The holiday season is upon us. In due time, the Steam Holiday/Winter sale will be flowing like a river, and many users will be preparing their wallets for the impending profligacy. As Newegg, Amazon, and other retailers usually offer sales of their own, other users may be eyeing core component upgrades or new systems entirely. That said, we’ve attempted to take some of the legwork out of putting together a mid-level gaming machine that is comprised mostly of hardware currently on sale, or discounted through current rebates. Admittedly, that narrows options; however, we’ve still come up with very capable and modern build without becoming lusus naturae.

This rig will be a sub-$700 system focused on gaming at the respectable, and still most popular, 1080p. If by chance you are needing more horsepower for, say, the 1440p domain, check out another recent build guide of ours. As an aside, we’ve selected mATX hardware housed in an mATX chassis; something that will please space mindful users wanting a build with a minimal footprint. Before getting into it, I’ll preface with this: more ardent enthusiasts might balk at the presence of a core i3, specifically the i3-6100, but keep in mind that this is a value-oriented build, and the i3-6100 fills the space well. We’ll discuss this a bit more below.

Per the usual format, we will list an OS in the below DIY build list as an optional purchase in addition to an optional, but advised, SSD. Also below, find our tutorial on building a gaming PC or check out our more in depth article.

This gaming PC build is priced below $700 (though may be below $600, if the sales are still active), and is targeted at high graphics settings with a 1080p monitor.

We’re still cranking through content as we roll into the weekend’s holiday, and that’s not going to stop. We’ll be posting on the 25th, as we do each year, and I’ll likely be working on server upgrades. It’s somewhat of a Christmas tradition for GN, it seems.

But until that time, we’ve still got a solid week of production to cut through. This week starts off with the usual Ask GN episode, now #38, and will briefly highlight advantages of the Xeon or i7 CPUs in different use cases, frequency and core count discussion, and threats to Intel’s dominance in the computing world.

We’ll have a new PC build article going live within the next day, too. That’ll feature a few sales for Christmas, so be sure to check that guide. There’ll be a few fairly big ones.

Episode below. Timestamps below that.

Newegg’s Techmas and pre-holiday sales continue throughout the month of December. Throughout this weekend, you can pick up an ADATA 256GB SSD, Seasonic Modular 650W Power Supply, and an iFixit toolkit if you need a good set to tackle a late 2016 PC build. We also have identified a couple different kits of G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2x8) DRR4 RAM, presently down-priced for EOY Christmas sales.

The second card in our “revisit” series – sort of semi-re-reviews – is the GTX 780 Ti from November of 2013, which originally shipped for $700. This was the flagship of the Kepler architecture, followed later by Maxwell architecture on GTX 900 series GPUs, and then the modern Pascal. The 780 Ti was in competition with AMD’s R9 200 series and (a bit later) R9 300 series cards, and was accompanied by the expected 780, 770, and 760 video cards.

Our last revisit looked at the GTX 770 2GB card, and our next one plans to look at an AMD R9 200-series card. For today, we’re revisiting the GTX 780 Ti 3GB card for an analysis of its performance in 2016, as pitted against the modern GTX 1080, 1070, 1060, 1050 Ti, and RX 480, 470, and others.

LG 32UD99 HDR Display Announced

By Published December 16, 2016 at 12:20 pm

LG has made a preliminary announcement heralding the arrival of a new flagship display: the LG 32UD99. Poised to entice creative professionals, gamers, and prosumers, the LG 32UD99 suggests targeting a more encompassing demographic; a contrast to the fairly recent announcement of LG UltraFine 4K and 5K panels that seemingly left Windows users in the cold. LG plans to demonstrate the 32UD99 at CES next month alongside some other panels. Naturally, many specifications were left undisclosed. Here is what we know so far:

The LG 32UD99 touts a 32” IPS panel at a native resolution of 3840 x 2160, making this a UHD 4K display. The IPS panel is of 10-bit color depth and can reproduce 1.07 billion colors. That’s vs 8-bit with 16.77 million colors. The panel of the LG 32UD99 allegedly saturates 95% of the DCI P3 color space, and LG has reported nothing of other color spaces such as sRGB and Adobe RGB. The LG 32UD99 also supports 3D LUTs (look-up tables), but again, there are no details on the LUTs. As look-up tables are primarily for color enhancement and correction, this is a feature more prepared for users working in digital media.

Hardware news has, somewhat surprisingly, maintained its pace through the late months of the year. We normally expect a slowdown in December, but with AMD’s onslaught of announcements (Instinct, Ryzen, Vega), and with announcements leading into CES, we’ve yet to catch a break.

This week’s hardware news focuses on the RX 460 unlocking discovered by Der8auer, new SSDs from Corsair (MP500) and Zadak, and TSMC’s fab expansion.

Video below:

Albeit in the midst of troubling SSD news, Corsair fans may rejoice. After a seeming lack of focus in the SSD market, Corsair has announced the immediate availability of the new Force Series MP500 M.2 solid-state drives. Although laggardly, Corsair now joins other companies like Samsung, Plextor, Toshiba, and Intel in leaving behind the limited SATA III 6Gb/s connection in favor of NVMe via PCIe x4.

Corsair avers the new MP500 Force Series to be the fastest drive they have yet produced, with sequential read/write speeds rated at 3000/2400 MB/s and random 4K read/write speeds at 250,000/210,000 IOPS, nominally. Theoretically speaking, system boot times, large file transfers, and game load times will see improvement over using a single SATA 6Gb/s connection. This also puts the drive in somewhat parallel performance with the Samsung 960 EVO.

The MP500 series will utilize a Phison PS5007-E7 NVMe memory controller in conjunction with the high bandwidth afforded by PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 lanes. The MP500 conforms to the M.2 2280 form factor and sports a black PCB with a black cover hiding the NAND (and so we haven’t yet identified the modules used). Although not particularly relevant, it does coincide with the recent motherboard color trend and should please users aimed at achieving a uniform aesthetic, in comparison to the overdone green PCBs. The Phison PS5007-E7 controller supports SLC/MLC/TLC and 3D NAND (V-NAND), although we are currently unable to ascertain the specific NAND type used in the Corsair Force MP500. The Force Series MP500 range will offer 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB capacities priced at $110, $170, and $325, respectively.

AMD Ryzen Zen CPU Shown at Horizon Event

By Published December 13, 2016 at 4:55 pm

The article title might need a few more "-zen" and "-zon" syllables.

AMD’s new Zen architecture today made its public debut under the “Ryzen” 8C/16T CPU, an IGP-less competitor to Intel’s high-end enthusiast platforms. Ryzen, a combination of “Horizon” and “Zen” (we’re told), was demonstrated as operating at approximately 3.4GHz base clock, with boosting capabilities that brought it into competition with Intel’s Broadwell-E i7-6900K.

The Ryzen CPU aims to operate at approximately 3.4GHz base clock, leveraging a form of SMT to achieve 16 logical threads on 8 physical cores. We’ve also learned that Ryzen, due out in 1Q17, will host 20MB of combined L2+L3 cache. We are presently unsure of any more specifics on the caching architecture, and are due for briefings with AMD to develop a deeper understanding of Zen and its cache.

Building-up a semi-custom liquid cooling loop is a bit of a new trend, spawned from a surge in AIO dominance over the market. The ease of installation for AIOs greatly exceeds what’s possible with an open loop, with the obvious loss of some customization and uniqueness. The cooling loss, although present, isn’t necessarily a big factor for the types of buyers interested in AIO CLCs rather than open-loop alternatives. Ever since we saw PNY’s solution years ago, though, and then more recently EVGA’s quick disconnect solution, the market has begun to burgeon with semi-custom loop “CLCs.”

An example of these semi-custom CLCs would be the EK Waterblocks Predator XLC 280 that we benchmarked in our Kraken X62 review. Today’s review also focuses on one of these semi-custom liquid cooling solutions, featuring benchmarks of the Alphacool Eiswolf GPX Pro on a GTX 1080. Our testing looks into thermal performance under baseline conditions (versus a GN Hybrid DIY option), frequency stability and performance, overclocking, and FPS impact. We’ve got a few noise and CPU tests too, though this will primarily focus on the GPU aspect of the cooling. The Alphacool Eiswolf GPX Pro does not work as an out-of-box product, necessitating our purchase of the Alphacool Eisbaer to hook into the system (CPU cooler + radiator). The Eiswolf GPX Pro is a $130 unit, and the Eisbaer cost us ~$145.

This unit was provided by viewer and reader ‘Eric’ on loan for review. Thanks, Eric!

TSMC Moving Toward 5nm & 3nm Process with $15.7B Fab

By Published December 13, 2016 at 10:00 am

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) has set sights on building a new $15.7 billion facility geared towards the 5 and 3 nanometer chip processes, eyes set for future process nodes. TSMC is the world’s biggest chip maker by revenue, accounting for 55% of the market share. TSMC’s deep-pocketed clients include Qualcomm, nVidia, and Apple, whose iPhone 7 launch was especially pivotal in the record quarter to quarter profits TSMC has been reporting, as TSMC produces the A10 processor for the iPhone 7.

Taiwan Semiconductor houses its base of operations in Northern Taiwan, where several of their fabs are located. This is in addition to leading-edge fabs in Southern Taiwan and Central Taiwan, not to mention manufacturing bases in China.

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