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    Report: Apple buys every 3 nm chip that TSMC can make for next-gen iPhones and Macs / ArsTechnica · Monday, 7 August - 20:35 · 1 minute

Silicon wafers from a TSMC factory.

Enlarge / Silicon wafers from a TSMC factory. (credit: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.)

It's been rumored for several months now that Apple will be using a new 3 nm manufacturing process from Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) for its next-generation chips, including M3 series processors for Macs and the A17 Bionic for some next-gen iPhones . But new reporting from The Information illuminates some of the favorable terms that Apple has secured to keep its costs down: Apple places huge chip orders worth billions of dollars, and in return, TSMC eats the cost of defective processor dies.

At a very high level, chip companies use large silicon wafers to create multiple chips at once, and the wafer is then sliced into many individual processor dies. It's normal, especially early in the life of an all-new manufacturing process, for many of those dies to end up with defects—either they don't work at all, or they don't perform to the specifications of the company that ordered them.

Normally, chip designers would have to pay for each individual die whether it worked or not; that's a major reason why companies sell cut-down or "binned" chips that run at lower clock speeds or have parts switched off. That way, they can recover some money from a defective die instead of none. Apple's orders with TSMC are apparently large enough that TSMC can afford not to charge Apple for defective dies.

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    Ex-Samsung executive alleged to have stolen tech to recreate chip plant in China / ArsTechnica · Monday, 12 June - 13:05

Samsung and ROK flags

Enlarge / A South Korean flag, left, and Samsung Electronics Co. flag fly outside the company's headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, July 5, 2019. (credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images )

A former executive at Samsung Electronics has been arrested and indicted in South Korea for allegedly stealing the leading chipmaker’s technology in order to build a copycat plant in China.

The indictment of the 65-year-old Korean national, who had also served as a vice president at rival Korean chipmaker SK Hynix, comes as South Korea attempts to beef up its defenses against a concerted campaign by Chinese companies to acquire cutting-edge Korean technologies.

According to a statement released by Korean prosecutors on Monday, the former Samsung vice president, who has not been named, illegally acquired information needed to build advanced chipmaking facilities.

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    Samsung and AMD extend Exynos GPU partnership, hope to find customers / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 6 April, 2023 - 18:00 · 1 minute

Samsung and AMD extend Exynos GPU partnership, hope to find customers

Enlarge (credit: Samsung / AMD / Ron Amadeo)

Samsung Electronics and AMD are extending their smartphone chip agreement. In a press release today, the two companies said they "signed a multi-year agreement extension to bring multiple generations of high-performance, ultra-low-power AMD Radeon graphics solutions to an expanded portfolio of Samsung Exynos SoCs." Even Samsung is reluctant to use Samsung chips these days, so it's not clear what devices these AMD GPUs will land in.

Samsung's chip division and AMD have already done a generation of an Exynos SoC with an AMD GPU. That chip was the Exynos 2200, with its "Samsung Xclipse 920 GPU" that was co-developed by AMD. Samsung's phone division—which doesn't necessarily have a bias toward the chip division's products—shipped that chip in the S22 in some regions like Europe, while shipping the S22 with Qualcomm chips in other regions, like the US and China. Exynos chips have a bad reputation for constantly having lower performance compared to Qualcomm chips, and the Exynos 2200 was no exception. The chip didn't do well against the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in benchmarks and power usage, and Samsung fans once again had to deal with getting " inferior phones " depending on what country they lived in.

The one win the Xclipse GPU had over Qualcomm was in ray tracing. In today's four-paragraph press release, Samsung and AMD point out twice that "Xclipse was the industry’s first mobile GPU with hardware-accelerated ray tracing." Samsung's 2022 chip is better at ray tracing than Qualcomm's 2023 chip! The problem is, being an early adopter of ray tracing isn't really relevant for mobile gaming. Mobile games are built for a causal audience and target mass-market hardware. With the need to also balance battery life, that market doesn't value high graphics fidelity. As you can see with Lenovo killing off its gaming smartphone line, the attempts to bring hardcore gaming values to smartphones have not found a huge audience.

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    Samsung heir pardoned due to South Korean economic needs / ArsTechnica · Friday, 12 August, 2022 - 15:45

Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., leaves the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday. After a presidential pardon, Lee is poised to retake control of South Korea's largest commercial entity.

Enlarge / Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., leaves the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday. After a presidential pardon, Lee is poised to retake control of South Korea's largest commercial entity. (credit: Getty Images)

Samsung Electronics Vice-Chair Jay Y. Lee received a presidential pardon Friday for his role in a 2016 political scandal, a move the South Korean government says is necessary so the country's largest chaebol can help steady the national economy.

“In a bid to overcome the economic crisis by vitalizing the economy, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong… will be reinstated,” the Korean government stated in a joint press release from its ministries, according to Bloomberg News .

Lee, 54, known as Lee Jae-yong in Korea, was arrested in February 2017 on charges that he was complicit in Samsung paying millions in bribes to various organizations tied to a presidential advisor in order to win favor for an $8 billion merger of two Samsung Group units. In August 2017, Lee was convicted of perjury, embezzlement, hiding assets outside the country, and being one of five Samsung executives who paid $6.4 million in bribes to ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

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    Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 adds battery life, screen strength, and temperature sensor / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 10 August, 2022 - 15:31

The Galaxy Watch 5 has a notably flat-front screen, so it's good Samsung has upgraded the display to sapphire crystal.

Enlarge / The Galaxy Watch 5 has a notably flat-front screen, so it's good Samsung has upgraded the display to sapphire crystal. (credit: Samsung)

Samsung announced the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro on Wednesday, giving its round, semi-rotating Wear OS watches new looks, a tougher screen material, and—for reasons the company can only vaguely explain—an infrared temperature sensor.

Neither the $280 Watch 5, available in 40 or 44 mm sizes, nor the 44 mm $450 Watch 5 Pro has a physically rotating bezel, a distinguishing Galaxy Watch feature that was limited in the last generation to the higher-end Watch 4 "Classic" (which is still available). Instead, both models have capacitive touch bezels, so you can run your finger around the edge to scroll.

Both Galaxy Watch 5 models look just like the official 3D rendering leaks scooped up by Evan Blass at 91Mobiles . Their displays have been upgraded to sapphire crystal, which should help bolster the Watch 5's flat-front display. Samsung says this material is "60 percent harder" than prior watch displays.

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    Samsung Encryption Flaw / Schneier · Wednesday, 2 March, 2022 - 20:45 · 1 minute

Researchers have found a major encryption flaw in 100 million Samsung Galaxy phones.

From the abstract:

In this work, we expose the cryptographic design and implementation of Android’s Hardware-Backed Keystore in Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S9, S10, S20, and S21 flagship devices. We reversed-engineered and provide a detailed description of the cryptographic design and code structure, and we unveil severe design flaws. We present an IV reuse attack on AES-GCM that allows an attacker to extract hardware-protected key material, and a downgrade attack that makes even the latest Samsung devices vulnerable to the IV reuse attack. We demonstrate working key extraction attacks on the latest devices. We also show the implications of our attacks on two higher-level cryptographic protocols between the TrustZone and a remote server: we demonstrate a working FIDO2 WebAuthn login bypass and a compromise of Google’s Secure Key Import.

Here are the details:

As we discussed in Section 3, the wrapping key used to encrypt the key blobs (HDK) is derived using a salt value computed by the Keymaster TA. In v15 and v20-s9 blobs, the salt is a deterministic function that depends only on the application ID and application data (and constant strings), which the Normal World client fully controls. This means that for a given application, all key blobs will be encrypted using the same key. As the blobs are encrypted in AES-GCM mode-of-operation, the security of the resulting encryption scheme depends on its IV values never being reused.

Gadzooks. That’s a really embarrassing mistake. GSM needs a new nonce for every encryption. Samsung took a secure cipher mode and implemented it insecurely.

News article .

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    Samsung seemingly caught swapping components in its 970 Evo Plus SSDs / ArsTechnica · Friday, 27 August, 2021 - 22:20 · 1 minute

You can

Enlarge / You can't see the part number which distinguishes the newer, slower drive from the older, faster one on the box—you need to check the PN field in the top center of the label on the drive itself. (credit: Jim Salter)

Recently, major SSD vendors Crucial and Western Digital have both been caught swapping out TLC NAND in their consumer SSDs for cheaper but much lower-performance, lower-endurance QLC NAND. Samsung appears to be joining them in the part-swapping corner of shame today, thanks to Chinese Youtuber 潮玩客, who documented a new version of the Samsung 970 Evo Plus using an inferior drive controller.

Although the consumer-facing model number of the drives did not change—it was a 970 Evo Plus last year, and it's still a 970 Evo Plus now—the manufacturer part number did. Unfortunately, the manufacturer part number isn't visible on the box the SSD comes in—as far as we've been able to determine, it's only shown on a small label on the drive itself.

Falling off the write cliff

We tested the 970 Evo Plus (alongside the 980, and the older 970 Pro) in March, clocking it at write speeds of 1,600+ MiB/sec on 1MiB workloads. Our benchmarking was done with he old version, part number MZVLB1T0HBLR. The newer version—part number MZVL21T0HBLU—is considerably slower. According to 潮玩客's test results, the newer version only manages 830MiB/sec—half the performance of the original.

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    TSMC is considering a 3 nm foundry in Arizona / ArsTechnica · Friday, 14 May, 2021 - 17:57

In a few years, Phoenix residents will be seeing a lot more of this logo.

Enlarge / In a few years, Phoenix residents will be seeing a lot more of this logo. (credit: SOPA Images )

Reuters reports that TSMC—Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the chip foundry making advanced processors for Apple, AMD, and Qualcomm—is beefing up its plans to build factories in Arizona while turning away from an advanced plant in Europe.

Last year, TSMC announced that it would invest $10-$12 billion to build a new 5 nm capable foundry near Phoenix, Arizona. According to Reuters' sources, TSMC officials are considering trebling the company's investment by building a $25 billion second factory capable of building 3 nm chips. More tentative plans are in the works for 2 nm foundries as the Phoenix campus grows over the next 10-15 years as well.

US President Joe Biden called for $50 billion to subsidize US chip manufacturing facilities, and the US Senate may take action on the item this week. Strong domestic manufacturing capacity is seen as critical, since US chip firms such as Nvidia and Qualcomm rely on Asian manufacturing facilities. TSMC would be competing with Samsung and Intel to secure these Biden administration subsidies.

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