As we continue to push through the busiest week of the year, we’re ramping into more end-of-year recap coverage pieces, pooling a year’s worth of testing into central locations. The first Awards Show was for the best cases of the year, and our next is for the best CPUs of 2017. This covers multiple categories, including gaming, hobbyist / small business production, overall value, and adds some special categories, like “Biggest Upset” and “Biggest Disappointment.”

As launch years go, 2017 has been the most packed of any in recent history. The constant back-and-forth between Intel and AMD has largely taken the spotlight from the rest of the industry, as each company moves to ship directly competing products in rapid-fire fashion.

This content looks at the best CPUs for 2017 in gaming, production (3D modeling, animation, and video rendering), budget gaming, and overall balance.

Intel Optane Memory Modules in 2018

By Published November 19, 2017 at 11:53 am

During a presentation at the USB Global Technology Conference, Intel indicated that the roadmap for Intel Optane DIMMs lands their proprietary memory somewhere in the second half of 2018. Thus far, we’ve seen the storage and caching side of Intel Optane 3D XPoint. It seems in 2018, we’ll be afforded the opportunity to witness 3D XPoint as main memory.

Inside the Enermax Liqtech TR4 Liquid Cooler

By Published November 18, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Enermax's Liqtech TR4 liquid cooler took us by surprise in our 240mm unit review, and again in our Liqtech 360 TR4 review. The cooler is the first noteworthy closed-loop liquid cooler to accommodate Threadripper, and testing proved that it's not just smoke and mirrors: The extra coldplate size enables the Liqtech to overwhelm any of the current-market Asetek CLCs, which use smaller coldplates that are more suitable to Ryzen or Intel CPUs. 

NVIDIA’s Battlefront II Game Ready driver version 388.31 shipped this week in preparation for the game’s worldwide launch. In possibly more positive news for the vast number of redditors enraged by EA’s defense of grinding, the driver is also updated for Injustice 2 compatibility and boasts double-digit % performance increases in Destiny 2 at higher resolutions.

Battlefront 2 is the headliner for this driver release, but this chart is about all NVIDIA has to say on the subject for now:

Early reports surrounding Vega GPU packaging indicated minimally two different package processes, though later revealed a potential third. For the two primary forms of Vega GPU packaging, we’re looking at clear, obvious differences in assembly: The silicon (GPU + HBM) is either encased in an epoxy resin (“molded”) or is not encased at all (“resinless”). There is another type of resinless package that has been shown online, but we haven’t yet encountered this third type.

The initial concern indicated that packaging process could impact HBM2 contact to cooler coldplates – something for which, after working on this content, we later discovered new data – and we wanted to test that mounting pressure. Just last night, days after we finalized this content piece, we found another data point that deserves a separate article, so be sure to check back for the follow-up to this piece.

In the meantime, we’re using a chemically reactive contact paper to test various Vega GPUs and vapor chambers or coolers, then swapping coolers between those various GPUs to try and understand if and when differences emerge. Some brief thermal testing also helps us validate whether those differences, which would theoretically be spurred-on by packaging variance, are actually relevant to thermal performance. Today, we’re testing to see the mounting pressure and thermal impact from AMD’s various Vega 56 & 64 GPU packages, with a brief resurrection of the Frontier Edition.

Note: We used torque drivers for the assembly, so that process was controlled for.

EK Water Blocks has seemingly had a strong year, dotted with numerous major product launches and expansion into the mainstream market (with the EK Fluid Gaming series). In spite of this, TechPowerUp just broke news that EKWB’s CEO, CTO, Head of Marketing, and numerous R&D engineers have all departed the company. The company remains 90-strong, but has lost much of its R&D department and head management as of today.

ET News reports [English] that the price of silicon wafers, the raw material used in the production of 300mm semiconductors, has increased 20% year over year from major manufacturers SK Siltron and SUMCO.

SK Siltron is a recent acquisition of the SK Group, a massive South Korean conglomerate that also includes SK Materials (produces NF3 gas used in semiconductor production) and SK Hynix (a memory chipmaker that regularly appears in our articles on increasing NAND demand). SK Siltron was known as LG Siltron until January, when SK Group purchased 51% of shares from LG for $532 million, and then proceeded to purchase the rest as well (Chairman Choi Tae-Won personally secured 29.4%). LG Siltron sales had suffered since 2012 with an industry increase in silicon wafer production, as well as the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis--but SK Group’s purchase immediately paid off.

Bitfenix Enso Case Review

By Published November 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

We made it through the C700P, H500P, Dark Base Pro 900, and Core G21, but cases we saw at Computex 2017 are still rolling in for review. This week, we’re examining the Bitfenix Enso, a budget case that hits both the tempered glass and RGB trends. It’s a pleasant change from the streak of ultra-heavy cases we’ve been reviewing, but as anyone who watched Steve’s recent address to case manufacturers will know, the Enso is far from perfect.

Our Bitfenix Enso review takes the case to task for thermals, alongside the usual acoustics and build quality testing. Our first look at the Enso (back at Computex) highlighted the case in a “needs work” category, calling out its extremely competitive price target and feature set, but also calling attention to concerns of ventilation. We’re back to see if Bitfenix has improved the case in the six months since.

Be Quiet! Dark Base 700 Case Review

By Published November 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Be Quiet!’s Dark Base cases are their highest-end silence focused models, and the newest of these is the Dark Base 700. We recently reviewed Dark Base Pro 900, but the 900 and 700 are much different cases. Naming conventions imply that the 700 is simply a scaled-down mid tower version of the full tower 900, but there are significant differences in tooling and features despite their external similarity.

The Dark Base 900 (including the Dark Base Pro) has an MSRP of $200 ($250 for the Pro), while the new Dark Base 700 has an MSRP of $180. The Dark Base 700 is loosely related to the 900, primarily in its invertible motherboard layout and material and panel quality, both of which are high for this case.

This week’s hardware news recap primarily focuses on Intel’s Minix implementation, alongside creator Andrew Tanenbaum’s thoughts on the unknown adoption of the OS, along with some new information on the AMD + Intel multi-chip module (MCM) that’s coming to market. Supporting news items for the week include some GN-style commentary of a new “gaming” chair with case fans in it, updates on nVidia quarterly earnings, Corsair’s new “fastest” memory, and EK’s 560mm radiators.

Find the show notes after the embedded video.

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