We're getting sick of hearing “VR” at every meeting. It's not that the technology is bad – it's just getting a little exhausting to hear as a tag-along to literally anything. Everything is VR premium, VR-ready, VR approved, VR, VR, VR.
Despite this, we're still posting some coverage of a few VR trends that make more sense than empty badges or paid-for certifications. MSI's VR backpack is one of the noteworthy creations, seemingly inspired from Intel's prototype VR backpack at CES 2016, and arrives at Computex alongside immediate competitors from ASUS and Zotac.
Corsair's products precede them. Computex 2016 didn't feature any new cases from the rapidly growing case manufacturer, but did quietly highlight a refresh of the 400C Carbide in white. We received the 600C and 400C series well in reviews, so adding a new color doesn't hurt. A few new products did make their way to the showroom, primarily new fans with mag-lev bearings and an updated set of DDR4 memory kits.
The Mag-Lev fans use a bearing which is – at least temporarily – exclusive to Corsair, a trend with Corsair's supply-side partners. Corsair's ML Pro fans will be the first to ship with mag-level fan bearings and will be available in both 120mm and 140mm sizes; we don't yet have a price, but have been told that the fans will be among Corsair's most expensive.
It's been a number of years since we were thoroughly impressed by Rosewill. The Rosewill R5, made back in 2012, landed on our bench as one of the best cases we'd ever worked with. It was exactly in-tune with the market, and shipped at a time when things like dust filters were getting hugely popular and common. Since then, the Throne filled a gap at the high-end, but not much else has caught our eye.
Finally, Rosewill's started making moves in the right direction (following the Gungnir launch). The new “Cullinan” case keeps with the industry's move toward the tinted, tempered glass aesthetic; Rosewill's using a high-quality, thick tempered glass side panel on the left and right of the Cullinan, and also throws one onto the front. The front panel, as one would expect, reveals the 120mm fans seated within the front of the chassis. Three were installed at the show, but we're told to expect somewhere around 4-5 total fans (stock) with the system – that'd be one in the rear, one or two in the top, and two or three in the front (all 120mm).
Years ago, at one of our earliest CES shows, we covered the SilverStone-ASUS external graphics enclosure. It was a joint-venture that never made it to production, a result of licensing issues relating to Intel and Thunderbolt. Now, with the market flooding with external dGPU enclosures, SilverStone has resurrected its killed product from the dead.
SilverStone is responsible for the chassis and power supply – a 450W, bronze-rated PSU housed in an aluminum tower – and Gigabyte is helping with the logic connecting the VGA to the laptop. The enclosure is fully made of aluminum and can fit effectively all video cards (as long as they're two-slot cards or smaller), and has two thunderbolt outputs for communication with laptops.
We had to invent a word for this one. The new Be Quiet! Dark Base 900 is an “invert-able” case on display at Computex, offering modularity for users to completely disassemble the insides. The drive cages, optical drives (removable), and even the motherboard tray can be removed and shuffled around, offering an inverted motherboard layout (similar to what we reviewed here), standard layout, or removal of unwanted drive cages / optical drive bays.
The modularity of the case is almost entirely for personal preference, and will offer minimal performance difference (if any at all). We did see that the 600C performed well in its configuration, but that was less a result of the tray inversion and more a result of the fan and PSU fan positioning, which we talk about in that review. The entire center of the chassis & frame can be removed and re-oriented with the help of 9 screws, and the side-agnostic paneling allows for the window to be positioned on either side of the pro model. The non-pro model can still do all this motherboard inversion, but includes a normal steel side panel with sound damping materials, as opposed to the tempered glass.
Computex – the show that never ends. For video card coverage, we've looked at the latest EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid & Classified cards, ASUS' Strix 1080, the MSI Twin Frozr VI (even overclocked it at the show), and AMD's new Radeon RX480. Now, hopefully rounding-out most of our AIB partner coverage, we're looking at Gigabyte's GTX 1080 G1 Gaming and GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Windforce Stacked Fan (a mouthful, we assure you).
The Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming cards introduce a new branding initiative for the company. Both cards at Computex are equipped with triple-fan coolers – maybe a bit unnecessary for the GP104-400, but temperature reductions have already shown use – and fall under the Xtreme Gaming branding. The G1 Gaming continues Gigabyte's G1 line, targeting mainstream gamers while advertising its superior cooling solution to reference (not hard, to be fair).
AMD's 14nm FinFET Radeon RX480 was just announced at Computex, using the new Polaris 10 architecture. The AMD Radeon RX480 GPU uses Polaris 10 architecture to deliver >5TFLOPS of Compute for $200, at 150W TDP, and ships in SKUs of 4GB & 8GB GDDR5. We have not confirmed if the 8GB model costs more; the exact language was “RX 480 set to drive premium VR experiences into the hands of millions of consumers, priced from just $199.”
“From,” of course, means “starting at” – so it could be that the 8GB model costs more. Regardless, AMD's firmly entered the mid-range market with its 8GB RX480, landing where the R9 380X and GTX 960 4GB presently rest. (Update: We emailed and confirmed that the 4GB model is $200. The 8GB model is not yet finalized for pricing -- probably $250+).
AMD's is rumored to be skipping on the high-end market with Polaris architectures 10 & 11, likely aiming to fill that demand with Vega instead. Vega is on the roadmap for public delivery later in 2016.
Computex has been an unrelenting wave of AIB partner versions of the GTX 1080, with (thus far) one non-reference GTX 1070 in the mix. We've already looked at options from MSI and ASUS, and are now shifting focus to EVGA.
EVGA's Computex line-up most immediately fronted the GTX 1080 Classified, followed by the 1080 Hybrid, 1080 FTW, 1080 SC, and GTX 1070 SC. The cards with ACX coolers – like the SC cards – have now moved to ACX 3.0, which makes a number of small-but-noteworthy changes to cooling design. Fan blades are now slightly thicker than on ACX 2.0, which (we're told) reduces noise levels by way of reducing turbulence and vibration. The ACX 3.0 cooler sticks to its round, copper heatpipes, but modifies them by filling in corners (where gaps between the heatpipe and heatsink exist) with copper.
Computex is one of the few shows that meshes with unscheduled drive-bys. We made an unplanned stop at the ASUS ROG booth to get hands-on with the company's new GTX 1080 Strix card, targeted slightly toward overclockers and enthusiast users.
The ASUS GTX 1080 Strix ships with a pre-overclock applied, so the card operates at 1936MHz in “OC mode” and 1898MHz in “Gaming mode” (all caps optional). That's a fair increase over the ~1733MHz boosted speed of the reference GTX 1080 from nVidia. Like MSI with its Twin Frozr VI Z-series card, nVidia has increased the VRM phase count to 8+2 – rather than the 5+1 reference phases or MSI's 10+1 phasing – and leverages this voltage regulation improvement to sustain stable overclocks. We were not able to live OC the Strix card, though.
Day one of our Computex 2016 coverage began and ended with MSI's product lineup. We haven't yet gotten to the VR backpack – that'll come soon enough – but we did go over the new GTX 1080 Twin Frozr VI cards. The MSI HQ also brought to bear its updated X99 motherboards for Broadwell-E. The new BW-E Intel CPUs are compatible with the “old” socket type and chipset from Haswell-E (though firmware will need to be updated on older boards), though most motherboard manufacturers are launching entirely new, refreshed lines to coincide with the BW-E launch.
The new motherboards are branded with the “X99A” prefix/suffix combo. That “A” denotes that the product is part of the new motherboards coinciding with the BW-E launch; it is not an entirely new chipset, just a suffix notation. The boards mentioned in our meetings are of the Titanium (“X99A Titanium”), Gaming (“X99A Gaming Pro Carbon”), and SLI (“X99A SLI Plus”) lines, which cover the high-end enthusiast market, mid-range gaming market, and entry-level X99 market (e.g. 5820K).