This week, Intel is also back in the news, as CEO Pat Gelsinger continues to make newsworthy quotes that the company may or may not live up to. Only time will tell.
Elsewhere, we have a bit of news on Nvidia looking to sway the European Union and European Commission in favor of its proposed purchase of Arm. We also have Microsoft appearing to embrace repairability, with a set of repair minded initiatives to be deployed by the end of 2022. There’s also big news for AMD, including an update on AMD’s B2 stepping for Ryzen 5000, and more.
05:37 | AMD’s 3D V-Cache CPUs & Response to Intel
AMD hosted a “5 years of Zen” talk on YouTube, where it discussed some broad, high-level aspects of Zen and Ryzen architecture and launches. The talk wasn’t particularly technical and, if you’ve been paying attention for a few years, you likely know most of the story; it is, however, a good catching-up point if you’re new to all of this. AMD wasn’t always competitive.
More importantly for daily conversation, the video talked about some of AMD’s upcoming launches. We’ll highlight those briefly:
AMD talked about mixed CPU cores on the same design or product, clearly a reference to Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake CPUs with both performance and efficiency cores. We have a separate architectural piece talking about this design decision from Intel. As for AMD, the company more or less confirmed that it isn’t planning to go this route anytime soon; at least, not with its desktop CPUs. AMD said:
“Mixed cores is one approach. The Android ecosystem did that a long time ago. But the way we plan to do it is going back to our roots: We built a core that is physically much smaller than what other companies were building in the x86 land, and when you pack that together with process, packaging leadership […] we are the power efficiency leader today. […] We know that having a number of high-performance, very capable Zen cores, is the answer to performance leadership, too. We’re looking at the dynamic range of what those cores can do from low power to high performance, and we know we have the recipe for success there.”
AMD pointed out that addressing a big-little combination would be challenging in software, alluding to scheduling, and is justified in this call-out. Intel has big plans for thread scheduling via its Thread Director solution, but AMD indicated that it plans to stick to the dynamic range offered by Zen architecture instead.
AMD also reminded everyone that socket AM4 is nearing end-of-life, but stated that there will be a 3D V-Cache chip available in early 2022, socketable in AM4. That’ll be the impressive and unexpected CPU we saw at AMD’s Computex keynote. AMD is still noting that the 3D V-Cache solution is, on average, about 15% higher performance in games than its non-stacked cache chip options. That’s the same number it gave during prototype stages several months ago, so this is consistent.
As a reminder, these CPUs can host up to 192MB of L3, thanks to an additional 64MB supported by the hybrid bonding of additional SRAM atop the CPU silicon. This stacked approach gets sanded down to the same z-height and package size as existing chips, and direct copper-to-copper supports better thermal transfer.
09:10 | AMD’s New Platform: Cooling, RAM, & PCIe
AMD’s other announcements included a reminder that 2022 will yield a new Ryzen platform with DDR5 and PCIe Gen5, at least eventually, and the company clarified that existing coolers that are supported on AM4 will remain functional on its next platform, whatever that ends up getting called. This is important: Coolers are one of the easiest things to transplant and also one of the most wasteful to discard for an upgrade, seeing as they’re mostly just copper and aluminum.
AMD emphasized “It will have Gen5” a second time, a response to some rumors previously on the web. It may be the case that the platform starts with Gen4 and transitions to 5; as of now, AMD’s phrasing was ambiguous enough to render this unclear. All that is clear is that Gen5 will happen on this platform at least eventually, if not immediately.
Finally, AMD noted that it is working on improving other accelerators outside of just the hardware. AMD indicated improved power management routines in firmware to better maximize power efficiency in notebooks (in particular). AMD also talked about additional technology, like machine learning to correct eyes in video capture to appear as if they’re looking at the camera, rather than at the screen. This particular idea verges on “creepy” territory for us, as video professionals, but we understand the idea.
11:55 | Ryzen Performance in Windows 11 Addressed
The past week or so, AMD has been in discussion relating to Windows 11 performance degradation claimed upwards of 15% on Ryzen. Although this is often a scheduling issue on an OS, an inbound Windows 11 patch aims to update a CPPC issue (CPPC is used as a mechanism to control CPU behavior and power consumption) that was causing performance degradation versus Windows 10. That update is due out October 21. An October 19 update will fix an L3 Cache latency issue, also responsible for causing AMD-specific performance issues in Windows 11.
12:50 | AMD’s Revised B2 Silicon for Ryzen 5000 Spotted
A few months ago, the internet heated-up with rumors of a Ryzen 5000 refresh, primarily fueled by a possible new B2 stepping for Ryzen 5000 SKUs. That rumor was thoroughly debunked, and even AMD clarified that while the new B2 stepping did exist, it would carry no performance enhancements or extra functionality, but would instead improve AMD’s manufacturing and logistics capabilities. AMD was vague in its language regarding the B2 stepping, but it was obviously aimed at improving availability, and perhaps optimizing yields.
At the time, AMD cited a 6-month timeline to transition in-market Ryzen 5000 silicon (B0) over to the revised B2 stepping. Around 5 months later, it seems AMD is ahead of schedule, as reputable hardware leaker @momomo_us has spotted support for AMD’s B2 stepping on AM4 motherboards from ASrock, MSI, and Asus.
There doesn’t appear to be anything users need to do to support AMD’s revised B2 silicon, as motherboard vendors already have the B2 stepping to their motherboard support lists; no BIOS updates required. We still don’t don’t know what exactly AMD has changed with B2, but the change is supposed to enable better manufacturing of Zen 3 chips. It is possible that this will have no meaningful impact for end users, perhaps aside from better volt-frequency metrics.
14:19 | Intel 6-Core 12400 Competitive with 5600X
New leaks from the Bilibili forums, found by @9550pro, allege via Cinebench scoring that the upcoming Intel i5-12400 will be competitive with the AMD R5. The CPU-z screenshots indicate a p-core-only configuration, ditching the efficiency cores that are combined with higher-end parts.
Early leaks, if valid, suggest a 6C/12T, 4GHz all-core and 4.4GHz singl-ecore boost yields a score roughly on-par with or better than an R5 5600X. Given that Intel’s **400 series CPUs have thus far been about $180, that would make the 12400 a serious competitor to the more expensive 5600X. Hopefully Intel puts some pressure on AMD — we could use more AMD CPUs in this generation.
15:54 | NVIDIA Offers 0.25% of ARM Buyout as Concession
As the scrutiny over the Nvidia-Arm deal continues to heat up, Bloomberg is reporting that Nvidia is prepared to make certain concessions in order to sway regulators as the European Commission extends its probe until October 27th. While the European Commission (EU) did not disclose any details on what those concessions looked like, Nvidia has previously vowed to invest no less than $100M in a UK supercomputer in an attempt to woo regulators. For perspective, that is 0.25% of the total $40 billion offered for ARM previously, although we’ve seen some recent reporting elsewhere that suggests $54 billion. Frankly, at either scale, it makes $100 million look like pennies — although politicians in charge of the matter may be swayed.
Furthermore, Nvidia continues to frame the proposed Arm acquisition as one that is complimentary, rather than contradictory. The general pitch is that Nvidia isn’t a serious competitor in the CPU business, and Arm doesn’t offer a serious GPU solution outside of its Mali architecture that is licensed for various SoC implementations.
With the EU’s probe being extended, there’s a couple of ways it could play out. The EU will solicit and collect feedback from relevant competitors and customers ahead of a decision on whether or not to accept the offered concessions. The EU could then reject the concessions outright, or demand more from Nvidia. Also, the EU could elect to open a four-month long investigation, and at this point, that seems like the most likely option.
Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) has its own probe that most recently entered phase 2, and is expected to take no less than 24 weeks to conclude, and could take as long as 32 weeks. The CMA has continued to cite concerns over national security as it reviews the proposed Nvidia-Arm deal, and that’s on top of the antitrust concerns that have piled up from the start.
18:27 | Intel Is Back and AMD’s Lead Is Over, or So Says Intel CEO
Since taking the reins from the benchmark-hating, bean-counting Bob Swan, Pat Gelsinger has re-emphasized the need for an engineering-minded approach at Intel. This started with IDM 2.0 — Gelsinger’s multi-level strategy for regaining “product leadership.”
During a recent interview with CRN, Gelsinger had a lot to say about Intel’s plans to take back leadership from AMD with the upcoming Alderlake & Sapphire CPUs.
“So this period of time when people could say, ‘Hey, [AMD] is leading,’ that’s over. We are back with a very defined view of what it requires to be leadership in every dimension: leadership product, leadership [chip] packaging, leadership process, leadership software, unquestioned leadership on critical new workloads like AI, graphics, media, power-performance, enabling again the ecosystem. This is what we will be doing with aggressive actions and programs over the next couple of years.”
Gelsinger further stated “And yeah, AMD has done a solid job over the last couple of years. We won’t dismiss them of the good work that they’ve done, but that’s over with Alder Lake and Sapphire Rapids.”
“Intel is back. These are the best products in their category. We have the best supply situation. We have the best quality software assets. The most respected, venerable technology brand in the industry,” Gelsinger concluded.
Gelsinger’s comments weren’t limited to AMD as he also drew parallels between how Steve Jobs left Apple for several years, then came back to take Apple into a very new era. “Steve Jobs had an 11-year vacation from Apple. I had an 11-year vacation as well. And in it, I learned a lot of things,” said Gelsinger. Gelsinger went on to say that Intel is working at a “torrid pace” in making the company an unquestioned leader in every market it competes in.
Gelsinger also touched on Apple weaning itself off of Intel CPUs, and Intel’s plans for the ecosystem and its channel partners.
21:09 | Noctua Releases Expensive Fans in Black
Noctua, king of trading on reputation in cooling products, recently released its new chromax.Black variations of the NH-U12A, priced at a staggering $120, the NF-A12x25 fans at $33, and some $20 heatsink covers in the NA-HC7 and HC8 series.
Some of these were already disproportionately expensive compared to alternatives, and a lot of that can be justified in brand credibility and reputation; however, price increasing further still for this new color variation starts pushing some of the products into territory of being maybe untenable. It’s for true Noctua fans, in that regard.
The new line is called chromax.black and is available already. Let us know what you think of this deviation from brown below.
22:18 | Microsoft, Longtime Opponent of Right To Repair, Open to Repairability
Microsoft, a company that’s long been a staunch opponent against the right to repair movement, has seemingly done a 180 on the issue of repairability. Microsoft’s change in tune is a direct response to a shareholder resolution filed back in June 2021, which implored Microsoft to analyze the social and environmental benefits of more easily repairable devices. Microsoft shareholders opted to use As You Sow, a non-profit specializing in shareholder advocacy, as the lead filer for the resolution in a bid to ratchet up pressure on the software giant.
The move seems to have worked, as Microsoft has agreed to a number of concessions in exchange for the withdrawal of the shareholder resolution. Among them are:
- Complete a third-party study evaluating the environmental and social impacts associated with increasing consumer access to repair and determine new mechanisms to increase access to repair, including for Surface devices and Xbox consoles;
- Expand the availability of certain parts and repair documentation beyond Microsoft’s Authorized Service Provider network; and
- Initiate new mechanisms to enable and facilitate local repair options for consumers.
As You Sow states that Microsoft will increase consumers’ options to repair their devices by the end of 2022, which is likely the timeline Microsoft has given for the aforementioned initiatives. As Grist reports, this victory is the first of its kind — but it likely won’t be last. As the right to repair continues to gain steam, it’s become apparent that investor pressure is where the carrot meets the stick for companies opposing the right to repair.
Similar shareholder resolutions have also been filed with Apple and John Deere, both of which have extensive history in opposing the right to repair.
24:31 | PCIe 6.0 Hits Final Draft, Version 1.0 Next
The PCI-SIG is finally ready to announce that PCIe 6.0 has reached its final draft, version 0.9. This is the last draft for the spec as it moves into a two month review period ahead of a full version 1.0 release. Assuming there’s no hiccups during the review period (namely any legal issues), version 1.0 should be announced in December.
Version 0.9 puts the final specifications in stone, and that includes:
- 64 GT/s data rate and up to 256 GB/s via x16 configuration, doubling the bandwidth of the PCIe 5.0 specification
- PAM-4 (Pulse Amplitude Modulation with 4 levels) encoding and leverages existing 56G PAM-4
- FLIT (flow control unit)-based encoding
- Low-latency Forward Error Correction (FEC)
- Backwards compatibility with all previous generations of PCIe technology
As a reminder, remember that updates to the ubiquitous PCIe bus have a very long gestation period, and also a very long time to market. PCIe 5.0 was officially ratified in 2019, and we’re still awaiting PCIe 5.0 compliant devices. While members of the PCI-SIG are already working on PCIe 6.0 IP and patents, it’ll be at least two years before we see any end devices.