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.

Intel’s TDP has long been questioned, but this particular generation put the 95W TDP under fire as users noticed media outlets measuring power consumption at well over 100W on most boards. It isn’t uncommon to see the 9900K at 150W or more in some AVX workloads, like Blender, thus far-and-away exceeding the 95W number. Aside from TDP being an imperfect specification for power, there’s also a lot that isn’t understood about it – including by motherboard manufacturers, apparently. All manufacturers are exceeding Intel guidance for the Turbo boosting duration in some way, which is causing the uncharacteristically high power consumption that produces unfairly advantaged performance results. The other end of this is that the 9900K looks much hotter in some tests.

EVGA’s RTX 2070 XC Ultra gave us an opportunity to compare the differences between NVIDIA’s varied RTX 2070 SKUs, including a low-end TU106-400 and a higher-end TU106-400A. The difference between these, we’ve learned, is one of pre-selection for ability to attain higher clocks. The XC Ultra runs significantly higher under Boost behavior than the 2070 Black does, which means that there’s now more to consider in the $70 price gap between the cards than just the cooler. This appears to be one of the tools available to board partners so that they can reach the $500 MSRP floor, but there is a performance cost as a result. With Pascal, the performance cost effectively boiled-down to one predicated on thermal and power headroom, but not necessarily chip quality. Turing is different, and chip quality is now a potential limiter.

In this review of the EVGA RTX 2070 XC Ultra, we’ll also be discussing performance variability between the two 2070 GPU SKUs. These theories should extrapolate out to other NVIDIA cards with these sub-GPU options. Note that we are just going to focus on the 2070s today. If you want to see how we compare the 2070’s value versus Vega or Pascal, check our 2070 review and Vega 56 power mod content pieces.

The real discussion is going to be in overclocking and thermals, as gaming performance typically isn’t too varied intra-GPU. That said, the GPU changes between these two (technically), so that’ll make for an interesting data point.

We previously deep-dived on MCE (Multi-Core Enhancement) practices with the 8700K, revealing the performance variance that can occur when motherboard makers “cheat” results by boosting CPUs out of spec. MCE has become less of a problem with Z390 – namely because it is now disabled by default on all boards we’ve tested – but boosted BCLKs are the new issue.

If you think Cinebench is a reliable benchmark, we’ve got a histogram of all of our test results for the Intel i9-9900K at presumably stock settings:

1 z390 motherboard differences cinebench histogram

(Yes, the scale starts at non-0 -- given a range of results of 1976 to 2300, we had to zoom-in on the axis for a better histogram view)

The scale is shrunken and non-0 as the results are so tightly clustered, but you can still see that we’re ranging from 1970 cb marks to 2300 cb marks, which is a massive range. That’s the difference between a heavily overclocked R7 2700 and an overclocked 7900X, except this is all on a single CPU. The only difference is that we used 5 different motherboards for these tests, along with a mix of auto, XMP, and MCE settings. The discussion today focuses on when it is considered “cheating” to modify CPU settings via BIOS without the user’s awareness of those changes. The most common change is to the base clock, where BIOS might report a value of 100.00, but actually produce a value of 100.8 or 100.9 on the CPU. This functionally pre-overclocks it, but does so in a way that is hard for most users to ever notice.

We’re resurrecting our AMD RX Vega 56 powerplay tables mod to challenge the RTX 2070, a card that competes in an entirely different price class. It’s a lightweight versus heavyweight boxing match, except the lightweight has a gun.

For our Vega 56 card, priced at between $370 and $400, depending on sales, we will be shoving an extra 200W+ of power into the core to attempt to match the RTX 2070’s stock performance. We strongly praised Vega 56 at launch for its easily modded nature, but the card has faced fierce competition from the 1070 Ti and 1070. It was also constantly out of stock or massively overpriced throughout the mining boom, which acted as a death knell for Vega throughout the mining months. With that now dying down and Vega becoming available for normal people again, pricing is competitive and compelling, and nVidia’s own recent fumbles have created an opening in the market.

We will be working with a PowerColor RX Vega 56 Red Dragon card, a 242% power target, and matching it versus an EVGA RTX 2070 Black. The price difference is about $370-$400 vs. $500-$550, depending on where you buy your parts. We are using registry entries to trick the Vega 56 card into a power limit that exceeds the stock maximum of +50%, allowing us to go to +242%. This was done with the help of Buildzoid last year.

One final note: We must warn that we aren’t sure of the long-term impact of running Vega 56 with this much power going through it. If you want to do this yourself, be advised that long-term damage is a possibility for which we cannot account.

After our launch-day investigation into delidding the 9900K and finding its shortcomings, we’ve been working on a follow-up involving lapping the inside of the IHS and applying liquid metal to close the story on improvement potential with the delid process. We’re also returning to bring everyone back to reality on delidding the 9900K, because it’s not as easy as it may look from what you’re seeing online.

We already know that it’s possible to see performance improvement, based on our previous content and Roman’s own testing, but we’ve also said that Intel’s solder is an improvement over its previous Dow Corning paste. Considering that, in our testing, high-end Hydronaut paste performs nearing the solder, that’s good news when compared to the older thermal compound. Intel also needed to make that change for more thermal headroom, so everyone benefits – but it is possible to outperform it.

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