Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview Published to Epic Launcher

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: ue4, epic games, pc gaming

Epic Games has released a preview build of Unreal Engine 4.18. This basically sets a bar for shipped features, giving them a bit of time to crush bugs before they recommend developers use it for active projects. This version has quite a few big changes, especially in terms of audio and video media.

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WebAssembly is now enabled by default for HTML5.

First, we’ll discuss platform support. As you would expect, iOS 11 and XCode 9 are now supported, and A10 processors can use the same forward renderer that was added to UE4 for desktop VR, as seen in Robo Recall. That’s cool and all, but only for Apple. For the rest of us, WebAssembler (WASM) is now enabled by default for HTML5 projects. WASM is LLVM bytecode that can be directly ingested by web browsers. In other words, you can program in C++ and have web browsers execute it, and do so without transpiling to some form of JavaScript. (Speaking of which, ASM.js is now removed from UE4.) The current implementation is still single-threaded, but browser vendors are working on adding multi-threading to WASM.

As for the cool features: Epic is putting a lot of effort in their media framework. This allows for a wider variety of audio and video types (sample rates, sample depths, and so forth) as well as, apparently, more control over timing and playback, including through Blueprints visual scripting (although you could have always made your own Blueprint node anyway). If you’re testing out Unreal Engine 4.18, Epic Games asks that you pay extra attention to this category, reporting any bugs that you find.

Epic has also improved their lighting engine, particularly when using the Skylight lighting object. They also say that Volumetric Lightmaps are also, now, enabled by default. This basically allows dynamic objects to move through a voxel-style grid of lighting values that are baked in the engine, which adds indirect lighting on them without a full run-time GI solution.

The last thing I’ll mention (although there’s a bunch of cool things, including updates to their audio engine and the ability to reference Actors in different levels) is their physics improvements. Their Physics Asset Editor has been reskinned, and the physics engine has been modified. For instance, APEX Destruction has been pulled out of the core engine into a plug-in, and the cloth simulation tools, in the skeletal mesh editor, are no longer experimental.

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview can be downloaded from the Epic Launcher, but existing projects should be actively developed in 4.17 for a little while longer.

Source: Epic Games

Crytek Releases CRYENGINE 5.4

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, crytek

The latest version of CRYENGINE, 5.4, makes several notable improvements. Starting with the most interesting one for our readers: Vulkan has been added at the beta support level. It’s always good to have yet another engine jump in with this graphics API so developers can target it without doing the heavy lifting on their own, and without otherwise limiting their choices.

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More interesting, at least from a developer standpoint, is that CRYENGINE is evolving into an Entity Component framework. Amazon is doing the same with their Lumberyard fork, but Crytek has now announced that they are doing something similar on their side, too. The idea is that you place relatively blank objects in your level and build them up by adding components, which attaches the data and logic that this object needs. This system proved to be popular with the success of Unity, and it can also be quite fast, too, depending on how the back-end handles it.

I also want to highlight their integration of Allegorithmic Substance. With game engines switching to a PBR-based rendering model, tools can make it easier to texture 3D objects by stenciling on materials from a library. That way, you don’t need to think how gold will behave, just that gold should be here, and rusty iron should be over there. All of the major engines are doing it, and Crytek, themselves, have been using Substance, but now there’s an actual, supported workflow.

CryEngine is essentially free, including royalty-free, to use. Their business model currently involves subscriptions for webinars and priority support.

Source: Crytek

Amazon Web Services Discuss Lumberyard Roadmap

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, amazon

Lumberyard has been out for a little over a year and a half, and it has been experiencing steady development since then. Just recently, they published a blog post highlighting where they want the game engine to go. Pretty much none of this information is new if you’ve been following them, but it’s still interesting none-the-less.

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From a high level, Amazon has been progressing their fork of CryEngine into more of a component-entity system. The concept is similar to Unity, in that you place objects in the level, then add components to them to give them the data and logic that you require. Currently, these components are mostly done in Lua and C++, but Amazon is working on a visual scripting system, like Blueprints from Unreal Engine 4, called Script Canvas. They technically inherited Flow Graph from Crytek, which I think is still technically in there, but they’ve been telling people to stop using it for a while now. I mean, this blog post explicitly states that they don’t intend to support migrating from Flow Graph to Script Canvas, so it’s a “don’t use it unless you need to ship real soon” sort of thing.

One of Lumberyard’s draws, however, is their license: free, but you can’t use this technology on any cloud hosting provider except AWS. So if you make an offline title, or you use your own servers, then you don’t need to pay Amazon a dime. That said, if you do something like leaderboards, persistent logins, or use cloud-hosted multiplayer, then you will need to do it through AWS, which, honestly, you were probably going to do anyway.

The current version is Lumberyard Beta 1.10. No release date has been set for 1.11, although they usually don’t say a word until it’s published.

Source: Amazon

Unity 2017.2.0f1 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity

While it’s not technically released yet, Unity has flipped the naming scheme of Unity 2017.2 to Unity 2017.2.0f1. The “f” stands for final, so we will probably see a blog post on it soon. This version has a handful of back-end changes, such as improved main-thread performance when issuing commands to graphics APIs, but the visible changes are mostly in two areas: XR (VR + AR) and baked lighting.

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From the XR standpoint, a few additions stand out. First, this version now supports Google Tango and Windows Mixed Reality, the latter of which is tied to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so it makes sense that Unity would have support in the version before that gets released (October 17th). In terms of features, the editor now supports emulating a Vive headset, so you can test some VR elements without having a headset. I expect this will mostly be good for those who want to do a bit of development in places where they don’t have access to their headset, although that’s blind speculation from my standpoint.

The other area that got a boost is baked global illumination. Unity started introducing their new Progressive Lightmapping feature in Unity 5.6, and it bakes lighting into the scenes in the background as you work. This update allows you to turn shadows on and off on a per-object basis, and it supports double-sided materials. You cannot have independent lighting calculations for the front and back of a triangle... if you want that, then you will need to give some volume to your models. This is mostly for situations like the edge of a level, so you don’t need to create a second wall facing away from the playable area to block light coming in from outside the playable area.

I’m not sure when the official release is, but it looks like the final, supported build is out now.

Source: Unity

Google Introduces Tesla P100 to Cloud Platform

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 23, 2017 - 12:16 AM |
Tagged: google, nvidia, p100, GP100

NVIDIA seems to have scored a fairly large customer lately, as Google has just added Tesla P100 GPUs to their cloud infrastructure. Effective immediately, you can attach up to four of these GPUs to your rented servers on an hourly or monthly basis. According to their pricing calculator, each GPU adds $2.30 per hour to your server’s fee in Oregon and South Carolina, which isn’t a lot if you only use them for short periods of time.

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If you need to use them long-term, though, Google has also announced “sustained use discounts” with this blog post, too.

While NVIDIA has technically launched a successor to the P100, the Volta-based V100, the Pascal-based part is still quite interesting. The main focus of the GPU design, GP100, was bringing FP64 performance up to its theoretical maximum of 1/2 FP32. It also has very high memory bandwidth, due to its HBM 2.0 stacks, which is often a huge bottleneck for GPU-based applications.

For NVIDIA, selling high-end GPUs is obviously good. The enterprise market is lucrative, and it validates their push into the really large die sizes. For Google, it gives a huge reason for interested parties to consider them over just defaulting to Amazon. AWS has GPU instances, but they’re currently limited to Kepler and Maxwell (and they offer FPGA-based acceleration, too). They can always catch up, but they haven’t yet, and that's good for Google.

Source: Google

Asus XG27VQ; 27" of curved Freesync

Subject: Displays | September 22, 2017 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: 27, freesync, Asus ROG Strix XG27VQ, asus, XG27VQ, 1080p, va lcd

To start with the particular specification which will upset some people, the ASUS XG37VQ is a 1080p monitor; so if life starts at 1440p then feel free to move on.  For those still reading, this Freesync monitor supports refresh rates from 48 to 144Hz and can display 95% sRGB coverage.  Techgage were impressed with the quality of the display but when it came to the RGBs present on the monitor they had some questions; the ROG logo that is projected from the bottom of the monitor only comes in red, while the glowing circle on the back of the display supports a full gamut of colours which no one will ever see.  Pop over for the full review.

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"Let's cut right to the chase. The Asus ROG Strix XG27VQ is a $350 gaming monitor, 27 inches in size, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a refresh rate of 144 Hz. We're looking at a VA LCD panel here with FreeSync support, sporting an 1800R curvature."

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Displays

Source: Techspot

AMD enables RX Vega mGPU support

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 22, 2017 - 04:36 PM |
Tagged: Radeon Software 17.9.2, crossfire, Vega

The newest Radeon Software ReLive 17.9.2 is especially worth grabbing if you have or plan to have more than one Vega based card in your system as it marks the return of Crossfire support.  You can pair up Vega64 or Vega56 cards but do make sure they are a matched set.  We haven't had time to test the performance results yet but you can be sure we will be working on that in the near future.  Below are the results which AMD suggests you can expect in several different games, as well as a look at the other notes associated with this new driver.

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Radeon™ Software Crimson ReLive Edition is AMD's advanced graphics software for enabling high-performance gaming and engaging VR experiences. Create, capture, and share your remarkable moments. Effortlessly boost performance and efficiency. Experience Radeon Software with industry-leading user satisfaction, rigorously-tested stability, comprehensive certification, and more.

Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.9.2 Highlights
Support For

  • Radeon RX Vega Series Up to 2x Multi GPU support
  • Project CARS 2™ Multi GPU profile support added

Fixed Issues
Hearts of Iron IV™ may experience a system hang when the campaign scenario is launched.

Radeon Software may display an erroneous "1603 Error" after installing Radeon Software. This error will not affect your Radeon Software installation.

Source: AMD

Extra memory! The EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 ELITE

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 22, 2017 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 ELITE, gtx 1080 ti, evga

EVGA has released a new improved GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 Elite card, with 11GB of GDDR5x, running at 12GHz with a bandwidth of 528.3 GB/s.  The reference card has GDDR5x running at 11GHz with 484 GB/s of memory bandwidth so it will be interesting to see how this changes the performance of the card. 

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The iCX cooler on the card offers nine thermal sensors and multiple MCUs along with asynchronous fan control to manage both heat and sound simultaneously.  You can choose between black or white models depending on the colour scheme in your PC and there are customizable RGB colour for the visual alarms present on the card.  PR just below the back end.

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September 21st, 2017 – The EVGA GeForce GTX 1080Ti FTW3 ELITE cards are now available with 12GHz of GDDR5 memory, giving it 528 GB/s of memory bandwidth! These cards are available with either the ELITE Black or White shroud, and of course comes with EVGA’s exclusive iCX technology, giving you 9 thermal sensors, onboard thermal LED indicators and incredible cooling with quiet operation.

Features

  • Includes EVGA iCX Technology
  • 12GHz GDDR5 Memory
  • 528 GB/s of Memory Bandwidth
  • Available in ELITE Black and White Colors

Includes EVGA iCX Technology

  • Featuring a total of 11 global patents (pending and granted), iCX is efficiency perfected.
  • 9 Additional Sensors and MCU's embedded on the PCB.
  • Purposefully-directed Airflow Chambers.
  • Newly Designed Die-Cast Baseplate and Backplate.
  • Full Control Using EVGA Precision XOC.
  • EVGA's iCX is the Very Definition of Interactive Cooling.

Learn more and buy now at https://www.evga.com/articles/01149/evga-geforce-gtx-1080-ti-12ghz/

Source: EVGA

Still no good news on the DRAM front

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2017 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, Samsung, SK Hynix, micron

The change process technology continues to have a negative effect on DRAM supplies and according to the story posted on Electronics Weekly there is no good news in sight.  The three major vendors, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron are all slowing production as a result of new fabs being built and existing production lines upgraded for new process technology such as EUV.  This will ensure that prices continue to slowly creep up over the remainder of this year and likely into 2018.  Drop by for more information on the challenges each are facing.

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"While overall DRAM demand will remain high in 2018, new fabs being planned will not be ready for mass production until 2019 at the earliest."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

PCPer Mailbag #10 - 9/22/2017

Subject: Editorial | September 22, 2017 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: video, Ryan Shrout, pcper mailbag, pcper

It's Friday, which means it's time for PC Perspective's weekly mailbag, our video show where Ryan and team answer your questions about the tech industry, the latest and greatest hardware, the process of running a tech review website, and more!

Here's what you'll find on today's show:

00:22 - PCPer Mailbag audio podcast?
01:14 - Games with DirectX, OpenGL, and Vulkan?
02:44 - Where are the AMD-based laptops?
06:51 - Does faster RAM = higher IPC?
08:28 - Using an iGPU with a discrete GPU?
10:55 - Why are Vega GPUs still so expensive?
14:41 - Do you need to reinstall Windows after upgrading CPU?
16:48 - How to minimize screen tearing without G-SYNC?
18:58 - Dummy dies and 32-core/64-thread Threadripper parts?
22:14 - The Cincinnati Bengals offense?

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to make sure you never miss our weekly reviews and podcasts, and please consider supporting PC Perspective via Patreon to help us keep videos like our weekly mailbag coming!

Source: YouTube

Podcast #468 - AMD Raven Ridge rumors, Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2017 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: z270, windows 10, WD, video, toshiba, ShadowPlay, ryzen, podcast, nvidia, nuc, msi, max-q, Intel, gs63vr, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, gigabyte, EPYC, ansel, 2500U, 12TB

PC Perspective Podcast #468 - 09/21/17

Join us for discussion on AMD Raven Ridge rumors,  Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

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, Josh Walrath, Sebastion Peak, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:39:59

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

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

Source:

Corsair Overclocks With a Vengeance, Launches DDR4 4600 MHz Memory Kit

Subject: Memory | September 21, 2017 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: X399, ryzen, overclocking, Intel X299, ddr4-4600, ddr4, corsair

Corsair has launched a new Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory kit that is capable of hitting 4600 MHz at 1.5 volts. The new kit is a 16GB (2 x 8GB) kit that Corsair reportedly co-developed with AsRock for fine tune using their X299 OC Formula motherboard. The DDR4 kit is made using hand sorted Samsung B-dies and it supports Intel XMP 2.0 standards allowing it to clock at 4600 MHz with a single setting change in the UEFI.

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The Vengeance LPX DIMMs run with CAS timings of 19-26-26-46 and need only 1.5V to clock at 4600 MHz. This kit will be ideal for Intel’s X299 as well as AMD’s X399 platforms. While Ryzen and Threadripper platforms may need a bit more tweaking to get working, they would benefit the most from the higher clocked memory allowing the Infinity Fabric to clock higher.

Being one of the highest factory clocked DIMMs, they come at a cost. The new RAM kit (CMK16GX4M2F4600C19) is available now for $549.99 with a lifetime limited warranty.

For something a bit more tame, earlier this week Corsair launched a 2 x 8GB kit (CMK16GX4M2F4500C19) clocked at 4500 MHz with CL19-19-19-39 timings (at 1.45V) that is also available now for $479.99 MSRP. Enthusiasts might be better off buying the cheaper kit and overclocking them (though not guaranteed and might need a bit more than 1.5V) while workstation and enterprise customers with corporate expense accounts can opt for the more expensive but factory clocked 4600 MHz kit.

At time of writing the new kits were not up on Amazon yet, but they should be shortly. You can find the cheaper 4500 MHz kit on Corsair's web store but it is listed at $504.99 currently. If you wait a bit, that price should go down closer to MSRP as other retailers put up their listings.

Source: TechPowerUp

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.

NVIDIA news; Ansel and ShadowPlay walk into Mordor

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2017 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, ShadowPlayk, ansel, battlegrounds, shadow of mordor

Gamescom 2017 just wrapped up and NVIDIA made a few interesting announcements during the conference.  For those enjoying PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, they announced the game now fully supports ShadowPlay Highlights along with the newly released Lawbreakers.  That means you can capture all your gameplay in 4K 60 FPS, with either always-on or manual saving, and built-in uploading tools.

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In addition to video capture of gameplay, their Ansel screen capture tool for the artistically inclined has also been updated.  Ansel now works in 25 titles, from The Witcher 3 through Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to new genres like Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 so you can truly show that the 'injured' player lying on the turf truly did take a dive.  NVIDIA reports that you will be able to capture super-resolution, 360-degree, HDR, and stereo photographs in games developed in either the Unity Engine or the Unreal Engine as Ansel will now be provided as an add-in for those game engines.

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Last but not least is a giveaway.  NVIDIA will be giving away 50,000 Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor game codes to GeForce Experience community members!  You do have to sign up to win but once you are a member of GFE you are automagically entered to win.  They will message you in app on Sept 26th to let you know if you are a winner so you can still sign up if you are interested.  It will also support Ansel, if you run across a photogenic orc beheading you want to share.

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As a reminder, the offer for any who purchases of select GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or 1080 GPUs, as well as systems and laptops containing the same will get Destiny 2 on the PC launch date.

 

Source: NVIDIA

Divinity: Original Sin 2 arrives

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, divinity original sin 2

The original game was the first RPG that offered you a chance to argue with yourself, with a unique method of dialogue between the two main characters you played.  It incorporated the environmental effects of spells in a much more effective way than the majority of RPGs, making it wise to dump water on an opponent before zapping them with a lightning bolt.  The quests were often quite unique and the sequel seems to keep that alive, one reviewer at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN describes how they "ate the meat from the shark’s mouth" as part of the solution to a quest.  If you are looking for a different type of fantasy RPG that will make you smile, cry and scratch your head, often simultaneously, then check out the review and see if you want to pick up the game that launched today.

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"Divinity: Original Sin 2 is out of Early Access and fully released. Adam and John have both spent many, many hours with the alpha, and are now beginning to chew their way through the full version."

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Gaming

 

NUC-kle up Baby, we're off to Hades Canyon!

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: nuc, kaby lake h, Intel, Hades Canyon VR, Hades Canyon

CNXSoft were granted a look at upcoming Intel NUC models this morning, including the next generation of systems, dubbed Hades Canyon, with a variety of other Canyons as well.  The most interesting are the top models, powered by Kaby Lake H and a discrete GPU, the NUCxi7HVK aka Hades Lake VR and NUCxi7HNK which is Hades Lake without VR.  Those two models will support for up to six displays and offer two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a pair of PCIe SSDs as well as support for Intel Optane.  All of these features could require a slightly larger footprint than we are used to with NUCs especially considering the dGFX.  Head on over for more details on the other NUC models you can expect to see in the coming years. 

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"Intel’s new generation of Gemini Lake and Coffee Lake processors is expected to launch at the end of this year, beginning of next, and this morning I received Intel’s NUC roadmap that gives a good idea of what’s coming in 2018 and 2019."

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Tech Talk

Source: CNXSoft

Intel Technology and Manufacturing Day in China

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2017 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: Intel, China, cannon lake, coffee lake, 10nm, 14nm+, 14nm++, 22FFL, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, 22FDX

Today in China Intel is holding their Technology and Manufacturing Day. Unlike previous "IDF" events this appears to be far more centered on the manufacturing aspects of Intel's latest process nodes. During presentations Intel talked about their latest steps down the process ladder to smaller and smaller geometries all the while improving performance and power efficiency.
 
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Mark Bohr presenting at Intel Technology and Manufacturing Day in China. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
It really does not seem as though 14nm has been around as long as it has, but the first Intel products based on that node were released in the 2nd half of 2014.  Intel has since done further work on the process. Today the company talked about two other processes as well as products being made on these nodes.
 
The 10nm process has been in development for some time and we will not see products this year. Instead we will see two product cycles based on 14nm+ and 14nm++ parts. Intel did show off a wafer of 10nm Cannon Lake dies. Intel claims that their 10nm process is still around 3 years more advanced than the competition. Other foundry groups have announced and shown off 10nm parts, but overall transistor density and performance does not look to match what Intel has to offer.
 
We have often talked about the marketing names that these nodes have been given, and how often their actual specifications have not really lived up to the reality. Intel is not immune to this, but they are closer to describing these structures than the competition. Even though this gap does exist, competition is improving their products and offering compelling solutions at decent prices so that fabless semi firms can mostly keep up with Intel.
 
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Nothing like handling a 10nm Cannon Lake wafer with bare hands! (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
A new and interesting process is being offered by intel in the form of 22FFL. This is an obviously larger process node, but it is highly optimized for low power operation with far better leakage characteristics than the previous 22nm FF process that Intel used all those years ago. This is aimed at the ultra-mobile devices with speeds above 2 GHz. This seems to be a response to other low power lines like the 22FDX product from GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Intel did not mention potential RF implementations which is something of great interest from those also looking at 22FDX.
 
Perhaps the biggest news that was released today is that of Intel Custom Foundry announcing and agreement with ARM to develop and implement those CPUs on the upcoming 10nm process. This can have a potentially huge impact depending on the amount of 10nm line space that Intel is willing to sell to ARM's partners as well as what timelines they are looking at to deliver products. ARM showed off a 10nm test wafer of Cortex-A75 CPUs. The company claims that they were able to design and implement these cores using industry standard design flows (automated place and route, rather than fully custom) and achieving performance in excess of 3 GHz.
 
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Gus Yeung of ARM holding a 10nm Cortex-A75 based CPUs designed by Intel. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation)
 
Intel continues to move forward and invest a tremendous amount of money in their process technology. They have the ability to continue at this rate far beyond that of other competitors. Typically the company does a lot of the heavy lifting with the tools partners, which then trickles down to the other manufacturers. This has allowed Intel to stay so far ahead of the competition, and with the introduction of 14nm+, 14nm++, and 10nm they will keep much of that lead. Now we must wait and see what kind of clockspeed and power performance we see from these new nodes and how well the competition can react and when.

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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CASES & COOLING

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Texting troubles with 2FA

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2017 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: security, sms, 2fa

Two factor authentication is the way to go when dealing with important information online, unfortunately the most common way of enabling 2FA has proven rather vulnerable.  With just your name, surname and phone number an unsavoury type could use a vulnerability on cellular networks to gain access to your accounts.  The example given over at Slashdot is of a Coinbase wallet with 2FA, registered with a Gmail address also protected by 2FA, which the security researchers easily took control of.  Take a look at the article for more details on the SS7 network vulnerabilities this attack exploits as well as better ways of making use of 2FA. 

If you do intend to continue to use SMS as part of your 2FA, at least consider disabling the feature on your phone which allows you to breifly read a text without unlocking your phone.

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"The report notes of several ways you can protect yourself from this sort of attack: "On some services, you can revoke the option for SMS two-factor and account recovery entirely, which you should do as soon as you've got a more secure app-based method established. Google, for instance, will let you manage two-factor and account recovery here and here; just set up Authenticator or a recovery code, then go to the SMS option for each and click 'Remove Phone.'"

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Source: Slashdot