01:03 | Samsung & TeamGroup in DDR5 News
DDR5 development is forging ahead within the industry, and as such, we have new developments from vendors like Samsung and TeamGroup.
Samsung announced that it has built 512GB DIMMs rated at 7200Mbps, and is also using its High-K Metal Gate (HKMG) technology process. While Samsung isn’t offering a lot of specifics on HKMG materials, Samsung’s HKMG process involves using a high-k dielectric instead of silicon dioxide. The idea of using high-k dielectrics isn’t new -- Intel used them (hafnium, specifically) many years ago during its 45nm process, and would go on to deploy them at 32nm and 28nm as well. As insulation layers thin with shrinking processes, leakage becomes a bigger concern.
To that end, Samsung says its new DDR5 modules using HKMG technology are capable of using 13% less power, as well as reduced leakage. Samsung is stacking 8 layers of 16Gb DRAM chips by using through-silicon via (TVS) interconnects to reach a capacity of 512GB for a single module. These new modules will be targeted at data center and server applications, and as far as we know, Intel’s Sapphire Rapids will be the first server platform to adopt DDR5 support.
Samsung noted that it's currently sampling its DDR5 products with select customers for verifications and validations.
TeamGroup, for its part, is preparing its T-FORCE branded overclocking DDR5 modules. TeamGroup has previously completed validation and testing for DDR5 SO-DIMMs and U-DIMMs, and is now moving onto testing overclocking memory with motherboard partners Asus, ASRock, MSI, and Gigabyte.
As we’ve discussed before, the introduction of DDR5 will see power conversion and management for the memory subsystem moved away from the motherboard and onto the DIMMs themselves, and will come in the form of power management ICs (PMIC). PMICs should allow for far more granular voltage and current regulation, as well as voltage adjustment.
TeamGroup claims that its modules will have a voltage headroom of up to 2.6V thanks to the on-board PMIC -- well above the 1.1V required for the JEDEC DDR5-6400 spec. TeamGroup didn’t offer any information on the PMICs themselves, but Renesas has long had its P8911 PMIC for client DDR5 applications ready to go. TeamGroup also didn’t mention when it would be shipping its DDR5 modules, but given AMD and Intel are expected to embrace DDR5 in late 2021 or early 2022, it shouldn’t be long at this point.
06:15 | Nvidia Changing Up Silicon Die Names
It seems Nvidia is carving new names into its GPUs underneath the hood, as evidenced by HardwareLuxx member “iso0,” who purchased a GeForce RTX 3090 and disassembled it to install a water block. In the process of removing the cooler and shroud, the user discovered that the previous GA102-250-KD-A1 marking had been crossed out, and a newly etched GA102-300-A1 was underneath it.
While the reasoning for this isn’t presently clear, it seems the naming of Nvidia’s GPUs is being shuffled internally on account of the unreleased RTX 3080 Ti. It seems the RTX 3080 Ti may use some form of the GA102-250 die, or a rumored GA102-225 die. For now, however, it seems that RTX 3090 SKUs will now be shipping with the newly christened GA102-300 naming.
This relates back to our January story about the indefinite delay of the RTX 3080 Ti to save-up silicon. It’ll likely come out eventually, but the card was imminent up until the January shuffle to store-up silicon.
09:06 | Intel Considering Process Node Name Changes
In a new report from The Oregonian, it seems Intel is considering making changes to how it classifies its process nodes. According to the outlet, Dr. Ann Kelleher, who serves as Senior Vice President and GM of Intel Technology and Manufacturing, has notified employees that Intel intends to change how it identifies and labels process nodes.
“It’s widely acknowledged in the industry that there is inconsistency and confusion in nanometer nomenclature, and it does not reflect the latest innovations at the transistor level,” said Intel spokeswoman Chelsea Hughes++++ to The Orgeonian.
This has been the source of much debate over the last several years, as transistor geometry continues to shrink. Intel has floated ideas in the past on how to better measure chips and their features, and has opined that current nanometer numbers are not an accurate representation of the actual transistors (mostly in reference to nanometer numbers smaller than its own). One of Intel’s better ideas was to gauge chips by measuring their density across a given area, while also factoring in SRAM cell size.
Additionally, about a year ago, we discussed some very interesting research into a new way to measure semiconductors that would also account for density. The proposed metrics would include logic, memory, and connectivity, and would be known as the LMC metric. The LMC metric could be listed alongside a manufacturer’s process node number or name, and serve as a common metric across different manufacturers and processes.
11:56 | CDPR Ships Massive Cyberpunk 2077 Patch 1.2
CD Projekt Red has shipped its second major update for Cyberpunk 2077, titled Patch 1.2. The patch was initially slated to be pushed out in February, but following the ransomware attack against CD Projekt Red, the studio had to delay the release of the patch. The entire changelog is listed in the patch notes, but it contains hundreds of fixes and changes, with some notable changes being either PC-specific or console-specific.
Cyberpunk 2077 was especially broken on last-gen consoles, and this patch focuses heavily on improving the game on PS4 and Xbox One. The patch lists countless bug fixes, but there’s also some quality of life and gameplay improvements as well. There are also some tweaks to the physics, as well as NPC AI and behavior, which was widely criticized. There’s some other non-bug related improvements, as well.
Most notably for the PC crowd is the addition of ray tracing support for Radeon hardware, as well as expanded key bindings. CD Projekt Red notes users will need the latest Radeon drivers, but you’ll also need an RX 6000-series card.
Overall, the reception to the patch seems to be going well, with a noted improvement in game stability and overall performance on older consoles. However, the game -- and CD Projekt Red -- still have a long ways to go. In fact, the company recently detailed how it will handle games development and marketing going forward following Cyberpunk’s botched launch.
14:17 | ”Device Usage” Feature in Testing for Windows
Microsoft has been internally testing a new “Device Usage” feature within the settings app on Windows 10, with the intent of offering a more customized experience and optimizations depending on how the user is using their machine. While the news that Microsoft has been testing this feature for a while isn’t new, the ability to enable it in preview builds is.
Windows Latest was able to turn the feature on in a preview build on one of their virtual machines, and noted that it said “Get customized suggestions for tools and services based on how you plan to use your device.” Initially, it seems like users will be able to select from a few different use cases: Gaming, family, creativity, schoolwork, entertainment, and business. However, it isn’t clear what Windows 10 and Microsoft will do to tailor the experience once users have selected a category.
Currently, it seems Microsoft is just testing the feature, and it may be left on the cutting room floor before it’s all over. If it goes well, the feature may ship with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 overhaul, codenamed Sun Valley. Sun Valley is set to be the biggest update Windows 10 has had in years, and is expected to arrive later this year.
16:06 | DRAM Prices Will Continue To Rise Through Q2
Like everything else, DRAM prices are expected to continue climbing throughout Q2’2021, following a full first quarter of slow price rises. The news comes from Digitimes, by way of TrendForce.
According to Digitimes and TrendForce, DRAM contract prices are already up by 3-8% as we exit Q1, and prices could swell up to 13-18% during the second quarter of 2021. It seems overall demand for DRAM chips is strong, and is coming from all markets, but at slightly disproportionate paces.
PC DRAM remains the strongest source of demand, especially as PC OEMs continue to stock up on inventory to get ahead of price hikes. Additionally, TrendForce notes that the server market is beginning to pick up, and is also gearing up for what’s considered peak season for data centers and servers. TrendForce notes that DRAM contract prices for servers will go up 20% sequentially.
Mobile DRAM is also seeing an increased demand, and contract prices are expected to rise, but not at the same pace as PC and server DRAM. Meanwhile, TrendForce states that mainstream 8GB DDR4 modules could rise in price by as much as 15% during the second quarter, while 4Gb DDR4 chips prices have rallied by more than 70% over the last two months. Also, 2Gb DDR3 chip prices have more than doubled since January. It seems that DRAM contract prices will continue to rise throughout the course of the year, but the rise is expected to slow down during the third and fourth quarters, as hopefully the global chip shortage improves.
18:23 | TSMC Ahead of Schedule with N4 Process
Multiple reports are suggesting that TSMC’s N4 process is running ahead of schedule, with volume production expected to ramp in Q4’2021. Previously, TSMC’s N4 process wasn’t expected to hit volume production until the first half of 2022, so this is a significant head start, assuming the veracity of the reports.
TSMC’s 4nm N4 node is something of an evolution of its 5nm N5 node, and serves as a stopgap between 5nm and 3nm. One of the reports referred to N4 as “part of the 4nm family of 5nm.” This seems similar to what TSMC did with its 6nm N6 node, which was a continuation of its N7 process at 7nm. TSMC’s N6 process recycled all of the design rules from N7, and was completely backwards-IP compatible. TSMC customers who had previously designed chips for N7 could jump right in with N6. The same should be true with TSMC’s N4 process, meaning previous N5 customers can get started right away.
TSMC is also working on its “enhanced” N5 process, which will likely be known as N5P. This will be a 5nm intra-node improvement, much like what TSMC did with N7P and N7+. N5P should offer an iterative speed boost at iso-power, or a slight power improvement at iso-performance. Reports suggest that N5P could also be ahead of schedule, with volume production rumored for May.
Also, it seems like Apple has already secured all of TSMC’s initial N4 capacity for the next wave of Apple Silicon M-series chips that will go into future Mac computers.
20:44 | Intel Sued for Wiretapping in Florida
Intel news has been frequent as of late -- some good, some less than good. This time, Intel has found itself entangled in yet another lawsuit, this one possibly hinging on Intel violating wiretapping laws in Florida.
The lawsuit claims Intel is running third-party scripts that capture, or intercept, a user’s electronic interactions on Intel’s website. The type of data being intercepted ranges from mouse clicks and mouse movements, to what data is being input, and what pages were visited and the dates on which they were visited.
The lawsuit has been filed in a Florida court, and is being brought against Intel as a class action under the Florida Security of Communications Act. Under Florida law, companies cannot intentionally capture or intercept any electronic communication without the prior knowledge and consent of the user.
The suit claims Intel is using session replay and recording scripts to intercept these communications, and while the lawsuit doesn’t mention a name, The Register seems to believe it is Clicktale. Additionally, by visiting Blacklight and viewing its report on Intel’s home page, it’s confirmed that Intel’s website is indeed loading a Clicktale session recording script.
The lawsuit is seeking a trial by jury, and an unspecified amount of damages. Intel is far from the only company deploying such scripts to collect data and analytics, but the lawsuit will hinge on Intel failing to inform users of the practice, as well as failure to obtain their consent to the practice.
22:13 | Western Digital and Micron Eye Kioxia Acquisition
The Wall Street Journal is reporting on what appears to be a possible bidding war brewing over memory maker Kioxia. If you recall, Toshiba spun off its NAND flash business amidst its financial woes, and it eventually was rebranded as Kioxia under its new ownership in Bain Capital.
The plan for Kioxia was always to go public, but an IPO was put on hold last year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic and various market conditions at the time, as well as ongoing geopolitical issues surrounding the US-China trade war. According to WSJ, an IPO is still possible if a deal doesn’t materialize.
Regarding a possible deal, Micron and Western Digital are both reportedly eyeing an acquisition, and such a deal could be valued at more than $30 billion, according to WSJ’s sources. Western Digital was among many interested parties vying to buy Toshiba Memory before it was sold off to Bain Capital. Kioxia and Western Digital already co-operate a number of fabs located in Japan, and recently announced that they co-developed their new 162L 3D NAND flash.
All that said, Western Digital certainty seems like the more likely party to pursue buying Kioxia, doubly so considering the two companies have had a 20-year joint venture partnership. However, Micron just announced it was exiting the 3D XPoint business, and it would no doubt jump at an opportunity to strengthen its position in the market.
While there have been no official comments from any of the companies involved, WSJ is reporting that a deal could come later this spring.
24:11 | Louis Rossmann’s Right to Repair Initiative
We’ve discussed the right to repair at GN many times, and we’ve often mentioned Louis Rossmann, who has been among the most vocal and prominent right to repair activists in the space. If you’re familiar with Rossmann’s YouTube channel, as well as his independent repair business, then you likely know that he’s been actively trying to get right to repair off the ground for several years now.
Recently, Rossmann uploaded a video to his channel outlining his intent to fund a direct ballot initiative to get right to repair legislation passed, following the success of Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative (2020), also known as Question 1. This was a successful amendment to the Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative (2012), that expands the law to include telematics systems in cars.
To that end, Rossmann has reached out to the law firm that was able to facilitate the direct ballot initiative for Question 1 in Massachusetts, and is looking to hire them to help with a direct ballot campaign in Massachusetts, with the end goal of passing right to repair legislation for the electronics industry. Rossmann is looking to raise $6M in funds to get right to repair on ballots for 2022, and has also started a 501c4 nonprofit called Repair Preservation Group Action Fund to help this campaign.
Rossmann has posted on YouTube to inform the community that he has received donations in the amounts of $6969, $420.69, and $100,000.