Steve Burke

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

The review is forthcoming – within a few hours – but we decided to tear-down EVGA's GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid ahead of the final review. The card is more advanced in its PCB and cooling solution than what we saw in the Corsair Hydro GFX / MSI Sea Hawk X tear-down, primarily because EVGA is deploying a Gigabyte-like coldplate that conducts thermals from the VRAM and to the CLC coldplate. It's an interesting fusion of cooling solutions, and one which makes GPU temperatures look higher than seems reasonable on the surface – prompting the tear-down – but is actually cooling multiple devices.

Anyway, here's a video of the tear-down process – photos to follow.

When we received the new 10-series laptops for review, we immediately noticed sluggishness in the OS just preparing the environment for testing. Even with an SSD, opening Windows Explorer took at least one full second – eternity, by today's standards. It was anything but instant, as a new computer should be, and would prompt outrage from any real-world consumer.

Looking further into the issue, we realized that the system tray accommodated 13 icons of pre-installed software that opened on launch. This included an incessant warranty registration pop-up/reminder, Norton Anti-Virus (the biggest offender on spurious CPU utilization), about three different control panels – because we need multiple paths to one location – and a few other programs.

This, traditionally, is what's known as “bloatware;” it's software pre-installed by the manufacturer that the user didn't necessarily request, and bloats the system's processes to a crawl. Today, we're showing just how profoundly a new system's framerate is dragged down by bloat. Using an MSI GE62VR Apache Pro laptop (~$1600) with a GTX 1060 and an i7-6700HQ CPU (boosts to 3.5GHz), 16GB DDR4, and an M.2 SSD, we're clearly not running Windows on slow hardware. And that's the thing, too – even Windows is slow at the desktop level. Just using the desktop, we'd occasionally spike to ~30% load for no good reason, and frequently hit 100% load during file transfers (thanks, Norton).

For validation purposes, we also ran the same tests on an MSI GE62 Apache Pro with a GTX 970M and i7 CPU. That's one last-gen model and one current model, both clean Windows installs with all the factory-preset software included.

In additional hardware news to what we published yesterday -- a look at Intel's Kaby Lake (7600K, 7700K, etc.), the X2 Empire unique enclosure, and Logitech's G Pro mouse -- we are today visiting topics of Samsung's GDDR6, SK Hynix's HBM3 R&D, PCIe Gen4 power budget, and Zen's CCX architecture.

The biggest news here is Samsung's GDDR6, due for 2018, but it's all important stuff. PCI-e Gen4 is looking at being fully ratified EOY 2016, HBM3 is in R&D, and Zen is imminent and finalized architecturally. We'll talk about it more specifically in our reviews.

Update: Tom's misreported on PCI-e power draw. The Gen4 PCIe interface will still be 75W.

Anyway, here's the news recap:

Transcript

Memory manufacturer Samsung is developing GDDR6 as a successor to Micron's brand new GDDR5X, presently only found in the GTX 1080 and Titan XP cards. GDDR6 may feel like a more meaningful successor to GDDR5, though, which has been in production use since 2008.

In its present, fully matured form, GDDR5 operates at 8Gbps maximally, including on the RX 480 and GTX 10 series GPUs. Micron demonstrated GDDR5X as capable of approaching 12-13Gbps with proper time to mature the architecture, but is presently shipping the memory in 10Gbps speeds for the nVidia devices.

Samsung indicates an operating range of approximately 14Gbps to 16Gbps on GDDR6 at 1.35V, coupled with lower voltages than even GDDR5X by using LP4X. Samsung indicates a power reduction upwards of 20% with post-LP4 memory technology.

Samsung is looking toward 2018 for production of GDDR6, giving GDDR5X some breathing room yet. As for HBM, SK Hynix is already looking toward HBM3, with HBM2 only presently available in the GP100 Accelerator cards. HBM3 will theoretically run a 4096-bit interface with upwards of 2TB/s throughput, at 512GB/s per stack. We'll talk about this tech more in the semi-distant future.

PCIe

Tom's Hardware this week reported on the new PCI Express 4.0 specification, primarily detailing a push toward a minimum spec of 300W power transfer through the slot, but could be upwards of 500W. Without even talking about the bandwidth promises – moving to nearly 2GB/s for a single lane – the increase of power budget will mean that the industry could begin a shift away from PCI-e cables. The power would obviously still come form the power supply, but would be delivered through pins in the PCI-e slots rather than through an extra cable.

This same setup is what allows cards like a 750 Ti to function only off the PCI-e slot, because the existing spec allows for 75W to push through the PCIe bus. PCI-e 4.0 should be ratified by the end of 2016 by the PCI-SIG team, but we don't yet know the roll-out plans for consumer platforms.

Zen

AMD also detailed more of its Zen CPU architecture, something we talked about last week when the company camped out near IDF for an unveil event. The Summit Ridge chips have primarily been on display thus far, showing an 8C/16T demo with AMD's implementation of SMT, but we haven't heard much about other processors.

AMD is ditching modules in favor of CPU Complexes, or a CCX, each of which will host four CPU cores. Each CCX runs 512KB of L2 Cache per core, as seen in this block diagram, with L3 sliced into four pieces for 8MB total low-order address interleave cache. AMD says that each core can communicate with all cache on the CCX, and promises the same latency for all accesses.

It looks like the lowest SKU chips will still be quad-cores at a minimum.

Host: Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke
Video: Andrew "ColossalCake" Coleman

This week following IDF has posted several news items for general computing technology and for product announcements. As one might expect, Intel unveiled more Kaby Lake information at its self-titled "Intel Developer Forum," and OCaholic posted a SKU listing for the new Kaby Lake CPUs up to the 7700K. Our news round-up video discusses the limited specifications of the i5-7600K, i7-7700K, lower TDP chips, and Intel's plans for launch.

We also look to the world of peripherals for the Logitech G Pro mouse, equipped with the PMW3366 sensor, and to the world of cases for X2's new "Empire" enclosure.

More in the video or script below, if you prefer:

We've got a new thermal paste applicator tool that'll help ensure consistent, equal spread of TIM across cooler surfaces for future tests. As we continue to iterate on "Hybrid" DIY builds, or even just re-use coolers for testing, we're also working to control for all reasonable variables in the test process. Our active ambient monitoring with thermocouple readers was the first step of that, and ensures that even minute (resolution 0.1C) fluctuations in ambient are accounted for in the results. Today, we're adding a new tool to the arsenal. This is a production tool used in Asetek's factory, and is deployed to apply that perfect circle of TIM that comes pre-applied to all the liquid cooler coldplates. By using the same application method on our end (rather than a tube of compound), we eliminate the chance of users changing application methods and eliminate the chance of applying too much or too little compound. These tools ensure exactly the same TIM spread each time, and mean that we can further eliminate variables in testing. That's especially important for regression testing.

This isn't something you use for home use, it is for production and test use. When cooling manufacturers often fight over half a degree of temperature advantage, it would be unfair to the products to not account for TIM application, which could easily create a 0.5C temperature swing. For consumers, that's irrelevant -- but we're showing a stack of products in direct head-to-head comparisons, and that needs to be an accurate stack.

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