Hardware and Software Security Fixes

The Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities made quite a splash earlier this year, forcing makers of hardware and software to release updates in order to tackle them. There are several ways to fix the issues, including software, firmware, and hardware updates. Each generation of product is slowly implementing fixes, including some of the new 9th Generation processors.

At this point Intel has split the list down into 5/6 wide variants of different types of vulnerabilities. For all processors beyond mid-2018, here is what the fix table looks like:

Spectre and Meltdown on Intel
AnandTech SKX-R
CFL-R Cascade Lake Whiskey
Spectre Variant 1 Bounds Check Bypass OS/VMM OS/VMM OS/VMM OS/VMM OS/VMM
Spectre Variant 2 Branch Target Injection Firmware + OS Firmware + OS Hardware + OS Firmware + OS Firmware + OS
Meltdown Variant 3 Rogue Data Cache Load Firmware Hardware Hardware Hardware Firmware
Meltdown Variant 3a Rogue System Register Read Firmware Firmware Firmware Firmware Firmware
  Variant 4 Speculative Store Bypass Firmware + OS Firmware + OS Firmware + OS Firmware + OS Firmware + OS
  Variant 5 L1 Terminal Fault Firmware Hardware Hardware Hardware Firmware

The new 9th Generation processors, listed as CFL-R (Coffee Lake Refresh), has implemented hardware fixes for variant 3, Rogue Data Cache Load, and variant 5, L1 Terminal Fault.

Because the new chips have required new masks for manufacturing, Intel has been able to make these changes. The goal of moving the changes into hardware means that the hardware is always protected, regardless of OS or environment, and with the hope that any additional overhead created by a software fix can be lessened if done in hardware.

(S)TIM: Soldered Down Processors

With the desktop processors we use today, they are built from a silicon die (the smart bit), a package substrate (the green bit), a heatspreader (the silver bit), and a material that helps transfer heat from the silicon die to the heatspreader. The quality of the binding between the silicon die and the heatspreader using this thermal interface material is a key component in the processors ability to remove the heat generated from using it.

Traditionally there are two different types of thermal material: a heat conductive paste, or a bonded metal. Both have positives and negatives.

The heat conductive paste is a universal tool – it can be applied to practically any manufactured processor, and is able to deal with a wide range of changing conditions. Because metals expand under temperature, when a processor is used and gets hot, it expands – so does the heatspreader. The paste can easily deal with this. This allows paste-based processors to live longer and in more environments. Using a bonded metal typically reduces the level of thermal cycling possible, as the metal also expands and contracts in a non-fluid way. This might mean the processors has a rated lifespan of several years, rather than a dozen years. However, the bonded metal solution performs a lot, lot better – metal conducts heat better than the silicon-based pastes – but it is slightly more expensive (a dollar or two per unit, at most, when the materials and manufacturing are taken into account).

Thermal Interface
Intel Celeron Pentium Core i3 Core i5 Core i7
Core i9
Sandy Bridge LGA1155 Paste Paste Paste Bonded Bonded Bonded
Ivy Bridge LGA1155 Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste Bonded
Haswell / DK LGA1150 Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste Bonded
Broadwell LGA1150 Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste Bonded
Skylake LGA1151 Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste
Kaby Lake LGA1151 Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste -
Coffee Lake 1151 v2 Paste Paste Paste Paste Paste -
CFL-R 1151 v2 ? ? ? K = Bonded -
Zambezi AM3+ Bonded Carrizo AM4 Bonded
Vishera AM3+ Bonded Bristol R AM4 Bonded
Llano FM1 Paste Summit R AM4 Bonded
Trinity FM2 Paste Raven R AM4 Paste
Richland FM2 Paste Pinnacle AM4 Bonded
Kaveri FM2+ Paste / Bonded* TR TR4 Bonded
Carrizo FM2+ Paste TR2 TR4 Bonded
Kabini AM1 Paste      
*Some Kaveri Refresh were bonded

In our Ryzen APU delidding article, we went through the process of removing the heatspreader and conductive paste from a popular low cost product, and we showed that replacing that paste with a bonded liquid metal improved temperatures, overclocking, and performance in mid-range overclocks. If any company wants to make enthusiasts happy, using a bonded metal is the way to go.

For several years, Intel has always stated that they are there for enthusiasts. In the distant past, as the table above shows, Intel provided processors with a soldered bonded metal interface and was happy to do so. In recent times however, the whole product line was pushed into the heat conductive paste for a number of reasons.

As Intel was continually saying that they still cared about enthusiasts, a number of users were concerned that Intel was getting itself confused. Some believed that Intel had ‘enthusiasts’ and ‘overclockers’ in two distinct non-overlapping categories. It is what it is, but now Intel has returned to using applying STIM and wants to court overclockers again.

Intel has officially confirmed that new 9th generation processors will feature a layer of solder making up the TIM between the die and the IHS. The new processors with solder include the Core i9-9900K, the Core i7-9700K and Core i5-9600K.

As we’ll show in this review, the combination of STIM plus other features are of great assistance when pushing the new processors to the overclocking limits. Intel’s own overclocking team at the launch event hit 6.9 GHz temporarily using exotic sub-zero coolants such as liquid nitrogen.

Motherboards and the Z390 Chipset

One of the worst kept secrets this year has been Intel’s Z390 chipset. If you believe everything the motherboard manufacturers have told me, most of them had been ready for this release for several months, hence why seeing around 55 new motherboards hit the market this month and into next.

The Z390 chipset is an update to Z370, and both types of motherboards will support 8000-series and 9000-series processors (Z370 will need a BIOS update). The updates are similar to the updates seen with B360: native USB 3.1 10 Gbps ports, and integrated Wi-Fi on the chipset.

Intel Z390, Z370 and Z270 Chipset Comparison
Feature Z390 Z370 Z270
Max PCH PCIe 3.0 Lanes 24 24 24
Max USB 3.1 (Gen2/Gen1) 6/10 0/10 0/10
Total USB 14 14 14
Max SATA Ports 6 6 6
PCIe Config x16
Memory Channels 2 2 2
Intel Optane Memory Support Y Y Y
Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) Y Y Y
Max Rapid Storage Technology Ports 3 3 3
Integrated 802.11ac WiFi MAC Y N N
Intel Smart Sound Y Y Y
Integrated SDXC (SDA 3.0) Support Y N N
DMI 3.0 3.0 3.0
Overclocking Support Y Y Y
Intel vPro N N N
Max HSIO Lanes 30 30 30
Intel Smart Sound Y Y Y
ME Firmware 12 11 11

The integrated Wi-Fi uses CNVi, which allows the motherboard manufacturer to use one of Intel’s three companion RF modules as a PHY, rather than using a potentially more expensive MAC+PHY combo from a different vendor (such as Broadcom). I have been told that the cost of implementing a CRF adds about $15 to the retail price of the board, so we are likely to see some vendors experiment with mid-price models with-and-without Wi-Fi using this method.

ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac

For the USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, Type-A ports are supported natively and motherboard manufacturers will have to use re-driver chips to support Type-C reversibility. These come at extra cost, as one might expect. It will be interesting to see how manufacturers mix and match the Gen 2, Gen 1, and USB 2.0 ports on the rear panels, now they have a choice. I suspect it will come down to signal integrity on the traces on the motherboard.

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

For the Z390 chipset and motherboards, we have our usual every-board-overview post, covering every model the manufacturers would tell us about. Interestingly there is going to be a mini-ITX with Thunderbolt 3, and one board with a PLX chip! There are also some motherboards with Realtek’s 2.5G Ethernet controller – now if only we also had consumer grade switches.

Coffee Lake Refresh: A Refresher Test Bed and Setup
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • DominionSeraph - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    The 8700k is also pulling 150W while the 8086k is 95W. Something's not right there.
  • _mat - Wednesday, November 7, 2018 - link

    There can be two reasons why that is the case:

    1) The mainboard settings for Power Limits were different.
    2) The 8086K ran into Power Limit 1 while the 8700K was not.

    Whatever is the case here, it is no doubt that the 8086K did run into Power Limit 1 after the "Time Above PL1" (= power budget) was depleted. The 95 Watts are exactly the specified TDP of the CPU and Intel recommends this as Power Limit 1 value.

    So the problem here is that the Power Limits and Current Limits of the mainboard are not properly documented and seem to differ between the test candidates. While the 8086K obviously had Power Limits in place, the 9th gen CPUs were benched with no limits at all (only temperature limit at 100 °C on a core).

    Also, the whole page on power consumption needs rework. The TDP does matter depending on the board and its default settings.
  • ballsystemlord - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    Ian! Many of your tests ( Y-Cruncher multithreaded, apptimer, FCAT - ROTR, WinRAR ), are taking too short of a time. You need some differentiation here! Please make them harder.
  • R0H1T - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    >In case the previous comment was missed.

    I see that the last few pages have included a note about Z390 used because the Z370 board was over-volting the chip? Yet on the Overclocking page we see the Z370 listed with max CPU package power at 168 Watts? Could you list the (default) auto voltage applied by the Asrock Z370 & if appropriate update the charts on OCing page with the Z390 as well?
  • mapesdhs - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    "Intel has promised that its 10nm manufacturing process will ramp through 2019, ..."

    Ian, what promises did Intel make 2 years ago about what they would be supplying now?
  • eastcoast_pete - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    My guess is that Intel is now printing those promises in 10 nm font size (easily readable with a standard electron microscope). See, they moved to 10 nm by 2018!
  • ballsystemlord - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    Actually, fonts are measured in points. So, it's 10pt, and it's rather legible.
    But, as for products, I don't see any either.
  • darkos - Sunday, October 21, 2018 - link

    nice review, but: please add a flight simulation such as x-plane and prepar3d or fsx. this is an area that is sadly, missing from your reviews.
  • kasboh - Monday, October 22, 2018 - link

    Do I see it correctly that there is little benefit of HyperThreading with 8 core CPUs?
  • eXterminuss - Monday, October 22, 2018 - link

    I am quiet shocked to see that Anandtech is using a vastly outdated and in parts plainly wrong description for World of tanks:
    1. The enCore engine ist being used in world of tanks for quiet a while now (10 month)
    2.World of tanks is a free to play game, no elements hiden behind a paywall, e. g. no more features for a paying customer than for a freelooter.
    3. Since the outadted EnCore benchmark was used, i would have at least expected to see the Results of that benchmark being posted aswell.
    Sincerly yours,
    eXterminuss a World of Tanks Player

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now