AOC has formally unveiled its long-awaited Agon AG353UCG curved gaming display. The high-end display offers a 200 Hz maximum refresh rate with VESA Adaptive-Sync VRR technology, a 1000 nits peak brightness, as well as a Quantum Dot-enhanced full areal local dimming (FALD) backlighting. The display will be the company’s new flagship curved offering, offering a plethora of features with a hefty price tag to match.
AOC says that when it designed its Agon AG353UCG monitor (and other forthcoming members of the 3rd Generation Agon family), it wanted to build a product that would offer the most immersion possible today with an LCD. To do so, the company took a 35-inch 10-bit VA panel featuring a 1800R curvature, a 3440x1440 resolution, a 2 ms GtG response time, a 200 Hz maximum refresh rate, and equipped it with an advanced FALD backlighting. All told, the AG353UCG's backlighting system contains 512 local dimming zones, which have been further enhanced with Quantum Dots for a wider color gamut, offering a very bright and high-contrast HDR experience. As a result, AG353UCG can claim DisplayHDR 1000 compliance – indicating, among other things, a peak brightness of 1000 nits in HDR mode – while being able to display 1.07 billion colors across 90% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.
Like many other flagship HDR gaming displays, the Agon AG353UCG is a G-Sync Ultimate monitor. This means it meets NVIDIA's specifications for response times, color spaces, and backlighting. And it also means that the monitor is almost certainly using NVIDIA's G-Sync HDR scaler as well.
On the connectivity side of matters, the monitor has a DisplayPort 1.4 input, an HDMI 2.0b port, and a Mini DisplayPort input. In addition, the unit has audio connectors (line out, microphone upstream, microphone downstream), and a quad-port USB 3.0 hub with a Type-B upstream port.
For gamers who find ergonomics and looks to be as important as performance, the monitor comes with an aggressive-looking stand that can adjust height and tilt, as well as sporting an RGB LED ring on the back. Meanwhile the sizable display offers a carrying handle and supports cable management, making it a bit easier to move and setup the monitor.
The AOC Agon AG353UCG will be available in Europe this month. In the UK, its RRP will be £2,159, while in mainland Europe it will cost €2,509. So expect it to carry an MSRP of around $2,300 in the USA. At present, the only rival for the Agon AG353UCG is the Acer Predator X35, so the rather high price tag is nothing to be surprised about.
|AOC's 35-Inch 3rd Gen Agon Gaming Display|
|Native Resolution||3440 × 1440|
|Maximum Refresh Rate||200 Hz|
|Response Time||2 ms GtG|
|Brightness||up to 1000 cd/m² in HDR mode|
|Contrast||up to 2500:1|
|Backlighting||FALD with 512 zones & Quantum Dots|
|Viewing Angles||178°/178° horizontal/vertical|
|Color Gamut||sRGB: ?%
Adobe RGB: 95%
|Dynamic Refresh Rate Tech||NVIDIA G-Sync Ultimate|
|Pixel Pitch||0.2554 mm²|
|Pixel Density||99.45 PPI|
|Inputs||1 × DisplayPort 1.4
1 × Mini DisplayPort 1.4
1 × HDMI 2.0b
|Audio||3.5 mm microphone upstream
3.5 mm microphone downstream
3.5 mm headphone out
2 x 8 W speakers
|USB Hub||4 × USB 3.0 Type-A connectors|
|Stand||Height: 120 mm
Swivel: 32° ~ 32°
Tilt: -5 ~ 21.5±1.5°
|Launch Price||RRP in the UK: £2,159
MSRP in EU: €2,509
MSI has been actively targeting content creators with its laptops as of recently, so it's only fitting that this week the company introduced its Modern 15 notebook, aimed at the entry-level content creation market. Powered by Intel’s 10th Generation Core (Comet Lake) processor and NVIDIA’s GeForce MX330 discrete graphics chip, the Modern 15 mobile PC promises to offer decent performance as well as a relatively low weight in a reasonably priced package.
The MSI Modern 15 laptop currently exists in only one configuration (A10RAS-061JP) which is powered by Intel’s quad-core Core i7-10510U ‘Comet Lake-U’ processor. This is accompanied by 16 GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory, a 512 GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and NVIDIA’s GeForce MX330 graphics chip with 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM. According to MSI, the CPU and the GPU are cooled via MSI’s Cooler Boost 3 cooling system, which uses two fans and three thick heat pipes. Within MSI's laptop lineup, this places the Modern 15 at essentially a tier below their Prestige series notebooks, giving up features such as hex-core CPUs and GeForce GTX graphics in exchange for a lower price.
As far as connectivity is concerned, MSI’s Modern 15 is equipped with a Wi-Fi 5 + Bluetooth 6 adapter, one USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port (with DP Alt mode support), three USB Type-A connectors (one USB 3.2 Gen 1, two USB 3.2 Gen 2), an HDMI output, a 3.5-mm audio connector for headsets, and a microSD card reader. When it comes to multimedia capabilities, MSI’s Modern 15 laptops are equipped with a webcam with IR sensors, stereo speakers, and a microphone array.
The Modern 15 system comes in a black or silver chassis with brushed aluminum elements that is 15.9 mm thick. The enclosure accommodates a 15.6-inch Full-HD panel, but because of thin bezels, the dimensions of the chassis are close to those of traditional 14-inch notebooks. As for weight, the Modern 15 weighs 1.6 kilograms.
MSI says that the laptop will last for nine hours on one charge (according to JEITA 2.0), which is good enough for a laptop that is more likely to be used as a semi-fixed (and frequently plugged in) device to begin with.
|Specifications of MSI's Modern 15 Laptop|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-10510U (Comet Lake-U)|
|Graphics||Integrated||Intel UHD Graphics|
|Discrete||NVIDIA GeForce MX330 with 2 GB GDDR5|
|RAM||16 GB dual-channel DDR4|
|Storage||SSD||1 × 5120 GB M.2 NVMe SSD|
|Card Reader||MicroSD Card reader|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 5 + Bluetooth 5.0|
|USB||Type-C||1 × USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C|
|Type-A||1 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
2 × USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
|Cameras||Front||HD webcam with IR sensors|
|Other I/O||Microphone, 2 stereo speakers, audio jack|
|Dimensions||Width||35.7 cm | 14.05 inches|
|Depth||23.4 cm | 9.2 inches|
|Thickness||1.59 cm | 0.63 inches|
|Weight||1.60 kilograms | 3.52 pounds|
|Launch Price||Japan: ¥165,000|
MSI intends to start selling the Modern 15 laptop in Japan on February 27, with a price of ¥165,000. It is unclear at this time whether the company intends to bring the product to Europe or the US.
Pseudo-SLC caches for TLC-based SSDs are almost as old as TLC NAND itself, serving as a simple and practical solution to TLC's lower sustained throughput. But like all caches, pseudo-SLC caches have a finite size; and once you run over it, you're back to directly hitting the TLC. So what is a user or system builder to do if they need a drive with SLC-like performance all the time? For a while, the answer to that has been MLC drives, but with MLC slowly but surely on its way out as well, other solutions are needed. And to that end, MEMXPRO is introducing a series of new drives that go the opposite direction, embracing pseudo-SLC mode to its very core by making the entire drive pseudo-SLC.
Based on 64-layer 3D TLC memory, MEMXPRO's PC32 drives use drive-wide pseudo-SLC mode to give the drives MLC-like performance and reliability. This setup is overkill for most applications, but for use cases that require SSDs with long lifespans, and high durability – MEMXPRO's specialty – the PC32 fills an important niche.
The MEMXPRO PC32 drives in are based on the Silicon Motion SM2262EN controller as well as Micron’s B17A 64-layer 3D TLC NAND memory, which is rated for 10,000 P/E cycles. By putting the drives in pseudo-SLC mode, the manufacturer is able to increase their durability to 40,000 P/E cycles, albeit at the cost of capacity. Since TLC NAND that offers 3-bits of storage per cell is otherwise reduced to 1-bit per cell, the drives are available in capacities from just 80 GB to 320 GB. As for throughput, with the high-end controller used for the drive, MEMXPRO has rated the drives' sustained sequential read and write performance 3,250 and 2,980 MB/s respectively, which is in line with other modern SSDs featuring a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.
Under the hood, MEMXPRO’s PC32 drives are built on PCBs with side fill and under fill protective conformal coating to enhance their reliability. Also, they are designed to ensure reliable performance within industrial temperature ranges (-40°C to +85°C), so the number of applications they can address is wide. Meanwhile, the SM2262EN controller fully supports AES 256-bit encryption with TCG OPAL 2.0 compliance, so the manufacturer can enable this functionality at request with an appropriate firmware. PC32 also supports MEMXPRO’s proprietary mSMART intelligent storage management tool to monitor drive health and lifespan status that warns owner of the drive about increased risks.
MEMXPRO will demonstrate its PC32 and other SSDs at the upcoming Embedded World 2020 trade show later this month, and will start taking orders on the drives shortly. The company has also noted their interest in developing more all-SLC drives, noting that that if the market requires higher-capacity products in a different form-factor, those SSDs could be developed as well.
PCI-SIG has released version 0.5 of the PCIe 6.0 specification to its members this week. The new, "first draft" version of the spec includes the feedback the group got from its members after publication of version 0.3 back in October. With their latest update, PCI-SIG remains confident that it is on track to finalize the PCIe 6.0 standard in 2021.
It took PCI-SIG long seven years to complete the PCIe 4.0 specification, a long slog that the group has committed to avoiding going forward for PCIe 5.0 and beyond. With PCIe 6.0, PCI-SIG is keeping up that rapid pace of development, releasing the first draft version of the spec less than a year after formal announcement of the spec.
Overall, PCI-SIG has five key steps in creating a PCIe specification:
The publication of version 0.5 of the PCIe 6.0 specification is essentially the final call for submissions of the new features by PCI-SIG member companies. Furthermore, with the first draft available, companies can start designing test silicon to ensure that everything works and even begin preliminary work on commercial chips.
The next milestone for the PCIe 6.0 specification will be the upcoming PCI-SIG Developers Conference 2020 in early June, where the group plans to present deep dives into the features of the technology.
GIGABYTE has quietly added its first Comet Lake-U-powered ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) BRIX PCs to its lineup. The new systems were designed for home, office, and commercial applications, they offer up to six cores as well as advanced connectivity.
GIGABYTE’s lineup of BRIX UCFF barebones PCs based on Intel’s 10th Generation Core (Comet Lake-U) processors currently includes four base models featuring the Core i7-10710U with six cores, the Core i7-10510U as well as the Core i5-10210U with four cores, and the Core i3-10110U with two cores. All systems can be equipped with up to 64 GB of DDR4-2666 memory using two SO-DIMMs, an M.2-2280 SSD with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, and a 2.5-inch SSD or HDD with a SATA 6 Gbps interface.
Connectivity capabilities of all Comet Lake-U-powered GIGABYTE BRIX systems are similar and include Intel’s Wireless-AC 3168 Wi-Fi 5 + Bluetooth 4.2 M.2-2230 adapter, a GbE port (controlled by the Intel i219V), a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C connector, five USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, two HDMI 2.0 display outputs, and a 3.5-mm combo jack for headsets, and an RS232 COM port. In addition, the new barebones can accommodate an add-on-card that adds another GbE and another RS232 COM port.
Measuring 119.5×119.5×46.8 mm, the GIGABYTE BRIX barebones with Intel’s Comet Lake-U will easily fit into any environment. GIGABYTE has developed a pretty broad market for the BRIX systems over the years, so the company is aiming for everything from home and office out to commercial applications like digital signage, and even for applications that require RS232 COM connectivity.
Overall, GIGABYTE is among the first computer makers to introduce UCFF barebones PC with Intel’s Comet Lake-U processors. Interestingly, despite mobile nature of the CPU, the manufacturer equips the systems with fairly beefy 90 W and 135 W external PSUs.
|GIGABYTE's 10th Gen BRIX Mainstream Mini PC Systems|
1.1 - 4.7 GHz
1.8 - 4.9 GHz
1.6 - 4.2 GHz
2.1 - 4.1 GHz
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|DRAM||Two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots
Up to 64 GB of DDR4-2666 in dual-channel mode
|Storage||SSD||M.2-2280 (PCIe 3.0 x4)|
|DFF||1 × 2.5-inch/9.5-mm SATA 6 Gbps|
|Wireless||Intel Wireless-AC 3168
802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 module
|Ethernet||1 × GbE port (Intel i219V)|
|USB||Front||1 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
3 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
|Back||2 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A|
|Display Outputs||2 × HDMI 2.0b|
|Audio||1 × 3.5mm audio jack (Realtek)|
|COM||1 × RS232 COM port|
|PSU||135 W PSU (19V/7.1A)||90 W PSU (19V/4.3A)|
|Operating Temperatures||0°C to +35°C||0°C to +50°C|
|Dimensions||Length: 119.5 mm
Width: 119.5 mm
Height: 46.8 mm
Now that GIGABYTE lists its Comet Lake-enabled BRIX barebones on its website, expect them to hit the market shortly.
USB Type-C connectors on displays and docking capabilities for modern laptops are extremely convenient, but up until recently monitor manufacturers have treated USB-C as a premium feature. This is slowly but surely changing, as this week Philips introduced its business-oriented model 243B1, which promises to be one of the most reasonably-priced USB-C docking displays on the market.
The Philips 243B1 is a pretty regular 23.8-inch IPS monitor for office use, featuring a 1920×1080 resolution, 250 nits max brightness, a 1000:1 contrast ratio, 178º/178º viewing angles, and a 75 Hz maximum refresh rate. The LCD can display 16.7 million colors and covers 107% of the sRGB as well as 91% of the NTSC color gamuts, which is fine as most productivity applications (especially for Windows) use the sRGB range.
The key features of the Philips 243B1 are of course its docking and connectivity capabilities. The monitor has a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port with DP Alt Mode that supports a 65 W power delivery, which is enough for most laptops. And, when not being used with a modern laptop, the monitor also has a DisplayPort 1.2 input and an HDMI 1.4 port for legacy inputs.
Like many other docking-capable monitors, Philips's display also features an integrated GbE port and a quad-port USB 3.2 hub, reinforcing its docking role and offing additional ports for laptops that may come with few. Meanwhile, on the audio front, the LCD has two 2W speakers as well as 3.5-mm audio in/out connectors.
Another interesting capability of the Philips 243B1 monitor is its infrared PowerSensor, which detects whether or not someone is using the display. If there isn't a user present, the LCD reduces its brightness to cut down power consumption and prolong its lifespan.
Since the Philips 243B1 is designed primarily for offices where VESA arms are uncommon and placement is not always ideal, the monitor comes with a stand that can adjust height, tilt, and swivel. Also, the stand can rotate the display by 90º, which will be convenient for those who use two monitors in portrait mode.
|Specifications of Philips's B Line Monitor with USB-C Docking|
|Native Resolution||1920 × 1080|
|Maximum Refresh Rate||75 Hz|
|Response Time||4 ms GtG|
|Viewing Angles||178°/178° horizontal/vertical|
|Pixel Pitch||0.2744 mm²|
|Pixel Density||92.56 ppi|
|Display Colors||16.7 million|
|Color Gamut Support||91% NTSC
|Stand||Height: 150 mm
Tilt: -5° to 35°
Swivel: -180° to +180°
Pivot: -90° to 90°
|Inputs||1 × DisplayPort 1.2
1 × HDMI 1.4
1 × USB-C (DP 1.4 Alt Mode + 65 W Power Delivery)
|USB Hub||4-port USB 3.0 (Type-A)|
|Audio||2W stereo speakers
audio in/out ports
|Launch Price||£239 in the UK|
Philips will start sales of the 243B1 monitor in the UK this March for a recommended price of £239.
High-performance external storage devices are gaining popularity these days as many mobile PCs come with a relatively low-capacity SSD that cannot be upgraded. To that end, ADATA this week announced its new lineup of high-end external SSDs that offer high performance with capacities of up to 1 TB.
The ADATA SE760 external SSDs come in a Black or Titan Gray metallic enclosure that measure 122.2×44×14 mm (4.8×1.73×0.55 inch), which is large enough to house an M.2-2280 SSD and a PCIe-to-USB 3.2 Gen 2 bridge inside. ADATA does not disclose which drives it uses, but we do know that they are rated for up to 1000 MB/s sequential read and write speeds, with capacities ranging from 256 GB to 1 TB.
ADATA’s SE760 external SSDs are bus powered and feature a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C interface, but to maintain compatibility with any PC, the manufacturer bundles the drives both with USB Type-C to Type-C as well as USB Type-C to USB Type-A cables.
When it comes to software compatibility, the ADATA SE760 drives can work with the usual suspects, including systems running Apple’s macOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows, and Linux.
Unfortunately, while ADATA has announced the new SE760 drives, they are not disclosing pricing at this time. With 3D NAND prices remaining volatile, manufacturers are increasingly holding of on setting prices until the very last minute, so that they can best gauge the market.
Even though Microsoft ended regular support for Windows 7 last month, there are millions of customers who continue to use the OS and plan to stick with it for a while to come. But even without essential security updates, trying to use Windows 7 in 2020 comes with an even bigger roadblock: most modern platforms aren't supported by the OS, which limits upgrades and replacement hardware to badly outdated parts. So, in an effort to continue supporting customers who want to use Windows 7 no matter what, BIOSTAR has found a way to install Windows 7 on its B365 chipset-based motherboards, which opens doors to new Windows 7-powered desktops with Intel's latest-generation CPUs.
Released in 2009, Microsoft Windows 7 does not support a host of technologies supported by the latest platforms, which is why Microsoft cut off new hardware support for Windows 7 starting with AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s Kaby Lake (7th gen Core) platforms. Reciprocally, neither AMD nor Intel officially support Microsoft’s legacy operating systems with drivers for their latest platforms. As a result, while it's not impossible to install Windows 7 on newer hardware, it's certainly something that is discouraged at multiple levels.
But since it's not impossible, BIOSTAR has gone ahead and put together a special tool to simplify the process for users. The tool automatically adds Intel B365-specific features to a Windows 7 SP1 installation image, allowing the OS to be installed on the platform.
Overall, BIOSTAR's method overcomes the three key blocks that prevent Windows 7 from being installed on a new platform: the lack of UEFI loader, an xHCI driver for USB 3.0, and an NVMe driver. These problems can already by surmounted if you know what you're doing, but this is the first time we've seen a manufacturer so directly attempt to support Windows 7 on newer hardware via an easy-to-use method, and thus far BIOSTAR is the only company doing this. Not that it isn't without some peculiarities (described here), but support is support all the same.
BIOSTAR has two Intel B365-based motherboards that can use Windows 7: the ATX form-factor Racing B365GTA aimed at gamers, as well as the Micro-ATX B365MHC targeted at mainstream users. The former supports virtually all Intel LGA1151 processors, including the cream of the crop eight-core Core i9-9900K, whereas the latter can work with chips up to Intel’s eight-core Core i7-9700K.
Overall, BIOSTAR's decision to base their support around the B365 chipset is a curious one on the surface, but something that makes more sense as you dig into the chipset. While Intel’s B365 PCH is a part of the 300-series chipset family, the chipset is essentially a holdover from Intel's earlier 200 series chipsets, and has much more in common with them. So supporting Windows 7 on B365 is much less of a stretch than on Cannon Point chipsets like B360, as BIOSTAR doesn't have to worry about things like Intel's updated USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller or CNVi wireless support.
Samsung Foundry has started mass production of chips using its 6LPP and 7LPP manufacturing processes at its new V1 fab. The new facility employs one of the industry’s first production lines built from the ground up for technologies that heavily use EUV tools.
EUVL is a key enabler for Samsung’s next-generation leading-edge fabrication processes as it allows to reduce usage of multipatterning, and increases yields of chips architected for smaller technologies. Samsung currently uses EUVL equipment for its 6LPP and 7LPP nodes, and will expand its usage in future nodes such as 5LPE, 4LPE, 3GAE, and 3GAP processes.
|Advertised PPA Improvements of New Process Technologies
Data announced by companies during conference calls, press briefings and in press releases
Samsung Foundry’s 7LPP and 6LPP process technologies are used to make advanced mobile SoCs that will be shipped in Q1. The contract manufacturer of semiconductors does not disclose names of its client(s), but it is noteworthy that its 6LPP technology is not a part of its MPW (multi project wafer) shuttle program, which may indicate that the process is only available for Samsung itself and/or select customers who do not use MPWs.
Samsung’s 6LPP is a evolution of its 7LPP node that offers slightly higher (~10%) transistor density and lower power, but is compatible with, and can reuse IP initially developed for 7LPP. Furthermore, 6LPP supports smart structures for designers eager to invest in all-new IP, as well as multi diffusion break feature. Meanwhile, 5LPE promises to bring further advantages when it comes to power, performance, when compared to 6LPP.
6LPP looks to be a limited offer node for select customers, whilst Samsung's focus in the future looks to be on its new 5LPE node.
|Global Manufacturing Sites of Samsung Foundry|
|Location||Giheung, South Korea||Austin, Texas||Hwaseong, South Korea|
|Wafer Size||200 mm||300 mm|
Samsung’s V1 fab is located in Hwaseong, Korea, adjacent to its S3 line, where Samsung started initial ramp of chips made using its 7LPP technology. The company began construction of V1 in February 2018, and initiated test wafer production in the second half of 2019. Samsung continues to ramp up its V1 fab now and says that by the end of the year its total capacity for EUV-enabled 7LPP and below nodes will be three times higher than it was in 2019. Meanwhile, cumulative investments in the V1 line will hit $6 billion by the end of 2020.
Plextor has introduced its new flagship consumer SSD lineup, the M9P Plus. The new drives continue to use Marvell’s proven "Eldora" controller, but come equipped with Kioxia’s 96-layer BiCS4 3D TLC NAND memory, and offer slightly higher sequential performance than its predecessors.
Set to be available in 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB configurations, the new Plextor M9P Plus lineup is based on the Marvell 88SS1092 controller that is paired with Kioxia’s latest 96-layer BiCS4 3D TLC memory. By contrast, the previous-generation Plextor M9Pe family used the Marvell 88SS1093 controller (with higher clocks) along with Kioxia’s 64-layer BiCS3 3D TLC NAND.
When it comes to performance, the new M9 Plus 1 TB drives are rated for sequential read/write speeds up to 3,400/2,200 MB/s, which is 6.25% and 4.75% higher when compared to the M9Pe 1 TB. But there is a catch. Plextor says that the latest M9 Plus 1 TB SSDs deliver up to 340K/320K read/write random IOPS, which means 15% lower random reads yet 6.6% faster random writes when compared to the M9Pe 1 TB. Meanwhile, it is important to note that the 256 GB M9P Plus is rated to be considerably faster the 256 GB M9Pe (see the table below).
As they usually do, Plextor will offer its flagship SSDs in three versions: the M9PG Plus M.2-2280 module with a heat spreader, the M9PGN Plus M.2-2280 module without a heat spreader for laptops, and the M9PY Plus HHHL card with a heat spreader and an RGB LED. The drives are covered by a five-year warranty.
|Plextor M9Pe vs. M9P Plus Series Specifications Comparison|
|256 GB||512 GB||1 TB|
|M9Pe||M9P Plus||M9Pe||M9P Plus||M9Pe||M9P Plus|
|Form Factor||M9PeY/M9PY Plus: Half height half length PCIe add-in card (HHHL)
M9PeG/M9PG Plus: M.2 2280 with heatspreader
M9PeGN/M9PGN Plus: M.2 2280 without heatspreader
|Controller||M9Pe: Marvell 88SS1093
M9P Plus: Marvell 88SS1092
|Interface||NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4|
|DRAM||512MB LPDDR3||1024MB LPDDR3|
|NAND||M9Pe: Toshiba 64L BiCS3 3D TLC
M9P Plus: Kioxia 96L BiCS4 3D TLC
|Sequential Read||3000 MB/s||3400 MB/s||3200 MB/s||3400 MB/s||3200 MB/s||3400 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||1000 MB/s||1700 MB/s||2000 MB/s||2200 MB/s||2100 MB/s||2200 MB/s|
|4KB Random Read (QD32)||180k IOPS||300k IOPS||340k IOPS||340k IOPS||400k IOPS||340k IOPS|
|4KB Random Write (QD32)||160k IOPS||300k IOPS||280k IOPS||320k IOPS||300k IOPS||320k IOPS|
|Endurance||160 TBW||320 TBW||640 TBW|
As Kioxia ramps up production of 96-layer 3D TLC NAND memory and winds down manufacturing of 64-layer 3D TLC NAND, it is not surprising that companies like Plextor have to adopt newer chips. What is odd is that Plextor isn't using a more recent controller. The 88SS1092 used in the M9P Plus is a derivative of the 88SS1093 that mostly adds support for more DRAM and NAND—changes that were primarily intended for the datacenter SSD market.
Meanwhile, Marvell has announced two newer generations of client NVMe SSD controllers. Their PCIe Gen4 controllers announced in 2019 mark a shift in strategy away from high-end drives and focus instead on low power using fewer PCIe lanes and NAND channels. But Marvell's 2018 controller announcements included the 88SS1100 as a direct successor to the 88SS1093, increasing the CPU core count and NAND interface speed to get closer to the limits of a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface. It's not clear why Plextor is sticking with such an old controller when their supplier has had newer, more competitive solutions available for quite a while.
Embedded computing specialist Kontron has revealed anew Mini-ITX system for commercial use. Designed for applications such as AI/ML, image processing, data analysis, system monitoring & control, and manufacturing execution, the small form factor KBox B-202-CFL PC offers extensive expandability and can be equipped with a variety of powerful accelerators and expansion cards for various tasks.
At the heart of Kontron’s KBox B-202-CFL system are Intel’s 8th and 9th Generation Core processors, which are backed by Intel’s H310 (Value version) or Q370 (Smart version) chipset and and up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory. Systems running Intel’s H310 chipset have a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot for graphics cards and do not support RAID, whereas machines powered by Intel’s Q370 have two PCIe 3.0 slots that can operate as one x16 or two x8 slots so to support a discrete GPU and another expansion card. Speaking of storage, the PC has an M.2 slot and two 2.5-inch bays, but customers with different requirements can install two M.2 SSDs or four mass storage devices using special adapters.
Meanwhile for connectivity, the Kontron’s KBox B-202-CFL (Smart) offers a versatile range of options, including Wi-Fi, two GbE ports (with Intel controllers), two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 connectors, a COM port, 3.5-mm audio jacks, and multiple display outputs (up to two DisplayPorts and a DVI-D controlled by Intel's integrated GPU, and those on the discrete graphics card). In total, the KBox B-202-CFL can drive six or more monitors depending on hardware and software configurations.
Kontron’s KBox B-202-CFL comes in a chassis made of hot-dip galvanized sheet steel and aluminum, and measures 190×120×190 mm. The system is certified according to strict EN55032 Class B radio interference limits, so it can be used in industrial and adjacent environments. The KBox B-202-CFL uses only one fan for cooling (which produces up to 34 dBA of noise), and is powered by a 150 W external power supply. The system is tested for an operating temperature range between 0°C and +45°C, so it can get fairly hot without any drastic consequences.
Kontron will start to take orders on its KBox B-202-CFL Mini-ITX PCs shortly. Since the company will offer a variety of configurations many of which will be built-to-order, prices are not disclosed.
|Kontron's KBox B-202-CFL Mini-ITX PCs|
|CPU||Intel's 8th Generation or 9th Generation Core i3/i5/i7 with up to 8 cores|
|GPU||Integrated||Intel UHD Graphics 630|
|Discrete||a PCIe 3.0 x16 GPU w/ up to 75 W power consumption|
|DRAM||Two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots
Up to 32 GB of DDR4-2667 in dual-channel mode
|Expansion Slots||2 × PCIe 3.0 x8||1 × PCIe 3.0 x16|
|Storage||M.2||1 × M.2-2280 on motherboard|
|2.5-Inch||2 × 2.5-inch SATA 6 Gbps drives
2 × 2.5-inch Dual M.2 RAID module
|2 × 2.5-inch SATA 6 Gbps drives|
|Wireless||Optional Wi-Fi + Bluetooth module|
|Ethernet||2 × GbE port (Intel i210AT, Intel i219M)|
|USB||4 × USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
2 × USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
4 × USB 2.0 Type-A
|4 × USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
3 × USB 2.0 Type-A
|Display Outputs||Integrated||2 × DisplayPort 1.2
1 × DVI-D
|1 × DisplayPort 1.2
1 × DVI-D
|Audio||2 × 3.5mm audio jacks|
|Other I/O||1 × COM ports|
|PSU||External 150 W PSU|
|Warranty||Typical, varies by country|
|Dimensions||Length: 190 mm
Width: 190 mm
Height: 120 mm
Following through on their roadmap for transitioning to PCIe 4.0, Kioxia (formerly Toshiba Memory) has announced the availability of their first two PCIe 4.0 SSDs. The CD6 and CM6 SSDs target the datacenter and enterprise markets respectively, with a common hardware platform but some differences in configuration, features and performance.
The CD6 and CM6 use a next-generation SSD controller from Kioxia. As with most NVMe controller designs, the switch to PCIe 4.0 has triggered a switch to 16nm FinFET fabrication in order to permit higher performance within the same power limits. The CM6 uses an 18-channel controller while the CD6 gets a slightly cut-down 16-channel version.
Both drives are using Kioxia's 96L 3D TLC NAND, which helps improve performance, especially for write. Both models will feature capacities ranging from 800GB up to 15.36TB, and the CM6 will also be getting a 30.72TB model a bit later. The drives use the 2.5"/15mm U.3 form factor, backwards compatible with U.2 backplanes, but also supporting newer tri-mode SAS/SATA/PCIe backplanes and HBAs. Kioxia believes they are the first to start shipping PCIe 4.0 U.3 drives to customers.
The Kioxia CM6 offers the highest performance and most features. Sequential throughput is rated for up to 6.9 GB/s (reads) and 4.2 GB/s (writes), and random read throughput is up to 1.4M IOPS. Sustained raandom write performance is up to 170k IOPS on the 1 DWPD version of the CM6 intended for read intensive workloads, and up to 350k IOPS on the 3 DWPD version for more mixed workloads. Features exclusive to the CM6 include support for dual-port PCIe x2+x2 operation, support for up to 64 NVMe namespaces, and support for various sector sizes including Protection Information. Kioxia is also working on versions of the CM6 in the EDSFF E3.S and E3.L form factors.
|Kioxia PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD Specifications|
|Form Factor||2.5" 15mm U.3|
|Interface, Protocol||PCIe 4.0 x4, NVMe 1.4|
|NAND Flash||Kioxia 96L 3D TLC|
|Write Endurance||1 DWPD||3 DWPD||1 DWPD||3 DWPD|
|Sequential Read (GB/s)||6.2 GB/s||6.9 GB/s|
|Sequential Write (GB/s)||4 GB/s||4.2 GB/s|
|Random Read IOPS||1M IOPS||1.4M IOPS|
|Random Write IOPS||85k||250k||170k||350k|
The Kioxia CD6 is the more affordable version, cutting back a bit on controller channels and overprovisioning, and thus also performance. Sequential performance is up to 6.2 GB/s (reads) or 4 GB/s (writes), and random reads at 1M IOPS. The CD6 is the first generation of datacenter NVMe drive from Kioxia/Toshiba to include a 3 DWPD version in addition to the 1 DWPD tier. This means the maximum sustained random write performance from a CD6 is a huge improvement over the CD5, with the 3 DWPD version offering up to 250k IOPS and the 1 DWPD version offering up to 85k IOPS, compared to just 35k IOPS for the fastest CD5. The addition of the 3 DWPD tier is intended to help move some remaining SATA customers over to NVMe even if they are not yet comfortable with dropping down to 1 DWPD.
The CM6 and CD6 also implement several new features from NVMe 1.4, including namespace granularity hints, persistent event logs, and support for multiple write streams with shared stream identifiers across a pool of drives. Power management support includes five different power states to limit each drive's power draw and heat output. Security features include TCG Opal and Ruby, with FIPS 140-2 certification on the way.
Intel’s Compute Stick, a self-contained PC-on-a-stick that could be used to transform any display into a PC, was an interesting concept when it was revealed several years ago. However it never really took off in the intervening years, due in part to limitations imposed by the form factor, leading to the chipmaker to abandon the project. Still, the Compute Stick did find a small but apparently loyal user base who remained interested in the niche solution, and so this week ASUS is introducing a new version of its VivoStick PC TS10 with more RAM and Windows 10 Pro.
First introduced back in 2017, the original ASUS VivoStick PC TS10 was based on Intel’s Atom x5-Z8350 SoC (Cherry Trail with 4 Airmont CPU cores), which was accompanied by 2 GB of LPDDR3-1600 memory as well as 32 GB of eMMC storage. The newly updated VivoStick PC TS10, model TS10-B174D, sticks with the same chassis and uses the same SoC, but it is now equipped with 4 GB of LPDDR3 memory as well as 64 GB of storage. Furthermore, the new unit also runs Microsoft’s Windows 10 Pro, replacing Windows 10 Home used in the original model.
Otherwise, the VivoStick is essentially unchanged from its earlier incarnation. The unit has two USB Type-A ports (2.0 & 3.0), a Micro USB connector for power, an combo audio jack, and an HDMI 1.4 connector for video out.
The original VivoStick TS10 with Windows 10 Home was designed primarily with consumer and SOHO applications in mind, and many retailers still sell it as a media streaming player that offers Windows 10 flexibility and can run loads of applications. But with the updated VivoStick TS10, ASUS seems to be broadening their niche just a bit, especially with access to Pro-focused features like Active Directory support and Microsoft Update for Business. Potentially, this means that ASUS can position the new VivoStick PCs differently and aim customers who need cheap miniature computers with business-class features and security.
So far, ASUS has introduced its revamped VivoStick PC TS10 in Japan and has not disclosed its pricing. All told, it is pretty strange for a PC maker to introduce an improved version of a three-year old product, so it will be interesting to see just what ASUS has in mind for their updated compute stick.
Today AMD has added two new processors into the EPYC lineup: the EPYC 7662, its fifth 64-core CPU for applications that need loads of cores, as well as the EPYC 7532, a 32-core CPU for programs that can take advantage of a large L3 cache. Dell and Supermicro are already signed up to use these new chips, and other system builders will be sure to follow.
Like AMD's other 64 core EPYC processors, the EPYC 7662 processor is a 64 core part with 256 MB of L3 cache. Intended to serve as a cheaper 64 core option for customers, the new processor comes in a tier lower than AMD's existing chips, and fittingly it has the lowest clockspeeds with a base clock of just 2.0 GHz, while the chip can boost to 3.3 GHz. Meanwhile, the TDP is rated for 225W, which is typical for many higher-end EPYC SKUs, but also higher than the 200W 7702 above it. In essence, we're looking at a less power efficient SKU for those parties who want to save some money on hardware at the cost of greater cooling needs and power consumption.
Meanwhile AMD's other new chip is the 32 core EPYC 7532. This chip is clocked at 2.4 GHz base while turboing to 3.3 GHz; but more importantly, it offers something not found on any other 32 core EPYC SKU: 256 MB of L3 cache. This allows the 7532 to fill the large cache niche that AMD and other server vendors always produce an SKU or two for, with the souped-up chip offering 8 MB of L3 cache per core instead of the normal 4 MB. Depending on the workload, a large cache configuration can help a program maximize its performance in cache sensitive applications, such as ANSYS CFX benchmarks, as well as its single-threaded/lightly-threaded performance in general that otherwise won't benefit from more cores. The catch for AMD, in turn, is that building a 256 MB L3 SKU requires eight chiplets no matter how many cores it has, so the 7532 is still a full-chiplet design, just with half of the CPU cores disabled..
|AMD EPYC 7001 & 7002 Processors (2P)|
|EPYC 7H12||64 / 128||2.60||3.30||256 MB||280 W||?|
|EPYC 7742||64 / 128||2.25||3.40||256 MB||225 W||$6950|
|EPYC 7702||64 / 128||2.00||3.35||256 MB||200 W||$6450|
|EPYC 7662||64 / 128||2.00||3.30||256 MB||225 W||?|
|EPYC 7642||48 / 96||2.30||3.20||256 MB||225 W||$4775|
|EPYC 7552||48 / 96||2.20||3.30||192 MB||200 W||$4025|
|EPYC 7542||32 / 64||2.90||3.40||128 MB||225 W||$3400|
|EPYC 7532||32 / 64||2.40||3.30||256 MB||200 W||?|
|EPYC 7502||32 / 64||2.50||3.35||128 MB||200 W||$2600|
|EPYC 7452||32 / 64||2.35||3.35||128 MB||155 W||$2025|
|EPYC 7402||24 / 48||2.80||3.35||128 MB||155 W||$1783|
|EPYC 7352||24 / 48||2.30||3.20||128 MB||180 W||$1350|
|EPYC 7302||16 / 32||3.00||3.30||128 MB||155 W||$978|
|EPYC 7282||16 / 32||2.80||3.20||64 MB||120 W||$650|
|EPYC 7272||12 / 24||2.90||3.20||64 MB||155 W||$625|
|EPYC 7262||8 / 16||3.20||3.40||128 MB||120 W||$575|
|EPYC 7252||8 / 16||3.10||3.20||64 MB||120 W||$475|
Like all the latest AMD EPYC processors, the new CPUs also feature 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, support up to 4 TB of DDR4-3200 DRAM support, and have robust security capabilities.
Dell and Supermicro will be the first companies to use AMD’s EPYC 7662 and EPYC 7532 processors in their PowerEdge R6515, R7515, R6525, R7525, and C6525 as well as A+ and Big Twin machines.
ATP has revealed its new N600S-series SSDs for industrial and commercial applications. The industrial-grade SSDs are designed to offer high performance and write endurance while also offering extreme physical endurance, as well as extensive power loss protection (PLP) technology for electrical endurance.
ATP’s N600S-series drives are based on an NVMe 1.3 controller with eight NAND channels that supports Low-Density Parity-Check (LDPC) ECC with a 2 KB codeword, end-to-end data protection, and programmable RAID engine. The drives are set to be available in 120 GB, 240 GB, 480 GB, 960 GB, and 1920 GB configurations and offer sequential read/write performance of up to 3,420/3,050 MB/s, which would make them among the fastest M.2-2280 SSDs for embedded applications with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.
ATP plans to offer its N600S drives in in two versions: the N600Sc for commercial temperatures (0ºC - 70ºC) as well as the N600Si for industrial temperatures (-40ºC - 85ºC).
One of the key features of ATP’s N600Sc and N600Si SSDs is the company’s 4th Generation power loss protection (PLP) technology, which the company calls PowerProtector 4. The technology relies on a special microcontroller unit (MCU) that enables protection not only against power loss, but also against excessive input power noise, power-up inrush current, and input over-voltage, which is something that may happen in rough environments. The MCU can be further customized as well, so the PLP feature can be tailored towards particular customers and a particular applications.
|ATP's N600S-Series SSDs|
|Capacity||120 GB||240 GB||480 GB||960 GB||1920 GB|
8 NAND channels
LDPC w/ 2KB keyword
|NAND Flash||3D TLC NAND|
|Form-Factor, Interface, Protocol||M.2-2280, PCIe 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.3|
|Sequential Read||up to 3420 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||up tp 3050 MB/s|
|Random Read IOPS||?||?||?||?||?|
|Random Write IOPS||?||?||?||?||?|
|DRAM Buffer||Yes, capacity unknown|
|TCG Opal Encryption||?|
|Power Consumption||Sleep: 1 W
Operation: 3.3 W
|Operating Temperature||Commercial: 0°C (32°F) ~ 70°C (158°F)
Industrial: -40°C (-40°F) ~ 85°C (185°F)
ATP did not announce MSRPs of its N600S-series SSDs, but since the company plans to offer different versions of the drives with ability to tailor them, prices will vary.
When it comes to cooling, the attention of most PC enthusiasts is drawn towards high performance air or liquid CPU coolers that can handle overclocked high-end processors without breaking a sweat. But countless desktops are shipped with modest cooling systems that have to do the job without suffering the all-too-common pitfalls of being noisy or expensive. One such common cooler has been Arctic's Freezer 7 Pro, which has been around for almost forever, and which is getting a successor this week. Dubbed the Arctic Freezer 7 X, the updated cooler promises 10% better cooling performance, a slightly lower cost, low noise levels, and even compatibility with future CPUs.
The Arctic Freezer 7 X is a tower cooler made of aluminum and featuring two 6-mm U-shaped direct touch heat pipes as well as 44 0.4-mm fins. The cooling system comes equipped with a 92-mm fluid dynamic bearing PWM-controlled fan that produces noise levels of up to 0.3 Sone (22.5 ~ 24.5 dBA). The fan has a special cover that enhances the look and optimizes the airflow to maximize performance. The Freezer 7 X is 132.5 mm high and is 110.5 mm wide, so it will not fit into most Mini-ITX chassis, but it should be compatible with the majority of standard ATX towers.
Arctic’s new Freezer 7X is compatible with all mainstream CPU sockets, including AMD’s AM4/AM3 and FM1/FM2 as well as Intel’s LGA 115x and upcoming LGA 1200. To simplify usage, the cooler comes with pre-applied MX-2 thermal paste.
The Arctic Freezer 7 X is covered by a six-year warranty, it carries an MSRP of $19.99 and is available from retailers like Amazon. In the near future Arctic also plans to introduce its Freezer 7 X CO with a double ball bearing fan.
Founded in 1999, EKWB was among the pioneers of the PC liquid cooling market. But despite the market's roots going even farther back – as a spin-off of supercomputer cooling – until now the company has been content to focus on liquid cooling solutions for consumers and enthusiasts, never specifically addressing servers and workstations. All of that has changed, however, and last week the company finally unveiled its Professional lineup of liquid cooling components, which are aimed at a market looking for the highest reliability and utility, but not exactly for fancy looks.
The EKWB Professional family of products includes two EK-Pro Manifold devices as well as seven EK-Pro Quick Disconnect Kits. The manifolds feature industry-standard G1/4-inch in and out ports, the smaller EK-Pro Manifold can support two CPU and two GPU water blocks (2CPU 2GPU), whereas the larger one supports two CPU and four GPU water blocks (2CPU 4GPU). The EK-Pro Quick Disconnect kits are designed to transform an existing CPU or GPU water block into a quick-disconnect ready device, which is particularly useful for the HPC space where GPUs have to be replaced without powering-down a whole rack and without draining the entire liquid cooling system.
EKWB plans to expand its Professional lineup going forward. At present, the company offers its EK-FC GV100 Pro water block for NVIDIA’s Quadro GV100 and Tesla GV100 cards. In the future the company will offer water blocks for other NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards as well.
EKWB’s EK-Pro CPU Quick Disconnect Kits are available for €89.90 per set, the EK-Pro Manifold 2CPU 2GPU costs €74.90, while the EK-Pro Manifold 2CPU 4GPU is priced at €89.90.
The Call for Writers is something of an annual tradition over here at AnandTech. As anyone who follows the site knows very well, the list of things we have to review/cover easily exceeds our available time. So the call for writers gives us a chance to find new talent and new opportunities to grow, be it into new coverage areas entirely or just covering more of the existing products our readers have come to enjoy over the years.
The ultimate purpose of the Call for Writers is to find new talent. To continue to grow and improve our content, we need your help. We're looking for writers with a true passion for the technology we cover, a deep understanding of what's out there and a thirst for more knowledge.
We're looking for contributors to help out both with reviews as well as our short-to-medium form Pipeline coverage. The areas in particular we're looking for help with are listed below:
If you find yourself at the intersection of knowledge and passion about any of those areas, and have some time to contribute, you're exactly what we're looking for. These are paid, part-time positions that we're looking to fill, with most positions open on a world-wide basis, and certain positions primed for a quick promotion to full-time. What I need is a writing sample that demonstrates your ability to talk about any one of these topics. Your sample can be in the form of a review, a pipeline post or an analysis piece - it should be something that looks like it would fit in on AnandTech.
Once you've produced it, send it on over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also include a description of what subject(s) you would be interested in writing about, and some basic information about your background and where you're located. We'll read through all samples, but we can't guarantee a reply due to the sheer volume of submissions we tend to receive. If we like what you've sent and there's a potential fit on the team, we'll be in touch.
And even if we aren't, please don't hesitate in trying again next year; anyone who has applied before is welcome to apply again. 2019 was a banner year for us, for example, and we had many more good submissions than we could realistically respond to.
I'll conclude this post with a passage from our About page:
In the early days of technology reporting on the web the focus was almost exclusively on depth. We had a new medium for content that didn't come with the same restrictions as more traditional forms. We could present as much data as we felt was necessary and we could do it quicker.
As the web grew, so did the approach to gaining readership. In many cases, publishers learned from the tips and tricks of more traditional media to growing their audience. The focus shifted away from ultimate understanding of what was being reported, to producing content significantly motivated by increasing traffic, or revenue, or both. Thorough observations were out; sensationalism, link baiting, and the path to shallow 10-o'clock-news reporting were in.
While I believe it's definitely easier to produce content by going this route, I don't believe it's the only way to build a well read website.
If the above resonates with you and you'd like to help by being a part of something different, I'd encourage you to submit a writing sample.
Q: How old do I need to be to work for AnandTech?
A: You need to be old enough to legally work in your country of residence without significant restriction. Otherwise we have no specific requirements so long as you can do the job well. Anand started the site at 14, after all...
Q: Do I need to be located in the United States to work for AnandTech?
A: Some positions do require that you be in the US for logistical reasons, and those specific positions are noted. However unless otherwise noted, most positions are open on a world-wide basis.
Q: Do I need to supply my own products for testing or contacts at companies? (i.e. do I need to be an insider?)
A: No. Assuming for the moment you have a computer to write on, then you already have the most important piece of equipment that you need. Meanwhile you will need some knowledge of the field at hand, but we will introduce you to the people you need to know for your position at AnandTech.
Q: Can I really work for AnandTech even though I don't have a Ph.D in electrical engineering?
A: Yes! We are first and foremost looking for people with a passion to learn, and the knack to make it happen. There's a certain degree of baseline knowledge needed for any given position, but if you can read existing AnandTech articles then you're already half-way there.
Q: Is there a submission deadline?
A: We have a tentative end point for March 21st
Following up on news from earlier this month that they have developed HAMR HDD platters, Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has announced that it has started shipments microwave assisted recording (MAMR) HDD platters. The announcement confirms that MAMR media is in production and that Toshiba is on track to introduce HDDs using the tech in the coming quarters.
SDK’s media is set to be used for Toshiba’s nine-platter 18 TB MAMR hard drive for nearline applications. The platters feature a 2 TB capacity, with Toshiba taking advantage of the fact that the platters are thinner than those used in modern eight-platter designs. Showa Denko has never revealed which magnetic alloy or substrate it's using for its 2 TB media, though aluminum substrate is quite likely given the company’s focus on this material.
Showa Denko confirmed that it's shipping MAMR media to Toshiba in its 2019 Consolidated Financial Results presentation for investors and analysts. Shipments to Toshiba may indicate that the latter has begun sampling its 18 TB nearline hard drive. Though it is unknown how many drives Toshiba has shipped to its customers and whether they were engineering or qualification samples.
Unfortunately, SDK’s announcement does not give us any hints regarding availability timeframe of Toshiba’s 18 TB MAMR HDDs, but it does at least confirm that the HDD industry is one step closer to actually shipping commercial MAMR HDDs.
The statement by Showa Denko reads as follows:
“In 2019, SDK began shipment of newly developed 3.5-inch HD media which have storage capacity of 2 terabyte per disk based on the Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR) technology for next-generation hard disk drives (HDDs). This product, which SDK developed with its new technology, has been adopted by Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage Corporation for use in MAMR-technology-based 18 terabyte near-line HDD, which represents the largest storage capacity in the industry.”
Source: Showa Denko
Compal, a leading contract maker/ODM of notebooks and other mobile devices, has developed a prototype of a foldable hybrid tablet that can be equipped with a hardware keyboard. The design concept of Compal’s FlexBook resembles Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold that is due to be released in the coming months, but it is unclear whether the FlexBook will ever be commercialized.
Compal’s FlexBook looks like an ordinary 13-inch tablet with landscape orientation that features two speakers located on its lower side, two USB-C connectors, and volume buttons on a side. Yet the tablet can be folded in half as it is equipped with a foldable OLED display as well as a ‘zero gap lay flat hinge’. When half-folded, the device can be used as a notebook, but it is much more convenient to attach a dedicated hardware keyboard to it when working in stationary mode. The FlexBook also supports stylus, just like tablets aimed at creative professionals.
The FlexBook is encased in leather, so should look and feel very good. Unfortunately the company isn't saying anything about the internals of the prototype FlexBook, as it's clear they're opting to instead focus on the design and folding capabilities (i.e. the parts they actually designed) rather than whose hardware is underneath. An Arm SoC seems likely for this prototype, though to a certain extent it doesn't matter as devices this large typically can be made to accommodate SoCs from pretty much any vendor.
Since Compal is a contract maker of computers and other electronics, it does not manufacture its own products carrying its brand. To that end, FlexBook may serve as a proof of concept and as a reference design for a vendor interested in bringing a product like this to the market. Only time will tell whether or not Compal’s clients are interested in FlexBook-like devices, but the company evidently has engineering skills to develop and build foldable tablets.
Compal’s official description of its FlexBook reads as follows:
Encased in rich and luxuriant leather, the 13” FlexBook is a next generation flexible tablet/laptop duo that captures the supreme convenience of a lightweight tablet plus the usability and performance of a mini PC. When separated, the OLED tablet features a perfect, zero gap “lay flat hinge” so user is free to fold in half for effortless mobility and safekeeping, then flip open like a book to write with the stylus over its absolute no image loss screen. Attach tablet onto the keyboard and instantly turn FlexBook into a compact laptop great for fixed location work. This is a modern-day marriage between stationary and mobile work in style.
Patriot has launched its new family of entry-level NVMe SSDs with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface designed for budget PCs. Patriot’s P300 drives come in capacities ranging from 128 GB all the way to 2 TB, but there is a catch. Although all the SSDs carry the same P300 name, they will use different controllers.
For the US market, Patriot offers P300 SSDs on blue PCBs based on the Phison PS5013-E13T controller, whereas for other markets the company rolled out P300 drives on black PCBs powered by the Silicon Motion SM2263XT chip. It is noteworthy that earlier this year the company implied at a meeting that Phison-powered drives might also show up on non-US markets. Patriot did not disclose what type of memory it plans to use with the drives, but what we often see is Phison controllers paired with Toshiba’s BiCS 3D TLC NAND, while SMI silicon is accompanied by Intel’s 3D TLC memory. Meanwhile, we do not known whether there is a plan to use the cheapest 3D TLC NAND memory available at a given time with either controller to reduce costs, but it is a possibility.
Performance-wise, Patriot promises that SSDs featuring different controllers will demonstrate similar speed and endurance, though it is clear that there will be some variability between models for the US and other markets. In particular, Patriot says that drives feature up to 2,100 MB/s sequential read speed, up to 1,650 MB/s sequential write speed, up to 290K random read IOPS, as well as up to 260K random write IOPS.
While performance numbers look pretty solid for entry-level products (at least when compared to Patriot’s previous-generation Scorch SSDs), their endurance is not that impressive as the company only rates them for about 0.28 DWPD (drive writes per day) over a three-year period. Consumer workloads are not write-intensive and certainly low-end products will not be used by content creators.
|Patriot's PM300 Entry-Level SSD Specifications|
|Capacity||128 GB||256 GB||512 GB||1 TB||2 TB|
|Black||Rest of the World|
|Black||Silicon Motion SM2263XT|
|NAND Flash||3D TLC NAND from Intel or Toshiba|
|Form-Factor, Interface||M.2-2280, PCIe 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.3|
|Sequential Read||Blue||1600 MB/s||1700 MB/s||1700 MB/s||2100 MB/s||2100 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||Blue||600 MB/s||1100 MB/s||1100 MB/s||1650 MB/s||1650 MB/s|
|Random Read IOPS||290K||290K|
|Random Write IOPS||150K||260K|
|TCG Opal Encryption||?|
|Power Consumption||Idle||0.37 W||Blue: 0.37 W
Black: 0.38 W
|Full||2.07 W||Blue: 2.07 W
Black: 2.38 W
|TBW||40 TB||80 TB||160 TB||320 TB||320 TB*|
|DWPD||0.28 DWPD||0.14 DPWD*|
*Likely a typo in Patriot's documents
Initially, Patriot will offer 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB versions of its P300 SSDs. The entry-level 256 GB model carries a $64.99 MSRP, the highest-capacity 1 TB SKU is priced at $164.99, whereas the mid-range 512 GB variant sits between them at $104.99.
Patriot is not the only vendor to release SSDs with different controllers and memory under the same name. Team Group introduced its MP33 drives with the same Phison and SMI controllers back in October. Using different controllers and memory from numerous suppliers within one lineup of SSDs allows the maker to offer the most aggressive prices for all configurations, but the real-world performance of actual products will differ. The latter means difficult qualification process for PC makers as well as uncertainty among end-users.
Today Qualcomm is announcing that it will be reintroducing its Reference Design Programme for its upcoming XR2 chip for AR/VR/XR headsets. The company stated that after the success of its XR1 equivalent programme, they would be initiating with potential customers earlier in the cycle this time around in a similar way to how they approach smartphone vendors with its new handset SoCs.
One of the key components to any wireless system is the ability to detect the required frequency and ensure a clean signal with a stable connection. In order to do this, especially with Radio Frequency connections such as those in cell phones, a variety of filters are needed for specific frequency selection. Today Qualcomm is announcing that it has made a new breakthrough in its RF filter design through a novel thin film technology.
To date Qualcomm has promoted two key standalone 5G modems for widespread adoption: the Snapdragon X50 and the Snapdragon X55. Today the company is disclosing details on its upcoming 3rd generation 5G modem design, the Snapdragon X60, which is being promoted as the premium offering for smartphones, industrial, and commercial designs that require a discrete 5G modem. Key features of this modem include the fact that it is built on a 5nm process, supports carrier aggregation between Sub-6 and mmWave, and offers up to 7.5 Gbps download speeds.
SMART Modular has unveiled a new lineup of 32 GB Mini-DIMMs for extreme environments, such as industrial or telecommunication applications. The new high-density modules come in ULP (Ultra Low Profile) as well as VLP (Very Low Profile) heights and are rated for speeds up to DDR4-3200.
SMART’s DDR4-3200 32 GB Mini-DIMMs are based on 16 Gb memory chips (from an unknown supplier) and utilize a custom-designed PCB with conformal coating and anti-sulfur resistors, which is designed to protect against toxic environments as well as vibration. Depending on the target application, SMART provides the high-density 32 GB Mini-DIMMs with unbuffered or registered ECC options.
The manufacturer offers its industrial 32 GB Mini-DIMMs in ULP height (17.78 mm) and VLP height (18.75 mm). Mini-DIMMs are JEDEC-standard modules with more power and ground pins compared to regular SO-DIMMs for client and server systems. Such modules are supported by special connectors from Foxconn and Molex, and feature an advanced latching mechanism that allows Mini-DIMMs to be installed at uncommon angles.
The key differentiator for these industrial DIMMs is their supported temperature range; SMART’s Mini-DIMM modules are designed (and tested) to operate temperatures ranging from -40°C and +85°C. And while those temperatures are on the extreme side by human standards, telecom and networking equipment is commonly installed in rather unimaginable (and uncontrolled) places where these temperatures will occur. Meanwhile, the company is also offering 32 GB Mini-DIMMs for commercial applications, which support a less extreme temperature range of between 0°C and +70°C.
SMART’s DDR4-3200 32 GB Mini-DIMMs in ULP and VLP heights are available from SMART Modular in the near future.
Source: SMART Modular
Nine enterprise NVMe SSDs suffer through our updated test suite to show who's who for high-end storage.
Proving that where there's a will, there's a way, these days higher-end desktop replacement laptops can beat mainstream gaming desktops on general-purpose computing performance, graphics performance, and even RAM capacity. But what about storage? For those with deep pockets, Eurocom now offers built-to-order notebooks with up to 28 TB of raw solid-state storage.
In its arsenal, Eurocom has two 17.3-inch DTR laptops — the Sky X9C and the Tornado F7W — that feature three M.2-2280 slots for SSDs, as well as two 2.5-inch bays for SSDs or HDDs. Customers requiring extreme storage capacity can now order three Sabrent Rocket 4 TB SSDs (Phison PS5012-E12, 3D TLC NAND, PCIe 3.0 x4) and two Micron 5100-series 8 TB SATA SSDs for a total of 28 TB of raw NAND flash (the usable capacity will be lower). The cost of such a storage subsystem alone is about $10,700 without installation and RAID configurations, but if you need it, it exists: you will just have to open your wallet.
In addition to five storage devices, the Eurocom X9C can also pack Intel’s eight-core Core i9-9900K CPU, 128 GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, and two NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics processors. A beefed-up configuration with 28 TB of raw NAND, a 4K panel, and other high-end parts will cost a whopping $20,500. Obviously, packing this amount of horsepower and storage capacity into a clamshell device is not a trivial task and requires usage of expensive components, so the price tag is not particularly surprising.
In addition to the Sky X9C and the Tornado F7W machines, Eurocom has other 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch notebooks that can accommodate more than one storage device. All of them can be equipped with a Sabrent Rocket 4 TB M.2-2280 SSD and/or a Micron 5100 8 TB 2.5-inch SSD to boost their storage capacity beyond that of a regular desktop, even though this is going to cost a small fortune.
Now that 24.5-inch and 27-inch Fast IPS panels with a 240 Hz maximum refresh rate are in mass production, it is time to overclock them. ASUS was the first company to introduce a 27-inch monitor with a 280 Hz refresh rate in a bid to differentiate itself from other makers of 240 Hz IPS displays late last year. This week, the company added another 280 Hz display to its TUF Gaming lineup that will be smaller and therefore cheaper than the previous model.
The ASUS TUF Gaming VG259QM is a 24.5-inch display that relies on an IPS panel featuring a 1920×1080 resolution, 400 nits brightness, a 1000:1 contrast ration, a 1 ms GtG response time, and 178°(H)/178°(V) viewing angles. A native refresh rate of the panel is 240 Hz, but ASUS has managed to make it work at a 280 Hz without any problems. The TUF Gaming VG259QM supports VESA’s Adaptive-Sync variable refresh rate technology and so far the device has obtained NVIDIA’s G-Sync Compatible certification. In addition, the monitor supports ASUS’ ELMB technology that makes fast-paced scenes look sharper as well as ELMB Sync that enables the former technology to work with G-Sync.
The TUF Gaming VG259QM can display 16.7 million of colors and covers 72% of the NTSC color gamut. The LCD is VESA DisplayHDR 400 certified, though do not expect any meaningful HDR experience at this peak brightness level. Meanwhile, since the monitor is aimed at gamers, it supports ASUS GamePlus modes (crosshair, timer, FPS counter, etc.), GameVisual modes (FPS, Racing, MOBA, Cinema, etc.), and Dynamic Shadow Boost technology to enhance gaming experience.
Just like its bigger brother — the TUF VG279QM — the 24.5-inch 280 Hz display comes with a stand that can adjust height, tilt, swivel, and can also work in portrait mode. As fas as connectivity is concerned, the monitor has a DisplayPort 1.2 and two HDMI 2.0a connectors. In addition, the monitor has 2W stereo speakers as well as a headphone output.
|The 24.5-Inch ASUS TUF Gaming LCD w/280 Hz Refresh Rate|
|Panel||24.5-inch class IPS|
|Native Resolution||1920 × 1080|
|Maximum Refresh Rate||280 Hz|
|Dynamic Refresh||Technology||NVIDIA G-Sync Compatible
VESA Adaptive Sync
|Viewing Angles||178°/178° horizontal/vertical|
|Response Time||1 ms GtG|
|Pixel Pitch||~0.2825 mm²|
|Pixel Density||~89.9 PPI|
|Color Gamut Support||72% NTSC|
|Audio||2W stereo speakers
|Stand||Height: +/- 130 mm
Tilt: +33° ~ -5°
Swivel: +/- 90°
Pivot: +/- 90°
|Launch Price in China||?|
ASUS has not announced MSRP or availability timeframe of its TUF Gaming VG259QM LCD, but since 24.5-inch IPS panels with a 240 Hz refresh rate are in mass production, it is logical to expect the monitor to arrive rather sooner than later.
For the better part of the past 5 years, NVIDIA has held an extremely solid grip on the market for discrete laptop GPUs. From the top to bottom, unless it’s a MacBook the odds are it’s powered by a GeForce. This is at the case even at the very bottom of the discrete market, where next to the grues and the 4200 RPM hard drives, you’ll find NVIDIA’s series of discrete adapters for entry-level laptops. Designed to be the first step up above Intel’s integrated graphics, these parts do fill an important role in the market, but they don’t get much attention – even from NVIDIA.
At any rate, this week the company has updated those adapters for 2020 with the release of the Pascal-based GeForce MX350 and MX330.
As has become an annoying tradition for NVIDIA, they’re officially saying very little about the new parts. The official specifications don’t include anything about clockspeeds, CUDA core counts, ROPs, etc. Instead, NVIDIA only confirms a basic set of features: both parts use GDDR5 memory, both feature GPU boost functionality, and both support DirectX12 up to feature level 12_1. Past that you won’t get much else from NVIDIA; even the architecture isn’t officially published in their spec sheets, though in this case we can make a very reasonable assumption that it’s once again Pascal.
Meanwhile, NVIDIA has once again moved up their Intel reference point; for the MX300 series, it’s now Intel’s 64EU Gen11 Iris Plus iGPU found in the Core i7-1065G7. This is Intel’s fastest iGPU for their 15W U-series parts, and is reasonably potent on its own, so it helps to inform what kind of performance NVIDIA needs to hit to offer something that’s a meaningful step up.
|NVIDIA Laptop Video Adapter Specification Comparison|
|Typical MX350||Typical MX330|
|Memory Bus Width||64-bit||64-bit|
|Manufacturing Process||Samsung 14nm||Samsung 14nm|
At any rate, while NVIDIA doesn’t publish much in the way of specifications, this year NotebookCheck claims to have the specifications for the parts. We haven’t been able to independently validate these figures, but they are quite reasonable, and very close to what I was expecting anyhow based on NVIDIA’s loose performance claims. In particular, these are both low-end Pascal-based parts, which remain NVIDIA’s smallest (and thus cheapest to produce) GPUs among their current Pascal and Turing product stacks.
Coming from last year’s MX200 series parts, the big change here is at the top. With Intel’s baseline going up, so does NVIDIA’s performance; and as a result NVIDIA has tapped a more powerful GPU than in past years. For the MX350 then, we’re looking at a GP107 GPU, a notably more powerful part than NVIDIA’s normal entry-level parts. Essentially a further cut-down GTX 1050, according to NotebookCheck this part has 640 CUDA cores enabled, as well as half of its usual ROP/memory controller partitions, leaving 16 ROPs and a 64-bit memory bus.
Meanwhile the MX330 is the more traditional GP108 showing. At a high level, take last year’s MX250, tweak the clockspeeds a bit, and you have an MX330. Which means 384 CUDA cores paired with 16 ROPs and a 64-bit memory bus.
Like past MX-series parts, NotebookCheck notes that both the MX350 and MX330 are informally rated for TDPs of 25W. However laptop manufacturers can and will adjust TDPs and clockspeeds to meet the specific power/cooling limitations of their notebooks, so like other laptop discrete graphics implementations, expect to see performance vary from design to design.
Based on NVIDIA's previous release cadences for their low-end laptop parts, expect to see these new processors show up in laptops in the very near future. Traditionally these parts are paired with Intel U-series processors, and I expect to see the same here.
Always punctual but moving at their own pace, NVIDIA this afternoon wrapped up their 2020 fiscal year with the release of their earnings for both Q4 and the year. For the last quarter of their fiscal year, NVIDIA booked just over $3.1B in revenue with a profit of $950M, marking a strong end to a weaker fiscal year. On which note, for the year NVIDIA will close the books on $10.9B in revenue, for a net income a hair under $2.8B.
|NVIDIA Q4 2020 Financial Results (GAAP)|
Beating analyst expectations, NVIDIA closed their year on a relative high note. The $3.1B in revenue they booked was their best quarter in more than a year, blasting past a particular weak Q4’FY19 for a 44% jump in revenue, and even edging out the traditionally strong Q3. Similarly, the quarter was one of the most profitable for the company in quite some time, beating Q4’FY19’s net income by 68%, and leaving the company just a few percent short of claiming a full billion dollars in net income for the quarter.
This profitability is reflected in NVIDIA’s gross margin as well. At 64.9% for the quarter it’s the highest margins NVIDIA has attained in over a year, beating both Q3 and last year’s Q4. And while there’s no strict limitation for gross margins, it’s worth noting that these kinds of margins are close to some of Intel’s best in previous years, which is often used as a barometer for the overall strength of a major chip company.
|NVIDIA Quarterly Revenue Comparison (GAAP)
($ in millions)
|OEM & IP||$152||$143||$116||+6%||+31%|
Breaking down their revenue by segment, the big surprise here in NVIDIA’s earnings is data center revenue. At $968M for the quarter, it’s the best showing from NVIDIA’s data center operations since the inception of the current reporting structure, shooting well past the previous record. According to NVIDIA, the company is seeing a surge in demand for AI hardware, which has been a lucrative and rather profitable venture for NVIDIA over the last several years. This growth comes after data center spending (and AI-related spending in general) plateaued a bit over the past year, as it seems hyperscalers and other data center operators have ramped up their overall buying for 2020.
Otherwise gaming remained NVIDIA’s single biggest segment. Like the quarter overall, gaming revenue is up significantly year-over-year, with NVIDIA booking over $500M more than in Q4’FY19. But it’s a bit of a mixed bag overall, as revenue did drop versus the previous quarter, and NVIDIA is well off their Q4’FY18 performance. Ultimately, data center revenue proved to be NVIDIA’s trump card here, helping to cover for any weakness in gaming revenue.
|NVIDIA FY2020 Full Year Financial Results (GAAP)|
As for the complete, fiscal year 2020 picture, NVIDIA’s Q4 has helped to prop up what has been a profitable but overall weaker year for the company. The $10.9B in revenue that NVIDIA booked for the year is down 7% from the previous year. And net income fell even more sharply, dropping by 32% to $2.976B on the year.
The year-over-year drop has been influenced by several factors, but arguably the biggest is the crypto hangover, which really only ended a bit earlier this year. So the first half or so of the year for NVIDIA is marked by distributors still trying to get rid of excess inventory, as well as the fact that compared to the unbounded spending on crypto gear in NVIDIA’s FY 2019, anything more normal pales in comparison. Coupled with that has been the previously mentioned softness in the data center market, which while not nearly as dramatic as the crypto hangover, saw much of FY2020 data center spending underperforming FY2019 at similar points.
|NVIDIA Yearly Revenue Comparison (GAAP)
($ in millions)
|OEM & IP||$505||$767||-34%|
There had been some concern that the datacenter market had reached saturation – at least for the current generation of products – but following Q4 at least, it looks like that’s not the case. Overall NVIDIA closes out the year up 2% on data center revenue, with the strong Q4 pulling data center revenues up. Gaming doesn’t fare quite so well, as more exposed to the hangover, NVIDIA still end the fiscal year down 12% in gaming revenue versus FY2019.
The big winner here on a pure percentage basis is actually automotive, which was up 9% year-over-year, followed by NVIDIA’s trusty professional visualization group, which was up 7%. The upshot here, at least, is that NVIDIA has long desired to further diversify its business so that it isn’t quite so reliant on gaming revenue, and that’s certainly where FY2020 has taken them.
Finally, looking ahead to FY2020 and Q1, NVIDIA is seemingly projecting with a bit of caution. The company expects to book $3B in revenue, with a gross margin of 65.0%.
The wildcard factor here is the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, which along with getting trade shows like Mobile World Congress canceled, could also hurt overall tech spending in China. Officially, NVIDIA has knocked $100M off of their Q1 projections, though this is ultimately a rough estimate as no one is quite sure what to expect. According to the company, China accounts for around 30% of their gaming sales – which is still NVIDIA’s largest segment – so if the COVID-19 outbreak hurts Chinese spending, NVIDIA is likely to feel it in their gaming revenues.