The race to invest in semiconductor technology is unabating, it would seem. SK Hynix, the world’s second largest memory chipmaker (after Samsung), has announced plans to construct a new memory semiconductor fab in Cheongju, South Korea. The company will also upgrade DRAM facilities in China, with the total outlay summing $2.6 billion. This comes after global chipmakers like Samsung, Toshiba, and TSMC have spurred investments of their own to expand production.

Hardware news has, somewhat surprisingly, maintained its pace through the late months of the year. We normally expect a slowdown in December, but with AMD’s onslaught of announcements (Instinct, Ryzen, Vega), and with announcements leading into CES, we’ve yet to catch a break.

This week’s hardware news focuses on the RX 460 unlocking discovered by Der8auer, new SSDs from Corsair (MP500) and Zadak, and TSMC’s fab expansion.

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SSDs are ostensibly a victim of their own success. Competitive pricing has made SSDs more accessible at the consumer level in addition to a proliferated demand in other market segments, such as the obvious smartphones and laptops. Both of these segments have seen the implementation of NAND flash-based storage for increasing capacity while minimizing the form and footprint of devices, not to mention power savings and noise reductions.

EVGA has been facing thermal issues with its ACX series coolers, as pointed out by Tom's Hardware - Germany earlier this week. We originally thought these issues to be borderline acceptable, since Tom's was reporting maximum VRM temperatures of ~107-114C. These temperatures would still allow EVGA's over-spec VRM to function, granted its 350A abilities, as that'd still land the output around 200A to the GPU. A GTX 1080 will pull somewhere around 180A without an extreme overclock, so that was borderline, but not catastrophic.

Unfortunately for EVGA, temperature increases to the VRM have nearly exponential increases in damage. Hitting a temperature greater than 125C on the VRM with EVGA's design could result in MOSFET failure, effectively triggered by a runaway thermal scenario where the casing is blown, and OCP/OTP might not be enough to prevent the destruction of a FET or two. The VRM derates and loses efficiency at this point, and would be incapable of sustaining the amperage demanded by higher power draw Pascal chips.

Retail powerhouse Newegg is allegedly now majority-owned by Hangzhao Liaison Interactive Information Technology Co., Ltd, heretofore known as Over-compensator, Inc. UDN reports that the company with the big name now holds nearly 56% of Newegg through a $2.63B USD investment. This would allow China-based Liaison Interactive to claim hardware/software retail domination of US and Chinese markets. Granted, Google Translate does say that Newegg is the second-largest “US egg supplier in China,” so we can't interpret much beyond the alleged major investment made by Liaison.

System integrator iBUYPOWER, peripheral maker Logitech, motherboard maker ASUS, and Riot games joined forces to aid UCI in opening its new eSports arena. The venue makes UCI the first top 200 public school with an eSports program, and opens the door for its participation in collegiate eSports tournaments. To our knowledge, there are presently nine other US universities with eSports programs that may allow for future 10-way contests at a collegiate level.

The university's arena hosted CLG Red & Blue teams, Immortals, and Selfless this weekend, alongside manufacturers nVidia, NZXT, ADATA, and iBUYPOWER. The venue contains sixty systems – a split between mITX Revolt 2 boxes and ATX NZXT N450 boxes – with Intel i7-6700K CPUs and GTX 1080 FE GPUs. Logitech has equipped each box with a G410 TKL keyboard, G303 mouse, and G430 headset, ASUS provided the Z170 motherboards, and iBUYPOWER did the system assembly (and provision of the Revolt 2).

As we reported on August 4, the Class Action lawsuit against nVidia has been settled in courts. The final payout amount is pending approval (full resolution by December, in theory), but owners of the GTX 970 may now submit claims to retrieve a $30 payment per GTX 970 purchased, should those owners feel entitled to the funds.

Claims can be filed on the GTX 970 Settlement website. The claim filing deadline is November 30, 2016, with the final approval hearing scheduled for December 7, 2016. Claims must be filed before the deadline and will not be paid out until after the final approval hearing goes through.

Denuvo DRM Loopholes Discovered

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The recently popular German-based Denuvo Anti-Tampering software has provided some safety for game developers, though we've found it cumbersome at times. Denuvo has been used for several of the biggest recent game releases, including Doom, Mirror's Edge, and Just Cause 3. A Bulgarian hacker known only as "Voksi" discovered a workaround method through Steam that allowed for a full game, such as Doom, to be spoofed as a different game's free demo, also available through Steam. Steam quickly closed the loophole, but it is unclear if the Denuvo software itself has been cracked or simply reworked through the loophole, as only one fully cracked Denuvo game was released out of the loophole. Until now, Denuvo has remained the most impenetrable DRM gaming software in recent history. While this is an incredible feat, Denuvo can also affect legitimate users in a negative way (as all DRM seems to do).

Prominent GPU and CPU company AMD has recently released its financial results for the second quarter of 2016. In the past, AMD has struggled to stay out of the red financially, and the results today aren’t very different, but AMD has improved its posture over 1Q16.

As seen in the table below, AMD’s revenue has grown from $823 million to $1.027 billion, rivaling revenue of 1Q15. The net loss is a net loss of $40 million, up from a net loss of $109 million in 1Q16, and $180 million in 1Q15. Similarly, the operating loss for 2Q16 is $8 million, compared to Q1’s $68 million and 1Q15’s $137 million. This change is primarily due to lower operating expenses and layoffs.

Intel and AMD dominated the entire CPU market in the 90s and early 2000s, but ARM-based SOCs have taken a large chunk of their business. The ARM architecture and RISC instruction set is used in almost every phone today and can be found in Chromebooks, tablets, TVs, and servers.

ARM is a unique company as it licenses its patents to technology companies to use for a fee; in turn, ARM often receives royalties from these deals. The company actually doesn’t make any physical CPUs like Intel and AMD, so almost all of its money comes from patent deals with other companies to take its designs and create SOCs, which are then put into tablets, phones, or other products.

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