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Thread: Anandtech News

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    #11271

    Anandtech: China's SMIC To Build a GigaFab for $8.87B: An Answer to the Shortages

    As a result of being on the US Entity list, SMIC's blacklisting has caused troubles in the company developing and deploying leading-edge fabrication technologies. As a result, it has been forced to focus on mature nodes, which still have plenty of use in long-life cycle parts for electronics and the automotive industry. On Friday the company announced plans to build China's first GigaFab, a 300 mm production facility with planned capacity of around 100,000 wafer starts per month (WSPM). The fab will cost nearly $8.87 billion.
    Building Up Capacity for Mature Nodes

    The new fab will be located near Shanghai, in the Lingang Free Trade Zone (FTZ), and will be built as a partnership between SMIC and the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government. The fab will process 300 mm wafers using mature production technologies, such as 28 nm and above. These nodes are typically used for various chips with a very long lifecycle, and which are in short supply now. Over the past few months various leading PC makers complained about deficit of cheap components like display driver ICs (DDICs) or Wi-Fi controllers and these chips are made using 28 nm and larger nodes. Other industries, such as the automotive industry, have been crying out for new supplies - given China's rather large car market, there is pent up demand for more sources of fundamental electronic components.
    SMIC did not indicate when it expects the new fab to go online, but it is reasonable to expect it to become operational two or three years down the road. Despite this the company also did not increase its CapEx of $4.3 billion for 2021 from the number it announced earlier this year, perhaps indiciating that this will be a 2022 project when it starts. Once this happens, SMIC will be able to make a significant contribution to the global supply of semiconductors produced using mature fabrication processes.
    The new fab will be China's only GigaFab for logic semiconductors (it has several for DRAM, which is considered separate). Here we are using TSMC's terminology for 'GigaFab', which is a 300mm fab with a production capacity of 100,000 or more wafer starts per month.
    Earlier this year SMIC initiated a project to build a 300mm fab near Shenzhen for $2.35 billion. That fab is set to eventually achieve production capacity of around 40,000 wafer starts per month and use 28 and larger fabrication technologies. This smaller fab will start operations sometimes in 2022, as semiconductor capacity demand by local companies in China is growing.
    In a bid to equip both fabs, SMIC inevitably has to use equipment produced by the U.S.-based makers, such as Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA, and Axcelis. All of them applied for export licenses to supply SMIC since the foundry is in the U.S. Department of Commerce's Entity List earlier this year. While we do not know if they were granted, the very fact that SMIC announces a fab with an unprecedented capacity (for China and SMIC) indicates that it believes it can equip its production facilities with proper equipment, either from the US or elsewhere.
    As always, SMIC will share ownership of the fab with authorities, in this particular case in the Lingang Free Trade Zone with co-investors. SMIC will own a controlling 51% stake, Shanghai Municipal People’s Government will own less than 25% and the outstanding 24% will be controlled by other investors set to be 'mutually found by SMIC and the local authorities.'
    Just In Time

    Mature process technologies, such as 40/45 nm, 55/65 nm, and 150/180 nm have been SMIC's livelihood, so expanding capacities for 300mm based processes (anything from 28nm to 45nm - larger process nodes tend to be on 200mm wafers) makes a great sense for the company. Furthermore, the company is investing additional money in 200mm fabs that use specialized nodes (90+nm) to produce chips for mixed-signal & RF, MEMS, and PMIC applications.
    Based on SMIC's financial report for Q2 2021, demand for its 28 nm technology has been fluctuating in the recent quarters, whereas demand for its 14 nm FinFET technology remained at a rather low level. It's worth noting that SMIC isn't the major 28nm player in China here - TSMC and UMC lead the market. But as more applications migrate to this node, demand for chips is increasing, and SMIC's 28 nm will account for a larger portion of its revenue, which is growing despite its restrictions.
    SMIC's fab utilization rate has always been rather high, but in Q2 2021 it rose to 100.4%, which essentially means that the company had to reduce its expected time on maintenance and focus more on production. This is a risky decision, so to avoid such moves in the future, SMIC needs to expand its capacities and with two all-new fabs it is doing this rather aggressively.
    SMIC does have a 14nm process node with FinFETs, and is expanding this as well. In the first half of 2020 SMIC's 14nm-capable capacity was around 4,000 WSPM (based on the company's data from back then). By now, this capacity has increased to 15,000 WSPM, according to a CnTechPost story, which has not verified by the company itself.
    Not Alone

    SMIC is definitely not alone with its production capacity expansion plans - GlobalFoundries, TSMC, and UMC are also financing in additional capacity for mature processes. TSMC is investing in its fab near Nanjing, China. GlobalFoundries is expanding its Fab 8 in upstate New York and is installing new equipment in its Fab 1 near Dresden Germany boost its capacity.
    But with such a huge demand for chips, it is inevitable that foundries will pull in some incredible amount of cash to fund their future development, which is exactly what SMIC is doing.

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    #11272

    Anandtech: Does an AMD Chiplet Have a Core Count Limit?

    When it was announced that AMD was set to give a presentation at Hot Chips on its newest Zen 3 microarchitecture, I was expecting the usual fare when a company goes through an already announced platform – a series of slides that we had seen before. In the Zen 3 presentation this was largely the case, except for one snippet of information that had not been disclosed before. This bit of info is quite important for considering AMD’s growth strategy.

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    #11273

    Anandtech: IBM Power10 Coming To Market: E1080 for ‘Frictionless Hybrid Cloud Experie

    Last year IBM presented details about its new Power10 family of processors: eight threads per core, 15 cores per chip, and two chips per socket, with a new core microarchitecture, built on Samsung’s 7nm process. New technologies such as PCIe 5.0 for add-in cards, PowerAXON for chip-to-chip interconnect, and OpenCAPI for a super wide memory support made Power10 sound like a beast, but the question was always about time to market – when could customers get one? Today IBM’s Power10 E1080 Servers are being announced, aimed squarely at the cloud market.


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    #11274

    Anandtech: The MSI GE76 Raider Review: Tiger Lake Plus Ampere Equals Framerate

    Let us pretend we are desktop people, thinking about building a new system. What would we look for? If we are after a gaming system, clearly we need a big GPU. A very beefy CPU is a nice touch as well if we want to keep the GPU fed. Plenty of memory, lots of storage, and maybe lots of ports for expansion. Add in a nice RGB keyboard, perhaps a high refresh display, and lots of cooling. Now let us imagine we pack that into a 2.9 kg / 6.4 lb package. That seems impossible, doesn’t it? What if we added in a 99.9 Wh UPS as well? Now that is really crazy. Let me present to you the MSI GE76 Raider, which brings all of this together into the 2021 version of MSI’s Raider series of gaming laptops.

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    #11275

    Anandtech: Next Gen NVMe SD Card Review: The SM2708 Controller Serves it Hot and Fast

    Flash-based removable media has a host of use cases in products ranging from content capture devices to portable game consoles. Behind the standards of these is the SD Association, and we saw the introduction of an NVMe-based SD Express standard (SD 7.0) in 2018, with a SD 8.0 follow-up in 2020. SD cards, as well as card readers based on these new standards, have been making the rounds at various trade shows since 2019. However, none went on to appear in the retail market. That is about to change in the coming months, with both ADATA and Lexar announcing plans to launch their SD Express 7.1 cards within the next few quarters. The cards from both vendors are based on the Silicon Motion SM2708 controller. Read on for a detailed look at what the controller brings to the table for flash-based removable storage.


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    #11276

    Anandtech: The ASRock Z590 OC Formula Review: An Iconic Brand Revival

    Whether overclocking the CPU is your cup of morning tea/coffee/something stronger or not, there are specific motherboards built by professional overclockers and engineers designed to squeeze out as much performance as possible. For example, while the regular everyday PC user might groan at the thought of spending $500 on a Z590 motherboard with two memory slots, boards such as the ASRock Z590 OC Formula pay homage to the art of overclocking. As such, legendary overclocker and ASRock employee Nick Shih has overseen the design and creation of one of the best series of motherboards for overclocking. The OC Formula has been ASRock's brand for their pinnicle performance motherboards for generations - it seemed dead as we hand't seen it in a while, but it as come back with some blazing style. The latest iteration has had a facelift and comes with a wave of features - but can ASRock strike the right balance between enthusiast and conventional? Let's find out in our review of the Z590 OC Formula.

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    #11277

    Anandtech: The Apple 2021 Fall iPhone Event Live Blog 10am PT (17:00 UTC)

    It's that time of the year again - Apple's fall iPhone event, where we expect the Cupertino company to unveil its newest generation family of iPhones - likely the iPhone 13 series.
    Last year's iPhone 12 series introduced a new industrial design, and we generally expect Apple to iterate and refine upon the form of last generation's phones. The industry rumblings are that we might be seeing some new generation OLED panels for the Pro models and high refresh rates for the first time. Cameras remain a mystery on whether Apple will upgrade things this generation.
    Naturally, we also expect Apple to introduce a new generation processor in the form of the A15. Apple's latest iterations of SoC silicon have been ground-breaking and industry leading, and we very much expect the new chip to further push the envelope in performance and efficiency.
    The live blog will start along with the event at 10am PT / 17:00 UTC / 19:00 CEST.

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    #11278

    Anandtech: Apple Announces iPhone 13 Series: A15, New Cameras, New Screens

    Today Apple held its fall 2021 iPhone launch event, and we’ve gotten 4 new iPhones from the new iPhone 13 series: the iPhone 13 mini, the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

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    #11279

    Anandtech: The Xiaomi 11T & 11T Pro Review: Two Chips, With a Battery Focus

    Today Xiaomi is announcing three new devices – the 11T, the 11T Pro and the 11 Lite 5G NE. We’ve had the first two in for review for a bit now and are able to give some first-hand experiences with the phones today.

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    #11280

    Anandtech: Cerebras In The Cloud: Get Your Wafer Scale in an Instance

    To date, most of the new AI hardware entering the market has been a ‘purchase necessary’ involvement. For any business looking to go down the route of using specialized AI hardware, they need to get hold of a test system, see how easy it is to migrate their workflow, then compute the cost/work/future of going down that route, if feasible. Most AI startups are flush with VC funding that they’re willing to put the leg work in for it, hoping to snag a big customer at some point to make that business profitable. One simple answer would be to offer the hardware in the cloud, but it takes a lot for a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to bite and offer that hardware as an option to their customers. Today’s announcement between Cerebras and Cirrascale is that as a CSP, Cirrascale will begin to offer wafer-scale instances based on Cerebras’ WSE2.


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