SK Hynix has been busy as of late. We most recently covered their plans for expansion, which offered a cursory foretaste into what 2017 might hold for the semiconductor supplier. SK Hynix has also recently further delineated plans for 2017, trailing behind their still-fresh announcement of the industry’s first 8GB LPDDR4X-4266 DRAM packages aimed at next-generation mobile devices.

In revealing plans, SK Hynix intends to volumize production of new types of memory—not altogether unexpected. Their primary focus on NAND production and expansion over DRAM is most noteworthy, at least for impermanent future. As such, SK Hynix intends to start volume production of 72-layer 3D TLC NAND (3D-V4). For reference, SK Hynix’s 36-layer and 48-layer NAND were 3D-V2 and 3D-V3, respectively. Notable about SK Hynix’s fourth version of 3D NAND is that it will use block sizes of 13.5 MB over the 9 MB sizes of the second and third generation predecessors. Furthermore, SK Hynix intends to roll-out 256 Gb 3D TLC ICs by Q2 2017, with 512 Gb 3D TLC ICs coming in Q4 2017. SK Hynix’s new 72-layer 3D NAND should allow for higher capacity SSDs in smaller form factors and increase performance on a per IC basis.

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.

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).

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