Too often people considering PC gaming will fall into the train of thought that gaming PCs have to be expensive. This train of thought is both unfortunate and untrue: Gaming PCs can certainly be expensive, but a decent gaming PC can also be built relatively cheaply.

Today’s “Cheap Bastard” gaming PC build comes to a total of about $436, and uses an ASUS R9 380 Strix along with an i3-6100 to allow for solid gaming performance at 1080p. Graphics settings at 1080p will generally fall within the “medium” to “high” range, depending on the game.

System integrator iBUYPOWER is furthering its commitment to eSports with the return of the iBUYPOWER CS:GO Invitational, accompanied by the newly introduced iBUYPOWER Overwatch Invitational. This weekend-long event begins on July 16th. Those in Santa Ana area can show up at eSports Arena to play in the free-to-play area and to compete in side events at the venue. Games will be streamed from the event floor.

CS:GO, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros. will all be set up to play.

Be Wary of RX 480 Pre-Order Price Gouging

By Published June 24, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Just a quick consumer alert.

As many of you know, AMD's new RX 480 is slated to launch on June 29, with the RX 470 and RX 460 soon following. We've already seen some retailers posting the RX 480 at prices nearing $300. Lest these unscrupulous scalpers cash-in on pre-sale pandemonium, we'll avoid linking said sellers.

Here's the deal: AMD's list pricing for the RX 480 is $200 for 4GB, and $230~$250 (ish) for the RX 480 8GB. Unlike the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 launch, both of which have been hamstrung by limited availability of the actual product, AMD's Polaris chips should be flooding the market from the get-go. Polaris is not a limited-yield, limited availability chip. There will be thousands of RX 480 GPUs available for day-one purchase in North America alone.

We're getting close to the June 29 release date of the AMD RX 480 GPU, and we're still tailing the Pascal launch of nVidia's GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. That's planted these last few episodes of Ask GN firmly within graphics territory, with most questions revolving around the pricing and availability of the newest cards.

This episode focuses on the “actual” availability and pricing of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 (read: we've been told by AIB partners to expect more supply by mid-late July), pricing, the RX 480 vs. the GTX 970, and more. Some of the topics under the “more” category talk motherboard impact on FPS, UEFI vs. Legacy follow-ups, and PC thermals.

AMD Zen Chipset Ships Q3, Mass Production Q4

By Published June 23, 2016 at 9:07 am

In a recent story circulating the web, rumors of AMD's (confirmed) deference to AS Media for its Zen chipset design have pointed toward USB3.1 transmission speed degradation issues. The reports indicated a slow-down of USB3.1 speeds as ports are distanced from the chipset, resolvable by motherboard manufacturers with a separate controller for USB3.1. The reports have not presented numbers for the alleged speed degradation; we do not have a clear picture of how heavily – if at all – this rumor impacts USB device speed.

Should USB3.1 transfer speeds truly be impacted this greatly by circuit distance, motherboard manufacturers can opt for inclusion of aftermarket ICs that resolve the issue at increased BOM. There is also still some time prior to mass production and shipping – motherboard manufacturers and AS Media may find a remedy to this reported choke-point by then.

This is a test that's been put through the paces for just about every generation of PCI Express, and it's worth refreshing now that the newest line of high-end GPUs has hit the market. The curiosity is this: Will a GPU be bottlenecked by PCI-e 3.0 x8, and how much impact does PCI-e 3.0 x16 have on performance?

We decided to test that question for internal research, but ended up putting together a small report for publication.

MSI's GTX 1080 Gaming X was the first AIB partner GTX 1080 to show up at our lab, marking the beginning of AIB partner reign over the GTX 1080 market. We originally reviewed the GTX 1080 and remarked that, although the card is good, it just made far more sense to wait for non-reference (“Founders Edition”) designs. The FE card exhibited some clock-rate instability in some instances, and our DIY Hybrid project served as a proof of concept for aftermarket cooling solutions.

MSI's GTX 1080 Gaming X (priced at $720) tests that theory with a manufacturer-made cooling solution. The GTX 1080 Gaming X uses a new Twin Frozr VI air cooler, ships with three OC settings in the MSI Gaming App (maxing-out at 1847MHz with OC mode), and is stacked in the middle of MSI's options. The company is also working on a Gaming Z card, which we live-overclocked at Computex, and a new SeaHawk – all those are detailed here.

In this MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X review, we look at cooling performance, noise levels, FPS (gaming), and maximum overclocking performance.

This is primarily a video project that revisits our popular SSD Architecture post from 2014. All of that content remains relevant to this day – SSD architecture has not substantially changed at a low level – but it's been deserving of a refresh. NAND Flash comprises the actual storage component of the SSD, and impacts more than just capacity; endurance, speed, and the cost-per-GB metric are all impacted by NAND Flash selection. The industry has slowly reached parity between TLC and MLC NAND devices for the mainstream and gaming segments, with VNAND getting a steady push through Samsung's channels. As for how MLC and TLC actually work, though, we turn to our content.

With this update, we've introduced a 3D animation to help visualize the complexities of voltage states and program/erases occurring on the disk actively. The original graphics and text of our architecture article can be found on this page.

This coming week will see publication of an SSD NAND discussion piece, a GTX 1080 review – and likely subsequent 1070 review, and some feature content that we've been quietly working on. The sales round-ups always serve as a means to tease some of our upcoming content, as many of you know, and see publication on Sundays where we're trying to ramp into the week.

This Sunday sees posting of GTX 980 discount pricing – new permanent prices nearing $380 – and a slew of PSU sales from Corsair, with ancillary discounts on ASUS displays. See below.

Futuremark has pushed an update to its popular 3DMark benchmarking software, now adding a proper "stress test" mode to the tool. Previously, the closest option 3DMark offered to a stress test was a looped FireStrike run, which has two issues we've pointed-out in some methodology discussion: (1) The loop-back is interrupted by a brief black screen and restart of the bench, and (2) the test run does not equally load the GPU, and so power draw fluctuates (we saw a range of ~40W on the 1080). Neither of these is ideal for real burn-in testing.

The new Stress Test benchmark runs uninterrupted (up to 40 hours in pro version, 10 minutes in the free version) and should more evenly load the GPU and CPU. To us, the best feature is a frame-rate stability check which issues a pass/fail based upon FPS performance during OC stability benchmarking. In theory, the tool should analyze for FPS consistency, which will give users an idea of potential OC limitations (like voltage or TDP).

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