Intel Responds to Reboot Issues with Meltdown and Spectre Updates

Subject: Processors | January 18, 2018 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: update, spectre, security, restart, reboot, processor, patch, meltdown, Intel, cpu

The news will apparently get worse before it gets any better for Intel, as the company updated their security recommendations for the Spectre/Meltdown patches for affected CPUs to address post-patch system restart issues. Specifically, Intel notes that issues may be introduced in some configurations with the current patches, though the company does not recommend discontinued use of such updates:

" Intel recommends that these partners, at their discretion, continue development and release of updates with existing microcode to provide protection against these exploits, understanding that the current versions may introduce issues such as reboot in some configurations".


Image credit: HotHardware

The recommendation section of the security bulletin, updated yesterday (January 17, 2018), is reproduced below:

  • Intel has made significant progress in our investigation into the customer reboot sightings that we confirmed publicly last week
  • Intel has reproduced these issues internally and has developed a test method that allows us to do so in a predictable manner
  • Initial sightings were reported on Broadwell and Haswell based platforms in some configurations. During due diligence we determined that similar behavior occurs on other products including Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake based platforms in some configurations
  • We are working toward root cause
  • While our root cause analysis continues, we will start making beta microcode updates available to OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers and Software vendors next week for internal evaluation purposes
  • In all cases, the existing and any new beta microcode updates continue to provide protection against the exploit (CVE-2017-5715) also known as “Spectre Variant 2”
  • Variants 1 (Spectre) and Variant 3 (Meltdown) continue to be mitigated through system software changes from operating system and virtual machine vendors
  • As we gather feedback from our customers we will continue to provide updates that improve upon performance and usability

Intel recommendations to OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers and software vendors

  • Intel recommends that these partners maintain availability of existing microcode updates already released to end users. Intel does not recommend pulling back any updates already made available to end users
  • NEW - Intel recommends that these partners, at their discretion, continue development and release of updates with existing microcode to provide protection against these exploits, understanding that the current versions may introduce issues such as reboot in some configurations
  • NEW - We further recommend that OEMs, Cloud service providers, system manufacturers and software vendors begin evaluation of Intel beta microcode update releases in anticipation of definitive root cause and subsequent production releases suitable for end users

Intel recommendations to end users

  • Following good security practices that protect against malware in general will also help protect against possible exploitation until updates can be applied
  • For PCs and Data Center infrastructure, Intel recommends that patches be applied as soon as they are available from your system manufacturer, and software vendors
  • For data center infrastructure, Intel additionally recommends that IT administrators evaluate potential impacts from the reboot issue and make decisions based on the security profile of the infrastructure

Intel has worked with operating system vendors, equipment manufacturers, and other ecosystem partners to develop software updates that can help protect systems from these methods. End users and systems administrators should check with their operating system vendors and apply any available updates as soon as practical.

The full list of affected processors from Intel's security bulletin follows:

  • Intel® Core™ i3 processor (45nm and 32nm)
  • Intel® Core™ i5 processor (45nm and 32nm)
  • Intel® Core™ i7 processor (45nm and 32nm)
  • Intel® Core™ M processor family (45nm and 32nm)
  • 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 4th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 5th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 6th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 7th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • 8th generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • Intel® Core™ X-series Processor Family for Intel® X99 platforms
  • Intel® Core™ X-series Processor Family for Intel® X299 platforms
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 3400 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 3600 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 6500 series
  • Intel® Xeon® processor 7500 series
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v2 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v4 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v5 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E3 v6 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 v2 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 v3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 v4 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v2 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v3 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor E7 v4 Family
  • Intel® Xeon® Processor Scalable Family
  • Intel® Xeon Phi™ Processor 3200, 5200, 7200 Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor C Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor E Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor A Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor x3 Series
  • Intel® Atom™ Processor Z Series
  • Intel® Celeron® Processor J Series
  • Intel® Celeron® Processor N Series
  • Intel® Pentium® Processor J Series
  • Intel® Pentium® Processor N Series

We await further updates and developments from Intel, system integrators, and motherboard partners.

Source: Intel

CES 2018: AMD Drops Ryzen CPU Prices By Up to 30 Percent

Subject: Processors | January 8, 2018 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: Threadripper, ryzen, processor, price cut, cpu, CES 2018, CES, amd

AMD announced today a price drop for most of its Ryzen processor lineup, making the company's multi-core-focused parts even more competitive to Intel in terms of cost-to-performance. While not every Ryzen and Threadripper processor is seeing a price reduction, many parts are being reduced by up to 30 percent.

Processor Cores/Threads Previous SEP New SEP Percent Reduction
Threadripper 1950X 16/32 $999 $999 N/A
Threadripper 1920X 12/24 $799 $799 N/A
Threadripper 1900X 8/16 $549 $449 -18.2%
Ryzen 7 1800X 8/16 $499 $349 -30.1%
Ryzen 7 1700X 8/16 $399 $309 -22.5%
Ryzen 7 1700 8/16 $329 $299 -9.1%
Ryzen 5 1600X 6/12 $249 $219 -12.0%
Ryzen 5 1600 6/12 $219 $189 -13.7%
Ryzen 5 1500X 4/8 $189 $174 -7.9%
Ryzen 5 2400G 4/8   $169 N/A
Ryzen 3 1300X 4/4 $129 $129 N/A
Ryzen 3 2200G 4/4   $99 N/A

Note also in the price chart the new "G" series Ryzen APUs with integrated Radeon Vega graphics. Check for more info on this new part.

Some of the new prices are already reflected, and in some cases reduced further, at retailers like Amazon.

To determine the new prices, AMD performed comparative price testing with its online retail partners last quarter, and determined that these new prices were the best balance between performance and value.

With second generation Ryzen processors not scheduled to launch until later this spring, the price drop not only helps AMD move existing inventory, it also keeps the company at the top of enthusiasts' minds in the midst of the fallout around the recent processor security issues, one of which primarily affects Intel processors.


Meltdown's Impact on Storage Performance - Really an Issue?

Subject: Storage | January 5, 2018 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: RS4, RS3, patch, meltdown, KB4056892, cpu, 960 EVO, 900P, 850 EVO

While the Meltdown announcements and patches were in full swing, I was busily testing a round of storage devices to evaluate the potential negative impact of the Meltdown patch. Much of the testing we've seen has come in the form of Linux benchmarks, and today we saw a few come out on the Windows side of things. Most of the published data to date shows a ~20% performance hit to small random accesses, but I've noted that the majority of reviewers seem to be focusing on the Samsung 950/960 series SSDs. Sure these are popular devices, but when evaluating changes to a storage subsystem, it's unwise to just stick with a single type of product.

Test conditions were as follows:

  • ASUS Prime Z270-A + 7700K
    • C-States disabled,  no overclock.
    • ASUS MCE disabled, all other clock settings = AUTO.
  • SSDs:
    • Intel Optane 900P 480GB (Intel NVMe driver)
    • Samsung 960 EVO 500GB (Samsung NVMe driver)
    • Samsung 850 EVO 500GB (Intel RST driver)
  • Conditioning:
    • NTFS partition.
    • 16GB test file. Sequential conditioning.
    • Remainder of SSD sequentially filled to capacity.

The first results come from a clean Windows Redstone 3 install compared to a clean Windows 10 Redstone 4 (build 17063), which is a fast ring build including the Meltdown patch:


The 960 EVO comes in at that same 20% drop seen elsewhere, but check out the 850 EVO's nearly 10% *increase* in performance. The 900P pushes this further, showing an over 15% *increase*. You would figure that a patch that adds latency to API calls would have a noticeable impact on a storage device offering extremely low latencies, but that did not end up being the case in practice.

Since the 960 EVO looked like an outlier here, I also re-tested it using the Microsoft Inbox NVMe driver, as well as by connecting it via the chipset (which uses the Intel RST driver). A similar drop in performance was seen in all configurations.

The second set of results was obtained later, taking our clean RS3 install and updating it to current, which at the time included the Microsoft roll-up 01-2018 package (KB4056892):


Note that the results are similar, though Optane did not see as much of a boost here. It is likely that some specific optimizations have been included in RS4 that are more beneficial to lower latency storage devices.

As a final data point, here's what our tests look like with software polling implemented:


The above test results are using an application method that effectively bypasses the typical interrupt requests associated with file transfers. Note that the differences are significantly reduced once IRQs are removed from the picture. Also note that kernel API calls are still taking place here.

Well there you have it. Some gain and some lose. Given that a far lower latency device (900P) sees zero performance hit (actually gaining speed), I suspect that whatever penalty associated with Meltdown could be easily optimized out via updates to the Windows Inbox and Samsung NVMe drivers.

Intel is thinking of living it up a little

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2017 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: krzanich, Intel, cpu, gpu

Intel's recent releases have not been terribly exciting, the chips offer small incremental efficiency improvements each generation, with a few enterprise level features added which do not benefit enthusiasts.  The majority of the changes have been to the sockets, something many feel Intel could have left alone.  This may change, according to the memo from CEO Brian Krzanich who describes the coming years at Intel as akin to the mid-eighties when they risked everything to move from producing memory to producing CPUs and other chips.   This change will not focus solely on CPUs; he intends to capitalize on the IP which Intel has acquired recently as well as branching into the mysterious GPU which has been announced.  Drop by Slashdot for links.


"Anything that produces data, anything that requires a lot of computing, the vision is, we're there." The memo also underscores the dramatic change in the nature of Intel's business as it approaches its 50th anniversary in July 2018. "We're just inches away from being a 50/50 company, meaning that half our revenue comes from the PC and half from new growth markets," Krzanich wrote."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Qualcomm Introduces Snapdragon 636 Platform with 8-Core Kryo CPU

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2017 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 636, snapdragon, qualcomm, octa-core, mobile platform, Kryo 260, Kryo, cpu, adreno, 8-core

Qualcomm's latest mobile platform is the Snapdragon 636, positioned (at least numerically) between the Snapdragon 630 and 660 introduced earlier this year, and offering a very impressive set of features for mid-range devices - even reaching parity with the Snapdragon 800-series in some respects.


Qualcomm claims CPU performance gains of up to 40% from the Kryo 260 cores in the Snapdragon 636 compared to the ARM Cortex-A53 cores found in the Snapdragon 630, and the switch to Kryo brings the new Snapdragon 636 closer to the specs of the Snapdragon 660 - also an 8-core Kryo 260 design (though the higher-numbered platform does boast slightly higher clocks from its eight CPU cores at 2.2 GHz vs. 1.8 GHz from the 636).

The Snapdragon 636 also features the same X12 LTE modem found in the existing Snapdragon 630/660, which is capable of up to 600 Mbps download speeds (3 x 20 Hz carrier aggregation, 256-QAM) and 150 Mbps peak upload (2 x 20 Hz aggregation, 64-QAM).

Graphics duties are performed by the Adreno 509, and 18:9 FHD+ displays are supported. The Snapdragon 636 also includes the Hexagon 680 DSP (which we first saw in the Snapdragon 820) with Spectra 160 ISP for supported image capture "of up to 24 megapixels with zero shutter lag while supporting smooth zoom, fast autofocus and true-to-life colors for outstanding image quality", according to Qualcomm.

This new Snapdragon 636 also offers Qualcomm's Aqstic codec (another feature inherited from the 800-series) for high-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, along with dual-oscillator support (separate clock generators for 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz based sample rates!) and a 130dB dynamic range with a very low THD+N of -109dB.


To expand on what the Aqstic codec in the SD636 provides, the separate clock generators are a fascinating addition in a world where many codecs resample the common 44.1 kHz - pretty much all digital music at or below CD quality - to 48 kHz during playback. Having a proper 44.1 kHz clock means native playback without the interpolation and subsequent filtering required when altering the original signal to an incompatible sample rate.

The Snapdragon 636 - which is both "pin and software-compatible" with existing Snapdragon 660 and 630 mobile platforms, according to Qualcomm - is expected to ship to customers beginning in November.

Source: Qualcomm

Intel Announces Xeon W and Xeon Scalable Workstation Processors

Subject: Processors | August 29, 2017 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: Xeon W, xeon scalable, xeon, workstation, processor, Intel, cpu

Intel has officially announced their new workstation processor lineup, with Xeon Scalable and Xeon W versions aimed at both professional and mainstream workstation systems.

"Workstations powered by Intel Xeon processors meet the most stringent demands for professionals seeking to increase productivity and rapidly bring data to life. Intel today disclosed that the world-record performance of the Intel Xeon Scalable processors is now available for next-generation expert workstations to enable photorealistic design, modeling, artificial intelligence (AI) analytics, and virtual-reality (VR) content creation."

Slide 1.png

The first part of Intel’s product launch announcement are the new Xeon Scalable processors, first announced in July, and these are dual-socket solutions targeting professional workstations. Versions with up to 56 cores/112 threads are available, and frequencies of up to 4.20 GHz are possible via Turbo Boost. Intel is emphasising the large performance impact of upgrading to these new Xeon processors with a comparison to older equipment (a trend in the industry of late), which is relevant when considering the professional market where upgrades are far slower than the enthusiast desktop segment:

“Expert workstations will experience up to a 2.71x boost in performance compared to a 4-year-old system and up to 1.65x higher performance compared to the previous generation.”

Slide 2.png

The second part of announcement are new Xeon W processors, which will be part of Intel’s mainstream workstation offering. These are single-socket processors, with up to 18 cores/36 threads and Turbo Boost frequencies up to 4.50 GHz. The performance impact with these new Xeon W CPUs compared to previous generations is not as great as the Xeon Scalable processors above, as Intel offers the same comparison to older hardware with the Xeon W:

“Mainstream workstations will experience up to a 1.87x boost in performance compared to a 4-year-old system4 and up to 1.38x higher performance compared to the previous generation.”

Slide 3.png

Full PR is available from Intel's newsroom.

Source: Intel

Intel to Reveal 8th-Generation Core Processor Lineup on August 21

Subject: Processors | August 8, 2017 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: processor, Intel, cpu, Core, coffee lake, 8th generation core

Intel has announced a live event on August 21 to reveal the new 8th-generation Core processor family. The Facebook Live stream will be available on both Intel's Facebook page or simply by visiting the Intel Newsroom, and it begins at 8:00 PDT (11:00 EDT) on 8/21.


What exactly is being discussed? Intel provides these bullet points for the event which is to take place just before the upcoming national solar eclipse:

  • Don’t be caught in the dark. Learn how the 8th Gen Intel Core processor family will offer blazing fast performance.
  • Hear directly from Gregory Bryant, senior vice president of the Client Computing Group at Intel, and others about the details on the latest processor family and what it can help you do.
  • Discover how immersive experiences will bring you from spectator to participant with 8th Gen Intel Core processor capabilities.
  • Don’t just take our word for it. See the power of 8th Gen Intel Core technology come to life in the hands of a VR creator and imaging technologist.
  • Get a sneak peek at some of the amazing system designs based on 8th Gen Intel Core processors.
  • Start planning for what new 8th Gen Intel Core processor-based device to purchase in the holiday season and even before.
  • Don’t worry, you won’t miss the solar eclipse. Tune in before it descends upon Oregon and the West Coast and then makes its way across the U.S.
  • See how the 8th Gen Intel Core processor is designed for today and what comes next.

We will cover the event which will provide official details on the rumored Coffee Lake CPU lineup. Stay tuned!

Source: Intel

Intel Fills In the Gaps on Core X-Series Processor Specs

Subject: Processors | August 7, 2017 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: X-Series, processor, Intel, cpu, Core i9, core i7

Intel launched the first half of its X-Series processor lineup earlier this year, releasing up to the 10-core i9-7900X. But with the upcoming release of AMD's 16-core Threadripper 1950X, the real interest among enthusiasts are the specs of Intel's high core count X-Series parts.


After previously teasing partial specs for these parts, Intel today finally unveiled the complete details, starting out with the i9-7920X (12 cores/24 threads) with a 2.9GHz base and up to 4.4GHz boost clock and topping out with the i9-7980XE (18 cores/36 threads) with a 2.6GHz base and 4.4GHz max boost clock. Check the table below for the complete specifications:

  i9-7980XE i9-7960X i9-7940X i9-7920X i9-7900X  i7-7820X i7-7800X TR 1950X TR 1920X TR 1900X
Architecture Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Zen Zen Zen
Process Tech 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm 14nm 14nm
Cores/Threads 18/36 16/32 14/28 12/24 10/20 8/16 6/12 16/32 12/24 8/16
Base Clock 2.6 GHz 2.8 GHz 3.1 GHz 2.9 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.4 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.8 GHz
Turbo Boost 2.0 4.2 GHz 4.2 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz
Turbo Boost Max 3.0 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.5 GHz 4.5 GHz N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cache 24.75MB 22 MB 19.25MB 16.5MB 13.75MB 11MB 8.25MB 40MB 38MB ?
Memory Support DDR4-2666
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
Quad Channel
DDR4-2666 Quad Channel DDR4-2666 Quad Channel
PCIe Lanes 44 44 44 44 44 28 28 64 64 64
TDP 165 watts 165 watts 165 watts 140 watts 140 watts 140 watts 140 watts 180 watts 180 watts 180 watts?
Socket 2066 2066 2066 2066 2066 2066 2066 TR4 TR4 TR4
Price $1999 $1699 $1399 $1199 $999 $599 $389 $999 $799 $549

From a pure core-count perspective, the Threadripper 1950X goes up against Intel's i9-7960X, but with a $700 difference in price. With Intel CPUs holding and IPC advantage over AMD, however, it's likely that the i9-7920X, and perhaps even the 7900X, will best Threadripper in certain gaming and productivity workloads.

Also interesting in Intel's announcement today are the base clocks of the 12-core i9-7920X (2.9GHz) and the 14-core i9-7940X (3.1GHz). Intel pushed the TDP of the 7940X to 165W, allowing it to increase the base clock over its 12-core counterpart. This suggests that Intel expects the 14-core 7940X, at a price-point of $1399, to be a popular choice in terms of price-to-performance.

Finally, Intel's release today reveals that all of the upcoming X-Series parts will have 44 PCIe lanes, compared to the 64 lanes AMD is offering on all Threadripper parts. There was some debate in the office this morning about how Intel's 44 lanes should cover most configurations for the foreseeable future, but this still remains one clear advantage for AMD's platform.

Intel's 4- to 10-core processors are already on the market. Intel says that the 12-core 7920X will launch August 28th, while the 14- to 18-core parts will launch about a month later, on September 25th.

Source: Intel

Intel Coffee Lake Rumors: More Cores and Z270 Incompatibility

Subject: Processors | August 3, 2017 - 10:06 PM |
Tagged: rumor, report, processor, Intel, cpu, core i7, core i5, core i3, coffee lake

You may have heard that Intel's upcoming 8th-generation processors, code named Coffee Lake, won't be compatible with the current Z270 chipset motherboards. Last week we had another round of rumors and reports about these upcoming - and totally incompatible - new CPUs, with wccftech reporting some details on what to expect with the new processors. Spoiler: MORE CORES.


Image credit: Tech Advisor

We begin with the Intel Core i7-8700K, which will reportedly be the company's first mainstream 6-core processor, with previous hex-core offerings limited to HEDT and server. The i7-8700K will run slightly below the current 4-core i7-7700K, with a base frequency of 3.7 GHz (vs. 4.2 GHz with the i7-7700K) and single-core Turbo speeds topping out at 4.3 GHz according to the report. Another point of interest with the 6-core i7 part is TDP, with 95W needed where even the current HEDT parts are into the 130W territory. What of the Core i5? This is where things get a little more interesting, as there appear to be 6-core parts in the i5 family as well, without Hyper-Threading of course. Even the Core i3 parts jump to 4-core configurations with Coffee Lake, which would obviously be another first.


Chart credit

To editoralize a bit, AMD seems to be in a highly influential position in the wake of Ryzen and Threadripper, as Intel is (reportedly, of course) upping the core counts for Core series processors. Sure, Intel could have done this anyway, but looking at their pre-Ryzen products they were quite happy selling 2 - 4 core parts for premium prices before. This is great news for anyone in an era of increasingly multi-thread optimized computing (as long as pricing remains at or below current offerings), and with this healthy competition the second half of the year might be the best time in a very long time to upgrade - be it Intel or AMD. Now, if only graphics cards would fall back down to earth...

Source: wccftech

Rumor: Intel May Discontinue Pentium G4560 Processor

Subject: Processors | July 10, 2017 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: value, rumor, report, processor, pentium, kaby lake, Intel, G4560, cpu, budget

Update 07/11/17: We have now heard from Intel on this subject, and they provided this statement regarding the availability of the Pentium G4560 processor:

"We continue to offer the Intel Pentium SKU referenced. What you have observed on websites are possibly part of a normal demand fluctuation."

(The original post follows.)

Cannibalization of its Core i3 sales might have Intel quietly killing off its best value CPU, if unnamed sources in a DigiWorthy report (via TechPowerUp) can be believed.


Image credit: ComputerBase via DigiWorthy

Sound far-fetched? It seems at least plausible that Intel might consider some sort of CPU-related moves to maintain profit margins with Ryzen providing some very real competition after several years of Intel dominance. The popularity of the 2-core/4-thread Pentium G4560 - a (theoretically) ~$60 Kaby Lake part that provides a very nearly Core i3-level experience (some features are missing) is not at all surprising, and the current lack of availability and subsequently higher pricing (lowest in-stock price at around $80 at time of publication) suggests that something is up with this CPU.


Chart via PCPartPicker

A low of $78.89 for the CPU with an MSRP of $64 is about a $15 markup, but this price is just going to increase if no fresh stock hits the market as these sell out.

Now some editorial: Why would Intel introduce what is essentially a slightly hobbled Core i3 into the market at half the cost of their cheapest Core i3 to begin with? I enthusiastically endorsed this seemingly questionable business decision (along with all of the buyers of this often out-of-stock CPU) when it first hit the market a few months ago, and now - if rumors are to be believed - the company might just be killing it off. This would be a move reminiscent of Nintendo's recent NES Classic, which was apparently too popular for its $59.99 price tag (and scalpers worldwide rejoiced). Nintendo, of course, killed the NES Classic when it was at its height of popularity, perhaps as it was just not profitable enough to justify continued production? (And besides, a soon-to-be-$300-on-eBay SNES Classic was in the works.)

Might the Pentium G4560 be Intel's NES Classic? It seems a little too likely for comfort.

Source: TechPowerUp