01:57 | AMD Working on USB Dropout Issues
AMD recently made a public post acknowledging USB dropout issues that its user-base has complained of for several months now. While we’ve only lightly looked into the issue, we haven’t yet encountered it -- but most of our usage is for review or benchmarking purposes, and so we may not necessarily get the exposure required to see the problem occur. The short of it, if you’re out of the loop, is that some users are experiencing USB device disconnection when using Zen 3 CPUs with some combination of 500-series motherboards and Gen4 GPUs (depending on the board). The issue can be as relatively harmless as a mouse dropout or as harmful as an external drive disconnection.
In its post, AMD said:
“AMD is aware of reports that a small number of users are experiencing intermittent USB connectivity issues reported on 500 Series chipsets. We have been analyzing the root cause and at this time, we would like to request the community’s assistance with a small selection of additional hardware configurations. Over the next few days, some r/Amd users may be contacted directly by an AMD representative (u/AMDOfficial) via Reddit’s PM system with a request for more information.
This request may include detailed hardware configurations, steps to reproduce the issue, specific logs, and other system information pertinent to verifying our development efforts. We will provide an update when we have more details to share. Customers facing issues are always encouraged to raise an Online Service Request with AMD customer support; this enables us to find correlations and compare notes across support claims.”
04:47 | NVIDIA Cuts Off Miners & RTX 3060 News
A few days ahead of the official launch for Nvidia’s highly-anticipated GeForce RTX 3060, Nvidia has announced that it is artificially halving the hash rate for RTX 3060 GPUs. Nvidia will be doing this on the software side, via firmware and drivers, but did not offer any explicit details on how exactly it’s going to limit the cards for crypto mining.
Nvidia has seemingly -- and finally -- drawn a line in the sand to separate gaming and mining, in an attempt to placate gamers and also address the cryptocurrency market properly. NVIDIA is reviving its CMP line for mining specifically, with NVIDIA asserting that this line “doesn’t impact availability to GeForce GPUs to gamers” because the GPUs fell below requirements for gaming.
Nvidia’s new CMP HX line is being billed as a dedicated GPU for “””professional””” mining. The cards will feature no video outputs or graphics, will have lower peak core voltage and frequencies, and are aimed at being more efficient. NVIDIA has sold these in the past. Without display output, the second-hand market and ability to scalp beat-up cards for high prices is effectively killed (unless selling to other miners), so these are still less desirable to miners than the gaming cards are.
NVIDIA’s statements of isolating CMP from gaming would align with a possibility of using reject gaming silicon, like if a card can’t hit the targeted gaming frequencies. Whether or not that’s reality is another question -- it’s likely that silicon could have been used for some kind of gaming card.
Nvidia’s CMP HX line will consist of four models, at least initially: the Nvidia CMP 30HX, 40HX, 50HX, and 90HX. TDPs will vary, going up to 320W, with VRAM ranging from 6GB to 10GB and hash rates between 26 MH/s and 86 MH/s.
The CMP cards will be available from Nvidia’s partners (Asus, Colorful, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, Palit, PC Partner) and will see a staggered launch between Q1’2021 and Q2’2021. Prices are currently TBA.
06:06 | LastPass Cuts-Down Free Options
LastPass has been among the most popular password managers for years now, having largely built that reputation on the value and usability of its free service tier.
LastPass announced that, beginning March 16th, 2021, users of the free service will only have unlimited access on one device type: computer or mobile.
“As a Free user, your first login on or after March 16th will set your active device type. You’ll have three opportunities to switch your active device type to explore what’s right for you. Please note that all of your devices sync automatically, so you’ll never lose access to anything stored in your vault or be locked out of your account, regardless of whether you use computer or mobile devices to access LastPass,” says the company in a blog post.
Additionally, users of LastPass Free will no longer have access to email support, instead having to rely on the LastPass Support Center. According to the company, the LastPass Support Center “has a robust library of self-help resources available 24/7 plus access to our LastPass Community, which is actively monitored by LastPass specialists.”
LastPass is obviously hoping to push users towards its premium service, which costs $3/month, although taking something away is always harder than giving it out to begin with.
08:58 | Zotac Boasts About Mining Crypto, GN is Mean
A few days ago, GN’s Steve clicked “retweet” on a Zotac tweet showing a partner’s limited edition RTX 30-series cards mining crypto. Upon retweeting, GN said, “Retweeted without further commentary.” That’s all we did, and within a few hours, the tweet was deleted.
Amid power outages in the US and global GPU stock limitations, Zotac had its work cut out for it.
Making matters worse was Zotac’s cringey use of hashtags, which included #PCMR, #PCGaming, and the dankest of all, “#Gamer.” You know, because those would be the appropriate hashtags for gamers who can’t get a gaming GPU right now.
The tweet went over about as well as you’d expect, although surely not as well as Zotac was hoping. Many users erupted in anger and frustration over the tweet, and as usual with these things, the tweet wasn’t long for this world, with Zotac doing a 180 and deleting the tweet.
10:42 | Intel i5-11600K Benchmark Leaks vs. AMD
We don’t cover too many performance rumors, but this latest one is close enough to launch that it’s worth throwing out there (if for no other reason than to see if it comes true in about a month).
A new Geekbench score on a Gigabyte Z490 motherboard reports a 6220 multi-core score and 1565 single-thread score for a processor listed as an Intel i5-11600K, which is marked as a 6-core, 12-thread variant at 3.9 to 4.9GHz, although this doesn’t reveal boosting behaviors. We don’t particularly like Geekbench as a benchmark in general or as an indicator of performance overall, but it does have some comparative value. The scoring combines floating point operation performance analysis, cryptography scores, and integer performance, and calculated an aggregate number based on about 21 tests. Gaming isn’t fully represented here, but things like physics, encryption, text and PDF processing, and image compression make up parts of the score.
The current scoring has the pre-release, alleged 11600K below a 5600X entry in both multi-core and single-core. In the early state of Intel’s CPU -- assuming this is legitimate -- there’s maybe still some time to get a few points back, but pricing will be the ultimate determining factor between these two. Of course, gaming-only performance will also be important to test.
We’re aware that there were leaks about Alder Lake this past week, but until we’re closer to launch, we feel it’d be most responsible to hold on coverage until it’s more solidified.
12:59 | Big Tech Finally Lines Up To Oppose Nvidia-Arm Deal
It seems that the giant, incumbent technology companies are finally piping-up about their opposition to Nvidia’s $40 billion Arm purchase. A Bloomberg report claims that Google, Qualcomm, and Microsoft are actively pressuring antitrust regulators to intercede.
NVIDIA responded to Bloomberg’s story with this statement: “As we proceed through the review process, we’re confident that both regulators and customers will see the benefits of our plan to continue Arm’s open licensing model and ensure a transparent, collaborative relationship with Arm’s licensees. Our vision for Arm will help all Arm licensees grow their businesses and expand into new markets.”
You can color other tech companies -- and the majority of the industry, for that matter -- unconvinced. Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm are joining an ever-growing chorus of voices disapproving of such a massive vertical merger that could threaten Arm’s neutral licensing model.
As Bloomberg points out, the Nvidia-Arm deal is already facing an extremely uphill battle globally with antitrust watch dogs; a growing list of Arm customers who are also Nvidia competitors won’t make things any easier. The Nvidia-Arm deal is already being investigated by the FTC, and with shifting leadership and power within the FTC, the deal could face more opposition than previously thought.
Back in January, the US appointed FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as Acting Chair for the agency. Slaughter (that name really doesn’t bode well for Nvidia’s chances here) has a decidedly more aggressive stance against vertical mergers, and has previously called for more oversight and analysis on vertical deals.
15:17 | Winter Storm Forces Semiconductor Shutdowns in Texas
As Winter Storm Uri has left several parts of the US frozen, certain states have suffered huge blows to infrastructure and power grid stability. Among these states is Texas, which has had to enforce rolling black outs and power outages in an effort to preserve the stability of the power grid.
As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, Samsung, as well as NXP Semiconductors and Infineon Semiconductors (makers of VRM components, among other things), have all had to shut down operations in Austin, Texas. CCARE confirmed that the plants had been shut down, although the exact timing and duration of the shut downs remains unknown at this point.
“In response to the dire situation of the Texas utility grid, Austin Energy ordered all industrial and semiconductor manufacturers to idle or shut down. All companies complied and were able to safely do so,” said the coalition in a statement.
“With prior notice, appropriate measures have safely been taken for the facilities and wafers in production. We will resume production as soon as power is restored. We are discussing timing with the proper authorities,” said Samsung.
This comes after previous concerns from Samsung about meeting demand for silicon products, and with Infineon affected, that would also include VRM components.
17:10 | PC Part Shortages Get White House Attention
Amidst high silicon part demand that has impacted everything from substrates and packaging materials, all the way to automotive chips, the newly minted US administration is looking to improve the overall semiconductor shortage. Although it’s unlikely that any effects will be immediate, and the chances of consumers landing hard to find CPUs or GPUs aren’t likely to improve on account of this in the immediate future.
According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the current administration is “identifying potential chokepoints in the supply chain and actively working alongside key stakeholders in industry and with our trading partners to do more now.” It seems the long term strategy is to devise plans to avoid bottlenecks -- something we’re good at finding, if the government needs to hire any benchmarking -- that the semiconductor industry has long been facing, such as the lack of manufacturing and underfit supply chains.
In the short term, the White House is expected to sign an executive order that would call for a government-wide review of the supply chain for critical goods. The review would also mark the semiconductor shortage as a key concern for investigation. Further out, there would also be a 100-day review focused on semiconductor manufacturing and packaging, as well as critical minerals and supplies.
All this comes after executives from Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm issued an open letter urging the US Government to explore ways to support domestic semiconductor production and support construction of new fabrication facilities.
18:54 | Grand Theft Auto Games Get Reverse Engineered
A team of talented modders and coders has successfully reverse engineered Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto Vice City. The project, dubbed “re3,” has apparently been ongoing since at least 2018, starting with Grand Theft Auto III. In the intervening months and years, the project expanded to include Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
According to a primary GitHub contributor, app, re3 “started sometime in the spring of 2018, initially as a way to test reversed collision and physics code inside the game. This was done by replacing single functions of the game with their reversed counterparts using a dll.” According to app, a standalone executable was finished as of April 2020. Since then, the group has moved onto Vice City (reVC), which was completed in December of 2020 using code from re3.
Now, the group is working on a source code version of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (reLCS), which it notes as a work in progress. Reverse engineering games to expose source code is invaluable to modders, as it extends the ability to modify and improve the game at the source level. This can lead to bug fixes, new features, or general improvements. It also enables the game to be ported to different platforms without emulation. Of course, there’s a risk of more robust cheat engine development for online games.
Not long ago, Super Mario 64 was reverse engineered and decompiled, then built into a playable Windows version. This version had added features such as resolution scaling and ray tracing, just to name a few incredible improvements over the original N64 version from the 1990s.
20:58 | Empty Internet Cafes Are Mining Crypto
While internet cafes have never really taken off here in the states, they’re a huge business segment overseas, particularly in Asia, and PC bangs have had to diversify with the limited foot traffic permitted over the past year.
Internet Cafe Computer Star, based in Vietnam, has pivoted to using the empty space to build crypto mining farms. With the current cryptocurrency boom sending Bitcoin and Ethereum prices ever upwards, the cafe noted that it has made more profit when compared to just serving coffee and internet connections, sadly.
Images on Facebook and from I_Leak_VN on Twitter show banks of RTX 30-series cards, several of which are RTX 3080 models, busy mining coins. It’s an interesting strategy, and one that’s perhaps hard to be mad at, given the circumstances. If anything, we’d be curious as to how the business came into the possession of so many hard to find RTX 30-series cards. The tweet thread suggests “good computer hardware business relations” are a must.
22:39 | Other News: Xbox Headset, Intel on Resizable BAR Support
Rounding out the news, we have a couple of smaller items from Intel and Microsoft that we’ll mention briefly.
First up is Microsoft, with a recent announcement that it is bringing a new Xbox-themed headset to market on March 16th. Normally, a headset usually isn’t that newsworthy; it’s a rather crowded market, with little diversity to boot. However, as far as we know, this is the first time Microsoft has introduced a proper headset since ye olde Xbox 360 days. The new Xbox Wireless Headset, as it’s called, is up for pre-order now ($99) ahead of its March 16th launch date.
In terms of design, the headset itself is ironically one of the more understated and palatable designs -- no gaudy “gamer” flair. Microsoft's recent foray into high-end audio with its Surface Headphones seems to have informed the design for its Xbox counterpart. On the surface (no pun intended), it seems much of the construction and aesthetic have carried over. The Xbox Wireless Headset will be compatible with Xbox Series X|S, Windows 10 PCs, and mobile phones. The headset can also be simultaneously connected to both a phone and Xbox console.
Moving on, Intel dropped by the Tom’s Hardware Show and spoke to Resizable BAR support for some of Intel’s platforms. Our readers likely already know what Resizable BAR is, as both Nvidia and AMD have been carrying on about it. However, you may or may not have known that Intel already supports the feature in its Tiger Lake H35 and Comet Lake-H chips. Intel will also be supporting Resizable BAR in its upcoming Tiger Lake-H45 chips.
Intel’s General Manager of Premium and Gaming Notebook Segments, Fredrik Hamberger, told Tom’s Hardware that it had been working with Nvidia on developing a standard solution that would be compatible across multiple vendors. As ever, it’ll be up to those vendors on how usable the feature becomes. However, Intel told Tom’s Hardware that it hopes the feature continues to see adoption, and that Intel hopes to continue scaling it.
Writing: Eric Hamilton
Host, Additional Reporting: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick, Andrew Coleman