When Ryan initially asked me to write this year's news about the CPU, I laughed. There are many things that have happened this year, ranging from processor releases and reviews, security issues, to discussions about the next few years of computing. But a few weeks ago I wrote a script to pull each AnandTech article from our archive to filter it into my own database for analysis. It turns out that AT staff among us have written nearly 200 news articles and longer format reviews about CPUs this year, and here are interesting.
When discussing the CPU, at least the desktop market, our attention focuses on two companies in particular: Intel and AMD.
January: Security and CES
The beginning of the year usually begins with a large CES trade show in Las Vegas, but before our event arrived at that point, there was news of two new classifications of vulnerability that affected most modern processors: Specter and Meltdown. This is important because both of these names indicate a new family of microarchitecture vulnerabilities originating from the basic design of modern processors, exploiting several tricks used for how we get a lot of acceleration in common daily tasks. The news broke about a week earlier than the company intended (part of the responsible disclosure term), but the big players had about six months notice to submit improvements after the Google Zero Project first discovered it in 2017. This vulnerability is a common thread general 2018 (and still today), when the company put forward a mix of software and firmware improvements for hardware in the wild, built a security assurance team, and conducted research on hardware repairs for future products. Basically every high-performance processor that has ever been made – Intel, AMD, ARM, and POWER – is considered to be vulnerable at some level, and every large company makes an official statement on this issue. Repair of software and firmware for several generations of processors came out until 2018, and new products blocked some & # 39; this attack appears in the final stages of 2018, although 2019 is becoming increasingly serious. Some of these improvements cause performance regression in certain tasks, mostly company-based, but this is a topic that will also be at the forefront of every CPU launch from 201-2020.
Not to be outdone by security news, CES trade shows are one of our busiest shows. AMD starts the process with discussions, lectures, and disclosures for a full day. The key to AMD's presentation is that new Zen microarchitecture products, Ryzen and EPYC, pave the way for the future. In the presentation, AMD presented a roadmap for product launches in 2018, including a new APU, a new line of desktop processors at 12nm with Zen + updates, second generation Threadripper in the upper class, and a push towards Vega 7nm GPU at the end of the year. . This is a very well-prepared presentation from AMD, showing that they have a road map and they are willing to commit. On top of all this, AMD is repeating a long-term roadmap on CPU and GPU technology, past 2020.
One major highlight here is our interview with the CEO of AMD, Dr. Lisa Su, about how AMD is set to approach its new era.
Intel has the usual keynote at CES, hosted by former CEO Brian Krzanich, who briefly discussed security issues, mostly talking about drones and connecting people, but did not mention the company's progress in next-generation process technology at 10nm. Instead, the company mentioned 10nm very briefly at the end of a small 9-minute presentation at the Intel booth the following morning, at 8am, through Gregory Bryant, SVP from the Client Computing Group. The news is not very good: Intel confirmed that it has sent 10nm in 2017 for revenue. Literally the sentence is short. There is no news about how technology is progressing, or the future timetable.
But there are some advantages for Intel in January. The company launched the best integrated graphics solution ever: Core with Radeon RX Vega Graphics from SoCs. This processor takes a quad-core cellphone chip and pairs it with a special Polaris graphics solution from AMD all on the same processor package. The graphics chip is connected with Intel's EMIB technology to a HBM2 memory stack, keeping the package small. Offers range from 65W to 100W TDP, and the purpose here is to provide something just below the discrete graphics solution in a thin and light form factor. We saw the Specter x360 and Dell XPS 15 updated with these options, as well as Hades Canyon NUC, Chuwi HiGame mini-PC, and Dell Precision devices at the end of the year.
February: Visit GlobalFoundries
The transition from January to February is usually a slow period in the industry when the Chinese New Year begins. Depending on the company, this could be anything from a one-week to three-week break, so we don't tend to see many products launched at the end of January / early February unless the factory has sufficient stock, or the factory chain doesn't involve China.
Intel started a reactionary month on the issue of Specter and Meltdown by officially announcing the establishment of a Product and Security Guarantee Group (which was technically reported in January, but not formal to date). The group's strategic goals are unclear, except that the group will unite & # 39; s cross Intel companies to continue to improve product security & # 39 ;.
In the first week, Intel also launched the Xeon D-2100 platform, placing it above the previous Xeon D-1500 lineup. This processor is different from the old one because instead of using the Atom core, they are basically the same as the Scalable Xeon processor line, although with lower frequencies, TDP is lower, but focuses on integrated networks and QuickAssist features. The spare parts are on the market for up to 18 cores.
& # 39; Bunny settings & # 39; for Fab. Unfortunately, no images are allowed inside.
Also in early February, Nate and I visited GlobalFoundries Fab 8 in Malta, New York. At the moment, GF is being discussed in the city, after successfully implementing AMD's strategy with Ryzen and EPYC, and waiting for 7nm and EUV products. Looking into modern fabs is a rare thing, and it opens our eyes to the fact that this is more than a black box factory and requires advanced technology and settings to execute as needed. We also interviewed CTO Gary Patton about the greatness and future of the GF until 2018.
On the side of AMD's fence, the company launched its first desktop APU, combining Zen cores and Vega graphics in a desktop form factor. Both Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G both offer interesting features: 720p gaming with four cores starting at $ 100. Along with the processor comes a series of stock coolers that make everyone shy. AMD also launched the EPYC embedded platform, offering a variety of products such as Ryzen for integrated systems.
March: More security
The end of Q1 is our quietest month of the year in terms of absolute CPU news, even though some big elements came to the surface. In addition to our analysis of Ryzen Threadripper coolers with large base plates, such as Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3, Intel also stopped the Poulson Itanium ‘n-1 processor family, by inserting the second rear nail in the series of products.
If the Specter and Meltdown security issues are not enough, several other security issues are revealed. The previously unknown security company, CTS-Labs, announced that it had discovered several vulnerabilities in the ASMedia chipset and AMD's Safe Processor. We discuss this issue in detail, but there are many questions about how this announcement arises: security companies offer companies no form of responsible disclosure (they even say it is a bad idea), there are no strict details about vulnerabilities, generating websites in advance to promote the problem, hire a PR company to handle it with professionally provided videos about the problem, and some financial companies that were allegedly not related were prepared with multi-page documents stating the problem meant that AMD was worth zero. In our interview with the company, it was clear that there was technical miscommunication, and when we asked about supporters for this project, the call suddenly ended. I recorded a two-hour podcast / video about a problem with TechTeamGB, which was worth watching.
AMD, after one week to analyze the findings, then released a statement about the problem. The truth is, most exploitation is secondary vulnerability – they need high permission to get started. But AMD confirmed that repairs will be done soon. Security companies have not been heard since, and the websites they produce to promote problems no longer exist.