The price competition is Ryzen even before the Coffee is poured

Subject: General Tech, Processors | October 4, 2017 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, price cuts

AMD is slashing prices on their Ryzen line of CPUs, and not just in the UK.   A Ryzen 7 1800X in the US will cost you only $400 if you skip out on the Wraith cooler, or $500 if you are in Canada.  If that is a little too rich a 1700X is $295 or $415 in Canada, though the 1700 with Wraith cooler at $370 might be a better deal.  The price cuts come just before the launch of Intel's Coffee Lake processors so you might want to wait a day or so for reviews to appear.  The price cuts could also signal AMD's desire to move stock before the launch of Pinnacle in a few months.

Wasn't that much more pleasant than finding out the IRS plans to crowd source their tax fraud investigations by awarding a $7m contract to Equifax who can count on everyone who grabbed your leaked personal information to do their work for them?

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"They also coincide with rumours that AMD plans to launch a new series of Ryzen parts in February, based on 12nm process technology. The AMD Ryzen ‘Pinnacle' parts will be part of a shift of both CPUs and GPUs to GlobalFoundries 12nm LP [leading performance] process during 2018."

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Source: The Inquirer

AMD Releases NVMe RAID Support for X399 Threadripper Platform

Subject: General Tech | October 2, 2017 - 04:12 PM |
Tagged: X399, Threadripper, nvme raid, NVMe, amd, 960 PRO

A recent support page and community update posting suggest that NVMe RAID support is coming to Threadripper and the X399 platform imminently (as soon as motherboard manufacturers release an updated BIOS/UEFI). AMD will support up to six NVMe drives without adapters in a RAID 0, 1, or 10 array with all the drives wired directly to the PCI-E controller in the CPU rather than being routed through the chipset (meaning no DMI bottlenecking). There are no limits on the brand of drives and the NVMe RAID update is free with no hardware or software keys needed to unlock it.

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NVMe SSDs are very fast on their own, but when combined in a RAID array directly wired to the CPU things really get interesting. AMD claims that it saw read speeds of 21.2 GB/s when reading from six Samsung 960 Pro 512 GB drives in a RAID 0 array! The company also saw near perfect scaling with their test array (when adding up to six drives over a single drive) with reads scaling 6x on reads and 5.38x on writes. Intel's VROC seems to have the theoretical performance advantage here with the ability to RAID more total drives (four per VMD and three VMDs per CPU) but only after purchasing a hardware key and when using more than one VMD it can't be a bootable OS array. When it comes to bootable arrays, AMD would appear to have the upper hand with free support for up to six drives that can be used to run your bootable OS array! Windows has never booted faster! (heh)

Along with its partners releasing BIOS updates, AMD is releasing updates to its NVMe RAID Driver (version 17.50) and RAIDXpert2 Windows management ultility. Currently, Windows 10 x64 build 1703 is officially supported and fresh installs of Windows are recommended (and if you are currently running your Windows OS off of a RAID array a fresh install is required).

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Once BIOS updates are available (and they are coming shortly), users will have to jump through a few hoops to get a NVMe RAID up and running, but those hoops may just be worth it for enthusiasts wanting the best storage performance! For one, if you have a RAID array (bootable or not) you will not be able to do an in-place upgrade. If you have a SATA RAID you must back up your data and break down the array before updating the UEFI/BIOS and installing the Windows driver. Further, if your existing array is bootable with your operating system installed on it you will need to back up your data, upgrade the BIOS, and perform a fresh install of Windows with the AMD supplied F6 driver. After upgrading the BIOS, there will be a new menu item (the exact name will vary by manufacturer but SATA Mode and SATA Configuration are likely suspects) where users will need to change the mode from SATA or AHCI to RAID.

Oh, and did I mention to back up your data before diving into this? NVMe RAID support for Threadripper is a long-awaited feature and has a lot of promise with Threadripper offering up 64 PCI-E lanes and, according to AMD, many boards offering 7 slots (6 with a graphics card) which is where AMD is getting the six drive support number. It is appears that using adapters like the Asus Hyper M.2 cards or DIMM.2 slots would allow users to go past that six drive limit though. 

NVMe RAID support on X399 / Threadripper is a feature we are in the process of testing now (see comments) and I am very interested in what the results are! Stay tuned for more information as it develops!

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Source: AMD

AMD Bundles Adobe Creative Cloud (2 Months) with PCs

Subject: Systems | October 1, 2017 - 10:41 PM |
Tagged: amd, Adobe

AMD is bundling two months of Adobe Creative Cloud with a selection of PCs, ranging from Ryzen-enabled desktops to APU-enabled laptops and all-in-ones. There are also two other bundles available: ~$40 of Square Enix Collective indie games, and a 3-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography (Photoshop and Lightroom). This started a couple of months ago, but it looks like AMD didn’t make too big of a deal out of it, so I decided that a late post is better than none.

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The PCs that are eligible vary from bundle to bundle, so check each of the three links.

As for the value of the deal? Eh. Two months of Creative Cloud is quite good from a value perspective -- about a hundred US dollars. That said, a free trial from Adobe is a month, and that's on a per-application basis, so you could also see it as “just a double-length free trial”. (Possibly a triple-length if you can use the free trial first, then redeem the Creative Cloud subscription for an extra two. I’m not sure, though, but the redemption period ends on December 31st so it might be possible.)

The list of applicable products and OEMs, as well as other terms and conditions, is available on AMD’s website.

Source: AMD

AMD will have Ryzen to their Pinnacle next February

Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2017 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: 12nm, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, ryzen, Pinnacle 7, Pinnacle 5, Pinnacle 3, Pinnacle, x470, b450

DigiTimes reports today that AMD has informed motherboard makers that their new series of chips, the Pinnacle family, will in launch early 2018.  They will lead with the Pinnacle 7 series, with Pinnacle 5 and 3 series arriving in March.  April will see the low powered models while Enterprise will have to wait for the Pro until May.  The chips will be built on GLOFO's 12nm process and will hopefully build on AMD's current successes with Ryzen.  You will also meet the new 400 series chipset, so far the X470 and B450 have been mentioned.  While this is still officially a rumour, it is a fairly solid one. 

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"AMD has informed its partners that it plans to launch in February 2018 an upgrade version of its Ryzen series processors built using a 12nm low-power (12LP) process at Globalfoundries, according to sources at motherboard makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

The retro Ataribox comes with new AMD hardware

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: atari, ataribox, amd, Indiegogo

Atari have released a tiny trickle of new information about their somewhat mysterious Ataribox; it will run some flavour of Linux on AMD hardware and cost somewhere between $250 to $300.  They describe their upcoming product as equivalent to a mid-range PC, not quite up to running AAA games but able to handle Minecraft or Terraria in addition to classic Atari games.  This will make it somewhat more expensive than an NVIDIA Shield and more on par with a current generation gaming console; somewhat apt as they too rely on AMD hardware.

Atari will be launching an Indiegogo campaign this fall to fund the Ataribox, with an expected release 12 months after that launch date.  While the idea is intriguing, for who doesn't want to play old Atari games on a nice looking machine; one wonders if Atari can honestly refer to themselves as struggling entrepreneurs in need of assistance in launching a product.  Drop by The Inquirer for more.

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"The Ataribox will be based on PC tech, and as such won't be tied to any one ecosystem. Now, usually this would send us screaming for the hills, but we know this one is going to get funded, so we're not sweating about sharing some more info."

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Source: The Inquirer

Noctua Focused on Ryzen with NH-L9a-AM4 and NH-L12S Low-Profile Coolers

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 25, 2017 - 10:43 AM |
Tagged: ryzen, noctua, low-profile, htpc, cooler, APU, amd, AM4, air cooling

AMD's popularity with Ryzen CPUs (and upcoming APUs) has made waves across the industry, and Noctua have jumped in with a pair of low-profile offerings that update previous designs for cramped case interiors.

First up is the new version of the NH-L9a:

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"The new NH-L9a-AM4 is an AM4-specific revision of Noctua’s award-winning NH-L9a low-profile CPU cooler. At a height of only 37mm, the NH-L9a is ideal for extremely slim cases and, due to its small footprint, it provides 100% RAM and PCIe compatibility as well as easy access to near-socket connectors, even on tightly packed mini-ITX motherboards."

Next is the new NH-L12S:

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"The new S-version of the renowned NH-L12 not only adds AM4 support but also gives more flexibility and improved performance in low-profile mode. Thanks to the new NF-A12x15 PWM slim 120mm fan, the NH-L12S provides even better cooling than the previous model with its 92mm fan. At the same time, the NH-L12S is highly versatile: with the fan installed on top of the fins, the cooler is compatible with RAM modules of up to 45mm in height. With the fan installed underneath the fins, the total height of the cooler is only 70mm, making it suitable for use in many compact cases."

Noctua says that these new coolers now shipping "and will be available shortly", with an MSRP of $39.90 for the NH-L9a-AM4 and $49 for the NH-L12S.

Source: Noctua

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technical Conference Releases

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 09:44 PM |
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, FD-SOI, 12nm, 14nm, 14nm+, 22FDX, 28FDX, 12FDX, amd, Vega, ryzen

The day after Intel had its Technology and Manufacturing expo in China, GLOBALFOUNDRIES kicks off their own version of the event and has made a significant number of announcements concerning upcoming and next generation process technologies. GF (GLOBALFOUNDRIES) had been the manufacturing arm of AMD until it was spun off as its own entity in 2009. Since then GF has been open to providing fabless semiconductor firms a viable alternative to TSMC and other foundries. Their current 14nm process is licensed from Samsung, as GF had some significant issues getting their own version of that technology into production. GF looks to be moving past their process hiccups in getting to FinFET technologies as well as offering other more unique process nodes that will serve upcoming mobile technologies very well.
 
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The big announcement today was the existence of the 12LP process. This is a "12 nm" process that looks to be based off of their previous 14nm work. It is a highly optimized variant that offers around 15% better density and 10% better performance than current 14/16nm processes from competing firms. Some time back GF announced that it would be skipping the 10nm node and going directly to 7nm, but it seems that market forces have pushed them to further optimize 14nm and offer another step.  Regular process improvement cadences are important to fabless partners as they lay out their roadmaps for future products.
 
12FP is also on track to be Automotive Grade 2 Certified by Q4 2017, which opens it up to a variety of automotive applications. Self-driving cars are the hot topic these days and it appears as though GF will be working with multiple manufacturers including Tesla. The process also has an RF component that can be utilized for those designs.
 
There had been some questions before this about what GF would do between 14nm and their expected 7nm offering. AMD had previously shown a roadmap with the first generation Zen being offered on 14nm and a rather nebulous sounding 14nm+ process. We now know that 12LP is going to be the process that AMD leverages for Zen and Vega refreshes next year. GF is opening up risk production in 1H 2018 for early adopters. This typically means that tuning is still going on with the process, and wafer agreements tend to not hinge on "per good die". Essentially, just as the wording suggest, the monetary risks of production fall more on the partner rather than the foundry. I would expect the Zen/Vega refreshes to start rolling out mid-Summer 2018 if all goes well with 12LP.
 
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RF is getting a lot of attention these days. In the past I had talked quite a bit about FD-SOI and the slow adoption of that technology. In the 5G world that we are heading to, RF is becoming far more important. Currently GF has their 28FDX and 22FDX processes which utilize FD-SOI (Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator). 22FDX is a dual purpose node that can handle both low-leakage ASICs as well as RF enabled products (think cell-phone modems). GF has also announced a new RF centric process node called 8SW SOI. This is a 300mm wafer based technology at Fab 10 located in East Fishkill, NY. This was once an IBM fab, but was eventually "given" to GF for a variety of reasons. The East Fishkill campus is also a center for testing and advanced process development.
 
22FDX is not limited to ASIC and RF production. GF is announcing that it is offering eMRAM (embedded magnetoresistive non-volatile memory) support. GF claims that ic an retain data through a 260C solder reflow while retaining data for more than 10 years at 125C. These products were developed through a partnership with Everspin Technologies. 1Gb DDR MRAM chips have been sampled and 256Mb DDR MRAM chips are currently available through Everspin. This technology is not limited to standalone chips and can be integrated into SOC designs utilizing eFlash and SRAM interface options.
 
GLOBALFOUNDRIES has had a rocky start since it was spun off from AMD. Due to aggressive financing from multiple sources it has acquired other pure play foundries and garnered loyal partners like AMD who have kept revenue flowing. If GF can execute on these new technologies they will be on a far more even standing with TSMC and attract new customers. GF has the fab space to handle a lot of wafers, but these above mentioned processes could be some of their first truly breakthrough products that differentiates itself from the competition.

EPYC headed for the top of the charts!

Subject: Systems | September 19, 2017 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: 7351P, amd, EPYC

Patrick Kennedy of Serve The Home has just published his server-centric test EPYC test results and in his own words, "while AMD is very competitive at the high-end, its mainstream offerings are competing with de-featured Xeon Silver CPUs and absolutely obliterate what Intel is offering."

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The EPYC 7351P, which should sell for roughly $750 was tested against Intel's Xeon Silver 4108 which runs about $440 in various server applications such as GROMACS, OpenSSL and even a chess benchmark.  The tests were done with single socket EPYCs, the "P" series, which are offered at a significant discount when compared to AMD's dual socket family; benchmarked against Intel's Xeon Silver in both single and dual socket configurations.  The only time that the Xeon's performance came close to the single socket 7351P were when they were configured in dual socket systems, even then AMD's EPYC chip came out on top, often by a significant margin.

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Raw performance is not the only advantage AMD offers on EPYC, the feature sest also far outstrips the somewhat watered down Xeon Silver family.  The single socket 7351P offers 128 PCIe lanes while a dual socket Xeon Silver can only offer 96 and EPYC can handle up to 2TB of DDR4-2666 in its eight channel memory controller whereas Intel is limited to 1.5TB DDR4-2400 in a dual socket server nor can it support dual AVX-512 nor Omni-Path fabric.

Intel does have some advantages that come with the maturity of their platform, including superb NVMe hotswap support as well as QuickAssist and they do have higher end Xeon Gold chips which include the aforementioned features that the Xeon Silver line lacks, however they are also significantly more expensive than EPYC. 

You can expect more tests to appear in the future as STH invested a lot of money in new hardware to test and as the tests can take days to complete there will be some delay before they have good data to share.  It is looking very positive for AMD's EPYC family, they offer an impressive amount of value for the money and it will be interesting to see how Intel reacts.

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More Threadripper waterblocks, including an unfamiliar name

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 19, 2017 - 03:59 PM |
Tagged: XSPC, water cooler, Threadripper, RayStorm Neo, Bykski, amd, A-RYZEN-Th-X

[H]ard|OCP have been hard at work testing a variety of Threadripper compatible AIO watercoolers, sometimes with their own adapters as these products are very new.  They just revisited the XSPC RayStorm Neo which performed exceptionally and also note that the retail version will not feature mounting for AM4 processors.  The second waterblock they tested was the Bykski A-RYZEN-Th-X, not a familiar name but also a very effective choice for cooling ThreadRipper processors.  Take a look at the testing process as well as their recommended methods for properly spreading thermal paste on AMD's new big silicon.

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"We have been waiting for AMD Threadripper CPU custom cooling parts to make their way to us. We have our first two purpose-built Threadripper waterblocks from XSPC and Bykski. We put both these coolers to the test with our 4GHz overclocked Threadripper in hour long stress tests to see how our temperatures fare."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Raven Ridge rumours

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2017 - 04:17 PM |
Tagged: amd, raven ridge, Bristol Ridge, Ryzen 5 2500U, Zen, Vega, 14nm

If the rumours are true, the new 14nm Raven Ridge based AMD Ryzen 5 2500U will offer an impressive jump in performance compared to AMD's current generation of APUs.  The Inquirer's source suggests the new APU will offer a 50% jump in single threaded performance and an impressive 90% advantage on multi-threaded performance.  The multithreaded performance improvement may be the headline but seeing a huge increase in single threaded applications, AMD's recent Achilles Heel, shows some interesting improvements to Zen.  This will also mark the arrival of their first APU with Vega onboard, so you can expect better graphics performance as well.  The benchmark numbers and links are here.

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"LEAKED BENCHMARKS for AMD's forthcoming Raven Ridge APUs suggest that upcoming devices, expected to be launched in time for Christmas, will outperform current Bristol Ridge APUs by up to 90 per cent on multicore applications."

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Source: The Inquirer