Another week, another HW News. While not as busy as last week, we’ve still got some interesting stories. For instance, Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, as well as the main Linux kernel developer, has moved to AMD CPUs for his personal machine -- after 15 some years of Intel-based machines. There’s also a new development in the ongoing SMR saga: Class action lawsuits are being brought against WD in both the US and Canada.
We also have news of changes to the numbering of AMD’s AGESA microcode updates, updated ARM IP, Intel finally overhauling its stock coolers, and a terrible Nintendo Switch clone that’s begging to be sued.
On the GN side of things, we’ve been busy analysing Intel’s newest 10th-gen (Comet Lake-S) K-SKU CPUs and their respective Z490 platform. Most recently, we looked at the extreme auto voltage settings on Z490, including Vcore, power limit, and MCE. We also looked at the i5-10400 and i7-10700K. Spoiler alert: they’re both hard to justify.
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One of the busiest weeks of the year is fast approaching: We'll soon be dealing with Threadripper 3 reviews and Intel i9-10980XE reviews, alongside the usual year-end content. In the interim, we've still got hardware news to cover, including this week's collection of industry and release topics for Intel, AMD, Crytek, Backblaze, and Corsair.
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After a slight lapse in news coverage due to a crowded content schedule, we’re back this week with highlights from the last couple of weeks. The news beat has been somewhat sluggish as we settle into the fourth quarter and move ever closer to the unrepentant shopping season. The crowning news item is the arrival of AMD’s remaining 2019 CPUs, including the highly-anticipated 16C/32T Ryzen 9 3950X.
There’s also fresh news on AMD’s continued encroachment on Intel’s x86 market share, Seagate keeping HDD development alive, and Samsung ending its custom CPU designs. Elsewhere within GN, we’ve recently — and exhaustively — detailed CPU and GPU recommendations for Red Dead Redemption 2, as well as pursuing a 6GHz overclock on our i9-9900KS.
Consoles don’t offer many upgrade paths, but HDDs, like the ones that ship in the Xbox One X, are one of the few items that can be exchanged for a standard part with higher performance. Since 2013, there have been quite a few benchmarks done with SSDs vs. HDDs in various SKUs of the Xbox One, but not so many with the Xbox One X--so we’re doing our own. We’ve seen some abysmal load times in Final Fantasy and some nasty texture loading in PUBG, so there’s definitely room for improvement somewhere.
The 1TB drive that was shipped in our Xbox One X is a Seagate 2.5” hard drive, model ST1000LM035. This is absolutely, positively a 5400RPM drive, as we said in our teardown, and not a 7200RPM drive (as some suggest online). Even taking the 140MB/s peak transfer rate listed in the drive’s data sheet completely at face value, it’s nowhere near bottlenecking on the internal SATA III interface. The SSD is up against SATA III (or USB 3.0 Gen1) limitations, but will still give us a theoretical sequential performance uplift of 4-5x -- and that’s assuming peak bursted speeds on the hard drive.
This benchmark tests game load times on an external SSD for the Xbox One X, versus internal HDD load times for Final Fantasy XV (FFXV), Monster Hunter World, PUBG (incl. texture pop-in), Assassin's Creed: Origins, and more.
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.
We recently covered Intel’s DC P4800X data center drive, with takes on the technology from two editors in video and article form. Those content pieces served as a technology overview for 3D Xpoint and Intel Optane (and should be referenced as primer material), but both indicated a distinct lack of any consumer-focused launch for the new half-memory, half-storage amalgam.
Today, we’re back to discuss Intel’s Optane Memory modules, which will ship April 24 in the form of M.2 sticks.
As Intel’s platform for 3D Xpoint (Micron also has one: QuantX), Optane will be deployed on standardized interfaces like PCI-e AICs, M.2, and eventually DIMM form factors. This means no special “Optane port,” so to speak, and should make adoption at least somewhat more likely. There’s still a challenging road ahead for Intel, of course, as Optane has big goals to somewhat unify memory and storage by creating a device with storage-like capacities and memory-like latencies. For more of a technology overview, check out Patrick Stone’s article on the DC P4800X.
Revisiting an article from GN days of yore, GamersNexus endeavored to explain the differences between Western Digital’s WD Blue, Black, Red, and Purple hard drives. In this content, we also explain the specs and differences between WD Green vs. Blue & Black SSDs. In recent years, Western Digital’s product stack as changed considerably, as has the HDD market in general. We’ve found it fitting to resurrect this WD Blue, Black, Green, Red, and Purple drive naming scheme explanation. We’ll talk about the best drives for each purpose (e.g. WD Blue vs. Black for gaming), then dig into the new SSDs.
Unchanged over the years is Western Digital’s affinity for deferring to colors as to identify products, where other HDD vendors prefer fantastic creature names (BarraCuda, IronWolf, SkyHawk, etc.). As stated above, Western Digital has seriously changed its lineup. The WD Green drives have been painted blue, as they’ve been folded into the WD Blue umbrella. Furthermore, the WD Blue brand has seen the addition of an SSHD offering and SSDs in both 2.5” and M.2 form factors. This in no small part thanks to Western Digital’s acquisition of SanDisk—another notable development since our last article. With that, the WD Blue brand has expanded to become Western Digital’s most comprehensive mainstream product line-up.
Other changes to the Western Digital rainbow include the expanding of WD Black, and confusingly enough, WD Green brands. Starting with the latter, Western Digital rebranded all WD Green HDDs as WD Blue, selling WD Blues under two different RPMs, but recently reentered the SSD market with both. However, the WD Green SSDs are currently unavailable, perhaps due to the global NAND shortage. Likewise, the WD Black series has spilled over into the realm of NVMe/PCIe based storage and WD Black HDDs have expanded capacities up to 6TB; that’s quite a change from the 4TB flagship model we covered back in 2014. Lastly, there is WD Purple, of which we will retroactively cover here.
As solid-state storage continues to displace mechanical drives, so too does the constriction of the HDD market continue. As part of their ongoing plan to stay profitable and financially stable, Seagate has opted to shut down its HDD manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China. The Suzhou plant was one of Seagate’s largest production assets, and its resultant closure will acutely reduce the company’s HDD output.
However, this isn’t unforeseen, as last year Seagate announced its intentions to augment manufacturing capacities from around 55-60 million drives per quarter to approximately 35-40 million drives per quarter in accordance with their continued restructuring initiative. As part of that effort, Seagate reduced global employee headcount by 8,000 last year. Moreover, the closing of the Suzhou facility will see the layoff of a further ~2,200 employees.
We recently prolonged the life of GN Andrew’s Lenovo laptop, a task accomplished by tearing the thing down and cleaning out the dust, then re-applying thermal compound. This brought temperatures down well below 80C on the silicon components, where the unit was previously reaching 100C (or TjMax values and thereby throttling). The laptop has lived to work many more long render sessions since that time, and has been in good shape since.
That’s gotten us a bit of a reputation, it seems, as we just recently spent a few hours fixing a Dell Studio XPS 1640 and its noise issues.
The 1640 had a few problems at its core: The first, loud noise during idle (desktop); the second, slowing boot times with age; and the third, less-than-snappy responsiveness upon launching applications.
Seagate's year started off with a declaration of significant downturn in its revenue and profits, and the company now faces additional challenges from a Class Action consumer complaint. The complaint has been levied against the company for “breach of consumer protection, unfair competition and false advertising […] and unjust enrichment,” something which law firm Hagens Berman contests should yield rewards for affected consumers.
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