Over the last few months, we’ve talked numerous times about the high prices of flash-based storage devices, specifically SSDs and DDR4 RAM. Newegg currently has a “Spotlight Special” sale on SSDs and Memory, and while the prices are not historically low, they are a slight break from the current overpriced market we find ourselves in. All products listed should be available at this price until Monday, July 24th.

This feature benchmark dives into one of the top requests we received from our Patreon backers: Undervolt Vega: Frontier Edition and determine its peak power/performance configuration. The test roped us in immediately, yielding performance uplift largely across the board from preliminary settings tuning. As we dug deeper, once past all the anomalous software issues, we managed to improve Vega: FE Air’s power available to the core, reduce power consumption relative to this, and improve performance in non-trivial ways.

Although power target and core voltage are somewhat tied at the hip, both being tools for overclocking, they don’t govern one another. Power target offset dictates how much additional power budget we’re willing to provide the GPU core (from the power supply) in order to stabilize its clock. GPU Vcore governs the voltage supplied, and will generally range from 900 to 1250mv on Vega: FE cards.

Vega’s native DPM configuration runs its final three states at 1440MHz, 1528MHz, and 1600MHz for the P-states, with DPM7 at 1600MHz/1200mv. This configuration is unsustainable in stock settings, as the core is both power-starved and thermally throttled (we’ll show this in a moment). The thermal limiter on Vega: FE is ~85C, at which point the power and clock will fluctuate hard to try and maintain control of the core temperature. The result is (1) spikey frequencies and frametime latencies, worsening perceived performance, and (2) reduced overall performance as frequency struggles to maintain even 1528MHz (let alone the advertised 1600MHz). To resolve for the thermal issue, we can either configure a more intelligent fan curve than AMD’s stock configuration or create a Hybrid card; unfortunately, we’re still left with a new problem – a power limit.

The power limit can be resolved in large part by offsetting power target by +50%. Making this modification is easy and “fixes” the issue of clock-dropping, but introduces (1) new thermal issues – resolvable by configuring a higher fan RPM, of course, and (2) absurdly high power consumption for a non-linear scaling in performance. In order to truly get value out of this approach, undervolting seems the next appropriate measure. AMD’s native core voltage is far higher than necessary for the card to operate at its 1600MHz target, and so lowering voltage improves performance from the out-of-box config. This is for thermal and power reasons alike. We ultimately see significantly reduced power consumption, to the tune of ~90W in some cases, a more stable core clock and thereby higher performance, and lower temperature – and thereby controllable noise.

This week has been another slow one in the hardware sales department, as we seem to say every week that flash-based storage and GPUs continue to stay high in price. Upgrading or building a new PC is difficult right now; however, this week we found some decent prices on a 16GB kit of DDR4 from G.SKILL and a 120GB SSD from Kingston. With the GPU cryptocurrency mining craze still going on, mid- to low-end cards are all but sold-out and overpriced for gaming, but the GTX 1080 however can still be found for at or just under $500 in some cases. This week also provided us with a slight discount on the new Corsair K63 keyboard with Cherry MX red switches.

We can’t get all the way down to the inner workings of the pump on this one, unfortunately, as all of our source images for the Vega: Frontier Edition – Watercooled card are from a reader. The reader was kind enough to remove the shroud from their new WC version of Vega: FE so that we could get an understanding of the basics, leading us to the conclusion that AMD has built one of the most expensive pre-built liquid cooling solutions for a graphics card.

The video tear-down goes into detail on the images we received, but we’ll revisit most of it here. The card uses the same base PCB, same VRM, same GPU/HBM layout and positioning, and same everything as the air-cooled card. The difference is entirely in the cooling solution, where the Delta VRM fan goes away and is replaced with an additional reservoir (more on that in a moment), while the GPU/VRM cooling is handled by liquid plates and a pump. The die-case finstack atop the I/O is also now gone, and the baseplate is simplified to an aluminum plate with no protrusions.

This week's hardware news recap gives us a break from Vega -- if a brief one -- so that we can discussed nVidia's multi-chip GPU white paper, AMD's Ryzen Threadripper CPUs (1920X + 1950X), the R3 CPUs, and new fabs for Samsung. This discussion also bleeds over into DRAM shortages and NAND prices, particularly relating to Micron's fab "event" from last week.

The show notes are below the embedded video, for folks who prefer the notes and sources.

Liquid-cooling the AMD Vega: Frontier Edition card has proven an educational experience for us, yielding new information about power leakage and solidifying beliefs of a power wall. We also learned that overclocking without thermal barriers (or thermal-induced power barriers) grants significant performance uplift in some scenarios, including gaming and production, though is done at the cost of ~33A from the PSU over 12V PSU power.

Our results for the AMD Vega: Frontier Edition liquid-cooling hybrid mod are in, and this review covers the overclocking scalability, power limits, thermal change, and more.

The Hybrid mod was detailed in build log form over in part 1 of the endeavor. This mod wasn’t as straight-forward as most, seeing as we didn’t have any 64x64mm brackets for securing the liquid cooler to the card. Drilling through an Intel mounting plate for an Asetek cooler, we were ultimately able to get an Asetek 570LC onto the card, which we later equipped with a Gentle Typhoon 120mm fan. VRM FET cooling was handled by aluminum finstacks secured by thermal adhesive, cooled with 1-2x Corsair ML120 fans. That said, this VRM cooling solution also wasn’t necessary – we could have operated with just the fans, and did at one point operate with just the heatsinks (and indirect airflow).

Specs and prices for AMD’s upcoming Ryzen Threadripper CPUs have been announced, as well as a general release date. The 12C/24T 1920X and 16C/32T 1950X will be available worldwide starting in “Early August,” with prebuilt Alienware systems available for preorder starting July 27th. According to AMD:

“Both are unlocked, use the new Socket TR4, have quad-channel DDR4, and feature 64 lanes of PCI Express. Base clock on the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-core product is 3.4 GHz with precision boost to 4.0 GHz. On the Ryzen Threadripper 1920X 12-core product, the base clock is 3.5 GHz with precision boost to 4.0 GHz.”

As an aside, manufacturers informed GamersNexus at Computex that board release dates are targeted for August 10. It’s possible that this date has changed in the time since the show, but that seems to be the known target for Threadripper.

MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Tear-Down

By Published July 12, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Before getting started: Our Vega FE Hybrid mod has just gone through its final data pass, and is now in video editing and writing. The content will arrive tomorrow!

That cleared away, as we know a lot of folks are excited for the mod's results, we're now focusing on the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning card momentarily. This is a video card that we first covered at Computex 2017, where we detailed initial specifications, MOSFETs and power components, and the target use case of XOC or heavy overclocking. We didn't yet have information on the card internals, but our latest tear-down (embedded below) gives some insight on the card's design. There are some unique features on this card that should pose an interesting A/B test during thermal benchmarking.

This episode of Ask GN returns with our new format, frontloading the episode with some discussion topics before feeding into the user-submitted questions. As always, for consideration in next episode, please leave your comment on the YouTube playback page or in our Ask GN Discord channel for Patreon backers.

The video opens with another “gift” from NZXT, some new power draw testing, AMD Vega naming thoughts (and rushed launches with Intel & AMD), and then addresses user questions. We hop around from liquid metal to CPU and airflow topics, giving a good spread to this episode.

Watch below – timestamps below the embedded video:

Discounts on hardware are going to be hard to find with continually rising DDR4 prices and GPU shortages due to cryptocurrency mining, something we talked about in our latest Ask GN video and our How Manufacturers Feel About Mining video. As a result of these issues, hardware sales for flash-based storage and memory (and GPUs) have been difficult to come by.

This week, we found some good discounts on two gaming mice -- one from Corsair and the other from Logitech -- alongside the Western Digital Blue 1TB drives, a 620W PSU from Seasonic on Newegg, and GTX 1080s (still an option for those looking to build or upgrade a system).

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