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 If you’re not up to speed on Polaris, our review from last year is a good place to start (though the numbers are now out of date, the information is still accurate).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).

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.

 

While we crank away at finalizing the review for the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X, the Ryzen R5 CPUs, and some other products, we decided to run a PCB & VRM quality analysis of MSI’s card. The new GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X is another in a line of overbuilt VRMs, but interesting for a number of reasons (especially given the quality of this round’s reference VRM).

In our analysis of the PCB, we go over VRM design, overclocking potential, and power mods. The power mod section (toward the end of the video) discusses shunt shorting and how to trick the GPU into permitting a higher power throughput than natively allowed.

View Buildzoid’s analysis below:

MSI’s new-ish GS43 Phantom Pro laptop made an appearance at PAX East this weekend, where we’re presently RNG-ing some tear-downs and live benchmark demonstrations. Our first content piece discussed keyboard input latency testing, and our second piece – this one – will open up the Phantom Pro for a closer look.

As a quick side note, MSI does have “new” camo finish GTX 1060s, Z270 motherboards, and GE62 laptops. We show those briefly in the video, though it’s really not a focal point for today.

Every now and then, a new marketing gimmick comes along that feels a little untested. MSI’s latest M.2 heat shield always struck us as high on the list of potentially untested marketing claims. The idea that the “shield” can perform two opposing functions – shielding an SSD from external heat while somehow simultaneously sinking heat from within – seems like it’s written by marketing, not by engineering.

From a “shielding” standpoint, it might make sense; if you’ve got a second video card socketed above the M.2 SSD and dumping heat onto it, a shield could in fact help keep heat from touching SMT components. This would include Flash modules and controllers that may otherwise be in a direct heat path. From a heat sinking standpoint, a separate M.2 heatsink would also make sense. M.2 SSDs are notoriously hot resultant of their lower surface area and general lack of housing (ignoring the M8Pe and similar devices), and running high temperatures in a case with unfavorable ambient will result in throttled performance. MSI thought that adding this “shield” to the M.2 slot would solve the issue of hot M.2 SSDs, but it’s got a few problems that don’t even require testing to understand: (1) the “shield” (or sink, whatever) doesn’t enshroud the underside of the M.2 device, where SMDs will likely be present; (2) the cover is designed more like a shield than a sink (despite MSI’s marketing language – see below), and that means we’ve got limited surface area with zero dissipation potential.

After receiving a number of emails asking how to flash motherboard BIOS, we decided to revive an old series of ours and revisit each motherboard vendor’s flashing process as quickly as possible. This is particularly useful for users residing on the Z170 platform who may want to flash to support Kaby Lake CPUs. The process is the same for all modern MSI motherboards, and will work across all SKUs (with some caveats and disclaimers).

This tutorial shows how to flash firmware and update BIOS for MSI motherboards, including the new Z270 Pro Carbon / Tomahawk boards and ‘old’ Gaming M7 Z170 motherboards. For this guide, we’re primarily showing the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon, but we do briefly have some shots of the Tomahawk Z270 board. This guide applies retroactively to Z170 motherboards, and even most Z97 motherboards.

Article continues below the video, if written format is preferred.

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.

MSI’s Trident claims to be the “smallest VR-ready PC,” and measures 346 x 72 x 232mm in size. The box is about the size of a DVR and can lie flat or stand, using an angled bottom and angled base to create a more artistic means of presenting itself. It’s a little unstable if you’ve got pets or kids, as there’s no locking mechanism for the stand and the unit to click together, but flat positioning is an alternative. You do lose some cooling potential when going that route, given the ventilation.

The Trident ships in four SKUs: Barebones for $600 (no storage, no RAM), an i5 + HDD option for $900, an i5 + HDD + SSD option for $950, and the $1100 i7 option.

We’re reviewing MSI’s Trident 010, as equipped with the i7-6700 and GTX 1060 3GB and bundled with a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD. The unit is marked at $1100 on Newegg, and retains the same diminutive form factor found in the entire Trident line.

Our benchmarks have gotten increasingly detailed for systems, and we’re now benchmarking more of the thermals (PCH, drives), noise levels, power draw, and gaming performance. Heuristic VR testing was performed on the Trident, but we still require some time to get VR benchmarking right.

The GTX 980's placement in notebooks heralded the now-present era of desktop GPUs in laptops, but was still sort of a trial of the tech. NVidia and AMD have both introduced their Pascal and Polaris architectures in full, uncut versions to notebooks this generation, with performance generally within about 10% of an equivalent desktop build. Despite the desktop-level power, battery life should also be improved resultant of an overall reduction in power consumption by the GPU and the CPU alike. And almost every other component, for that matter – like DDR4, which requires lower voltage and draws less power than DDR3.

Today, we're looking at the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro laptop with GTX 1060 & i7-6700HQ, priced at $1600. The benchmarks follow our previous notebook 1070 vs. 1080 tests, but with proper depth and hands-on. Note also that we already wrote about the GE62VR's bloatware problem.

In this review of the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro ($1600), we'll be testing FPS on the GTX 1060, temperatures, noise levels, and build quality.

Naming schemes are occasionally interesting topics – normally because a company has decided to stop naming its products after Greek gods, or because of its complexity. MSI's laptop lineup has grown enough in diversity to demand three primary lines (“Apache,” “Titan,” and “Stealth”), each of which is then assigned two significant numbers.

While visiting MSI at its office last week, we finally had a chance to demystify a naming scheme which the product managers acknowledge can be somewhat confusing. The laptops we looked at are all of the new 10-series nVidia options, previewed here, including the GT83, GT73, GE63, GS63, and GS73. Each character means something:

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