Just as we made it into Taiwan, we're already packing to fly to Shenzhen, China for more factory and HQ tours. During the first leg of our three-part Asia trip, the GN team traveled to Taoyuen, Taiwan – about an hour outside of Taipei – to visit the In-Win case & paint factories. In-Win is best-known for fronting insane projects at tradeshows, like the Transformer-inspired H-Tower and 805 Infinity, and all of those cases get made in the factories we visited.
Touring the In-Win case-making factory gave a look into how PC cases are made; we saw injection-molding machines, automated powder coat booths, giant sanding and CNC machines, 3D coordinate projection validators, and more.
AMD was first-to-market with Doom-ready drivers, but exhibited exceptionally poor performance with a few of its cards. The R9 390X was one of those, being outperformed massively (~40%) by the GTX 970, and nearly matched by the GTX 960 at 1080p. If it's not apparent by the price difference between the two, that's unacceptable; the hardware of the R9 390X should effortlessly outperform the GTX 960, a budget-class card, and it just wasn't happening. Shortly after the game launched and AMD posted its initial driver set (16.5.2), a hotfix (126.96.36.199) was released to resolve performance issues on the R9 390 series cards.
We had a moment to re-benchmark DOOM using the latest drivers between our GTX 1080 Hybrid experiment and current travel to Asia. The good news: AMD's R9 390X has improved performance substantially – about 26% in some tests – and seem to be doing better. Other cards were unaffected by this hot fix (though we did test), so don't expect a performance gain out of your 380X, Fury X, or similar non-390-series device.
Note: These charts now include the GTX 1080 and its overclocked performance.
This episode of Ask GN precedes our imminent trip to Taipei, Taiwan for a two-week trip around Asia. We're likely already in the air – a total of 24 hours through airports and planes – and are prepping for factory tours, HQ meetings, and Computex (comparable in size to CES). It'll be a big week, but before getting to that, we took to the home-base studio one more time for an Ask GN episode.
Questions this week included a focus on our testing methodology (“how much variance is there?”), the point at which a GTX 1080 is bottlenecked by the CPU, price hikes, and more.
Had investigators walked into our Thermal-Lab-And-Video-Set Conglomerate, they'd have been greeted with a horror show worthy of a police report: Two video cards fully dissected – one methodically, the other brutally – with parts blazoned in escalating dismemberment across the anti-static mat.
Judging by some of the comments, you'd think we'd committed a crime by taking apart a new GTX 1080 – but that's the job. Frankly, it didn't really matter if the thing died in the process. We're here to make content and test products for points of failure and success, not to preserve them.
GN's embarking on its most ambitious trip yet: Taipei, then Shenzhen, China and neighboring countries, then back to Taipei. There are many reasons we're doing the Asia tour, but it's all rooted in one of the world's largest consumer electronics shows. Computex rivals CES in size, though arguably has a bigger desktop hardware / component presence than CES (hosted annually in Las Vegas). This year, we're attending – should be a good show.
Here's a quick recap of what PC hardware to expect at Computex 2016.
Epic’s Paragon is getting ready for a free beta weekend later this month -- from May 26th to the 30th. Anyone interested can sign-up here to participate, but you must sign up before the 25th.
Paragon is Epic’s take on the MOBA genre; however, the gameplay in Paragon is more like a third-person shooter than a traditional MOBA game. Also unlike other MOBAs, Paragon’s visuals are nothing to smirk at -- nVidia even brought Epic CEO Tim Sweeney out to their recent media event to use Paragon to show off the GTX 1080.
The test results are in from our post-review DIY project, which started here. Our goal was a simple one: As a bit of a decompression project after our 9000-word analysis of nVidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, we decided to tear-down the GTX 1080, look underneath, and throw a liquid block onto the exposed die. The “Founders Edition” of the GTX 1080 is effectively a reference model, and as such, it'll quickly be outranked by AIB partner cards with regard to cooling and OC potential. The GTX 1080 overclocks reasonably well – we were hitting ~2025-2050MHz with the FE model – but it still feels limited. That limitation is a mix of power limit and thermal throttling.
Our testing discovered that thermal throttles occur at precisely 82C. Each time the card hits 82C absolute, the clock-rate dips and produces a marginal impact to frametimes and framerate. We also encountered clock-rate stability issues over long burn-in periods, and would have had to further step-down the OC to accommodate the 82C threshold. Even when configuring the VRM blower fan to 100% speed, limitations were encountered – but it did perform better, just with the noise levels of a server fan (~60dB, in our tests). That's not really acceptable for a real-world use case. Liquid will bring down noise levels, help sustain higher clock-rates at those noise levels, and keep thermals well under control.
The video (Part 3) is below. This article will cover the results of our DIY liquid-cooled GTX 1080 'Hybrid' vs. the Founders Edition card, including temperatures, VRM fan RPM, overclocking, stability, and FPS. Our clocks vs. time charts are the most interesting.
In the process of tearing apart the new nVidia GTX 1080 video card, we discovered solder points for an additional 8-pin power header positioned at a 90-degree corner to the original 6-pin header. This is shown in our tear-down video (embedded at the bottom of this post), but we've got a photo above, too.
We're building our own GTX 1080 Hybrid. We're impatient, and the potential for further improved clock-rate stability – not that the 1080 isn't already impressively stable – has drawn us toward a DIY solution. For this GTX 1080 liquid cooling mod, we're tearing apart $1300 worth of video cards: (1) the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid, which long held our Best of Bench award, is being sacrificed to the Pascal gods, and (2) the GTX 1080 Founders Edition shall be torn asunder, subjected to the whims of screwdrivers and liquid cooling.
Here's the deal: We ran a thermal throttle analysis in our 9000-word review of the GTX 1080 (read it!). We discovered that, like Maxwell before it, consumer Pascal seems to throttle its frequency as temperatures reach and exceed ~82C. Each hit at 82C triggered a frequency fluctuation of ~30~70MHz, enough to create a marginal hit to frametimes. This only happened a few times through our first endurance test, but we've conducted more – this time with overclocks applied – to see if there's ever a point at which the throttling goes from “welcomed safety check” to something less desirable.
Turns out, the thermal throttling impacts our overclocks, and it's limited the potential of a GPU that's otherwise a strong overclocker. And so begins Part 1 of our DIY GTX 1080 build log – disassembly; we're taking apart the GTX 1080, tearing it down to the bones for a closer look inside.
All the pyrotechnics in the world couldn't match the gasconade with which GPU & CPU vendors announce their new architectures. You'd halfway expect this promulgation of multipliers and gains and reductions (but only where smaller is better) to mark the end-times for humankind; surely, if some device were crafted to the standards by which it were announced, The Aliens would descend upon us.
But, every now and then, those bombastic announcements have something behind them – there's substance there, and potential for an adequately exciting piece of technology. NVidia's debut of consumer-grade Pascal architecture initializes with GP104, the first of its non-Accelerator cards to host the new 16nm FinFET process node from TSMC. That GPU lands on the GTX 1080 Founders Edition video card first, later to be disseminated through AIB partners with custom cooling or PCB solutions. If the Founders Edition nomenclature confuses you, don't let it – it's a replacement for nVidia's old “Reference” card naming, as we described here.
Anticipation is high for GP104's improvements over Maxwell, particularly in the area of asynchronous compute and command queuing. As the industry pushes ever into DirectX 12 and Vulkan, compute preemption and dynamic task management become the gatekeepers to performance advancements in these new APIs. It also means that LDA & AFR start getting pushed out as frames become more interdependent with post-FX, and so suddenly there are implications for multi-card configurations that point toward increasingly less optimization support going forward.
Our nVidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition review benchmarks the card's FPS performance, thermals, noise levels, and overclocking vs. the 980 Ti, 980, Fury X, and 390X. This nearing-10,000-word review lays-out the architecture from an SM level, talks asynchronous compute changes in Pascal / GTX 1080, provides a quick “how to” primer for overclocking the GTX 1080, and talks simultaneous multi-projection. We've got thermal throttle analysis that's new, too, and we're excited to show it.
The Founders Edition version of the GTX 1080 costs $700, though MSRP for AIBs starts at $600. We expect to see that market fill-in over the next few months. Public availability begins on May 27.
First, the embedded video review and specs table: