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Friday, November 27, 2020

Black Friday Gaming PC 2020? Not this year!

 I like to do a special Black Friday Gaming PC build every year, but this year, component prices are completely fubar. Ryzen 9 5900X? Can't find it in stock anywhere but eBay at massively inflated prices! The same goes for the rest of AMD's Zen 3 CPU line. And don't even get me started on graphics cards.

RTX 3070RTX 3080, and even the exorbitantly priced RTX 3090? All are sold out and will likely remain in limited supply / high demand until at least February 2021. Our savior AMD, with its Radeon RX 6800 XT and Radeon RX 6800, is actually even worse. That's because AMD is trying to procure next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S console processors, plus Zen 3 CPUs, plus RDNA2 GPUs, all from TSMC using its 7nm node. Meanwhile, TSMC has customers lining up, including Apple, Nvidia (GA100), and maybe even Intel!

It goes deeper than that. The die size for one of the CPU compute dies in a Ryzen 5000 series processor is 80mm2. The die size of the Navi 21 GPU in RX 6800 series is 519mm2. So, AMD can get one GPU or about 6.5 CPU compute dies from the same wafer area. The GPU needs memory, cooling, a PCB, and more. The CPU just needs a package and some resistors and capacitors. Basically, a single RX 6800 series graphics card costs about 10X as much as a single Ryzen 7 5800X to produce. With high demand for both, AMD will make far more money by producing CPUs.

COVID-19-fueled shortages and increased prices apply to many other PC components as well. Last year I found a 550W 80 Plus Gold power supply for $67. This year, the cheapest high quality 550W PSU is about $95.

There are a few components that you can find at reasonable prices, at least. Good quality motherboards for both Z490 chipset (Intel) and X570 chipset (AMD) start at around $150-$160. You can also pick up 2x8GB DDR4-3200 memory for $50, or 2x16GB DDR4-3200 memory for $95. That's way cheaper than last year. SSD prices are also down, with 1TB M.2 drives starting at $95. There are plenty of viable PC cases, like the Corsair Carbide 275R Airflow for $65.

But without a decent price on a CPU or graphics card, it's going to be hard to build a good new PC. Even previous generation GPUs like the RTX 2060 Super and RX 5700 XT now cost over $50 more than they did just a few months back, and there are better GPUs enticing us. My advice: Save your pennies and buy something else.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

RobotCache Review

There are scamcoins, and then there are coins that are basically a scam. RobotCache and it's Iron (IRON) coins fall firmly in the latter camp. They appear to be legit, but the value is a complete joke. It doesn't matter how much hardware you throw at the problem: you're going to get ripped off. I've run a few tests, though, so let's just cut straight to the chase.

The big claim of RobotCache is that you can buy games with no exclusives, and that you can earn 'free' stuff. And by stuff, we're talking about games. If you enable mining in the client, your PC will happily donate spare compute cycles for both your GPU and CPU to the mining of Iron. It's basically like Ethereum, except not actually worth anything.

I just ran a test on a GeForce RTX 3090 card (#AffiliateLink) the world's fastest GPU. It does about 100MH/s, which is a lot — about twice the speed of an RX 5700 XT. However, it also consumes a lot of power, like very close to 350W. If you were mining Ethereum, that works out to around $2.75 per day in income, minus power costs. For someone that pays $0.10 per kWh, that's $0.84 per day in power, so a net income of $1.90.

That's not great, considering the GPU costs $1,500, as it would take two full years of 24/7 mining just to break even. But compared to RobotCache? It's a damn bargain! See, RobotCache pays you in Iron, and with the RTX 3090 the estimated Iron per day is a whopping 21.3. The value of said Iron is $1.00 per 100 Iron, so instead of making $1.90 in Ethereum, you instead earn $0.213 in Iron. And that's before you have to account for power costs.

Bottom line: RobotCache is hoping to prey on innocent victims. I can just imagine some young gamer using his home PC and leaving it mining while idle. Even with an extreme GPU and CPU, it would take over two months to earn enough Iron to purchase a full priced game. Right now for example, RobotCache estimates 119 days of mining to earn enough Iron to purchase Wasteland 3. So, after four months of mining, and a cost of $130 or so in power, you'd earn a $60 game.

Except, the math is wrong. Yes, you read the correctly: RobotCache is lying on the math! Because the "~119 days" isn't based on your actual PC hardware. I don't know where they pulled that number from. (Actually, I do: it's from "Current Wallet Balance and Avg User Earnings" — suggesting there are a hell of a lot of gullible users of this software!) The reality is with a 3090 you'd actually earn 22 Iron per day (being generous and rounding up), and you need 5999 Iron to buy Wasteland 3. That means it would actually take 273 days, and a cost of about $0.85 per day. Your 'free' game thus ends up costing over $230.

Or maybe not? I still don't know where the Iron per day estimate comes from, but it's all over the place. Just watching while I wrote this post, I've seen it as low as ~12 Iron per day and as high as ~110 Iron per day. The screenshot after about 45 minutes of mining shows an estimate of 65 Iron per day. That's almost enough to break even prospect on power cost vs. game cost. But it's also one fourth what you'd make from mining Ethereum.

Also, just a parting thought: Consumer GPUs aren't really designed for 24/7 operation at 100% load. I've done it in the past, and I've killed off a lot of graphics cards. Some cards only lasted about six months before the fans failed, while others would last about two years. Neither one represents a good return on investment, unless you get the hardware for free and get free (or very cheap) power to run it.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Intel die sizes: Coffee Lake, Comet Lake, and Ice Lake

Intel, for whatever reason, has seen fit to stop publishing die sizes and transistor counts (estimates) on it's latest CPUs. It's a strange move, probably driven by the company's difficulties with getting high-end 10nm parts out the door. Sure, Ice Lake now exists and is readily available, but 10nm was at least three years late. But I digress.

I really just wanted to gather all the die size information I had into one place, for ease of reference. Transistor counts could be estimated, but the density varies depending on what sort of logic is in use (cache, branch predictor, etc.) so I'm not going to even try. But here are the current die sizes, based on physical chip measurements (which are accurate to within probably 2%):

These first three come courtesy of der8auer, who routinely delids CPUs. (Links to Amazon earn me affiliate commissions.)

Core i7-8700K die size: 9.2 x 16.7 mm ~= 153.6 mm2
Core i9-9900K die size: 9.2 x 19.6 mm ~= 180.3 mm2
Core i9-10900K die size: 9.2 x 22.4 mm ~= 206.1 mm2

What about Ice Lake? As with recent Intel U-series processors, the package has two chips. The smaller is the platform controller hub (PCH) while the larger represents the main Ice Lake CPU. I've seen earlier estimates based on the Ice Lake wafer that the die size was around 130 mm2. However, using the package shots it's actually smaller than that.

Ice Lake / Core i7-1065G7 die size: 11.40 x 10.78 mm ~= 122.9 mm2
Ice Lake PCH die size: 5.74 x 9.42 mm ~= 54.1 mm2

Intel does have plans to release server variants of Ice Lake, which presumably means yields are good enough that it can actually manufacture larger chips. But how big would such a chip be?

The current 123 mm2 Ice Lake chips have a rather large GPU cluster that wouldn't be needed for servers. In fact, the 4-core CPU cluster only occupies about a quarter of the entire die space right now, with other portions used for the DDR4 memory controller, system agent, and GPU.

To be more precise, the CPU cores and ring bus use about 26.5% of the die area. The Gen11 graphics is about one third (33.6%) of the die space, the DDR4 controller is only 6.3% of the die, and the system agent makes up the remaining 33.6% of the die.

So if Intel wanted to make, for example, a 32-core Ice Lake server part using the same size Sunny Cove cores, with an 8-channel memory interface, it wouldn't even need to be that big of a chip. Oh, it would be much larger than the current Ice Lake-U CPU+GPU's 123 mm2, but as a rough estimate, Intel could do 32-core Ice Lake with a die size of about 375 mm2. Piece of cake! And only two years late compared to the competition.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Intel Skylake-X and Cascade Lake-X Die Sizes

I'm going to keep this fairly simple, but I figure if I couldn't easily find this information, others are probably looking for it as well. Basically, Intel never gave out information on the die size of it's Skylake-X and later Cascade Lake-X CPUs. The best way to get a reasonable estimate of die size is from shots where extreme overclockers and enthusiasts have delidded the chips. I've gathered what I could find out there to come up with the following data.

There are three variants of Skylake-X (SKL-X) and Cascade Lake-X (CSL-X). While CSL-X chips do have some minor changes to the underlying design (like hardware mitigations of some side-channel attacks), fundamentally not much has changed. So the following should apply to all chips of each family.

The LCC (Low Core Count) variety of Skylake-X has up to 10 cores. This is the die used in Core i9-7900X, Core i9-9900X, and Core i9-10900X. It's also used in the Core i7-7800X, Core i7-7820X, Core i7-9800X, and Core i9-9820X.

HCC (High Core Count) Skylake-X CPUs have anywhere from 12 to 18 cores. These chips (not counting Xeon models) consist of the Core i9-7920X, Core i9-7940X, Core i9-7960X, Core i9-7980XE, Core i9-9920X, Core i9-9940X, Core i9-9960X, and Core i9-9980XE from the Skylake-X family, and the Core i9-10920X, Core i9-10940X, and Core i9-10980XE from the Cascade Lake-X family.

Finally, the XCC (Extreme Core Count) models have 20 to 28 cores. These are used exclusively in Xeon chips -- they're not intended for enthusiasts. Of course there is the Xeon W-3175X "enthusiast" chip that has the full 28 cores, but at $3,000 I'm pretty sure no one bought it for gaming purposes.

But the question I had is: what are the actual die sizes of these various chips? So I did some sleuthing and came up with the following.

First, GamersNexus has some nice shots of a delidded Core i9-7900X next to a ruler. The measurements show a size of approximately 24.5 x 14 mm, giving a final die size of 343mm square. That's the easy one and you can find quite a few other places with pictures and estimates of die size. It's probably accurate to within 1-2%, which is fine since transistor counts are probably estimated in a similar fashion.

Skylake-X LCC Die Size: ~343 mm square

Stepping up to the HCC chip, not many people delidded that one. I found this thread on Overclockers where user batboy delidded his Core i9-7920X, and der8auer also delidded an i9-7920X. We do know the package size for all the Skylake-X chips (it's officially 52.5 x 45 mm, which is accurate to within ~0.25mm I assume). Using that and the delidded images, I estimated die size.

The der8auer image is better for this, and gives a package width of 684 pixels and a die width of 344 pixels, with a package height of 787 pixels and a chip height of 329 pixels. Using simple math, that works out to a die size of about 22.6 x 21.9 mm, or 495 mm square (plus or minus 5 mm square).

Skylake-X HCC Die Size: ~495 mm square

Finally, the Skylake-X XCC die is a bit harder to find, but der8auer comes through again with a video where he delidded and overclocked the $3000 W-3175X. Not that he paid for the chip, but still. Anyway, I've grabbed a shot after the delidding, adjusted the angles a bit to make it easier, and used information on the LGA3647 package size to arrive at the actual die size.

The image shows a width of 763 pixels for the package and 216 for the die width, with a package height of 538 pixels and a die height of 302 pixels. Crunching the numbers, that gives a final die size of approximately 21.7 x 31.7 mm.

Skylake-X XCC Die Size: ~688 mm square

Obviously there's still a bit of wiggle room, but the above is about as good of an estimate as I can provide. Equally obvious: Skylake-X is a big CPU in its LCC incarnation, and even bigger at HCC. Around 500mm square in size is one of the larger CPUs Intel has made. And of course, it can't hold a candle to the XCC die size of nearly 700mm square.

My real question: Just how big will Intel's Xe Graphics HPC variant be? That wafer shot from Raja, along with some of the things IntelGraphics has tweeted, suggests it will be the biggest chip Intel has ever made. And yes, it's going to be very expensive -- even more than Xeon XCC CPUs I'd wager.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Journey to the Savage Planet - all Kindex scans

So, this isn't my usual thing, but I got going and decided I'd try to hit 100 percent on Journey to the Savage Planet so I can retire it properly. You need to scan a bunch of stuff, find all sort of 'hidden' things, etc. You can get upgrades that will eventually make it easier to find the alien tablets and videos, yellow globs, and alien alloys. The one thing you'll just have to sort of do as you go is scan things. Here's the complete list of all the stuff you can scan, then, in alphabetical order:

Alien Pumpjack
Alien Teleportation Pedestal
Cracked Stone Grate
Crystalline Beacon
Enigmatic Tabliet
Genetic Samples
Leaping Alien Petroglyph
Mysterious Shrine
Ornate Alien Chest
Planet Seed
Rotating Mechanism
Strange Alien Barrier
Strange Alien Statue
Unknown Explorer's Log

Baboushka (Demi)
Baboushka (Quarter)
Burglesnatch (Balmy)
Burglesnatch (Tundra)
Imperial Scarab
Osmotic Cube
Pufferbird (Alpha)
Pufferbird (Cave)
Pufferbird (Snowy)
Pufferbird (Valley)
Skipper (Royal)
Skipper (Scotch)
Skipper (Tortoiseshell)

Boomerbang (Feral)
Boomerbang (Hermit)
Floopsnoot Matriarch
Infected Pufferbird
Insectoid Swarm
Jellywaft (Inferior)
Jellywaft (Prime)
Kapyena (Battle)
Kapyena (Widow)
Meat Vortex
Pikemander (Desert)
Pikemander (Marbled)
Slamphibian (Grizzled)
Slamphibian (Health)

Aluminum Vein
Amber Armor
Big Ol' Nut
Blight Bomb Plant (Baby)
Blight Bomb Plant (Teen)
Blight Bomb Plant
Bombegranate Plant (Baby)
Bombegranate Plant (Teen)
Bombegranate Plant
Bright Blossom
Bulwark Bush
Burgle Haven
Canopy Leaf
Carbon Vein
Crackle Cap
Dripping Orifice
Fragile Crystal
Giant Bombegranate Plant
Glow Shrub
Gossamer Wood
Grapple Flower
Grapple Rail
Grotesque Opening
Jellywaft Pit
Large Ant Mound
Larval Jelly
Massive Skull
Metallic Seed Bag
Polypod Tree
Puffer Spring
Pufferbird Burial Ground
Pufferbird Nest
Pus Launcher
Salt Crystal
Schnozo Hole
Shock Fruit Plant (Baby)
Shock Fruit Plant (Teen)
Shock Fruit Plant
Silicon Vein
Smoke Spout
Space Lettuce
Splinter Timber
Springy Egg Sac
Stone Armor
Swarm Hive
Swarm Hive Shield
Vitality Plant

3D Matter Reconstructor
Advanced Proton Tether
Binding Bile
Bio-Replication Chamber
Blight Bomb
Cartographer Deployment Hatch
Grapple Seed
Javelin Teleportation Field
Jump Thrusters
Kindred Aerospace
Kindred Computer
Launch Boosters
Martin Tweed
Meat Buddy Deluxe
Nomad Pistol
Proton Tether
Resources Backup Storage
Shock Fruit
Springy Seed
Stomp Boosters
Tactical GROB
The Cartographers
Your Sad Lifeless Body

Ancient Effigy
Crashed Meteor
Repulsive Tree
Runic Alien Bricks
Shattered Pod
Towering Statue

I'll leave off the AR-Y 26 stuff (it's 41 locations you visit over the course of the game) and resources, as those ought to be hard to miss. The only stuff I missed initially was scanning the Burglesnatches (hint: kill something outside the lair so it will appear, then use the binding bile on it to hold it still). Also, I didn't scan the smallest split on the Baboushka (the 'Quarter'), missed the Shattered Pod, and forgot to scan my backup storage (when you die). Hope this helps someone! Worth checking out this video of all scanned flora and creatures if you need more details (the time codes are in a 'spoiler' tag below the video, but the text isn't sorted in any meaningful way).