Steve Burke

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

Reviewing the AMD R7 2700X was done outside of normal review provisions, as AMD didn’t sample us. We’ve had the parts for a month now, and that has meant following development, EFI updates, and more as they’ve been pushed. We have multiple chips of every variety, and have been able to cross-validate as the pre-launch cycle has iterated. Because of the density of data, we’re splitting our content into multiple videos and articles.

Today’s focus will be the AMD R7 2700X and R7 2700 reviews, especially for live streaming performance versus the i7-8700K, gaming performance, and production (Blender) performance. Most importantly, however, we dedicate time to talk about the significant improvements that AMD has made in the volt-frequency department. At a given frequency, e.g. 4.0GHz, Ryzen 2000 operates at a heavily reduced voltage versus Ryzen 1. We’ll dig into this further in this review, but check back later for our R5 2600X and 2600 reviews (combined in one piece), including 2600X vs. 8600K streaming benchmarks. We’re also looking at VRM thermals, motherboard PCBs and their VRM quality, memory overclocking and scalability (in this content), and more.

There is a lot of confusion about AMD’s branding – Zen 2 vs. Ryzen 2 vs. Zen+. We’re calling these CPUs “Ryzen 2,” because they’re literally called “Ryzen 2X00” CPUs. This is not the same as the Zen 2 architecture, which is not out yet.

Note: For overclocking, we only OC one CPU of each core count – so just the R7 2700X or R7 2700, but beyond validation of maximum frequency, there’s no need to OC both and run each through 20 hours of testing.

AMD’s impending Ryzen 2 CPUs – not to be confused with Zen 2, the architecture – will launch on April 19, 9AM EST, and are preempted by yet another “unboxing embargo.” We’re not technically covered under these embargoes, as we’ve sourced parts externally and are operating independently for this launch. That said, as we’ve stated in a few places, we have decided to respect the embargo (although are under no obligation to do so) out of respect for our peers. This is also being done out of trust that AMD has rectified its preferential media treatment exhibited for Threadripper, as we were told the company would do.

Still, we wanted to share some preconditions we’re considering for test cases in our Ryzen 2 CPU reviews. Some of that will be covered here today, with most of the data being held for the April 19 embargo lift. We have been testing and iterating on tests for a few weeks now, updating EFI as new versions push and collecting historical data along the way.

The core specs – those regurgitated all over the internet, undoubtedly – will follow below.

The CPUs discussed today include (Amazon pre-order links below, although we never recommend pre-ordering PC hardware):

Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC is well-named: It’s either a reference to hell freezing over, as AMD and Intel worked together on a product, or a reference to the combined heat of Vega and an i7 in a box that’s 8.5” x 5.5” in size. Our review of Hades Canyon looks at overclocking potential, preempting something bigger, and benchmarks the combined i7 CPU and Vega M GPU for gaming and production performance. We’re also looking at thermal performance and noise, as usual. As a unit, it’s one of the smallest, most-powerful systems on the consumer market get right now. We’ll see if it’s worth it.

There are two primary SKUs for the Intel NUC on Newegg, both coming out on April 30th. The unit which most closely resembles ours is $1000, and includes the Intel i7-8809G with 8MB of cache and a limited-core Turbo up to 4.2GHz. The CPU is unlocked for overclocking. It’s coupled with an AMD Vega M GH GPU with 4GB of high-bandwidth memory, also overclockable, but does not include memory or an SSD. You’re on your own for those, as it’s effectively a barebones kit. If you buy straight from Intel’s SimplyNUC website, the NUC8i7HVK that we reviewed comes fully-configured for $1200, including 8GB of DDR4 and a 128GB SSD with Windows 10. Not unreasonable, really.

Recent advancements in graphics processing technology have permitted software and hardware vendors to collaborate on real-time ray tracing, a long-standing “holy grail” of computer graphics. Ray-tracing has been used for a couple of decades now, but has always been used in pre-rendered graphics – often in movies or other video playback that doesn’t require on-the-fly processing. The difference with going real-time is that we’re dealing with sparse data, and making fewer rays look good (better than standard rasterization, especially) is difficult.

NVidia has been beating this drum for a few years now. We covered nVidia’s ray-tracing keynote at ECGC a few years ago, when the company’s Tony Tamasi projected 2015 as the year for real-time ray-tracing. That obviously didn’t fully realize, but the company wasn’t too far off. Volta ended up providing some additional leverage to make 60FPS, real-time ray-tracing a reality. Even still, we’re not quite there with consumer hardware. Epic Games and nVidia have been demonstrating real-time ray-tracing rendering with four Titan V100 GPUs lately, functionally $12,000 worth of Titan Vs, and that’s to achieve a playable real-time framerate with the ubiquitous “Star Wars” demo.

Ask GN 75 is an excellent episode. We had great questions for this one, including discussion on X370 vs. X470 benchmarking for Ryzen 2000 series CPUs (e.g. R7 2700X, R5 2600X), which we’ll get in to more detail with in the near future. As noted in the episode, we’re technically not under embargo for the Ryzen 2 CPUs, but we’re planning to hold our review until embargo lift out of respect for AMD’s decision to stop giving special treatment to some media, for this round. That said, we still talk a bit about X370 vs. X470 benchmarking in the Ask GN episode.

The other excellent topic pertained to receiving review samples and balancing hardware criticism – basically behind-the-scenes politics. Find the episode below:

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