GIGABYTE Z590 Aorus Master Review: Soaring High With Rocket Lake

The latest flagship desktop processor from Intel, the Core i9-11900K, has been out for over a month, and we’ve been busy putting numerous Z590 motherboards on tests to see how some of the motherboard options stack up against each other. Up for analysis today is GIGABYTE’s Z590 Aorus Master, which is one of its premium models and has plenty of high-quality features and controllers onboard. Based on the Aorus gaming series, the Z590 Aorus Master includes 10 gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6E, three M.2 slots, and large power delivery. From the specifications, it’s a behemoth but with an attractive price tag when compared to the flagship Z590 offerings.



Source: AnandTech – GIGABYTE Z590 Aorus Master Review: Soaring High With Rocket Lake

AMD: Mobile Radeon RX 6000 Still On Track For Q2 Launch

Among the items touched upon by AMD in today’s earnings release, CEO Dr. Lisa Su’s prepared remarks included a brief update on AMD’s GPU product roadmap.


For those of you wondering where AMD’s mobile Radeon RX 6000 (Navi 2x) parts are, you shouldn’t be waiting too much longer. At the start of this year AMD announced that RDNA2 mobile products would be launching in the first half of the year, and on today’s call, Dr. Su has confirmed that this is still the case. At this point the company is expecting the first notebooks using its mobile-suitable GPUs to launch later in the quarter – which means that the hardware itself should be shipping to OEMs and ODMs soon.


Overall, AMD is continuing to ramp production of GPUs in what continues to be a tight environment for 7nm production capacity at TSMC, as well as the packaging AMD’s advanced chips require. Today’s financial release didn’t include any further information on when additional (mid-range) desktop video cards would launch, but those are expected on a similar time scale as AMD’s mobile parts.




AMD CES 2021



Source: AnandTech – AMD: Mobile Radeon RX 6000 Still On Track For Q2 Launch

AMD Reports Q1 2021 Earnings: Firing on All Cylinders and Setting Records

As Q1 earnings season continues to roll along, on deck today is AMD, who is getting the privilege of reporting some very positive earnings for the first three months of 2021. Firing on all cylinders – CPU, GPU, and semi-custom – AMD’s numerous product launches over the last several months are now paying major dividends for the company, as everything AMD is in high demand. And indeed, AMD is the poster child for the current chip crunch, as the company is making everything it can and even after selling over 3.4 billion dollars’ worth of chips in Q1, it’s still not enough.

For the first quarter of 2021, AMD reported $3.45B in revenue, making for another staggering jump over a year-ago quarter for AMD, when the company made just $1.79B in what was their best first quarter in a decade. For 2021 it’s now all about setting (and beating) records for the company, as evidenced by the 93% leap in year-over-year revenue.



Source: AnandTech – AMD Reports Q1 2021 Earnings: Firing on All Cylinders and Setting Records

Intel Confirms Tiger Lake-U Refresh Later in 2021

The combination of Intel’s ability to drive 10nm product onto the shelves coupled with silicon supply chain shortages has put into question exactly what might be coming into the market later this year on the client side of the business. A few weeks ago Intel stated that across the company five CPU platforms would be coming to market in 2021: Rocket Lake, Jasper Lake, Ice Lake Xeon, Alder Lake, and the Tiger Lake-H series of processors. Tiger Lake-H at 45W+ will come to market in Q2, however AnandTech has learned and confirmed that later in 2021 Intel will also be launching a refresh of its notebook 15-28W Tiger Lake-U processors as well.



Source: AnandTech – Intel Confirms Tiger Lake-U Refresh Later in 2021

Arm Announces Neoverse V1, N2 Platforms & CPUs, CMN-700 Mesh: More Performance, More Cores, More Flexibility

Today Arm is announcing the details on the new Neoverse V1 and N2 CPU microarchitectures, impressive at +50% and +40% IPC, as well as the new CMN-700 mesh network. 128 N2 cores on 5nm with DDR5 in 2022? Arm says so!



Source: AnandTech – Arm Announces Neoverse V1, N2 Platforms & CPUs, CMN-700 Mesh: More Performance, More Cores, More Flexibility

Microsoft and Intel Enable AI-Backed Protection Against CPU Cryptocoin Mining

The fervor of cryptocoin mining has consumed a large part of the semiconductor industry of late. The demands for high performance silicon to mine these virtual assets with value is one factor in a global shortage of available parts for computers, automobiles, defense, research, and other industries. One consistent element to cryptocoin mining over the last decade is the prevalence of hijacked machines and devices through malware, commonly known as botnets. Previously these armies of machines were co-opted to perform bandwidth attacks against various targets, but they have also been used for their compute resources – mining coins that have value for those that control the botnet. This week Intel and Microsoft are announcing an additional layer of protection against these sorts of attacks.



Source: AnandTech – Microsoft and Intel Enable AI-Backed Protection Against CPU Cryptocoin Mining

TSMC Update: 2nm in Development, 3nm and 4nm on Track for 2022

For TSMC, being the world’s largest foundry with nearly 500 customers has its peculiarities. On the one hand, the company can serve almost any client with almost any requirements. On the other hand, it has to stay ahead of everyone else both in terms of capacity and in terms of technology. As far as capacity is concerned, TSMC is unchallenged and is not going to be for years to come. As for fabrication technologies, TSMC has recently reiterated that it’s confident that its N2, N3, and N4 processes will be available on time and will be more advanced than competing nodes.


Confidence


Early this year TSMC significantly boosted its 2021 CapEx budget to a $25 – $28 billion range, further increasing it to around $30 billion as a part of its three-year plan to spend $100 billion on manufacturing capacities and R&D.



About 80% of TSMC’s $30 billion capital budget this year will be spent on expanding capacities for advanced technologies, such as 3nm, 4nm/5nm, and 6nm/7nm. Analysts from China Renaissance Securities believe that most of the money on advanced nodes will be used to expand TSMC’s N5 capacity to 110,000 ~ 120,000 wafer starts per month (WSPM) by the end of the year. Meanwhile, TSMC said that 10% of its CapEx will be allocated for advanced packaging and mask making, whereas another 10% will be spent on specialty technologies (which includes tailored versions of mature nodes).


TMSC’s the most recent CapEx hikes announcements were made after Intel announced its IDM 2.0 strategy (that involves in-house production, outsourcing, and foundry operations) and to a large degree reaffirms TMSC’s confidence in both short-term and long-term future even ahead of intensified competition.


“As a leading pure-play foundry, TSMC has never been short on competition in our 30-plus-year history, yet we know how to compete,” said C.C. Wei, president and CEO of TSMC, at a recent conference call with analysts and investors. “We will continue to focus on delivering technology leadership, manufacturing excellence, and earning our customers’ trust. The last point, customers’ trust, is fairly important because we do not have internal products that compete with customer.”











Advertised PPA Improvements of New Process Technologies

Data announced during conference calls, events, press briefings and press releases
  TSMC
N7

vs

16FF+
N7

vs

N10
N7P

vs

N7
N7+

vs

N7
N5

vs

N7
N5P

vs

N5
N4

vs

N5
N3

vs

N5
Power -60% <-40% -10% -15% -30% -10% lower -25-30%
Performance +30% ? +7% +10% +15% +5% higher +10-15%
Logic Area



Reduction %



(Density)



70%



>37%






~17%
0.55x



-45%



(1.8x)



? 0.58x



-42%



(1.7x)
Volume

Manufacturing
2018 2018

 
2019 Q2 2019

 
Q2 2020 2021 2022 H2 2022


N5 Gaining Customers


TSMC was the first company to start high volume manufacturing (HVM) of chips using its N5 (5 nm) process technology in mid-2020.



Initially, the node was used solely for TSMC’s alpha customers — Apple and HiSilicon. Shipments to the latter ceased on September 14, which left all of the leading-edge capacity to Apple. By now, more customers are ready with their N5 designs, so the adoption of this node is growing. Meanwhile, TSMC says more customers are planning to use N5 family of technologies (including N5, N5P, and N4) than it expected just several months ago.


“N5 is already in its second year of volume production with yield better than our original plan,” said Mr. Wei. N5 demand continues to be strong, driven by smartphone and HPC applications, and we expect N5 to contribute around 20% of our wafer revenue in 2021. […] In fact, we are seeing stronger engagement with more customers on 5 nm and 3 nm [versus 7 nm at similar stages]. The engagement is so strong that we have to really prepare the capacity for it.”


For TSMC, HPC applications include many different types of products, including AI accelerators, CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, NPUs, and video gaming SoCs, just to name a few. Since they’re just a contract manufacturer, TSMC does not disclose what kinds of products it makes using one node or another (we do know that it builds the Apple A14 SoC for smartphones/tablets/STBs as well as the Apple M1 SoC for PCs and tablets), but the very fact that adoption of N5 is growing in the HPC segment is important.


“We expect demand for our N5 family to continue to grow in the next several years, driven by the robust demand for smartphone and HPC applications,” the head of TSMC said. “We expect to see HPC, not only in the first wave, but in additional waves of demand to support our leading [N5] node in the future, actually.”


It is not particularly surprising that TSMC’s N5 is gaining market share among adopters of leading-edge technologies. Analysts from China Renaissance estimate that TSMC’s N5 features a transistor density of around 170 million transistors per square millimeter (MTr/mm2), which if accurate, makes it the densest technology available today. By contrast, Samsung’s Foundry’s 5LPE can boast with about 125 MTr/mm2 ~130 MTr/mm2, whereas Intel’s 10 nm features an approximately 100 MTr/mm2 density.


In the coming weeks TSMC is set to start making chips using a performance-enhanced version of its N5 technology called N5P that promises to increase frequencies by up to 5% or reduce power consumption by up to 10% (at the same complexity). The technology offers a seamless migration path for customers without requiring significant engineering resource investment or longer design cycle time, so anyone with an N5 design can use N5P instead. For example, early adopters of N5 could re-use their IP for their N5P chips.


N4: On Track for Next Year


TSMC’s N5 family of technologies also includes evolutionary N4 process that will enter risk production later this year and will be used for mass production in 2022.



This technology is set to provide further PPA (power, performance, area) advantages over N5, but keep the same design rules, design infrastructure, SPICE simulation programs, and IPs. Meanwhile, since N4 further extends usage of EUV lithography tools, it also reduces mask counts, process steps, risks, and costs.


“N4 will leverage the strong foundation of N5 to further extend our 5 nm family,” said Mr. Wei. “N4 is a straightforward migration from N5 with compatible design rules while providing further performance, power and density enhancement for the next wave of 5-nanometer products. N4 risk production is targeted for second half this year and volume production in 2022.”


By the time N4 enters HVM in 2022, TSMC will have about two years of experience with N5 and three years of experience with EUV. So expectations are that yields will be high and the performance variability promises to be low.


But even as cutting-edge as N4 is slated to be, it’s not going to be the most advanced fabrication technology that TSMC will offer next year.


N3: Due in H2 2022


In 2022, the world’s largest contract maker of chips will roll out its brand-new N3 manufacturing process, which will keep using FinFET transistors, but is expected to offer the whole package of PPA improvements.



In particular, versus their current N5 process, TSMC’s N3 promises to increase performance by 10% – 15% (at the same power and complexity) or reduce power consumption by 25% – 30% (at the same performance and complexity). All the while the new node will also improve transistor density by 1.1 ~ 1.7 times depending on the structures (1.1X for analog, 1.2X for SRAM, 1.7X for logic).


N3 will further increase the number of EUV layers, but will keep using DUV lithography. Also, since the technology keeps using FinFET, it will not require a new generation of electronic design automation (EDA) tools redesigned from scratch and development of all-new IPs, which might become a competitive advantage over Samsung Foundry’s GAAFET/MBCFET-based 3GAE.


“N3 will be another full node stride from our N5 and will use FinFET transistor structure to deliver the best technology maturity, performance, and cost for our customers,” said Mr. Wei. “Our N3 technology development is on track with good progress. We continue to see a much higher level of customer engagement for both HPC and smartphone applications at N3 as compared with N5 and N7.”


In fact, TSMC’s claims about growing customer engagement with N3 indirectly telegraphs its high expectations for N3.


“[N3] risk production is scheduled in 2021,” said TSMC’s CEO. “The volume production is targeted in second half of 2022. Our N3 technology will be the most advanced foundry technology in both PPA and transistor technology, when it is introduced. […] We are confident that both our [N5] and [N3] will be large and long-lasting nodes for TSMC.”


Beyond N3


Gate-all-around FETs (GAAFETs) are still a part of TSMC’s development roadmap. The company is expected to use a new kind of transistors with its ‘post-N3’ technology (presumably N2). In fact, the company is in path-finding mode for next generations of materials and transistor structures that will be used many years down the road.



“For advanced CMOS logic, TSMC’s 3nm and 2nm CMOS nodes are progressing nicely through the pipeline,” the company said in its annual report recently. “In addition, TSMC’s reinforced exploratory R&D work is focused on beyond-2nm node and on areas such as 3D transistors, new memory and low-R interconnect, which are on track to establish a solid foundation to feed into many technology platforms.


It is noteworthy that TSMC is expanding capacity for R&D operations at Fab 12, where N3, N2, and more advanced nodes are currently being researched and developed.


Summary


Overall, TSMC is confident that its “everyone’s foundry” strategy will enable it grow further in terms of scale, market share, and sales. The company also expects to maintain its technology leadership going forward, which is pivotal for growth.


“For the full year of 2021, we now forecast […] foundry industry growth [at] about 16%,” said Wendell Huang, CFO of TSMC, at a recent conference call with analysts and investors. “For TSMC, we are confident we can outperform the foundry revenue growth and grow by around 20% in 2021.”



The company has a strong technology roadmap and it is set to continue introducing improved leading-edge nodes every year, thus offering its customers improvements at a predictable cadence.


TSMC knows how to compete against rivals with leading-edge nodes as well as makers of chips focused on specialty process technologies, so it does not see Intel Foundry Services (IFS) as an immediate threat especially because the blue giant is going primarily after leading-edge and advanced nodes.


Financial analysts generally share TSMC’s optimism mainly because of the expectation that the company’s N3 and N5 nodes are not going to have competitors offering similar transistor densities and wafer starts.


“Following Intel’s announced foundry comeback in March, TSMC’s willingness to set a 3-year $100 billion CapEx/R&D investment plan, starting from 2021, indicates its confidence to widen its foundry leadership,” Szeho Ng, an analyst with China Renaissance Securities. “We see TSMC’s strategic value rising with N3/N5: strong N5 tape-out activities from HPC/smartphone applications and more N3 client engagement vs N5/N7 at similar stages.”



Source: AnandTech – TSMC Update: 2nm in Development, 3nm and 4nm on Track for 2022

AnandTech Call for Writers: 2021

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.


Like many other publications, the coronavirus pandemic over the past year has thrown a wrench in our coverage plans – both in terms of content and staffing. But now that we’re finally starting to turn the corner on the pandemic, we’re preparing to resume staffing up, expanding our coverage, and training the next generation of AnandTech editors.


To that end, 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:


  • News/Pipeline (PC)
  • News/Pipeline (Mobile)
  • Networking
  • Storage (Inc. Solid State)
  • GPUs (US-only)
  • Systems/Laptops (US-only)
  • Mobile/Smartphones (US/Canada & Europe)
  • Memory
  • Community Manager (US-only)
  • Monitors
  • Home Automation/IoT
  • Professional Graphics/GPU


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 callforwriters@anandtech.com. 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.


Frequently Asked Questions


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: Do I need a computer or engineering-related degree to work at AnandTech?

A: We are first and foremost looking for people with a passion to learn, and the knack to make it happen, regardless of experience or qualifications. 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: Why would I want to work for AnandTech?

A: Besides offering a paying job, of course, working for AnandTech is a chance to look at the cutting-edge of hardware, inform an audience of millions about what’s new in the world, and help shape the tech industry for the better. Past that, over the last 24 years many of AnandTech’s writers have gone on to take important roles in (or adjacent to) the tech industry, spanning everything from developing the next generation of products at companies like Samsung and Apple, to heading up investment funds, developing electric cars, and even shooting rockets into space!


Q: Is there a submission deadline?

A: We have a tentative end point for May 10th



Source: AnandTech – AnandTech Call for Writers: 2021

The Kinesis TKO Tournament Gaming Keyboard Review: A Compact Champion

Today, we are taking a look at the Kinesis TKO Tournament Gaming keyboard, a 60% mechanical keyboard designed with gamers in mind. Looking to tap into the market for gamers who are after a small keyboard designed for portability and single-hand gaming ergonomics, the company has designed a 60% gaming keyboard that is also something gamers can easily take with them to use on other computers and at torunaments, all without requring any additional software.



Source: AnandTech – The Kinesis TKO Tournament Gaming Keyboard Review: A Compact Champion

MLPerf Inference v1.0: 2000 Suite Results, New Power Measurements

There has been a strong desire for a series of industry standard machine learning benchmarks, akin to the SPEC benchmarks for CPUs, in order to compare relative solutions. Over the past two years, MLCommons, an open engineering consortium, have been discussing and disclosing its MLPerf benchmarks for training and inference, with key consortium members releasing benchmark numbers as the series of tests gets refined. Today we see the full launch of MLPerf Inference v1.0, along with ~2000 results into the database. Alongside this launch, a new MLPerf Power Measurement technique to provide additional metadata on these test results is also being disclosed.



Source: AnandTech – MLPerf Inference v1.0: 2000 Suite Results, New Power Measurements

Seagate Unveils FireCuda-Branded External HDD Solutions

Seagate has been marketing their gaming-focused storage products under the FireCuda brand over the last few years. With a focus on performance, these products have typically been flash-based and/or cater to the high-bandwidth peripherals market using Thunderbolt. Today, the company is introducing a couple of new hard-drive-based products focusing on capacity and the aspect that gamers seem to love (based on market demand) – RGB lighting.


The FireCuda Gaming Hard Drive is a 2.5″ bus-powered external HDD complete with RGB lighting (customizable using Seagate’s Toolkit software as well as Razer Chroma). It is available in capacities of 1TB, 2TB, and 5TB with MSRPs of $80, $110, and $180 respectively. Street prices are lower, as can be seen from product listings online.



Similar to Seagate’s current bus-powered external HDD lineup, the new FireCuda Gaming Hard Drive also sports a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) Micro-B interface. While we haven’t received official confirmation yet, it is likely that the new drives are also SMR-based like the Seagate Backup Plus line. One of the interesting value additions is the inclusion of Rescue Data Recovery services for three years in addition to the one year warranty.



The FireCuda Gaming Hub will become available in the market a little later – This is a full-fledged 3.5″ HDD in a RGB enclosure. It has to be externally powered, which also allows the product to carry front-facing USB-C and USB-A ports (both 3.2 Gen 1 – 5Gbps) and act as a hub. The Rescue DRS value-addition is applicable to this product also. The product will be available in two capacity points – 8TB for $220, and 16TB for $400. The latter SKU is interesting from the viewpoint of the internal drive – this will probably be the first product to carry Seagate’s consumer-focused 16TB HDD, as they do not have a BarraCuda 16TB in the retail market currently.




Source: AnandTech – Seagate Unveils FireCuda-Branded External HDD Solutions

Cerebras Unveils Wafer Scale Engine Two (WSE2): 2.6 Trillion Transistors, 100% Yield

The last few years has seen a glut of processors enter the market with the sole purpose of accelerating artificial intelligence and machine learning workloads. Due to the different types of machine learning algorithms possible, these processors are often focused on a few key areas, but one thing limits them all – how big you can make the processor. Two years ago Cerebras unveiled a revolution in silicon design: a processor as big as your head, using as much area on a 12-inch wafer as a rectangular design would allow, built on 16nm, focused on both AI as well as HPC workloads. Today the company is launching its second generation product, built on TSMC 7nm, with more than double the cores and more than double of everything.



Source: AnandTech – Cerebras Unveils Wafer Scale Engine Two (WSE2): 2.6 Trillion Transistors, 100% Yield

AI Funding Spree: +$300m for Groq, +$676m for SambaNova

The growth of AI has seen a resurgence in venture capital funding for silicon start-ups. Designing AI silicon for machine learning, both for training and inference, has become hot property in Silicon Valley, especially as machine learning compute and memory requirements are coalesced into tangible targets for this silicon to go after. A number of these companies are already shipping high performance processors to customers, and are looking for further funding to help support customers, expand the customer base, and develop next generation products until profitability happens, or the company is acquired. The two latest funding rounds for AI silicon were announced in this past week.



Source: AnandTech – AI Funding Spree: +0m for Groq, +6m for SambaNova

Biostar Announces B550T-Silver Mini-ITX Motherboard For AMD's Ryzen 5000 Family

Biostar has unveiled its latest mini-ITX motherboard for the AMD B550 chipset, the B550T-Silver, which is designed for use with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 and Ryzen 3000 processors. The small-sized board combines a simple silver and black aesthetic with decent features including PCIe 4.0 support, Wi-Fi 6, 2.5 GbE networking, and one PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot.


With both NVIDIA and AMD moving quickly away from multi-graphics card setups to single card powerhouses, the mini-ITX form factor has become as potent as as it’s ever been for gaming systems. Biostar’s latest board, in turn, ticks a lot of boxes for users looking for a reasonably priced mini-ITX motherboard that can harness the power of AMD’s Zen 3 processors to create a potent and pocket-sized gaming system/media center with the AMD’s cheaper Ryzen chips.


From what we’ve seen, no X570 or B550 boards currently list support for the latest Ryzen 5000G APUs, which we expect to change once AMD rolls them out onto the wider market.



The Biostar B550T-Silver combines a basic and elegant black and silver color scheme, with plenty of features to be benefited from. There’s one full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, with a single PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot and four straight-angled SATA ports, including support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays. On the right-hand side of the board are two memory slots, which can support 64 GB of RAM at speeds up to DDR4-4933. Biostar isn’t openly advertising the power delivery system, but we can see it uses one 8-pin 12 V ATX input to provide power to the CPU.



Biostar includes one USB 3.2 G2 Type-C, one USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, and four USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports on the rear panel. There’s an unspecified Wi-Fi 6 interface for wireless networking, and a Realtek RTL8125B 2.5 GbE controller. The board’s integrated audio consists of three 3.5 mm audio jacks powered by a Realtek ALC897 HD audio codec. Users looking to build a mini-ITX media system can benefit from the integrated graphics on the Ryzen 4000 APUs through one HDMI 2.1 and a single DisplayPort video output pairing. Finishing off the rear panel is a PS/2 combo keyboard and mouse port. 


At the time of writing, we don’t currently have a price for the Biostar B550T-Silver mini-ITX motherboard or when it is expected to hit retail. However, we do expect it to be reasonably priced compared directly to some of the other mini-ITX B550 models.



Source: Biostar


Related Reading




Source: AnandTech – Biostar Announces B550T-Silver Mini-ITX Motherboard For AMD’s Ryzen 5000 Family

Sales of Fab Tools Surge to Over $71 Billion in 2020

SEMI, an organization representing chipmakers and producers of semiconductor production tools, published this week that sales of wafer processing equipment has surged to an all-time record of $71.19 billion for 2020. In the lead-up to the current chip crunch, equipment sales to South Korea and China noticeably spiked, with fabs in the former buying 61% more gear than in 2019, while China has risen to become the largest fab tool customer of all of the nations.


Overall, sales of fab equipment surged 19% from $59.75 billion in 2019 to $71.19 billion in 2020, according to SEMI. The substantial increase was driven by several factors. First and foremost, the world now consumes more chips than ever, and that consumption will only grow over time. Secondly, the competition between TSMC and Samsung Semiconductor (which has Foundry and Memory divisions) is escalating and both companies are spending more money on semiconductor equipment. Thirdly, next-generation lithography equipment (both DUV and EUV) is getting more expensive, so are other tools used in clean rooms. And finally, China is intensifying its domestic semiconductor efforts amid the trade war with the U.S.














Annual Billings by Region in $U.S. Billions with Year-Over-Year Change Rates
Region 2020 2019 Change
China 18.72 13.45 39%
Taiwan 17.15 17.12 0.2%
South Korea 16.08 9.97 61%
Japan 7.58 6.27 21%
North America 6.53 8.15 -20%
Europe 2.64 2.28 16%
ROW 2.48 2.52 -1%
Total 71.19 59.75 19%


Chinese companies increased their spending on wafer processing equipment by 39% year-over-year in 2020 to $18.72 billion, an all-time record for the country. Various companies, both domestic and foreign, are ramping up production of logic and memory chips in China, so the surge was something expected.


Taiwanese manufacturers bought semiconductor tools worth $17.15 billion last year, which was flat with 2019. Now that UMC (which is the world’s third largest contract maker of chips) is focused on specialty and mature processes, it no longer has to buy leading-edge equipment. By contrast, TSMC’s purchases of new tools offset declines at UMC, but on the country level shipments of semi tools were flat year-over-year. Meanwhile, this is going to change in 2021 as TSMC plans to radically increase its spending on new fabs up to $28 billion in 2020 and intends to invest $100 billion in new plants and R&D over the next three years.


South Korean companies increased their annual spending on semiconductor equipment to $16.08 billion last year, a whopping 61% year-over-year jump. Samsung Semiconductor, which has foundry services for logic, DRAM, and NAND flash memory, has been setting records with its CapEx budgets in the recent years. Its rival SK Hynix has also been increasing procurement of wafer processing equipment. As a result, in 2020 South Korean companies spent about the same amount of money on fab tools as Japan, North America, and Europe combined.


And though Japan is no longer a microelectronics mecca, but Japanese companies still spent $7.58 billion on fab tools last year, up 21% from 2019. A significant share of that expenditure likely belongs to Kioxia and Western Digital that constantly buy new equipment for their 3D NAND operations, and there are a number of other companies in Japan that produce more specialized semiconductors.


Meanwhile, tool purchases by American fabs actually dropped by 20% versus the previous year, sinking to $6.53 billion for 2020. The US is still the runaway leader for chip design, so the drop serves to widen the gap between how much is designed in the country versus how little is fabbed there. Overall it looks like the tables are going to turn in the coming years as Intel, Samsung Foundry, and TSMC begin to equip their new fabs in the USA; but for now, fab tool shipments are down significantly.


Finally, European fabs increased their purchases of new tools by 16% last year, totaling $2.64 billion invested in new equipment. As Intel brings its 7 nm fabrication process to Ireland in the coming quarters, the company will increase its spending in Europe, so fab tool sales there should see at least a temporary spike in the future.


In fact, tool sales are likely to spike everywhere for 2021 and beyond. While SEMI doesn’t directly publish any outlooks for future sales, it’s clear that the ongoing chip crunch has set the stage for a surge of additional equipment sales, as fabs are overwhelmed with orders despite already operating at full capacity. So, already fully booked for quarters to come, the need for new fab tools will only be increasing.


Source: SEMI



Source: AnandTech – Sales of Fab Tools Surge to Over Billion in 2020

Intel’s Full Enterprise Portfolio: An Interview with VP of Xeon, Lisa Spelman

With the launch of Intel’s Third Generation Xeon Scalable platform based on 10nm Ice Lake processors, Intel has upgraded a part of the company that makes the BIG money. For the last few years Intel has been pivoting from a CPU-centric company to a Data-centric company, leveraging the fact that more and more of its product lines are built towards the datacenter mindset. With the launch of the new server platform in this past week, Intel is gearing itself up for an enterprise stack built on 10nm, PCIe 4.0, and cryptographic acceleration.


In this interview, we ask about Intel’s offerings, the scope of new accelerative features, what really matters to Intel’s customers, and how Intel is approaching its roadmap given the fast follow on from Ice Lake to Sapphire Rapids.



Source: AnandTech – Intel’s Full Enterprise Portfolio: An Interview with VP of Xeon, Lisa Spelman

TSMC Q1 2021 Process Node Revenue: More 7nm, No More 20nm

This week TSMC has disclosed its full quarterly financial results for Q1 2021. In those results the company often explains where the revenue demand is for its technologies, and the financial split the demand brings. This number is not correlated to wafer production (although TSMC provides an overall number too), given that smaller process nodes have a per-wafer premium, but it does indicate where the demand is in the market right now. As perhaps to be expected, 7nm takes top billing, however a couple of interesting numbers come out of the data.



Source: AnandTech – TSMC Q1 2021 Process Node Revenue: More 7nm, No More 20nm

MSI Drops A Bling Bling Motherboard: the MEG Z590 Ace Gold Edition

On the back of Intel’s 11th generation Rocket Lake processor release last month, MSI has dropped a new Z590 motherboard which certainly raises an eyebrow towards aesthetics. The new Z590 Ace Gold Edition is a gold-inspired take of the regular MEG Z590 Ace motherboard, with all of the same premium features such as PCIe 4.0 support, 2.5 GbE, Wi-Fi 6E, and dual Thunderbolt 4 Type-C on the rear panel.


Built around its Enthusiast Gaming series, the MEG Z590 Ace Gold Edition injects a lot of flair and vibrance that the regular MEG Z590 Ace doesn’t have. While aesthetics comes down to a matter of individual opinion, the MSI MEG Z590 Gold Ace Gold Edition is decked out in gold and brushed aluminum finishing, including the rear panel cover, power delivery heatsinks, PCIe slot armor, M.2 heatsinks, and the chipset heatsink.



Despite the refreshed and extravagant aesthetic, it includes the exact same feature and controller set as the regular MSI MEG Z590 Ace, which includes two full-length PCIe 4.0 slots that can operate at x16 and x8/x8, a third full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot, and two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. There are four memory slots that can accommodate up to DDR4-5600 memory, with a maximum capacity of 128 GB, and includes one PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot, three PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA M.2 slots, and six SATA ports which is plenty of storage options. Providing power to the CPU is the same 16-phase power delivery with premium 90 A power stages as the regular Z590 Ace and dual 8-pin 12 V ATX CPU power inputs.



The rear panel also comes with plenty of features and includes a pre-attached gold and aluminum-colored rear panel cover (Ian: I can barely read those labels! What if you’re colorblind!?). For connectivity, the MSI MEG Z590 Ace Gold Edition has dual Thunderbolt 4 Type-C with two mini-DisplayPort video inputs, two USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, four USB 3.2 G1 Type-A, and two USB 2.0 ports. The board also uses a Realtek ALC4082 HD audio codec and ESS Sabre 9018Q2C DAC combination, which powers five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output,  as well as a BIOS flashback and Clear CMOS button pairing. On the networking side of things, MSI is using an Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE controller and Intel’s latest AX210 Wi-Fi 6E CNVi. 


At present, we don’t know when the MSI MEG Z590 Ace Gold Edition is going to hit retail shelves, nor do we have any pricing. The regular MSI MEG Z590 Ace has an MSRP of $500, so we expect the gold variant to cost a little more.


We also have the MSI MEG Z590 Ace (regular version) in for review, which we will publish in due time.


Source: MSI



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Source: AnandTech – MSI Drops A Bling Bling Motherboard: the MEG Z590 Ace Gold Edition

AMD Ryzen 5000G APUs: OEM Only For Now, Full Release Later This Year

With the high demand for semiconductors causing most companies to focus on their high margin, high profitability components, I wasn’t expecting to see many launches of low-to-mid range hardware for the rest of 2021. AMD has surprised me in announcing its entry and mid-level processors with integrated graphics today, offering up to eight Zen 3 cores and Vega 8 graphics, but AMD is pointing out that these models are for the pre-built system market only right now. AMD has plans to enable a full retail offering for these components, but this will happen later in the year.



Source: AnandTech – AMD Ryzen 5000G APUs: OEM Only For Now, Full Release Later This Year