There aren’t many ways for cooling manufacturers to differentiate atop of a supplier’s product, like the Asetek Gen5 pumps, but you’d be surprised at how much goes into them behind the scenes. NZXT was the first manufacturer permitted to build a fully custom and complex PCB for its RGB-illuminated Kraken coolers, followed-up in short order by EVGA, who dropped the price significantly for the same-size radiators. We’re reviewing the new EVGA CLC 240 today, following-up our previous (positive) CLC 280 and (negative) CLC 120 reviews.
Although they’re all ultimately Asetek products, the EVGA CLC series has thus far competed well with the NZXT Kraken and Corsair H-series coolers. EVGA aimed to strike a balance between the higher-cost features of the Kraken coolers (like manufacturer-customized lighting) and the more function-focused Corsair H-series coolers. The effort yielded ~$130 280mm closed-loop liquid coolers, coming in below the $150-$160 Kraken X52/X62 units and around the H115i (presently $140).
We generally liked the price:performance positioning of the CLC 280 unit, but found the CLC 120 nearly impossible to justify. The 120 wasn’t a far step from good 240mm coolers, like the H100i V2, but EVGA only recently began shipping CLC 240 units.
The Intel i5-8400 review got delayed from initial publication when we figured it’d be worth adding 2666MHz gaming tests. 3200MHz is our standard DDR4 memory speed, providing a solid baseline across Intel and AMD CPUs, but makes less sense for lower-end CPUs with questionable memory speed support. “Questionable” is used here because, as of now, we are not sure whether B/H boards will support only the native memory speed of 2666MHz or higher multipliers. Some board vendors have suggested a possibility of unlocked memory multipliers of 32/36x, but haven’t confirmed, while other sources have suggested a maximum speed of 2666MHz. Because we cannot reasonably confirm either, we decided to just test both, then let the chips fall where they may in 1Q18. That’s the launch period for the B/H boards, as we understand it, and means that the i5-8400 will make much more sense in 1Q18 than now.
As it stands now, the i5-8400 launch seems confused: The only pairing options are Z370 motherboards, which – although cheap ones exist – just don’t make a whole lot of sense for a locked CPU. It’s extra money spent where there need not be extra spend, leaving for a CPU ecosystem that becomes muddied and mismatched. That doesn’t mean the CPU is bad, of course, but it does mean that real-world motherboard pairings of the CPU will likely be far more reasonably priced in a few months.
As has always been the case, including in the i7-8700K review, we are testing with MCE disabled. Our follow-up MCE coverage was not because we had originally tested with it enabled, but because we wanted to demonstrate the performance differences. Anyone capable of reading that piece in its entirety should be aware of that, as the two boards were averaged, though clearly literacy is not always the case – so we’re reiterating it here. MCE off. Plain and simple, as it always has been. We are still using the Ultra Gaming Z370 board.
Our review of Cooler Master’s H500P primarily highlighted the distinct cooling limitation of a case which has been both implicitly and explicitly marketed as “High Airflow.” The case offered decidedly low airflow, a byproduct of covering the vast majority of the fan – the selling point of the case – with an easily removed piece of clear plastic. In initial testing, we removed the case’s front panel for a closer look at thermals without obstructions, finding a reduction in CPU temperature of ~12~13 degrees Celsius. That gave a better idea for where the H500P could have performed, had the case not been suffocated by design, and started giving us ideas for mesh mods.
The mod is shown start-to-finish in the below video, but it’s all fairly trivial: Time to build was less than 30 minutes, with the next few hours spent on testing. The acrylic top and front panels are held in by double-sided tape, but that tape’s not strong enough to resist a light, sheer force. The panel separates mostly instantly when pressed on, with the rest of the tape removed by opposing presses down the paneling.
Radiator placement testing should be done on a per-case basis, not applied globally as a universal “X position is always better.” There are general trends that emerge, like front-mounted radiators generally resulting in lower CPU thermals for mesh-covered cases, but those do not persist to every case (see: In Win 303). The H500P is the first case for which we’ve gone out of the way to specifically explore radiator placement “optimization,” and we’ve also added in some best fan placement positions for the case. Radiator placement benchmarks the top versus front orientations, with push vs. pull setups tested in conjunction with Cooler Master’s 200mm fans.
Being that the selling point of the case is its 200mm fans – or one of the major ones, anyway – most of our configurations for both air and liquid attempt to utilize the fans. Some remove them, for academic reasons, but most keep the units mounted.
Our standard test bench will be listed below, but note that we are using the EVGA CLC 240 liquid cooler for radiator placement tests, rather than the MSI air cooler. The tests maximize the pump and fan RPMs, as we care only about the peak-to-peak delta in performance, not the noise levels. Noise levels are about 50-55dBA, roughly speaking, with this setup – not really tenable.
For a recap of our previous Cooler Master H500P results, check our review article and thermal testing section.
This episode of Ask GN was filmed a few days ago, but we ended up with so much content (like the H500P review and Vega 64 Strix PCB analysis) that we postponed its publication. The episode tackles popular topics of thermals and thermal testing, which have recently received more public interest, and also covers some top-level discussion of power, thermals, and electricity.
We spend most of the time discussing motherboard differences -- a story we've been harping on since January -- and how different board voltages affect CPUs in different ways. The rest of the intro is spent explaining thermal testing difficulties and challenges, and how we can best normalize for those in review content. The timestamps are below the video embed:
Following-up our tear-down of the ASUS ROG Strix Vega 64 graphics card, Buildzoid of Actually Hardcore Overclocking now visits the PCB for an in-depth VRM & PCB analysis. The big question was whether ASUS could reasonably outdo AMD's reference design, which is shockingly good for a card with such a bad cooler. "Reasonably," in this sentence, means "within reasonable cost" -- there's not much price-to-performance headroom with Vega, so any custom cards will have to keep MSRP as low as possible while still iterating on the cooler.
The PCB & VRM analysis is below, but we're still on hold for performance testing. As of right now, we are waiting on ASUS to finalize its VBIOS for best compatibility with AMD's drivers. It seems that there is some more discussion between AIB partners and AMD for this generation, which is introducing a bit of latency on launches. For now, here's the PCB analysis -- timestamps are on the left-side of the video:
The Cooler Master MasterCase H500P is the newest in the modular MasterCase series, but is inspired by the old high airflow (“HAF”) line of cases, mainly in the form of monster 200mm intake fans and a general “rugged and futuristic design.” We covered the H500P along with the Cosmos series refresh C700P at Computex back in June, and now the time for reviewing has finally come.
Cooler Master’s H500P exhibited significant and plentiful quality control concerns, questionable design decisions, and limited semblance to the meaning behind “High Airflow” in the “HAF” naming. The case has its ups, too, primarily in the looks and cable management deparatments -- but we’ll go through all of that in this review. For Steve’s (rather animated) take on this case, check the video.
We’re testing gaming while streaming on the R5 1500X & i5-8400 today, both CPUs that cost the same (MSRP is about $190) and appeal to similar markets. Difficulties stemming from stream benchmarking make it functionally impossible to standardize. CPU changes drastically impact performance during our streaming + gaming benchmarks, which means that each CPU test falls closer to a head-to-head than an overall benchmark. Moving between R5s and R7s, for instance, completely changes the settings required to produce a playable game + stream experience – and that’s good. That’s what we want. The fact that settings have to be tuned nearly on a per-tier basis means that we’re min-maxing what the CPUs can give us, and that’s what a user would do. Creating what is effectively a synthetic test is useful for outright component comparison, but loses resolution as a viable test candidate.
The trouble comes with lowering the bar: As lower-end CPUs are accommodated and tested for, higher-end components perform at lower-than-maximum throughput, but are capped in benchmark measurements. It is impossible, for example, to encode greater than 100% of frames to stream. That will always be a limitation. At this point, you either declare the CPU as functional for that type of encoding, or you constrict performance with heavier duty encoding workloads.
H264 ranges from Ultrafast to Slowest settings, with facets in between identified as Superfast, Veryfast, Faster, Fast, and Medium. As encoding speed approaches the Slow settings, quality enters into “placebo” territory. Quality at some point becomes indistinguishable from faster encoding settings, despite significantly more strain placed on the processor. The goal of the streamer is to achieve a constant framerate output – whether that’s 30FPS or 60FPS – while also maintaining a playable player-side framerate. We test both halves of the equation in our streaming benchmarks, looking at encode output and player output with equal discernment.
We’ve already sent off the information contained in this video to Buildzoid, who has produced a PCB & VRM analysis of the ROG Strix Vega 64 by ASUS. That content will go live within the next few days, and will talk about whether the Strix card manages to outmatch AMD’s already-excellent reference PCB design for Vega. Stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, the below is a discussion of the cooling solution and disassembly process for the ASUS ROG Strix Vega 64 card. For cooling, ASUS is using a similar triple-fan solution that we highly praised in its 1080 Ti Strix model (remarkable for its noise-normalized cooling performance), along with similar heatsink layout.
Learn more here:
This week's hardware news recap includes some follow-up discussion from our Intel i7-8700K review, primarily focused on addressing incorrect references of thermal testing cross-review/cross-reviewer. We also talk Coffee Lake availability and pricing, as it was unknown at time of finalizing the review, and dive into some of the new Z370 motherboards. EVGA's Z370 FTW and Classified K have both been announced (and we followed-up with EVGA to get pricing information), alongside a new Micro board in Z370 format.
Beyond this, we've got the usual listing of new product announcements and industry news, including USB3.2's specification, headless video cards, Star Citizen 3.0 alpha pushed to Evocati, and AIM's death.
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