Hardware

AMD’s got a new strategy: Don’t give anyone time to blink between product launches. The company’s been firing off round after round of products for the past month, starting with Ryzen 7, then Ryzen 5, and now Polaris Refresh. The product cannon will eventually be reloaded with Vega, but that’s not for today.

The RX 500 series officially arrives to market today, primarily carried in on the backs of the RX 580 and RX 570 Polaris 10 GPUs. From an architectural perspective, there’s nothing new – if you know Polaris and the RX 400 series, you know the RX 500 series. This is not an exciting, bombastic launch that requires delving into some unexplored arch; in fact, our original RX 480 review heavily detailed Polaris architecture, and that’s all relevant information to today’s RX 580 launch. If you’re not up to speed on Polaris, our review from last year is a good place to start (though the numbers are now out of date, the information is still accurate).

Both the RX 580 and RX 570 will be available as of this article’s publication. The RX 580 we’re reviewing should be listed here once retailer embargo lifts, with our RX 570 model posting here. Our RX 570 review goes live tomorrow. We’re spacing them out to allow for better per-card depth, having just come off of a series of 1080 Ti reviews (Xtreme, Gaming X).

Our Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti Aorus Xtreme ($750) review brings us to look at one of the largest video cards in the 1080 Ti family, matching it well versus the MSI 1080 Ti Gaming X. Our tests today will look at the Aorus Xtreme GPU in thermals (most heavily), noise levels, gaming performance, and overclocking, with particular interest in the efficacy of Gigabyte’s copper insert in the backplate. The Gigabyte Aorus Xtreme is a heavyweight in all departments – size being one of them – and is priced at $750, matching the MSI Gaming X directly. A major point of differentiation is the bigger focus on RGB LEDs with Gigabyte’s model, though the three-fan design is also interesting from a thermal and noise perspective. We’ll look at that more on page 3.

We’ve already posted a tear-down of this card (and friend of the site ‘Buildzoid’ has posted his PCB analysis), but we’ll recap some of the PCB and cooler basics on this first page. The card uses a 3-fan cooler (with smaller fans than the Gaming X-type cards, but more of them) and large aluminum heatsink, ultimately taking up nearly 3 PCI-e slots. It’s the same GPU and memory underneath as all other GTX 1080 Ti cards, with differences primarily in the cooling and power management departments. Clock, of course, does have some pre-OC applied to help boost over the reference model. Gigabyte is shipping the Xtreme variant of the 1080 Ti at 1632/1746MHz (OC mode) or 1607/1721 (gaming mode), toggleable through software if not manually overclocking.

We’re reviewing the new MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X card today, priced at $750 and positioned as one of the highest-performing gaming cards on the market. These tests will extensively look at thermals, given that that’s the primary differentiator between same-GPU video cards, and then look at gaming performance (in FPS) versus the Reference card and our Hybrid mod FE card. Part of our thermal testing will include performance analysis with and without a backplate. Noise levels are going to be the same as the last Twin Frozr card we tested, which can be found here.

This generation of GTX 1080 Ti cards has gone big. MSI’s Gaming X is already large, but the Gigabyte unit that we’re reviewing next is similarly big in the multi-slot department. The Gaming X uses MSI’s known twin-frozr cooler, with modifications to the underlying aluminum heatsink to increase surface area and fin density. Noise output is therefore identical to the noise output of previous Twin Frozr coolers we reviewed for the 10-series, including the GTX 1080 non-Ti Gaming X.

MSI ships the 1080 Ti Gaming X at three different frequencies, configurable through software: OC mode runs at 1683MHz boost and 1569MHz base, Gaming mode runs at 1657MHz boost and 1544MHz base, and silent mode runs at 1582 and 1480MHz.

 

AMD R5 1600X, 1500X Review: i5's Fading Grasp

By Published April 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

Following our in-depth Ryzen VR benchmark (R7 1700 vs. i7-7700K with the Rift + Vive), we immediately began compiling results for the concurrent R5 test efforts by GN Sr. Editor Patrick Lathan. Working together, we were able to knock-out the VR benchmarks (check those out here – some cool data), Ryzen Revisit piece, and today’s R5 reviews.

Both the R5 1600X ($250) and R5 1500X ($190) CPUs are in for review today, primarily matched against the Intel i5-7500 and i5-7600K. For comparison reasons, we have still included other CPUs on the bench – notably the i7-7700K and R7 1700, just to give an understanding of what the extra ~$70-$130 gets.

For anyone who hasn’t checked in on our content since the initial Ryzen reviews, we’d strongly encourage checking the Ryzen Revisit piece for a better understanding of how the scene has changed since launch. That revisit looks at Windows updates (and debunks some myths), EFI updates, and memory overclocking impact on Ryzen performance.

Although we have rerun the R7 gaming benchmarks with higher memory frequency (thanks to GSkill and Geil for providing B-die kits), we have not yet rerun them in synthetic tests. The 2933MHz frequency, as a reminder, was a hard limitation on our test platforms in the initial round of R7 reviews.

We will be including that data (albeit truncated) in our new tests, alongside Intel retests for the same games. For now, though, we’re reviewing the R5 1600X and R5 1500X CPUs in the Ryzen family, priced at $250 and $190, respectively.

This first revisit to Ryzen’s performance comes earlier than most, given the tempestuous environment surrounding AMD’s latest uarch. In the past weeks, we’ve seen claims that Windows updates promise a significant boon to Ryzen performance, as has also been said of memory overclocking, and we were previously instructed that EFI updates alone should bolster performance. Perhaps not unrelated, game updates to major titles could have potentially impacted performance, amounting to a significant number of variables for a revisit.

Today’s content piece aims to isolate each of these items as much as reasonable – not all can be isolated, like game updates – to better determine the performance impact from the individual changes and updates. We’ll then progress cumulatively through charts as updates are applied. Our final set of charts will contain Windows version bxxx.970, version 1002 EFI on the CH6, and memory overclocking efforts.

Fractal Define C Review: Logical & Quiet

By Published March 27, 2017 at 2:48 pm

In direct competition with the Be Quiet! Pure Base 600 ($90) we reviewed recently is the Fractal Define C, a compact ATX mid tower with an emphasis on noise suppression. The Fractal Define C is a relatively new launch from Fractal Design, sticking to the highly competitive ~$90 mid-tower market. Fractal’s Define C ships in micro-ATX (“Define Mini C”) and ATX form factor versions, the latter of which is on the bench today.

Our Fractal Define C review looks at the ATX-sized enclosure, taking thermals to task and testing for noise emissions in the company’s newest box. Fractal’s immediate competition at this price-point comes from the Be Quiet! Pure Base 600, NZXT S340 non-Elite, and the Corsair 400Q and 400C.

AMD Ryzen R7 1700X Review: Odd One Out

By Published March 23, 2017 at 2:19 pm

We’ve praised the R7 1700 ($330) for its mixed workload performance and overclocking capabilities at $330, and we’ve criticized the 1800X for its insignificant performance improvements (over the 1700) at $500. That leaves the R7 1700X ($400), positioned precariously between the two with a base clock of 3.4GHz, but the full 95W TDP of its 1800X sibling.

The 1700X performs as expected, given its flanks, landing between the R7 1700 and R7 1800X. All three are 8C/16T chips with the same CCX layout; refer back to our 1800X review for a more thorough description of the R7 CPU & Ryzen architecture. A quick comparison of basic stats reveals that the major advantage of the 1700X is a moderate increase in frequency, with additional XFR headroom as demarcated by the ‘X’ suffix. That said, our R7 1700 easily overclocked to a higher frequency than the native 1700X frequency, with no manual adjustment to voltage or EFI beyond the multiplier. The 1700X has a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.8GHz, which theoretically means it could come close to the performance of our 3.9GHz 1700 straight out of the box while retaining the benefits of XFR (circumvented by overclocking).

The GTX 1080 Ti posed a fun opportunity to roll-out our new GPU test bench, something we’ve been working on since end of last year. The updated bench puts a new emphasis on thermal testing, borrowing methodology from our EVGA ICX review, and now analyzes cooler efficacy as it pertains to non-GPU components (read: MOSFETs, backplate, VRAM).

In addition to this, of course, we’ll be conducting a new suite of game FPS benchmarks, running synthetics, and preparing for overclocking and noise. The last two items won’t make it into today’s content given PAX being hours away, but they’re coming. We will be starting our Hybrid series today, for fans of that. Check here shortly for that.

If it’s not obvious, we’re reviewing nVidia’s GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition card today, follow-up to the GTX 1080 and gen-old 980 Ti. Included on the benches are the 1080, 1080 Ti, 1070, 980 Ti, and in some, an RX 480 to represent the $250 market. We’re still adding cards to this brand new bench, but that’s where we’re starting. Please exercise patience as we continue to iterate on this platform and build a new dataset. Last year’s was built up over an entire launch cycle.

AMD R7 1700 Review: Ryzen's Champion

By Published March 06, 2017 at 3:23 pm

AMD’s R7 1700 CPU ($330) immediately positions itself in a more advantaged segment than its $500 1800X companion, which proved poor value for pure gaming machines in our tests. Of course, as we said previously (page 5, 8), the 1800X makes more sense for our tested production tasks than the $1000 6900K when considering price:performance. For gaming, both are poor choices; the 1800X performs on par with i5 CPUs in game benchmarks, and the 6900K is $1000. It’s about value, not raw performance: Multiplicative increments in price to achieve performance equivalence (gaming) to cheaper chips is not good value. Before venturing into the 1440p/4K argument, we’d encourage you to read this review. The R7 1700 – by nature of that very argument, but also by nature of a trivial overclock – effectively invalidates the 1800X for gaming machines, finally granting AMD its champion for Ryzen.

We are also restricting this review to one page, as a significant portion of readers had unfortunately skipped straight to the gaming results page without context. It’s not as good for formatting or page load times, but it’ll hopefully ensure the other content is at least scrolled past, even if still ignored altogether.

Enough of that.

In this AMD R7 1700 review, we look at the price-to-performance of AMD’s new $330 CPU, which was explicitly marketed as an i7-7700K counter in price/performance when presented at AMD’s tech day. We’re benchmarking the R7 1700 in our usual suite of gaming, synthetic, and render tasks, quickly validating average auto voltages and temperatures along the way. Overclocks and SMT toggling further complicate testing, but provide a look at how the R7 1700 is capable of eliminating the gap between AMD’s own flagship and its more affordable SKU.

Intel has enjoyed relatively unchallenged occupancy of the enthusiast CPU market for several years now. If you mark the FX-8350 as the last major play prior to subsequent refreshes (like the FX-8370), that marks the last major AMD CPU launch as 2012. Of course, later launches in the FX-9000 series and FX-8000 series updates have been made, but there has not been an architectural push since the Bulldozer/Piledriver/Steamroller series.

AMD Ryzen, then, has understandably generated an impregnable wall of excitement from the enthusiast community. This is AMD’s chance to recover a market it once dominated, back in the Athlon x64 days, and reestablish itself in a position that minimally targets parity in price to performance. That’s all AMD needs: Parity. Or close to it, anyway, while maintaining comparable pricing to Intel. With Intel’s stranglehold lasting as long as it has, builders are ready to support an alternative in the market. It’s nice to claim “best” on some charts, like AMD has done with Cinebench, but AMD doesn’t have to win: they have to tie. The momentum to shift is there.

Even RTG competitor nVidia will benefit from this upgrade cycle. That’s not something you hear a lot – nVidia wanting AMD to do well with a launch – but here, it makes sense. A dump of new systems into the ecosystem means everyone experiences revenue growth. People need to buy new GPUs, new cases, new coolers, and new RAM to accompany any moves to Ryzen. Misalignment of Vega and Ryzen make sense in the sense of not smothering one announcement with the other, but does mean that AMD is now rapidly moving toward Vega’s launch. Those R7 CPUs don’t necessarily fit best with an RX 480; it’s a fine card, just not something you stick with a $400-$500 CPU. Two major launches in short order, then, one of which potentially drives system refreshes.

AMD must feel the weight borne by Atlas at this moment.

In this ~11,000 word review of AMD’s Ryzen R7 1800X, we’ll look at FPS benchmarking, Premiere & Blender workloads, thermals and voltage, and logistical challenges. (Update: 1700 review here).

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