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PC News and Reviews

HW News – Memory Supplier Lawsuit, Intel's 10nm Roadblock

April 30, 2018 — by Gamersnexus.net0

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The headlining story for the past week covers the memory supplier class action that was recently filed (vs. SK Hynix, Samsung, and Micron), alleging conspiracy to fix prices. In contension for the headline story, Intel’s 10nm process problems have grown more complicated, seemingly preempting the company’s hiring of Jim Keller, former AMD Zen architect.

Memory Supplier Class Action

We previously reported on Chinese government bodies investigating memory suppliers for price fixing, and reported in our Ask GN #76 that memory suppliers claimed to be making “more money than ever.” DRAM sales to server and enterprise groups are now making 60% margins, which is partly why you see desktop components going up in price and down in supply, and vendors have also upped prices on GPU memory and HBM. We know for a fact, through direct sources, that some memory suppliers make as much as $8000 profit per wafer, with the capability to make hundreds of thousands of wafers per month out of the $15B super fabs.

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HBS Law is filing a Class Action lawsuit against Micron, Samsung, and SK Hynix, alleging conspiracy to fix prices for memory. The lawsuit is currently a complaint, with nothing proven at this time. Memory suppliers have been found guilty of this in the past, but of course the trouble is that they typically profit far more than the fines. As of this instant, there’s nothing proven, and there is no active investigation or discovery. It is a complaint filed by a law firm. After a complaint is filed, the defendants have 21 days to respond or motion to dismiss. We should know the response within a month.

The Plaintiffs for the case allege that Samsung, Micron, and Hynix quote: “Defendants combined and contracted to fix, raise, maintain, or stabilize the prices at which DRAM was sold in the United States from at least June 1, 2016 to February 1, 2018,” further stating that, “Defendants’ conspiracy artificially inflated prices for DRAM throughout the supply chain that were ultimately passed through to Plaintiffs and the Class, causing them to pay more for DRAM Products than they otherwise would have absent Defendants’ conspiracy.”

The complaint also states: “Beginning no later than early 2016, through statements to investors and the industry, Micron called on Samsung and SK Hynix (the two other DRAM manufacturers) to engage in supply discipline. For example, on March 30, 2016, Micron was specifically asked whether it would engage in supply cuts and Micron’s CEO, Mark Durcan, responded that Micron would “be foolish to be the first ones to take capacity off.” Micron’s CFO, Ernie Maddock, further confirmed that Micron would not unilaterally cut production: “it’s a really ill-advised move to be unilaterally cutting production.” But, at the same time, Micron reassured competitors that “our focus is not on market share.” Micron told its competitors that it would cease trying to take market share from Samsung and Hynix”

This part is equally interesting: “On February 1, 2018, it was reported that Samsung and the NDRC had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding where Samsung agreed to increase manufacturing capacity. The NDRC investigation and the agreement with Samsung caused Defendants’ conduct to change as they increased capacity and the Class Period came to an end after February 1, 2018. DRAM prices fell as a result of the change in behavior.”

As of this time, HBS Law doesn’t have any hard evidence, but they have a lot of consequential evidence with a lot of suspect timelines. That’s what makes the class action interesting: Because of the peculiar timing of when each of the memory suppliers made changes in focusing on profit per wafer over volume, that threw red flags for HBS Law. Being Class Action means that anyone who bought memory during the period of 2016 through 2018 would be included, assuming this goes anywhere.

Source document: https://www.hbsslaw.com/uploads/case_downloads/dram2/2018-04-27_dram_class_action_complaint.pdf

Secondary source: https://gizmodo.com/class-action-lawsuit-alleges-price-fixing-scheme-carrie-1825628236

Intel Struggling with New 10nm Process

Intel has delayed their 10nm process once again, citing more production problems. Intel will instead ship more 14nm iterations later this year, in the form of Whiskey Lake for client PCs and Cascade Lake for server/datacenter.

Intel originally promised 10nm parts back in 2015; however, multiple delays saw Intel move the target date to 2017. Then, 2017 became the second half of 2018. As of now, Intel won’t begin HVM until an unspecified time in 2019. For what its worth, Intel claims to be shipping 10nm in low volumes, but will not disclose what products and to whom they’ve gone to. In the meantime, Intel has effectively been stuck at 14nm since 2014.

Intel cites issues like aggressive scaling and density, as well as problems with their multipattering process for generating too many yield-reducing defects to ship 10-nanometer cost effectively. Intel admitted they bit off more than they could chew by increasing density 2.7x for the 10nm transition. Comparatively, Intel only increased density by 2.4x for the jump to 14nm. Intel is revising their 7nm plans accordingly, learning from the production problems that 10nm has been fraught with.

Intel assures they’ve defined fixes and improvements, but will take some time to impact yields in a significant way. The hiring of Jim Keller to lead the helm of their silicon engineering can be taken as a signal fire that Intel has succumb to stagnation and ceded their lead over competitors, and that their troubled 10nm process has their full attention.      

Source: https://www.anandtech.com/show/12693/intel-delays-mass-production-of-10-nm-cpus-to-2019

Intel Docs Reveal X399 and Z390

In the release notes for a recent version of Intel Rapid Storage Technology, Intel suggests the Z390 chipset will replace the current flagship Z370–and will supposedly be compatible with Intel’s 10nm Cannon Lake. Additionally, a new HEDT successor to X299 is ostensibly coming in the form of X399. X399 is listed as supporting both Coffee and Cannon Lake parts.

Source: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-x399-leaked-z390-cannonlake-confirmed,36952.html

Intel Hires Jim Keller, Former Zen Architect

Intel has hired silicon engineer and former Zen architect Jim Keller to become senior VP of silicon engineering. Keller has worked at AMD, Tesla, and Apple. This move comes just ahead of the news that Intel is delaying their troubled 10nm process yet again. This no doubt implies that Intel wants to assure investors that their 10nm ramps have their full attention.

Source: https://newsroom.intel.com/news-releases/jim-keller-joins-intel-lead-silicon-engineering/

Samsung Usurps Intel as Top Semiconductor Vendor

Thanks to the volatile memory market, Samsung has unseated Intel has the world’s top chip vendor, however fleeting their lead may be at 14.2% vs. Intel’s 14.0%. Regardless, this is a significant feat, as Intel has held that spot for more than 25 years. Intel emerged as the world’s top semiconductor manufacturer back in 1992, when you could purchase the Intel486 processor.   

Source: https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/387276

AMD Touts 7nm Radeon Instinct in Lab

AMD revealed that they have working 7nm GPU silicon running in their labs, in the form of Radeon Instinct with Vega architecture. The silicon is fabricated on TSMC’s 7nm process, as will AMD’s future 7nm graphics cards. AMD says they are on track to sample the 7nm GPUs and 7nm EPYC 2 CPUs later this year.

Source: https://www.techpowerup.com/243698/amd-teases-its-7-nm-vega-instinct-accelerator-data-pushing-silicon-deployed

Corsair to Develop Gaming Monitors

Not much to say about this one, yet. A job listing on Indeed shows Corsair looking to hire a Products Manager for monitors. We’ve continued to see Corsair foray into many facets of the PC hardware landscape, including chairs and water cooling parts. Although still at a nascent stage, it’ll be interesting to see Corsair’s approach in a market that is becoming somewhat saturated, and dominated by display incumbents like ASUS and Acer.

Sources:

Indeed — https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Corsair/jobs/Product-Manager-fc7a50fbc45ab96f?q=support%20manager&vjs=3

https://techgage.com/news/rgb-displays-inbound-corsair-hiring-monitors-product-manager/

HW Sales: 1070 Ti & 8GB RAM

EVGA 1070 Ti FTW Ultra Silent on Amazon

Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (2x4GB) 3000MHz on Amazon

Editorial: Eric Hamilton
Editorial: Steve Burke
Video: Andrew Coleman

PC News and Reviews

Ask GN 76: AM4 B450 Boards & What It's Like Working with AMD

April 28, 2018 — by Gamersnexus.net0

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Our Ask GN series was put on hold during the onslaught of Ryzen 2, Hades Canyon, and X470 coverage of late. We’re back in force, though, with two back-to-back episodes. The second will go live tomorrow, the first tonight. For this week’s episode, we’re talking B450 motherboard expectations (and Computex), realistic ways the GPU market might make a comeback, review sampling, HPET benchmarks, and more.

Separately, please note that we are planning a livestream for 5/1 at 7PM EST. The stream will be hosted on our YouTube channel. We will be attempting to overclock Hades Canyon further than our current record of 4.7GHz. We’re hoping to push closer to 5GHz, but power may become a limitation at some point. We’ve already posted preliminary results over here. Be sure to tune in for the livestream! It’ll be a fun one.

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Timestamps

01:14 – Soupa: “#askgn-questions When can we expect B450 boards for the Ryzen 2000 series? Is the common delay in mid-/low-tier boards simply because high-end/ethusiast boards sell better/have better profit margins?”

05:06 – Lazarus The adventurer: “#AskGN hey Steve, can you tell us of some realistic ways that the gpu market might come back in its normal state?with new gpus every nkw a d then ,and reasonable price and availability? is there a way out at this point?”

11:55 – Piers H: “5th time asking: #AskGN – For those of us who don’t use Patreon, object to the additional fees for those outside the US (in the UK, for example), or who don’t want to use Patreon, is it possible to donate via an alternative method? For example, would you accept $2 per month via PayPal or another method? Maybe a lump sum donation via PayPal for one year? How about a blank item on your store? I’m open to ideas but really dislike Patreon. AND Mike Estes: Another sort of “Ask GN” – What’s the best way to support you and your content/channel? As in the best $ per way to sponsor. Might be a hard question to answer, but if I donate, I want the most $ per donation to go to your work as I very much respect the work you do.”

16:39 – Νίκος Μπαλιάκος: “Hello GamersNexus i would like to ask more about the reason , why you were cut out and had to buy Ryzen 2nd Gen Samples this is a Video from TechOT about AMD trying to control the process and nature of testing ,some other Tech Tubers have replied in the comments , either in support or against , seeing as you guys didn’t get samples ,could it be AMD is simply not even bothering to send Samples to those reviewers they already know they can’t dictate testing Methodology?”

24:34 – awesomegamer919: “Anandtech recently found that HPET settings could have massive performance changes on Intel i7 800Ks (For example: https://images.anandtech.com/doci/12678/8700KGPU_575px.png up to 70% difference in performance), have you had a look into HPET and related settings at all?”

25:45 – Bradley Petersen: “#askgn are some reviewers/ media outlets friends and who is are some your friends. Also thanks for highlighting my comment I know you have a pretty high standard that’s why im subscribed.”

28:32 – TJCCBR47 TJCCBR47: “Ask GN: Do you think the constant shift in Radeon brand did Harm AMD in the long run? they had since 2007 Radeon HD 2000~HD7000, R9 200~300, R9 Fury, RX 400~500 and now RX Vega, Nvidia in the other hand use Geforce GTX since 2008 to this day.”

30:44 – Gorgula: “Ask GN: While manufacturing the modmat, how was your experience with language and cultural barriers in regards to product communication, negotiating prices, and shipping?”

Host: Steve Burke
Video: Andrew Coleman

PC News and Reviews

HW Sales – Threadripper 1950X for $720, Z370 & X370 Boards for $100

April 26, 2018 — by Gamersnexus.net0

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Both Amazon and Newegg both have some noteworthy sales tonight (and some for only tonight), for anyone planning upgrades amidst the current great DIY PC crisis (see: RAM and GPU prices). The best deals include a couple of motherboards and AMD’s Threadripper 1950X. The deals appear to be good for the next 8 hours, at the time of this writing.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X (16C/32T) $719: Anyone who’s been looking at a Threadripper workstation build (see ours here), this is a pretty nice deal on AMD’s flagship TR CPU. With 16 physical cores, and 32 threads, the 1950X runs a 3.4 GHz base speed, with boost up to 4.2 GHz with XFR. The 1950X usually runs for $879 – $900, with a $1,000 MSRP. The 1950X doesn’t ship with a cooler, so be prepared to outlay some cash for one. We liked both the Noctua NH-U14S and the Enermax Liqtech 360 TR4.

Gigabyte Z370 AUROS GAMING $100 (with promo code): With the use of the promo code (NENGG3), this Z370 board from Gigabyte can be had for $100—not a shabby price for a decent Z370 board. The board uses the LGA 1151 socket, but is not backwards compatible with older LGA 1151 CPUs; it’s strictly for 8th generation Coffee Lake chips. This board offers the usual crop of Z370 chipset options: 64GB of dual channel DDR4, HDMI 1.4, USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A, 802.11 Wi-Fi, RGB lighting and RGB headers, and CrossFire/SLI support.

Gigabyte GA-AX370 Gaming 5 $100 (with promo code): An equally attractive Gigabyte option for would be AMD builders. With promo code NNGG2, this X370 board can be bought for $100 as well. This board will likely require a BIOS update for Ryzen 2000 series and Raven Ridge APU support.

Corsair Graphite 760T with free H50 cooler $100 (with promo code): For anyone looking for a full tower, Corsair’s 760T from their Graphite series can be had for $100—with a free Corsair H50 cooler. Be sure and use the promo code NENCS9 for the full discount, which comes to about $80 sans the free cooler, which is another $60.

That’s it for this round-up. These mostly end tonight, in theory, so we wanted to get a shortlist of good hardware sales online.

– Eric Hamilton

PC News and Reviews

AMD Updates Warranty to Allow Aftermarket Heatsinks

April 25, 2018 — by Gamersnexus.net0

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Some controversy bubbled-up recently when reddit, as it does, found its newest offense at which it could express collective rage. That offense was AMD’s CPU warranty, which had previously indicated that any cooler aside from included stock coolers would violate the warranty – not that they’d be able to prove it, if we’re being honest.

We reached-out to AMD for comment when this story went public, and received a response today that AMD had updated its warranty terms for clarity. The original language was meant to prevent warranty replacements for scenarios where the CPU had been damaged by an out-of-spec cooler (think: something like an LN2 pot, or the jury-rigging we do at GN). It was not meant to block warranty replacements for issues unrelated to coolers.

AMD’s new language states:

“This Limited Warranty shall be null and void if the AMD microprocessor which is the subject of this Limited Warranty is used with any heatsink/fan (HSF) that does not support operation of the AMD processor in conformance with AMD’s publicly available specifications. Use of HSF solutions determined by AMD as incapable of such performance or which are determined to have contributed to the failure of the processor shall invalidate the warranty.”

And:

“Upon receipt of a Return Material Authorization (RMA) number from a Customer Care Center Representative, you will be required to send in your processor. If requested by AMD, you will also be required to send in the heatsink/fan that was packaged with your processor. The packaging materials themselves will not be required to process your RMA. If AMD, in its sole discretion, determines that the processor is not covered by the AMD limited warranty, AMD will return or destroy the processor pursuant to your election.”

Previously, the warranty stated:

“This Limited Warranty shall be null and void if the AMD microprocessor which is the subject of this Limited Warranty is used with any heatsink/fan other than the one provided herewith.”

This line has been removed and replaced with the above. The terms now seem reasonable.

Editorial: Steve Burke

Gaming News

The Ultimate Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

April 20, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

Now that we’ve explored each of the cards in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards ecosystem individually and in depth (see our guides to the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Business Preferred), we’re going to discuss the value of holding multiple or all of them. When used in concert with each other effectively, there’s no greater return on your spending.

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Why Chase Ultimate Rewards

When it comes to rewards credit cards, most people assume that a point is a point, and thus getting 2% back on one credit card is equal to getting 2% from any other card. This is completely false.

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Almost nothing is equal across rewards programs. The value of credit card rewards points, the value of travel loyalty program points, how those points are valued when redeemed through a travel portal, which transfer partners are available for those points, and what those transfer ratios are are completely different across different cards and programs.

The best ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points are by transferring them to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners, or by redeeming them through Chase’s travel portal, where holders of the Sapphire Preferred can book basically any flight, hotel room, or rental car at a rate of 1.25 cents per point, or 1.5 cents per points for Chase Sapphire Reserve customers.

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Ultimate Rewards points never expire, can easily be consolidated between your cards to be redeemed using the increased Sapphire rates, and can even be combined between family members and spouses who aren’t on the same account.

It’s not hard to find a $100-$150 hotel room that you can book for 5,000 points through Hyatt’s loyalty program (a value of 2-3 cents per point), or a Southwest flight valued at 1.5-2 cents per point. If you get really exotic, you can find even more value by, say, booking Delta flights with Korean Air points that you transferred from Chase, or an American Airlines flights with British Airways miles. The value of those points will vary considerably based on how you spend them, but they’re almost always worth more than $.01 each.

Do not use your points for a statement credit, on Amazon, for online shopping, or to buy gift cards.

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We’ll be putting together more roundups of the best ways to redeem your points, but you will need to do your own research to get maximum value, and if you’re not willing to, it may make more sense to stick with a straight cash back card.

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Signup Bonuses

  • Reserve: 50,000 points after $4000 in the first three months.
  • Preferred: 50,000 points after $4000 in the first three months.
  • Freedom: 15,000 points after $500 in the first three months.
  • Freedom Unlimited: 15,000 points after $500 in the first three months.
  • Ink Preferred: 80,000 points after $5000 in the first three months.

Each card also frequently offers referral bonuses that you should do your best to take advantage of.

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Bonus Categories

Screenshot: Shane Roberts

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Limitations and Notes

  • While the rotating five percent categories of the Chase Freedom will net you point windfalls, it cuts both ways. You may find yourself only earning 1.5% back on groceries with your Freedom Unlimited for nine months of the year for example.
  • The quarterly Chase Freedom bonus caetgories are limited to the first $1500 in spending, but it is possible to have more than one Freedom card, more on that below.
  • The Ink Preferred bonus categories are limited to the first $150,000 in spending per year.
  • The Apple/Chase/Samsung/Paypal category is amazingly versatile. 5% back at any merchant who takes those payment methods.

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Order of Operations

There are two considerations when choosing how to go about building your Ultimate Rewards card collection, and the first is to understand the “5/24 rule.”

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On a basic level, the 5/24 rule suggests that anyone who has gotten 5 or more new credit cards in the past 24 months will automatically be rejected on any new Chase card applications. The rule is not ironclad and there are certain credit cards it does not take into account in its calculations, including both Chase cards and cards from other banks. However, it does appear to count every Ultimate Rewards card and is definitely something to keep in mind.

The other big factor here is that there is no reason to hold both the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred simultaneously, and in fact, Chase implemented a new rule in August 2017 that requires you wait two years between Sapphire sign-ups. For regular travelers, we obviously think the Sapphire Reserve is well worth holding, but you should make your decision based on which card you want to end up with.

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If you decide to for both Sapphire sign-up bonuses, once the two year limit has passed, you can “downgrade” your first Sapphire card to a second Freedom to boost your rotating quarterly 5% bonus ceiling to $3000.


Additional Benefits

There are numerous benefits from the Ultimate Rewards cards that we outline in depth in our individual card coverage, but here are the highlights:

Primary Rental Car Insurance

Primary rental car insurance from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Ink Business Preferred.

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Trip Delay Insurance

If you have the Sapphire Preferred, you can invoke your benefit for a 12+ hour delay, or any interruption requiring an unplanned overnight stay. On the Reserve, that threshold drops to six hours. Both cards will reimburse up to $500 in reasonable expenses for the cardholder, the cardholder’s spouse or domestic partner, and any dependent children under age 22. Finally, the delay must leave you stranded away from home, so you can’t expense meals in your hometown if your outgoing flight gets delayed overnight.

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Global Entry, TSA Pre✓, Priority Pass

A $100 credit to cover the application fees of Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, Priority Pass Select Membership which gets you in the door of more than 1000 airport lounges, elite status at multiple car rental services, and more from the Sapphire Preferred.

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Cell Phone Protection

Cell phone protection from the Ink Preferred, which covers three claims/year of up to $600 in damage with a $100 deductible per claim, including phones of your employees.


Annual Fees

Chase Sapphire Reserve | $450

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 that’s immediately chopped down by an annual $300 travel credit that applies to every travel related expense you can think of.

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While you should have no trouble offsetting the remaining $150 of the fee with the Reserve’s massive earning potential, the card’s primary rental car coverage should be easily worth that much to anyone regularly renting cars.

Chase Ink Business Preferred | $95

If you do some quick math, it’s entirely possible the return on your monthly Internet and cable bills alone will negate the annual fee of the Chase Ink Preferred, which is great if you’re someone who doesn’t really have a business but wants this card.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred | $95 | Waived the first year


What We’d Love to See Added

My single favorite credit card perk is the three Gold hotel statuses I get with my American Express Platinum, and obviously it would be amazing if Chase did something similar with the Reserve.

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Chase has an Amazon card that earns 5% back on… Amazon. That card getting rolled into Ultimate Rewards is truly the dream.

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Gizmodo Media Commerce has partnered with The Points Guy Affiliate Network for our coverage of credit products. Gizmodo Media Group and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.