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.
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.
Following our in-depth first-look coverage of the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti Kingpin card, we now turn to the company’s upcoming motherboard releases in the X299 family. This coincides with Intel’s Kaby Lake X (KBL-X) & Skylake-X (SKY-X) CPU announcement from today, and marks the announcement of EVGA’s continued embattlement in the motherboard market. All the boards are X299 (LGA 2066) to support Intel’s refreshed KBL and new SKY-X CPUs, consolidating the platforms into a single socket type and with greater DIMM support. That doesn’t mean, however, that the motherboard makers will fully exploit the option of additional DIMMs for HEDT CPUs; EVGA has elected to forfeit half the DIMMs on the new EVGA X299 DARK board in favor of greater overclocking potential. We’ll talk through the specs on the new EVGA X299 DARK, X299 Micro, and X299 FTW K, along with VRM design and power components used.
The motherboard lineup does not yet include pricing or hard release dates, but we do know that the tiering will go: Dark > FTW K > Micro, with regard to price.
EVGA’s GTX 1080 Ti Kingpin made its first debut to a group of press before Computex 2017, and we were given the privilege of being the first media to tear-down the card. The Kingpin edition 1080 Ti is EVGA’s highest-end video card – price TBD – and is built for extreme overclockers and enthusiasts.
The GTX 1080 Ti Kingpin uses an oversized PCB that’s similar to the FTW3, though with different components, and a two-slot cooler that partners with NTC thermistors on the VRM + VRAM components. This means that, like the FTW3, the cooling solution slaves to independent component temperatures, with a hard target of keeping all ICs under 60C (even when unnecessary or functionally useless, like for the MCUs). The Kingpin model card uses a copper-plated heatsink, six heatpipes, and the usual assortment of protrusions on the baseplate for additional surface area, but also makes accommodations for LN2 overclocking. We’ll start with detailing the air cooler, then get into LN2 and power coverage.
MSI’s GTX 1080 Ti Armor card piqued our attention for its weak stock cooler and non-reference PCB: The card, at $700, appears to be the closest we’ll get to a bare 1080 Ti PCB sale. It’s an ideal liquid cooling candidate, particularly given the overwhelmingly negative user reviews pertaining to the card’s propensity to overheat. The photos made the Armor look like a Gaming X PCB -- something we praised in our PCB & VRM electrical analysis -- but with a GTX 1070 class cooler stuck onto it. If that were the case, it’d mean the 1080 Ti Armor would perform dismally in thermals when tested with its stock cooler, but could make for a perfect H2O card.
We decided to buy one and find out why the MSI Armor had such bad user reviews, and if it’d be possible to turn the card into the best deal for a liquid-cooled 1080 Ti.