HW News - Intel Z490 Might One Day Launch, AMD RX 5600 XT, Xbox Name Walkback, & X299 Not Selling

By Published December 22, 2019 at 3:18 am

Hardware news is still rolling into the holidays, as one might expect, because this industry doesn't let its occupants sleep. We're also leading into CES 2020, which means leaks abound. Coverage today includes a few rumor topics -- the RX 5600 XT and Intel Z490, mainly -- with some other industry topics mixed-in. Kioxia (Toshiba) is developing new NAND, motherboard makers can't get rid of X299 fast enough, and Microsoft is talking about its Xbox Series X. Again.

About That Xbox Name

Last week, the internet was abuzz after a surprise reveal by Microsoft laid out its next-gen console, and finally bestowed it a name: The Xbox Series X.  

Among the reactions, both the name and the design seemed to be equally polarizing. We offered our cursory analysis of the design last week (based on the renders) and noted its similarity to a mini PC tower -- as pretty much everyone else did. For past consoles, Microsoft has chosen a name that, in one way or another, was intended to reflect the console’s purpose. However, “Xbox Series X” doesn’t immediately conjure any purpose to mind -- other than to maintain the laughable banality that the letter X must be gamers' favorite letter in the alphabet.

Now, Microsoft has indicated that the Xbox Series X is more of a model name, and it seems the unveiling at the Game Awards was more intended as a rebranding. Microsoft offered some clarity in speaking with Business Insider. "The name we're carrying forward to the next generation is simply Xbox," a Microsoft representative explained to Business Insider. "And at The Game Awards you saw that name come to life through the Xbox Series X."

There you have it. The new Xbox is just… Xbox. 

"Similar to what fans have seen with previous generations, the name 'Xbox Series X' allows room for additional consoles in the future," a Microsoft representative told Business Insider. This isn’t unlike what Microsoft has done (confusingly) this generation with the Xbox One X, Xbox One S and Xbox One S All Digital. Microsoft is suggesting that this naming convention will help simplify console lines under the Xbox brand, and it also more or less confirms rumors of Project Lockhart, which has been rumored as a less powerful next-gen console being developed alongside the Xbox Series X. That console could land in the form of the Xbox Series S. We’ll see.    

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-only-using-xbox-name-going-forward-2019-12?r=US&IR=T

Rumor: AMD RX 5600 XT in First Quarter

We’ve heard rumors from CES exhibitors that AMD’s RX 5600 XT will appear in the first quarter of 2020, with some saying that boards may be at the show. It’s always a question of who leaks first when this happens, but we sometimes see parts ahead of when we can talk about them at tradeshows. Other times, we can convince the exhibitors to let us show them in a video. 

We don’t have any specs yet, but all we know is that it’s supposed to compete in more of the mid-range $200 to $300 market, where AMD is presently absent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Loves His Windows XP

As it turns out, Vladimir Putin and the Russian government at large, are among the Windows XP holdouts. There are official press photos showing Putin using the 18-year old OS, as spotted by Russian site Open Media, and subsequently, PC Gamer. The photos show Putin using Windows XP in the Kremlin, as well as his official residence. Microsoft officially took Windows XP off of life support six years ago (April 8, 2014). Did we mention it’s 18 years old? That’s old enough to vote. Ah, operating systems. They grow up so fast. 

Now we have to wonder if Putin sends secure instant messages with MSN messenger 5.0. Or perhaps he conducts secure phone calls with Net2Phone, or video conferences with NetMeeting. Someone stop us before we dig up Kazaa and Ares to usurp Limewire.

More seriously, Windows 10 has apparently been forbidden from being installed on any machine that stores confidential information. Additionally, Microsoft's Windows XP was the last foreign OS certified for government use. Russia is also in the process of migrating to Russian Astra Linux, which has been ongoing.   

Source: https://www.pcgamer.com/putin-still-uses-windows-xp-like-your-gran/

No One Can Get Rid of X299 Motherboards

Motherboard manufacturers are stuck sitting on a mountain of X299 motherboards right now, based on off-record conversations we’ve had with some of the board partners. Sales have always been slow for X299, even when its accompanying CPUs were objectively much more competitive. Motherboard manufacturers have been trying to dump stock for a while now -- some for over a year -- and are facing the unfortunate scenario of relying on their partner (Intel) to produce a compelling enough product to move the boards.

You’re going to see some X299 motherboard ads with us in the next few weeks, too, with some of the motherboard manufacturers switching from the more successful X570 ads to X299 ads as they try to capture the relatively low volume of X299 CPU sales against other motherboard makers.

Ryzen 9 3900X wPrime World Record

Australian overclocker "jordan.hyde99" recently managed to steal the wPrime world record from Intel’s i9-7920X, taking more shine away from Intel. Perhaps adding insult to injury, AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X managed to overtake the record at a lower frequency, too.

Both the Ryzen 9 3900X and i9-7920X are 12C/24T parts, but offer different stock frequencies and look different under the hood. The Ryzen 9 3900X is part of AMD’s larger Ryzen 3000 family, based on the Zen 2 architecture, which in turn is underpinned by TSMC’s 7nm process node. The i9-7920X is another Skylake derivative based on Intel’s 14nm silicon.

The Ryzen 9 3900X was overclocked to 5,625 MHz, using no shortage of LN2, to complete a wPrime 1024M benchmark run in 35 seconds and 517 milliseconds. The previous record saw the i9-7920X overclocked to 5,955 MHz to complete the same benchmark pass in 35 seconds and 693 milliseconds. The Ryzen 9 3900X being able to take the record, even by milliseconds, at a lower frequency stands as further proof to the IPC improvements of AMD’s Zen 2-based processors. It’s also one reason AMD’s Ryzen 3000 chips cleaned house this year in our Best CPU Awards.  

There has since been some back-and-forth between Intel and AMD chips, so the battle has become heated in the OC arena.

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/amd-ryzen-9-3900x-wprime-world-record

Corsair Acquires Scuf Gaming

Corsair’s acquisition race continues, as the company recently agreed to acquire controller maker, Scuf Gaming. The specifics of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the acquisition is expected to be finalized by the end of this month. 

Scuf Gaming owns an extensive patent portfolio with more than 100 patents; those will now belong to Corsair. Scuf’s controllers are modular in design, and are intended to ease strain and shorten players’ hand movements. Some of Scuf’s modular components include paddles, triggers, thumbsticks and D-pads.

Corsair stated that Scuf Gaming will operate as a separate brand under the growing Corsair umbrella, which most recently includes Origin PC and Elgato.   

Source: https://www.corsair.com/us/en/company/press-release/corsair-acquires-scuf-gaming

Kioxia Develops New Twin BiCS Flash Memory

Kioxia, formerly Toshiba Memory, has developed a new type of flash memory technology that could supersede QLC NAND. Kioxia announced Twin BiCS Flash, which is to be used in conjunction with another Kioxia technology -- BiCS Flash. 

Twin BiCS Flash focuses on increasing density with a two pronged approach: increasing the bits per cell by decreasing the cell size itself. Traditionally, there are a few ways to increase density. Adding memory layers is one such way, as evidenced by the current 96-layer NAND on the market. SK Hynix is also currently sampling 128-layer NAND, which should eventually succeed 96L NAND.

Then, there’s increasing the bits per cell. We’ve currently reached 4 bits per cell (see: QLC NAND), and there’s talk of 5 bits per cell in the not so distant future. Though, increasing the bits per cell usually comes with decreased endurance, which has been a problem with early QLC NAND. 

Yet another way is to decrease cell size, so as to allow more bits per layer. It’s this method that makes for the foundation of Twin BiCS Flash. Twin BiCS Flash uses semi-circular floating gate cells (FG), as opposed to circular charge trap cells (CT). This allows Twin BiCS Flash to achieve a larger program/erase window at much smaller cell size.

“3D flash memory technology has achieved high bit density with low cost per bit by increasing the number of cell stacked layers as well as by implementing multilayer stack deposition and high aspect ratio etching. In recent years, as the number of cell layers exceeds 100, managing the trade-offs among etch profile control, size uniformity and productivity is becoming increasingly challenging. To overcome this problem, Kioxia developed a new semicircular cell design by splitting the gate electrode in the conventional circular cell to reduce cell size compared to the conventional circular cell, enabling higher-density memory at a lower number of cell layers,” says Kioxia. 

Kioxia is currently working on its own BiCS5 128-layer NAND that is slated to arrive in 2020. 

Source: https://about.kioxia.com/en-jp/news/2019/20191212-1.html

Host: Steve Burke
Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Video: Josh Svoboda, Keegan Gallick

Last modified on December 22, 2019 at 3:18 am

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