Hardware Guides

The second card in our “revisit” series – sort of semi-re-reviews – is the GTX 780 Ti from November of 2013, which originally shipped for $700. This was the flagship of the Kepler architecture, followed later by Maxwell architecture on GTX 900 series GPUs, and then the modern Pascal. The 780 Ti was in competition with AMD’s R9 200 series and (a bit later) R9 300 series cards, and was accompanied by the expected 780, 770, and 760 video cards.

Our last revisit looked at the GTX 770 2GB card, and our next one plans to look at an AMD R9 200-series card. For today, we’re revisiting the GTX 780 Ti 3GB card for an analysis of its performance in 2016, as pitted against the modern GTX 1080, 1070, 1060, 1050 Ti, and RX 480, 470, and others.

Alphacool Eiswolf GPX Pro Video Build Log

By Published December 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm

GN reader ‘Eric’ reached-out to us to loan his Alphacool Eiswolf GPX Pro cooling block, which we’ve now applied to a GTX 1080 Founders Edition card. The Eiswolf build process isn’t too difficult – certainly easier than the tear-down of the average FE card. The Eiswolf GPX Pro has an on-card pump with designated in/out tubes, each terminating in threaded quick release valves that hook into a semi-open loop system. We later purchased an Alphacool Eisbaer for our radiator and CPU cooler, then connected them all together.

The review of the Eiswolf will be posted tomorrow, followed shortly by a look at EK WB’s Predator XLC. For today, we’re just posting the build log that our Patreon backers have helped produce.

Our full OCAT content piece is still pending publication, as we ran into some blocking issues when working with AMD’s OCAT benchmarking utility. In speaking with the AMD team, those are being worked-out behind the scenes for this pre-release software, and are still being actively documented. For now, we decided to push a quick overview of OCAT, what it does, and how the tool will theoretically make it easier for all users to perform Dx12 & Vulkan benchmarks going forward. We’ll revisit with a performance and overhead analysis once the tool works out some of its bugs.

The basics, then: AMD has only built the interface and overlay here, and uses the existing, open source Intel+Microsoft amalgam of PresentMon to perform the hooking and performance interception. We’ve already been detailing PresentMon in our benchmarking methods for a few months now, using PresentMon monitoring low-level API performance and using Python and Perl scripts built by GN for data analysis. That’s the thing, though – PresentMon isn’t necessarily easy to understand, and our model of usage revolves entirely around command line. We’re using the preset commands established by the tool’s developers, then crunching data with spreadsheets and scripts. That’s not user-friendly for a casual audience.

Just to deploy the tool, Visual Studio package requirements and a rudimentary understanding of CMD – while not hard to figure out – mean that it’s not exactly fit to offer easy benchmarking for users. And even for technical media, an out-of-box PresentMon isn’t exactly the fastest tool to work with.

There’s inherent FPS loss when using capture software, GPU-accelerated or otherwise. The best that software vendors can do is try to reduce loss as much as possible, but ideally without sacrificing too much video quality or too much compression capability.

A few months back, AMD finally axed its partnership with Raptr for the cumbersome Gaming Evolved suite. This move to greener – or ‘redder,’ perhaps – pastures immediately left AMD with a hole in its tools suite, namely a competitor to nVidia’s somewhat prolific ShadowPlay software capture tool.

Today, with the AMD ReLive update to the Crimson-brand drivers, AMD’s implemented its own solution to software capture for gameplay. The tool includes manually toggled capture, broadcast/streaming capture, and retroactive capture. This is a direct competitor to the ShadowPlay software from nVidia’s GeForce Experience suite, and performs many of the same functions with the same end objective.

We previously did this comparison with ShadowPlay versus FRAPS and AMD’s GVR, a solution that ultimately was subsumed by Gaming Evolved. It’s taken AMD a while to get back to this point, but ReLive is a fresh recording suite. In GN’s embedded video, we’ve got side-by-side capture comparisons between the two utilities, the impact on framerate when each is active, and a quick analysis of the compression’s efficacy. Much of this will also be contained below, though the quality comparison will require you view the video.

There are two ends to a power supply cable: The device-side and the PSU-side. The device-side of all PC cables is standardized. ATX 24-pin, EPS12V, PCI-e to the GPU, SATA—the wiring is known, and it doesn't change. What isn't standardized, however, is the layout of the PSU-side modular cable headers. Some vendors might use 6-pin connectors for their PSU-side peripheral headers (identical to what's found on PCI-e cables, because it saves cost), others will opt instead for a wide-format pin-out for the same. Another still could use a bulky 9-pin block for universal connectivity, like some of EVGA's power supplies.

What can't be done, though, is mixing cables between all these units. Or at least, it shouldn't be done. Mixing cables between power supplies can kill them or kill attached components. Not always, but it can -- and when the wiring crosses in exactly the wrong way, the failure will be spectacular. Like ESD, just because you've gotten away with mixing cables doesn't mean you always will. Electricity is not a mystery; we know well how it works, and crossing the wrong wires will damage components.

Following suit with the rest of our Black Friday coverage, including Best SSDs and power supplies, we’ve next rounded-up a few honorable mentions in the motherboard department. We're specifically looking at Intel boards today, as deals on AMD boards seemed a bit scarce this year. With the looming obsolescence of the AM3/AM3+ socket, we elected to not include those boards. You’ll notice that, save for sharing a common thread in socket type (all supporting Intel’s latest Skylake processors), these picks vary quite a bit. Be assured though, these boards all have a place. Whether it’s a minimalist, no-frills gaming machine for medium to high settings or a high-end, performance-minded overclocker, there’s a board here for it.

This list comprises the best gaming Intel motherboards for Cyber Monday (and onward), including Z170, B150, H110, and other motherboards.

The Z170 boards in this list are of proven quality, and do come recommended; however, it is worth mentioning that Z170 is not tantamount to "better." A poorly designed Z170 board is not inherently superior than a well-constructed B150 or H1xx, even at a comparable price. There's more to it than the chipset. If you are curious as to what the differences are between Intel's Skylake chipsets, view this H110, H170, & Z170 guide.

Some PC parts garner a lot more attention than others: CPUs, GPUs, and SSDs have clear, exciting advancements and benefits that can be directly felt by the user. Some components, like PSUs, don’t get the same amount of coverage or excitement.

Nonetheless, power supplies are a vital part of a PC and a good PSU choice can last throughout multiple PCs, whereas a bad PSU choice could lead to strange issues and can even break other components. In anticipation of the holiday season coming up, we’ve once again compiled a list of ranked PSUs at different price points.

This is GN’s list of best power supplies for gaming PCs in 2016, ranging $45 to $300. Note that some of these power supplies will be on sale during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so keep an eye on anything that looks appealing for your PC build.

Two EVGA GTX 1080 FTW cards have now been run through a few dozen hours of testing, each passing through real-world, synthetic, and torture testing. We've been following this story since its onset, initially validating preliminary thermal results with thermal imaging, but later stating that we wanted to follow-up with direct thermocouple probes to the MOSFETs and PCB. The goal with which we set forth was to create the end-all, be-all set of test data for VRM thermals. We have tested every reasonable scenario for these cards, including SLI, and have even intentionally attempted to incinerate the cards by running ridiculous use scenarios.

Thermocouples were attached directly to the back-side of the PCB (hotspot previously discovered), the opposing MOSFET (#2, from bottom-up), and MOSFET #7. The seventh and second MOSFETs are those which seem to be most commonly singed or scorched in user photos of allegedly failed EVGA 10-series ACX 3.0 cards, including the GTX 1060 and GTX 1070. Our direct probe contact to these MOSFETs will provide more finality to testing results, with significantly greater accuracy and understanding than can be achieved with a thermal imager pointed at the rear-side of the PCB. Even just testing with a backplate isn't really ideal with thermal cameras, as the emissivity of the metal begins to make for questionable results -- not to mention the fact that the plate visually obstructs the actual components. And, although we did mirror EVGA & Tom's DE's testing methodology when checking the impact of thermal pads on the cards, even this approach is not perfect (it does turn out that we were pretty damn accurate, though, but it's not perfect. More on that later.). The pads act as an insulator, again hiding the components and assisting in the spread of heat across a larger surface area. That's what they're designed to do, of course, but for a true reading, we needed today's tests.

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and generally the winter holidays coming up, there’s bound to be a lot of sales and (likely) last minute shopping for gifts. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best mechanical gaming keyboards at various price points that we at GN have reviewed and recommended for both gaming and general use.

These keyboards go from basic budget keyboards to high-end RGB gaming keyboards, all of which are mechanical. Besides, there’s not much in the way of membrane keyboards lately -- the Logitech G213 and Corsair K55 pretty much round those out.

Here’s the shortlist:

Best Gaming Video Cards Under $200 (2016)

By Published November 15, 2016 at 2:23 pm

So begin our buyer's guides for the season. The first of our Black Friday & holiday buyer's guides is focusing on the top video cards under $200, highlighting ideal graphics cards for 1080p gaming. We've reviewed each of the GPUs used in these video cards, and are able to use that benchmark data to determine top performers for the dollar.

This generation's releases offer, in order of ascending MSRP, the RX 460 ($100), GTX 1050 ($110), GTX 1050 Ti ($140), RX 470 ($170), RX 480 4GB ($200), and GTX 1060 3GB ($200). A few active sales offer rebates and discounts that drop a few noteworthy cards, like the 4GB RX 480 and 3GB GTX 1060, down to below MSRP. The same is true for at least one RX 470.

As we've drawn a clear price line between each of the major GPUs that presently exists in this segment, we're making it a point to specifically highlight cards that are discounted or higher performance per dollar. This is a quick reference guide for graphics cards under $200; for the full details and all the caveats, always refer back to our reviews.

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