Patrick Lathan

Patrick Lathan

In direct competition with the Be Quiet! Pure Base 600 ($90) we reviewed recently is the Fractal Define C, a compact ATX mid tower with an emphasis on noise suppression. The Fractal Define C is a relatively new launch from Fractal Design, sticking to the highly competitive ~$90 mid-tower market. Fractal’s Define C ships in micro-ATX (“Define Mini C”) and ATX form factor versions, the latter of which is on the bench today.

Our Fractal Define C review looks at the ATX-sized enclosure, taking thermals to task and testing for noise emissions in the company’s newest box. Fractal’s immediate competition at this price-point comes from the Be Quiet! Pure Base 600, NZXT S340 non-Elite, and the Corsair 400Q and 400C.

We’ve praised the R7 1700 ($330) for its mixed workload performance and overclocking capabilities at $330, and we’ve criticized the 1800X for its insignificant performance improvements (over the 1700) at $500. That leaves the R7 1700X ($400), positioned precariously between the two with a base clock of 3.4GHz, but the full 95W TDP of its 1800X sibling.

The 1700X performs as expected, given its flanks, landing between the R7 1700 and R7 1800X. All three are 8C/16T chips with the same CCX layout; refer back to our 1800X review for a more thorough description of the R7 CPU & Ryzen architecture. A quick comparison of basic stats reveals that the major advantage of the 1700X is a moderate increase in frequency, with additional XFR headroom as demarcated by the ‘X’ suffix. That said, our R7 1700 easily overclocked to a higher frequency than the native 1700X frequency, with no manual adjustment to voltage or EFI beyond the multiplier. The 1700X has a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.8GHz, which theoretically means it could come close to the performance of our 3.9GHz 1700 straight out of the box while retaining the benefits of XFR (circumvented by overclocking).

Press embargo lifts today on a new mini-ITX case from BitFenix, the “subtle, yet remarkable” Portal. The “subtle” aspect might refer to the resemblance of the logo (and to some degree, the case), which appears to resemble the turrets from Valve’s video game of the same name, but that’s really a positive feature.

The Portal is, first and foremost, designed to house HTPCs. The space and thermal limitations of mini-ITX cases typically make it difficult to jam a real gaming PC inside, and the best chance for CPU cooling in this instance is a 120mm intake slot that can fit an AIO radiator. Still, Bitfenix does stress the versatility of the case: there are two 3.5”/2.5” bays and one 2.5” bay, so there should be enough for all the components of a decent gaming system. The 120mm is one of two fan mounts on the main chamber of the case: the other is a tiny 80mm fan (both contain fans by default), something we’re interested in noise testing later. Thermal tests will be interesting--although there’s very little space, the CPU is directly in the path of airflow and the GPU and PSU are thermally isolated, which is promising. Bitfenix describes the fans as “stable airflow for basic Office and Home Theater PCs.”

AMD yesterday released a community update with interesting assertions regarding thread scheduling, temperature reporting, Windows power plan issues, and SMT challenges.

According to AMD’s Robert Hallock, the company has found no indication that Windows 10 thread scheduling is operating improperly for Zen. This should be the final word in any argument that Microsoft thread scheduling issues are sabotaging Ryzen: they aren’t, as stated by AMD below:

“We have investigated reports alleging incorrect thread scheduling on the AMD Ryzen processor. Based on our findings, AMD believes that the Windows 10 thread scheduler is operating properly for ‘Zen,’ and we do not presently believe there is an issue with the scheduler adversely utilizing the logical and physical configurations of the architecture.

“As an extension of this investigation, we have also reviewed topology logs generated by the Sysinternals Coreinfo utility. We have determined that an outdated version of the application was responsible for originating the incorrect topology data that has been widely reported in the media. Coreinfo v3.31 (or later) will produce the correct results.”

When we first began benchmarking Ryzen CPUs, we already had a suspicion that disabling simultaneous multithreading might give a performance boost in games, mirroring the effects of disabling hyperthreading (Intel’s specific twist on SMT) when it was first introduced. Although hyperthreading now has a generally positive effect in our benchmarks, there was a time when it wasn’t accounted for by developers—presumably partly related to what’s happening to AMD now.

In fact, turning SMT off offered relatively minor gaming performance increases outside of Total War: Warhammer—but any increase at all is notable when turning off a feature that’s designed to be positive. Throughout our testing, the most dramatic change in results we saw were from overclocking, specifically on the low stock frequency R7 1700 ($330). This led many readers to ask questions like “why didn’t you test with an overclock and SMT disabled at the same time?” and “how much is Intel paying you?” to which the answers are “time constraints” and “not enough, apparently,” since we’ve now performed those tests. Testing a CPU takes a lot of time. Now, with more time to work on Ryzen, we’ve finally begun revisiting some EFI, clock behavior, and SMT tests.

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