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.

MSI’s flagship GTX 1080 Ti Lightning GPU made an appearance at the company’s Computex booth this year, where we were able to get hands-on with the card and speak with PMs about VRM and cooling solutions. The 1080 Ti Lightning is an OC-targeted card, as indicated by its LN2 BIOS switch, and will compete with other current flagships (like the Kingpin that we just covered). The Lightning does not yet have a price, but we know the core details about cooling and power.

Starting with cooling: MSI’s 1080 Ti Lightning uses a finned baseplate (think “pin fins” from ICX) to provide additional surface area for dissipation of VRM/VRAM component heat. This baseplate covers the usual areas of the board, but is accompanied by a blackout copper heatpipe over the MOSFETs & driver IC components for heat sinking of power modules. We’ve seen this design get more spread lately, and have found it to be effective for cooling VRM devices. The heatpipe is cooled by the Lightning’s 3-fan solution, as is the rest of the thick finstack above the custom PCB.

Following AMD’s Computex press conference, we headed over to the Gigabyte suite (after our X299 coverage) to look at the X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard. The new Gigabyte X399 Gaming 7 board is one of two that we’ve seen thus far – our ASUS coverage is next up – and joins the forces of motherboards ready for AMD’s Threadripper HEDT CPUs.

The Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard sockets Threadripper into AMD’s massive socket, dead-center, and uses three Torx screws to get at the LGA pin-out. The CPUs will provide 64 PCIe lanes, as we’ve already reported, with 4x PCIe Gen3 lanes reserved for high-speed transport between the CPU and chipset. The other 60 are assignable at the motherboard manufacturer’s will; in this case, Gigabyte willed for an x16/x8/x16/x8 full-length PCIe slots, with an additional 3x M.2 (x4) slots. That immediately consumes all 60 lanes, with the remaining 4 reserved for the chipset communications.

We ran into professional overclocker Der8auer at G.Skill’s Computex booth, who was keen to give us a hands-on delidding demonstration of a new 10C/20T Intel Skylake-X CPU. During the process, we also got our first real hands-on look at the CPU substrate and package – interesting in its own right – and underlying thermal compound choice. The lack of solder could have an explanation in chip longevity, something we’ll talk about a bit later.

This process involves Der8auer’s new delidding kit, an Allen wrench (looked like a 5mm wrench), and some force. Nothing difficult. The process is identical for both KBL-X and SKY-X, with the disclaimer that larger SKY-X CPU dies (like 14-18C chips) could pose some difficulties with extra capacitor density surrounding the CPU die. There’s much greater risk of damaging or destroying the 14C to 18C CPUs given this challenge, and although the 10C CPU was trivial, risk of damage is also present. SMD components sit close to the outer glue of the IHS, which means that delidding could potentially rip one of the SMDs off of the substrate. The SMDs on the sides of the CPU die are for memory channels, with the capacitor and RFID chip in the corner being less critical.

Preceding the embargo lift of Intel’s X299 announcement, we met with Gigabyte at Computex 2017 to discuss the company’s new line of X299 motherboards. New launches include the Gaming 9, Gaming 7, Gaming 3, and Ultra Durable 4 motherboards (along with a workstation board, which we won’t focus on) for the X299 chipset, hosting KBL-X and SKY-X CPUs. We’ve already detailed some of EVGA’s boards as well, so if KBL-X or SKY-X interests you, also check that content out.

That said, we’re still not quite sure why KBL-X exists. It’s an odd part: Kaby Lake refreshed on a new socket type, where half the motherboards will be comparatively overpriced by means of being outfitted for Skylake-X parts. KBL-X won’t, for instance, be able to leverage the left half of the DIMM slots on the X299 boards, while SKY-X will. It’s a weird move from Intel. Regardless, they’re not our focus right now: Let’s start with Gigabyte’s Gaming 9 line and work our way down, keeping in mind that these boards are really best leveraged with Skylake-X, though are technically compatible with KBL-X.

Intel seemingly moved its KBL-X and SKY-X CPU launches up, with the spotlight pointed at nine new enthusiast-class CPUs. A few of these are more similar to refreshes than others, but we also see the introduction of the i9 line of Intel CPUs, scaling up to 18C and 36T on the i9-7980XE CPU. We’ll go over prices and specs in this Computex news item, and note that we’ve already got motherboard coverage online for EVGA’s new X99 motherboards.

Starting with the marketing, then.

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