At the tail-end of a one-day trip across the country, this episode of Ask GN tides us over until our weekend burst of further content production. We’re currently working on turning around a few case reviews, some game benchmarks, and implementing new thermal calibrators and high-end equipment.

In the meantime, this episode addresses questions involving “doubled” DRAM prices, delidding plans for the i7-7700K, contact between a heatsink and the back of a video card, and a few other topics. Check back posthaste as we’ll ramp into publication of our i5-7600K review within the next day.

Video below, timestamps below that:

As predicted, DRAM-dependent components continue to grow more expensive as demand outpaces supply. Nanya Technology president Pei-Ing Lee confirmed that their DRAM’s average price will increase in the first and second quarter of 2017.

When we published our “Why Are RAM Prices So High” article in 2014, DRAM was transitioning to 25nm wafers—and now it’s transitioning again, this time to 20nm. Prices in the second half of 2017 are expected to stabilize, but depend largely on how quickly manufacturers gear up for the move to smaller dies—Nanya Technology will be simultaneously increasing 20nm production while cutting down on 30nm going into 2018.

SK Hynix has been busy as of late. We most recently covered their plans for expansion, which offered a cursory foretaste into what 2017 might hold for the semiconductor supplier. SK Hynix has also recently further delineated plans for 2017, trailing behind their still-fresh announcement of the industry’s first 8GB LPDDR4X-4266 DRAM packages aimed at next-generation mobile devices.

In revealing plans, SK Hynix intends to volumize production of new types of memory—not altogether unexpected. Their primary focus on NAND production and expansion over DRAM is most noteworthy, at least for impermanent future. As such, SK Hynix intends to start volume production of 72-layer 3D TLC NAND (3D-V4). For reference, SK Hynix’s 36-layer and 48-layer NAND were 3D-V2 and 3D-V3, respectively. Notable about SK Hynix’s fourth version of 3D NAND is that it will use block sizes of 13.5 MB over the 9 MB sizes of the second and third generation predecessors. Furthermore, SK Hynix intends to roll-out 256 Gb 3D TLC ICs by Q2 2017, with 512 Gb 3D TLC ICs coming in Q4 2017. SK Hynix’s new 72-layer 3D NAND should allow for higher capacity SSDs in smaller form factors and increase performance on a per IC basis.

Optane is Intel’s latest memory technology. The long-term goal for Optane is for it to be used as a supplemental system memory, caching storage, and primary storage inside PCs. Intel claims that Optane is faster than Flash NAND, only slightly slower than DRAM, has higher endurance than NAND, and, due to its density, will be about half the cost of DRAM. The catch with all of these claims is that Intel has yet to release any concrete data on the product.

What we do know is that Lenovo announced that they will be using a 16GB M.2 Optane drive for caching in a couple of their new laptops during Q1 2017. Intel also announced that another 32GB caching drive should be available later in the year, something we’ve been looking into following CES 2017. This article will look into what Intel Optane actually is, how we think it works, and whether it's actually a viable device for the enthusiast market.

CORSAIR today announced updates to their flagship K95 keyboard and their SCIMITAR gaming mouse (the CORSAIR marketing department really likes capital letters). The Scimitar Pro is out now and the K95 Platinum will be available sometime later this month, but both are at Corsair’s CES exhibit. We’ll also be covering Corsair’s RGB Vengeance memory and, albeit briefly, new “gaming” chair.

The K95 Platinum starts at $200 and has already replaced its non-platinum predecessor on the Corsair products page. For comparison, Newegg is selling the older version with Cherry MX Brown or Red switches for $170 (with some extra keycaps thrown in).

We recently reported on G.SKILL’s announcement of the new Trident Z RGB series of memory. G.SKILL has now announced their high-end Trident Z DDR4 DIMMs designed for Kaby Lake CPUs and Z270 chipset motherboards.

For the launch of Kaby Lake and the Z270 chipset, G.SKILL will offer various dual-channel kits in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB options. The modules themselves will only come in 8 or 16GB densities; a rejoinder of sorts on behalf of G.SKILL, pertaining to their claims of  mainstream popularity for 16GB and 32GB memory kits. As seen below, kits clocked at 4000MHz and beyond will only be offered in configurations of 8GB modules.

As the pre-CES hardware news keeps pouring in, HyperX has announced new products today that will further their peripherals and components aimed at the gaming market. HyperX has introduced two new Alloy keyboards, a Pulsefire Gaming Mouse, a new Cloud Revolver S Headset, and HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB LED Memory.

We will be visiting HyperX and Kingston this week, and hope to have more in-depth, on-site coverage from the show floor. For now, we’ve got the basic specs and introductory information for each new peripheral and memory kit.

Starting with the audio gear, HyperX has announced the new headset that will be showcased at CES 2017 -- the Cloud Revolver S. The new gaming headset will feature plug-and-play Dolby 7.1 virtual surround sound via a connected USB dongle. HyperX claims no additional software or audiobox will be needed to get the Dolby 7.1 surround sound functional. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an implementation of 7.1 surround in this fashion -- Turtle Beach and Plantronics have done this for ages -- but it’s the first major noise HyperX is making about Dolby Surround.

More unique to the unit, the HyperX Cloud Revolver S will have a condenser microphone with a bi-directional pattern; the condenser mic, although we’ll have to test it, could be promising for streamers and video casters who’d rather not use standalone input hardware. The HyperX Cloud Revolver S will be available February of 2017 for $150 USD.

Popular memory manufacturer G.SKILL has announced its answer to the RGB LED movement: the Trident Z RGB series. At this point, it may be hard to pinpoint the derivation of the RGB trend, yet its perpetuation across components and peripherals is one we predicted here at GN, along with some other fads.

The Trident Z RGB series will be—you guessed it—adorned with RGB LEDs in the form of a translucent lightbar affixed to the aluminum heat spreaders. The aforesaid lightbar will run the length of the DIMM operating by default in a “wave-style” effect, offering a range of hues. Such effects are capable of being modified with a future software launch, scheduled for February 2017. The Trident Z RGB lineup is somewhat inimitable in its implementation, chiefly that it does not require any additional power connections from the motherboard for user control; all necessary power is drawn from the DIMM slot. This offers divergence from the Geil EVO X RGB memory, which must be tethered to the motherboard for proper function of the LEDs, and from other LED memory options (Vengeance, Avexir) that are mono-color.

We've been through Battlefield 1 a few times now. First were the GPU benchmarks, then the HBAO vs. SSAO benchmark, then the CPU benchmark. This time it's RAM, and the methodology remains mostly the same. Note that these results are not comparable to previous results because (1) the game has received updates, (2) memory spec has changed for this test, and (3) we have updated our graphics drivers. The test platforms and memory used are dynamic for this test, the rest remaining similar to what we've done in the past. That'll be defined in the methodology below.

Our CPU benchmark had us changing frequencies between test platforms as we tried to determine our test patterns and methodology / bench specs for the endeavor. During that exploratory process, we noticed that memory speeds of 3200MHz were measurably faster in heuristic testing than speeds of, say, 2400MHz. That was just done by eye, though; it wasn't an official benchmark, and we wanted to dedicate a separate piece to that.

This content benchmarks memory performance in Battlefield 1, focusing on RAM speed (e.g. 1600MHz, 1866, 2133, 2400, so forth) and capacity. We hope to answer whether 8GB is "enough" and find a sweet spot for price-performance in memory selection.

Memory manufacturer G.Skill announced its latest DDR4 RAM in the Trident line. The new “Trident Z” memory kit, selling in high-density 8GB-per-stick capacities, runs its clock at 3600MHz natively with a CAS latency of 15 (CL15). The memory will be sold in kits of 16GB (2x8GB) and is part of G.Skill's flagship series of memory. DDR4 runs lower voltage than DDR3, so the 1.35V stock voltage isn't much of a surprise.

The Trident Z series has historically been used by record-setting overclockers (though HyperX has battled with G.Skill). The new memory kit uses a black PCB with a silver heat-spreader, emboldened by the typical red G.Skill splash of color.

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