Hardware

AMD's RX 480 launch introduces the Polaris architecture to the world, arranging an alliterative architecture assortment from both GPU vendors (Pascal, if you're curious, is the other). This is AMD's answer to the largest market segment, shipping in 4GB and 8GB variants that are priced at $200 and $240, respectively.

During the RX 480 press briefing, AMD strongly defended its stance on maturing and tuning its architectures to extract the maximum possible performance prior to an architectural shift. “We don't have a billion dollars to spend on a single architecture,” said AMD SVP & Chief Architect Raja Koduri, clearly referencing nVidia's boastful Order of 10 unveil. Koduri went on to praise his team for doing an “amazing job with existing products,” but welcomed the arrival of a new 14nm FinFET process node to usurp the long-standing ubiquity of 28nm planar process.

The AMD RX 480 8GB is on the bench for review today. In this RX 480 8GB review, we benchmark framerate (FPS) & frametime performance, overclocking, thermals, clockrate vs. time endurance, fan RPMs, and noise levels.

EVGA's GTX 1070 SC introduces the company's ACX 3.0 air cooler, an update we detailed in our Computex coverage of EVGA's GTX 1080 FTW, Hybrid, and Classified cards. The 1070 SC is part of EVGA's “SuperClocked” family, which is the most affordable pre-overclocked card that the company sells. The vertical will likely later add an SSC card, or Super SuperClocked, with non-OC cards falling below SC in price. The GTX 1070 SC has an MSRP of $440, or $10 below the $450 Founders Edition that we reviewed, and is one of EVGA's first 1070s to market.

This review of the EVGA GTX 1070 SC looks at thermals, FPS, noise, and overclocking. We compare the EVGA 1070 SC vs. the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X and NVIDIA GTX 1070 Founders Edition cards.

MSI's GTX 1080 Gaming X was the first AIB partner GTX 1080 to show up at our lab, marking the beginning of AIB partner reign over the GTX 1080 market. We originally reviewed the GTX 1080 and remarked that, although the card is good, it just made far more sense to wait for non-reference (“Founders Edition”) designs. The FE card exhibited some clock-rate instability in some instances, and our DIY Hybrid project served as a proof of concept for aftermarket cooling solutions.

MSI's GTX 1080 Gaming X (priced at $720) tests that theory with a manufacturer-made cooling solution. The GTX 1080 Gaming X uses a new Twin Frozr VI air cooler, ships with three OC settings in the MSI Gaming App (maxing-out at 1847MHz with OC mode), and is stacked in the middle of MSI's options. The company is also working on a Gaming Z card, which we live-overclocked at Computex, and a new SeaHawk – all those are detailed here.

In this MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X review, we look at cooling performance, noise levels, FPS (gaming), and maximum overclocking performance.

Corsair has expanded into a wider range of products than “just” RAM, now including cases, CPU coolers, power supplies, keyboards, mice, headsets, and more. In the mechanical gaming keyboard market especially, Corsair has built-up a relatively solid reputation for performant and discreet-looking keyboards compared to much of its flashier competition. Corsair’s latest addition to its mechanical keyboard lineup is the K RGB Rapidfire series. The K65 and K70 RGB Rapidfire – tenkeyless and full-sized, respectively – are the same as the K65 and K70 LUX RGB counterparts with the exception of the switch. The new K65 Rapidfire keyboard uses Cherry’s new MX Speed switch rather than MX Reds or Browns. The MX Speed switch is currently a Corsair exclusive, but will eventually open up to other vendors.

For those who don’t know, the LUX versions of Corsair’s keyboards are the same as the non-LUX versions, but they feature the larger font style found on the Strafe (reviewed), an updated RGB controller (allowing for 16.8 million colors without flickering), and USB passthrough.

Today, we look at the K65 RGB Rapidfire, Corsair’s new tenkeyless RGB gaming keyboard. Most notably, the K65 Rapidfire markets itself as having unique switches, sturdy build quality, and versatile RGB lighting. Reflecting that feature-set, the K65 RGB Rapidfire is somewhat expensive at $140 -- let’s see if it’s worth it.

The GTX 1080's epochal launch all but overshadowed its cut-down counterpart – that is, until the price was unveiled. NVidia's GTX 1070 is promised at an initial $450 price-point for the Founders Edition (explained here), or an MSRP of $380 for board partner models. The GTX 1070 replaces nVidia's GTX 970 in the vertical, but promises superior performance to previous high-end models like the 980 and 980 Ti; we'll validate those claims in our testing below, following an initial architecture overview.

The GeForce GTX 1070 ($450) uses a Pascal GP104-200 chip. The architecture is identical to the GTX 1080 and its GP104-400 GPU, but cuts-down on SM presence (and core count) to create a mid-range version of the new 16nm FinFET architecture. This new node from TSMC is nearly half the size of Maxwell's 28nm Planar process, and switches the company over to FinFET transistor architecture for reduced power leakage and overall improved performance-per-watt efficiency. The trend is symptomatic of an industry trending toward ever-smaller devices with a greater concern on the power envelope, and has been reflected in nVidia's architectures since Fermi (GTX 400 series running notoriously hot) and AMD's since Fiji (sort of – Polaris claims to make a bigger push in this direction). On the CPU side, Intel has been driving this trend for several generations now, its 10nm process making promises to further extend mobile device endurance and transistor density.

All the pyrotechnics in the world couldn't match the gasconade with which GPU & CPU vendors announce their new architectures. You'd halfway expect this promulgation of multipliers and gains and reductions (but only where smaller is better) to mark the end-times for humankind; surely, if some device were crafted to the standards by which it were announced, The Aliens would descend upon us.

But, every now and then, those bombastic announcements have something behind them – there's substance there, and potential for an adequately exciting piece of technology. NVidia's debut of consumer-grade Pascal architecture initializes with GP104, the first of its non-Accelerator cards to host the new 16nm FinFET process node from TSMC. That GPU lands on the GTX 1080 Founders Edition video card first, later to be disseminated through AIB partners with custom cooling or PCB solutions. If the Founders Edition nomenclature confuses you, don't let it – it's a replacement for nVidia's old “Reference” card naming, as we described here.

Anticipation is high for GP104's improvements over Maxwell, particularly in the area of asynchronous compute and command queuing. As the industry pushes ever into DirectX 12 and Vulkan, compute preemption and dynamic task management become the gatekeepers to performance advancements in these new APIs. It also means that LDA & AFR start getting pushed out as frames become more interdependent with post-FX, and so suddenly there are implications for multi-card configurations that point toward increasingly less optimization support going forward.

Our nVidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition review benchmarks the card's FPS performance, thermals, noise levels, and overclocking vs. the 980 Ti, 980, Fury X, and 390X. This nearing-10,000-word review lays-out the architecture from an SM level, talks asynchronous compute changes in Pascal / GTX 1080, provides a quick “how to” primer for overclocking the GTX 1080, and talks simultaneous multi-projection. We've got thermal throttle analysis that's new, too, and we're excited to show it.

The Founders Edition version of the GTX 1080 costs $700, though MSRP for AIBs starts at $600. We expect to see that market fill-in over the next few months. Public availability begins on May 27.

First, the embedded video review and specs table:

Logitech's new Chaos Spectrum G900 mouse has definitively settled the wireless gaming mouse debate: Wireless mice can respond just as fast – if not faster – as their wired counterparts. This topic is one we've explored in-depth below, including discussion on wireless interference and cross-talk/impedance, battery life and weight trade-offs, accuracy, and more.

The Chaos Spectrum G900 was unveiled at GDC as a “wired-wireless” mouse, embodying Logitech's devout effort to demystify wireless mice as “unreliable” for gaming. Logitech informed us that their wireless G900 tested as performing minimally equal to wired competition for responsiveness, and sometimes better.

The new G900 RGB mouse costs $150, making it one of the most expensive gaming-class mice currently on the market. It also makes some of the biggest promises, like 24-hour run-to-die battery life (with RGB LEDs on) and exceedingly tight tolerances for click force variance from mouse-to-mouse. It's a uniquely high-end peripheral that requires a properly in-depth review. Starting us off, the usual specs sheets:

The AMD Athlon X4 880K is the CPU we've been waiting for. Since the A10-7870K and A10-7860K APU reviews, our conclusions have generally been pointing in this direction. For the dGPU-using gaming audience, it makes better sense for budget buyers to grab a cheap CPU and dGPU than to buy an APU alone. There is a place for the APUs – ultra-budget, tiny, quiet HTPCs capable of video streaming and moderate gaming – but for more “core” gaming, the CPU + dGPU move currently does yield major gains. Even just throwing a 250X at an APU has, in some of our tests, nearly doubled gaming performance. For such a dirt-cheap video card, that's a big gain to be had.

And so AMD's Athlon X4 880K enters the scene. The price is all over the map right now. MSRP is $95 from AMD, but the X4 880K isn't (as of this writing) available through major first-party retailers like Amazon and Newegg. We've seen it for $104 from third-party Newegg sellers, but as low as $90 from sites we've never heard of, if you count those. In theory, though, the X4 880K will eventually come to rest at $95.

The new CPU is effectively a step between the 7870K and 7890K, but with the IGP disabled. This lowers validation cost while offering effectively equivalent CPU performance. AMD's X4 880K operates on a two-module, four-core Excavator architecture with a stock clock-rate of 4.0 to 4.2GHz (boosted). For comparison, the A10-7890K runs 4.1 to 4.3GHz, so there's a 100MHz gain over the X4 880K. Easily negated with overclocking, as the 880K is a K-SKU, multiplier-unlocked chip. The 880K has a 95W TDP and is paired with AMD's 125W near-silent (NS) cooler.

This review and benchmark of the Athlon X4 880K tests thermals, gaming (FPS) performance, and compares against higher-end i3 & i5 CPUs, APUs, and the old X4 760K.

SilverStone acts like somewhat of a boutique manufacturer within the US market. The products are often unique or risk-taking, sometimes bench-topping or just plain competitive – but the brand also has lower visibility when compared against US juggernauts Corsair or global market contenders Cooler Master.

One of the newest SilverStone cases competes in the ~$70 price-point, directly matched against recently reviewed cases (Phanteks P400, Rosewill Gungnir, Corsair 400C). The SilverStone Kublai KL05-BW is on bench for review today, including case walkthrough, thermal / temperature benchmarking, cable management, and build quality analysis. The enclosure diverges from recent trends by opting-out of a PSU shroud, it's kept the optical drive bays, and has taken a minimalistic-but-effective approach to cooling. More on that below.

Gaming laptops have historically been synonymous with “cinder block” – particularly true for the GTX 980M, GTX 980, and GTX 970M units we've reviewed – but that isn't always the case. Still, slimming down the form factor comes at the substantial risk of increased thermals. Packing high-performance silicon densely into a small box is a breeding ground for poor dissipation potential, offset only by careful controls (throttles) and, normally, a hefty amount of copper. Thermals happen to be our test specialty; we're particularly interested in exploring the temperature readings of MSI's new GE62 Apache Pro 6QD laptop, a 15.6” portable with a GTX 960M and i7-6700HQ.

But it's not all about thermals. Our GE62 6QD Apache Pro ($1300) review benchmarks gaming (FPS) performance of the GTX 960M & i7-6700HQ, looks at thermals, and tests battery life. For a bout of fun, we threw in a battery life test with the keyboard backlight and background software disabled, just to see if it'd increase longevity. Games used for real-world benchmarking include GRID: Autosport (battery life analysis), DiRT Rally, The Witcher 3, GTA V, Metro: Last Light, and Shadow of Mordor.

  VigLink badge