We're ramping into GPU testing hard this week, with many tests and plans in the pipe for the impending and now-obvious RTX launch. As we ramp those tests, and continue publishing our various liquid metal tests (corrosion and aging tests), we're still working on following hardware news in the industry.
This week's round-up includes a video-only inclusion of the EVGA iCX2 mislabeling discussion that popped-up on reddit (links are still below), with written summaries of IP theft and breach of trust affecting the silicon manufacturing business, "GTX" 2060 theories, the RTX Hydro Copper and Hybrid cards, Intel's 14nm shortage, and more.
Alongside the question of how frequently liquid metal should be replaced, one of the most common liquid metal-related questions pertains to how safe it is to use with different metals. This includes whether liquid metal is safe to use with bare copper, like you’d find in a laptop, or aluminum, and also includes the staining effect of liquid metal on nickel-plated copper (like on an IHS). This content explores the electromechanical interactions of liquid metal with the three most common heatsink materials, and does so using Thermal Grizzly’s Conductonaut liquid metal. Conductonaut is among the most prevalent on the market, but other options are made of similar compound, like Coollaboratory’s Liquid Ultra.
Conductonaut is a eutectic alloy – it is a mix of gallium, indium, and tin. This is Galinstan, but the individual mixtures of liquid metal have different percentages for each element. We don’t know the exact mixture of Conductonaut, but we do know that it uses gallium, indium, and tin. Most liquid metals use this mixture, just with varying percentages of each element. Gallium typically comprises the majority of the mixture.
We’re finally nearing completion of our office move-in – as complete as a never-ending project can be, anyway. Our set table is now done, although not shown in today’s video, and the test room is getting filled. That’s the first news item. Work is finally getting produced in the office.
Aside from that, the week has been packed with hardware news. This is one of our densest episodes in recent months, and features a response to the Tom’s Hardware debacle (by Thomas Pabst himself), NVIDIA’s own performance expectations of the RTX 2080, AMD strategic shuffling, and more.
As always, show notes are after the video.
We’re at PAX West 2018 for just one day this year (primarily for a discussion panel), but stopped by the Gigabyte booth for a hands-on with the new RTX cards. As with most other manufacturers, these cards aren’t 100% finalized yet, although they do have some near-final cooling designs. The models shown today appear to use the reference PCB design with hand-made elements to the coolers, as partners had limited time to prepare. Gigabyte expects to have custom PCB solutions at a later date.
“How frequently should I replace liquid metal?” is one of the most common questions we get. Liquid metal is applied between the CPU die and IHS to improve thermal conductivity from the silicon, but there hasn’t been much long-term testing on liquid metal endurance versus age. Cracking and drying are some of the most common concerns, leading users to wonder whether liquid metal performance will fall off a cliff at some point. One of our test benches has been running thermal endurance cycling tests for the last year now, since September of 2017, just to see if it’s aged at all.
This is a case study. We are testing with a sample size of one, so consider it an experiment and case study over an all-encompassing test. It is difficult to conduct long-term endurance tests with multiple samples, and would require dozens (or more) of identical systems to really build-out a large database. From that angle, again, please keep in mind that this is a case study of one test bench, with one brand of liquid metal.
Other than news that our move into an office is nearly complete -- and that is big news, at least, for us -- the industry has been largely focused on GPUs for the past few weeks. NVidia's remaining 10-series GPU inventory has been purged down-channel to board partners, who are now working to drop 10-series video card prices in fire sales that lead into the RTX 20-series launch. We've also heard of Spectre and Meltdown again (it's been a while), with Intel pushing more microcode updates to assist in mitigating attack vectors. Those updates came with a brief "no benchmarks" clause, but that seems to have been addressed in the time since.
Separately: We'll be at PAX West this weekend for one day (Friday), and will be joining Corsair and PC World on a PC gaming panel at 7:00PM in the Sandworm Theater. Learn more here.
The show notes and article are below the video embed, if you prefer reading.
Intel has provided GamersNexus with a statement that addresses concerns pertaining to a new “benchmarking clause.” This comes after Bruce Perens published a story entitled “Intel Publishes Microcode Security Patches, No Benchmarking Or Comparison Allowed!” As one might expect, the story has exploded online since this publication.
The crux of the issue comes down to Intel’s Spectre and Meltdown microcode updates, which aim to mitigate vulnerabilities and attack vectors that were exposed for nearly all CPUs (since the 90s) late last year. GamersNexus previously worked to interview some of the expert researchers who discovered Meltdown and Spectre, all published in this article. We’d recommend the read for anyone not up-to-date on the attack vectors.
We had an opportunity to disassemble multiple EVGA RTX video cards, including the EVGA RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti, the latter featuring assistance from Der8auer of Caseking’s booth. Our coverage is still going live as we edit, render, and upload, but the immediate news item pertains to die size.
Update: Added a correction for SM / CUDA Core numbers, now that full details have been leaked.
NVIDIA announced its new Turing video cards for gaming today, including the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, and RTX 2070. The cards move forward with an upgraded-but-familiar Volta architecture, with some changes to the SMs and memory. The new RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti ship with reference cards first, and partner cards largely at the same time (with some more advanced models coming 1+ month later), depending on which partner it is. The board partners did not receive pricing or even card naming until around the same time as media, so expect delays in custom solutions. Note that we were originally hearing a 1-3 month latency on partner cards, but that looks to be only for advanced models that are just now entering production. Most tri-fan models should come available on the same date.
Another major point of consideration is NVIDIA's decision to use a dual-axial reference card, eliminating much of the value of partner cards at the low-end. Moving away from blower reference cards and toward dual-fan cards will most immediately impact board partners, something that could lead to a slow crawl of NVIDIA expanding its direct-to-consumer sales and bypassing partners. The RTX 2080 Ti will be priced at $1200 and will launch on September 20, with the 2080 at $800 (and September 20), and the 2070 at $600 (TBD release date).
Hardware news for the past week has been largely dominated by GPU rumblings -- a good thing, given the multi-year gap between lion's share holder NVIDIA's Pascal. The company announced its NVIDIA Turing architecture for Quadro cards, an upgrade on Volta, and has teased the GeForce "RTX 2080" gaming graphics card in one of its videos. Turing will be the subject of heavy discussion come Gamescom, based on what NVIDIA has indicated from its public event schedule. On NVIDIA's coattails, Intel has also indicated a desired to push graphics -- with teasers pointing toward potential consumer dGPUs -- by the year 2020.
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