AnandTech This channel features the latest computer hardware related articles. en-us Copyright 2024 AnandTech AnandTech Computex 2024 Keynote Preview: The Great PC Powers Aligned Ryan Smith The annual Computex computer expo kicks off in Taepei this weekend. And this year’s show is shaping up to be the most packed in years.

Computex rivals CES for the most important PC trade show of the year, and in most years is attended by not only the numerous local Taiwanese firms (Asus, MSI, ASRock, and others), but the major chip developers have been increasing their own presence as well. These days, while CES itself tends to land more high-profile announcements, in recent years it’s been Computex that has delivered on more substantial announcements. This is largely because tech firms have aligned their product schedules to roll out near gear in the second half of the year, when retail sales are stronger due to the back-to-school and holiday shopping periods.

This year’s show, in turn, is looking to be an especially big year for the PC ecosystem. All the major PC chip firms – AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and the 4th Musketeer, Qualcomm – are holding keynote addresses at this year’s show, where they’re expected to announce new slates of PC products to ship later this year. In a normal year there is typically only major announcements from one or two of the major chip firms, so having all four of them at the show delivering lengthy keynotes is setting things up for what should be an exceptional show.

]]> Fri, 31 May 2024 20:00:00 EDT,21418:news
TSMC's 3D Stacked SoIC Packaging Making Quick Progress, Eyeing Ultra-Dense 3μm Pitch In 2027 Anton Shilov

TSMC's 3D-stacked system-on-integrated chips (SoIC) advanced packaging technologies is set to evolve rapidly. In a presentation at the company's recent technology symposium, TSMC outlined a roadmap that will take the technology from a current bump pitch of 9μm all the way down to a 3μm pitch by 2027, stacking together combinations of A16 and N2 dies.

TSMC has a number of advanced packaging technologies, including 2.5D CoWoS and 2.5D/3D InFO. Perhaps the most intriguing (and complex) method is their 3D-stacked system-on-integrated chips (SoIC) technology, which is TSMC's implementation of hybrid wafer bonding. Hybrid bonding allows two advanced logic devices to be stacked directly on top of each other, allowing for ultra-dense (and ultra-short) connections between the two chips, and is primarily aimed at high performance parts. For now, SoIC-X (bumpless) is used for select applications, such as AMD's 3D V-cache technology for CPUs, as well as their Instinct MI300-series AI products. And while adoption is growing, the current generation of the technology is constrained by limitations on die sizes and interconnection pitches.

But those limitations are expected to give way quickly, if all goes according to plan for TSMC. SoIC-X technology is going to advance fast, and by 2027, it will be possible assemble a chip pairing a reticle-sized top die made on TSMC's leading-edge A16 (1.6nm-class) on a bottom die produced using TSMC's N2 (2nm-class). These dies, in turn, would be connected using 3μm bond pitche ssilicon vias (TSVs), three times the density of the size of today's 9μm pitch. Such small interconnections will allow for a much larger number of connections overall, greatly increasing the bandwidth density (and thus performance) of the assembled chip.

TSMC's SoIC-X Roadmap
Data by TSMC (Compiled by AnandTech)
  2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027
Top Die N7 N5 N4 N3 N2 A16
Bottom Die N7 ≥N6 ≥N5 ≥N4 ≥N3 ≥N2
Bond Pitch 9 μm 9 μm 6 μm 6 μm 4.5 μm 3 μm
Size* 0.1 reticle 0.4 reticle 0.8 reticle 1 reticle 1 reticle 1 reticle

*TSMC considers reticle size as roughly 830 mm2.

Improved hybrid bonding techniques are intended to allow TSMC's big HPC customers – AMD, Broadcom, Intel, NVIDIA, and the like – to build large, ultra-dense disaggregated processor designs for demanding applications, where distance between the dies is critical, as is the overall floor space used. Meanwhile, for applications where only performance matters, it will be possible to place multiple SoIC-X packages on a CoWoS interposer to get improved performance at a lower power consumption.

In addition to developing its bumpless SoIC-X packaging technology aimed at devices that require extreme performance, TSMC will also launch its bumped SoIC-P packaging process in the near future. SoIC-P is designed for cheaper lower performance applications that still want 3D-stacking, but don't need the additional performance and complexity that comes with bumpless copper-to-copper TSV connections. This packing technique will enable a broader range of companies to leverage SoIC, and while TSMC can't speak for their customers' plans, a cheaper version of the technology may make it accessible for more cost-conscious consumer applications.

Per TSMC's current plans, by 2025 the company will offer a face-to-back (F2B) bumped SoIC-P technology capable of pairing a 0.2-reticle sized N3 (3nm-class) top die with an N4 (4nm-class) bottom die, which will be connected using 25μm pitch microbumps (µbumps). In 2027, TSMC will introduce bumped face-to-face (F2F) SoIC-P technology, which will be able to place an N2 top die on an N3 bottom die with a pitch of 16μm.

TSMC's SoIC-P Roadmap
Data by TSMC (Compiled by AnandTech)
  2025 2027
Top Die N3 N2
Bottom Die ≥N4 ≥N3
Bond Pitch 25 μm 16 μm
Size* 0.2 reticle 0.4 reticle
Die Orientation face-to-back face-to-face
Qualification Time Q4 2024 for mobile SoC Q2 2026 for HPC

*TSMC considers reticle size as roughly 830 mm2

A lot of work has to be done to make SoIC more popular and accessible among chip developers, including continuing to iprove their die-to-die interfaces. But TSMC seems to be very optimistic about SoIC adoption by the industry, and expects around 30 SoIC designs to be released by 2026 – 2027.

]]> Fri, 31 May 2024 11:00:00 EDT,21414:news
GEEKOM A7 mini-PC Review : Premium Phoenix in a Compact 4x4 Package Ganesh T S The introduction of the Intel NUC in the early 2010s kickstarted the ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) trend for desktop systems. Processors with TDPs ranging from 6 - 15W formed the backbone of this segment in the initial years. The emergence of configurable TDPs for notebook processors has prompted some vendors to introduce UCFF systems with regular 45W TDP processors (albeit, in cTDP-down mode).

GEEKOM, the private label brand of Shenzhen Jiteng Network Technology Co., has emerged as a popular UCFF system vendor in the last couple of years. After starting off with systems based on older processors, the company has moved on to introducing units carrying the latest and greatest from both AMD and Intel. The company has also been innovating on the form-factor side with compact boards smaller than the traditional 4"x4" ones in the NUC clones. The GEEKOM A7 is one such system based on AMD's Phoenix lineup.

The system is available in two configurations - one with the Ryzen 7 7840HS, and the other with the Ryzen 9 7940HS. The company sent over the flagship configuration to put through our evaluation routine for small form-factor computing systems. Read on to explore the performance profile and value proposition of the system, along with a discussion of the trade-offs involved in cramming a powerful notebook processor inside a system smaller than the traditional NUC.

]]> Fri, 31 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21409:news
TSMC: Performance and Yields of 2nm on Track, Mass Production To Start In 2025 Anton Shilov

In addition to revealing its roadmap and plans concerning its current leading-edge process technologies, TSMC also shared progress of its N2 node as part of its Symposiums 2024. The company's first 2nm-class fabrication node, and predominantly featuring gate-all-around transistors, according to TSMC N2 has almost achieved its target performance and yield goals, which places it on track to enter high-volume manufacturing in the second half of 2025.

TSMC states that 'N2 development is well on track and N2P is next.' In particular, gate-all-around nanosheet devices currently achieve over 90% of their expected performance, whereas yields of 256 Mb SRAM (32 MB) devices already exceeds 80%, depending on the batch. All of this for a node that is over a year away from mass production.

Meanwhile, average yield of a 256 Mb SRAM was around 70% as of March, 2024, up from around 35% in April, 2023. Device performance has also been improving with higher frequencies being achieved while keeping power consumption in check.

Chip designer interest towards TSMC's first 2nm-class gate-all-around nanosheet transistor-based technology is significant, too. The number of new tape-outs (NTOs) in the first year of N2 is over two-times higher than it was for N5. Though with that said, given TSMC's close working relationship with a handful of high-volume vendors – most notably Appe – NTOs can be a very misleading figure since the first year of a new node at TSMC is capacity constrained, and consequently the bulk of that capacity goes to TSMC's priority partners.

Meanwhile, there were considerably more N5 tapeouts in its second year (some where N5P, of course) and N2 promises to have 2.6X more NTOs in its second year. So the node indeed looks quite promising. In fact, based on TSMC's slides (which we're unfortunately not able to republish), N2 is more popular than N3 in terms of NTOs both in the first and the second years of existence.

When it comes to the second year of N2, in the second half of 2026 TSMC plans to roll out its N2P technology, which promises additional performance and power benefits. N2P is expected to improve frequency by 15% - 20%, reduce power consumption by 30% - 40%, and increase chip density by over 1.15 times compared to N3E, significant benefits to move to all-new GAA nanosheet transistors.

Finally, for those companies that need the best in performance, power, and density, TSMC is poised to offer their A16 process in 2026. That node will also bring in backside power delivery, which will add costs, but is expected to greatly improve performance efficiency and scaling.

]]> Thu, 30 May 2024 15:00:00 EDT,21413:news
Lexar ARMOR 700 Portable SSD Review: Power-Efficient 2 GBps in an IP66 Package Ganesh T S Lexar has a long history of serving the flash-based consumer storage market in the form of SSDs, memory cards, and USB flash drives. After having started out as a Micron brand, the company was acquired by Longsys which has diversified its product lineup with regular introduction of new products. Recently, the company announced a number of portable SSDs targeting different market segments. The Lexar ARMOR 700 Portable SSD makes its entry as the new flagship in the 20 Gbps PSSD segment.

Despite its flagship positioning and rugged nature, the ARMOR 700 is reasonably priced thanks to the use of a native USB flash controller - the Silicon Motion SM2320. Similar to the SL500, the product uses YMTC 3D TLC NAND (compared to the usual Micron or BiCS NAND that we have seen in SM2320-based PSSDs from other vendors). Read on for a detailed look at the ARMOR 700, including an analysis of its internals and evaluation of its performance consistency, power consumption, and thermal profile.

]]> Thu, 30 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21393:news
Arm Unveils 2024 CPU Core Designs, Cortex X925, A725 and A520: Arm v9.2 Redefined For 3nm Gavin Bonshor As the semiconductor industry continues to evolve, Arm stands at the forefront of innovation for its core and IP architecture, especially in the mobile space, by pushing the boundaries of technology to deliver cutting-edge solutions for end users. For 2024, Arm's year-on-year strategic advancements focus on enhancing last year's Armv9.2 architecture with a new twist. Arm has rebranded and re-strategized its efforts by introducing Arm Compute Subsystem (CSS), the direct successor to last year's Total Compute Solutions (TSC2023) platform.

Arm is also transitioning its latest IP and Cortex core designs, including the largest Cortex X925, the middle Cortex A725, and the refreshed and smaller Cortex A520 to the more advanced 3 nm process technology. Arm promises that the 3 nm process node will deliver unprecedented performance gains compared to last year's designs, power efficiency and scalability improvements, and new front and back-end refinements to its Cortex series of cores. Arms' new solutions look to power the next-generation mobile and AI applications as Arm, along with its complete AArch64 64-bit instruction execution and approach to solutions geared towards mobile and notebooks, look set to redefine end users' expectations within the Android and Windows on Arm products.

]]> Wed, 29 May 2024 11:00:00 EDT,21399:news
Rapidus Adds Chip Packaging Services to Plans for $32 Billion 2nm Fab Anton Shilov

To say that the global foundry market is booming right now would be an understatement. Demand for leading-edge process technologies driven by AI and HPC applications is unprecedented, and with Intel joining the contract chipmaking game, this market segment is once again becoming rather competitive as well. Yet, this is exactly the market segment that Rapidus, a foundry startup backed by the Japanese government and several major Japanese companies, is going to enter in 2027, when its first fab comes online, just a few years from now.

In a fresh update on the status of bringing up the company's first leading-edge fab, Rapidus has revealed that they are intending to get in to the chip packaging game as well. Once complete, the ¥5 trillion ($32 billion) fab will be offering both chip lithography on a 2nm node, as well as packaging services for chips produced within the facility – a notable distinction in an industry where, even if packaging isn't outsourced entirely (OSAT), it's still normally handled at dedicated facilities.

Ultimately, while the company wants to serve the same clients as TSMC, Samsung, and Intel Foundry, the firm plans to do things almost completely differently than its competitors in a bid to speed up chipmaking from finishing design to getting a working chip out of the fab.

"We are very proud of being Japanese," said Henri Richard, general manager and president of Rapidus's subsidiary in the U.S. "[…] I know that some people may be looking at this thinking [that] Japan is known for quality, attention to detail, but not necessarily for speed, or flexibility. But I will tell you that Atsuyoshi Koike (the head of Rapidus) is a very special executive. That is, he has all the quality of Japan, with a lot of American thinking. So he is quite a unique guy, and certainly extraordinarily focused on creating a company that will be extremely flexible and extremely quick on its feet."

2nm Only, At First

Perhaps the most significant difference between Rapidus and traditional foundries is that the company will offer only leading-edge manufacturing technologies to its clients: 2 nm in 2027 (phase 1) and then 1.4 nm in the future (phase 2). This is a stark contrast with other contract fabs, including Intel, which tend to offer their customers a full range of fabrication processes to land more clients and produce more chips. Apparently, Rapidus hopes that that there will be enough Japanese and American chip developers that are inclined to use its 2 nm fabrication process to produce their designs. With that said, the number of chip designers that are using the most advanced production node at any given time is relatively small – limited to large firms who need first-mover advantage and have the margins to justify taking the risk – so it remains to be seen whether Rapidus's business model becomes successful. The company believes it will, since the market of chips made on advanced nodes is growing rapidly.

"Until recently IDC was giving a an estimation of the 2nm and below market as about $80 billion and I think we are going to see soon a revision of the potential to $150 billion," said Richard. "[…] TSMC is the 800 pound gorilla in the space. Samsung is there and Intel is going to enter that space. But the market growth is so significant and the demand is so high, that it does not take a lot of market share for Rapidus to be successful. One of the things that gives me great comfort is that when I talk to our EDA partners, when I talk to our potential clients, it is obvious that the entire industry is looking for alternative supply from a fully independent foundry. There is a place for Samsung in this industry, there is a place for Intel in this industry, the industry is currently owned by TSMC. But another totally independent foundry is more than welcome by all of the ecosystem partners and by the customers. So, I feel really, really good about Rapidus's positioning."

Speaking of advanced process technologies, it is notable that Rapidus does not plan to use ASML's High-NA Twinscan EXE lithography scanners for 2 nm production. Instead, Rapidus is sticking to ASML's proven Low-NA scanners, which will reduce costs of Rapidus's fab, though it will entail usage of EUV double patterning, which brings up costs and lengthens the production cycle in other ways. Even with those trade-offs, SemiAnalysis analysts believe that given the cost of High-NA EUV litho tools and halved imaging field, Low-NA double patterning could be more economically viable.

"We think we are absolutely comfortable with the current [Low-NA EUV] solution for 2nm, but we might consider a different solution at 1.4 nm," said Richard.

For now, only Intel plans to use High-NA tools to make chips on its 14A (1.4 nm-class) fabrication process sometimes in the middle of the decade. TSMC and Samsung Foundry look to be more cautious, so Rapidus is not alone with its attitude towards High-NA EUV tools.

Advanced Packaging at a Leading-Edge Fab

In addition to advanced process technologies, high-end chip designers (such as those used for AI and HPC applications) also need advanced packaging technologies (e.g., for HBM integration) and Rapidus is ready to offer them as well. What sets the company apart from its industry peers is that it plans to build and package chips in the same fab.

"We intend to have the backend capability in Hokkaido [semiconductor fab] as a differentiator," Richard said. "We have the benefit of starting from scratch and be able to build probably the first fully integrated front end back end semiconductor fab in the industry, I think. Others will retrofit and modify their existing capacity, but we have a clean sheet of paper and part of the secret sauce that Koike son is bringing to Rapidus are some very interesting ideas on how to integrate both front end and back end amongst others."

Intel, Samsung, and TSMC have separate facilities for chip manufacturing and packaging, as even the most sophisticated packaging methods involving silicon interposers (which are essentially large chips) don't match the complexity of modern processors. The tools that are used to build silicon interposers and equipment used to make full logic chips are vastly different, so installing them into the same cleanroom generally makes little sense as they do not complement each other very well.

On the other hand, transporting wafers from one site to another is a time consuming and risky endeavor, so integrating everything into one campus could make sense as it greatly simplifies supply chain.

"We are going to re reinvent the way, chip design, front end and the back end are working together toward the completion of a project," Richard said. […] The whole idea is we can do it fast, with high quality, high yield, and with a very short cycle time."

]]> Fri, 24 May 2024 16:00:00 EDT,21411:news
MSI Teases Z790 Project Zero Plus Motherboard With CAMM2 Memory Support Anton Shilov

MSI on Thursday published the first image of a new desktop motherboard that supports the innovative DDR5 compression attached memory module (CAMM2). DDR5 CAMM2 modules are designed to improve upon the SO-DIMM form factor used for laptops, alleviating some of the high-speed signaling and capacity limitations of SO-DIMMs while also shaving down on the volume of space required. And while we're eagerly awaiting to see CAMM2 show up in more laptops, its introduction in a PC motherboard comes as a bit of a surprise, since PCs aren't nearly as space-constrained.

MSI's Z790 Project Zero Plus motherboard, which supports Intel's latest 14th Generation Core processors, is to a large degree a proof-of-concept product that is showcasing several new technologies and atypical configuration options. Key among these, of course, is the CAMM2 connector. The single connector supports a 128-bit DDR5 memory bus, allowing for a system to be fully populated with RAM with just a single, horizontally-mounted CAMM2 module. And in terms of design, the Zero Plus also features backside power connectors for improved cable management.

CAMM2 is designed to replace traditional modules in an SO-DIMM form-factor and is meant to occupy up to 64% less space than two DDR5 SO-DIMMs. In addition, CAMM2 greatly optimizes signal and power traces inside the motherboard, primarily by ensuring all memory trace lengths are identical, reducing some of the signaling penalties that normally come from supporting multiple SO-DIMM slots in a system. With DDR5 being particularly sensitive here – to the point where 2 DIMM Per Channel (2DPC) configurations take a max frequency hit even on desktop systems – CAMM2 modules are expected to simplify and, to a degree, improve laptop designs to better match DDR5's limitations.

Though whether CAMM2 sees widespread adoption remains to be seen. Unlike it's LPDDR5X counterpart, LPCAMM2, DDR5 CAMM2 hasn't attracted the same interest from laptop vendors quite yet, in large part because it doesn't introduce any new functionality (e.g. socketed LPDDR5X).

Meanwhile CAMM2 in ATX desktops is all but unexplored right now, which is why we're seeing experimental products like MSI's motherboard. The space savings alone aren't as important in desktops due to their size – though CAMM2 does cut down on Z-height, keeping memory away from CPU coolers. But PC makers will be looking at other factors such as inventory, as equipping desktop boards with CAMM2 connectors would allow them to use the same memory modules in both laptops and desktops. And longer term there is the question of whether CAMM2 can deliver tangible signaling benefits over traditional DIMMs.

MSI plans to showcase its Z790 Project Zero Plus platform at Computex, alongside memory partner Kingston. The latter will be at the show to demonstrate its Fury Impact CAMM2 memory module, which is one of the first DDR5 CAMM2 modules to be announced.

]]> Fri, 24 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21410:news
ASUS NUC14RVHv7 and ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-155H Review: Meteor Lake Brings Accelerated AI to UCFF PCs Ganesh T S Intel's Meteor Lake series of processors has had a drawn-out launch since its details were officially presented in September 2023. The series marks Intel's foray into the consumer market with a tile-based chiplet configuration held together with Foveros packaging. Similar to Tiger Lake, the focus of Meteor Lake has primarily been on the mobile market - ultraportables and notebooks. However, this has not prevented Intel and its partners from introducing it as a follow-up to Raptor Lake-P and Raptor Lake-H in the SFF / UCFF desktop market.

ASRock Industrial has consistently been the first to market with ultra-compact form-factor motherboards and mini-PCs, with product announcements coinciding with Intel's launch of its latest and greatest mobile processors. Meteor Lake has not been any different, with the NUC(S) Ultra 100 BOX series launching towards the end of Q4 2023. In the meanwhile, Intel's NUC business unit was purchased by ASUS and had its first major product announcement in the form of the Meteor Lake-based Revel Canyon NUCs at the 2024 CES.

The flagship NUC Ultra 100 BOX system is the NUC BOX-155H based on the Intel Core Ultra 7 155H. The Revel Canyon NUC lineup includes a model based on the Core Ultra 7 165H with vPro capabilities, with its claim to fame being the ability to hit 5 GHz on the performance cores. Read on for a detailed look at the features and performance profile of the ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-155H and the ASUS NUC14RVHv7. The analysis also helps in establishing the potential and benefits of Meteor Lake for the UCFF desktop market over its predecessors and the competition.

]]> Thu, 23 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21398:news
TSMC's Roadmap at a Glance: N3X, N2P, A16 Coming in 2025/2026 Anton Shilov

As announced last week by TSMC, later this year the company is set to start high-volume manufacturing on its N3P fabrication process, and this will be the company's most advanced node for a while. Next year things will get a bit more interesting as TSMC will have two process technologies that could actually compete against each other when they enter high-volume manufacturing (HVM) in the second half of 2025.

Advertised PPA Improvements of New Process Technologies
Data announced during conference calls, events, press briefings and press releases
Power -25%
-34% -5%
-7%*** -25%
Performance +10%
+18% +5% +5%
Fmax @1.2V**
Density* ? 1.3x 1.04x 1.10x*** 1.15x 1.15x ? 1.07x

*Chip density published by TSMC reflects 'mixed' chip density consisting of 50% logic, 30% SRAM, and 20% analog.
**At the same area. 
***At the same speed.

The production nodes are N3X (3nm-class, extreme performance-focused) as well as N2 (2nm-class). TSMC says that when compared to N3P, chips made on N3X can either lower power consumption by 7% at the same frequency by lowering Vdd from 1.0V to 0.9V, increase performance by 5% at the same area, or increase transistor density by around 10% at the same frequency. Meanwhile, the key advantage of N3X compared to predecessors is its maximum voltage of 1.2V, which is important for ultra-high-performance applications, such as desktop or datacenter GPUs.

TSMC's N2 will be TSMC's first production node to use gate-all-around (GAA) nanosheet transistors and this will significantly enhance its performance, power, and area (PPA) characteristics. When compared to N3E, semiconductors produced on N3 can cut their power consumption by 25% - 30% (at the same transistor count and frequency), increase their performance by 10% - 15% (at the same transistor count and power), and increase transistor density by 15% (at the same speed and power). 

While N2 will certainly be TSMC's undisputed champ when it comes to power consumption and transistor density, N3X could possibly challenge it when it comes to performance, especially at high voltages. For many customers N3X will also have a benefit of using proven FinFET transistors, so N2 will not be automatically the best of TSMC's nodes in the second half of 2025.

2026: N2P and A16

In the following year TSMC will again offer two nodes that are set to target generally similar smartphone and high-performance computing applications: N2P (performance-enhanced 2nm-class) and A16 (1.6nm-class with backside power delivery).

N2P is expected to deliver a 5% - 10% lower power (at the same speed and transistor count) or a 5% - 10% higher performance (at the same power and transistor count) compared to the original N2. Meanwhile, A16 is set to offer an up to 20% lower power (at the same speed and transistors), up to 10% higher performance (at the same power and transistors), and up to 10% higher transistor density compared to N2P. 

Keeping in mind that A16 features enhanced backside power delivery network, it will likely be the node of choice for performance-minded chip designers. But of course, it will be more expensive to use A16 because of the backside power delivery, which requires additional process steps.

]]> Wed, 22 May 2024 17:30:00 EDT,21408:news
TSMC Offers a Peek at 'Global Gigafab' Process Replication Program Anton Shilov

At its European Technology Symposium last week TSMC revealed some of the details about its Global Gigafab Manufacturing program, the company's strategy to replicate its manufacturing processes across its multiple gigafab sites.

The need for large-scale multi-national fabs to have a process in place to replicate their facilities is well-documented at this point. As scaling-up at at the gigafab size means scaling-out instead, chip makers need to be able to quickly get new and updated manufacturing processes ported to other facilities in order to hit their necessary throughput – and to avoid a multi-quarter bottlenecks that come from having to freshly-tune a fab.

Intel, for their part, has a well-known Copy Exactly program, which is one of the company's major competitive advantages, allowing it to share process recipes across its fabs around the world to maximize yields and reduce performance variability. Meanwhile, as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is building additional capacity in different parts of the world, it has reached the point where it needs a similar program in order to quickly maximize its yields and productivity at its new fabs in Japan and the U.S. And in some respects, TSMC's program goes even further than Intel's, with an additional focus on sustainability and social responsibility.

"As mentioned at last year's symposium, [Global Gigafab manufacturing] is a powerful global manufacturing and management platform," said Y.L. Wang, Vice President of Fab Operations TSMC. "We realise one fab management to ensure our Gigafab to achieve consistent operation efficiency as well as production quality on a global scale. Moreover, we also pursue sustainability across our global footprint covering green manufacturing, global talent development, supply chain localization, as well as social responsibility."

TSMC's Global GigaFab Manufacturing
Data by TSMC (Compiled by AnandTech)
Manufacturing Excellence Sustainability
Global One Fab Manufacturing Green Manufacturing
ML-based Process Control Global Talent Development
Manufacturing Agility and Quality Supply Chain Localization
Maximum Productivity Social Responsibility

When it comes to improvements of process technology, there are two main mechanisms: the continuous process improvements (CPI) to improve yields, as well as statistical process control (SPC) reduce performance variations. To do so, the company has multiple internal techniques that rely on machine learning-based process control, constant quality measuring, and various productivity improving methods. With Global Gigafab manufacturing TSMC can use CPI and SPC to improve yields and performance on the global scale by sharing knowledge between different sites.

"When we port a technology from Taiwan to Arizona, the fab set up, the process control system, everything is actually a copy from Taiwan," said Kevin Zhang, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Overseas Operations Office, and Deputy Co-COO at TSMC.

TSMC yet has to start making chips at its fabs in Germany, Japan, and the United States, so it remains to be seen how fast the foundry will increase yields to Taiwanese levels at its Fab 23 (in Kumamoto, Japan) and Fab 21 (in Arizona) when they begin operations in 2024 and 2025, but with Global Gigafab Manufacturing program in place, this is likely set to happen rather sooner than later.

]]> Wed, 22 May 2024 15:00:00 EDT,21407:news
TSMC to Expand CoWoS Capacity by 60% Yearly Through 2026 Anton Shilov

Customer demand for AI and HPC processors is driving a much greater use of advanced packaging technologies, particularly TSMC's chip-on-wafer-on-substrate (CoWoS) services. As things stand, TSMC is just barely meeting the current demand for this packaging method – never mind future demand – which is why last year the company announced plans to more than double CoWoS capacity by the end of 2024. But as it turns out, just doubling capacity once won't be enough, and the world's largest contract maker of chips is going to have to keep scaling up at a rapid pace.

At its European Technology Symposium last week TSMC announced plans to expand CoWoS capacity at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 60% till at least 2026. As a result, TSMC's CoWoS capacity will more than quadruple from 2023 levels by the end of that period. And keeping in mind that TSMC is prepping additional versions of CoWoS (namely CoWoS-L) that will enable building system-in-packages (SiPs) of up to eight reticle sizes, increasing CoWoS capacity by four-fold in three years may still not be enough. The good news is that the various third-party off-site assembly and testing (OSAT) providers are also expanding their CoWoS-like capacity, so the demand for advanced packing isn't a problem that TSMC is facing (or resolving) on their own.

And CoWoS isn't the only advanced packaging technology line whose capacity TSMC is looking to rapidly expand. The company also has its system-on-integrated chips (SoIC) 3D stacking technology which adoption is poised to grow in the coming years. To meet demand for its SoIC packaging methods TSMC will expand SoIC capacity at a 100% compound annual growth rate by the end of 2026. As a result, SoIC capacity will grow by eight-fold from 2023 levels by late 2026.

Overall, TSMC itself expects leading-edge SiPs for demanding applications like AI and HPC will adopt both CoWoS and SoIC 3D stacking technologies in the coming years, which is why it needs to increase capacity for both methods to be able to build those highly-complex processors.

]]> Tue, 21 May 2024 11:00:00 EDT,21405:news
One More EPYC: AMD Launches Entry-Level Zen 4-based EPYC 4004 Series Ryan Smith

Ever since AMD re-emerged as a major competitor within the x86 CPU scene, one of AMD’s top priorities has been to win over customers in the highly lucrative and profitable server market. It’s a strategy that’s paid off well for AMD, as while they’re still the minority player in the space, they’ve continued to whittle away at what was once Intel’s absolute control over the market, slowly converting more and more customers over to the EPYC ecosystem.

Now as the Zen 4 CPU architecture approaches its second birthday, AMD is launching one final line of EPYC chips, taking aim at yet another Xeon market segment. This time it’s all about the entry-level 1P server market – small scale, budget-conscientious users who only need a handful of CPU cores – which AMD is addressing with their new EPYC 4004 series processors.

Within AMD’s various product stacks, the new EPYC 4004 family essentially replaces Ryzen chips for use in servers. Ryzen for servers was never a dedicated product lineup within AMD, but none the less it has been a product segment within the company since 2019, with AMD aiming it at smaller-scale hosting providers who opted to use racks of consumer-scale hardware, rather than going the high-density route with high core count EPYC processors.

With the upgrade to EPYC status, that hardware ecosystem is being re-deployed as a proper lineup with dedicated chips, and a handful of additional features befitting an EPYC chip. Consequently, AMD is also expanding the scope of the market segments they’re targeting by a hair, roping in small business (SMB) users, whom AMD wasn’t previously chasing. Though regardless of the name on the market segment, the end result is that AMD is carving out a budget-priced series of EPYC chips with 4 to 16 cores based on their consumer platforms.

Underlying the new EPYC 4004 series is AMD’s tried and true AM5 platform and Raphael processors, which we know better as the Ryzen 7000 series. Their new EPYC counterparts are an 8 chip stack that is comprised almost entirely of rebranded Ryzen 7000 SKUs, with all the same core counts, clockspeeds, and TDPs as their counterparts. The sole exception here being the very cheapest chip of the bunch, the 4 core 4124P.

AMD EPYC 4004 Processors
AnandTech Core/
PCIe Memory TDP
Ryzen Version
4584PX 16 32 4200 5700 128MB (3D) 28 x 5.0 2 x DDR5-5200 UDIMM 120 $699 7950X3D
4484PX 12 24 4400 5600 128MB (3D) 120 $599 7900X3D
4564P 16 32 4500 5700 64MB 170 $699 7950X
4464P 12 24 3700 5400 64MB 65 $429 7900
4364P 8 16 4500 5400 32MB 105 $399 7700X
4344P 8 16 3800 5300 32MB 65 $329 7700
4244P 6 12 3800 5100 32MB 65 $229 7600
4124P 4 8 3800 5100 16MB 65 $149 New

Since these are all based on AMD’s consumer discrete CPUs, the underlying architecture in all of these chips is Zen 4 throughout. So despite being positioned below the EPYC 8004 Siena series, you won’t find any Zen 4c CPU cores here; everything is full-fat Zen 4 CCDs. Which means that while there are relatively few cores overall (for an EPYC processor), they are all high-performing cores, with nothing turboing lower than 5.1GHz.

Notably here, AMD is mixing in some of their 3D V-Cache chip SKUs as well, which are signified with the “PX” suffix. Based on the 7950X3D and 7900X3D respectively, both of these chips have 1 CCD with V-Cache stacked on top of them, affording the chip a total of 128MB of L3 cache. The remaining 6 SKUs all get the “P” suffix – indicating they’re 1 socket processors – and come with TDPs ranging from 65 Watts to 170 Watts.

This does mean that, by EPYC server standards, the 4004 series is not particularly energy efficient. This is a lineup that is intended to be cost-effective first and foremost. Instead, energy efficiency remains the domain of the EPYC 8004, with its modestly-clocked many-core Zen4c designs.

The reuse of Zen 4/AM5 means that the EPYC 4004 series comes with all of the features we’ve come to expect from the platform, including 28 lanes of PCIe 5.0, 2 channels (128-bits) of DDR5 memory at speeds up to DDR5-5200, and even integrated graphics. Since this is a server part, ECC is officially supported on the chips – though do note that like the Ryzen Pro workstation chips, this is UDIMM-only; registered DIMMs (RDIMMs) are not supported.

AMD isn’t disclosing the chipset being paired with the EPYC 4004 processors, and while it’s undoubtedly going to be AMD’s favorite ASMedia-designed I/O chipset, it’s interesting to note that it’s at the motherboard level where the new EPYC platform’s real server credentials are at. Separating itself from rank-and-file Ryzens, the EPYC 4004 platform is getting several additional enterprise features, including baseboard management controller (BMC) support, software RAID (RAIDXpert2 for Server), and official server OS support. To be sure, this is still a fraction of the features found in a high-end enterprise solution like the EPYC 9004/8004 series, but it’s some additional functionality befitting of a platform meant to be used in servers.

AMD’s new chips, in turn, are designed to compete against Intel’s entry-level Xeon-E family. Itself a redress of consumer hardware (Raptor Lake), the Xeon-E family is a P-core only chip lineup, with Intel offering SKUs with 4, 6, or 8 CPU cores. This leaves the EPYC 4004 family somewhat uniquely positioned compared to the Xeon-E family, as Intel doesn’t have anything that’s a true counterpart to AMD’s 12 and 16 core chips; after Xeon-E comes the far more capable (and expensive) Xeon-w family. So part of AMD’s strategy with the EPYC 4004 family is to serve a niche that Intel does not.

(As a side bonus, AMD’s core counts also end up playing well with Windows Server 2022 licensing. The Standard license covers up to 16 cores, so a top-end EPYC 4004 chip lets server owners max out their license, amortizing the software cost over more cores)

With regards to performance, Raptor Lake versus Zen 4 is largely settled by now. So I won’t spend too much time on AMD’s (many) benchmark slides. But suffice it to say, with a significant core count advantage, AMD can deliver an equally significant performance advantage in highly multi-threaded workloads (though in that scenario, it does come with a similar spike in power consumption compared to the 95 Watt Intel chips).

Wrapping things up, AMD is launching the new EPYC 4004 product stack immediately. With many of AMD’s regular server partners already signed up – and the core hardware readily available – there won’t be much of a ramp-up period to speak of.

]]> Tue, 21 May 2024 09:00:00 EDT,21406:news
Intel Teases Lunar Lake CPU Ahead of Computex: Most Power Efficient x86 Chip Yet Ryan Smith The next few weeks in the PC industry are going to come fast and furious. Between today and mid-June are multiple conferences and trade-shows, including Microsoft Build and the king of PC trade shows: Computex Taiwan. With all three PC CPU vendors set to present, there’s a lot going on, and a lot of product announcements to be had. But even before those trade shows start, Intel is looking to make the first move this afternoon with an early preview on its next-gen mobile processor, Lunar Lake.

While Intel hasn’t said too much about what to expect from their Computex 2024 keynote thus far, it’s clear that Intel’s next-gen CPUs – Lunar Lake for mobile, and Arrow Lake for Mobile/Desktop – are going to be two of the major stars of the show. At this point Intel has previously teased and/or demoed both chips (Lunar more so than Arrow), and this afternoon the company is releasing a bit more information on Lunar Lake even before Computex kicks off.

Officially, today’s reveal is a preview of Intel’s next Tech Tour event, which is taking place at the end of May. Unofficially, this is the exact same date and time as the embargo on Qualcomm Snapdragon X laptop announcements, which are slated to hit retail shelves next month. Lunar Lake laptops, by contrast, will not hit retail shelves until Q4 of this year. So although the additional technical details from today’s disclosure are great to have, looking at the bigger picture it’s difficult to interpret this reveal as anything less than a bald-faced effort to interdict the Snapdragon X launch (not that Qualcomm hasn’t also been crowing about SDX for the last 7 months). Which, if nothing else, goes to show the current tumultuous state of the laptop CPU market, and that Intel isn’t nearly as secure in their position as they have traditionally been.

]]> Mon, 20 May 2024 14:00:00 EDT,21396:news
Lenovo Unveils Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 14 and ThinkPad T14 Gen 6 Notebooks Powered By Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite Gavin Bonshor

While we've been expecting the availability of the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite processor to be around the middle of this year, Lenovo has announced two new 'AI-powered' notebooks for the Windows on Arm platform. Announced is the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x Gen 14 and the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 both feature Qualcomm's latest 12-core Snapdragon X Elite processor, ushering in a new era for Microsoft's Windows on Arm platform. Lenovo aims to target content creators and business professionals with these new models.

Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X Elite processor looks set to try to change the adoption of the Windows-on-Arm devices, with a critical focus on providing AI capability on device, which promises up to 45 TOPs of performance solely from the Hexagon NPU. Powered by the Oryon CPU cores, the Snapdragon X Elite is designed to deliver exceptional performance and efficiency, achieving up to 3.8GHz in all-core turbo in intensive workloads. The processor also includes the latest Hexagon NPU, offering 45 TOPS of performance for INT8 tasks, making it well-suited for handling complex AI tasks on devices such as Generative AI. 

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x Gen 14 Notebook for Windows on Arm

Starting with the slimmer of the two models, the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x is primarily tailored for creators. It is designed to be thin, lightweight, and portable and has a 70 Wh battery, making it ideal for creators on the go. The device is powered by the latest Snapdragon X Elite processor, featuring Qualcomm's integrated Hegaxon NPU designed to power GenAI-based text-to-image capabilities, sophisticated photo and video editing tools, and intelligent text creation and editing feedback.

The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x Gen 14 is just 12.9 mm thick.

For connectivity, it only uses Type-C, with three USB 4 Type-C ports for the fastest 40 Gbps-capable devices. It also has a single audio jack with an HDMI 2.1 video output. Built into the top bezel is a 1080 webcam with four microphones, and it also supports IP MIPI with an integrated privacy shutter. Additional features include Dolby Atmos audio, while it also comes with Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity incorporated within the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite processor. It weighs just 1.28 kg, with a slim 12.9 mm profile, making the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x perfectly light for users on the go.

The Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 notebook

On the other hand, the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s is optimized primarily for business users. It is designed to deliver optimal performance and efficiency with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite 12-core processor. As with the Yoga Slim 7x, the ThinkPad T14s uses the integrated Qualcomm Adreno GPU for graphics capabilities, and it powers the 14" display, which can come in 1920 x 1200 IPS or 2.8K with an OLED panel. The on-device Hexagon NPU primarily handles AI inferencing tasks on chips and ensures seamless integration with Microsoft 365 applications. This model is designed to provide robust device management, enhanced collaborations on the go, and integrated chip-to-cloud security for professional environments.

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 & Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 9 Specifications
(Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite Models)
AnandTech ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 9 
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite
Windows on Arm
12C / 12 T
Up to 3.8 GHz All-Core
4.2 GHz 2T Boost
Dynamic undisclosed TDP
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite
Windows on Arm
12C / 12 T
Up to 3.4 GHz All-Core
4.0 GHz 2T Boost
Dynamic undisclosed TDP
Memory Up to 64 GB LPRRD5X-8533
2 x 32 GB
Up to 32 GB LPRRD5X-8448
2 x 16 GB
GPU Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite Adreno Graphics
NPU Qualcomm Hexagon NPU (45 TOPS)
Display 14" IPS, 1920 x 1200, sRGB, 400 nits
14" IPS, 1920 x 1200, NTSC, 400 nits
14" OLED, 2.8k, HDR5x, 400 nits
14.5" OLED, 2944 x 1840, 90Hz, Touch
Storage Up to 1 TB PCIe 4.0 x4 Up to 1 TB PCIe 4.0 x4
Networking Wi-Fi 7
Bluetooth 5.3
Wi-Fi 7
Bluetooth 5.3
Audio Dual Speakers, Dolby Audio Dolby Atmos
Battery 58 Wh (No battery runtime claimed) 70 Wh (No battery runtime claimed)
Connectivity 2 x USB 3.2 G2 Type-A
2 x USB 4 Type-C
Audio Jack
HDMI 2.1 Output
3 x USB 4 Type-C, PD 3.1, DP 1.4
Dimensions 313.6 x 219.4 x 16.9 mm (12.34 x 8.64 x 0.67 inches) 325 x 225.15 x 12.9 mm (12.8 x 8.86 x 0.51 inches)
Weight 1.24 kg / 2.72 lb 1.28 kg / 2.82 lb
Camera 1080p, IR MIPI /w Privacy Shutter 1080p, IR MIPI /w Privacy Shutter
Color Eclipse Black Cosmic Blue
Pricing Starting From $1699 Starting From $1199

On the connectivity front, it has dual USB 3.2 G2 Type-A ports and two USB 4 Type-C ports for the fastest 40 Gbps-capable devices. It also has a single audio jack with an HDMI 2.1 video output. Built into the top bezel is a 1080 webcam with dual microphones, and it also supports IP MIPI with an integrated privacy shutter. Additional features include a fingerprint reader within the power button and dTPM. Lenovo uses the integrated Wi-Fi 7 within the Snapdragon X Elite for wireless connectivity, providing Bluetooth 5.3 support.

The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x 14 Gen 9 and ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 can support up to 1TB of PCIe 4.0 x4 storage, while memory capability depends on the model. The Yoga 7x 14 Gen 9, a slimmer model, is limited to 32 GB of LPDDR5X-8448 memory in a dual-channel configuration. At the same time, the ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 can accommodate up to 64 GB of slightly faster LPDDR5X-8533 memory.

Additionally, Lenovo offers deployment services through its Lenovo TruScale platform to support the efficient management of next-generation AI PC devices such as these models. These services include customizable security features, tailored deployment processes, enhanced control over the deployment process, and services designed to align with specific business objectives.

Both the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7x and the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 will be available starting June 2024, with the Yoga Slim 7x starting at $1,199 and the ThinkPad T14s Gen 6 priced starting at $1,699.

]]> Mon, 20 May 2024 14:00:00 EDT,21404:news
TSMC Outlines Path to EUV Success: More Tools, More Wafers, & Best Pellicles In Industry Anton Shilov

Although TSMC can't claim to be the first fab to use extreme UV (EUV) lithography – that title goes to Samsung – they do get to claim to be the largest. As a result, the company has developed significant experience with EUV over the years, allowing TSMC to refine how they use EUV tooling to both improve productivity/uptime, and to cut down on the costs of using the ultra-fine tools. As part of the company's European Technology Symposium this week, they went into a bit more detail on their EUV usage history, and their progress on further integrating EUV into future process nodes.

When TSMC started making chips using EUV lithography in 2019 on its N7+ process (for Huawei's HiSilicon), it held 42% of the world's installed base of EUV tools, and even as ASML ramped up shipments of EUV scanners in 2020, TSMC's share of EUV installations actually increased to 50%. And jumping ahead to 2024, where the number of EUV litho systems at TSMC has increased by 10-fold from 2019, TSMC is now 56% of the global EUV installed base, despite Samsung and Intel ramping up their own EUV production. Suffice it to say, TSMC made a decision to go in hard on EUV early on, and as a result they still have the lion's share of EUV scanners today.

Notably, TSMC's EUV wafer production has increased by an even larger factor; TSMC now pumps out 30 times as many EUV wafers as they did in 2019. Compared to the mere 10x increase in tools, TSMC's 30x jump in production underscores how TSMC has been able to increase their EUV productivity, reduce service times, and fewer tool downtimes overall. Apparently, this has all been accomplished using the company's in-house developed innovations.

TSMC's Leadership in EUV High Volume Manufacturing
Data by TSMC (Compiled by AnandTech)
  2019 2023
Cumulative Tools 1X 10X
Share of Global EUV Installed Base 42% 56%
EUV Wafer Output 1X 30X
Wafer per Day per EUV Tool 1X 2X
Reticle Particle Contamination 1X 0.1X

TSMC says that it has managed to increase wafer-per-day-per-tool productivity of its EUV systems by two times since 2019. To do so, the company optimized the EUV exposure dose and the photoresist it uses. In addition, TSMC greatly refined its pellicles for EUV reticles, which increased their lifespan by four times (i.e., increases uptime), increased output per pellicle by 4.5 times, and lowered defectivity by massive 80 times (i.e., improves productivity and increases uptime). For obvious reasons, TSMC does not disclose how it managed to improve its pellicle technology so significantly, but perhaps over time the company's engineers are going to share this with academia. 

TSMC's EUV Pellicle Technology vs. Commercial
Data by TSMC (Compiled by AnandTech)
  Commercial TSMC (Claimed)
Output 1X 4.5X
Defectivity 1X 0.0125X
Lifespan 1X 4X

EUV lithography systems are also notorious for their power consumption. So, in addition to improving productivity of EUV tools, the company also managed to reduce the power consumption of its EUV scanners by 24% through undisclosed 'innovative energy saving techniques.' And the company isn't done there: they are planning to improve energy efficiency per wafer per EUV tool by 1.5 times by 2030.

Considering all the refinements that TSMC has managed to achieve with Low-NA EUV lithography by now, it is not terribly surprising that the company is quite confident that it can continue to produce cutting-edge chips in the future. Whereas rival Intel has gone all-in on High-NA EUV for their future, sub-18A nodes, TSMC is looking to leverage their highly-optimized and time-tested Low-NA EUV tooling instead, avoiding the potential pitfalls of a major technology transition so soon while also reaping the cost benefits of using the well-established tooling.

]]> Fri, 17 May 2024 14:00:00 EDT,21402:news
Capsule Review: Sunon Maglev 120mm Fan E. Fylladitakis Founded in 1980 and headquartered in Taiwan, Sunon (aka Sunonwealth Electric Machine Industry Co., Ltd.), stands out as a prominent global producer of fans, blowers, and thermal management systems. The company has made a name for itself in the fan industry with a comprehensive product line that includes DC brushless fans, micro blowers, CPU coolers, and various other cooling technologies. They are one of the oldest and most renowned fan manufacturers on the world – and not just for PC applications, but for just about anything in need of something smaller than a ceiling fan, spanning from IT to automotive and industrial sectors.

Within the PC space, the company is best known for its proprietary MagLev (Magnetic Levitation) technology, which uses magnetic forces to levitate the rotor shaft, drastically reducing friction and wear. This innovative design improves the durability and performance of their fans, particularly in reducing operational noise and improving high-temperature performance. Sunon introduced the patent and their first MagLev products all the way back in 90s.

The 120mm Sunon MagLev fan that we are reviewing today – MFC0251V2-1Q02U-S99 – is a new, high-performance fan engineered primarily for PC applications, with an emphasis on longevity and functionality. It features Sunon's advanced Vapo-Bearing MagLev Engine, which allegedly ensures a quieter operation and longer lifespan by minimizing friction. This particular fan has a maximum speed of 1900 RPM and all of the bells and whistles of advanced cooling fans, including a wide range PWM speed control (10-100%).

Distinguished by its crisp white color and unique frame design, this fan is aimed PC builders going for a clean and modern aesthetic. The "gaming" designation by the manufacturer clearly divulges their intentions regarding their targeted audience. By default, these fans have both a 4-pin connector and also a Molex connector for their direct connection to the PSU.


Fan Testing Methodology

We are testing fans using an Extech HD350 differential manometer, an Extech AN200 velocity meter, and a custom 3D printed apparatus designed for this specific purpose. The apparatus features a simple but effective shutters mechanism that allows us to test the unobstructed (maximum) volume flow of a fan, the fully obstructed (maximum static) pressure of the fan, and multiple points in between, allowing us to compose the actual P-Q performance chart of any fan. The RPM reading is taken with the fan unobstructed (maximum flow), as the fan speed varies depending on the airflow impedance in conjunction with the design of the fan’s blades.

For noise measurements, we are using an Extech HD600 high sensitivity SPL meter. The noise of the fan is measured from 15 centimeters away, not one meter as IEC certifications require, as that would be far too great a distance to measure differences between nearly silent products. Note however that we are measuring the noise level of a fan with its flow unobstructed and the fan, to the best possible degree, uncoupled from the environment. The addition of fan grills, the installation on a cooler, and any other form of obstruction will increase the generated noise, as both aerodynamic and vibration noise will be added into the environment.

Test Results & Conclusion

The Sunon MFC0251V2-1Q02U-S99 is a robust performer across the entirety of the performance chart. At its maximum speed of 1900 RPM, it offers an airflow of 58.9 CFM and a static pressure of 2.48 mmH2O. However, that performance comes with a noise output of 41.3 dB(A), which is quite noticeable and, in most cases, not really ahead of its competition. When compared to the Corsair ML120, another fan with a magnetic levitation engine, the Sunon model tends to offer significantly better performance by running about 300 RPM faster while generating about the same level of noise.

Overall, Sunon's 120mm MagLev fan stands out as a high-quality part, and better still it's priced competitively at around $11, offering substantial value for those looking for robust cooling solutions within budget constraints. When it's used correctly, the fan easily competes with, and generally outperforms, the best 120 mm products currently available – albeit not immensely so.

However "used correctly" is the operative term, as the MagLev engine makes the fan particular about its orientation. In short, these fans are not meant to be installed with the engine facing upwards, as this can jeopardize the integrity of the Vapo mechanism. As a result, Sunon's MagLev fan is really only good for horizontal airflow – front and back air intake/exhaust – and shouldn't be used for vertical airflow at the top and bottom of computer cases.

Despite that, the 120mm MagLev fan does excel when it's in its niche, especially at its price. The biggest hurdle, in that case, is just acquiring a fan, as Sunon is primarily geared up to target the bulk OEM market and doesn't sell their fans in individual retail units. So prospective buyers will need to skip the Neweggs and Amazons of the world, and look instead at electronic and industrial suppliers like Digikey and Mouser.

]]> Fri, 17 May 2024 13:00:00 EDT,21376:news
Not Dead Yet: WD Releases New 6TB 2.5-Inch External Hard Drives - First Upgrade in Seven Years Anton Shilov

UPDATE 5/17, 6 PM: Western Digital has confirmed that the new 2.5-inch T GB HDDs uses 6 SMR platters

The vast majority of laptops nowadays use solid-state drives, which is why the development of new, higher-capacity 2.5-inch hard drives has all but come to a halt. Or rather, it almost has. It seems that the 2.5-inch form factor has a bit more life left in it after all, as today Western Digital has released a slate of new external storage products based on a new, high-capacity 6 TB 2.5-inch hard drive.

WD's new 6 TB spinner is being used to offer upgraded versions of the company's My Passport, Black P10, and and G-DRIVE ArmorATD portable storage products. Notably, however, WD isn't selling the bare 2.5-inch drive on a standalone basis – at least not yet – so for the time being it's entirely reserved for use in external storage.

Consequently, WD isn't publishing much about the 6 TB hard drive itself. The maximum read speed for these products is listed at 130 MB/sec – the same as WD's existing externals – and write performance goes unmentioned.

Notably, all of these 6 TB devices are thicker than their existing 5 TB counterparts, which strongly suggests that WD has increased their storage capacity not by improving their areal density, but by adding another platter to their existing drive platform (which WD has since confirmed). This, in turn, would help to explain why these new drives are being used in external storage products, as WD's 5 TB 2.5-inch drives are already 15mm thick and using 5 platters. 15mm is the highest standard thickness for a 2.5-inch form-factor, and already incompatible with a decent number of portable devices. External drives, in turn, are the only place these even thicker 2.5-inch drives would fit.

WD's specifications also gloss over whether these drives are based on shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology. The company was already using SMR for their 5 TB drives in order to hit the necessary storage density there, and WD has since confirmed that this is exactly the case. Which is likely why the company isn't publishing write performance specifications for the drives, as we've seen device-managed SMR drives bottom out as low as 10 MB/second in our testing when the drive needs to rewrite data.

Depending on the specific drive model, all of the external storage drives use either a USB-C connector, or the very quaint USB Micro-B 3.0 connector. Though regardless of the physical connector used, all of the drives feature a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) electrical interface, which is more than ample given the drives' physically-limited transfer speeds.

Wrapping things up, according to WD the new drives are available at retail immediately. The WD My Passport Ultra and WD My Passport Ultra for Mac with USB-C both retail for $199.99; the WD My Passport and WD My Passport for Mac are $179.99; the WD My Passport Works With USB-C is $184.99; the gaming-focused WD_Black P10 Game Drive sells for $184.99, and the SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD is $229.99. All of Western Digital's external storage drives are backed with a three-year limited warranty.

]]> Thu, 16 May 2024 19:00:00 EDT,21400:news
TSMC to Expand Specialty Capacity by 50%, Introduce 4nm N4e Low-Power Node Anton Shilov

With all the new fabs being built in Germany and Japan, as well as the expansion of production capacity in China, TSMC is planning to extend its production capacity for specialty technologies by 50% by 2027. As disclosed by the company during its European Technology Symposium this week, TSMC expects to need to not only convert existing capacity to meet demands for specialty processes, but even build new (greenfield) fab space just for this purpose. One of the big drivers for this demand, in turn, will be TSMC's next specialty node: N4e, a 4nm-class ultra-low-power production node.

"In the past, we always did the review phase [for upcoming fabs], but for the first time in a long time at TSMC, we started building greenfield fab that will address the future specialty technology requirements," said Dr. Kevin Zhang, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Overseas Operations Office, at the event. "In the next four to five years, we actually going to grow our specialty capacity by up to 1.5x. In doing so we actually expanding the footprint of our manufacturing network to improve the resiliency of the overall fab supply chain."

On top of its well-known major logic nodes like N5 and N3E, TSMC also offers a suite of specialty nodes for applications such as power semiconductors, mixed analog I/O, and ultra-low-power applications (e.g. IoT). These are typically based on the company's trailing manufacturing processes, but regardless of the underlying technology, the capacity demand for these nodes is growing right alongside the demand for TSMC's major logic nodes. All of which has required TSMC to reevaluate how they go about planning for capacity on their specialty nodes.

TSMC's expansion strategy in the recent years has pursued several goals. One of them has been to build new fabs outside of Taiwan; another has been to generally expand production capacity to meet future demand for all types of process technologies – which is why the company is building up capacity for specialty nodes.

At present, TSMC's most advanced specialty node is N6e, an N7/N6 variant that supports operating voltages between 0.4V and 0.9V. With N4e, TSMC is looking at voltages below 0.4V. Though for now, TSMC is not disclosing much in the way of technical details for the planned node; given the company's history here, we expect they'll have more to talk about next year once the new process is ready.

]]> Thu, 16 May 2024 17:00:00 EDT,21397:news
The Arctic Cooling Freezer 36 ARGB CPU Cooler Review: Budget Cooling Done Well E. Fylladitakis As modern high-performance CPUs generate more heat, there's been a noticeable increase in the demand for powerful air coolers capable of managing these thermal challenges. Traditional stock air coolers, while sufficient for regular use, are typically designed to be cheap and relatively compact, leaving further improvements to noise control and peak cooling efficiency on the table. This gap has long prompted advanced users and system builders to opt for high-quality aftermarket coolers that designed to better handle the heat output from top-tier processors.

Known for their innovative approach to PC hardware, Arctic Cooling has stepped into this competitive market with a product aimed at delivering effective cooling at a very low retail price. The Freezer 36 A-RGB, a dual fan tower cooler, is designed to support the cooling demands of the latest CPUs while also offering customizable RGB lighting for visual flair. This review will explore the features, performance, and value of the Arctic Cooling Freezer 36 A-RGB, comparing it with other leading products in the market to see how it stacks up in providing efficient and effective cooling for modern CPUs.

]]> Thu, 16 May 2024 09:00:00 EDT,21360:news
TSMC Readies Next-Gen HBM4 Base Dies, Built on 12nm and 5nm Nodes Anton Shilov

Of the several major changes coming with HBM4 memory, one of the most immediate is the sheer width of the memory interface. With the fourth-generation memory standard moving from an already wide 1024-bit interface to a ultra-wide 2048-bit interface, HBM4 memory stacks won't be business as usual; chip manufacturers are going to need to adopt more advanced packaging methods than are used today to accommodate the wider memory.

As part of its European Technology Symposium 2024 presentation, TSMC offered some fresh details into the base dies it will be manufacturing for HBM4, which will be built using logic processes. With TSMC planning to employ variations of their N12 and N5 processes for this task, the company is expecting to occupy a favorable place in the HBM4 manufacturing process, as memory fabs are not currently equipped to economically produce such advanced logic dies – if they can produce them at all.

For the first wave of HBM4, TSMC is preparing to use two fabrication processes: N12FFC+ and N5. While they serve the same purpose — integrating HBM4E memory with next-generation AI and HPC processors — they are going to be used in two different ways to connect memory for high-performance processors for AI and HPC applications.

"We are working with key HBM memory partners (Micron, Samsung, SK Hynix) over advanced nodes for HBM4 full stack integration," said Senior Director of Design and Technology Platform at TSMC. "N12FFC+ cost effective base die can reach HBM for performance and N5 base die can provide even more logic with much lower power at HBM4 speeds."

TSMC Logic for HBM4 Base Die
  N12FFC+ N5
Area 1X 0.39X
Logic GHz @ power 1X 1.55X
Power @ GHz 1X 0.35X

TSMC's base die made on N12FFC+ fabrication process (12nm FinFet Compact Plus, which formally belongs to a 12nm-class technology, but it lays its roots from TSMC's well-proven 16nm FinFET production node) will be used to install HBM4 memory stacks on a silicon interposer next to system-on-chips (SoCs). TSMC believes that their 12FFC+ process is well-suited to achieve HBM4 performance, enabling memory vendors to build 12-Hi(48 GB) and 16-Hi stacks (64 GB), with per-stack bandwidth well as over 2 TB/second. 

"We are also optimizing CoWoS-L and CoWoS-R for HBM4," the Senior Director said. "Both CoWoS-L and CoWoS-R [use] over eight layers to enable HBM4's routing of over 2,000 interconnects with [proper] signal integrity."

HBM4 base dies on N12FFC+ will be instrumental in building system-in-packages (SiPs) using TSMC's CoWoS-L or CoWoS-R advanced packaging technology, which offer interposers up to 8x reticle size – enough space for up to 12 HBM4 memory stacks. At present, HBM4 can achieve data transfer rates of 6 GT/s at currents of 14mA, according to TSMC figures.

"We collaborate with EDA partners like Cadence, Synopsys, and Ansys to certify HBM4 channel signal integrity, IR/EM, and thermal accuracy," the TSMC representative explained.

Meanwhile, as an even more advanced alternative, memory manufacturers will also have the option of tapping TSMC's N5 process for their HBM4 base dies. N5-built base dies will pack even more logic, consume less power, and will offer even higher performance. But arguably the most important benefit is that such an advanced process technology will enable are very small interconnect pitches, on the order of 6 to 9 microns. This will allow N5 base dies to be used in conjunction with direct bonding, enabling HBM4 to be 3D stacked right on top of logic chips. Direct bonding stands to allow for even greater memory performance, which is expected to be a big boost for AI and HPC chips that are always scrounging for more memory bandwidth.

We already know that TSMC and SK Hynix collaborate on HBM4 base dies. It is likely that TSMC will also produce HBM4 base dies for Micron. Otherwise, we'd be more surprised to see TSMC working with Samsung, as that conglomerate already has its own advanced logic fabs via its Samsung Foundry unit.

]]> Thu, 16 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21395:news
TSMC: Performance-Optimized 3nm N3P Process on Track for Mass Production This Year Anton Shilov

As part of the second leg of TSMC's spring technology symposium series, the company offered an update on the state of its 3nm-class processes, both current and future. Building on the back of their current-generation N3E process, the optical shrink of this process technology, N3P, is now on track to enter mass production in the second half of 2024. Thanks to that shrink, N3P is expected to offer both increased performance efficiency as well as increased transistor density over N3E.

N3E in Production, Yielding Well

With N3E already in volume production, TSMC is reporting that they're seeing "great" yields on the second-generation 3nm-class process note. According to the company, the D0 defect density of N3E is at relative parity with N5, matching the defect rate of the older node for the same point in its respective lifecycle. This is no small feat, given the additional complexities that come with developing one last, ever-finer generation of FinFET technology. So for TSMC's bleeding-edge customers such as Apple, who just launched their M4 SoC, this is allowing them to reap the benefits of the improved process node relatively quickly.

"N3E started volume production in the fourth quarter of last year, as planned," a TSMC executive said at the event. "We have seen great yield performance on customers' products, so they did go to market as planned."

TSMC's N3E node is a relaxed version of N3B, eliminating some EUV layers and completely avoiding the usage of EUV double patterning. This makes it a bit cheaper to produce, and in some cases it widens the process window and yields, though it comes at the cost of some transistor density.

N3P on Track For Second-Half 2024

Meanwhile, looking towards the immediate future at TSMC, N3P has finished qualification and its yield performance is close to N3E, according to the company. Being an optical shrink, the N3P node is set to enable processor developers to either increase performance by 4% at the same leakage or reduce power consumption by 9% at the same clocks (previously the range was between 4% ~ 10% depending on design). The new node is also set to boost transistor density by 4% for a 'mixed' chip design, which TSMC defines as a processor consisting of 50% logic, 30% SRAM, and 20% analog circuits.

Advertised PPA Improvements of New Process Technologies
Data announced during conference calls, events, press briefings and press releases
Power -25-30% -32% -5% ~ 10% higher
Performance +10-15% +18% +5% +5%
Fmax @ 1.2V
Chip Density ? ? 1.04x same
SRAM Cell Size 0.0199µm² (-5% vs N5) 0.021µm² (same as N5) ? ?
Late 2022 H2 2023 H2 2024 2025

While it looks like the original N3 (aka N3B) will have a relatively muted lifecycle since Apple has been its only major customer, N3E will be adopted by a wide range of TSMC's customers, which includes many of the industry's biggest chip designers. 

Since N3P is an optical shrink of N3E, it is compatible with its predecessor in terms of IP blocks, process rules, electronic design automation (EDA) tools, and design methodology. As a result, TSMC expects the majority of new tape outs to use N3P, not N3E or N3. This is logical as N3P provides higher performance efficiency than N3E at a lower cost than N3.

The most important aspect of N3P is that it is on track to be production ready in the second half of this year, so expect chip designers to adopt it straight away. 

"We have also successfully delivered N3P technology," the TSMC executive said. "It has passed qualification and yield performance is close to N3E. [The process technology] has also received product customer tape outs and will start on production in the second half of this year. Because of [PPA advantages] of N3P, we expect the majority of tape outs on N3 to go to N3P."

]]> Wed, 15 May 2024 18:00:00 EDT,21394:news
Supermicro E102-13R-H Review: A Raptor Lake-P 3.5-inch SBC System for Embedded Applications Ganesh T S Single-board computers in the 3.5-inch form-factor have become extremely popular for embedded applications involving a mix of high performance requirements as well as extended peripherals support. Typical use-case scenarios include digital signage, edge inferencing solutions, retail applications, and IoT gateways. The requirements in these segments call for processors and components that can operate in a wide temperature range. The chassis and cooling solution handle other duties such as ruggedness and avoidance of moving parts. The Supermicro X13SRN-H-WOHS is a 3.5-inch SBC with a soldered-down Intel Core i7-1370PE - a Raptor Lake-P embedded processor with vPro support. It has plenty of I/O support, including a SlimSAS PCIe expansion slot. Supermicro also offers a ready-to-deploy solution using the SBC in the actively-cooled SYS-E102-13R-H box PC. This review takes a detailed look at the features and performance profile of the SYS-E102-13R-H, along with an evaluation of the thermal solution.

]]> Tue, 14 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21384:news
Intel Core i9-14900KS Review: The Swan Song of Raptor Lake With A Super Fast 6.2 GHz Turbo Gavin Bonshor For numerous generations of their desktop processor releases, Intel has made available a selection of high-performance special edition "KS" CPUs that add a little extra compared to their flagship chip. With a lot of interest, primarily from the enthusiasts looking for the fastest processors, Intel's latest Core i9-14900KS represents a super-fast addition to its 14th Generation Core lineup with out-of-the-box turbo clock speeds of up to 6.2 GHz and represents the last processor to end an era as Intel is removing the 'i' from its legendary nomenclature for future desktop chip releases.

Reaching speeds of up to 6.2 GHz, this sets up the Core i9-14900KS as the fastest desktop CPU in the world right now, at least in terms of frequencies out of the box. Building on their 'regular' flagship chip, the Core i9-14900, the Core i9-14900KS is also using their refreshed Raptor Lake (RPL-R) 8P+16E core chip design with a 200 MHz higher boost clock speed and also has a 100 MHz bump on P-Core base frequency. 

This new KS series SKU shows Intel's drive to offer an even faster alternative to their desktop regular K series offerings, and with the Core i9-14900KS, they look to provide the best silicon from their Raptor Lake Refresh series with more performance available to unlock to those who can. The caveat is that achieving these ridiculously fast clock speeds of 6.2 GHz on the P-Core comes at the cost of power and heat; keeping a processor pulling upwards of 350 W is a challenge in its own right, and users need to factor this in if even contemplating a KS series SKU.

In our previous KS series review, the Core i9-13900KS reached 360 W at its peak, considerably more than the Core i9-13900K. The Core i9-14900KS, built on the same core architecture, is expected to surpass that even further than the Core i9-14900K. We aim to compare Intel's final Core i series processor to the best of what both Intel and AMD have available, and it will be interesting to see how much performance can be extrapolated from the KS compared to the regular K series SKU.

]]> Fri, 10 May 2024 10:30:00 EDT,21378:news
AMD Hits Record High Share in x86 Desktops and Servers in Q1 2024 Anton Shilov

Coming out of the dark times that preceded the launch of AMD's Zen CPU architecture in 2017, to say that AMD has turned things around on the back of Zen would be an understatement.  Ever since AMD launched its first Zen-based Ryzen and EPYC processors for client and server computers, it has been consistently gaining x86 market share, growing from a bit player to a respectable rival to Intel (and all at Intel's expense).

The first quarter of this year was no exception, according to Mercury Research, as the company achieved record high unit shares on x86 desktop and x86 server CPU markets due to success of its Ryzen 8000-series client products and 4th Generation EPYC processors.

"Mercury noted in their first quarter report that AMD gained significant server and client revenue share driven by growing demand for 4th Gen EPYC and Ryzen 8000 series processors," a statement by AMD reads.

Desktop PCs: AMD Achieves Highest Share in More Than a Decade 

Desktops, particularly DIY desktops, have always been AMD's strongest market. After the company launched its Ryzen processors in 2017, it doubled its presence in desktops in just three years. But in the recent years the company had to prioritize production of more expensive CPUs for datacenters, which lead to some erosion of its desktop and mobile market shares.

As the company secured more capacity at TSMC, it started to gradually increase production of desktop processors. In Q4 last year it introduced its Zen 4-based Ryzen 8000/Ryzen 8000 Pro processors for mainstream desktops, which appeared to be pretty popular with PC makers.

As a result of this and other factors, AMD increased unit sales of its desktop CPUs by 4.7% year-over-year in Q1 2024 and its market share achieved 23.9%, which is the highest desktop CPU market share the company commanded in over a decade. Interestingly, AMD does not attribute its success on the desktop front to any particular product or product family, which implies that there are multiple factors at play.

Mobile PCs: A Slight Drop for AMD amid Intel's Meteor Lake Ramp

AMD has been gradually regaining its share inside laptops for about 1.5 years now and sales of its Zen 4-based Ryzen 7040-series processors were quite strong in Q3 2023 and Q4 2023, when the company's unit share increased to 19.5% and 20.3%, respectively, as AMD-based notebook platforms ramped up. By contrast, Intel's Core Ultra 'Meteor Lake' powered machines only began to hit retail shelves in Q4'23, which affected sales of its processors for laptops.

In the first quarter AMD's unit share on the market of CPUs for notebooks decreased to 19.3%, down 1% sequentially. Meanwhile, the company still demonstrated significant year-over-year unit share increase of 3.1% and revenue share increase of 4%, which signals rising average selling price of AMD's latest Ryzen processors for mobile PCs.

Client PCs: Slight Gain for AMD, Small Loss for Intel

Overall, Intel remained the dominant force in client PC sales in the first quarter of 2024, with a 79.4% market share, leaving 20.6% for AMD. This is not particularly surprising given how strong and diverse Intel's client products lineup is. Even with continued success, it will take AMD years to grow sales by enough to completely flip the market.

But AMD actually gained a 0.3% unit share sequentially and a 3.6% unit share year-over year. Notably, however, AMD's revenue share of client PC market is significantly lower than its unit share (16.3% vs 20.6%), so the company is still somewhat pigeonholed into selling more budget and fewer premium processors overall. But the company still made a strong 3.8% gain since the first quarter 2023, when its revenue share was around 12.5% amid unit share of 17%.

Servers: AMD Grabs Another Piece of the Market

AMD's EPYC datacenter processors are undeniably the crown jewel of the company's CPU product lineup. While AMD's market share in desktops and laptops fluctuated in the recent years, the company has been steadily gaining presence in servers both in terms of units and in terms of revenue in the highly lucrative (and profitable) server market.

In Q1 2024, AMD's unit share on the market of CPUs for servers increased to 23.6%, a 0.5% gain sequentially and a massive 5% gain year-over-year driven by the ramp of platforms based on AMD's 4th Generation EPYC processors. With a 76.4% unit market share, Intel continues to dominate in servers, but it is evident that AMD is getting stronger.

AMD's revenue share of the x86 server market reached 33%, up 5.2% year-over-year and 1.2% from the previous quarter. This signals that the company is gaining traction in expensive machines with advanced CPUs. Keeping in mind that for now Intel does not have direct rivals for AMD's 96-core and 128-core processors, it is no wonder that AMD has done so well growing their share of the server market.

"As we noted during our first quarter earnings call, server CPU sales increased YoY driven by growth in enterprise adoption and expanded cloud deployments," AMD said in a statement.

]]> Fri, 10 May 2024 07:00:00 EDT,21392:news
Sabrent Launches Rocket Nano M.2-2242 SSD: Up to 5 GB/sec Anton Shilov

Sabrent tends to get into news when it launches ultra-high-performance SSDs for enthusiast-grade desktops, but this week the company introduced a completely different type of product: a small form-factor M.2-2242 SSD aimed at Lenovo's Legion Go handheld and ultra-thin laptops that don't accomodate M.2-2280 drives. And even though it's not an enthusiast-grade drive, the Rocket Nano still boasts with quite decent performance and capacity.

The Sabrent Rocket Nano 2242 (SB-2142) drive is based on the Phison E27T platform, a PCIe 4.0 x4 controller that is that is designed for mainstream DRAM-less SSDs, and in the case of the Rocket Nano, is paired with 3D TLC memory. The SSD is available in a single 1TB configuration, and is rated for read speeds up to 5 GB/s. Interestingly, the Phison E27T controller itself is rated for read speeds up to 7 GB/s, so it appears that the petite Rocket Nano isn't making full use of the controller's performance.

Sabrent positions its Rocket Nano 2242 SSD as drives for upgrading Lenovo's Legion Go portable game console, select Lenovo ThinkPad laptops, and other M.2-2242-sized PCs that can't accomodate larger 2280 drives. Keeping in mind that most devices shipping with M.2-2242 SSDscome with pretty slow stock drives, Sabrent solution seems to be a viable product for such upgrades. All the while, Sabrent's Rocket Nano 2242 will also work in systems with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, so the market for these drives is pretty wide.

Sabrent's Rocket Nano 2242 SSD 1 TB (SB-2142-1TB) SSD has a recommended price of $99.99, which is more or less in line with other 1 TB drives in the same form-factor and offering comparable performance. The SSD is currently available at Amazon for $101.

Sources: Tom's Hardware, Sabrent

]]> Thu, 09 May 2024 08:00:00 EDT,21391:news
Micron Ships Crucial-Branded LPCAMM2 Memory Modules: 64GB of LPDDR5X For $330 Anton Shilov

As LPCAMM2 adoption begins, the first retail memory modules are finally starting to hit the retail market, courtesy of Micron. The memory manufacturer has begun selling their LPDDR5X-based LPCAMM2 memory modules under their in-house Crucial brand, making them available on the latter's storefront. Timed to coincide with the release of Lenovo's ThinkPad P1 Gen 7 laptop – the first retail laptop designed to use the memory modules – this marks the de facto start of the eagerly-awaited modular LPDDR5X memory era.

Micron's Low Power Compression Attached Memory Module 2 (LPCAMM2) modules are available in capacities of 32 GB and 64 GB. These are dual-channel modules that feature a 128-bit wide interface, and are based around LPDDR5X memory running at data rates up to 7500 MT/s. This gives a single LPCAMM2 a peak bandwidth of 120 GB/s. Micron is not disclosing the latencies of its LPCAMM2 memory modules, but it says that high data transfer rates of LPDDR5X compensate for the extended timings.

Micron says that LPDDR5X memory offers significantly lower power consumption, with active power per 64-bit bus being 43-58% lower than DDR5 at the same speed, and standby power up to 80% lower. Meanwhile, similar to DDR5 modules, LPCAMM2 modules include a power management IC and voltage regulating circuitry, which provides module manufacturers additional opportunities to reduce power consumption of their products.

Source: Micron LPDDR5X LPCAMM2 Technical Brief

It's worth noting, however, that at least for the first generation of LPCAMM2 modules, system vendors will need to pick between modularity and performance. While soldered-down LPDDR5X memory is available at speeds up to 8533 MT/sec – and with 9600 MT/sec on the horizon – the fastest LPCAMM2 modules planned for this year by both Micron and rival Samsung will be running at 7500 MT/sec. So vendors will have to choose between the flexibility of offering modular LPDDR5X, or the higher bandwidth (and space savings) offered by soldering down their memory.

Micron, for its part, is projecting that 9600 MT/sec LPCAMM2 modules will be available by 2026. Though it's all but certain that faster memory will also be avaialble in the same timeframe.

Micron's Crucial LPDDR5X 32 GB module costs $174.99, whereas a 64 GB module costs $329.99.

]]> Wed, 08 May 2024 18:30:00 EDT,21390:news
Intel Issues Official Statement Regarding 14th and 13th Gen Instability, Recommends Intel Default Settings Gavin Bonshor

Further to our last piece which we detailed Intel's issue to motherboard vendors to follow with stock power settings for Intel's 14th and 13th Gen Core series processors, Intel has now issued a follow-up statement to this. Over the last week or so, motherboard vendors quickly released firmware updates with a new profile called 'Intel Baseline', which motherboard vendors assumed would address the instability issues. 

As it turns out, Intel doesn't seem to accept this as technically, these Intel Baseline profiles are not to be confused with Intel's default specifications. This means that Intel's Baseline profiles seemingly give the impression that they are operating at default settings, hence the terminology 'baseline' used, but this still opens motherboard vendors to use their interpretations of MCE or Multi-Core Enhancement.

To clarify things for consumers, Intel has sent us the following statement:

Several motherboard manufacturers have released BIOS profiles labeled ‘Intel Baseline Profile’. However, these BIOS profiles are not the same as the 'Intel Default Settings' recommendations that Intel has recently shared with its partners regarding the instability issues reported on 13th and 14th gen K SKU processors.

These ‘Intel Baseline Profile’ BIOS settings appear to be based on power delivery guidance previously provided by Intel to manufacturers describing the various power delivery options for 13th and 14th Generation K SKU processors based on motherboard capabilities.

Intel is not recommending motherboard manufacturers to use ‘baseline’ power delivery settings on boards capable of higher values.

Intel’s recommended ‘Intel Default Settings’ are a combination of thermal and power delivery features along with a selection of possible power delivery profiles based on motherboard capabilities.

Intel recommends customers to implement the highest power delivery profile compatible with each individual motherboard design as noted in the table below:

Click to Enlarge Intel's Default Settings

What Intel's statement is effectively saying to consumers, is that users shouldn't be using the Baseline Power Delivery profiles which are offered by motherboard vendors through a plethora of firmware updates. Instead, Intel is recommending users opt for Intel Default Settings, which follows what the specific processor is rated for by Intel out of the box to achieve the clock speeds advertised, without users having to worry about firmware 'over' optimization which can cause instability as there have been many reports of happening.

Not only this, but the Intel Default settings offer a combination of thermal specifications and power capabilities, including voltage and frequency curve settings that apply to the capability of the motherboard used, and the power delivery equipped on the motherboard. At least for the most part, Intel is recommending users with 14th and 13th-Gen Core series K, KF, and KS SKUs that they do not recommend users opt in using the Baseline profiles offered by motherboard vendors.

Digesting the contrast between the two statements, the key differential is that Intel's priority is reducing the current going through the processor, which for both the 14th and 13th Gen Core series processors is a maximum of 400 A, even when using the Extreme profile. We know those motherboard vendors on their Z790 and Z690 motherboards opt for an unrestricted power profile, which is essentially 'unlimited' power and current to maximize performance at the cost of power consumption and heat, which does exacerbate problems and can lead to frequent bouts of instability, especially on high-intensity workloads.

Another variable Intel is recommending is that the AC Load Line must match the design target of the processor, with a maximum value of 1.1 mOhm, and that the DC Load Line must be equal to the AC Load Line; not above or below this recommendation for maximum stability. Intel also recommends that CEP, eTVB, C-states, TVB, and TVB Voltage Optimizations be active on the Extreme profile to ensure stability and performance are consistent.

Given Intel is essentially recommending users not to use what motherboard vendors are offering to fix, we agree that when motherboards come out of the box, they should operate at 'Default' settings until asked otherwise. We understand that motherboard vendors have the desire to showcase what they can do with their wares, features, and firmware, but ultimately there is some real lack of communication between Intel and its partners regarding this issue.

Following Intel's statement, they do recommend customers implement the highest power delivery profile which is compatible with the caliber of motherboard used by following the specification and design. According to Intel, this isn't open for interpretation despite what motherboard vendors have offered so far, and we do expect that there is likely to be more to come in this saga of constant developments regarding the instability issue.

]]> Wed, 08 May 2024 10:05:00 EDT,21389:news
ASUS to Unveil First Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite-Based Laptop On May 20th Anton Shilov

Asus on Tuesday said that it would announce its first 'AI PC' based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite system-on-chips later this month. The new laptop is set to be introduced at the Next Level. AI Incredible virtual launch event on May 20.

The launch of Asustek's new Vivobook S 15 will be hosted by Asus and will be joined by representatives of Qualcomm and Microsoft, who will reveal how they collaborated with PC maker to develop the first notebook based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite processors. These new SoCs promise to have a significant impact on the PC market in the coming quarters as they are based on the Arm instruction set architecture and are expected to bring together high performance, on-device AI acceleration, and long battery life. 

Qualcomm itself calls systems powered by its Snapdragon processors as AI PCs, which is exactly how Asus calls it Vivobook S15 as well. Meanwhile, the only things we know about the machine for now is that it will be based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite or Snapdragon X Plus processors with 12 or 10 Oryon CPU cores (originally developed by Nuvia), a high-end Adreno GPU, and a 45 TOPS NPU; will come in a metallic chassis, and will feature a 15-inch display.

"The launch event, which will feature a collaboration between Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Asus, celebrates the first of the new-era Asus AI PCs, which are set to redefine the very fabric of computing," a statement by Asus reads. "The new laptop will usher in a new era of Asus AI PCs, breaking traditional boundaries and harnessing advanced AI capabilities. With comprehensive support for the latest AI functionality from Asus and Microsoft, it offers personalized AI experiences tailored to individual requirements."

Asus is also scheduled showcase its Vivobook laptops based on Qualcomm's processors at Computex in June. Actual systems will be available later this year.

]]> Tue, 07 May 2024 15:30:00 EDT,21388:news
Upcoming AMD Ryzen AI 9 HX 170 Processor Leaked By ASUS? Gavin Bonshor

In what appears to be a mistake or a jump of the gun by ASUS, they have seemingly published a list of specifications for one of its key notebooks that all but allude to the next generation of AMD's mobile processors. While we saw AMD toy with a new nomenclature for their Phoenix silicon (Ryzen 7040 series), it seems as though AMD is once again changing things around where their naming scheme for processors is concerned.

The ASUS listing, which has now since been deleted, but as of writing is still available through Google's cache, highlights a model that is already in existence, the VivoBook S 16 OLED (M5606), but is listed with an unknown AMD Ryzen AI 9 HX 170 processor. Which, based on its specificiations, is certainly not part of the current Hawk Point (Phoenix/Phoenix 2) platform.

The cache on Google shows the ASUS Vivobook S 16 OLED with a Ryzen AI 9 HX 170 Processor

While it does happen in this industry occasionally, what looks like an accidental leak by ASUS on one of their product pages has unearthed an unknown processor from AMD. This first came to our attention via a post on Twitter by user @harukaze5719. While we don't speculate on rumors, we confirmed this ourselves by digging through Google's cache. Sure enough, as the image above from Google highlights, it lists a newly unannounced model of Ryzen mobile processor. Under the listing via the product compare section for the ASUS Vivobook S 16 OLED (M5606) notebook, it is listed with the AMD Ryzen AI 9 HX 170, which appears to be one of AMD's upcoming Zen 5-based mobile chips codenamed Strix Point.

So with the seemingly new nomenclature that AMD has gone with, it has a clear focus on AI, or rather Ryzen AI, by including it in the name. The Ryzen AI 9 HX 170 looks set to be a 12C/24T Zen 5 mobile variant, with their Ryzen AI NPU or similar integrated within the chip. Given that Microsoft has defined that only processors with an NPU with 45 TOPS of performance or over constitute being considered an 'AI PC', it's likely the Xilinx (now AMD Xilinx) based NPU will meet these requirements as the listing states the chip has up to 77 TOPS of AI performance available. The HX series is strikingly similar to AMD's (and Intel's) previous HX naming series for their desktop replacement SKUs for laptops, so assuming any of the details of ASUS's error are correct, then this is presumably a very high-end, high-TDP part.

AMD Laptop Roadmap from Zen 2 in 2019 to Zen 5 on track for release in 2024

We've known for some time that AMD plans to release AMD's Zen 5-based Strix Point line-up sometime in 2024. Given the timing of Computex 2024, which is just over four weeks away, we still don't quite have the full picture of Zen 5's performance and its architectural shift over Zen 4. AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su also confirmed that Zen 5 will come with enhanced RDNA graphics within the Strix Point SoC by stating "Strix combines our next-gen Zen 5 core with enhanced RDNA graphics and an updated Ryzen AI engine to significantly increase the performance, energy efficiency, and AI capabilities of PCs,"

While it's entirely possible as we lead up to Computex 2024 that AMD is prepared to announce more details about Zen 5, nothing is confirmed. We do know that the CEO of AMD, Dr. Lisa Su is scheduled to deliver the opening keynote of the show, Dr. Lisa Su unveiled their Zen 4 microarchitecture at Computex 2022 during AMD's keynote and even unveiled their 3D V-Cache stacking, which we know today as the Ryzen X3D CPUs back at Computex 2021.

With that in mind, AMD and Dr. Lisa Su love to announce new products and architectures at Computex, so we just have to wait until the beginning of next month. How AMD denotes the nomenclature for the upcoming Zen 5 mobile and desktop processors remains to be seen, but hopefully, all will be revealed soon. Regarding the ASUS Vivobook S 16 OLED (M5606), we currently don't know any of the other specifications at this time. Still, we expect them to be available once AMD has updated us with information on Zen 5 and Strix Point.

]]> Tue, 07 May 2024 14:25:00 EDT,21386:news