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.

We posted a content piece pertaining to MSI’s pre-installed software – which we called “bloatware” – prior to the start of Computex. The company had responded at first with silence to emails, but then responded mid-week (in emails) with an overall neutral tone that suggested a wish to improve. There wasn’t much said in the emails, though, and certainly nothing official – so we sought out MSI’s US laptop representative at Computex, then asked for comment.

MSI’s Clifford Chun joined us, Product Manager of Laptops at MSI (US HQ), and discussed the company’s intermediary solution to the excessive pre-installed software. As Chun states in the video below, MSI will begin including an uninstaller package with their new laptops in 2H17. This utility will provide check boxes to each of the pre-installed applications and, upon launching it, will allow users to check and delete software. There is some irony to the idea of including more software to remove software, of course, but it’s a first step. It’d also be ideal to opt-in, not out, but marketing agreements do not generally permit this (as we said in the first video).

We’ll talk more below about why MSI is stuck in a difficult position, but first, the interview:

Most manufacturers have invited us to some sort of notebook press conference or briefing for this show, and there are a few reasons why: For one, nVidia is now pushing a new initiative to tighten requirements on manufacturers to build quieter laptops, and two, AMD R7 notebooks are now beginning to enter the channel. We’ll focus on MSI’s new notebooks here, alongside some additional coverage of nVidia’s new “Max-Q” initiative, named in true Bond-like fashion.

MSI’s new laptops use existing product lines from Intel and nVidia, so there’s no new silicon, but the company has revamped its chassis and cooling solution for the new GT75VR Titan, GE63VR Raider, and GE73VR Raider. Unfortunately, the company did not take questions during its press conference, so we’ll have to save our recent criticisms for a second booth visit later in the show. Regardless, we’ve got information on the hardware, and that’s something for which we’ve previously praised MSI. Based on upgrades to cooling, MSI boasted heavily in the press conference that the new notebooks would produce “30% higher performance,” though we do not know what they will be 30% higher than, or in what measurement.

Anyway, let’s cut through the marketing and talk hardware.

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.


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