Today Intel announced their earnings for the fourth quarter of their 2019 fiscal year. In terms of revenue, Intel had their highest ever Q4 revenue, coming in at $20.2 billion, and the full 2019 fiscal year, which was $72 billion. On a year-over-year basis, the results were up 8% and 2% respectively. Intel’s margins did slip a bit though, falling 1.4% to 58.8% of revenue. Operating income for the quarter was $6.8 billion, up 9% from last year, and net income was up 33% to $6.9 billion. This resulted in earnings-per-share of $1.58, up 40% from a year ago.
|Intel Q4 2019 Financial Results (GAAP)|
|Client Computing Group Revenue||$10.0B||+3%||+2%|
|Data Center Group Revenue||$7.2B||+12%||+19%|
|Internet of Things Revenue||$1.16B||+16%||+16%|
|Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group||$1.2B||-7.7%||+10%|
|Programmable Solutions Group||$505M||flat||-17%|
Intel’s Client Computing Group, or CCG, had revenues of $10.0 billion for the quarter, up 2% from a year ago. Intel attributes the growth to modem sales and desktop platform volume. Intel is of course moving out of the 5G modem business, but will maintain its other connectivity offerings in the CCG such as their Wi-Fi products. Notebook platform volumes were down 1% in this quarter, with average selling prices staying flat, but desktop platform volumes were up 7%, but average selling prices fell 4%. Intel has said that they are expecting their chip shortage to be over by the end of this fiscal year.
Intel’s Data Center Group had revenue of $7.2 billion, up 19% from a year ago. Data Center sold 12% more unit volume this quarter than Q4 2018, and also added in 5% more average selling price per unit, so Intel’s DCG group is still very healthy.
Internet of Things, which include Mobileye, achieved revenue of $1.16 billion, up from $999 million a year ago. IoT was up 13%, accounting for $920 million of that revenue, and Mobileye was up 31% to $240 million.
Non-volatile Storage had revenue of $1.2 billion for the quarter, up 10% from a year ago which Intel is attributing to both NAND and Optane bit growth.
Programable Storage was the one area where Intel had a revenue drop, falling 17% year-over-year to $505 million, with no explanation given, but clearly FPGAs were in shorter demand.
Looking ahead to Q1 2020, Intel is expecting approximately $19.0 billion in revenue for the quarter, with earnings-per-share of $1.23.
Source: Intel Investor Relations
ASML shipped 26 extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) step-and-scan systems to its customers last year, and the company plans to increase shipments to around 35 in 2020. And the ramp-up won't stop there: as semiconductor fabs ramp up their own usage of EUV process technologies, they are going to need more leading-edge equipment, with ASML expecting to sell up to 50 EUVL scanners in 2021.
With 26 EUV scanners sold last year, ASML did not quite meet its goal of selling (which means building and installing) 30 EUV production tools in 2019. Nonetheless, it is still considerably higher than 18 EUV tools shipped in 2018. In the Q4 2019 alone, ASML shipped eight EUV machines, and received orders for nine more, which is a good indicator that demand for EUV tools is growing as semiconductor makers adopt EUVL for high-volume manufacturing (HVM) using their 5 nm and 7 nm nodes.
What is no less important than record EUV shipments is that in 2019 the company deployed six Twinscan NXE: 3400C scanners that can process more than 170 300-mm wafers per hour (up from 125 WPH – 155 WPH in case of the NXE: 3400B) and which use the latest light source from Cymer. The final configuration of the Twinscan NXE: 3400C will cost about 30% more than the NXE: 3400B, which will (among other things) help to drive ASML’s EUV revenue from €2.8 billion in 2019 to €4.5 billion in 2020.
|ASML's EUV Shipments|
|Actual||18||26||35||45 - 50|
One of ASML’s complications though is that because demand for EUV scanners consistently outpaces supply, the company cannot meet its own sales goals. In 2018 the company shipped 18 EUV scanners, two short of its goal of 20. And in 2019 it missed its own target by four units, which slipped to 2020 ‘due to temporary supply constraints in the NXE:3400C ramp’ and are now a part of this year’s target. In fact, some market observers estimate that ASML may have a backlog of as many as 49 EUV scanner orders.
ASML believes that in a bid to meet its EUV shipments targets for 2020 and 2021, it will have to increase its output capability by reducing its cycle time for EUV tools because lead time reduction takes longer. The company is confident that it can increase its output capability to ‘above 50’, though to go above 60 it will have to use its production facility currently constructed for high-NA (0.55 NA) to build its EUV low-NA (0.33 NA) tools. Considering that high-NA scanners are years away, the decision may be instrumental, but will require additional investments.
Peter Wennink, CEO of ASML, said the following:
In EUV, it was a breakthrough year with the technology now starting in high volume production and producing consumer products that are available in the market. As we continue to execute on our accelerated EUV roadmap, we were able to ship our first NXE:3400C in 2019, which provides higher productivity, translating to increased customer value, delivering higher ASP and improved gross margins. We shipped six 3400C systems in Q4, of the eight EUV systems total we shipped in the quarter, bringing the total to 26 EUV systems and full year sales of around 2.8 billion euros in 2019.[…]
For full-year 2020, we plan for EUV sales of around €4.5 billion on 35 systems. We continue to see demand building for next years' shipments and expect a healthy order flow to continue. In order to fulfill the expected strong demand increase, we are working on cycle time reduction to enable a capacity of 45-50 systems next year. 2021 is shaping up to be a very busy year.
Sources: ASML, WikiChip, SeekingAlpha]]>
Having entered the market for gaming displays not so long ago, MSI is certainly not afraid of experimenting with various technologies in a bid to address niches that are not yet crowded with competitors. At CES, the company demonstrated its aggressively curved Optix MAG342CQR monitor that also boasts a 144 Hz variable refresh rate as well as quantum dot backlighting enhancements for accurate colors and a wider color gamut.
The MSI Optix MAG342CQR display uses a 34.5-inch Super PVA panel featuring a 3440x1440 resolution, a 21:9 aspect ratio, a 1 ms response time, and maximum refresh rate of 144 Hz. The key characteristic of this panel is its aggressive curvature of a 1000R radius, which MSI promotes as being the most optimal curvature, matching the curvature of the human eye.
The Optix MAG342CQR comes with a LED backlighting enhanced with quantum dots that improve color accuracy and ensures that the monitor can accurately display 1.07 billion colors. At the moment, MSI does not disclose which color gamuts will be supported by the display, but we are almost certainly talking about the sRGB and DCI-P3 spaces.
Traditionally for contemporary gaming displays, the MSI Optix MAG342CQR support VESA’s Adaptive-Sync variable refresh rate technology, so it is logical to expect the monitor to gain AMD’s FreeSync and NVIDIA’s G-Sync Compatible certifications by the time of its commercial launch later this year.
One of the interesting things to note about MSI’s Optix MAG342CQR is that it is based on a Super PVA panel made by Samsung Display, according to TFT Central. Samsung itself introduced its own lineup of ultra-curved displays featuring a 1000R curvature at CES, but its family does not include a 21:9 34-inch LCD just yet, so MSI currently has the world’s only 34-inch monitor with a 1000R curvature.
MSI plans to ship its Optix MAG342CQR sometimes in Q2 or Q3 this year, but does not have a firm launch date just yet.
Source: MSI, TFT Central]]>
HP this week introduced its new family of Chromebooks designed for students and teachers. The laptops use low-power SoCs from AMD and Intel to ensure a long battery life, they are rugged enough to survive classes and their feature set is tailored for the specifics of educational environments.
HP’s new family of Education Edition Chromebooks includes four machines: the HP Chromebook 11 G8 EE based on Intel’s dual-core or quad-core Celeron N4000-series ‘Gemini Lake’ SoCs; the HP Chromebook 11A G8 EE featuring AMD’s A4-9120C and A6-9220C SoCs with Excavator x86 cores and a GCN 3-based GPU; the convertible HP Chromebook 11 x360 G3 EE powered by Gemini Lake; and the HP Chromebook 14 G6 also with Gemini Lake inside.
As their names suggest, the notebooks feature a 11.6-inch and 14-inch display with or without touch and/or stylus support. Most of the models will have a 1366×768 resolution, but there will be 14-inch SKUs with a 1920×1080 resolution.
All the 2020 Education Edition Chromebooks machines from HP are built to withstand drops on wood and concrete, they feature a spill-resistant keyboard, and support modern connectivity, such as Wi-Fi 5, USB Type-C, and microSD. In order to ensure that all modern programs for education can run fast enough even when used simultaneously, the systems come equipped with 8 GB of RAM, but their local storage is limited to an eMMC 5.1 drive with capacities ranging from 16 GB to 128 GB. Meanwhile, like all Chromebooks, these are feature Google’s H1 security chip.
HP’s 2020 Education Edition Chromebooks are equipped with a 47.36 Wh battery that provides from 10 to 13.5 hours of battery life, according to the manufacturer. As for portability, the laptops feature a 1.83 cm – 2.09 cm z-height and weight from 1.32 kilograms to 1.54 kilograms. Considering the fact that these Chromebooks will be used primarily in classes and are not supposed to be carried around for a long time, they seem compact and light enough.
|HP's 2020 Education Edition Chromebooks|
|Chromebook x360 11 G3||Chromebook
Gorilla Glass 3
with or without digitizer
|CPU||Intel Celeron N4120 - 4C
Intel Celeron N4100 - 4C
Intel Celeron N4020 - 2C
Intel Celeron N4000 - 2C
|Security Chip||Google H1|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 600||AMD Radeon R5
AMD Radeon R4
|RAM||8 GB LPPDR4-2400||8 GB DDR4-1866||8 GB LPPDR4-2400|
|Wi-Fi||Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 9560 (Wi-Fi 5)||Qualcomm
|Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 9560|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 4.2||Bluetooth 5.0|
|USB||Type-A||2 × USB 3.1 Gen 1||2 × USB 2.0||2×USB 3.1 Gen 1|
|Type-C||2 × USB 3.1 Gen 1||1×USB 3.1 Gen 1|
|Other I/O||microSD, TRRS connector for audio, speakers, microphones|
|Dimensions||Thickness||1.88 cm | 0.74 in||2.09 cm | 0.82 in||1.88 cm | 0.74 in||1.83 cm | 0.72 in|
|Width||29.5 cm | 11.61 in||32.65 cm | 12.85"|
|Depth||20.53 cm | 8.08 in||22.7 cm | 8.93 in|
|Weight||1.32 kg | 2.91 lbs||1.45 kg | 3.19 lbs||1.37 kg | 3.02 lbs||1.54 kg | 3.38 lbs|
|Battery Life||?||?||10 hours||13.5 hours|
|Price (starting at)||?||?||?||?|
HP will start shipping its 2020 Intel-based EE Chromebooks this month, whereas AMD-powered models will be available in February. Prices will vary depending on the configuration.
NZXT has introduced its new lineup of essential power supplies for gaming systems that promise high quality at reasonable prices. NZXT’s modular C-series PSUs will be available in 650 W, 750 W, and 850 W capacities that will also support the latest high-end graphics cards to drive gaming sessions, as well as Zero-RPM mode under low loads for quiet operation.
The NZXT C-series power supplies are made by Seasonic, which produces PSUs for numerous brands, and has a reptuation for building high-quality PSUs. Accordingly, the Seasonic-built units are using ‘high-quality components’ and are compliant with the ATX12 v2.4/EPS12V v2.92 specifications. The power supplies conform to the 80Plus Gold requirements, so they are they are mandated to be 87% - 92% efficient under a 50% or 100% load as well as 87% - 90% efficient under a 20% load.
NZXT’s C-series PSUs measure 150×150×86 mm and therefore they can fit into any ATX-compliant computer case, including smaller ones. All devices are equipped with a 120-mm fluid dynamic bearing fan that produces up to 32.3 dBA noise, but which can work in Zero-RPM mode (activated with a press of a button) when the load is light.
|NZXT C-Series PSUs Output Specifications|
|650 W||750 W||850W|
|+3.3V||20 A||100 W||20 A||100 W||20 A||100 W|
|+5V||20 A||20 A||20 A|
|+12V||54 A||648 W||62 A||648 W||70 A||840 W|
|-12V||0.3 A||3.6 W||0.3 A||3.6 W||0.3 A||3.6 W|
|+5Vsb||3 A||15 W||3 A||15 W||3 A||15 W|
|Total Power||650 W||750 W||850 W|
Rated for 650 W, 750 W, and 850 W, NZXT’s C-series PSUs can handle performance gaming PCs with one or two AMD Radeon VII or NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards (two high-end boards are supported only by the 850 W SKU), up to eight SATA drives, and three or six peripherals.
|NZXT C-Series PSUs Connectivity Specifications|
|Connector type||650 W||750 W||850 W|
|ATX 24 Pin||1|
|EPS 4+4 Pin||1|
|EPS 8 Pin||-|
|PCIe 6+2 Pin||2||4||6|
NZXT will start sales of its C-series PSUs shortly first in the USA and then in the rest of the world. The cheapest 650 W model is priced at $109.99, the mid-range 750 W SKU costs $119.99, and the higher-end 850 W version carries a $129.99 price tag. The power supplies are backed with a 10-year warranty, which is becoming increasingly common for mid-range and high-end PSUs.
Today Motorola announced it will ship its foldable flip smartphone on February 6 and will start pre-orders on January 26. The new Motorola Razr will be available for pre-order directly from the company, from Verizon, and from Walmart. Being a unique phone with a foldable display, the list price for the 2020 Razr without contract is set to be $1500.
The main feature of the new Motorola Razr is its exclusive clamshell design with a foldable 6.2-inch pOLED main screen and a 2.7-inch OLED external display. Because of internal architecture of the smartphone, and space constraints, Motorola use Qualcomm’s mid-range Snapdragon 710 SoC with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage rather than a flagship 8-series SoCs.
Motorola originally planned to start taking pre-orders on the new Razr on December 26, 2019, to then begin shipments on January 6, 2020. As it turns out, the demand for the foldable flip smartphone was so high that the company had to delay its launch to build more units.
The new Motorola Razr will cost $1,499. Verizon will offer trade-in programs to its customers (up to $300 per device) and those who switch to it (up to $500 per device) to sweeten the deal. Furthermore, it will be possible to split up the price of the new Razr to 24 payments of $62.49 a month.
Source: The Verge, Slashgear]]>
TerraMaster has unveiled a new entry-level Thunderbolt 3 DAS, the aptly named TD2 Thunderbolt 3, which is aimed at video professionals who need a relatively small storage device that still provides ample capacity. On the whole the new dual-bay DAS is relatively basic, with TerraMaster aiming to keep the retail price down while still offering enough performance for today's on-set video workflows.
TerraMaster’s TD2 Thunderbolt 3 DAS can house two 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA storage devices operating in single disk, JBOD, RAID 0, or RAID 1 mode (selectable using a hardware knob on the back). At present, the device supports up to two 16 TB hard drives, offering a current maximum capacity of 32 TB. As for performance, TerraMaster says that the DAS can support up to 760 MB/s read speeds when two SSDs are used. To ensure that the drives installed in the DAS do not overheat, the product also has its own cooling system.
The TD2 Thunderbolt 3 DAS has two Thunderbolt 3 connectors to daisy chain the device with another TB3 appliances, as a DisplayPort to easily connect a 4K monitor without using an additional port and/or cable. Meanwhile, it's worth noting that the DAS does not to support power delivery back to the host.
TerraMaster’s TD2 Thunderbolt 3 DAS is now available directly from the company as a barebones device for $249.
Alongside their new Chromebooks, Acer has also revealed a new set of inexpensive Windows laptops aimed at students. Powered by Intel’s Gemini Lake SoCs, Acer’s TravelMate B3 will be available in clamshell and convertible form-factors to satisfy different needs.
Acer’s TravelMate B3 machines use a rugged chassis made of plastic that is said to be impact resistant and therefore tough enough for educational environments. The mobile PCs are equipped with a 11.6-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio IPS display, with Acer offering either a 1366x768 or 1920x1080 resolution panel depending on SKU. Meanwhile, with a 20.95 mm z-height and at up to 1.49 kilograms weight the computers are clearly designed for longevity and durability over portability.
As noted above, the TravelMate B3 machines will be available in two form factors. The clamshell model will be sold as the TravelMate B3, while the convertible will be sold under Acer's Spin sub-brand as the TravelMate B3 Spin. Both portables are based on Intel’s low-power quad-core Gemini Lake Refresh SoC, and are accompanied by 4 GB or 8 GB of DDR4 memory as well as 64 GB, 128 GB, or 256 GB NAND flash storage.
As far as I/O features are concerned, the new Acer TravelMate B3 PCs feature Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5, GbE, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and Type-C, HDMI, microSD, a 3.5-mm combo audio jack, a webcam, a microphone array, and speakers.
According to the manufacturer, the TravelMate B3s can work for up to 12 hours on one charge (based on MobileMark 2014 testing), which should be enough for one day in classes.
|Acer’s TravelMate B3 & TravelMate Spin B3|
|TravelMate Spin B3
|TravelMate Spin B3
|Display||Diagonal||11.6" IPS||11.6" IPS with touch|
|Brightness||? cd/m²||? cd/m²||? cd/m²|
|CPU||Intel Celeron dual-core N4020
Intel Celeron quad-core N4120
Intel Pentium Silver quad-core N5030
|Graphics||Intel UHD 600/605 Graphics|
|RAM||4 GB or 8 GB DDR4|
|Storage||64 GB eMMC
128 GB eMMC
128 GB NVMe SSD
256 GB NVMe SSD
|USB||2 × USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
|Other I/O||microSD, TRRS connector for audio, speakers, microphones|
|Dimensions||Thickness||20.95 mm | 0.82 inches|
|Width||295 mm | 11.61 inches|
|Depth||215 mm | 8.46 inches||212 mm | 8.35 inches|
|Weight||1.4 kilograms | 3.08 pounds||1.49 kilograms| 3.28 pounds|
|Battery Life||12 hours|
|Price (starting at)||$239||$329|
Acer’s TravelMate B3 and TravelMate Spin B3 will be available this April starting at $239 and $329, respectively.
Acer has introduced a new Chromebook computer designed specifically for the education environment. The upcoming Chromebook 871/Chromebook 712 machines are rugged enough to handle bumps of life at school and are based on Intel’s Comet Lake processors.
Acer’s Chromebook 871/Chromebook 712 comes in a Shale Black plastic chassis that is sufficiently tough to survive drops, shocks, high/low temperatures, and humid or dusty environments. To make the laptop as rugged as possible, Acer had to increase its z-height to 21.5 cm, which is rather thick, but a good news is that the notebook has a spill-resistant keyboard. As for weight, the machine weighs 1.4 kilograms.
The laptop is equipped with a 12-inch IPS display panel featuring a 1366x912 resolution as well as a 3:2 aspect ratio. In fact, the manufacturer plans to offer two versions of its Chromebooks 871: the model C871 with a regular screen as well as the model C871T with a touch-enabled screen.
The Acer Chromebook 871 – which will go by the Chromebook 712 in the retail market – is based on up to Intel’s dual-core Core i3-10110U processor, and is accompanied by 4 GB or 8 GB of DDR4 memory as well as 32 GB or 64 GB eMMC storage. Connectivity-wise, the laptop is rather typical by today’s standards as they feature Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and Type-C connectors, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5-mm audio jack for headsets. The Chromebook 871/Chromebook 712 from Acer also have a standard set of multimedia capabilities, such as a webcam, stereo speakers, a microphone array.
The manufacturer equipped its new Chromebooks with a 48 Wh battery, which is a rather high capacity for a 12-inch laptop. Meanwhile, Acer does not disclose actual battery life figures for its new Chromebooks.
|Acer’s Chromebook 871/Chromebook 712|
|Display||Diagonal||12" IPS with or without touch|
|CPU||10th Gen Core
Intel Core i3-10110U
Intel Pentium Gold 6405U
Intel Celeron 5205U
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics|
|RAM||4 GB or 8 GB DDR4|
|Storage||32 GB or 64 GB eMMC|
|USB||2 × USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
|Other I/O||microSD, TRRS connector for audio, speakers, microphones|
|Dimensions||Thickness||21.5 mm | 0.85 inches|
|Width||296 mm | 11.65 inches|
|Depth||229 mm | 9.02 inches|
|Weight||1.4 kilograms | 3.09 pounds|
|Price (starting at)||$329.99 | €299|
Acer will start sales of its new Chromebook 871/Chromebook 712 laptops in North America in March and in EMEA in May. Prices of the PCs will start at $329.99 in the USA and €299 in Europe. The notebooks will be covered by a one year international warranty.
In a bid to address the smartphone market as broadly as possible, Xiaomi has introduced a number of sub-brands over the years, including Black Shark, Redmi, and Poco. But even with Xiaomi's deep involvement, those brands aren't necessarily meant to always stay tied to their parent company, it would seem. Effective immediately, Xiaomi is spinning of POCO entirely, transforming it into an independent company and will now have its own strategy that will not depend on Xiaomi.
So far, Poco has released only one smartphone, the Pocophone F1. The handset was launched in 2018 and offered a rather competitive combination of specifications and price. In the recent days rumors transpired that the Pocophone F2 was in the works and its launch was imminent. Around the same time, Xiaomi announced the spin off.
Manu Kumar Jain, VP of Xiaomi, said the following:
“Poco F1 is an extremely popular phone across user groups, and remains a top contender in its category even in 2020. We feel the time is right to let Poco operate on its own now, which is why we’re excited to announce that Poco will spin off as an independent brand,”
It is not completely clear how ownership of Poco will be structured. Meanwhile, as a separate entity, Poco will inevitably compete against Xiaomi, but it looks like both entities are prepared for that.
In the recent years Xiaomi has consistently introduced new categories of products in a bid to build up its own ecosystem and not only increase its ARPU (average revenue per user), but also attract new clients with new devices. And while Poco will initially target smartphones and other mobile devices, the overall small size of the firm and its product portfolio means that competition from this brand should not significantly affect Xiaomi’s business, at lease initially.
What remains to be seen is what exactly will Poco inherit from Xiaomi. Today, Poco uses Xiaomi's MIUI and some other software, so it will be interesting to see whether as a separate company Poco will develop its own UI and applications, or will continue to use something from Xiaomi.
TSMC is on track to begin high-volume production of chips using its 5 nm technology in the coming months, the company said in its conference call last week. While so far the number of 5 nm tape-outs is lower when compared to the number of 7 nm tape-outs several months before production start, TSMC expects the process to become a major commercial success. Meanwhile, to ensure that it has no production constraints, the company plans to increase its 2020 CapEx by $1 billion.
It is well known that TSMC’s N5 manufacturing technology provides substantial improvements over the company’s N7 fabrication process (1.8x higher transistor density, +15% frequency or -20% power consumption), so major customers of the company are more than inclined to adopt it. TSMC is on track to start high volume manufacturing (HVM) using the technology in the first half of this year. So far, the number of N5 tape-outs is lower when compared to the number of N7 tape-outs at the same stage of development (i.e., several months before HVM) becase alpha customers have taped out a slightly lower number of N5 designs and other clients are yet to catch up. Meanwhile, TSMC remains optimistic about the technology’s ramp and expects N5 revenue to account for 10% of its 2020 wafer sales revenue, which essentially means that business performance of N5 in its first year will be the same as business performance of N7 in its first year.
There are several reasons why TSMC’s N7 node turned out to be a huge commercial success for the foundry. First up, most of its customers skipped the 10 nm node and were more than motivated to go with 7 nm. Secondly, TSMC did not have a strong competition with its N7 technology: GlobalFoundries pulled out of the 7 nm race, whereas Samsung Foundry hardly processed any significant number of wafers using its 7LPP process. Thirdly, because N7 is a considerably more complex technology than TSMC’s 16 nm or 10 nm nodes, the company charges more money per wafer than before, which drives a greater revenue share for the process.
C. C. Wei, Vice Chairman and CEO of TSMC said the following:
“The 5 nm tape-out is little bit less than 7 nm compared at the same stage of the time. However, the most important thing is that the high-volume tape-out is almost equal. So, we expect that our 5 nm ramp is a very fast and smooth and it will contribute about 10% to this year's revenue."
Since TSMC’s N7 is considered as a long-living node, demand for the process is not expected to drop radically when N5 enters HVM, as there are tens of fabless semiconductor developers waiting to produce their 7 nm designs. Apparently, to satisfy demand for chips made using TSMC’s N7, N7+, N7P, N6, N5, and N5P manufacturing technologies (and offer some additional capacity for specialty processes as well as for advanced packaging), the company will have to further increase its 2020 CapEx by a billion of dollars up from $14 billion - $15 billion estimated last year.
TSMC does not say exactly how the additional $1 billion will be spent, but since in the coming quarters it will be ramping production using four process technologies that that use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) for select layers (up to 14 layers in case of N5, up from 4 and 5 in case of N7+ and N6) and multipatterning for some others, it is likely that the foundry is going to need some additional leading-edge equipment.
Wendell Huang, VP and CFO of TSMC, said the following:
“Other than the advanced technology, we also mentioned earlier, we also increased the CapEx this year for specialty technology as well as advanced packaging. So those are the areas that we are focusing on.”
ZOTAC introduced its upcoming high performance ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) gaming machine that promises to offer performance of a high-end gaming laptop. The Zbox Magnus EN92080V packs an Intel eight-core processor as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080.
The ZOTAC Zbox Magnus EN92080V comes in a slim chassis that measures only 62.2 mm (2.45 inches) in height and features a volume of just 2.65 liters. The PC it is powered by Intel’s eight-core Core i9 processor (with a 45 W TDP) as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080 graphics processor in its version for laptops. It is unclear whether the GPU is soldered down to the motherboard of the model EN9280V, or is located on an MXM card and thus can be upgraded eventually. It's worth noting that the Zbox Magnus EN92080V does not seem to have a Thunderbolt 3 port, but the UCFF gaming PC can house up to 32 GB of DDR4-2666 memory using two SO-DIMM slots, one 2.5-inch storage device, and an SSD in an M.2 form-factor, so at least memory and storage can be expanded.
Moving on to connectivity of the Zbox Magnus EN92080V, everything looks pretty standard for today’s gaming laptops. The machine features the Rivet Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5 adapter, two Ethernet ports (one GbE, one 2.5 GbE, also from Rivet), two USB 3.1 Type-C connectors, four USB 3.0 Type-A connectors, four display outputs (one DisplayPort 1.4, two HDMI 2.0b, one USB-C), and SD card reader, and two 3.5-mm audio jacks for headphones and a microphone.
Historically, ZOTAC used GeForce MXM modules for its small form-factor Zbox Magnus systems, but improved energy efficiency of NVIDIA’s desktop GPUs and ZOTAC’s own cooling systems allowed the company to switch to regular graphics cards and enable its customers to upgrade them. With the Zbox Magnus EN92080V, ZOTAC uses a mobile CPU and a mobile GPU again, but this time to make a UCFF gaming PC that offers performance of a premium desktop computer.
ZOTAC will start sales of its Zbox Magnus EN92080V in the coming months. Pricing will be revealed when the product is launched.
There is always a fairly fluid movement of engineers in the companies we cover, but recently AMD has made a number of substantial hires into several of its biggest departments.]]>
MSI has announced its new curved gaming display that combines a near-4K resolution with an up to 144 Hz variable refresh rate supported by VESA’s Adaptive-Sync technology, and 600 nits brightness in HDR mode. In addition to its main capabilities, the MEG381CQR monitor has two interesting 'smart' features, such as an auxiliary OLED screen that displays various information as well as a special webcam that can recognize user’s face and load an appropriate profile tailored for them based on the game being played.
The MSI Optix MEG381CQR uses a 37.5-inch IPS panel featuring a 2300R curvature, a 3840x1600 resolution, a 1 ms GtG response time, and a variable refresh rate of up to 144 Hz handled by VESA’s Adaptive-Sync technology. The LCD is VESA DisplayHDR 600 certified, so it supports a peak brightness of at least 600 nits in HDR mode, but also some kind of a local dimming technology (edge lit?) to ensure a higher contrast ratio and deeper blacks. It is logical to expect the monitor to support a wide color gamut (think >90% DCI-P3), but MSI currently does not confirm this.
As we noted in our previous coverage of 37.5-inch ultrawide displays featuring a 3840x1600 resolution, they are very well suited both for gaming and for watching Ultra-HD videos filmed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 or 2.40:1, which is a popular aspect ratio for movies.
Traditionally for gaming displays, the Optix MEG381CQR is equipped with a stand that can adjust height, tilt, and swivel. In fact, to maximize precision of height adjustment, the display seems to have a special knob on top. Other notable features of the monitor are the aforementioned OLED screen that can display various information that might be crucial for a particular game, and a special camera to recognize the owner and adjust settings in accordance with their preferences.
MSI currently does not have a firm launch date for its Optix MEG381CQR monitor and only says that it plans to launch it sometimes in the third or the fourth quarter. Pricing of the display is also not set, so we can only make guesses based on MSRPs of other curved 37.5-inch displays which appear to be pretty expensive.
Often we see a lot of fanfare when companies launch their latest flagship products, but those products often come at the high-end of the price spectrum, so it is refreshing to get a new launch of some lower-cost alternatives. SteelSeries is launching a trio of new peripherals today all aimed at the budget-conscious gamer with the new Rival 3 Gaming Mouse, as well as the Apex 3 and Apex 5 gaming keyboards.
What constitutes a gaming mouse? It is certainly not just the RGB lighting, although most, including this product, offer customizable lighting. The mouse sensor is one of the key aspects, and SteelSeries worked with PixArt to develop a new sensor which they’ve dubbed the TrueMove Core optical sensor. The new sensor offers 8500 CPI, one-to-one tracking, and over 300 IPS and 35G of acceleration capability. For a mouse in this price bracket, it is very capable.
|SteelSeries Gaming Mouse|
|Sensor CPI||True 8500|
|Acceleration||300 IPS / 35 G|
|RGB Backlighting||3 Zones|
|Onboard Storage||5 profiles|
|Main Buttons||SteelSeries 60 M Click Rating|
The Rival 3 is a right handed mouse (if you need an ambidextrous they offer the Sensei series) which weighs in at just 77 grams. It offers three zones of RGB backlighting which achieves 750 lux, making this the brightest LEDs in any SteelSeries mouse. There are six buttons and the main buttons feature a SteelSeries switch rated at up to 60 million clicks, whereas a comparable Omron would only be rated at 10-20 million. The casing is finished in matte black, so it should stand up well to the test of time.
The mouse features customization through the SteelSeries Engine software, and offers onboard storage for five profiles, so even if it’s not used with the software, you can still choose your CPI profile on the go.
The new Rival 3 Gaming Mouse is available globally today for a MSRP of $29.99.
|SteelSeries Gaming Keyboards|
|Apex 3||Apex 5|
|Switch Type||POM Reinforced Membrane||Hybrid Mechanical|
|Key Cap||Standard MX 4mm throw|
|Onboard Storage||No||5 profiles|
|Media Keys||Yes with Volume Wheel||Yes with Volume Wheel|
|Wrist Rest||Detachable Magnetic||Detachable Magnetic|
SteelSeries is also launching two new gaming keyboards which feature anti-ghosting and RGB lighting, without breaking the bank. The Apex 3 is launching today with an MSRP of $49.99, and the Apex 5 is available globally for $99.99.
The Apex 3 features an upgraded and reinforced membrane switch, which SteelSeries says offers an improved key feel. The keyboard offers ten zones of RGB backlighting as well, and a magnetically attached wrist rest. There’s dedicated media keys, and a volume wheel as well, and the keyboard offers three routes for cable management so you can route the USB cable out the left, right, or middle of the keyboard. Finally, the Apex 3 is rated for IP32 water resistance, so it should survive an accidental spill.
The Apex 5 ramps up the features, as expected since it is literally double the price of the Apex 3, but for $99.99 this gaming keyboard offers hybrid mechanical switches, which are true mechanical switches, but which feature the smoothness of a membrane switch coupled with the click of a blue switch. The keys are also individual backlit with per-key RGB lighting.
The Apex 5 features the same OLED display as the Apex 7 and Pro lineup, which can be used to view in-game info, song information, and more. The OLED is coupled with media keys, and offers five onboard profiles meaning the keyboard can remember your settings as you move it from device to device.
The Apex 5 also features a full aluminum frame, and offers a premium magnetically attached wrist rest.
All of these products are available globally today. Check out SteelSeries.com for more details.]]>
Among a mountain of new product announcements at CES, ADATA previewed three upcoming high-end consumer SSDs supporting PCIe 4.0. These will launch under their XPG gaming-oriented brand, and will serve to complement or replace the existing XPG Gammix S50, which ADATA's current PCIe 4.0 SSD based on the Phison E16 controller. The E16 launched last summer and is so far the only consumer PCIe 4.0 SSD controller shipping in retail SSDs. Phison's own E18 follow-up controller is expected to arrive around Q3, but before then we'll see other competitors start to deliver their own PCIe 4.0 SSD controllers.
ADATA tries out SSD controllers from almost everyone in the market, but their most popular SSDs in recent years rely on Silicon Motion controllers. The SM2262 and SM2262EN controllers are used in ADATA's best-performing PCIe 3.0 SSDs. For PCIe 4.0, Silicon Motion will replace those with the high-end SM2264 8-channel controller and the more mainstream SM2267 4-channel controller. Thanks to supporting much faster NAND interface speeds, the SM2267 should be able to offer performance comparable to current-generation 8-channel controllers, which means most of the extra bandwidth provided by the upgrade to PCIe 4.0 will go unused by the SM2267. Still, at 4GB/s for sequential reads, 3GB/s for sequential writes, and 400k IOPS for random IO, this is not by any measure a low-end solution. ADATA will be using the SM2267 in the XPG Pearl.
ADATA's drive using the Silicon Motion SM2264 will be the XPG Indigo. This should hit 7GB/s for sequential reads, more or less saturating the PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. Sequential writes will be a bit slower at around 6GB/s, and random IO speeds will get up to 700k IOPS.
Lastly and perhaps most interesting is the XPG Sage, one of a handful of upcoming products using the Rainier controller from newcomer Innogrit. This is currently promising the highest performance: 7GB/s reads, 6.1GB/s writes, and 1M IOPS for random IO. Those minor increases in top-line performance numbers relative to the XPG Indigo won't matter to real-world consumer usage, and whether the Sage or Indigo is the better overall performer may come down to which controller architecture offers better performance at low queue depths.
The release dates for ADATA's upcoming PCIe 4.0 SSDs have not been set, and it's not yet clear whether the Innogrit or Silicon Motion solutions will be ready to ship first. Of the three new drives, only the Innogrit-based Sage was featured in live demos at ADATA's CES 2020 exhibit. It appears unlikely that any of them will ship until around Computex (June) at the earliest. All three drives are currently planned to be offered in capacities up to 4TB using 96L TLC NAND—but for at least the Sage, ADATA hasn't decided whether to use Toshiba or Micron TLC.]]>
Dynabook has introduced its redesigned ‘hyper-light’ 13.3-Inch Portégé X30L-G, which has been updated to be lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. The new systems pack Intel’s 10th Generation Core processors with up to six cores (Comet Lake-U) as well as all the traditional and latest connectivity technologies, all while weighing less than a kilogram.
To make the 2020 Portégé X30L-G lighter than its predecessors, Dynabook had to redesign it both inside and outside (for the first time in years). The laptop still comes in a familiar Onyx Blue magnesium alloy chassis and features a 13.3-inch display (up to Full-HD, IGZO, 470 nits brightness), albeit with slightly thinner bezels as well as a different hinge. The new internal and external architecture enabled Dynabook to reduce the weight of the Portégé X30L-G to 870 grams (~1.90 pounds), which is very low for a 13.3-inch machine. Despite the light weight of the laptop, its chassis is ‘engineered to meet’ MIL-STD-810G testing methodology standards for drop, temperature, humidity and dustproof, which should ensure that the notebook is rugged enough.
The new Dynabook Portégé X30L-G is based on Intel’s 10th Generation "Comet Lake" Core processors with built-in UHD Graphics, which enabled the company to optimize its internal structure and ultimately make the system lighter. The system supports up to 24 GB of DDR4 memory using onboard DRAM and an SO-DIMM slot, while storage is provided via an M.2 SSD, with Dynabook using both PCIe and SATA drives depending on the SKU.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the new notebook is equipped with a Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5 wireless module, a GbE port (which returns to a Portégé X30 after a couple of generations without it), one USB 3.0 Type-C connector, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a microSD card reader, an HDMI output, and a 3.5-mm combo audio jack. While the return of a GbE port is a rather remarkable event, the laptop no longer has a 4G/LTE option, or at least it is not mentioned in the press release and on the product page.
Other features of the Portégé X30L-G notebook include a backlit keyboard (but it is unclear whether it is also spill resistant), a microphone array, and DTS-badged speakers. Meanwhile, the laptop no longer has a trackpoint, which will be missed by loyal Toshiba Portégé customers that have been accustomed to it.
Business are corporate customers are the target audience of Dynabook’s Portégé series notebooks, so the new X30L-G features SecurePad with Synaptics Natural ID fingerprint sensor, a webcam with IR sensors (for Windows Hello facial recognition), Intel Authenticate technology as well as a discrete Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0).
|Dynabook's Portege X30L-G|
|Resolution, Brightness, Features||1366×768, 220 nits, anti-glare
1920×1080, 470 nits, IGZO, anti-glare
1920×1080, 300 nits, 10-point multi-touch
|CPU||Core i3-10110U - 2C/4T, 2.1 - 4.1 GHz, 4 MB
Core i5-10210U- 4C/8T, 1.6 - 4.2 GHz, 6 MB
Core i7-10510U - 4C/8T, 1.8 - 4.9 GHz, 8 MB
Core i7-10710U - 6C/12T, 1.1 - 4.7 GHz, 12 MB
|RAM||up to 8 GB DDR4 onboard
up to 24 GB DDR4 w/ SODIMM slot
|Storage||M.2 SATA SSD up to 512 GB
M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD up to 512 GB
M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD up to 1 TB with Intel Optane Technology
|Wi-Fi||Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 controller|
|GbE||Intel i219-series GbE controller|
|USB 3.2 Gen 1||2 × Type-A
1 × Type-C
|Other I/O||Webcam with RGB + IR sensors, microphone, HDMI, stereo speakers, audio jack|
|Security||Trusted Platform Module (dTPM) 2.0
|Dimensions||Width||308.8 mm | 12.16 inches|
|Depth||211.6 mm | 8.33 inches|
|Thickness||17.9 mm | 0.7 inches|
|Weight||Starting at 870 grams (1.9 lbs)|
Dynabook will start sales of its Portégé X30L-G already next month both directly and through its retail partners like Amazon. Select models will come with a three-year limited warranty, whereas Featured and Built-to-Order machines will get a four-year limited warranty. Entry level configuration of the Portégé X30L-G will be priced at $1,599.99.
Being one of the leading suppliers of small form-factor gaming PCs, ZOTAC recently started to offer SFF workstations powered by Intel’s Xeon CPUs as well as NVIDIA’s Quadro graphics cards. Meanwhile, there are a lot of creators that do not necessarily need professional-grade hardware for their work (or just cannot afford it), so for that market ZOTAC is putting together its Inspire Studio desktops.
ZOTAC’s Inspire Studio machines are based on Intel’s Core i7-9700 CPU with eight cores (and a 65 W TDP) and a full-fledged GeForce RTX 2060 Super graphics card. The system can be equipped with 32 GB of DDR4 memory, a 512 GB NVMe/PCIe SSD (or an Intel Optane Memory caching SSD), and a 2 TB hard drive. As for connectivity, the Inspire Studio has a Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5 adapter (the Killer AX1650), two GbE ports (controlled by a Killer controller), USB Type-A and Type-C connectors, four display outputs (three DisplayPort 1.4, one HDMI 2.0b), an SD card reader, and a 3.5-mm audio jack for headsets.
All Inspire Studio SFF desktop PCs come with Windows 10 Pro and NVIDIA Studio drivers pre-installed, so the machines are ready for a variety of professional applications right out of the box.
Since the ZOTAC Inspire Studio is aimed at creators who naturally value style, it comes in a rather unique white chassis. The latter also differentiates the PCs from ZOTAC's Q-series workstations that come in black.
ZOTAC’s Inspire Studio SFF desktops will be available later this year from the company’s partners as well as directly. The manufacturer yet has to announce pricing of the new system.
TerraMaster unveiled a new five-bay NAS with a 10 GbE connectivity at this year's CES. The F5-422 is based upon Intel Apollo Lake SoC, and runs the company’s TOS 4.1 operating system on top of it, supporting up to 5 3.5-inch drives.
The TerraMaster F5-422 is powered by Intel’s Celeron J3455 quad-core SoC (1.5 GHz – 2.3 GHz) that is paired with 4 GB of memory (expandable to 12 GB). The unit can accommodate five 3.5-inch/2.5-inch hard drives or solid-state drives, which means with today's largest 16 TB HDDs, the NAS can accommodate a total of 80 TB in storage. And, as you'd expect for a modern NAS, the F5-422 supports various RAID modes, including RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10.
Once released, the F5-422 NAS will be one of a handful of prosumer NASes on the market with support for high speed Ethernet, thanks to its one 10 GbE port. As well, the NAS supports two 1 GbE connectors, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI display output. Though it should be noted that despite presence of an HDMI port, the NAS is not designed to work as a media player.
From performance point of view, the NAS is rated to read data at up to 670 MB/s speed as well as write data at up to 650 MB/s when all of its drives operate in RAID 5 mode. Meanwhile, TOS 4.1 OS supports SSD caching to accelerate I/O performance. The NAS can be used by large companies as it supports concurrent access for up to 500 users.
In addition to AES-NI and RAID modes, TerraMaster’s F5-422 with TOS 4.1 supports multiple security layers, including clustered Btrfs file system and snapshots as well as scheduled backups (including an option to back up to the cloud).
TerraMaster will begin selling the F5-422 shortly. Prices will vary with the configuration.
Modern smart televisions do much more than just display broadcasted programs, so these days TV makers need to equip them with powerful applications processors to decode HD and Ultra-HD content, as well as handle other complex tasks. To that end, LG has revealed that it plans to use its new α9 Gen 3 SoC for its latest Signature OLED and NanoCell 8K televisions set to be available this year.
LG’s latest α9 Gen 3 processor supports playback of 8Kp60 content encoded using HEVC, VP9, and particularly important going forward, the recently released AV1 codec. But since 8K videos are not common just yet, the SoC supports LG’s AI 8K Upscaling algorithm that relies on its machine learning capabilities to analyze videos it upscales and properly apply Quad Step Noise Reduction and frequency-based Sharpness Enhancer.
In addition to intelligent upscaling, LG’s new 8K TVs also support AI Picture Pro technology to correctly enhance sharpening and skin tones as well as Auto Genre Selection to apply general picture settings common for a particular type of content. Also, the televisions monitor background noises and adjust their 5.1 audio subsystems accordingly.
High-end televisions from LG are based on the webOS operating system and therefore the company can add support for new features just by installing appropriate applications. The 2020 Signature OLED and NanoCell 8K TV’s support LG’s Home Dashboard to control IoT using Hands-Free Voice Control (enabled by ThinQ voice recognition). Also the webOS supports a host of third-party voice-based services, including Apple’s AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant. In addition, it can access a variety of content streaming services, such as Apple TV/Apple TV+, Disney+, and Netflix.
LG’s 2020 8K television lineup includes 88 and 77-inch class Signature OLED TVs (models 88/77 OLED ZX) and NanoCell IPS TVs (models 75/65 Nano99, 75/65 Nano97, 75/65 Nano95). The OLED models will variable refresh rate support (including NVIDIA G-Sync Compatible certification) right out-of-box. The Ultra-HD TVs will be available in the coming months.
NAND flash memory prices are projected to climb in 2020. The manufacturing transitions to 96-layer 3D NAND and beyond are not going to increase bit output as quickly as demand will be growing. This will be a major change from the NAND oversupply that caused price crashes in 2018 and into 2019.
SSD controller vendor Phison is betting that increasing prices will finally push the consumer SSD market to embrace 4 bit per cell QLC NAND flash memory, which thus far has seen only limited success in the retail SSD market and virtually no adoption from PC OEMs. The price premium for SSDs with 3 bit per cell TLC NAND has been small or non-existent across all market segments, so the performance and endurance advantages of sticking with TLC NAND have been worthwhile. Those days may be coming to an end. Phison expects—quite reasonably—that when NAND flash memory supplies are constrained the bulk of the TLC NAND manufactured will be snatched up by the higher-paying enterprise SSD customers, more or less forcing the consumer SSD market to start shifting toward using QLC as the mainstream option.
In preparation for this shift, Phison is making sure that their full controller lineup is ready to work with QLC NAND. That means tuning the controller firmware to make the best of the lower performance of TLC NAND. For the OEM market in particular, they also have to update any of the older controllers whose error-correction capabilities aren't up to the task of supporting a 5-year warranty with the lower endurance of QLC.
Phison's hardware roadmap hasn't changed significantly from what we reported on after Flash Memory Summit. What is changing is how these controllers are being marketed. Phison has taken the unusual step of publishing performance specifications for most of their SSD controllers when paired with QLC NAND, rather than sticking with the TLC-based numbers that cast their controllers in a better light. Unfortunately, we're still getting numbers that are mostly based on testing at high queue depths and with durations short enough that the SLC cache is primarily what's being measured.
When paired with QLC NAND, Phison's high-end NVMe controllers will now be using a full-range dynamic SLC cache size, similar to what we've seen with recent Silicon Motion controllers but quite different from how existing TLC-based Phison NVMe drives have behaved with small fixed-size SLC caches. Maximizing the SLC cache size reduces the odds of ever running out of cache during ordinary consumer use, but at the cost of a more drastic performance penalty when the cache does fill up: there's more SLC data that needs to be compacted into TLC/QLC, and less free TLC/QLC to work with when doing that compaction in the background while continuing to handle host IO commands. This tradeoff makes the most sense when using QLC NAND, because no matter how big or small the SLC cache is, things will be painfully slow should it ever run out.
|Phison NVMe SSD Controller
QLC NAND Projected Performance
|Host Interface||PCIe 3.0 x4||PCIe 4.0 x4|
|NAND Channels, Interface Speed||8 ch,
|Capacity||1 TB||2 TB||4 TB||8 TB||1 TB||2 TB||4 TB|
|SLC Cache Size||Dynamic||Dynamic|
|Sequential Read||3.4 GB/s||4.7 GB/s||4.9 GB/s|
|Sequential Write||2.0 GB/s||3.0 GB/s||1.9 GB/s||3.8 GB/s|
|4KB Random Read IOPS||130k||255k||490k||170k||330k|
|4KB Random Write IOPS||500k||680k||480k||800k|
The performance of Phison's current high-end NVMe controllers with QLC NAND will be quite a bit slower than the best achievable performance with TLC NAND. The reduction in random read performance will probably have the greatest impact. This is also where we see a requirement for much higher drive capacities in order to attain the best performance. Over the past two years, 1TB TLC-based SSDs have become quite affordable and are almost always large enough to offer the maximum performance a SSD controller can handle. If those price points have to switch over to QLC NAND this year, we'll see 1TB drives at a significant disadvantage compared to 2TB and 4TB models. Since NAND price increases will make it harder for consumers to jump up to higher capacities, we may see a real performance regression for the average mainstream consumer SSD, without any monetary savings as a consolation prize.
|Phison SATA SSD Controller
QLC NAND Projected Performance
|Capacity||480 GB||960 GB||1920 GB||1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, 8 TB, 12 TB, 16 TB|
|SLC Cache Size||9 GB||18 GB||36 GB||Dynamic|
|Sequential Read||550 MB/s||550 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||430 MB/s||490 MB/s||500 MB/s||530 MB/s|
|4KB Random Read IOPS||35k||65k||90k||95k|
|4KB Random Write IOPS||75k||85k||90k||90k|
Over on the SATA side, things don't look so bad. With the current S12 mainstream SATA controller and the full-range dynamic SLC caching strategy, even 1TB of QLC is still sufficient to hit the highest top-line performance numbers possible behind a 6Gbps bottleneck. Phison is listing those same peak performance numbers for capacities from 1TB all the way up to 16TB, including the non-power of two intermediate capacity of 12TB. In the past, those higher capacities have been supported only for the sake of enterprise SSDs, but Phison says they have at least one partner planning to bring out a 16TB drive for the consumer/prosumer retail market.
Phison's latest DRAMless SATA controller (S13T) will still be using fixed-size SLC caches when paired with QLC NAND, and low-cost drives that have to offer lower capacities will be stuck with subpar performance—again with random reads suffering the most.
Phison did not provide QLC-based performance projections for their current E13T DRAMless NVMe controller or its upcoming replacement E19T that brings PCIe 4.0 support and other performance increases. They also didn't provide QLC performance for the E18 (their 12nm second-generation high-end PCIe 4.0 controller), but that controller is due much later in the year and it should still be used mostly with TLC for enthusiast-class drives, unless the NAND price situation gets really bad.
As usual for performance projections from SSD controller vendors, the numbers are subject to change between now and retail availability of drives. The choice of which particular QLC NAND is used in a given product will affect performance, and there's still time for further firmware optimizations.
At CES 2020, Phison demonstrated various combinations of QLC NAND with their controllers in a range of capacities. Most of the SSDs shown were using Micron 96L QLC, but a few were also using Toshiba/Kioxia BiCS4 (96L) QLC. The QLC preparations also carried over to Phison's portable storage products, where they showed a 1TB MicroSD card, an 8TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD, and several USB attached solutions. All of these reference designs are likely to come to market this year, and in the portable storage market the QLC transition will probably be more thorough and unavoidable.]]>
Facebook has announced that it has permanently slashed the pricing of its entry-level Oculus Go 32 GB VR headset to an ‘impulse buy’ level of $149. The move will make virtual reality more accessible for those who want to try basic VR gaming and video playback, but are after something more robust and with better support than various flavors of Google’s Cardboard VR.
Starting today, the Oculus Go 32 GB is priced at $149, whereas the 64 GB version costs $199. In other countries where the VR headset is available, prices have been slashed ‘comparably’ as well, according Oculus VR parent company Facebook.
The Oculus Go is the most basic standalone virtual reality headset available today (at least when it comes to three major VR HMD makers). The device has a 5.5-inch display panel with a 2560×1440 (538 ppi) resolution as well as a 60 – 72 Hz refresh rate (application dependent). The HMD is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC (four Kryo cores running at 2.15 – 2.3 GHz, Adreno 530 GPU with ~500 GFLOPS performance, 64-bit LPDDR4 memory, 14LPP) paired with 3 GB of RAM, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and 32 or 64 GB of NAND flash storage that cannot be expanded using an SD card.
As far as battery life is concerned, the the Oculus Go is equipped with a 2600 mAh battery that provides up to two hours of gaming, or 2.5 hours of video playback.
Since the Oculus Go is a standalone VR HMD, it has built-in speakers as well as the 3-degree-of-freedom tracking (3DoF) for the headset and the controller, but does not support positional tracking at all. To that end, the Oculus Go cannot offer the same level of immersion as the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, or even the Vive Focus which feature positional tracking.
It is evident that the Oculus Go was developed to be as cheap as possible and all of its tradeoffs are consequences of such design approach. From Oculus VR perspective, the low price and availability of proper content might popularize virtual reality in general among consumers not ready to invest hundreds of dollars in a more advanced gear. To that end, it will be interesting to see how a $50 price slash affects market performance of the Oculus Go.
Sources: Oculus VR, TechRadar, Engadget]]>
ZOTAC this month announced plans to release its 3rd generation VR Go wearable PC for virtual reality gaming. The new system will feature higher performance for a better VR experience, as well as an updated backpack.
ZOTAC's VR Go 3.0 will inherit the chassis and (presumably) batteries from the VR Go 2.0 that has been on the market for over a year. The key improvement of the new model over the VR Go 2.0 will be updating the GPU to NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2070. The CPU side is also getting an upgrade with Intel's latest Core i7 processor, though the manufacturer does not disclose which one (Comet Lake-H perhaps?).
The new VR Go 3.0 will come with a new backpack that utilizes a sweatproof material for easier maintenance. And, just like its predecessors, the upcoming VR Go wil be able to work both as a desktop and as a wearable PC. Though surprisingly enough, even with the switch to a current-generation GeForce RTX GPU, Zotac isn't integrated a USB-C-based VR Link port (or USB-C port of any kind, for that matter), so any kind of display will still need to be hooked up via HDMI or DisplayPort.
VR gaming is an interesting market in general. There are only three makers of popular VR headsets and there are equally few PC makers that that offer wearable PCs for VR gaming. Which has meant that the market for VR PCs has operated on a relatively slow cadence, especially as it's generally years between PC VR headset releases.
We haven’t talked about Analogix in a few years, and we certainly haven’t talked about TCON announcements much at all. At CES 2020 Analogix announced the new ANX2187 TCON chip with little fanfare, but it could drastically change the way PC displays are manufactured and how end products end up in terms of their colour accuracy.
Analogix has been a leader in delivering TCON solutions to the PC and laptop market for many years, and the market has been relatively speaking quite boring when it comes to new developments. Analogix wants to modernise the display panel experience for monitors and laptops with the introduction of the new ANX2186 which promises to bring 3D Colour Gamut rotation to the PC market.
Display makers usually have a quite hard time in terms of producing accurate display panels using the “traditional” manufacturing methods. In the old way of doing things, a panel’s colour accuracy is largely dependent upon its manufacturing and if it comes out matching the target specifications, with it being very hard for display vendors to individually adjust the display controller firmware on each panel in order to achieve better calibrations and accuracy.
The ANX2186 is a TCON that features gamut manipulation in the optical domain – in essence it’s a calibration engine that sits at the TCON level between the display input and the DDIC and is able to transparently manipulate the gamut in its 3D space. This technology isn’t inherently new, one area it’s been present for years has been in the mobile space (Samsung’s mDNIe was first as far as I know) as well as in TVs by various TV SoC vendors.
What this allows is for calibration and manipulation of the colours fully independent of the DDIC firmware of a display panel. Display manufacturers can now very quickly with help of automatic tooling calibrate each individual panel in a product line, write the compensation/calibration factors as ROM data to the TCON, and not have to worry about fiddling with the much more complex firmware data on the side of the DDIC.
It’s quite a large departure and enabler for more accurate display panels in monitors as well as laptops, reducing cost and adding flexibility for display and device manufacturers. The chip also can seamlessly handle multiple colour spaces with different calibrations, essentially bringing to the PC what we’ve had on mobile devices for several years now, alongside new use-cases such as SDR and HDR conversions.
The TCON has other features such as local dimming capability. Here the TCON is able to be programmed with the backlight setup characteristics and transparently enable local dimming functionality in a less complex manner than traditional implementations.
The ANX2187 is capable of resolutions of up to 4K60 and is manufactured in a newer 28nm process node, enabling low power consumption of 216-286mW.
Analogix says they’re the first to market in the PC space with such technology, and it certainly seems that it would be able to enable vendors to bring a new generation of devices with much better display characteristics than previously possible.]]>
Innogrit is one of the latest SSD controller designers to enter the market, having come out of stealth mode and announced their roadmap last August at Flash Memory Summit. Last week at CES 2020, at least two SSD vendors were showcasing upcoming products based around Innogrit's IG5236 Rainier controller. This isn't Innogrit's first SSD controller: they started small with the Shasta and Shasta+ designs, 4-channel DRAMless controllers that are comparable to entry-level NVMe controllers that Phison, Silicon Motion and Marvell have had on the market for quite a while. Rainier is where Innogrit really starts to compete. It's an 8-channel controller with a PCIe 4.0 x4 host interface, and it should be capable of very nearly saturating that link with sequential transfers.
|Innogrit NVMe SSD Controller Roadmap|
|Host Interface||PCIe 3 x2||PCIe 3 x4||PCIe 4 x4||PCIe 4 x4|
|Protocol||NVMe 1.3||NVMe 1.4|
|Max Capacity||2 TB||2 TB||16 TB||32 TB|
|DRAM Support||No (HMB Supported)||DDR3/4, LPDDR3/4
|BGA Package Size||10x9mm,
|Sequential Read||1750 MB/s||3.2 GB/s||7 GB/s||7 GB/s|
|Sequential Write||1500 MB/s||2.5 GB/s||6.1 GB/s||6.1 GB/s|
|4KB Random Read||250k IOPS||500k IOPS||1M IOPS||1.5M IOPS|
|4KB Random Write||200k IOPS||350k IOPS||800k IOPS||1M IOPS|
|Market Segment||Client||Client||High-end Client,
ADATA was showing off three different upcoming PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs at CES, and unsurprisingly one of them was using the Innogrit Rainier controller—ADATA's always game to try out new SSD controllers. The ADATA XPG SAGE SSD will use 96L TLC NAND, but they have not made a final determination of whether to use Micron or Toshiba NAND. The drive on their display board was clearly equipped with Toshiba NAND, but the one installed in a system for live demos used ADATA packaged NAND that may have been Micron TLC.
A few years ago, Micron sold their Lexar brand to Longsys, who started using the brand for both internal and external storage products. Longsys and Lexar SSDs have continued to use Micron NAND almost exclusively, but lately their preference for Marvell controllers has not been working out so well. Marvell's plan for PCIe 4.0 SSDs in the client/consumer market doesn't include anything to compete at the high end. Officially, Lexar isn't saying what controller their upcoming high-end PCIe 4.0 SSD will use, but the drive they had a live demo of was obviously using the same Innogrit Rainier reference PCB. However, their images of what the product will look like with its heatspreader were based on an entirely different PCB, so the selection of Innogrit's controller is probably not finalized. This drive is planned for Q3 of 2020.
BiWin is also reportedly working with the Innogrit Rainier controller for their NW200 SSD, after previously declaring intentions to use the Tacoma controller in an enterprise drive. BiWin is the ODM behind HP branded retail SSDs, so a Rainier-based SSD may be the successor to the Silicon Motion-based EX920 and EX950 SSDs. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet with BiWin at CES 2020.
Since Innogrit as a company is so new to the SSD controller market, it's reasonable to be skeptical of their promises. (Though it's worth keeping in mind that the company was founded and led by a team of veterans from Marvell and other major players in the storage industry.) The working demos at CES 2020 of Innogrit controllers surpassing 7 GB/s show that they're clearly on the right track. Depending on when these drives hit the market and how performance changes in the meantime, they may soon be able to claim to be powering the fastest consumer SSDs. Innogrit is definitely worth keeping an eye on, and we look forward to trying out their SSDs on our benchmark testbeds.]]>
With Corsair acquiring new brands at a steady pace, including Origin PC, Elgato, and more recently, Scuf, the future looks bright for Corsair's gaming division. A major part of the acquisition process is taking advantage of Corsair's collection of technologies to develop products they couldn't before, and the company's latest mechanical keyboard, the K95 RGB Platinum XT, is a prime example of that. The high-end keyboard integrates Elgato's Stream Deck software, which makes it ideal for gamers and streamers alike.
The Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT builds upon the popularity and success of the 2017 K95, offering individual per-key RGB backlighting with a choice of three Cherry MX switch types. These include Cherry MX Speed silver, brown, and blues, with each key certified to withstand up to 10 million key presses. This is a significant upgrade in Cherry's quality assurance, and the K95 RGB Platinum XT is the first mechanical keyboard to feature these newly tested switches. Each keycap is made from double-shot PBT, which is the premium keycap on the market at present, with a total of 111 keys, including a Numpad making this a full-size keyboard.
Integrated into the quality aluminium frame is a detachable PU leather wrist rest which Corsair says is to offer better ergonomics. Down the right-hand side is six macro keys which are designed to work with the bundled Elgato Stream Deck software. These work in a similar way to the buttons on the Elgato Stream Deck and can be customized to provide many different functions for streamers. Shipped in the accessories bundle is a set of blue keycaps for the macro keys, should users wish to alter the overall look of the keyboard.
The Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT has an MSRP of $200, and is available at all major retailers, including Corsair's own website.
HP has introduced a new series of displays with docking capabilities that have been developed with corporate and business customers in mind. The HP E24D G4 and HP E27D G4 support high-end docking capabilities that we've come to expect from a modern LCD, along with multiple network manageability features that are required by the target audience.
HP’s E24D G4 and E27D G4 advanced docking monitors use IPS panels with diagonals of 23.8-inches and 27-inches, offering Full-HD (1920×1080) and Quad-HD (2560×1440) resolutions respectively. The displays offer 250 or 300 nits brightness, a 1000:1 contrast ratio, a 5 ms GtG response time, and a 60 Hz or 75 Hz refresh rate. Both monitors have very thin bezels to simplify usage of multi-display configurations. Exact specifications of the LCDs are in the table below.
As their names suggest, the key selling points of the E24D G4 and E27D G4 monitors are their advanced docking capabilities that include a GbE port, a pop-up webcam, DisplayPort input and output to daisy chain another LCD, a quad-port USB 3.0 hub, and 100 W USB-C Power Delivery. In a bid to comply with requirements of corporate and business customers, HP enabled numerous network manageability features, including OCI, eTag, MAC address passthrough, PXE boot, WoL, and LAN/WLAN switching.
Since the monitors are designed for offices where space is limited, they naturally come with an adjustable stand that can regulate height, tilt, and swivel. Also, the displays can work in portrait modes.
HP’s E24D G4 and E27D G4 displays will be available directly from the company later this month for $349 and $479, respectively.
|Specifications of HP's Advanced Docking Displays|
|HP E24D G4||HP E27D G4|
|Panel||23.8" IPS||27" IPS|
|Native Resolution||1920 × 1080||2560 × 1440|
|Maximum Refresh Rate||60 Hz||75 Hz|
|Response Time||5 ms GtG|
|Brightness||250 cd/m²||300 cd/m²|
|Viewing Angles||178°/178° horizontal/vertical|
|Pixel Pitch||0.2744 mm²||0.2335 mm²|
|Pixel Density||92.56 ppi||108.79 ppi|
|Color Gamut Support||?|
|Stand||Height: ? mm
Tilt: -5° to 20°
Swivel: -?° to ?°
Pivot: -90° to 90°
|Inputs||1 × DisplayPort 1.2 (+ DP 1.2 MST out)
1 × HDMI 1.4
1 × USB-C (DP 1.4 Alt Mode + 100 W Power Delivery)
1 × USB-C (DP 1.2 Alt Mode + 100 W Power Delivery)
|USB Hub||4-port USB 3.0 (Type-A)|
|Audio||audio out port|
|Power||Idle||0.5 W||0.5 W|
|Typical||70 W||80 W|
|Peak||175 W||175 W|
|Delivery||100 W||100 W|
Amongst the many showcases at CES 2020 was Ambarella’s newest demo line-up showcasing various solutions using the CV2, CV22 and also demonstrating new platforms based on the newly announced CV2FS and CV22FS automotive camera SoCs.
For readers unfamiliar with Ambarella, the company came to be known through its success in providing the silicon inside solid state handheld camcorders as well as sports cameras such as the GoPro Hero line. Over the years the company has shifted its product towards more specialized use-cases, now claiming to be a top vendor in IP video security solutions and also leading the charge in terms of delivering solutions for automotive platforms.
The CV2 and CV22 solutions were announced at last year’s CES and continue to represent key solutions and offerings for the company for 2020. Amongst the more interesting demos they showcased this year was a direct comparison against a competitor solution demonstrating performance and power efficiency advantages of the CV2 platform:
The CV2 development board here was put up against a Nvidia AGX running an object detection workload. Both platforms showcased similar performance in holding 60fps (~13.2ms for the AGX vs 16.9ms for the CV2 in terms of inference time), although with the Nvidia platform using 32W of power versus only 6.9W for the CV2 demo. We had a look at the AGX last year and found for similar inferencing workloads using Nvidia’s demonstration software to be around 13-16W in power consumption, so it’s possible Ambarella’s demo implementation wasn’t using the AGX to its most efficient potential.
CV22 Dev Board
The company showcased more partnerships with various companies bringing using the CV2 and CV22 platforms, including a collaboration with AWS’s SageMaker Neo platform to help train ML models in the cloud and to deploy them into edge devices using the Ambarella CV SoCs.
CV22 Dev Board
Alongside a partnership with AnyVision to bring retail analytics (heat maps, traffic analysis, person detection, recognition & counting in commercial and retail shops), one very interesting demo was a showcased enabled with Mercedes-Benz in what they call a “Cargo Recognition and Organisation System” (CoROS), in which there’s a CV2 device and camera at the top of the back door of a delivery van able to scan loaded and unloaded packages. When scanning a specific package when loading, it’s able to highlight the most optimal shelf location within the delivery van with help of LED strips on the shelves, optimising the package arrangement for the best loading and unloading experience depending on the delivery routes. The system was extremely straightforward in its implementation and only required a single higher resolution camera installation to be able to read out package barcodes effectively, it definitely felt like a killer use-case for computer vision solutions.
In terms of the automotive showcases, we’ve seen continued refinements on the software side of the automotive products with partnership with companies such as HELLA-Aglaia.
Front-Facing ADAS System Demo (newer 360° system was in another car)
Although we couldn’t test it during daytime in our CES schedule, the most interesting demonstration the company had showcased was a fully autonomous vehicle demo using only CV2 chipsets and various camera systems. Ambarella prided itself in the ability to have the system working in both day and night – the latter being a lot more complex to implement in a pure CV system without LIDAR.
The new product announcements this year were in the form of the CV2FS and CV22FS – essentially these are brand-new designs based on the CV2 and CV22 capabilities, now offering full ASIL B functional safety compliance as well as automotive grade qualification such as AEC-Q100 grade 2 compliance (-40 to +125°C operating temperatures).
On the consumer camera front we didn’t see any newer announcements, and as such the CV25 continues to be Ambarella’s main product for consumer and security camera applications.
RGB-IR merged picture captures with lit subject (left) vs simple non-lit subject (right)
One more interesting development was the announcement of a partnership with ON Semiconductor in bringing to market a new RGB-IR camera sensor that has the ability to capture information both in regular colour RGB spectrum as well as in the IR spectrum. Ambarella’s ISP is able to support the format and merge the data together, achieving some very interesting new capabilities in terms of low-light capture. The feature seemingly seems like another killer use-case to be implemented in security cameras in the future.]]>