Podcast #467 - NVIDIA WhisperMode, HyperX Keyboard, iPhone 8/X, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2017 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: whispermode, video, shadow rock 2, Seasonic FOCUS, Samsung, podcast, nvidia, nuc, MX Ergo, macchina, logitech, iphone x, iphone 8, Intel, hyperx, GTX 1070Ti, Dawson Canyon, Cites: Skylines, BeQuiet, ASUS ZenFone 4 Max, apple, 7nm, 11nm

PC Perspective Podcast #467 - 09/13/17

Join us for discussion on  NVIDIA WhisperMode, HyperX Mechanical Keyboards, iPhone 8/X and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:27:20

Podcast topics of discussion: 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:12:20 Ryan: Logitech MX Ergo
    2. 1:17:15 Jeremy: Macchina is shipping
    3. 1:22:45 Allyn: Alternative black air cooler? (be quiet Shadow Rock 2)
    4. 1:23:45 Alex: Cities: Skylines
  4. Closing/outro
 

Source:

Samsung Announces 11nm LPP and 7nm LPP Processes

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: Vega, TSMC, Samsung, ryzen, Intel, euv, 8nm, 7nm, 14nm, 11nm, 10nm

Process technology is extremely complex today, and getting more and more complex by the minute.  The billions of dollars invested in each process node essentially insures that it will have to be used for years to come to get back that investment.  It not only needs to get back that investment, but provide more funds to start R&D on the next series of nodes that will come down the line.  It has only been a couple of years since the introduction of multiple 14nm processes from Intel and Samsung, as well as the 16nm node from TMSC.  We are already moving towards an introduction of 10nm parts from these manufacturers in bulk starting next year.  So have these manufacturers gotten their money worth out of their current processes?
 
Samsung-Foundry-Forum2017_main_1.jpg
 
Kinam Kim, President of Samsung Electronics’ Semiconductor Business, discloses the latest process advances from his division.
 
Part of that answer somes in the form of Samsung's latest product.  Samsung is announcing the availability of a new 11nm FinFET process that looks to be a pretty extensive optimization of the company's 14nm FF.  The new process promises 15% better performance and 10% chip area reduction at the same power consumption as the older 14nm FF.  The idea here is to further improve upon their 14nm process all the while retaining the economics of it.  This process exists separately from the latest 10nm LPP which can be considered a full jump from the previous 14nm.  11nm LPP will be primarily aimed at midrange and high end products, but will not reach the full scaling and performance of the 10nm LPP product.
 
This "little steps" philosophy has been around for ages, as AMD utilized it for most of their existence when they owned their own Fabs.  Other companies have done the same by including small improvements over the lifetime of the process so that the final product is signficantly better in terms of yield, transistor switching speed, and thermal dissipation.  Samsung looks to be doing this with their 11nm process by providing all those little steps of improvement from 14nm.
 
The second part of the announcement is that Samsung has announced their 7nm process using EUV.  Samsung had previously announced their 8nm process, but it still relies upon multi-patterning immersion litho.  Samsung has been testing their 250 watt EUV source with fairly good results.  The company is quoted as to processing over 200,000 wafers since 2014 and has achieved an 80% yeild on 256 Mb SRAM.  This is somewhat impressive, but still not ready for primetime.  SRAM features highly consistent structures and is typically one of the first complex chips tested on a new process.
 
Samsung is offering orders now of its 11nm line and it will be very interesting to see who jumps on board.  I would not expect AMD to transfer their designs to 11nm, as a tremendous amount of reworking and validating are required. Instead we will see AMD going for the 10nm node with their Zen 2 based products while continuing to produce Ryzen, Vega, and Polaris at 14nm. Those that will be taking advantage of 11nm will probably be groups pushing out smaller products, especially for the midrange and high end cell phone SOCs.
 
10nm LPP is expected in early 2018, 8nm LPP in 2019, and finally Samsung hopes for 7nm to be available in 2020.
Source: Samsung

Mark Papermaster on AMD's tiny things

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2017 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: amd, 7nm

Over at The Inquirer you can read a condensed version of AMD's Mark Papermaster discussion about the challenges of moving to a 7nm process node.  The size of AMD's design team have prompted them to take a modular approach to design so that circuits can be reused across CPU, GPU and semi-custom designs.  That allows the the same teams to work on multiple projects and for design successes to improve products across multiple lines, a must for a small team with such diverse products.

He also talks about "2.5-D chip stacks", using silicon interposers to connect processors and memory stacks side-by-side as a way to work on reducing to the 7nm node while waiting for foundries like GLOFO to retool to EUV lithography. He ends with a familiar request; that developers switch their focus to taking advantage of high core counts and parallel threads and away from single cores running at high frequencies.

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"Speaking to the EE Times, Papermaster said that, while AMD planned to run its second and third generation Zen architecture x86 microprocessors on 7nm, it would likely be a 'long node', like the 28nm process, "and when you have a long node it lets the design team focus on micro-architecture and systems solutions", rather than simply redesigning standard ‘blocks'."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

You've got to go deep before you can be extreme, TSMC is moving to 7nm

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, 7nm, duv, N7, euv

TSMC is preparing for the move to a 7nm process by expanding suppliers and tooling up for Deep UV equipment.  Unlike Samsung, who will be using Extreme UV tools for their initial launch of 7nm product in 2018 TSMC have chosen to delay the move to EUV until the technology matures.  They will instead use DUV for its launch of their 7nm products, dubbed 7N, in 2018.  The difference between the two types of UV is the wavelength, DUV can be produced at 248 and 193 nm while EUV is an impressive 13.5nm, which is why the industry (and ourselves) depend on this process maturing and being adopted by manufacturers.  The EUV equipment that is being tested is still relatively new but should produce a better chip in theory, though perhaps not as many usable ones per wafer when first rolled out.  You can pop by DigiTimes for a list of the suppliers TSMC is adopting as well as a bit more detail.

tsmc_logo.jpg

"Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is expanding the number of suppliers of equipment for its 7nm process in a bid to maintain an ecosystem pricing balance, according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: DigiTimes

ARM Partners with Xilinx to Accelerate Path to 7nm

Subject: Processors | December 8, 2016 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: Xilinx, TSMC, standard cells, layout, FinFET, EDA, custom cell, arm, 7nm

Today ARM is announcing their partnership with Xilinx to deliver design solutions for their products on TSMC’s upcoming 7nm process node.  ARM has previously partnered with Xilinx on other nodes including 28, 20, and 16nm.  Their partnership extends into design considerations to improve the time to market of complex parts and to rapidly synthesize new designs for cutting edge process nodes.

Xilinx is licensing out the latest ARM Artisan Physical IP platform for TSMC’s 7nm.  Artisan Physical IP is a set of tools to help rapidly roll out complex designs as compared to what previous generations of products faced.  ARM has specialized libraries and tools to help implement these designs on a variety of processes and receive good results even on the shortest possible design times.

icon_arm.jpg

Design relies on two basic methodologies.  There is custom cell and then standard cell designs.  Custom cell design allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility in layout and electrical characteristics, but it requires a lot of man-hours to complete even the simplest logic.  Custom cell designs typically draw less power and provide higher clockspeeds than standard cell design.  Standard cells are like Legos in that the cells can be quickly laid out to create complex logic.  Software called EDA (Electronic Design Automation) can quickly place and route these cells.  GPUs lean heavily on standard cells and EDA software to get highly complex products out to market quickly.

These two basic methods have netted good results over the years, but during that time we have seen implementations of standard cells become more custom in how they behave.  While not achieving full custom performance, we have seen semi-custom type endeavors achieve appreciable gains without requiring the man hours to achieve fully custom.

In this particular case ARM is achieving a solid performance in power and speed through automated design that improves upon standard cells, but without the downsides of a fully custom part.  This provides positive power and speed benefits without the extra power draw of a traditional standard cell.  ARM further improves upon this with the ARM Artisan Power Grid Architect (PGA) which simplifies the development of a complex power grid that services a large and complex chip.

We have seen these types of advancements in the GPU world that NVIDIA and AMD enjoy talking about.  A better power grid allows the ASIC to perform at lower power envelopes due to less impedence.  The GPU guys have also utilized High Density Libraries to pack in the transistors as tight as possible to utilize less space and increase spatial efficiency.  A smaller chip, which requires less power is always a positive development over a larger chip of the same capabilities that requires more power.  ARM looks to be doing their own version of these technologies and are applying them to TSMC’s upcoming 7nm FinFET process.

TSMC is not releasing this process to mass production until at least 2018.  In 1H 2017 we will see some initial test and early production runs for a handful of partners.  Full blown production of 7nm will be in 2018.  Early runs and production are increasingly being used for companies working with low power devices.  We can look back at 20/16/14 nm processes and see that they were initially used by designs that do not require a lot of power and will run at moderate clockspeeds.  We have seen a shift in who uses these new processes with the introduction of sub-28nm process nodes.  The complexity of the design, process steps, materials, and libraries have pushed the higher performance and power hungry parts to a secondary position as the foundries attempt to get these next generation nodes up to speed.  It isn’t until after some many months of these low power parts are pushed through that we see adjustments and improvements in these next generation nodes to handle the higher power and clockspeed needs of products like desktop CPUs and GPUs.

Zynq-7015-module_large.jpg

ARM is certainly being much more aggressive in addressing next generation nodes and pushing their cutting edge products on them to allow for far more powerful mobile products that also exhibit improved battery life.  This step with 7nm and Xilinx will provide a lot of data to ARM and its partners downstream when the time comes to implement new designs.  Artisan will continue to evolve to allow partners to quickly and efficiently introduce new products on new nodes to the market at an accelerated rate as compared to years past.

Click to read the entire ARM post!

Source: ARM

Samsung Has Announcements for 14nm, 10nm, and 7nm

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, euv, 7nm, 14nm, 10nm

As the comments usually remind us, the smallest feature size varies in interpretation from company to company, and node to node. You cannot assume how Samsung compares with Intel, GlobalFoundries, or TSMC based on the nanometer rating alone, better or worse. In fact, any specific fabrication process, when compared to another one, might be better in some ways yet worse in others.

samsung-logo.png

With all of that in mind, Samsung has announced the progress they've made with 14nm, 10nm, and 7nm fabrication processes. First, they plan to expand 14nm production with 14LPU. I haven't been able to figure out what this specific branding stands for, but I'm guessing it's something like “Low Power Ultra” given that it's an engineering name and those are usually super literal (like the other suffixes).

As for the other suffixes, Samsung begins manufacturing nodes with Low Power Early (LPE). From there, they improve upon their technique, providing higher performance and/or lower power, and call this new process Low Power Plus (LPP). LPC, which I believe stands for something like Low Power Cost, although I haven't seen this acronym officially expanded, removes a few manufacturing steps to make the end product cheaper. LPU is an extension of LPC with higher performance. Add the appropriate acronym as a suffix to the claimed smallest feature size, and you get the name of the node: xxLPX.

14LPU is still a ways out, though. Their second announcement, 10LPU, is expected to be their cost-reduction step for 10nm, which I interpret to mean they are omitting LPC from their 10nm production. You may think this is very soon, given how 10LPE has just started mass production a few weeks ago. Really, this is a quite early announcement in terms of overall 10nm production. The process design kits (PDKs) for both 14LPU and 10LPU, which are used by hardware vendors to design their integrated circuits, won't ship until 2Q17. As such, products will be a while behind that.

To close out, Samsung reiterated that 7nm is planned to use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV). They have apparently created a wafer using 7nm EUV, but images do not seem to be provided.

Development kits for 14LPU and 10LPU are expected to ship in the second quarter of 2017.

Source: Samsung

GlobalFoundries Will Allegedly Skip 10nm and Jump to Developing 7nm Process Technology In House (Updated)

Subject: Processors | August 20, 2016 - 03:06 PM |
Tagged: Semiconductor, lithography, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, global foundries, euv, 7nm, 10nm

UPDATE (August 22nd, 11:11pm ET): I reached out to GlobalFoundries over the weekend for a comment and the company had this to say:

"We would like to confirm that GF is transitioning directly from 14nm to 7nm. We consider 10nm as more a half node in scaling, due to its limited performance adder over 14nm for most applications. For most customers in most of the markets, 7nm appears to be a more favorable financial equation. It offers a much larger economic benefit, as well as performance and power advantages, that in most cases balances the design cost a customer would have to spend to move to the next node.

As you stated in your article, we will be leveraging our presence at SUNY Polytechnic in Albany, the talent and know-how gained from the acquisition of IBM Microelectronics, and the world-class R&D pipeline from the IBM Research Alliance—which last year produced the industry’s first 7nm test chip with working transistors."

An unexpected bit of news popped up today via TPU that alleges GlobalFoundries is not only developing 7nm technology (expected), but that the company will skip production of the 10nm node altogether in favor of jumping straight from the 14nm FinFET technology (which it licensed from Samsung) to 7nm manufacturing based on its own in house design process.

Reportedly, the move to 7nm would offer 60% smaller chips at three times the design cost of 14nm which is to say that this would be both an expensive and impressive endeavor. Aided by Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, GlobalFoundries expects to be able to hit 7nm production sometime in 2020 with prototyping and small usage of EUV in the year or so leading up to it. The in house process tech is likely thanks to the research being done at the APPC (Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center) in Albany New York along with the expertise of engineers and design patents and technology (e.g. ASML NXE 3300 and 3300B EUV) purchased from IBM when it acquired IBM Microelectronics. The APPC is reportedly working simultaneously on research and development of manufacturing methods (especially EUV where extremely small wavelengths of ultraviolet light (14nm and smaller) are used to etch patterns into silicon) and supporting production of chips at GlobalFoundries' "Malta" fab in New York.

APPC in Albany NY.jpg

Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center in Albany, NY where Global Foundries, SUNY Poly, IBM Engineers, and other partners are forging a path to 7nm and beyond semiconductor manufacturing. Photo by Lori Van Buren for Times Union.

Intel's Custom Foundry Group will start pumping out ARM chips in early 2017 followed by Intel's own 10nm Cannon Lake processors in 2018 and Samsung will be offering up its own 10nm node as soon as next year. Meanwhile, TSMC has reportedly already tapped out 10nm wafers and will being prodction in late 2016/early 2017 and claims that it will hit 5nm by 2020. With its rivals all expecting production of 10nm chips as soon as Q1 2017, GlobalFoundries will be at a distinct disadvantage for a few years and will have only its 14nm FinFET (from Samsung) and possibly its own 14nm tech to offer until it gets the 7nm production up and running (hopefully!).

Previously, GlobalFoundries has stated that:

“GLOBALFOUNDRIES is committed to an aggressive research roadmap that continually pushes the limits of semiconductor technology. With the recent acquisition of IBM Microelectronics, GLOBALFOUNDRIES has gained direct access to IBM’s continued investment in world-class semiconductor research and has significantly enhanced its ability to develop leading-edge technologies,” said Dr. Gary Patton, CTO and Senior Vice President of R&D at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. “Together with SUNY Poly, the new center will improve our capabilities and position us to advance our process geometries at 7nm and beyond.” 

If this news turns out to be correct, this is an interesting move and it is certainly a gamble. However, I think that it is a gamble that GlobalFoundries needs to take to be competitive. I am curious how this will affect AMD though. While I had expected AMD to stick with 14nm for awhile, especially for Zen/CPUs, will this mean that AMD will have to go to TSMC for its future GPUs  or will contract limitations (if any? I think they have a minimum amount they need to order from GlobalFoundries) mean that GPUs will remain at 14nm until GlobalFoundries can offer its own 7nm? I would guess that Vega will still be 14nm, but Navi in 2018/2019? I guess we will just have to wait and see!

Also read:

Source: TechPowerUp

ARM Partners with TSMC to Produce SoCs on 7nm FinFET

Subject: Processors | March 15, 2016 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, servers, process technology, low power, FinFET, datacenter, cpu, arm, 7nm, 7 nm FinFET

ARM and TSMC have announced their collaboration on 7 nm FinFET process technology for future SoCs. A multi-year agreement between the companies, products produces on this 7 nm FinFET process are intended to expand ARM’s reach “beyond mobile and into next-generation networks and data centers”.

tsmc-headquarters.jpg

TSMC Headquarters (Image credit: AndroidHeadlines)

So when can we expect to see 7nm SoCs on the market? The report from The Inquirer offers this quote from TSMC:

“A TSMC spokesperson told the INQUIRER in a statement: ‘Our 7nm technology development progress is on schedule. TSMC's 7nm technology development leverages our 10nm development very effectively. At the same time, 7nm offers a substantial density improvement, performance improvement and power reduction from 10nm’.”

Full press release after the break.

Source: ARM

Podcast #359 - AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, r9 nano, Fiji, Samsung, 4TB, windows 10, acer, aspire V, X99E-ITX/ac, TSMC, 10nm, 7nm

PC Perspective Podcast #359 - 07/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

TSMC Plans 10nm, 7nm, and "Very Steep" Ramping of 16nm.

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | July 19, 2015 - 06:59 AM |
Tagged: Zen, TSMC, Skylake, pascal, nvidia, Intel, Cannonlake, amd, 7nm, 16nm, 10nm

Getting smaller features allows a chip designer to create products that are faster, cheaper, and consume less power. Years ago, most of them had their own production facilities but that is getting rare. IBM has just finished selling its manufacturing off to GlobalFoundries, which was spun out of AMD when it divested from fabrication in 2009. Texas Instruments, on the other hand, decided that they would continue manufacturing but get out of the chip design business. Intel and Samsung are arguably the last two players with a strong commitment to both sides of the “let's make a chip” coin.

tsmc.jpg

So where do you these chip designers go? TSMC is the name that comes up most. Any given discrete GPU in the last several years has probably been produced there, along with several CPUs and SoCs from a variety of fabless semiconductor companies.

Several years ago, when the GeForce 600-series launched, TSMC's 28nm line led to shortages, which led to GPUs remaining out of stock for quite some time. Since then, 28nm has been the stable work horse for countless high-performance products. Recent chips have been huge, physically, thanks to how mature the process has become granting fewer defects. The designers are anxious to get on smaller processes, though.

In a conference call at 2 AM (EDT) on Thursday, which is 2 PM in Taiwan, Mark Liu of TSMC announced that “the ramping of our 16 nanometer will be very steep, even steeper than our 20nm”. By that, they mean this year. Hopefully this translates to production that could be used for GPUs and CPUs early, as AMD needs it to launch their Zen CPU architecture in 2016, as early in that year as possible. Graphics cards have also been on that technology for over three years. It's time.

Also interesting is how TSMC believes that they can hit 10nm by the end of 2016. If so, this might put them ahead of Intel. That said, Intel was also confident that they could reach 10nm by the end of 2016, right until they announced Kaby Lake a few days ago. We will need to see if it pans out. If it does, competitors could actually beat Intel to the market at that feature size -- although that could end up being mobile SoCs and other integrated circuits that are uninteresting for the PC market.

Following the announcement from IBM Research, 7nm was also mentioned in TSMC's call. Apparently they expect to start qualifying in Q1 2017. That does not provide an estimate for production but, if their 10nm schedule is both accurate and also representative of 7nm, that would production somewhere in 2018. Note that I just speculated on an if of an if of a speculation, so take that with a mine of salt. There is probably a very good reason that this date wasn't mentioned in the call.

Back to the 16nm discussion, what are you hoping for most? New GPUs from NVIDIA, new GPUs from AMD, a new generation of mobile SoCs, or the launch of AMD's new CPU architecture? This should make for a highly entertaining comments section on a Sunday morning, don't you agree?