Industry

EK Water Blocks has seemingly had a strong year, dotted with numerous major product launches and expansion into the mainstream market (with the EK Fluid Gaming series). In spite of this, TechPowerUp just broke news that EKWB’s CEO, CTO, Head of Marketing, and numerous R&D engineers have all departed the company. The company remains 90-strong, but has lost much of its R&D department and head management as of today.

ET News reports [English] that the price of silicon wafers, the raw material used in the production of 300mm semiconductors, has increased 20% year over year from major manufacturers SK Siltron and SUMCO.

SK Siltron is a recent acquisition of the SK Group, a massive South Korean conglomerate that also includes SK Materials (produces NF3 gas used in semiconductor production) and SK Hynix (a memory chipmaker that regularly appears in our articles on increasing NAND demand). SK Siltron was known as LG Siltron until January, when SK Group purchased 51% of shares from LG for $532 million, and then proceeded to purchase the rest as well (Chairman Choi Tae-Won personally secured 29.4%). LG Siltron sales had suffered since 2012 with an industry increase in silicon wafer production, as well as the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis--but SK Group’s purchase immediately paid off.

This week’s hardware news recap primarily focuses on Intel’s Minix implementation, alongside creator Andrew Tanenbaum’s thoughts on the unknown adoption of the OS, along with some new information on the AMD + Intel multi-chip module (MCM) that’s coming to market. Supporting news items for the week include some GN-style commentary of a new “gaming” chair with case fans in it, updates on nVidia quarterly earnings, Corsair’s new “fastest” memory, and EK’s 560mm radiators.

Find the show notes after the embedded video.

The Intel/AMD news just won’t stop this week. Raja Koduri has indeed left AMD—and he has indeed joined Intel. This was a fair bit of conjecture until now (we even mentioned it in our most recent HW News video, not knowing whether it would be confirmed or debunked), but Intel has released an official statement confirming the move, and the existence of their newly formed Core and Visual Computing Group, which Koduri will helm.

Raja Koduri is a prominent figurehead in the industry, especially as it relates to graphics, visuals, and GPU computing. He notably led AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group, and served as director of graphics for Apple. News of his move to Intel came during his sabbatical he announced back in September, under which he intended to spend time with his family after a grueling Vega launch. His experience and expertise will doubtless be invaluable as part of Intel’s strategy to aggressively expand their presence in the GPU market.

At long last, Intel and AMD have announced a partnership to build a new mobile chip. In broad terms, Intel will ship processors with integrated AMD Radeon graphics and HMB2--all on one package.

Intel and AMD have seemingly set their gaze on the current crop of gaming/production laptops and devices, which are far behind the trend of thinner, more power efficient devices with smaller footprints. PC enthusiasts on a mobile platform who want gaming performance and the power for content creation obviously don’t want to sacrifice function for form, so therein lies the rub--this is exactly the crux that Intel and AMD aim to address with this collaboration.

Seagate Technologies (NASDAQ: STX) reported their financial results for the quarter ending September 29th, 2017. Seagate is largely known for manufacturing HDDs and external hard drives, a sector that has seen a decline over the last few years in part due to decreased pricing and availability of SSDs. Flash-based memory prices are high right now, but are overall significantly lower than when the technology was being introduced to the mainstream market.

For Q1 2018, Seagate reported revenue of $2.6 Billion, gross margin was reported at 28.0%, and net income was listed at $181 Million with diluted earnings per share of $0.62. For reference, last year’s financial results in Q1 2017, Seagate showed revenue of $2.8 Billion, gross margin of 28.6%, net income of $167 Million, and diluted earnings per share of $0.55.

The latest report out of TrendForce and DRAMeXchange indicates that the already-high DRAM prices will continue to climb through 2018. Original shortages were accused of being fallout from impending Samsung and iPhone major launches this year, but new information points toward a slow-down in production out of the big three memory manufacturers (Samsung, Micron, SK Hynix). The three companies claim to be running R&D efforts for future technologies, but the fact that all three coincide does mean that each group can continue to enjoy exceptionally high margins into the future.

This episode of Ask GN was filmed a few days ago, but we ended up with so much content (like the H500P review and Vega 64 Strix PCB analysis) that we postponed its publication. The episode tackles popular topics of thermals and thermal testing, which have recently received more public interest, and also covers some top-level discussion of power, thermals, and electricity.

We spend most of the time discussing motherboard differences -- a story we've been harping on since January -- and how different board voltages affect CPUs in different ways. The rest of the intro is spent explaining thermal testing difficulties and challenges, and how we can best normalize for those in review content. The timestamps are below the video embed:

It’s illegal to outright fix prices of products. Manufacturers have varying levels of sway when establishing cost to distributor partners and suggested retail prices, acted on much lower in the chain, and have to produce supply based on expectations of demand. We’ve previously talked about how MDF or other exchanges can be used to inspire retailers to work within some guidelines, but there are limits to the financial and legal extension of those means.

This context in mind, it makes sense that the undertone of discussion pertaining to video card prices – not just AMD’s, but nVidia’s – plants much of the blame squarely on retailers. There’s only so much that AMD and nVidia can do to drive prices at least somewhat close to MSRP. One of those actions is to put out more supply to sate demand but, as we saw during the last mining boom & bust (with emergent ASIC miners), there’s reason for manufacturers to remain hesitant of a major supply commitment. If AMD or nVidia were to place a large order with their fabs, there’d better be some level of confidence that the product will sell. Factory-to-shelf turn-around is a period of months, weeks of which can be shipping (unless opting for prohibitively expensive air freight).  A period of months is a wide window. We’ve seen mining markets “crash” and recover in a period of days, or hours, with oft unpredictable frequency and intensity. That’d explain why AMD might be hesitant to issue large orders of older product, like the RX 500 series, to try and meet demand.

Jon Peddie Research reports that the add-in board GPU market has increased 30.9% over last quarter and 34.9% year-to-year, largely thanks to the recent cryptocurrency mining craze.

Regardless of the exact numbers, it’s obvious to anyone that’s checked graphics card prices recently that something unusual is happening. JPR states that Q2 usually sees a “significant drop” in the market (average -9.8%), with the most action happening around the holiday season. This Q2, the market has increased for the first time in nine years. This is despite general PC market decline as demand for the industry’s bread-and-butter general purpose (non-gaming) PCs has dropped.

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