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.

When we made our “how air coolers work” video, a lot of viewers were interested in the inner workings of copper heatpipes and their various means of facilitating capillary action. Today, we’re revisiting our TLDR series with a video on how closed-loop liquid coolers work. We’ll be talking about permeation, air pockets, stators, impellers, coldplates, and chemical composition of the coolant.

This content has custom-made animations that we rendered specifically for explanation of how CLCs work. GN’s Andrew Coleman modeled and animated a closed-loop cooler for the piece, referencing NZXT’s Kraken X52. Because of the level of detail and custom animations of this content, NZXT sponsored GN to put this piece together. The content applies to all liquid coolers, but particularly focuses on closed-loop products; all concepts herein can be applied to CLCs across the industry from various suppliers and manufacturers. Our technical deep-dive for today serves as a means to fully detail liquid cooling and how it works, drilling down to piano-wire granularity (literally).

One of the most frustrating aspects of the hardware industry is when a company made a perfectly viable product, but somehow flummoxed execution. The consumer doesn’t see the architecture or the engineering – at least, not outside of reviews – they see the full picture. In this capacity, consumers get a view of a product that is similar to a product manager’s: The big picture as it comes together, seeing past all the smaller details along the way.

A GPU might, for instance, be a powerhouse when analyzed under an SEM or in a vacuum, but could prove hamstrung in adverse thermal conditions resultant of an inadequate cooler. More appropriately, a laptop could host the best mobile hardware available, but prove devalued when flooded with unneeded software. The fastest SSD in the business, as bogged down with bloatware, will still be slower than a clean Windows install on a fresh HDD.

This big picture is sometimes lost to the chaos of marketing development efforts, particularly when MDF starts exchanging hands, and lost in the need to turn a profit in an industry with small margins. That’s what happened with MSI’s laptops: These are completely capable, highly competitive laptops that demand attention – but they’re plagued with an ineffable concoction of applications, responsible for doubling time required to boot. That’s not all, either – we have measured an impact to noise output as the CPU boosts sporadically, an unpredictable and spurious impact to frametimes, an impact to battery life, and an overall reduction in product quality.

All because of bloatware.

Intel’s Kaby Lake launched to a sweeping shrug of insouciance amongst enthusiasts, as the upper-end Core Series parts—aside from the manifest overclocking headroom—failed to provide any prominent impact. While the i3-7350K attracted the gaze of frugal-minded overclockers for being the first unlocked i3, it is simply priced too close to the neighboring Core i5 CPUs. Yet, Kaby Lake may still hold a gift for budget builders: the Pentium G4560, arguably the most interesting aspect of Kaby Lake.

The Pentium G4560, alongside its G4600 ($87) and G4620 brethren, received a boon in the form of boosted core clocks and enabled Hyper-Threading. This marks the first time Intel has released a Hyper-Threaded Pentium since the Pentium 4. The G4560 is of particular interest for a being a 2C/4T processor at ~$70, making it roughly half the price of both the i3-7100 and 6100 (see here). The G4560 can’t cannibalize the i3 line entirely, as cost cuts come by way of a hamstrung iGPU (HD Graphics 610 vs. 630) and stripped AVX instruction support; now, the former is largely a non-issue for our audience, as even pennywise builders usually opt for a discrete GPU. The latter can prove a hitch for strenuous workloads; i.e., certain types of encoding, video capture, and blender rendering. Still, we—and likely any of our readers interested in a processor like this—are far more interested in raw gaming potential at the cost.

Since the launch of the RX 580 and RX 570, prices from both AMD and nVidia have been cut for low to mid-range graphics cards. If you are in the market for a graphics card around $200, we found a pair of good deals on an EVGA GTX 1060 as well as an ASUS RX 580. Right now is a good time to buy HDDs as well, with flash-based storage prices being higher than normal; if that’s of interest, we found a Seagate 2TB HDD on discount for a fair price. Even with the high flash-based memory prices, we did manage to find a 16GB kit of DDR4-3200 memory from G.SKILL on Newegg this week. We also managed to find the AMD Ryzen 1700 CPU on sale for its lowest price to date.

Over the past few years, we’ve built up an impressive stockpile of case reviews, the most common of which are sub-$100 ATX mid-towers. This is a roundup of some of our favorites, wildly different in purpose and appearance but all solid, affordable enclosures for the average gaming PC. Our best cases feature includes temperature and acoustic testing, and build quality discussion for the top PC cases under $100.

Everything here is something we’ve worked with in person, either in the lab or at tradeshows; if you feel something is missing, it is likely that we simply didn’t test it. We’re trying to keep the list to things released in the past year (or so), which means chart-toppers of previous eras are being skipped.

The Thermaltake Core P3 ($100) is one of the more unusual cases we’ve tested: it’s a skeleton case with only two sides, one of which is entirely transparent. This is a case that could theoretically be used as a normal mid-tower, and it’s not priced unreasonably for that, but its design makes the P3 exposed to anything that approaches it at a slight angle -- pets, kids, potentially dust if floor-bound. It’s also cooled just by ambient circulation, as there’s not support for case fans outside of a radiator mount. The P3 is, however, an ideal display case for colorful systems with elaborate liquid cooling, and it’s also a much cheaper alternative to the open-air test benches that we use every day.

For modders, the P-series (P1, P3, P5, P7) offer a basic and compact foundation on which to build. For display systems or testing, the case takes a backseat to the components, offering itself up as a platform for hot-swapping components or for component display. These are the use cases where the P3 shines.

 

EVGA GTX 1080 Ti SC2 Hybrid Tear-Down

By Published May 20, 2017 at 1:30 pm

With days to go before we fly out to Taipei, Taiwan for this year's Computex show, EVGA's new 1080 Ti SC2 Hybrid card arrived for tear-down and analysis. We might not have time to get the review dialed-in on this one before the show, but we figured the least we could do is our inaugural disassembly of the card.

EVGA's 1080 Ti SC2 Hybrid makes a few changes over previous Hybrid cards, as it seems the liquid+air amalgams have grown in popularity over the past few generations. Immediately of note, the shroud now carries some 'tessellation' paint embellishments, an illuminated name plate, and a cable tether for the radiator fan. Small increments.

Corsair’s SPEC-04 ($50) is a new mid-tower aimed squarely at the budget market. The case shares its price and much of its hardware (and tooling) with the aged SPEC-01, but with the alien, angular appearance of the SPEC-ALPHA, channeling the aesthetics of the once-$80 case into an affordable $50 package.

Borrowing tooling from its predecessors, the SPEC-04 is able to ship with a lower price-point, aided further by a stripped-down set of interior accoutrements. The SPEC-04 is a small case, but capable of supporting ATX form factor components. This makes the unit deployable for ultra-budget machines, theoretically perfectly fitting for G4560 users.

Today’s review will heavily analyze the thermals, acoustics / noise levels, and build quality of the Corsair Spec-04 case. We test for thermal throttling and additional fan installation, wherein some time is spent adding +1x 120mm fan to multiple positions in the case.

Destiny 2 will serve as Bungie and Activision’s follow up to the first Destiny, which was exclusive to Playstation and Xbox consoles. Destiny 2 was announced as coming to PC a few months back, but few details were given at that time. Since then, on Thursday May, 18th, there was a livestream event discussing some features of the new game and showing the first official gameplay footage. If you missed the livestream, don’t worry -- we have you covered, we’ve posted the link to it and all the trailers below.

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