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Bad Intel Quality Assurance Responsible for Apple-Intel Split?

Apple's decision to switch from Intel processors for its Mac computers to its own, based on the Arm architecture, has shaken up the tech world, even though rumors of the transition have been doing rounds for months. Intel's first official response, coupled with facts such as Intel's CPU technology execution being thrown completely off gear due to foundry problems; pointed toward the likelihood of Intel not being able to keep up with Apple's growing performance/Watt demands. It turns out now, that Intel's reasons are a lot more basic, and date back to 2016.

According to a sensational PC Gamer report citing former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël, Apple's dissatisfaction with Intel dates back to some of its first 14 nm chips, based on the "Skylake" microarchitecture. "The quality assurance of Skylake was more than a problem," says Piednoël. It was abnormally bad. We were getting way too much citing for little things inside Skylake. Basically our buddies at Apple became the number one filer of problems in the architecture. And that went really, really bad. When your customer starts finding almost as much bugs as you found yourself, you're not leading into the right place," he adds.

Intel "Willow Cove" Backported to 14nm is "Cypress Cove"?

Intel's 11th generation Core "Rocket Lake-S" desktop processor is fascinating as it introduces Intel's first CPU core IPC uptick in about half a decade. Until now, it was rumored that "Rocket Lake-S" features a back-port of Intel's "Willow Cove" CPU cores to the 14 nm silicon fabrication process. It turns out that Intel doesn't want to call these cores "Willow Cove," which make their debut with the 10 nm+ "Tiger Lake" mobile processors later this Summer. Enter "Cypress Cove." A Moore's Law is Dead video presentation sheds light on this mysterious new codename.

Apparently, "Cypress Cove" is the codename Intel is using to refer to the CPU cores Intel is building with its latest CPU core IP on older 14 nm process. Owing to the process, the IPC of these cores may be different from the "Willow Cove" cores on "Tiger Lake," and to avoid confusion, Intel possibly choosing to give it a different internal codename. In other words, Moore's Law is Dead believes that "Cypress Cove" may not offer the alleged 25% IPC gains over "Skylake" that you could expect instead from "Willow Cove" cores in "Tiger Lake."

Intel 10th Generation Comet Lake Desktop Processors and 400-Series Chipsets Announced, Here's what's New

Intel today launched its 10th generation Core desktop processor family and its companion Intel 400-series chipsets. Based on the 14 nm++ silicon fabrication process and built in the new LGA1200 package, the processors are based on the "Comet Lake" microarchitecture. The core design of "Comet Lake" and its IPC are identical to those of "Skylake," however Intel brought significant enhancements to the processor's clock-speed boosting algorithm, increased core- or thread counts across the board, and introduced new features that could interest enthusiasts and overclockers. The uncore component remains largely unchanged from the previous-generation, with support for DDR4 memory and PCI-Express gen 3.0. Use of these processors requires a new socket LGA1200 motherboard, they won't work on older LGA1151 motherboards. You can install any LGA115x-compatible cooler on LGA1200, provided it meets the thermal requirements of the processor you're using.

At the heart of the 10th generation Core processor family is a new 10-core monolithic processor die, which retains the same basic structure as the previous-generation 8-core "Coffee Lake Refresh" die, and 4-core "Skylake." The cores are arranged in two rows, sandwiched by the processor's uncore and iGPU blocks. A ring-bus interconnect binds the various components. The cache hierarchy is unchanged from previous generations as well, with 32 KB each of L1I and L1D caches; 256 KB of dedicated L2 cache per core, and 20 MB of shared L3 cache. The iGPU is the same Gen 9.5 based UHD 630 graphics. As we mentioned earlier, much of Intel's innovation for the 10th generation is with the processor's microcode (boosting algorithms).
Intel Core i9-10900K 10th Gen Intel Core Desktop Comet Lake Lineup 10th Gen Intel Core Desktop Comet Lake Lineup 10th Gen Intel Core Desktop Comet Lake Lineup

x86 Lacks Innovation, Arm is Catching up. Enough to Replace the Giant?

Intel's x86 processor architecture has been the dominant CPU instruction set for many decades, since IBM decided to put the Intel 8086 microprocessor into its first Personal Computer. Later, in 2006, Apple decided to replace their PowerPC based processors in Macintosh computers with Intel chips, too. This was the time when x86 became the only option for the masses to use and develop all their software on. While mobile phones and embedded devices are mostly Arm today, it is clear that x86 is still the dominant ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) for desktop computers today, with both Intel and AMD producing processors for it. Those processors are going inside millions of PCs that are used every day. Today I would like to share my thoughts on the demise of the x86 platform and how it might vanish in favor of the RISC-based Arm architecture.

Both AMD and Intel as producer, and millions of companies as consumer, have invested heavily in the x86 architecture, so why would x86 ever go extinct if "it just works"? The answer is that it doesn't just work.

Intel Core i9-10900K and i7-10700K Allegedly Pictured

Alleged pictures of the upcoming Intel Core i9-10900K and i7-10700K processors made it to Chinese social media. The blurry-cam pictures of the chips' topside don't reveal much other than the "Intel Confidential" markings, denoting that these chips are engineering samples. The reverse side confirm that these are chips are built in the new LGA1200 package. You can also spot electrical ancillaries laid out unlike any previous-gen Intel package, and different socket key notches.

In the run up to the rumored April 2020 launch we could learn more about these chips. Based on the 14 nm "Comet Lake" silicon, Intel's 10th generation Core desktop processors in the LGA1200 package increase logical processor counts across the board, and increase clock speeds. The i9-10900K is a 10-core/20-thread processor with 20 MB of shared L3 cache, and up to 5.10 GHz boost frequency, with 4.80 GHz all-core boost. The i7-10700K, on the other hand, is an 8-core/16-thread chip with 16 MB L3 cache, and clock speeds of 5.00 GHz boost and 4.50 GHz all-core Turbo. The Core i5 series also gets a shot in the arm, being configured as 6-core/12-thread, with 12 MB of L3 cache. The per-core performance (IPC) is expected to be the same as 6th generation "Skylake."

Intel 400-series Chipset Motherboards to Lack PCIe Gen 4.0, Launch Pushed to Q2

Intel's upcoming 400-series desktop chipset will lack support for PCI-Express gen 4.0. The motherboards will stick to gen 3.0 for both the main x16 PEG slots wired to the LGA1200 socket, and general purpose PCIe lanes from the PCH, according to a Tom's Hardware report. It was earlier expected that 400-series chipset motherboards will come with preparation for PCIe gen 4.0, so even if the upcoming 10th gen "Comet Lake" desktop processors lacked gen 4.0 root-complexes, the boards would be fully ready for the new bus standard in 11th gen "Rocket Lake" desktop processors.

10th gen "Comet Lake" desktop processors are built on 14 nm process, and implement Intel's current-gen CPU core design Intel has been implementing since 6th gen "Skylake." It's only with 11th gen "Rocket Lake" that the mainstream desktop platform could see a new CPU core design, with the company reportedly back-porting "Willow Cove" CPU cores to the 14 nm process. "Rocket Lake" is also expected to feature a small Gen12 iGPU with 32 execution units, and a new-gen uncore component that implements PCIe gen 4.0. PCIe gen 4.0 doubles bandwidth over gen 3.0, and while only a handful GPUs support it, the standard is made popular by a new generation of M.2 NVMe SSDs that are able to utilize the added bandwidth to push sequential transfer rates beyond M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 limitations.

Intel Reportedly Looking Into Further Reduction in CPU Pricing for 2020

Intel's policy on CPU pricing has been a strong, definite one for years: no price reductions. Faced with less than admirable competition from a struggling AMD back in its Phenom and especially Bulldozer days, Intel enforced a heavy hand on the market and on CPU pricing. However, a much revitalized AMD and difficulties in the transition to the 10 nm process have left Intel with no other recourse than to cut pricing on its CPUs in order to remain competitive. No uptake of new I/O technologies such as PCIe 4.0 has also taken its toll on Intel's position in the server and HEDT market, which has led to recent price-cuts and tightening of Intel's Xeon line of CPUs - as well as price-cuts in the order of 50% in their Cascade Lake-X processors compared to the previous generation.

DigiTimes, citing industry PC makers, says that Intel is gearing up to keep fighting in the only front it actually can, besides puny core count increases on their heavily-iterated Skylake architecture - pricing. This move comes in a bid to keep its market dominance, which Intel themselves have said - after Zen 2, that is - isn't a priority for the consumer market. You can rest assured that Intel is very, very likely already practicing hefty price reductions for tray-quantity purchases for partners. However, it seems that the company might bring some price cuts on to its upcoming Comet Lake CPUs. The company has always been loathe to reduce pricing on existing inventory, rather choosing to reduce the price on new launches (see the Cascade Lake-X example above), which, arguably, saves Intel's face on claims of only being able to compete on pricing - which lurks dangerously close to Intel being painted as the budget, price-cut alternative to AMD.

Intel CPU Based on New Architecture Leaks

Today Intel's CPU based on yet unannounced architecture got revealed in the SiSoft benchmark database. Featuring six cores and twelve threads running at 3 GHz, it appears like a regular 14 nm CPU that's already available, however, when digging through the details, many things are revealed. The newly submitted CPU has a different L2 cache configuration from previous CPU offerings, with this chip featuring 1.25 MB of L2 cache per core, it is unlike anything else Intel currently offers. Ice Lake mobile chips feature 512 KB, while the highest amount of L2 cache is currently present on i9-10980XE, which features 1 MB of L2.

It is unknown where this CPU fits in the whole 14/10 nm lineup, as we don't know if this is an iteration of 10 nm Tiger Lake or the rumored 14 nm Rocket Lake CPU. All we know is that this CPU features new architecture compared to Skylake iterations that are currently being used, judging by L2 cache bump, which usually happens on new architectures. The platform used for benchmarking this CPU was SuperMicro X12DAi-N SMC X12 dual-socket motherboard, which featured two of these new CPUs for a total of 12 cores and 24 threads.

Intel "Rocket Lake-S" Desktop Processor Comes in Core Counts Up to 8, Gen12 iGPU Included

Intel's 11th generation Core "Rocket Lake-S" desktop processor will come in core-counts only up to 8, even as its predecessor, "Comet Lake-S," goes up to 10. Platform descriptors for Intel's next four microarchitectures surfaced on the web, detailing maximum values of their "S" (mainsteam desktop), "H" (mainstream notebook), "U" (ultrabook), and "Y" (low power portable) flavors. Both "Comet Lake-S" and "Rocket Lake-S" are 14 nm chips. "Comet Lake-S" comes with core counts of up to 10, a TDP of up to 125 Watts, Gen 9LP iGPU with 48 execution units, and native support for up to 128 GB of DDR4-2667.

The "Rocket Lake-S" silicon is interesting. Rumored to be yet another derivative of "Skylake," it features up to 8 CPU cores, the same 125 W maximum TDP, but swanky Gen12 iGPU with 32 execution units. The memory controller is also upgraded, which supports DDR4-2933 natively. There is no "Ice Lake-H" or "Ice Lake-S" in sight (no mainstream notebook or mainstream desktop implementations), ditto "Tiger Lake." For the foreseeable future, Intel will only make quad-core designs of the two 10 nm microarchitectures. "Rocket Lake-S" is slated for 2021 when, hopefully, we'll see Intel escape the 14 nm black hole.

Intel Scraps 10nm for Desktop, Brazen it Out with 14nm Skylake Till 2022?

In a shocking piece of news, Intel has reportedly scrapped plans to launch its 10 nm "Ice Lake" microarchitecture on the client desktop platform. The company will confine its 10 nm microarchitectures, "Ice Lake" and "Tiger Lake" to only the mobile platform, while the desktop platform will see derivatives of "Skylake" hold Intel's fort under the year 2022! Intel gambles that with HyperThreading enabled across the board and increased clock-speeds, it can restore competitiveness with AMD's 7 nm "Zen 2" Ryzen processors with its "Comet Lake" silicon that offers core-counts of up to 10.

"Comet Lake" will be succeeded in 2021 by the 14 nm "Rocket Lake" silicon, which somehow combines a Gen12 iGPU with "Skylake" derived CPU cores, and possibly increased core-counts and clock speeds over "Comet Lake." It's only 2022 that Intel will ship out a truly new microarchitecture on the desktop platform, with "Meteor Lake." This chip will be built on Intel's swanky 7 nm EUV silicon fabrication node, and possibly integrate CPU cores more advanced than even "Willow Cove," possibly "Golden Cove."

Intel Marketing Tries to Link Stability to Turbo Boost

There is no correlation between CPU frequency boosting behavior and system stability. Intel today launched its "10th generation" Core X HEDT processors, with core-counts ranging between 10 to 18, priced between $590 and $978. Based on the 14 nm "Cascade Lake-X" silicon, these chips have the same exact IPC as "Skylake" circa 2015, but offer nearly double the number of cores to the Dollar compared to the 9th generation Core X series; and add a couple of useful instruction sets such as DLBoost, which accelerates DNN training/building; a few more AVX-512 instructions, and an updated Turbo Boost Max 3.0 algorithm. The chips offer clock-speed bumps over the previous generation.

Intel's main trade-call for these processors? Taking another stab at AMD for falling short on boost frequency in the hands of consumers. "The chip that hits frequency benchmarks as promised, our new #CoreX -series processor, provides a stable, high-performance platform for visual creators everywhere," reads the Intel tweet, as if to suggest that reaching the "promised" clock speed results in stability. AMD was confronted with alarming statistics of consumers whose 3rd generation Ryzen processors wouldn't reach their advertised boost frequencies. The company released an updated AGESA microcode that fixed this.

Intel 10th Generation Core "Comet Lake" Lineup Detailed

Intel's short-term reaction to AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen processor family is the 10th generation Core "Comet Lake." These processors are based on existing "Skylake" cores, but have core-counts increased at the top-end, and HyperThreading enabled across the entire lineup. The Core i3 series are now 4-core/8-thread; the Core i5 series a 6-core/12-thread, the Core i7 series are 8-core/16-thread, and the new Core i9 series are 10-core/20-thread. Besides core-counts, Intel has given its 14 nanometer node one last step of refinement to come up with the new 14 nm+++ nodelet. This enables Intel to significantly dial up clock speeds across the board. These processors come in the new LGA1159 package, and are not backwards-compatible with LGA1151 motherboards. These chips also appear to feature an on-package PCH, instead of chipset on the motherboard.

Leading the pack is the Core i9-10900KF, a 10-core/20-thread chip clocked at 4.60 GHz with 5.20 GHz Turbo Boost, 20 MB of shared L3 cache, native support for DDR4-3200, and a TDP of 105 W. Intel's new 10-core die appears to physically lack an iGPU, since none of the other Core i9 10-core models offer integrated graphics. For this reason, all three processor models have the "F" brand extension denoting lack of integrated graphics. The i9-10900KF is closely followed by the i9-10900F clocked at 4.40/5.20 GHz, the lack of an unlocked multiplier, and 95 W TDP rating. The most affordable 10-core part is the i9-10800F, clocked at 4.20 GHz with 5.00 GHz boost, and a TDP of just 65 W. Intel has set ambitious prices for these chips. The i9-10900KF is priced at $499, followed by the i9-10900F at $449, and the i9-10800F at $409.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Beats Intel Core i9-9900KF at PassMark - CPU Mark Single-Thread

In more evidence of AMD having finally achieved or exceeded IPC parity with Intel, a mid-range Ryzen 5 3600 processor beats Intel's current mainstream-desktop flagship processor, the Core i9-9900KF, at the PassMark - CPU Mark single-thread benchmark. The official performance chart for PassMark shows the Ryzen 5 3600 leading the pack, with 2,981 points, a score which is 1.77 percent higher than that of the Core i9-9900KF on the same chart. It also beats the Core i9-9900K by 2.86 percent. Interestingly, the chart does not mention whether the Ryzen 5 3600 is running at its stock frequency of 3.60 GHz with 4.20 GHz boost, or whether it's overclocked. The i9-9900KF boosts to 5.00 GHz. For a single-threaded benchmark, it's generally assumed that the maximum boost multiplier is engaged on both chips. The score can't be dismissed due to this uncertainty, either, because AMD achieving a 1-2 percent IPC uplift over "Skylake" (fine, "Coffee Lake,") isn't impossible given the leaps the company made in the past three years.

Intel 10th Generation Core Case-badges Revealed

Intel laid rest to speculation that post 9th generation, it could replace its Core brand with something else. The 10th generation Core processors, built around the 10 nm "Ice Lake" microachitecture, will feature the first noteworthy IPC increments since "Skylake" thanks to their new "Sunny Cove" CPU cores. These will also feature DLBoost, a fixed-function matrix-multiplication hardware that speeds up deep-neural net building and training by 5x, as well as certain AVX-512 instructions. The cores will be optimized to cope with 2.4 Gbps 802.11ax Wi-Fi and faster Ethernet standards. The first of these chips will target mobile computing platforms, and will be quad-core parts like the dies pictured below. To save notebook PCB real-estate, Intel will put the processor and PCH dies into a multi-chip module. It will be quite a wait for the desktop implementation, but at least you know what their case-badges look like.

Intel Switches Gears to 7nm Post 10nm, First Node Live in 2021

Intel's semiconductor manufacturing business has had a terrible past 5 years as it struggled to execute its 10 nanometer roadmap forcing the company's processor designers to re-hash the "Skylake" microarchitecture for 5 generations of Core processors, including the upcoming "Comet Lake." Its truly next-generation microarchitecture, codenamed "Ice Lake," which features a new CPU core design called "Sunny Cove," comes out toward the end of 2019, with desktop rollouts expected 2020. It turns out that the 10 nm process it's designed for, will have a rather short reign at Intel's fabs. Speaking at an investor's summit on Wednesday, Intel put out its silicon fabrication roadmap that sees an accelerated roll-out of Intel's own 7 nm process.

When it goes live and fit for mass production some time in 2021, Intel's 7 nm process will be a staggering 3 years behind TSMC, which fired up its 7 nm node in 2018. AMD is already mass-producing CPUs and GPUs on this node. Unlike TSMC, Intel will implement EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography straightaway. TSMC began 7 nm with DUV (deep ultraviolet) in 2018, and its EUV node went live in March. Samsung's 7 nm EUV node went up last October. Intel's roadmap doesn't show a leap from its current 10 nm node to 7 nm EUV, though. Intel will refine the 10 nm node to squeeze out energy-efficiency, with a refreshed 10 nm+ node that goes live some time in 2020.

Intel 10nm Ice Lake to Quantitatively Debut Within 2019

Intel put out interesting details about its upcoming 10 nanometer "Ice Lake" CPU microarchitecture rollout in its recent quarterly financial results call. The company has started qualification of its 10 nm "Ice Lake" processors. This involves sending engineering samples to OEMs, system integrators and other relevant industry partners, and getting the chips approved for their future product designs. The first implementation of "Ice Lake" will not be a desktop processor, but rather a low-power mobile SoC designed for ultraportables, codenamed "Ice Lake-U." This SoC packs a 4-core/8-thread CPU based on the "Sunny Cove" core design, and Gen11 GT2 integrated graphics with 64 execution units and nearly 1 TFLOP/s compute power. This SoC will also support WiFi 6 and LPDDR4X memory.

Intel CEO Bob Swan also remarked that the company has doubled its 10 nm yield expectations. "On the [10 nm] process technology front, our teams executed well in Q1 and our velocity is increasing," he said, adding "We remain on track to have volume client systems on shelves for the holiday selling season. And over the past four months, the organization drove a nearly 2X improvement in the rate at which 10nm products move through our factories." Intel is prioritizing enterprise over desktop, as "Ice Lake-U" will be followed by "Ice Lake-SP" Xeon rollout in 2020. There was no mention of desktop implementations such as "Ice Lake-S." Intel is rumored to be preparing a stopgap microarchitecture for the desktop platform to compete with AMD "Matisse" Zen 2 AM4 processors, codenamed "Comet Lake." This is essentially a Skylake 10-core die fabbed on existing 14 nm++ node. AMD in its CES keynote announced an achievement of per-core performance parity with Intel, so it could be interesting to see how Intel hopes 10 "Skylake" cores match up to 12-16 "Zen 2" cores.

Intel Unleashes 56-core Xeon "Cascade Lake" Processor to Preempt 64-core EPYC

Intel late Tuesday made a boat-load of enterprise-relevant product announcements, including the all important update to its Xeon Scalable enterprise processor product-stack, with the addition of the new 56-core Xeon Scalable "Cascade Lake" processor. This chip is believed to be Intel's first response to the upcoming AMD 7 nm EPYC "Rome" processor with 64 cores and a monolithic memory interface. The 56-core "Cascade Lake" is a multi-chip module (MCM) of two 28-core dies, each with a 6-channel DDR4 memory interface, totaling 12-channel for the package. Each of the two 28-core dies are built on the existing 14 nm++ silicon fabrication process, and the IPC of each of the 56 cores are largely unchanged since "Skylake." Intel however, has added several HPC and AI-relevant instruction-sets.

To begin with, Intel introduced DL Boost, which could be a fixed-function hardware matrix multiplier that accelerates building and training of AI deep-learning neural networks. Next up, are hardware mitigation against several speculative execution CPU security vulnerabilities that haunted the computing world since early-2018, including certain variants of "Spectre" and "Meltdown." A hardware fix presents lesser performance impact compared to a software fix in the form of a firmware patch. Intel has added support for Optane Persistent Memory, which is the company's grand vision for what succeeds volatile primary memory such as DRAM. Currently slower than DRAM but faster than SSDs, Optane Persistent Memory is non-volatile, and its contents can be made to survive power-outages. This allows sysadmins to power-down entire servers to scale down with workloads, without worrying about long wait times to restore uptime when waking up those servers. Among the CPU instruction-sets added include AVX-512 and AES-NI.

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.

Windows 10 Oct 2018 Update Process Runs Aground with Certain Intel Processors, Fix Released

Microsoft earlier this week released Windows 10 October 2018 (version 1809) update. You can either get it through Windows Update, and install it leaving your personal files and settings largely unchanged, or perform a clean install by making yourself an install media using Microsoft's Media Creation Tool. PC Watch noticed something curious about getting the new Windows version through Windows Update on their notebook. The process was sapping too much power from the battery, and the update process is interrupted by an incompatible driver dialog (screenshot below).

Intel processors running with Gen 9.5 iGPUs enabled (that's 6th generation "Skylake" or later), expose an integrated audio controller to the operating system. This controller is responsible for digital audio output through the iGPU's HDMI and DisplayPort connectors, and is similar to the one NVIDIA and AMD integrate with their discrete GPUs. Users with driver version 10.25.0.3 or older for this controller, could run into problems when Windows Update is re-loading the drivers as part of the upgrade process. Intel has since released driver version 10.25.0.10 part of the latest Graphics Drivers 25.20.100.6323. If you're still on Windows 10 version 1803 and use your iGPU, it's recommended that you update your Intel graphics drivers before initiating Windows Update to version 1809.

Intel Explains Key Difference Between "Coffee Lake" and "Whiskey Lake"

Intel "Whiskey Lake" CPU microarchitecture recently made its debut with "Whiskey Lake-U," an SoC designed for Ultrabooks and 2-in-1 laptops. Since it's the 4th refinement of Intel's 2015 "Skylake" architecture, we wondered what set a "Whiskey Lake" core apart from "Coffee Lake." Silicon fabrication node seemed like the first place to start, with rumors of a "14 nm+++" node for this architecture, which should help it feed up to 8 cores better in a compact LGA115x MSDT environment. Turns out, the process hasn't changed, and that "Whiskey Lake" is being built on the same 14 nm++ node as "Coffee Lake."

In a statement to AnandTech, Intel explained that the key difference between "Whiskey Lake" and "Coffee Lake" is silicon-level hardening against "Meltdown" variants 3 and 5. This isn't just a software-level mitigation part of the microcode, but a hardware fix that reduces the performance impact of the mitigation, compared to a software fix implemented via patched microcode. "Cascade Lake" will pack the most important hardware-level fixes, including "Spectre" variant 2 (aka branch target injection). Software-level fixes reduce performance by 3-10 percent, but a hardware-level fix is expected to impact performance "a lot less."

ASUS ROG Dominus Pictured, Core i9 XCC Confirmed to Feature 6-channel Memory

This Tuesday at its Computex presser, Intel unveiled an unnamed 28-core/56-thread HEDT (client-segment) processor that's capable of being bench-stable at 5.00 GHz. The chip is a client-segment implementation of the Skylake XCC (extreme core count) silicon, which features 30 Mesh Interconnect "tiles," of which 28 are cores and two integrated memory controllers. The XCC silicon features a 384-bit wide (6-channel) DDR4 memory interface, and it turns out that whatever SKU Intel is planning, will require a different motherboard from your X299 board that can handle up to 18 cores and 4-channel memory. It will require a client-segment variant of the LGA3647 enterprise socket from the Purley platform. One of the first of these is the ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) Dominus.

Clearly bigger than ATX, in being either E-ATX or SSI form-factor, this board draws power from two 24-pin ATX, two 8-pin EPS, and three 6-pin PCIe, and has a gargantuan 16-phase VRM with two fan-heatsink blocks. Six DDR4 DIMM slots flank the socket, three on either side, each with its dedicated 64-bit wide path to the socket. The XCC silicon features a 48-lane PCI-Express gen 3.0 root complex, and so the board could feature at least two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 capable of full bandwidth, among a boat load of PCIe based storage connectivity, and onboard devices.

Update: This motherboard may have been a quick modification of the WS C621E SAGE, by removing one of its sockets, and modifying the rest of the board accordingly. Prototyping a board like that, for a company with ASUS' resources, would barely take 2-3 weeks by our estimate.

EK Announces the Annihilator EX/EP Server-Grade CPU Waterblock

EK Water Blocks, the Slovenia-based premium computer liquid cooling gear manufacturer is announcing a dedicated EK-Annihilator EX/EP water block that is specifically developed for LGA 3647 (Socket P) Intel processors. The entire CPU block was designed from the ground up to fit the requirements of the new socket and to integrate multiple connectivity options for server rack requirements. With that said, the new server-grade CPU block is 1U chassis type compatible for use server and workstation type motherboards.

EK-Annihilator EX/EP
With Intel releasing the future generation of Skylake-based Xeon and Skylake-E HEDT CPUs with a larger LGA 3647 socket, came the need for a water block with a larger cold plate contact surface. The goal in designing of the new EK-Annihilator EX/EP CPU water block was to cover the entire IHS of Intel HEDT processors. An additional task was to make the new CPU block server ready with multiple connectivity options. The EK-Annihilator EX/EP water block features a total of 6 ports, which allow for versatile connectivity options. Two top ports are standard G1/4" threaded, while the side ports are G3/8" threaded.

Biostar Intros TB250-BTC D+ Motherboard for Mining Builds

Biostar introduced the TB250-BTC D+ motherboard for crypto-mining builds. This board appears to be a re-brand of Colorful C.B250A-BTC PLUS V20. This is probably a case of Colorful piggybacking Biostar to reach markets it cannot (yet). The socket LGA1151 motherboard supports 6th and 7th generation Core "Skylake" and "Kaby Lake" processors, with basic I/O connectivity, and a single DDR4 SO-DIMM slot. The star attraction here are eight PCI-Express x16 slots with 2U spacing between them. One of these slots is electrically x16, the other are x1 (you only need x1 for mining). There are also eight 6-pin PCI-Express I/O ports, so the x16 slots are powered. The board is 195 mm wide, and 485 mm long, designed for mining cases, or something miners put together themselves. It is expected to be priced around $150.

New "BranchScope" Side-channel CPU Vulnerability Threatens Modern Processors

In the age of cyber-security vulnerabilities being named by their discoverers, much like incoming tropical storms, the latest, which exploits speculative execution of modern processors, is named "BranchScope," discovered by academics from four US universities, Dmitry Evtyushkin, Ryan Riley, Nael Abu-Ghazaleh, and Dmitry Ponomarev. The vulnerability has been successfully tested on Intel "Sandy Bridge," "Haswell," and "Skylake" micro-architectures, and remains to be tested on AMD processors. It bears similarities to "Spectre" variant 2, in that it is an exploit of the branch prediction features of modern CPUs.

BranchScope differs from Spectre variant 2, in that while the latter exploits the branch target buffer, BranchScope goes after the directional branch predictor, a component that decides which speculative operations to execute. By misdirecting it, attackers can make the CPU read and spit out data from the memory previously inaccessible. The worst part? You don't need administrative privileges to run the exploit, it can be run from the user-space. Unlike CTS-Labs, the people behind the BranchScope discovery appear to have alerted hardware manufacturers significantly in advance, before publishing their paper (all of it, including technicals). They will present their work at the 23rd ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2018), later today.

Updated Firmware Available for 6th, 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core Processors

Intel today shared in a blog post that they are deploying microcode solutions that have been developed and validated over the last several weeks. These updates aim to patch security vulnerabilities recently found in Intel processors, and will be distributed, mostly, via OEM firmware updates - users who want to have their system hardened against Spectre and Meltdown exploits will have to ensure that their system manufacturer of choice makes these microcode updates available. If they don't do it in a timely fashion, users have no choice but to be vocal about that issue - Intel has now done its part in this matter.

This is the second wave of Intel's patches to mitigate the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, after the first, hasty patch sent users on towards unstable, crashing systems and the inevitable update rollback. Security had already been reinstated, of sorts, for Intel's Skylake processors, but left users of any other affected Intel CPU family out in the cold. Here's hoping this is the one update that actually sticks after thorough testing and validation.
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