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Intel to Refresh its LGA2066 HEDT Platform This Summer?

Intel is rumored to refresh its high-end desktop (HEDT) platforms this Summer with new products based on the "Cascade Lake" microarchitecture. Intel now has two HEDT platforms, LGA2066 and LGA3647. The new "Cascade Lake-X" silicon will target the LGA2066 platform, and could see the light of the day by June, on the sidelines of Computex 2019. A higher core-count model with 6-channel memory, will be launched for the LGA3647 socket as early as April. So if you've very recently fronted $3,000 on a Xeon W-3175X, here's a bucket of remorse. Both chips will be built on existing 14 nm process, and will bring innovations such as Optane Persistent Memory support, Intel Deep Learning Boost (DLBOOST) extensions with VNNI instruction-set, and hardware mitigation against more variants of "Meltdown" and "Spectre."

Elsewhere in the industry, and sticking with Intel, we've known since November 2018 of the existence of "Comet Lake," which is a 10-core silicon for the LGA1151 platform, and which is yet another "Skylake" derivative built on existing 14 nm process. This chip is real, and will be Intel's last line of defense against AMD's first 7 nm "Zen 2" socket AM4 processors, with core-counts of 12-16.

Intel CPU Shortages to Worsen Thru Q2-2019

Supplies of Intel processors will worsen in the second quarter of 2019 according to Taiwan-based industry observer DigiTimes. In a research-based report covering not just the DIY channel, but also the OEM channel focusing on notebook manufacturer, DigiTimes notes that heading into Q2, growth in demand for entry-level portables such as Chromebooks based on entry-level Intel processors, and mainstream notebooks powered by Core i3 processors, which make up the largest demographic of PC consumers in the market.

A pertinent concept to this report is supply-gap, the percentage difference between demand and supply. A positive supply-gap indicates demand exceeding supply and shortages. Leading notebook vendors HP, Dell, and Lenovo, reported supply-gaps of 5% going into Q3-2018, which severely impacted their bottom-lines. The companies waded through Q4 with 4-5%. DigiTimes reports that even Apple wasn't spared from shortages in "Amber Lake" processors. "In the first quarter of 2019, the Core i5 processors featuring Coffee Lake architecture are now having the worst supply shortfall. Some of the demand for Intel's entry-level Atom processors has turned to AMD, while some others have opted for Core i3 processors," the report reads. AMD's market-share among OEMs increased from 9.8% in Q1-2018 to 15.8% in Q1-2019.

Mellanox Not Quite Intel's Yet, NVIDIA Joins Competitive Bidding

Late January it was reported that Intel is looking to buy out Israeli networking hardware maker Mellanox Technology, in what looked like a cakewalk USD $6 billion deal at the time, which was a 35 percent premium over the valuation of Mellanox. Turns out, Intel hasn't closed the deal, and there are other big tech players in the foray for Mellanox, the most notable being NVIDIA. The GPU giant has reportedly offered Mellanox a competitive bid of $7 billion.

NVIDIA eyes a slice of the data-center networking hardware pie since the company has invested heavily in GPU-based AI accelerators and its own high-bandwidth interconnect dubbed NVLink, and now needs to complete its hardware ecosystem with NICs and switches under its own brand. Founded in 1999 in Yoqneam, Israel, Mellanox designs high performance network processors and fully-built NICs in a wide range of data-center relevant interconnects. Intel is by far the biggest tech company operating in Israel, with not just R&D centers, but also manufacturing sites, in stark contrast to NVIDIA, which opened its first R&D office in 2017 with a few hundred employees.

Update: NVIDIA's bid for Mellanox stands at $7 billion.

CORSAIR Hydro X Custom Watercooling Parts Up at Swiss Retailer + Visual Impressions

When we first had a glance of the CORSAIR Hydro X custom watercooling loop parts in action, we suspected they might have a CES debut. CES has come and gone since, with no word of the company's entry into this field. Their direct competitors, including Phanteks and Thermaltake, have since added to their respective product portfolios comprising fans, water blocks, coolants and radiators. Perhaps CORSAIR wanted the launch to not be overshadowed by the other product launches at the recent trade show, and perhaps the listings of the Hydro X products on Digitech.ch is a sign of things to come sooner than later. Read past the break for a more in-depth discussion on the various parts listed, based on our experience with this industry as a whole.

Definitive List of 9th Gen Intel Desktop Client-Segment Processors Outed

Japanese PC maker Fujitsu put out a definitive list of all 9th generation Core/Pentium/Celeron desktop processors as part of its updated desktop motherboard BIOS update document, expanding on the models Intel currently has out. Intel had, in January, stated that it will add several new 9th generation Core desktop processor models in Q1 2019, beginning with the Core i5-9400 and i5-9400F 6-core/6-thread processor, along with "KF" variants of the i5-9600K, i7-9700K, and i9-9900K, which lack integrated graphics. Later this month, the lineup could be expanded with new 9th generation Core i3 series, which includes the i3-9100 and i3-9300 4-core/4-thread processors, overclocker-friendly i3-9350K, and additions to the Core i5 lineup, including the i5-9500 and the i5-9600 (non-K).

Here's where it gets interesting. Apparently, the iGPU-devoid "F" extension is being applied to nearly all 9th gen Core SKUs, and not just the ones already launch. So, you can expect an i5-9500F, i5-9600F (besides the already launched i5-9600KF), i3-9100F, and i3-9350KF. Apparently Intel is harvesting dies with defective iGPUs to target DIY PC gamers who are bound to use discrete graphics cards. The 2-core/4-thread Pentium G5600 is also getting "F-ed," with the G5600F.

Spoiler Alert: New Security Vulnerability Found Affecting Intel CPUs

A new security vulnerability has been found that only affects Intel CPUs - AMD users need not concern regarding this issue. Dubbed Spoiler, the newfound security vulnerability was discovered by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in partnership with the University of Lübeck, and affects all Intel CPUs since the introduction of their Core architecture. This vulnerability too affects Intel's speculative execution design, and according to the researchers, works independent of OS, virtual machine, or sandboxed environments.

As the researchers explain, Intel's speculative execution of certain memory workloads requires the full physical address bits for the information in memory to be known, which could allow for the full address to be available in user space - allowing for privilege escalation and other microarchitectural attacks. According to the researchers, a software solution to this problem is impossible, which means this is yet another silicon-level bug that needs to be addressed in future processor designs.

Intel Takes Steps to Enable Thunderbolt 3 Everywhere, Releases Protocol

Intel is well on its way to making the innovation delivered with Thunderbolt 3 available to everyone. Today, Intel announced that it contributed the Intel Thunderbolt protocol specification to the USB Promoter Group, enabling other chip makers to build Thunderbolt compatible silicon, royalty-free. In addition, the USB Promoter Group announced the pending release of the USB4 specification, based on the Thunderbolt protocol. The convergence of the underlying Thunderbolt and USB protocols will increase compatibility among USB Type-C connector-based products, simplifying how people connect their devices.

"Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification is a significant milestone for making today's simplest and most versatile port available to everyone. This, in combination with the integration of Thunderbolt 3 into upcoming Intel processors is a win-win for the industry and consumers," said Jason Ziller, general manager, Client Connectivity Division at Intel.

USB Promoter Group Announces USB4 Specification

While we just recently covered the USB 3.2 specification. The USB Promoter Group has today announced the pending release of the USB4 specification, a major update to deliver the next generation USB architecture that compliments and builds on the existing USB 3.2 and USB 2.0 architectures. The USB4 architecture is based on the Thunderbolt protocol specification recently contributed by Intel Corporation. It doubles the bandwidth of USB and enables multiple simultaneous data and display protocols.

The new USB4 architecture defines a method to share a single high-speed link with multiple end device types dynamically that best serves the transfer of data by type and application. As the USB Type-C connector has evolved into the role as the external display port of many host products, the USB4 specification provides the host the ability to optimally scale allocations for display data flow. Even as the USB4 specification introduces a new underlying protocol, compatibility with existing USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3 hosts and devices is supported; the resulting connection scales to the best mutual capability of the devices being connected. "The primary goal of USB is to deliver the best user experience combining data, display and power delivery over a user-friendly and robust cable and connector solution," said Brad Saunders, USB Promoter Group Chairman. "The USB4 solution specifically tailors bus operation to further enhance this experience by optimizing the blend of data and display over a single connection and enabling the further doubling of performance."

JPR: GPU Shipments Down 2.65% From Last Quarter, 3.3% YoY

Jon Peddie Research, the market research firm for the computer graphics industry, has released its quarterly Market Watch report on worldwide GPU shipments used in PCs for Q4'18. Overall GPU shipments decreased -2.65% from last quarter, AMD shipments decreased -6.8% Nvidia decreased -7.6% and Intel's shipments, decreased -0.7%. AMD's market share from last quarter decreased -0.6%, Intel's increased 1.4%, and Nvidia's market share decreased -0.82%. Year-to-year total GPU shipments decreased -3.3%, desktop graphics decreased -20%, notebooks increased 8%.

Although overall GPU shipments declined PC sales saw an uptick of 1.61% which is a positive sign for the market overall. "The channel's demand for add-in boards (AIBs) in early 2018 was out of sync with what was happening in the market," said Dr. Jon Peddie, president and founder of Jon Peddie Research. "As a result, the channel was burdened with too much inventory. That has impacted sales of discrete GPUs in Q4, and will likely be evident in Q1, and Q2'19 as well."

New "Thunderclap" Vulnerability Threatens to Infect Your PC Over Thunderbolt Peripherals

A new security vulnerability named "Thunderclap" severely compromises security of computers with USB type-C Thunderbolt ports, or machines with Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps) ports. This would be pretty much every MacBook released in the past two years, Macs, and PCs with certain aftermarket Thunderbolt 3 adapters. Chronicled in a paper by the Department of Computer Science and Technology at the University of Cambridge, Rice University and SRI International, is a method for Thunderbolt devices to bypass the host machine's IOMMU (I/O memory management unit), and read its main memory over DMA.

An IOMMU translates address-spaces between devices and main memory, and hence protects your memory's contents being read by just about any device. The group has detailed possible ways to mitigate this vulnerability, and forwarded these mitigations to Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. For now no public mitigation exists other than disabling the Thunderbolt controller of your machine in your motherboard's UEFI setup program.

Intel Announces Next-Generation Acceleration Card to Deliver 5G

Today at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019, Intel announced the Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card N3000 (Intel FPGA PAC N3000), designed for service providers to enable 5G next-generation core and virtualized radio access network solutions. The Intel FPGA PAC N3000 accelerates many virtualized workloads, ranging from 5G radio access networks to core network applications.

"As the mobile and telecommunications industry gears up for an explosion in internet protocol traffic and 5G rollouts, we designed the Intel FPGA PAC N3000 to provide the programmability and flexibility with the performance, power efficiency, density and system integration capabilities the market needs to fully support the capabilities of 5G networks," said Reynette Au, Intel vice president of marketing, Programmable Solutions Group.

NVIDIA Adds New Options to Its MX200 Mobile Graphics Solutions - MX250 and MX230

NVIDIA has added new SKUs to its low power mobility graphics lineup. the MX230 and MX250 come in to replace The GeForce MX130 and MX150, but... there's really not that much of a performance improvement to justify the increase in the series' tier. Both solutions are based on Pascal, so there are no Turing performance uplifts at the execution level.

NVIDIA hasn't disclosed any CUDA core counts or other specifics on these chips; we only know that they are paired with GDDR 5 memory and feature Boost functionality for increased performance in particular scenarios. The strange thing is that NVIDIA's own performance scores compare their MX 130, MX150, and now MX230 and MX250 to Intel's UHD620 IGP part... and while the old MX150 was reported by NVIDIA as offering an up to 4x performance uplift compared to that Intel part, the new MX250 now claims an improvement of 3.5x the performance. Whether this is because of new testing methodology, or some other reason, only NVIDIA knows.

Intel Invites Gamers for a Graphics Odyssey Spanning Multiple Continents

Intel is working to build up hype and awareness around its discrete graphics efforts, of which we're still to see more off besides Intel's continuous acquisition of AMD-based talent for that particular endeavor. It's relatively hard to build up enthusiasm for something other than the fact there is a third competitor entering the high-performance graphics card space; the rest is mostly rumors, speculations, and declared intentions.

Intel's FinFET-Based Embedded MRAM is Ready for Production

A report via EETimes slates Intel's own working MRAM (Magnetoresistive Random-Access Memory) is ready for production in high-volume manufacturing. MRAM is a nonvolatile memory technology, meaning that it retains information even if there is a change in powerstate (ie, power loss), meaning that it's more akin to a storage device than to, say, RAM.

But why does MRAM matter, really? Well, MRAM is being developed as a long-term candidate to a universal memory solution, replacing both DRAM (a volatile memory technology) and NAND flash (a nonvolatile one), since node scaling with these technologies is becoming increasingly harder. MRAM promises better-scaling (at the foundry level) processes, with much higher yield rates. The fact that MRAM has been demonstrated to be able to achieve 1 ns settling times, better than the currently accepted theoretical limits for DRAM, and much higher write speeds (as much as thousands of times faster) compared to NAND flash.

Intel Rolls Out the 4 GHz Pentium Gold G5620 Processor

Intel rolled out its first Pentium-branded processor with 4.00 GHz clock-speed, the Pentium Gold G5620 (retail SKU: BX80684G5620). The chip replaces the G5600 on top of the entry-level product stack. Based on the 14 nm "Coffee Lake" microarchitecture, it packs a 2-core/4-thread CPU clocked at 4.00 GHz without Turbo Boost. 256 KB of L2 cache per core and 4 MB of shared L3 cache are also offered. The integrated graphics solution is Intel's workhorse UHD Graphics 630, with 24 execution units. The dual-channel DDR4 integrated memory controller supports up to 64 GB of DDR4-2400 memory. The chip's TDP is rated at 65W. Pricing is up in the air, with retail channel shortages expected to swing the chip on both sides of the $100-mark. Availability is slated for early-March, 2019.

Intel Acquires Indian Startup to Strengthen Position in Discrete GPU Tech

Several years ago, Ineda, a small startup from Hyderabad, India made headlines when they developed custom-design processors for use in wearable devices that were optimized for high energy-efficiency, while still having the ability to read out various sensors or listen to voice commands at the same time. Such improvements help increase battery life on devices that people don't want to recharge every day. Over the years the company has received several million dollars in funding from Samsung, Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies and others.

Looks like this caused enough attention at chip giant Intel, who's trying to come up with a competitive design for a discrete graphics processor, that's able to take on AMD's and NVIDIA's offerings. While Ineda certainly has patents that could come in useful, it looks like Intel is more interested in the company's manpower. With around 100 engineers, the company has a lot of talent, that's experienced in chip design and how to make these chips energy efficient.

Intel Core i9-9990XE OEM-only, Even Then it's a Lottery

In a sign of just how arid the DIY retail channel has become for Intel, Tom's Hardware reports that the new socket flagship LGA2066 HEDT processor model Intel sneaked into its product-stack, the Core i9-9990XE, is restricted to the OEM/SI (system integrator) channel. Even to OEMs, ordering a tray of i9-9990XE chips isn't as simple as ordering other chips, such as the i9-9900K. Apparently, Intel has been running secret online auctions that are OEM-only, for these chips. OEMs get to bid on the per-chip price in n-unit tray quantities.

Workstation integrator Puget Systems was able to score itself some i9-9990XE inventory at USD $2,300 per chip. Puget Systems last week received its first batch of chips from Intel, and released performance benchmarks. At this price, the i9-9990XE is being sold at a 21% premium over the retail-channel SEP price of the i9-9980XE, and a whopping 65% premium over the i9-9940X. Intel can't shake off comparisons between the i9-9990XE and the i9-9940X because both chips are 14-core/28-thread with 19.25 MB shared L3 cache, with the i9-9990XE only offering significantly higher clock-speeds, but at an astounding TDP of 255W. The i9-9990XE was shown beating the 18-core i9-9980XE in a variety of HEDT-relevant benchmarks.

EK co-develops a heatsink for the Intel Optane 905P M.2 SSD

EK Water Blocks, the premium computer cooling gear manufacturer, is releasing a passive heatsink for the M.2 version of the Intel Optane 905P NVMe SSD. The passive heatsink ensures lower operating temperatures which expands the lifespan and improves the sustained performance of the drive. It ensures that the Intel Optane 905P NVMe SSD operates at its maximum possible performance by preventing thermal throttling during heavy workload cycles.

The 905P Intel Optane Drive uses around 9.35 W of power under load, which is challenging to dissipate without a dedicated cooling solution like the EK-M.2 Intel Optane Heatsink. The cooling performance of this solution by EK is achieved via thermal pads that transfer heat to the aluminum heatsink that is finned for a larger dissipation area. The design of the heatsink ensures that it is easy to install, it is low profile, easily reusable and aesthetically not intrusive.

New Intel Core i9-9990XE Sheds Cores in Favor of High Clock Speeds, Benchmarked

Intel is giving final touches to a new socket LGA2066 high-end desktop processor with an interesting model number for its specifications. The new Core i9-9990XE is positioned above the current flagship i9-9980XE. Normally you'd expect it to be the same 18-core "Skylake-X" chip with a speed-bump, however, the i9-9990XE is a unique proposition. It sheds cores in favor of significantly higher clock-speeds than the i9-9980XE.

The i9-9990XE is a 14-core/28-thread processor, based on a binned "Skylake-X" HCC (high core count) die, and uses STIM (soldered thermal interface material) between the die and integrated heatspreader (IHS). It features some aggressive clock-speeds, with 4.00 GHz nominal clock-speeds, and a massive 5.10 GHz maximum Turbo Boost frequency that beats even the Core i9-9900K. Besides 14 cores, the i9-9990XE is configured with 19.25 MB of shared L3 cache, and 1 MB of L2 cache per core. The four disabled cores alone don't help Intel's efforts to dial up clock-speeds. Intel has increased the chip's rated TDP all the way up to 255 Watts!

Intel Invests €7 Billion in Ireland Toward a New Fab

Intel is following up on its massive $11 billion investment in Israel with a second large manufacturing investment, this time in Leixlip, Ireland. The company has earmarked a €7 billion investment toward construction of a new fab in Leixlip, which will employ 1,600 people, and have a built-up area of 110,000 m². This fab will sit alongside existing fabs that already employ over 4,500 staff. The company did not go into details of what the fab will manufacture. The investment aligns with Intel's strategy of massive investments in manufacturing to increase its chip volumes as enterprises, small and medium businesses, and consumers at large look to upgrade their computers at the turn of the decade. The company is already combating acute shortages of processors in the retail channel.

Intel Core i5-9400F Processor Lacks STIM, Uses Thermal Paste

With its 9th generation Core processor family, Intel introduced STIM (soldered thermal interface material) to transfer heat between the processor die and the metal integrated heatspreader (IHS), as opposed to fluid thermal pastes. Enthusiasts prefer soldered IHS for their superior heat-transfer characteristics. It was known since the series launch that STIM will be restricted to the unlocked "K" SKUs, such as the i9-9900K and i7-9700K, while locked SKUs would retain thermal pastes. PC enthusiast @momomo_us (Twitter handle) de-lidded a Core i5-9400F sample to confirm this.

The Core i5-9400F was de-lidded (its IHS removed) and placed next to a de-lidded i5-9600K, showing you TIM residue surrounding the i5-9400F die, and solder fragments on that of the i5-9600K. Interestingly, the i5-9600K die looks visibly larger than the i5-9400F, despite both being 6-core processors with 9 MB L3 cache. This isn't because the latter lacks an iGPU (not physically anyway). The i5-9400F die appears to be roughly as big as the 6-core "Coffee Lake" die used in 8th generation Core 6-core processors, while the i5-9600K appears to be carved out of the 8-core "Coffee Lake" die by disabling two CPU cores. The iGPU is physically present on the i5-9400F, but disabled.

Intel Posts Open-Source AV1 Encoder for Online Streaming Servers

Intel posted an open-source video encoder for the new AV1 video format, targeted at online streaming servers that process large amounts of online videos for streaming. The new SVT-AV1 (Scalable Video Technology-AV1), is an BSD-2-Clause-Patent licensed video encoder that supports Linux, Windows, and MacOS operating systems, optimized for Intel Xeon Scalable processors based on the "Skylake" microarchitecture and older, as it probably leverages the AVX-512 instruction-set. It has some pretty steep hardware requirements from a client viewpoint, but nothing big video stream service providers can't afford: 48 GB of minimum RAM for a 10 bpc 4K stream, or 16 GB for a Full-HD stream. The encoder can scale up to 112 logical processors. Intel earlier offered a similar encoder for the proprietary H.265/HEVC format, with SVT-HEVC. You can inspect and grab SVT-AV1 from Intel's Git.

Intel Names Robert Swan CEO

Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) today announced that its board of directors has named Robert (Bob) Swan as chief executive officer. Swan, 58, who has been serving as Intel's interim CEO for seven months and as chief financial officer since 2016, is the seventh CEO in Intel's 50-year history. Swan has also been elected to Intel's board of directors. Todd Underwood, vice president of Finance and director of Intel's Corporate Planning and Reporting, will assume the role of interim chief financial officer as the company undertakes an internal and external search for a permanent CFO.

"As Intel continues to transform its business to capture more of a large and expanding opportunity that includes the data center, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving, while continuing to get value from the PC business, the board concluded after a thorough search that Bob is the right leader to drive Intel into its next era of growth," said Chairman Andy Bryant. "The search committee conducted a comprehensive evaluation of a wide range of internal and external candidates to identify the right leader at this critical juncture in Intel's evolution. We considered many outstanding executives and we concluded the best choice is Bob. Important in the board's decision was the outstanding job Bob did as interim CEO for the past seven months, as reflected in Intel's outstanding results in 2018. Bob's performance, his knowledge of the business, his command of our growth strategy, and the respect he has earned from our customers, our owners, and his colleagues confirmed he is the right executive to lead Intel."

Intel Officially Sinks the Itanic, Future of IA-64 Architecture Uncertain

Intel has unceremoniously, through a product change notification (PCN), discontinued the Itanium family of microprocessors. The Itanium 9700 "Kittson," which was released in 2017, is the final generation of Itanium, and its sales to new customers have stopped according to the PCN. The series has been marked "end of life" (EOL). Existing customers of Itanium who already have their IT infrastructure built around Itanium 9700 series, have an opportunity to determine their remaining demand of these processors, and place their "Last Product Discontinuance" order with Intel. The final LPD shipments would go out mid-2021.

With this move, Intel has cast uncertainty over the future of the IA-64 microarchitecture. IA-64 was originally conceived by Intel to replace 32-bit x86 at the turn of the century, as an industry-standard 64-bit processor architecture. AMD laid the foundation for its rival standard AMD64, which could go on to become x86-64. AMD64 won the battle for popularity over IA-64, as it maintained complete backwards-compatibility with x86, and could seamlessly run 32-bit software, saving enterprises and clients billions in transition costs. Intel cross-licensed it as EM64T (extended memory 64-bit technology), before standardizing the name x86-64. Itanium dragged on for close to two decades serving certain enterprise and HPC customers.

Intel Looking to Buy Out Mellanox to Challenge Huawei in the 5G Infrastructure Gold Rush

Intel is in the fray to acquire Israeli networking infrastructure manufacturer Mellanox Technology for $6 billion in cash and shares, which constitute a 35 percent premium over its most recent valuation. Mellanox designs and manufactures infrastructure-scale networking hardware, such as high-bandwidth switches, adapters, and other data-center networking hardware, and when acquired by Intel, could give the company sufficient IP and manpower to take on Chinese networking equipment giant Huawei, in the gold-rush to bring 5G to the world, in addition to sustaining the cloud-computing boom. Huawei has been banned in several western nations (particularly NATO member states) for political or strategic reasons, and a large vacuum has been built that's being approached by other "Kosher" players such as Mellanox, Cisco, etc.
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