Hardware news this week talks about vulnerabilities found and patched on several AMD and Intel motherboards, including Gigabyte and ASUS boards. We’ll also be talking about NVIDIA’s Lovelace GPUs (RTX 40 series), competition to Intel’s in-bound i3 CPUs (via AMD), Montech taking GN criticism seriously, and more.
Article below the video.
01:00 | GN Store Charity Drive
For the end of 2021, GN is donating 10% of its total store revenue from now until December 15, 2021 to the Eden Reforestation Projects. We’ve worked with Eden Reforestation Projects several years in a row now and love what they do: The organization supports people in need by creating long-term jobs revolving around reforesting deforested land, which restores local economies, supports the people in the community, and also prevents further habitat loss (and actually restores habitat) for local wildlife. GN’s Steve will be matching the resultant 10% of store revenue at the end of the campaign.
GN’s store can be found here: https://store.gamersnexus.net/
We currently have Volt Modmats on back-order and shipping within just a few weeks, so if you want to get one, place an order soon. Our toolkits are also on back-order, and all back-orders count toward this 10% contribution. T-shirts, bar mats, and mouse mats and pads are also available now.
05:54 | Nvidia Lovelace & Hopper to Use TSMC Silicon
Now that the market is fully saturated with RTX 30-series cards, including many, many options under $300 that expands the whole range, NVIDIA is primed to move on to something new. After all, it would be really insulting if there were two companies with competitive GPUs and a year after launching a new generation there were no new cards with an MSRP under $300.
Nvidia’s next generation architecture for datacenter & server GPUs has been codenamed Hopper; meanwhile, the architecture for consumer GPUs has been named Lovelace. Both Hopper & Lovelace GPUs will use the TSMC N5 process node. Currently, Nvidia uses Samsung silicon for the Ampere GPUs, but it has used TSMC for several products before. For the datacenter GA100, Nvidia uses TSMC N7, and that’s an actively sold part. After a year of supply chain issues, Nvidia is moving from a diversified silicon supply chain to a consolidated source.
This would mean that Nvidia will be splitting its supply from TSMC between consumer and datacenter, rather than each one having discrete sources. The argument from Digitimes (via TomsHardware) for solely using TSMC is that a larger order will result in a larger allocation of silicon from TSMC. Only time will tell if this strategy works out in the real world.
08:37 | New GPUs: “Fine. I’ll do it myself.”
In HW News not too long ago, we ran a piece that the RTX 2060 was going to be revived (again), and this time with an expanded 12GB of VRAM. As it turns out, Nvidia needn’t bother finish those plans, because a Russian modder has beaten them to the punch. VIK-on is no novice when it comes to slapping more memory modules onto a GPU: He’s made a name for himself equipping 2070s and 3070s with 16GB somewhat recently. This time, the modder is giving an Asus RTX 2060 Turbo a few more Samsung GDDR6 2GB modules to play with. Disappointingly, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, VIK-on didn’t see much of a difference between the 6GB and 12GB versions in the few tests that he did run. This is hardly conclusive and we’ll have to wait till we get our own 12GB RTX 2060 to see if we can find a difference elsewhere, but this mod still leaves us wondering why the RTX 2060 is getting more memory.
VIK-on’s video on YT (Russian language): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8UA3piBXDc
11:14 | Rumor: AMD Prepping for Intel i3 CPUs
In a leak posted by rèxīn shìmín miáo biān guài on the Chiphell forums, AMD is preparing to launch a Zen 2-based “Renoir X” CPU for socket AM4, which guài xian1sheng1 says will be Ryzen 4000G components without the IGP or with a stripped-down one. The Ryzen 4000 series of CPUs never made it onto this channel (or most others, for that matter), because it was largely an OEM-only launch of APUs for pre-built machines. Because these are Zen 2, they’re on older technology than the modern 5000-series CPUs, and so they’re not going to be competitive at the high-end. They may be enough to compete with Intel’s inbound Core i3 CPUs launching early next year, but since we don’t have those yet, we can’t be certain.
AMD could refresh the 4000 series as low-end R3 parts by using poor silicon or fusing off the IGPs, making use of existing stock. These will likely be the last CPUs on AM4.
13:26 | Montech Takes GN Seriously, Changing Case
We’ve had one neutral-to-positive review of a Montech case and one negative one, with the latest being the Montech Air 1000 Lite. We found that the case called itself “Air,” but didn’t actually have enough porosity to allow sufficient air into the chassis. It ended up being a poor thermal performer despite overall acceptable build quality.
Montech’s representative emailed us a few weeks ago to inform us of incoming changes to the cases, and we wanted to share that with you all:
Hey Steve & Patrick,
After your video came out, Montech has taken the suggestions seriously.
- They will be updating the new batches of the Air 1000 mesh with: DIAMETER = 2.0, PITCH = 2.8, OPEN POROSITY = 46.2% (also see image below). Any customer that got the old mesh, can also apply for a free new mesh by applying on the Montech website: https://www.montechpc.com/en/contact.php
- The glass buckle will been improved
- Front 2 fans will be installed in the second and third positions
This is an excellent response and is exactly how a company should respond. With an attitude like this, we’re looking forward to where Montech goes in the future.
Source: Email to GN
17:43 | Intel’s Secret Weapon in Security Research
Last year, we had fun putting together a piece compiling and testing 10 years of Intel CPUs. We went back to 2500K & 2600K and ran almost every generation since in a series of benchmarks. In an exclusive with the Wall Street Journal, Intel detailed its own historical efforts with CPUs, talking about its “Long-Term Retention Lab” located at the company’s Costa Rica facility. With another catchy Intel name, the Long-Term Retention Lab started up in 2019 as a response to the growing security issues being discovered in Intel CPUs.
One of the more amusing details of the new lab is that, despite having made the CPUs in the first place, Intel had to take to Ebay to find some of the older processors — Sandy Bridge was specifically named for this. Intel, we can spot you next time — just ask. If we don’t have it in our trays, we probably have it in our pile of donor CPUs. To accommodate a decade of technological development (and some stagnation), the engineers at the LTRL had to dig up architectural materials for many generations of CPU and, at times, they even had to dig up engineers who no longer worked at Intel at all for more details. The project is an impressive one, with plans to expand up to 27000 square feet with 6000 pieces of equipment. The lab gets requests to run different specific configurations constantly from other Intel facilities and teams, one of the engineers on the project said they get 1000 requests a month. The lab runs 24/7 with 25 technicians on hand at any given time to keep the tests going.
20:30 | Sapphire Launches Something Out of Date
In 2016, Razer took the PC gaming world by storm when it launched the Razer Core X external GPU. The entire industry changed and, because it’s the future, now everyone uses an external GPU…
Well, one bit of that is true anyway: Razer did sell an external GPU enclosure and we’d like to hear from all three of you in the comments. There is a reason we’re talking about the Core X though and that’s because Sapphire wants in on the action. At a time when no one can keep GPUs on the shelves and people will buy a GPU even when it’s packaged with a bomb, Sapphire has decided to package its GPUs with a case that can’t fit anything else and a Thunderbolt 3 connection. It’s a great way to dump inventory.
The sleek aluminum chassis is reminiscent of the Apple system we restored last year and inside is a Sapphire Pulse RX 6600 XT. We haven’t tested Sapphire’s 6600 XT, but broadly speaking, we’ve been impressed with Sapphire’s build quality in the past. That includes the RX 6700 XT Nitro we did a teardown on earlier this year. It’s reasonable to think that Sapphire’s execution of the RX 6600 XT will also be good.
Frankly though, we were disappointed with the price-to-performance of the “mid-tier” GPUs this generation, but with the context of the constant supply issues this past year that really hasn’t even factored into it. We had trouble justifying eGPUs five years ago and with how hard it is just getting a GPU nowadays, they seem even more pointless now.
22:13 | SMM Vulnerabilities Revealed
We recently received a tip from a viewer that Gigabyte has updated the BIOS version description on a couple of AMD boards (B550 and X570, at least) to state “Major vulnerabilities updates, customers are strongly encouraged to update to this release at the earliest [opportunity]” and “Customers will NOT be able to reverse to previous BIOS version due to major vulnerabilities concerns.” Non-specific credit is given to Assaf Carlsbad and Itai Liba, respectively a Security Researcher and a Senior Security Researcher at cybersecurity company SentinelOne. On further investigation, we found the same patch notes on multiple other Gigabyte boards, including Intel boards.
Carlsbad and Liba have recently collaborated on a software tool called Brick that automates checking for System Management Mode vulnerabilities. SMM is responsible for low-level system interactions like setting fan curves and clock speeds, as well as myriad other things like managing the TPM, which explains the gravity of Gigabyte’s response. Our assumption is either that the SentinelOne team used Brick to dig up and report weak points in Gigabyte’s BIOS, or more likely that Gigabyte is patching around the broader vulnerabilities whose discoveries are credited to Carlsbad and Liba. There’s no reason to think that Gigabyte is the only vendor affected–keep an eye on BIOS patch notes from all companies in the near future. Carlsbad in particular has been posting a flood of Brick-discovered CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) as confirmed and addressed by Intel, Lenovo, ASUS, and of course Gigabyte. The disclosures from Intel alone cover Core CPUs from 7th gen to 11th gen, as well as many Xeons and Pentiums.
This story will very likely expand to include almost everyone.
[also various twitter/youtube links in text above]
24:12 | UMC settles with Micron
This is a story we haven’t revisited in a few years. Back in 2018, Micron was temporarily banned by a Chinese court from selling 26 products in China in relation to a patent dispute. UMC alleged that Micron was infringing on its patents, while Micron alleged that no, they didn’t, and also UMC’s patents were invalid, and also UMC facilitated theft of Micron’s IP anyway, so it was just stealing its own work back. Part of Micron’s official statement at the time was that “The patent infringement claims of UMC and Jinhua were filed against Micron in retaliation for criminal indictments filed by Taiwan authorities against UMC and three of its employees and a civil lawsuit filed by Micron against UMC and Jinhua in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for the misappropriation of Micron trade secrets.”
In the years since, the legal battle has shifted in Micron’s favor in US courts. As reported by TrendForce, in late 2018 the United States DoJ charged UMC with helping another company to (attempt to) steal “DRAM manufacturing technology” from Micron, as Micron had alleged. Obviously this case involves complex international relations: UMC is a Taiwanese company, Micron is American, and the ban against Micron was enacted in China. The incident that Micron referenced in its statement was the recruitment of a Micron engineer by UMC, who was indicted for supplying Micron documents to Chinese partner company Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co.
More than three years after our last report, UMC has already paid a $60 million fine for trade secret theft, and the two companies have finally reached a settlement wherein they agree to stop fighting and “UMC will make a one-time payment of an undisclosed amount to Micron.” It’s an anticlimactic end, but Bloomberg reports that Micron isn’t done yet and will seek “full restitution” through civil court.
26:25 | CryptoCrimes: Hacking the Mines
We love ending with a good cyberpunk-style news story, usually something involving GPU smuggling, but this works too. An unnamed couple was arrested in Spain and charged for hacking, damage, and fraud. The pair used the hacked machines to mine cryptocurrency and were apparently discovered when department store staff reported pre-built display systems running their fans at full bore and constantly overheating. This surprised us, because we’ve had a few pre-builts that did that out of the box, no mining required.
The best part of the story is how the couple carried out their scheme — a classic sleight of hand. The woman would approach department store staff with her laptop and ask for technical help, which Bitdefender says was typically just help booting the laptop. While the staff was distracted, the man would slip a USB stick into the department store computer to install AnyDesk and NiceHash. It was a clever plan and we even used it on der8auer’s computer at the last trade show, but unfortunately for the Crypto Bonnie & Clyde, security cameras exist and were used to identify the pair.