It’s been a busy week, as we have news on several fronts in the industry. There’s news of Steam's hardware survey, the discovery of several GeForce RTX 3090 models making use of a blower-style cooler disappearing from market, and Nintendo Switch 2 rumors.
We also have some news on Intel being handed a massive $2.18 billion bill for patent infringement, TSMC’s 3nm still on track for risk production this year, and reports of Texas semiconductor fabs still idling.
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.
Article and video embed follow below, as usual.
Last month, we published an article detailing the FTC addressing predatory warranty conditions, and in so doing, the FTC notified six companies of infractions violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. At the time of that writing, the names of the notified companies were not disclosed; however, Motherboard obtained the names via a Freedom of Information Act request, and they are as follows:
The right-to-repair bills (otherwise known as “Fair Repair”) that are making their way across a few different states are facing staunch opposition from The Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization including Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo as well as many video game developers and publishers. The proposed legislation would not only make it easier for consumers to fix consoles, but electronics in general, including cell phones. Bills have been introduced in Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Kansas. Currently, the bill is the furthest along in Nebraska where the ESA have concentrated lobbying efforts.
Console makers have been a notable enemy of aftermarket repair, but they are far from alone; both Apple and John Deere have vehemently opposed this kind of legislation. In a letter to the Copyright Office, John Deere asserted—among other spectacular delusions, like owners only have an implied license to operate the tractor—that allowing owners to repair, tinker with, or modify their tractors would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.”
The playful Nintendo noises emitted from our Switch came as somewhat of a surprise following an extensive tear-down and re-assembly process. Alas, the console does still work, and we left behind breadcrumbs of our dissection within the body of the Switch: a pair of thermocouples mounted to the top-center of the SOC package and one memory package. We can’t get software-level diode readings of the SOC’s internal sensors, particularly given the locked-down nature of a console like Nintendo’s, and so thermal probes allow us the best insight as to the console’s temperature performance. As a general rule, thermal performance is hard to keep in perspective without a comparative metric, so we need something else. That’ll be noise, for this one; we’re testing dBA output of the fan versus an effective tCase on the SOC to determine how the fan ramps.
There’s no good way to measure the Switch’s GPU frequency without hooking up equipment we don’t have, so we won’t be able to plot a frequency versus temperature/time chart. Instead, we’re looking at temperature versus noise, then using ad-hoc testing to observationally determine framerate response to various logged temperatures. Until a point at which we’ve developed tools for monitoring console FPS externally, this is the best combination of procedures we can muster.
While we work on our R7 1700 review, we’ve also been tearing down the remainder of the new Nintendo Switch console ($300). The first part of our tear-down series featured the Switch itself – a tablet, basically, that is somewhat familiar to a Shield – and showed the Tegra X1 modified SOC, what we think is 4GB of RAM, and a Samsung eMMC module. Today, we’re tearing down the Switch right Joycon (with the IR sensor) and docking station, hoping to see what’s going on under the hood of two parts largely undocumented by Nintendo.
The Nintendo Switch dock sells for $90 from Nintendo directly, and so you’d hope it’s a little more complex than a simple docking station. The article carries on after the embedded video:
Ryzen, Vega, and 1080 Ti news has flanked another major launch in the hardware world, though this one is outside of the PC space: Nintendo’s Switch, formerly known as the “NX.”
We purchased a Nintendo Switch ($300) specifically for teardown, hoping to document the process for any future users wishing to exercise their right to repair. Thermal compound replacement, as we learned from this teardown, is actually not too difficult. We work with small form factor boxes all the time, normally laptops, and replace compound every few years on our personal machines. There have certainly been consoles in the past that benefited from eventual thermal compound replacements, so perhaps this teardown will help in the event someone’s Switch encounters a similar scenario.
The official reveal of the Nintendo Switch left a lot to be desired, particularly in the hardware department. That’s not particularly surprising with Nintendo -- the company isn’t known for being open with its CPU and GPU specifications -- but we already have a Switch on pre-order for tear-down and in-depth performance analysis in the lab.
Regardless, even without further specs from Nintendo, we can still go through the basics and make some assumptions based on fairly credible leaks that are out there.
The Nintendo “Switch” was announced this morning, the next-generation half-portable, half-docked console. To reduce confusion, the Switch was previously referred to as the Nintendo “NX.” It is the same device.
Nintendo's new Switch is built in partnership with nVidia and leverages the Pascal architecture found in current-generation GTX 10-series GPUs. At least, based on this text from nVidia's blog: "[...] NVIDIA GPU based on the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards." Tegra SOCs include ARM processors alongside the nVidia graphics solution, and also host all of the I/O lanes and memory interfaces. This is a complete system, as indicated by “system on chip.” We've asked nVidia for details on which ARM devices are used and which memory will be supported, but were told that the company is not revealing further details on Nintendo's product. We are awaiting comment from Nintendo for more information.
We do know that the Tegra SOC is accelerating gameplay with hardware-acceleration for video playback, and that nVidia and Nintendo have deployed “custom software for audio effects and rendering.” We can confidently speculate that the Switch is not functioning as the previous Shield devices have (read: not streaming to handheld from a dock), mostly because the Switch is large enough to contain all necessary render hardware within its handheld state. The Switch is also shown in the advert to be playable on planes, which most certainly do not have fast enough internet to support up/down game streaming. This is processing and rendering locally.
We're concluding our trip in England already -- spending equal time on planes as in another country, at this point -- and will be posting several in-depth content pieces next week. In the meantime, we turn to gaming news for a few interesting remakes on PC, including Master of Orion, AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake), the potential for StarCraft HD, and the new "Pokemon Uranium" game from indie devs.
GN script writer and video editor Keegan Gallick has had some hands-on time with AM2R, and was saddened to learn that the title received orders from Nintendo to remove download links. No official C&D has yet been dispatched, but DMCA notices were issued. Check the video below for more (or the script, if you prefer writing):
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