02:58 | Intel 12900K Available by Accident, Rumored Specs
Following the recent trend of products leaking out to market before review samples have been sent, Intel’s i9-12900K Engineering Samples were recently spotted on markets in China. Most recently, we were able to buy R5 5600G and R7 5700G APUs ahead of review sampling by buying prebuilts, and before that, we got the Intel i7-11700K about a month ahead of launch by buying from a retailer who stuffed-up the launch. Specs leaked for the Intel 12 series already, at least if they’re accurate, and now, it looks like the 12900K is the next early access opportunity. We have some lines out to contacts. We’re still looking for one. Zhongwen huozhe yingwen, women dou keyi.
For specs, all of this stuff is just rumored right now: It was posted on Zhi1hu1 discussion boards, similar to Quora, so validity is TBD.
For now, the 12 series is hard to describe by just cores and frequencies: The Alder Lake CPUs will include two core architectures internally, one of which is Golden Cove -- running higher speeds -- and one of which is Gracemont. Gracemont is meant to run lower power workloads with greater efficiency than Golden Cove, theoretically helping Intel with its package power management and thermal envelope.
The 12900K is listed as 8C/16T of Golden Cove and 8C/8T of Gracemont, with the Golden Cove cores -- those would be the ones used for gaming -- rumored at 5GHz boost and 5.3GHz TVB. Gracemont is listed as 3.7GHz-3.9GHz. L3 combined is rumored to be 30MB, with PL1 at 125W and PL2 at 228W when under Tau boosting.
The other rumored specs list the 12700K as having the same core count for Golden Cove, with a reduction to 4C/4T on Gracemont. Frequencies are reduced by a few hundred MHz, as expected. L3 drops by 5MB.
The 12600K runs 6C/12T, as expected, with Gracemont again at 4C/4T. Frequencies fall to more familiar territory of 4.5-4.9GHz on Golden Cove. Cache falls to 20MB.
We’ll be curious to see whether Intel tries to market the 12900K as a “24-thread” CPU, or the 12600K as being 10 cores, 16 threads. Testing these will be more complicated than typical.
As for the availability, we got in touch with twitter user YuuKi_AnS to talk about the 12900K spotted in China. The CPU was selling for around or over $1000 USD and was an engineering sample. Availability to the wider market is still a few months out.
Source: https://www.zhihu.com/pin/1398908386876067840 (primary)
Source: https://www.techspot.com/news/90458-strange-intel-core-12900k-12700k-12600k-specs-have.html (secondary)
07:31 | Steam Deck Has M.2 Slot, Valve Inviting Partners
As soon as the Steam Deck was announced last week, we emailed Valve’s press team to try and get additional information on the specifications and internals. That email went unanswered. Of course, the correct way to get information out of Valve, which is an unapproachable behemoth, is to just email CEO Gabe Newell himself.
A user emailed Gabe Newell to ask whether M.2 slots would be on the Steam Deck. The answer was a simple “yes.” Valve later updated its Steam Deck page to clarify this information:
“All models use socketed 2230 M.2 modules (not intended for end-user replacement).”
The “not intended” part is just the usual for product disassembly: You’ll have to take things apart, so the company stops recommending that. It does sound like we’ll be able to drop-in our own 2230 drives, though, so that’ll help buyers of the 64GB eMMC models. We’ll document all of this in our tear-down once we get the device. We’re on the backorder list for January, but if you get yours in December, let us know and we’ll either buy it off of you plus some extra or ask to borrow it.
Confusingly, this contradicts the email Valve conducted with IGN previously -- although it’s not the first error from Valve in that interview. IGN asked if the storage is upgradeable, and Valve said “the internal storage is not,” then plugged the SD card slot. Maybe they meant it is “not*” with an asterisk for “it is, but you shouldn’t do it.”
Separately, Newell has expressed interest in building-out the handheld Steam Decks as a wider ecosystem with partner involvement, like from Gigabyte, ASUS, or similar. Given that Steam itself isn’t that special -- it’s just a retailer, and certainly other large retailers have died overnight with a market shift -- and so Valve needs something unique to help cement its position. If only it got into game development, maybe one day it could make games and sell them on its own store. Just an idea.
Source (GabeN Email): https://twitter.com/RobotBrush/status/1416150442841628677
11:34 | FIFA Mining Farm
Just a quick update on this one: Last week, we reported on the Ukraine Security Service’s bust of an operation leveraging 3800 PlayStation 4 consoles to mine. We went through the Ukrainian government reports to learn more about the story of the 3800 PS4s, 500 GPUs, and other components housed in an old energy company warehouse.
In the time since, more information has come to light -- and the story is even more dystopian than previously thought. Not only were the consoles mining, but they weren’t even mining crypto -- they were mining, or maybe “farming” is more accurate, in-game currency and unlockables for sale. The original Ukrainian Security Service documents suggested crypto, but in actuality, it was FIFA that was being mined, not cryptocurrencies.
A translated report from itc.ua reads, via Google translate:
“However, new data show that the SBU's conclusions turned out to be wrong. In any case, so say the lawyers representing the Ukrainian company MMI Engineering, which, as it turned out, was mentioned in the SBU release. It is noted that the company is engaged in software development, network maintenance and training of artificial intelligence systems. In addition, she entered into all the necessary contracts, legally occupied the premises and received electricity. Lawyer Maksym Boyko, who represents the company in the case, said that law enforcement officers provided false information in the release.”
The lawyers also suggest that the power company agreed to lease the space to the FIFA farm and to sell it electricity at a commercial rate.
“Law enforcement officers conducted a search in connection with the investigation of the actions of Alfa Energy officials, who were suspected of illegal mining.”
The equipment was seized on these suspicions, but to our knowledge, there’s nothing illegal about playing FIFA with your 3800 best friends.
14:23 | DLSS & Ray Tracing on ARM CPUs
NVIDIA showed a demo at GDC of Arm-based MediaTek processors running DLSS, which would be particularly interesting as a technology pairing for lower-powered mobile devices.
NVIDIA showed Wolfenstein Youngblood and The Bistro running on an RTX 3060 and MediaTek Kompanio 1200 platform, which is an Arm-based solution. The operating system used was Arch Linux and NVIDIA noted that there’s no Arm-based commercial release planned for Wolfenstein.
As a reminder, you still need the NVIDIA GPU to run DLSS and RTX-enabled ray tracing.
Information released by NVIDIA notified media that RTX SDKs had to be ported to work on Arm devices, including the DLSS libraries, RTXDI for Direct Illumination, NRD for denoising, RTXGI for Global Illumination, and more.
15:31 | Intel: Process and Roadmap Announcement, EU Expansion Plans
Intel’s strategy for Europe in regards to manufacturing could be more ambitious than previously thought. Expanding Intel’s presence in Europe is a major point in Intel’s IDM 2.0 plan, though details regarding exactly what Intel has in mind have been hard to come by.
According to a paywalled report from Financial Times picked up by Tom’s Hardware, it seems Intel may be planning an initial eight-phase project. At some point down the road, Intel could also add on an additional eight phases, with a total investment around $100B. It’s not known exactly where in Europe these investments would take place, but would likely be spread across multiple areas or sites.
Building out a semiconductor fab is contingent on several key factors aligning; things like adequate land provisions, engineer talent, utilities, and supply chain/logistics all must go smoothly. Intel will also be courting support from local governments to subsidize the cost of building a new manufacturing facility -- last we heard, Intel was looking for something around $9.7B in government support.
On the point of supply chains, according to Financial Times, Intel is actually looking to build a vertically integrated supply chain in Europe, with the support from EU governments, of course.
16:49 | Intel Reportedly Eyeing A GlobalFoundries Buyout
Also in Intel news is a new report claiming that Intel is looking into acquiring GlobalFoundries for around $30B. The report comes from The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the matter. The purchase would presumably accelerate Intel’s new push into contract chipmaking via Intel Foundry Services (IFS) -- a market that is mostly dominated by TSMC, and to a lesser extent, Samsung.
However, complicating any possible purchase would be AMD. As a reminder, GlobalFoundries was created when AMD spun off its own manufacturing facilities in 2009, around when AMD was also struggling under debt and had still recently purchased ATi. AMD and GlobalFoundries have remained entwined to some extent ever since. AMD is currently among GlobalFoundries’ biggest customers, as the two companies have long maintained a Wafer Supply Agreement (WSA). GlobalFoundries manufactures AMD’s larger process node components, including some IO dies.
The WSA between AMD and GlobalFoundries was recently extended into 2024, where AMD expects to pay GlobalFoundries $1.6B throughout the course of the agreement. What effect this would have on a proposed purchase by Intel remains to be seen, but there’s some obvious implications. Not to mention, such a deal would likely face intense scrutiny from regulators, as it would be a massive consolidation for competition.
It’s not hard to imagine why Intel would want to bring GlobalFoundries under its roof. Acquiring GlobalFoundries -- a company with years of experience in the pure play foundry model -- would certainly kickstart Intel’s own foundry business. GlobalFoundries also has a wide portfolio of mature and successful IP and process technology that would mesh well with Intel’s own offerings, as well as very lucrative contracts with the US government.
Intel, at this point, wants to compete with TSMC. The more TSMC manufactures for Intel, the more it pulls Intel away from being a qualified competitor.
Perhaps most importantly, Intel would be gaining access to experienced third-party foundry leadership, and GlobalFoundries’ own facilities and capacity.
Previously, GlobalFoundries had been mulling an IPO, but those plans were shelved when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to WSJ, GlobalFoundries may revive those plans if a deal isn’t reached with Intel.
19:57 | TSMC Researching On-Chip Liquid Cooling
TSMC is exploring on-chip liquid cooling, as evidenced from its presentation at the VLSI symposium. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of intrachip liquid cooling; last year there was promising research being done in Switzerland on embedding liquid cooling into silicon, and the results were very interesting.
TSMC’s approach to on-chip liquid cooling isn’t drastically different from that research, at least in function. TSMC is testing different forms of microchannels and flow paths, in combination with different thermal materials to see what solution can most effectively transfer the heat load into the liquid and off of the chip itself.
To that end, TSMC noted that it used a thermal test vehicle (TTV) to simulate a head load, and created three different types of microchannels, as well as three different ways of combining these channels (and water) with the TTV. TSMC also used an external chiller to maintain an inlet water temperature of 25C.
The three types of channel designs TSMC created consisted of a pillar design, a trench design, and flat plane design. TSMC then created three ways of deploying the water and channel designs: A direct water cooling design (DWC), a design that uses a silicon layer for the water channels in conjunction with a Silicon Oxide Fusion TIM, and another design with a liquid metal TIM.
Overall, TSMC found that the DWC design that etched pillar-shaped water channels directly into the silicon performed the best. According to TSMC, this solution could dissipate 2.6 kW of heat with a 5.8LPM flow rate, and a temperature delta of 63C. Coming in second was the silicon oxide TIM solution, followed by the liquid metal TIM -- both of which were also using pillar-shaped microchannels.
21:50 | DRAM Price Surge Could Be Lower Than Previous Forecast
In a bit of positive news, it seems DRAM prices could actually level off and settle a bit, as the previous price surge predictions could actually end up being lower. According to TrendForce, as we move into Q3’ 2021, DRAM vendors are already sitting on high levels of inventory due to gluttonous purchasing habits throughout the first half of the year.
As such, TrendForce expects the QoQ DRAM contract price increases to narrow from 18-23% in Q2’ 2021, to around 3-8% in Q3’ 2021. TrendForce also believes that DRAM supply will continue to increase into Q4’ 2021, which should theoretically continue to force price hikes to narrow and come down.
For PC DRAM, TrendForce reports that most vendors are sitting on 8-10 weeks’ worth of inventory, which is on the high side. However, as PC DRAM is in a supply crunch due to the high demand for server DRAM, TrendForce expects contract price negotiations between PC DRAM buyers and suppliers to “become both lengthier and more difficult.” Therefore, TrendForce is projecting a 3-8% increase in PC DRAM prices for Q3’ 2021.
Elsewhere, graphics DRAM is expected to increase by 8-13% QoQ due to limited supply and extreme demand for GDDR6. Server DRAM could see a price hike of 5-10%, while mobile DRAM could see the biggest price shift, with QoQ prices rising by as much as 5-15%. Total DRAM price surges could land somewhere between 3-8% QoQ.
23:44 | JPR: PC Market and Supply Forecasted To Improve In Coming Years
A new report from Jon Peddie Research outlines something of a path forward for the PC market to recover, albeit it will take 2-3 years by JPR’s math. JPR notes that the PC gaming market both flourished and suffered in the past year, as sales were high, but a large portion of consumer spending didn't make it back to manufacturers. Instead, that money went to scalpers and resellers.
JPR also points out that the market was rather unkind to consumers with modest budgets, or consumers looking to adopt the hobby for the first time.
“New entrants are very important to the long-term health of any gaming platform. A stark warning to hardware companies in the PC Gaming space that long-term growth is dependent on having products available and priced within reach of mass-market consumers. Also, a warning that total dependency on imported products and Just-In-Time inventory systems can be a weakness during market anomalies like the COVID pandemic,” explains JPR.
However, according to JPR’s research, vendors are reviewing their Just-in-Time strategies and beginning to adopt Just-in-Case inventory, which JPR predicts will result in more sales and higher inventory levels for high-end products. JPR also points out that 4K displays are becoming more widely available at big box stores, at “historically low prices.”
Jon Peddie, President of JPR, had this to say:
“Pent-up demand resulting from anomalously high prices will be satisfied in the coming years. High-End graphics cards (Add-In Boards) maintain MSRP well and can be sold as Mid-Range products for years after production. This may encourage manufacturers to aggressively stock High-End inventory levels to prevent what we saw happen since COVID-19 lockdowns were initiated.”
JPR also expects the total high-end PC gaming market to grow some 20.38% by 2024, with a market value of $45B.
25:34 | Hardware: Corsair Hydro X XD7 Distribution Plate, Gigabyte AIOs
This past week saw a couple of interesting product level releases, both from Corsair and Gigabyte.
The more interesting of the two is certainly from Corsair, which announced a new addition to its Hydro X liquid cooling line in the form of the Hydro X XD7, which is a reservoir/pump combination, but also a distribution plate. The new distribution plate mimics the appearance of a 360mm radiator, with three RGB lit coolant channels that look like RGB fans. Inside the plate is a Xylem D5 pump and a 140ml reservoir. The plate has the usual fare of fill and drain ports, as well as temperature sensor ports for monitoring liquid temperature.
The Corsair XD7 will mount in any 360mm radiator space, and is available now through Corsair for $250.
Moving onto Gigabyte, the company trotted out a new line of Aorus WaterForce Series of AIOs. The new line consists of three models, conforming to the standard 360mm, 280mm and 240mm form factors. This new line also borrows a bit from Gigabyte’s higher-end WaterForce Series X line, in that these coolers feature 330-degree rotatable pump caps and the slightly wider 7.8mm tube diameter.
Gigabyte claims these coolers are already on the market, but at time of writing we aren’t presently seeing them at retailers like Newegg or Amazon, and Gigabyte didn’t share any pricing information.
Writing: Eric Hamilton
Host, Additional Writing: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick