in virtual machines.

Intel has released microcode updates and fixes via Intel-SA-00289.  

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/new-plundervolt-attack-impacts-intel-cpus/

Good broll of Plundervolt: https://plundervolt.com/

Ring Cameras Face Further Security Vulnerabilities

This is why we don’t run ads for Ring, despite having had the opportunity to do so.

A new story published by the Washington Post talks about another victim in a string of Ring camera hacks. A family recently purchased Ring cameras to keep an eye on their baby and young child while the mother was working late nights. It started innocently enough, with the mother being able to talk to the elder of her two daughters as she got to work and as the daughter went to bed, but the family ended up regretting the purchase after an unidentified intruder was able to gain access to the camera.

In a video obtained by the Post, the intruder played “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” -- known for its usage in a horror film -- to attract the 8-year-old to the room, then began talking to the child through the camera. The whole incident was creepy and should be a warning against using internet-connected in-home surveillance. The use case in this instance was a good and appropriate one, but the vulnerabilities are exceptionally dangerous and could have long-term mental or emotional damage to those affected.

In talking with Amazon-owned Ring, the affected couple reported that Amazon’s Ring device should have had two-factor authentication enabled, as if that’s any excuse for poor security measures.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/12/she-installed-ring-camera-her-childrens-room-peace-mind-hacker-accessed-it-harassed-her-year-old-daughter/#comments-wrapper

AMD’s Radeon Adrenalin 2020 Edition

In keeping up with tradition, AMD released its overhauled Radeon Adernalin 2020 software suite just before Christmas. AMD uses the annual update to fix bugs, make under the hood changes, as well as deliver a set amount of new features. For the year’s update, AMD has delivered no less than 20 new or improved features. 

Chief among the new features is the oft requested and long promised integer scaling. There’s also a visibly overhauled installer and interface. There’s also the new Radeo Boost, which adjusts performance based on motion detected in game, which is supposed to translate to increased smoothness and responsiveness. There’s also an integrated Chromium-based web browser, a new tuning tab, Radeon Anti-Lag and Radeon Image Sharpening. 

There’s a lot more to the new release, so be sure to check out the links below. 

Source: 

https://www.amd.com/en/press-releases/2019-12-10-supercharge-your-amd-radeon-graphics-experience-new-amd-radeon-software

Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Video: Josh Svoboda
Host: Steve Burke

Last modified on December 14, 2019 at 2:20 am

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