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GLOBALFOUNDRIES Ceases Operations in its Chengdu Fab

GLOBALFOUNDRIES ceased all operations in its joint-venture fab in Chengdu, China. The fab opened its doors in 2018, and was supposed to mass-produce 300 mm wafers on the 22FDX technology in a 65,000 square meter facility. The company's Chinese partner, the Chengdu Municipality, had at the time boasted of investments into the fab peaking at $10 billion. The two had also announced $2 billion in initial design wins.

GloFo's announcement to cease operations and possibly withdraw from Chengdu comes hot on the heals of a separate announcement bolstering its mainland US based facilities up to US-DoD specs for secure manufacturing, a sign that the company will scale up investment into US-based facilities. GloFo's foreshadowed withdrawal from manufacturing in China is part of the ongoing "tech war" between the US and China, with the US getting American (and West-aligned) tech companies to pull manufacturing out of China, the biggest casualties of which is Huawei.

Huawei Ready to Enter PC Industry with Custom OS and Processor

Since the debut of its plans to create a custom Operating System and make itself independent from everyone, Huawei has been working hard to bring that idea to life. Creating custom software and custom hardware solutions, Huawei's engineers have been rather busy. And now, Huawei aims to be the new player in the Chinese PC industry, replacing the already available solutions that have foreign technology with potential backdoors that could represent a threat to Chinese information security. So to prepare for that, Huawei is creating a custom OS called HarmonyOS that will accompany custom hardware solutions.

The HarmonyOS was announced last year at Huawei Developer Conference 2019 (HDC 2019) as a project Huawei is working on. However, it seems like that project will become some of the more important things the company is working on. A well-known person for tipping about the latest industry news on Weibo said that Huawei is preparing to launch custom PCs very soon for domestic (Chinese) audience. Huawei is supposedly working with major cities and regions in China to supply its infrastructure with new solutions. And what those solutions will be? Well, Huawei plans to combine the HarmonyOS with its already launched Kunpeng Desktop Board.
Huawei Kunpeng Desktop Board Huawei Kunpeng Desktop Board

China's Yangtze Memory Technologies' 64L Xtacking NAND Competitive Against Mainstream Manufacturers' Solutions

China's plans for world domination include the country slowly retracting itself from its dependency on western companies' technologies, via heavy acceleration of plans for and production of a myriad of semiconductor technologies. One of the more important technologies amongst those due to its relative ease of manufacture and overall market value is, of course, NAND technology. And the days of China being undoubtedly behind other manufacturers' technologies seems to be coming to an end, with the countries' Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) 64-layer Xtacking TLC NAND design already achieving pretty impressive results compared to its mainstream counterparts.

Xtacking technology is expected to disrupt the $52 billion NAND memory market and its big players such as Micron, Samsung, SK Hynix, Kioxia, Western Digital, and Intel. The technology separates periphery circuits and memory cell operations towards a separate wafer, which allows for increased performance and throughput compared to other designs. Senior technical fellow Jeongdong Choe at Ottawa, Canada-based TechInsights (a company specializing in reverse-engineering semiconductor technology) has told EE Times YMTC's 64-layer, 256 Gb die bit density is 4.41 Gb/mm, which is higher than the Samsung equivalent 256 Gb die at 3.42 Gb/mm.
Cross-section SEM image along BL direction showing YMTC Xtacking architecture Objective Analysis’ annual report, China’s Memory Ambitions 2019

U.S. Further Tightens Tech Export Regulations for China

The United States Government on Monday announced a new set of rules for U.S. companies exporting technology to Chinese firms directly or indirectly associated with the Chinese military, according to a Reuters report. The vagueness of what constitutes a Chinese entity that could supply derived technology over to the military could create confusion and uncertainty.

The new trade regime would see U.S. companies requiring to obtain a license to export technology to China. The U.S. also did away with exceptions to older rules that allowed U.S. firms to export to civilian Chinese companies without a license. "It is important to consider the ramifications of doing business with countries that have histories of diverting goods purchased from U.S. companies for military applications," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. The new rules will also require U.S. companies to file declarations of goods exported to China, Russia, and Venezuela, regardless of value.

Huawei Moves 14 nm Silicon Orders from TSMC to SMIC

Huawei's subsidiary, HiSilicon, which designs the processors used in Huawei's smartphones and telecommunications equipment, has reportedly moved its silicon orders from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), according to DigiTimes. Why Huawei decided to do is move all of the 14 nm orders from Taiwanese foundry to China's largest silicon manufacturing fab, is to give itself peace of mind if the plan of the US Government goes through to stop TSMC from supplying Huawei. At least for the mid-tier chips built using 14 nm node, Huawei would gain some peace as a Chinese fab is a safer choice given the current political situation.

When it comes to the high-end SoCs built on 7 nm, and 5 nm in the future, it is is still uncertain how will Huawei behave in this situation, meaning that if US cuts off TSMC's supply to Huawei, they will be forced to use SMIC's 7 nm-class N+1 node instead of anything from TSMC. Another option would be Samsung, but it is a question will Huawei put itself in risk to be dependant on another foreign company. The lack of 14 nm orders from Huawei will not be reflecting much on TSMC, because whenever someone decides to cut orders, another company takes up the manufacturing capactiy. For example, when Huawei cut its 5 nm orders, Apple absorbed by ordering more capacity. When Huawei also cut 7 nm orders, AMD and other big customers decided to order more, making the situation feel like there is a real fight for TSMC's capacity.
Silicon Wafer

Razer Launches China Exclusive Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless Earphones

If your looking for a new pair of wireless earbuds and don't care about the sound quality, battery life, or features but require the most stylish headphones available the Razer Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless earphones may be for you. The Razer Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless earphones are a special edition version of their Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds. The charging case has become a Poke ball with front button LED indicator light.

As with the Razer's Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds the Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless earphones have 13 mm drivers, IPX4 water resistance and Bluetooth 5.0. For gaming the earbuds come with an low latency mode which reduces latency to 60 ms, along with customized voice prompts voiced by Pikachu. The earbuds will be available to purchase for $140 via Tmall when they launch in China on April 16th.

The COVID-19 Pandemic, or Why Chaos Isn't a Pit... It's a Ladder

I had to take that sentence from Game of Thrones' Little Finger (if you recognized it, kudos to you), since I believe it to be mostly true, given we have the right mindset about that which surrounds us. While the pandemic will always be a mainly bleak point in humanity's history, and everyday there are reports of people being their worst selves through these difficult times, there is also always opportunity for growth affixed to any great crisis. It falls upon us, our institutions, and on companies, to see really what we can learn from situations such as these.

For one, we've seen, beyond any possible ideological beliefs we may have, that the Internet is a utility, not a commodity. Its capability to bridge the gaps in geography - and in social connection - is just too important in our globalized society to be considered anything other than a fundamental right. Discussions on this point have been ongoing for a while, and debates surrounding things like the net neutrality have already given birth to rivers of both actual and digital ink. However, it is this writer's opinion that the discussion is moot, and nothing more than a speedbump until we achieve the final, inescapable truth that the Internet is a crucial part of the world's infrastructure, and not only that - of what it means to be human in our modern world.

SMIC 7nm-class N+1 Foundry Node Going Live by Q4-2020

China's state-backed SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) has set an ambitious target of Q4-2020 for its 7 nanometer-class N+1 foundry node to go live, achieving "small scale production," according to a cnTechPost report. The company has a lot of weight on its shoulders as geopolitical hostility between the U.S. and China threatens to derail the country's plans to dominate 5G technology markets around the world. The SMIC N+1 node is designed to improve performance by 20%, reduce chip power consumption by 57%, reduce logic area by 63%, and reduce SoC area by 55%, in comparison to the SMIC's 14 nm FinFET node, Chinese press reports citing a statement from SMIC's co-CEO Dr. Liang Mengsong.

Dr. Liang confirmed that the N+1 7 nm node and its immediate successor will not use EUV lithography. N+1 will receive a refinement in the form of N+2, with modest chip power consumption improvement goals compared to N+1. This is similar to SMIC's 12 nm FinFET node being a refinement of its 14 nm FinFET node. Later down its lifecycle, once the company has got a handle of its EUV lithography equipment, N+2 could receive various photomasks, including a switch to EUV at scale.

AMD Preparing New RX 590 GME Graphics Card for Release

Expreview has caught the sighting of an apparently upcoming AMD graphics card based around the RX 590 SKU. The new revision, being named the RX 590 GME, apparently features lower clocks than the base Polaris 30 RX 590 ~around 1,385 MHz boost compared to the vanilla RX590's 1545 MHz. That clockspeed puts the RX 590 GME slightly above the RX 580 in terms of specs, but way below the RX 590, which should lead to a distinct performance variation between the two.

It's unclear as to what GPU die this new Polaris-based graphics card will be using. If I were a betting man, I'd say these are being harvested from 12 nm Polaris 30 dies that haven't been able to sustain the 1545 MHz clockspeeds rated for RX 590 chips - but still being put to use and very likely with a better power/performance ratio than the RX 590. For now, the model is only available for pre-order through a Chinese e-tailer, which could mean this is a China-only release.

US Government Could Stop Chip Shipments from TSMC to Huawei

US Government, precisely the Trump administration, is considering placing a ban on chip export from TSMC to Huawei. With Huawei being in the middle between the US and China fight for global technology dominance, the Trump administration is seeking to limit the progress of foreign forces trying to match or beat US technology. There were previous efforts by the US government to influence Huawei's fate, with them claiming that Huawei 5G equipment is capable of supplying China with intelligence, meaning that China tries to spy on US citizens. While those claims were later disregarded by Huawei, the Trump administration managed to do some damage to the face of the company.

The TSMC representative who spoke to Reuters about the potential ban said that the company (TSMC) does not answer hypothetical questions and that they don't talk about their customers. To achieve more control over the China semiconductor manufacturing, the US government plans to place a licensing model on all of their US-made semiconductor equipment, meaning that all the production lines are possibly in danger if the US doesn't approve shipments of their machines to other countries.

Zhaoxin KaiXian x86 Processor Now Commercially Available to the DIY Channel

Zhaoxin is a brand that makes multi-core 64-bit x86 processors primarily for use in Chinese state IT infrastructure. It's part of the Chinese Government's ambitious plan to make its IT hardware completely indigenous. Zhaoxin's x86-64 CPU cores are co-developed by licensee VIA, specifically its CenTaur subsidiary that's making NCORE AI-enabled x86 processors. The company's KaiXian KX-6780A processor is now commercially available in China to the DIY market in the form of motherboards with embedded processors.

The KaiXian KX-6780A features an 8-core/8-thread x86-64 CPU clocked up to 2.70 GHz, 8 MB of last-level cache, a dual-channel DDR4-3200 integrated memory controller, a PCI-Express gen 3.0 root-complex, and an iGPU possibly designed by VIA's S3 Graphics division, which supports basic display and DirectX 11.1 readiness. The CPU features modern ISA, with instruction sets that include AVX, AES-NI, SHA-NI, and VT-x comparable virtualization extensions. The chip has been fabricated on TSMC 16 nm FinFET process.

China Cuts Import Tariffs on Some U.S. Tech, Could Impact Electronic Goods Prices

China announced that it will reduce import tariffs on several U.S. commodities, including certain kinds of technology. This is a sign of easing tensions between the United States and China on its devastating trade-war waged between 2017-19 that wiped billions of Dollars of value from the capital markets and saw increases in prices of goods around the world. The exhaustive list of 859 commodities covers raw materials for a variety of polymers and plastics found in consumer durables, raw materials for energy storage devices, certain kinds of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, photo and video imaging equipment (camera components), LCD and OLED display components. There are hundreds of other commodities from other industries, covering food, industrial automation, and agriculture.

The items on China's updated import tariffs list amounts to some USD $389 billion in annual trade, or about 18 percent of China's annual imports. The cuts in import tariffs are expected to not just benefit U.S. exporters to China, but also stimulate similar import tariff cuts from the U.S. in response. China has an insatiable appetite for camera equipment, and has eased imports of OLED and certain semiconductor manufacturing equipment, which could have a trickle-down effect on the tech industry. Find the complete schedule of goods with updated import tariffs here. We've machine translated relevant pages in the screenshots below.

Intel Marketing Claims i5-9600KF Better than 3800X, i3-9350KF Better than 3600X

Intel marketing is at it again, making sweeping performance claims about its embattled 9th generation Core processors against AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen. In a recent press conference in China, the company was shown claiming that its mid-tier 6-core/6-thread Core i5-9600KF is a "better" processor than AMD's 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 7 3800X. This claim is hard to defend with gaming, when even the "slower" 3700X is seen performing within 1% of the i5-9600K (identical CPU specs to the i5-9600KF) at gaming, and 22 percent faster at CPU tests, beating the i9-9900K in quite a few multi-threaded tests.

The marketing slide makes four key claims: 1. that Intel processors are faster in "real-world" use-cases (gaming, home/office, light content-creation), ; 2. that with boost-frequencies reaching 4.60 GHz, the higher IPC of these chips benefit gaming; 3. that the K-series chips easily overclock to 5.00 GHz yielding even more performance; and 4. that Intel processors have "smooth and stable drivers" compared to AMD. As if that wasn't bad enough, the slide claims that the 4-core/4-thread Core i3-9350KF is "better" than the 6-core/12-thread Ryzen 5 3600X, and the entry-level i3-9100F being better than the 6-core/6-thread Ryzen 5 3500. This incident closely follows its September gaffe that sought to sourgrape AMD's HEDT creator performance leadership by discrediting its lead in certain applications by claiming they don't reflect "real world usage." Making Intel's test relevance claims comically wrong was the fact that it used app usage data gathered exclusively from notebooks.

ChangXin Becomes China's First Domestic DRAM Supplier

ChangXin Memory Technologies, a Chinese startup founded in 2016 that was formerly known as "Innotron Memory", now claims that it has become China's first and only domestic DRAM supplier. Following the announcement that it started production of domestic DRAM chips, ChangXin is now reportedly shipping its first DRAM wafers. With an output of around 20000 wafers per month, the company is currently building LPDDR4, DDR4 8Gbit chips using the "10-nanometer class" node, which is supposed to be 18 or 19 nm size in reality.

The company expects to double its wafer output to 40000 wafers per month sometime around Q2 of 2020 when additional expansion facilities will start production. ChangXin plans to soon open two more manufacturing facilities to start manufacturing even more wafers, in addition to its Fab 1. So far ChangXin has laid-out plans to start manufacturing DRAM technology based on stack capacitor, which is different from the usual trench capacitor technology few companies are pursuing.

U.S. Legislators Including AOC Come Down Hard on Activision-Blizzard on Blitzchung Ban

Three Congresspersons and two Senators, in a letter to Activision-Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick, came down hard on the company's decision to ban and withdraw prize winnings of Hong Kong gamer Ng Wai Chung aka "Blitzchung." In the letter, the legislators unleashed scathing criticism of the company's decision to place its market-access to China above its expectations as an American business to spread the core American values of freedom and liberty around the world. Among these legislators are Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressmen Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski; and Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden.

"Your company benefits from China's growing market for e-sports, along with an investment from Tencent, one of China's largest technology firms. As you and your company are no doubt aware, the Chinese government uses the size and strength of its economy to suppress opinion with which it disagrees. Last week alone, the Chinese government targeted Apple for hosting an app to help peaceful demonstrators evade repression and the NBA because one team's general manager tweeted in support of Hong Kong protests," the letter reads.

China Starts Production of Domestic DRAM Chips

China's semiconductor industry is seeking independence in every sector of its industry, with an emphasis of homemade products for domestic use, especially government facilities, where usage of homegrown products is most desirable. According to the report of China Securities Journal, Chinese firm has started production of DRAM memory.

A company named ChangXin Memory Technology, founded in 2016 to boost domestic silicon production, on Monday started production of DRAM memory, aiming to directly replace the current supply of foreign memory from companies like Micron, SK Hynix and Samsung. Being build using 18 nm technology which ChangXin calls "10-nanometer class" node, this DRAM chip isn't too far behind offers from competitors it tries to replace. Micron, Samsung and SK Hynix use 12, 14, and 16 nm nodes for production of their DRAM chips, so Chinese efforts so far are very good. The company promises to produce around 120.000 wafers per month and plans to deliver first chips by the end of this year.

A Reprieve: Select PC Hardware Exempt of Tariffs on Chinese Imports to the US

The US Trade Representative on Friday granted a reprieve to the increased tariffs being levied at China-imported electronic goods. The exemption, valid for one year until 20th August 2020, includes some products that will be welcome to PC hardware enthusiasts, including motherboards, graphics cards, desktop cases, "mouse input devices" valued over $70, "trackpad input units" valued at over $100, and power supply units that output more than 500 W.

The exempts have come as fruits of requests from US stakeholders in the hardware space; should imports be available only from China (meaning there are no alternate sources of said materials) or if the tariff could cause "severe economic harm", a temporary reprieve on the levies could be sought. And so the exempts were requested, and now granted. Prices paid before the announcement of the reprieve that included the added tax penalties are final; the exemption is only valid for orders after September 20th. This means the 25% increased rates (itself an increase on the initial 10%) on the tax basis are now frozen when it comes to the aforementioned hardware. This means companies no longer have to scramble to source their manufacturing to countries other than China, and that prices increased for end consumers on the basis of the tax increase are now meritless.

Yangtze Memory Begins Mass-production of 64-layer 3D NAND Flash Memory

Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), a Chinese state-backed semiconductor company founded in 2016 as part of the Chinese Government's tech-independence push, has commenced mass-production of 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips, at a rate of 100,000 to 150,000 wafers per month leading into 2020. The 64-layer 3D NAND chips are based on YMTC's "in-house" Xtracking architecture. The company is already developing a 128-layer 3D NAND flash chip, and is skipping 96-layer along the way.

YMTC's capacity will be augmented by a new fab being built by its parent company, Tsinghua Unigroup. Tsinghua is a state-owned company which holds a controlling 51 percent stake in YMTC, and is a beneficiary of China's National Semiconductor Industry Investment Fund. When it goes online in 2021-22, the new Tsinghua fab, located in Chengdu, will augment YMTC's capacity by an additional 100,000 12-inch wafers per month. Its existing fab in Nanjing will also receive a capacity expansion.

Yeston Reveal "CUTE PET" Pink AMD Radeon RX 580 Graphics Card - Straight out of Manga

Yeston have revealed an addition to their AMD graphics-card lineup in the form of the "CUTE PET" RX 580. The name implies exactly what this card is all about: a colorful, teenage theme in blue and pink with PCB cutouts that resemble a... well... Cute pet. There are RGB elements in the cut-outs for the eyes, ears and mouth of the "CUTE PET", the eyes are confused spirals built from the dual-fan cooling design, there's a blue backplate with cloudy cut-outs...

Cryorig Not Dead, But the US-China Trade-War Hurt It

There have been spectacular rumors flying around on Reddit that PC cooling components major Cryorig has shut down, with telltale signs being their telephone-support number going dead, their Newegg store being out-of-stock for months, and their Twitter account falling silent. We've reviewed close to a dozen Cryorig products, and our last review was dated October 2018. We reached out to Cryorig and one of their representatives was kind enough to respond to us with an update on what has happened at the company. Cryorig is impacted by the U.S.-China trade-war, as the high import tariffs affected the viability of its products. The company would earlier directly access the U.S. market through exclusive stores on Amazon and Newegg.

The company continues to have active market-presence elsewhere, including Asia and Europe. Cryorig clarified in unequivocal terms that it has not, and will not, exit the U.S. market. The company stated that it is merely waiting for respite from the crippling import tariff. In the meantime, it has sought out a new U.S.-based distributor who will import Cryorig products, and resell them. This distributor will also take over other aspects of the U.S. business, including aftersales support, RMA, etc.

Microsoft Won't Move Production Out of China

Previously, we have reported that major OEMs are looking and exploring for ways of moving production outside of China, into other Asian countries, because of tariffs imposed by US-China trade war and rising labor costs. The original report from Nikkei specifically indicated that Microsoft will move its Xbox and Surface manufacturing to Thailand and Indonesia, while the production in China would stop.

However, Tom's Hardware had a conversation with Microsoft regarding the situation and the outcome was contradictory to the report of Nikkei. Microsoft told Tom's Hardware "that there currently aren't any plans to do so", which means that current manufacturing facilities are there to stay. We still don't know how will the rest of OEMs react or comment, but HP also said to Tom's that it shares industry concerns and will not comment any further to the rumors, adding that tariffs are hurting consumers.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition Not a Worldwide Release, Available only in US and China

Apparently, AMD isn't celebrating its 50th anniversary in all parts of the globe, judging from recent reports regarding its AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition. Apparently, the exclusive, limited-edition graphics card will only be available for US and China customers - two of the biggest worldwide markets, for sure. This is a strange decision from AMD, since a sold unit is a sold unit; however, this may be a sign of really limited availability of the graphics card and the hardware powering it.

Trendforce: DRAM Pricing Could Fall Up to 25% in 2019 Following Huawei ban

Trendforce, via its market analysis division DRAMeXchange, announced yesterday that it expected DRAM pricing to fall even more than previously estimated. The motive behind this is Huawei's ban following the US-China trade war, which will limit Huawei's ability to deliver its server and, especially, smartphone products. With companies being banned from trading with the Chinese firm, a voracious consumer of the US-tied DRAM production has just evaporated without a trace. This means increasing inventories amidst a freeze in demand due to uncertainty in the overall markets, which will obviously tip the supply-demand balance.

This has led TrendForce to officially adjust its outlook for 3Q DRAM prices from its original prediction of a 10% decline to a widened 10-15% decline, with an additional 10% decline in the fourth quarter. And of course, after prices hit rock bottom, they can only go up, which is why DRAMeXchange expects prices can only increase - and DRAM manufacturers' outlook improve - come 2020. Gear up for those DRAM upgrades this year, folks.

AMD Halts Further x86 Technology Licensing to China

AMD Lisa Su at Computex 2019 confirmed to Tom's hardware that the company wasn't licensing anymore of its x86 IP portfolio to China-based companies. AMD entered a technology license agreement with China's Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co. Ltd. (THATIC) in 2016. As part of the agreement to license its x86 and SoC IP for chip development, AMD received a cash infusion worth $293 million (plus royalties).

As a result, Chinese chipmaker Hygon started delivering their "Dhyana" CPUs, which looked like copies of AMD's Zen-based Epyc chips with added, Chinese-government approved cryptographic capabilities. AMD had to go through some hoops to get this deal done, but it did. However, now the technology refinement pipe is draining for the Chinese companies, as AMD won't be delivering its post-Zen updates to the core design. It remains to be seen if AMD's intellectual property was enough for Chinese companies to ignite their own in-country CPU development, or if the ongoing US-China trade war will keep on draining the company of CPU independence.

ARM Revokes Huawei's Chip IP Licence

As the trade war between the US and China continues to unfold, we are seeing major US companies ban or stop providing service to China's technology giant Huawei. Now, it looks like the trade war has crossed the ocean and reached the UK. This time, UK based ARM Holdings, the provider of mobile chip IP for nearly all smartphones and tablets, has revoked the license it has given Huawei.

According to the BBC, ARM Holdings employees were instructed to suspend all interactions with Huawei, and to send a note informing Huawei that "due to an unfortunate situation, they were not allowed to provide support, deliver technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities." The news came from an internal ARM document the BBC has obtained.
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