NVIDIA released their Pascal-based architecture in May of 2016 and, while pricing was sporadic early on, the prices have seemed to remain fairly consistent as of late. AMD also released a new architecture in 2016 with the Polaris family, and has also found a stable price-point as demand and supply have steadied. If you are in the market for a new graphics card or looking to upgrade, we have found some deals that can save a little money.
To use any processing product for six years is a remarkable feat. GPUs struggle to hang on for that amount of time. You’d be reducing graphics settings heavily after the second or third year, and likely considering an upgrade around the same time. Intel’s CPUs are different – they don’t change much, and we almost always recommend skipping at least one generation between upgrades (for the gaming audience, anyway). The 7700K increased temperatures substantially and didn’t increase performance in-step, making it a pointless upgrade for any owners of the i7-6700K or i7-4690K.
We did remark in the review that owners of the 2500K and 2600K may want to consider finally moving up to Kaby Lake, but if we think about that for a second, it almost seems ridiculous: Sandy Bridge is an architecture from 2011. The i5-2500K came out in 1Q11, making it about six years old as of 2017. That is some serious staying power. Intel shows gains less than 10% generationally with almost absolute certainty. We see double-digits jumps in Blender performance and some production workloads, but that is still not an occurrence with every architecture launch. With gaming, based on the 6700K to 7700K jump, you’re lucky to get more than 1.5-3% extra performance. That’s counting frametime performance, too.
AMD’s architectural jumps should be a different story, in theory, but that’s mostly because Zen is planted 5 years after the launch of the FX-8350. AMD did have subsequent clock-rate increases and various rebadges or power efficiency improvements (FX-8370, FX 8320E), but those weren’t really that exciting for existing owners of 8000-series CPUs. In that regard, it’s the same story as Intel. AMD’s Ryzen will certainly post large gains over AMD’s last architecture given the sizeable temporal gap between launches, but we still have no idea how the next iteration will scale. It could well be just as slow as Intel’s scaling, depending on what architectural and process walls AMD may run into.
That’s not really the point of this article, though; today, we’re looking at whether it’s finally time to upgrade the i5-2500K CPU. Owners of the i5-2500K did well to buy one, it turns out, because the only major desire to upgrade would likely stem from a want of more I/O options (like M.2, NVMe, and USB3.1 Gen2 support). Hard performance is finally becoming a reason to upgrade, as we’ll show, but we’d still rank changes to HSIO as the biggest driver in upgrade demand. In the time since 2011, PCIe Gen3 has proliferated across all relevant platforms, USB3.x ports have increased to double-digits on some boards, M.2 and NVMe have entered the field of SSDs, and SATA III is on its way out as a storage interface.
After receiving a number of emails asking how to flash motherboard BIOS, we decided to revive an old series of ours and revisit each motherboard vendor’s flashing process as quickly as possible. This is particularly useful for users residing on the Z170 platform who may want to flash to support Kaby Lake CPUs. The process is the same for all modern MSI motherboards, and will work across all SKUs (with some caveats and disclaimers).
This tutorial shows how to flash firmware and update BIOS for MSI motherboards, including the new Z270 Pro Carbon / Tomahawk boards and ‘old’ Gaming M7 Z170 motherboards. For this guide, we’re primarily showing the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon, but we do briefly have some shots of the Tomahawk Z270 board. This guide applies retroactively to Z170 motherboards, and even most Z97 motherboards.
Article continues below the video, if written format is preferred.
The first and last of AMD’s Polaris GPUs hit the market last year, among them the RX 460 and subsequent Sapphire RX 460 Nitro 4GB, a card that underwhelmed us with unimpressive performance and an ambitious price. Just a few months later, overclocker der8auer implemented a BIOS flash to unlock additional stream processors on some RX 460 cards, bringing the count from 896 to 1024 by just flashing the card BIOS.
As solid-state storage continues to displace mechanical drives, so too does the constriction of the HDD market continue. As part of their ongoing plan to stay profitable and financially stable, Seagate has opted to shut down its HDD manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China. The Suzhou plant was one of Seagate’s largest production assets, and its resultant closure will acutely reduce the company’s HDD output.
However, this isn’t unforeseen, as last year Seagate announced its intentions to augment manufacturing capacities from around 55-60 million drives per quarter to approximately 35-40 million drives per quarter in accordance with their continued restructuring initiative. As part of that effort, Seagate reduced global employee headcount by 8,000 last year. Moreover, the closing of the Suzhou facility will see the layoff of a further ~2,200 employees.
Preorders are now open for the iBUYPOWER “Snowblind” system we’ve been covering for the past few months, most recently at CES 2017. The most notable aspect of Project Snowblind is the modified NZXT Noctis 450 enclosure, which uses an LCD side panel in place of a traditional clear window.
To be clear: although the buzz surrounding Project Snowblind is generally about the side panel, Snowblind systems are complete prebuilt machines and their enclosures are not available separately at this time (see our Noctis 450 review for details on the non-LCD version). As such, there are three SKUs available for preorder: Snowblind, Snowblind Pro, and Snowblind Extreme, for $1500, $1800, and $2500 respectively, with monthly payment plans optional. Additional components can be added for additional cost, but only white or silver varieties are allowed in order to give the panel maximum contrast.
This is our first episode of Ask GN since returning from CES, responsible for producing about two weeks’ worth of content that we’ve only just finished publishing. For this episode, we’re addressing questions pertaining primarily to reflowing / reballing dead components (laptops & GPUs), OEM vs. non-OEM CPUs, and a couple of airflow topics related to liquid cooling. Other questions include clarification on Kaby Lake & Skylake compatibilities, and keyboard USB passthrough impact on latency.
For our regulars, the usual accompaniment to Ask GN articles is a preview on what’s to come for the week. This week, we’ve got several CPU content items planned, a PC build, and lots of behind-the-scenes testing that will be published next week.
We’ve noticed that one of the important factors in team game coordination and success is the extent of communication. That’s no big surprise for anyone, but it’s especially true for faster-paced games such as shooters and MOBAs. Oftentimes, text wheels and typing are decent, but in the heat of the moment nothing beats using a mic to communicate.
Unfortunately, many users may not have much desk space for a desk mic or might have a lot of background noise, making it less than ideal to grab a broadcast mic. Further, for folks who already own high-end headphones that they don’t want to replace with a headset (which oftentimes have mediocre mics and speakers), it’d be nice to keep using those headphones just with a mic attachment. This leaves few options except for clip-on mics (which are easy to hit, annoying to use, and sometimes require amps) or something like the Antlion ModMic. We previously reviewed the ModMic 4 and found it to be a reliable product, with some minor issues that were largely overlooked at its price tag.
We just received Antlion’s new version of the ModMic for review: the ModMic 5. This new version features more robust build quality, omni- and uni-directional mics, and a removable mute switch, but it also has a higher price tag of $70.
The official reveal of the Nintendo Switch left a lot to be desired, particularly in the hardware department. That’s not particularly surprising with Nintendo -- the company isn’t known for being open with its CPU and GPU specifications -- but we already have a Switch on pre-order for tear-down and in-depth performance analysis in the lab.
Regardless, even without further specs from Nintendo, we can still go through the basics and make some assumptions based on fairly credible leaks that are out there.
AMD may have inadvertently given out information today that could narrow down the release window for their upcoming Ryzen CPUs. The possible release date information was provided by a panel description for the upcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC), where AMD will host a panel detailing Zen optimization techniques for programmers. GDC 2017 takes place from February 27-March 3. This coupled with the AMD panel description from the GDC website (and our own digging while at CES) tells us that Ryzen will ship at the end of February.
In the original panel description (that has since been changed), AMD was asking session attendees to join their “Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU.” “Recently-launched” is the key phrase and indicates that the Ryzen CPU would likely already be available prior to GDC 2017, which again is February 27-March 3.