Hardware Guides

It’s difficult to differentiate motherboards, at least from a marketing perspective. There are definitely better and worse boards, and you can check any of the roundups or reviews Buildzoid has produced for this channel for explanations as to why, but “better” doesn’t mean “higher FPS in games” here. Using higher-quality or more expensive components doesn’t always translate directly into running Fortnite at a higher framerate, which makes it harder to communicate to consumers why they should spend $200 on board X instead of $100 on board Y if both can run the same CPUs. This has led to motherboard manufacturers playing games with numbers for boost duration, voltages, BCLK, and other settings in order to differentiate their boards from the competition with tangible performance increases.

We’ve talked about Intel turbo and “Multi-Core Enhancement” many, many times in the past. This serves as a companion piece to the most recent of these, our “Intel i9-10900K ‘High’ Power Consumption Explained” video. To reiterate, Intel’s specification defines turbo limits--the multipliers for boosting on one core, two cores, etc, all the way up to an all-core turbo boost. Here are some examples from Coffee Lake’s launch (8700K) and before:

With the new influx of CPUs from AMD and Intel, and more rumored on the horizon, we wanted to round-up all of our recent testing into one concise piece for people looking for recommendations on the best CPU for different tasks. We’ve published several hours’ worth of content in the form of reviews, tuning, and follow-up coverage, so if you want the full details and depth for anything check those pieces. We’ll be focusing more on firm recommendations for each category in this video and less on the deeper details, with our categories including: Best gaming CPU, best budget gaming CPU, best small business or hobbyist production CPU, best workstation CPU, best overall, most fun to overclock, and most disappointing.

In this content, we’re going to be breaking-down the AMD B550 vs. X570, B450, X470, X370, and A320 chipset specifications number-by-number. Our goal is to look at this purely from a facts-based angle of what the differences are, and those differences will include both numerical specification differences (number and type of lanes afforded) and forward or backwards compatibility differences. This includes the intent of the 500-series chipsets to support Zen 3 architecture (reminder: that’s not the same as Ryzen 4000 mobile, nor is it the same as Ryzen 3000 desktop), while the existing B450 and X470 boards are left to cap-out at Ryzen 3000 series (Zen 2) parts.

We have some additional discussion of the basics of naming, including CPU naming distinctions, in our video component that accompanies this article. You may get more information on the differences between AMD Zen generations and Ryzen generations in that content.

It’s time again for our CPU testing methodology to be updated, alongside the test bench. We’ve done some significant streamlining behind the scenes that make these tests easier to run and the results easier and more accurate to process, but on the public side, we’ve completely overhauled the software suite we’re using. Last time we updated our testing methodology, we added a code compile benchmark that was short-lived. The test featured GCC, Cygwin, some other environments, and ended up being a top-to-bottom sort by cache. We ditched that test (and consulted Wendell of Level1 Techs on it in this video), and we’re just now replacing it. New code compile benchmarking (with more usefulness) has been added for 2020, alongside the addition of Handbrake H.264 to H.265 transcoding (ranked by time), updated Adobe Premiere video rendering and Adobe Photoshop benchmarks, updated file compression and decompression benchmarks, and more. Gaming gets a total overhaul, too, with a big suite of new games added.

Additionally, we’ve updated several existing game and production benchmarks from last year’s suite, with a few left unchanged. This is to keep producing data that we can still compare to old data, which is useful for rapid analysis of parts that may not have been re-tested in the current year. For example, if we were testing a 10700K and wanted to reference its performance vs. a 2600K, but didn’t have a fresh retest, we could reference data from GTA V, Tomb Raider, Civilization, and ACO to form an understanding without fully retesting. We try to limit this, but time often gets the better of us, and it’s good to have reference points to ensure ongoing accuracy.

ATX12VO is a new-ish power supply spec published by Intel in July of 2019 that eliminates the 3.3V and 5V rails from power supplies, leaving only the 12V rail. The spec has become a hot buzzword lately because Tier 2 of the California Energy Commision’s Title 20 goes into effect on July 1st, 2021, and these stricter energy regulations were a large part of why the ATX12VO spec was written. We’ve spoken to Intel, a major power supply manufacturer, and a power supply factory on the subject, the latter two off-record, and today we’ll be reporting their thoughts. We’ll also be defining the ATX12VO spec and what it means for computing, along with Intel’s goals for the specification.

EATX is bullshit wannabe half-specification, not a real form factor. At least, not the way it’s being treated right now. It doesn’t mean anything. The name “EATX” implies a standard, but it’s not a standard, it’s a free-for-all. That’s not even getting into EE-ATX, or Enhanced Extended Advanced Technology eXtended, which is actually a name. Things would be a lot easier for everyone if motherboard manufacturers stuck to the dimensions of SSI-EEB without trying to wedge custom form factors in between, or correctly referred to 12”x10.5” boards as SSI-CEB, but that’d require actually trying to follow a spec. Then case manufacturers would have no reason to write “EATX (up to 11 inches)” in every single spec sheet for normal-sized mid towers, and customers would know at a glance exactly what they were getting. We’ve had a hell of a time lately trying to find cases that fit our “E-ATX” motherboards, which range in size from “basically ATX” to “doesn’t fit in any case that says it supports E-ATX, but is still called E-ATX.” We took that frustration and dug into the matter.

Other than technical discussion, we’ll also get the fun of unrolling the acronyms used everywhere in the industry, and talking about how stupid form factors like XL-ATX have three different sizes despite having one name, or how E-ATX has been split into “True E-ATX” and “Full Size E-ATX,” which also don’t mean anything to anyone.

The biggest rule in testing coolers is to never trust anything: Don’t trust the numbers, don’t trust the software, don’t trust firmware, and don’t trust the test bench. Every step of the way is a trap lying in wait to sabotage data accuracy. We’ve spent the last 3 years refining our liquid cooler bench and the last 6 months refining our new testing that will feature air coolers and liquid coolers alike. With millions of cells of data, we now know enough to have identified nearly every hidden pitfall in testing and finally feel confident in providing a full picture for accurate CPU cooler performance. The downside is that we’ll never trust anyone else’s numbers again, but the upside is that we can finally start really collecting data. This dissertation will be on the most common and the most obscure landmines for testing, laying a plan for our CPU cooler reviews and helping establish a baseline for quality and data accuracy. We promised a CPU air cooler round-up back at the end of 2016 or 2017, and we’re finally getting around to it and will be publishing a lot of cooler content over the next month or so. We’ll start with an A500 review after this methodology piece goes live, then we’ll break for our factory tour series, then we’ll be back to coolers.

This content is detailed and specific to CPU cooler testing methodology and processes. We will be using this as a reference piece for years, as it will establish testing practices to ensure accurate data. Most data out there regarding CPU coolers is flawed in some way or another, especially the stuff posted in random reddit comments, but the trick is minimizing flaws to the extent possible while remaining real-world, because total elimination of variables and pitfalls is impossible on PC hardware. Users will often randomly post a temperature number and say something like, “my Spire is at 70 degrees,” as if that actually means anything to anyone. Temperature isn’t a 3DMark score – it is completely dependent on each configuration, and so unless you’re looking at relative performance by swapping coolers in a controlled environment, you’re not really providing useful data to the discussion.

In this content, we’re going to show you 6 months of rigorous testing adventures that we’ve embarked on, including several months’ worth of discovering flaws in testing, common and uncommon errors, and bad data that could invalidate most reviews without the reviewer ever even knowing. We know because we’ve spent months catching them, hence our long wait time on publishing this content. Several of these issues will exist in other reviewer configurations without technician knowledge, but the trick is to have the right tools to flag errant testing. These concepts will range from extremely basic to advanced. We wanted to skip some basics, but realized that there’s so much bad information out there that we’d better just cover it all in one big dissertation.

The AMD RX 5600 XT Jebaited Edition video cards launched yesterday, and the company created a mess by completely changing what the video card was meant to do before launch. Basically, it initially shipped as more of a 1660 Super competitor, but ended up being overhauled to become a 2060 competitor. This is overall a good thing from a price competition standpoint, but a horrible mess for buyers and manufacturers of the cards. The update came in the form of a VBIOS flash that can increase performance upwards of 11%, but not all the shipped cards have the VBIOS applied, meaning customers will be buying cards that perform worse than what reviews show. Worse still, some cards will never have that VBIOS available, with some partners splitting their 5600 XT into two SKUs. It’d sort of be like if the 1660 and 1660 Super were sold under a single name, but with two completely different performance classes. In today’s content, we’re going to help you flash 5600 XT cards to unlock the full performance, assuming your card has made such a VBIOS available. This will also apply to other AMD video cards.

Back when Ryzen 3000 launched, there was reasonable speculation founded in basic physics that the asymmetrical die arrangement of the CPUs with fewer chiplets could have implications for cooler performance. The idea was that, at the root of it, a cooler whose heatpipes aligned to fully contact above the die would perform better, as opposed to one with two coolers sharing vertical contact with the die. We still see a lot of online commentary about this and some threads about which orientation of a cooler is “best,” so we thought we’d bust a few of the myths that popped-up, but also do some testing on the base idea.

This is pretty old news by now, with much of the original discussion starting about two months ago. Noctua revived the issue at the end of October by stating that it believed there to be no meaningful impact between the two possible orientations of heatpipes on AM4 motherboards, but not everyone has seen that, because we’re still getting weekly emails asking us to test this hypothesis.

Our latest GN Special Report is looking at sales data to determine the popularity of both AMD and Intel CPUs amongst our readers, with dive-down data on average selling price, popularity by series (R5, R7, R9, or i7, i9, and so on), and Intel vs. AMD monthly sales volume. We ran a similar report in April of this year, but with Ryzen 3000 behind us, we now have a lot more data to look at. We’ll be comparing 3 full years of affiliate purchases through retail partners to analyze product popularity among the GamersNexus readers and viewers.

This year’s busy launch cadence has meant nearly non-stop CPU and GPU reviews for the past 6 months, but that also gives us a lot of renewed data to work with for market analysis. Intel’s supply troubles have been nearly a weekly news item for us throughout this year, with a few months of reprieve that soon lapsed. With Intel’s ongoing supply shortages and 10nm delays, and with its only launch being refreshes of existing parts, the company was barely present in the enthusiast segment for 2019. Even still, it’s dominating in pre-built computer sales, and ultimately, DIY enthusiast is an incredibly small portion of Intel’s total marketshare and volume. AMD, meanwhile, has had back-to-back launches in rapid succession, which have managed to dominate media coverage for the better part of this year.

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