Intel’s Myriad of Events, RTX 3090 Leak, and the new iMac

Intel has been grabbing its fair share of headlines over the past month due to the publication of upcoming technologies during Architecture Day 2020 and a data breach containing twenty gigabytes of intellectual property. The latter is an unfortunate event which may have repercussions for months or years to come depending on a lack of ethics for those who consumed this data. Focusing on the positives and outcomes of Architecture Day 2020, our take on topics covered through the associated materials within the Intel Newsroom site would be mixed in nature based upon NDA information which cannot be shared. From the consumer perspective, Tiger Lake will right the performance deficiencies wrongs introduced with Ice Lake while simultaneously enhancing the value proposition of Intel’s iGPU offerings. September 2nd may be the day where Intel begins to stem the bleeding against Ryzen 4000-series laptops from the performance perspective. Price and availability will play a critical role in adoption. Our mobile compute transition occurred earlier this year and involved switching out a 2018 MacBook Air with a Lenovo Flex 5 14″ laptop that is powered by a Ryzen 5 4500U processor. If Apple does release one final x86-based iteration of the MacBook Air using Tiger Lake, it may be an instant buy for those who utilize the form factor and want to allow the Apple SoC transition to reach an optimized level of maturity before making the switch.

The second point of interest to come out of Architecture Day 2020 involves clarification related to Intel’s GPU roadmap and strategy. Ryan Smith over at Anandtech has produced an excellent analysis of the provided information. The 2021 launch of the HPG variant, which is tailored for gaming and possibly the prosumer market, may end up placing this product into a similar position as the Intel i740 graphics card. The i740 wasn’t the fastest solution. The ecosystem of third-party vendors producing the cards was limited. However, the ability to output sufficient frame rates at commonly utilized resolutions was enhanced by reasonable (for pre-2000) pricing. A 2021 launch for the HPG means that nVidia’s impending RTX 3000-series GPUs will be a well-known and top-tier solution within the designated price points for the product family. AMD may have it’s RDNA 2-based GPUs on the market as well. With these options on the table, the mid-range to high-end market will be more than satisfied with the available options. More competition in this space is needed yet the process-related challenges that have plagued Intel for years may be detrimental to their re-entry into the graphics market. As Ryan noted, HPG will be fabbed externally to Intel. The internally produced graphics products (LP, HP, HPC) will cover a very wide range of performance, power utilization and associated thermals. Previously unconfirmed TDP specifications, which were published by Tom’s Hardware earlier this year, included 75-150 W for single tile designs (LP), a 300W TDP for 2-tile designs (HP) and a 400-500W TDP range for 4-tile designs (HPC). With HPG being produced using a different and external process, it will be intriguing to see where it lands from a power consumption and thermal perspective.

The confirmed existence of the GeForce RTX 3090 occurred prior to the official reveal that has been teased by Nvidia. The fine folks at Micron released details and technical specifications surrounding the GDDR6X memory that is used in conjunction with what will be the flagship consumer offering within the Ampere product stack. In a few weeks, we’ll all know more about what improvements Ampere will tangibly bring to the space. In the meantime, the published materials highlight how GDDR’s progression has been effective at postponing a transition to HBM for higher-end graphical applications. Datacenter-based solutions from Nvidia and AMD have used HBM successfully for years now yet the scale of economies hasn’t changed as anticipated.

Finally, we’ve taken delivery of a 27″ 2020 iMac. This swan song for Intel packs up to a 10-core i9 processor along with a myriad of current generation, mid-range AMD GPUs. The most significant changes involve the introduction of the T2 Security Processor (which was available in the Mac mini line since 2018, the iMac Pro since its inception, and the 2019 Mac Pro), a 1080p webcam, improved microphones, further optimization to the speakers, and an option to have the glass nano-textured for a matte finish. This last modification adds $500 to the price of the device and would be beneficial in very bright rooms. As memory remains upgradable and accessible after purchase, sticking with the base 8 GB RAM setup and performing the minimally challenging labor of upgrading using a quality memory kit remains the best cost-optimization move. Jeff Benjamin over at 9 To 5 Mac provides additional details of the savings at various memory capacities along with a how-to video for performing the upgrade if you’ve never undertaken the task before. It’s dramatically easier to install memory in a 27″ iMac versus the full unit disassembly required for upgrading memory in the 2018 and newer Mac mini. We continue to utilize speed-appropriate G.Skill Ripjaws SODIMM modules due to how well the company honors its warranty if a module fails. The OWC kits noted in the comparison and procedure performed by Jeff are also excellent. However, saving another $70 on the third-party price listed in the savings table made the procurement of G.Skill memory a no-brainer.

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