AMD’s Vega GPU architecture has received cursory details pertaining to high-bandwidth caching, an iterative step to CUs (NCUs), and a unified-but-not-unified memory configuration.
Going into this, note that we’re still not 100% briefed on Vega. We’ve worked with AMD to try and better understand the architecture, but the details aren’t fully organized for press just yet; we’re also not privy to product details at this time, which would be those more closely associated with shader counts, memory capacity, and individual SKUs. Instead, we have some high-level architecture discussion. It’s enough for a start.
Despite the general lack of official documentation on AM4, we were able to get hands-on with some early AM4 motherboards from MSI at CES 2017. This is the first time – from AMD or from others – that we’ve received any detail on the new AM4 products, and the first time they’ve been demonstrated in public. The company debuted its X370 XPOWER Titanium overclocking motherboard (For Ryzen) alongside a mid-range B350 Tomahawk board, neither yet adorned with a price. We do have a release date target, though.
During PAX Prime 2016, we posted some official documentation on lower-end AM4 chipsets that would ship to bulk buyers, for use in HP-like systems at Costco-like places. Since then, we’ve learned that the X370 platform will crown the AM4 chipset accompaniment, with B350 falling next under that, and A320 (already known, see: PAX) at the low-end. A320 would be comparable to A68, were we to draw parallels to previous generation platforms. From what MSI tells us, an X300 chipset will also exist, but is not responsible for lane assignment and I/O tasking in the same way that X370 and B350 are; instead, X300 will likely see exclusive use on SFF platforms, and will perform no substantial functions. This was also detailed in our PAX coverage.
A new wireless gaming headset was announced by Logitech today. The G533 features a lower MSRP and higher battery life than its current closest relatives, the G933 Artemis Spectrum and G930, as well as a sleek new look.
Our most recent Logitech headset review was of the Artemis Spectrum, a headset that comes in both wired (G633) and wireless (G933) varieties—technically, we reviewed the wired version, but they’re pretty close to identical. Looking back, the first obvious difference in specs is that the Spectrum has an impedance of 39 Ohms compared to the new G533’s 32. This could explain the second obvious difference, which is the G533’s advertised battery life of 15 hours, up from the Spectrum’s 12 (or even less with its LEDs lit). A power switch, volume adjustment, and a reprogrammable mic mute button are the only external controls, which the Spectrum has in addition to 3 dedicated programmable G-buttons. The rechargeable batteries are removable for easy replacement, one notable improvement over the Spectrum.
In an industry first for the last year, Logitech may also be the only company making a product that moves away from the RGB LED craze, at least partially. Logitech was a bit ahead of the game on LED illumination, and went full "Spectrum" (their RGB LED signifier) for mice, keyboards, and headsets through 2016. Honestly, it's refreshing to not write about a product that bases its entire existence on the premise of RGB LEDs.
As the pre-CES hardware news keeps pouring in, HyperX has announced new products today that will further their peripherals and components aimed at the gaming market. HyperX has introduced two new Alloy keyboards, a Pulsefire Gaming Mouse, a new Cloud Revolver S Headset, and HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB LED Memory.
We will be visiting HyperX and Kingston this week, and hope to have more in-depth, on-site coverage from the show floor. For now, we’ve got the basic specs and introductory information for each new peripheral and memory kit.
Starting with the audio gear, HyperX has announced the new headset that will be showcased at CES 2017 -- the Cloud Revolver S. The new gaming headset will feature plug-and-play Dolby 7.1 virtual surround sound via a connected USB dongle. HyperX claims no additional software or audiobox will be needed to get the Dolby 7.1 surround sound functional. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an implementation of 7.1 surround in this fashion -- Turtle Beach and Plantronics have done this for ages -- but it’s the first major noise HyperX is making about Dolby Surround.
More unique to the unit, the HyperX Cloud Revolver S will have a condenser microphone with a bi-directional pattern; the condenser mic, although we’ll have to test it, could be promising for streamers and video casters who’d rather not use standalone input hardware. The HyperX Cloud Revolver S will be available February of 2017 for $150 USD.
NVidia has added to our pile of pre-CES hardware news with the announcement of GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti-equipped laptops. 30+ models from various OEMs will be arriving in Q1 2017, including several using Intel’s new Kaby Lake CPUs this week at CES. Confirmed manufacturers include Acer, Alienware/Dell, ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
As mentioned in our laptop 1060/1070/1080 benchmark, improvements to power management mean that nVidia’s 10-series notebook GPUs are the real deal, rather than the neutered “-M” versions that laptops have gotten in the past. The specs listed for the notebook GPUs confirm this, with the only major difference being higher core clock speeds in the notebook 1050 and 1050 Ti. This doesn’t indicate a change in the physical hardware, it mostly seems that nVidia has increased the clock-rate given the high thermal headroom (room to increase heat) as a result of the efficient 1050/Ti GPUs. Like other 10-series laptops, OEMs will probably be allowed an additional +/-10% for overclocking their GPUs.
Gigabyte’s Z270X Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard was the first to host our Intel i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU that we reviewed. The board also forced us to try a few different motherboards for our Kaby Lake CPU thermal benchmarking, because the initial numbers were astronomically high. We’ll get to that later.
Gigabyte’s newest rendition of its Gaming 7 line places the Z270 7th Gen chipset on the motherboard, alongside the RGB LEDs expected of the company’s “Aorus” brand. The board bills itself a rather high-end solution – at least, before venturing into extreme OC territory – and does so under a $240 banner. Also on our bench the next two weeks, the MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (Z270) and MSI Tomahawk (Z270) were used as a point of comparison against the Gaming 7. As Kaby Lake and the i7-7700K are brand new, the three boards are all we’ve used from the 200-series chipsets thus far.
(UPDATE: We talk about Auto vCore issues in this review. Please note that Gigabyte has since updated its BIOS to fix these problems. Learn more here.)
Intel’s i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU follows-up on Skylake with a microarchitecture that is largely identical, but with key improvements to the process technology. Through what Intel has dubbed “14nm+,” the new process technology has heightened fins and widened the gate pitch, both serving as key contributors to the increased frequency headroom on the 7th Generation Intel Core CPUs. Other key changes, like enablement of finer-tuned frequency switching and AVX settings, theoretically offer better responsiveness to current demand on the CPU. As with most active frequency tuning, the idea is that there’s some power efficiency benefit that is coupled with better overall performance by way of reduced latency between changes.
Kaby Lake CPUs are capable of switching the clock speed at a 1000Hz rate (or once per millisecond), and though we’ve asked for the minimum frequency adjustment per change, we have not yet received a response. AMD recently made similar mentions of this sort of clock adjustment on Ryzen, using the upcoming Zen architecture. More on that later this week.
Today’s focus is on the Intel i7-7700K flagship Kaby Lake CPU, for which we’ve deployed the new MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon ($165) and Gigabyte Z270 Gaming 7 ($240) motherboards. For this Intel i7-7700K review, we’ll be looking at thermal challenges, blender rendering performance, gaming performance, and synthetic applications. Among those, FireStrike, TimeSpy, and Cinebench are included.
The thermal results should be among the most interesting, for once, though we’ve also found Blender performance to be of noteworthy discussion.
Product availability should begin on January 5, with the official launch today (January 3) for the Intel 7th Gen Core CPU products. Note that some products will not be available until later, like the i3-7350K, which is expected for late January. The i7-7700K will be here once it's available.
There are more than 40 SKUs for the 7th Generation Kaby Lake CPUs, when counting Y-, H-, S-, and U-class CPUs. Starting with the specifications for the 7700K, 7600K, and 7350K CPUs (i7, i5, i3, respectively):
Medieval action/strategy RPG Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord moved one step closer to release when a Steam page was unveiled in October, but still has no official release date.
Confusingly, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a prequel to Mount & Blade: Warband, itself a 2010 standalone expansion to the 2007 game Mount & Blade—it helps to just think of Warband as a complete overhaul of the original. Warband has maintained a loyal fanbase since release—thanks to the winter sale, steamcharts.com reported roughly 12,000 players in-game as of this writing (a bit more than Elder Scrolls Online). In 2012, developer TaleWorlds announced they would follow-up on Warband’s success with Bannerlord, and have been slowly releasing tidbits of information since. Here’s what we know so far:
The race to invest in semiconductor technology is unabating, it would seem. SK Hynix, the world’s second largest memory chipmaker (after Samsung), has announced plans to construct a new memory semiconductor fab in Cheongju, South Korea. The company will also upgrade DRAM facilities in China, with the total outlay summing $2.6 billion. This comes after global chipmakers like Samsung, Toshiba, and TSMC have spurred investments of their own to expand production.
CES is right around the corner and with that, ZOTAC has announced their new GeForce GTX 1080 Mini (ZT-P10800H-10P), which should prove to be useful for SFF systems.