Hardware Guides

After a year of non-stop GPU and CPU launches, a GPU round-up is much needed to recap all the data for each price-point. We’ll be looking at strict head-to-head comparisons for each price category, including cards priced at $100-$140, $180-$250, $400-$500, and then the Ti in its own category, of course. As noted in the video, a graphics card round-up is particularly difficult this year: Chaos in the market has thrown-off easy price comparisons, making it difficult to determine the best choice between cards. Historically, we’ve been able to rely on MSRP to get a price (+/-$20, generally) for comparison between both AMD and nVidia; the partners hadn’t strayed too far from that recommendation, nor the retailers, until the joint mining & gaming booms of this year. Fortunately, much of that pandemonium has slowed down, and cards are slowly returning to prices where they sat about 6-8 months ago.

Another point of difficulty, as always, is that price-matched video cards will often outperform one another in different types of workloads. A good example would be Vega vs. Pascal architecture: Generally speaking – and part of this is drivers – Pascal ends up favored in DirectX 11 games, while Vega ends up favored in asynchronous compute workload games (DOOM with Vulkan, Sniper with Dx12). That’s not necessarily always going to be true, but for the heavyweight Vulkan/Dx12 titles, it seems to be. You’ll have to exercise some thought and consider the advantages of each architecture, then look at the types of games you expect to be playing. Another fortunate note is that, even if you choose “wrong” (you anticipated Vulkan adoption, but got Dx11), a lot of the cards are still within a couple percentage points of their direct-price competition. It’s hard to go too wrong, short of buying bad partner cooler designs, but that’s another story.

Liquid is only half of the argument, but it’s an important half. We’ll soon be rounding-up several of the high-end air coolers available on the market, and before jumping into that, we’re going to lay the groundwork with a round-up of our liquid cooler reviews for the year. This guide looks at the best closed-loop liquid coolers (“AIOs”) for 2017, but also includes a few of the worst – the leak-prone and the weak-fanned.

As usual with these round-ups, we’ll be including links to the individual reviews for the applicable coolers, with purchasing links also included for each line item. This is part of our end-of-year round-ups, which can all be found here. For specific items, we rounded-up our top Black Friday sales choices here, our top gaming monitor picks, and the best CPU sales. Plenty more on the Buyer’s Guide page.

Note: You’ll want to pull our most recent cooler review to get an updated table with all performance metrics, though individual reviews are good for non-performance discussion.

Having gone over the best CPUs, cases, some motherboards, and soon coolers, we’re now looking at the best GTX 1080 Tis of the year. Contrary to popular belief, the model of cooler does actually matter for video cards. We’ll be going through thermal and noise data for a few of the 1080 Tis we’ve tested this year, including MOSFET, VRAM, and GPU temperatures, noise-normalized performance at 40dBA, and the PCB and VRM quality. As always with these guides, you can find links to all products discussed in the description below.

Rounding-up the GTX 1080 Tis means that we’re primarily going to be focused on cooler and PCB build quality: Noise, noise-normalized thermals, thermals, and VRM design are the forefront of competition among same-GPU parts. Ultimately, as far as gaming and overclocking performance, much of that is going to be dictated by silicon-level quality variance, and that’s nearly random. For that reason, we must differentiate board partner GPUs with thermals, noise, and potential for low-thermal overclocking (quality VRMs).

Today, we’re rounding-up the best GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards that we’ve reviewed this year, including categories of Best Overall, Best for Modding, Best Value, Best Technology, and Best PCB. Gaming performance is functionally the same on all of them, as silicon variance is the larger dictator of performance, with thermals being the next governor of performance; after all, a Pascal GPU under 60C is a higher-clocked, happier Pascal GPU, and that’ll lead framerate more than advertised clocks will.

Continuing our holiday buyer’s guides, hardcore overclocker Buildzoid has joined us to analyze the best AMD motherboards currently on the market, looking at X370 and B350 for overclocking. The boards scale from $75 to $350 as we step through nearly every single AM4 motherboard out there, with clear guidance as to which boards are most suitable for different tasks. This was primarily done as a video, but the written section below will recap the highlights. Timestamps are also provided, if the video is preferred.

For this AMD motherboard buyer’s guide, we’re primarily highlighting boards in the $120 to $200 price range, but do talk about some of the budget Ryzen motherboards. VRM capabilities and heatsinks, BIOS menus, and memory overclocking compatibility all factor into our choices.

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.

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. 

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.

We’ve reviewed a lot of cases this year and have tested more than 100 configurations across our benchmark suite. We’ve seen some brilliant cases that have been marred by needless grasps at buzzwords, excellently designed enclosures that few talk about, and poorly designed cases that everyone talks about. Cases as a whole have gone through a lot of transformations this year, which should seem somewhat surprising, given that you’d think there are only so many ways to make a box. Today, we’re giving out awards for the best cases in categories of thermals, silence, design, overall quality, and more.

This awards show will primarily focus on the best cases that we’ve actually reviewed in the past year. If some case you like isn’t featured, it’s either because (A) we didn’t review it, or (B) we thought something else was better. It is impossible to review every single enclosure that is released annually; at least, it is impossible to do so without focusing all of our efforts on cases.

Here’s the shortlist:

Buildzoid of Actually Hardcore Overclocking recently joined us to explain what Load-Line Calibration is, and how LLC can be a useful tool for overclocking. LLC can also be dangerous to the life of the CPU if used carelessly, or when using the Extreme LLC setting without knowing fully how it works.

For anyone working on CPU overclocking and facing challenges with voltage stability, or anyone asking about Vdroop, LLC is a good place to start. LLC settings tuning should help stabilize voltage and prevent blasting the CPU with deadly Vcore. Learn more below:

Testing the Xbox One X for frametime and framerate performance marks an exciting step for GamersNexus. This is the first time we’ve been able to benchmark console frame pacing, and we’re doing so by deploying new, in-house software for analysis of lossless gameplay captures. At a very top-level, we’re analyzing the pixels temporally, aiming to determine whether there’s a change between frames. We then do some checks to validate those numbers, then some additional computational work to compute framerates and frametimes. That’s the simplest, most condensed version of what we’re doing. Our Xbox One X tear-down set the stage for this.

Outside of this, additional testing includes K-type thermocouple measurements from behind the APU (rear-side of the PCB), with more measurements from a logging plugload meter. The end result is an amalgamation of three charts, combining to provide a somewhat full picture of the Xbox One X’s gaming performance. As an aside, note that we discovered an effective Tcase Max of ~85C on the silicon surface, at which point the console shuts down. We were unable to force a shutdown during typical gameplay, but could achieve a shutdown with intentional torture of the APU thermals.

The Xbox One X uses an AMD Jaguar APU, which combines 40 CUs (4 more than an RX 480/580) at 1172MHz (~168MHz slower than an RX 580 Gaming X). The CPU component is an 8C processor (no SMT), and is the same as on previous Xbox One devices, just with a higher frequency of 2.3GHz. As for memory, the device is using 12GB of GDDR5 memory, all shared between the CPU and GPU. The memory operates an actual memory speed of 1700MHz, with memory bandwidth at 326GB/s. For point of comparison, an RX 580 offers about 256GB/s bandwidth. The Xbox One X, by all accounts, is an impressive combination of hardware that functionally equates a mid-range gaming PC. The PSU is another indication of this, with a 245W supply, at least a few watts of which are provided to the aggressive cooling solution (using a ~112mm radial fan).

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