Between its visit to the White House and Intel’s annual Investor Day, we’ve collected a fair bit of news regarding Intel’s future.
Beginning with the former, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich elected to use the White House Oval Office as the backdrop for announcing Intel’s plans to bring Fab 42 online, with the intention of preparing the Fab for 7nm production. Based in Chandler, Arizona, Fab 42 was originally built between 2011 and 2013, but Intel shelved plans to finalize the fab in 2014. The rebirth of the Arizona-based factory will expectably facilitate up to 10,000 jobs and completion is projected in 3-4 years. Additionally, Intel is prepared to invest as much as $7 billion to up-fit the fab for their 7nm manufacturing process, although little is known about said process.
Taking a break from internal components, we’ve assembled a list of gaming peripherals on sale for those finishing up a new build or looking to upgrade their current gear. We have found a couple keyboards equipped with Cherry MX switches as well as some gaming mice, and even some RGB mousepads, if you need to have RGB in your set up. If neither of the selected keyboards meet all your needs, check out our Best Mechanical Keyboards of 2016 article for more options.
The Pure Base 600 is the newest, cheapest, and smallest of Be Quiet!’s silent enclosures, but it manages to hold its own in the current lineup. It’s a stark contrast to previous Be Quiet! cases like the Silent Base 800, a chunky enclosure that we found pleasant to work with but fairly expensive at $140.
As a $90 mid tower, the Pure Base 600 fits into the same category as the S340 Elite (reviewed) and other high-end cases, although notably without tempered glass or indeed any side window at all. In fact, Be Quiet! also manages to dodge the entirety of the RGB LED craze, making the Pure Base 600 oddly unique in its “older” approach to case features. Granted, there will be a tempered glass variant in March for an extra $10.
Instead of all these extras, the 600 derives its value from Be Quiet!’s hallmark blend of acoustic foam, rubber grommets, and case fans intended to deaden noise as much as possible. We’ll cover acoustic testing later on, but for now, our first impressions:
GPU diode is a bad means for controlling fan RPM, at this point; it’s not an indicator of total board performance by any stretch of use. GPUs have become efficient enough that GPU-governed PWM for fans means lower RPMs, which means less noise – a good thing – but also worsened performance on the still-hot VRMs. We have been talking about this for a while now, most recently in our in-depth EVGA VRM analysis during the Great Thermal Pad Fracas of 2016. That analysis showed that the thermals were largely a non-issue, but not totally inexcusable. EVGA’s subsequent VBIOS update and thermal pad mods were sufficient to resolve any concern that lingered, though if you’re curious to learn more about that, it’s really worth just checking out the original post.
VBIOS updates and thermal pad mods were not EVGA’s only response to this. Internally, the company set forth to design a new PCB+cooler combination that would better detect high heat operation on non-GPU components, and would further protect said components with a 10A fuse.
In our testing today, we’ll be fully analyzing the efficacy of EVGA’s new “ICX” cooler design, to coexist with the long-standing ACX cooler. In our thermal analysis and review of the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 (~$630) & SC2 ICX cards (~$590), we’ll compare ACX vs. ICX coolers on the same card, MOSFET & VRAM temperatures with thermocouples and NTC thermistors, and individual cooler component performance. This includes analysis down to the impact the new backplate makes, among other tests.
Of note: There will be no FPS benchmarks for this review. All ICX cards with SC2 and FTW2 suffixes ship at the exact same base/boost clock-rates as their preceding SC & FTW counterparts. This means that FPS will only be governed by GPU Boost 3.0; that is to say, any FPS difference seen between an EVGA GTX 1080 FTW & EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 will be entirely resultant of uncontrollable (in test) manufacturing differences at the GPU-level. Such differences will be within a percentage point or two, and are, again, not a result of the ICX cooler. Our efforts are therefore better spent on the only thing that matters with this redesign: Cooling performance and noise. Gaming performance remains the same, barring any thermal throttle scenarios – and those aren’t a concern here, as you’ll see.
The first unlocked i3 CPU, upon its pre-release disclosure to GN, sounded like one of Intel’s most interesting moves for the Kaby Lake generation. Expanding overclocking down to a low/mid-tier SKU could eat away at low-end i5 CPUs, if done properly, and might mark a reprisal of the G3258’s brief era of adoration. The G3258 didn’t hold for long, but its overclocking prowess made the CPU an easy $60-$70 bargain pickup with a small window of high-performance gaming; granted, it did have issues in more multi-threaded games. The idea with the G3258 was to purchase the chip with a Z-series platform, then upgrade a year later with something higher-end.
The i3-7350K doesn’t quite lend itself to that same mindset, seeing as it’s ~$180 and leaves little room between neighboring i5 CPUs. This is something that you buy more permanently than those burner Pentium chips. The i3-7350K is also something that should absolutely only be purchased under the pretense of overclocking; this is not something that should be bought “just in case.” Do or do not – if you’re not overclocking, do not bother to consider a purchase. It’s not uncommon for non-overclockers to purchase K-SKU Core i7 CPUs, generally for desire of “having the best,” but the 7350K isn’t good enough on its own to purchase for that same reason. Without overclocking, it’s immediately a waste.
The question is whether overclocking makes the Intel i3-7350K worthwhile, and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this review’s set of benchmarks. We test Blender rendering, gaming FPS, thermals, and synthetics in today’s review.
For comparison, neighboring non-K Intel products would include the Intel i5-7500 (3.4GHz) for $205, the i3-7100 for $120, and Intel i3-7320 (4.1GHz) for $165. These sandwich the 7350K into a brutal price category, but overclocking might save the chip – we’ll find out shortly.
We’re on to Episode 43 of Ask GN, which means we’ve past 42 – which means that the we missed the perfect opportunity to answer questions about “life, the universe, and everything.” Ah, well.
In episode 43, we’re talking skills to figure out if your CPU is bottlenecking your GPU (or vice versa), laptop thermal refurbishment (copper shims, thermal pads, thermal paste), and more. A good few minutes of the video is spent addressing a question about “Temporal Filtering,” one of the new-ish settings that’s been in a few Ubisoft games lately. Watch Dogs 2 most recently makes use of Temporal Filtering. We define that here.
For written content today, check out our revised WD Blue vs. Black vs. Red guide that defines Western Digital’s rainbow of hard drives. It’s been updated a bit since our original piece.
Revisiting an article from GN days of yore, GamersNexus endeavored to explain the differences between Western Digital’s WD Blue, Black, Red, and Purple hard drives. In this content, we also explain the specs and differences between WD Green vs. Blue & Black SSDs. In recent years, Western Digital’s product stack as changed considerably, as has the HDD market in general. We’ve found it fitting to resurrect this WD Blue, Black, Green, Red, and Purple drive naming scheme explanation. We’ll talk about the best drives for each purpose (e.g. WD Blue vs. Black for gaming), then dig into the new SSDs.
Unchanged over the years is Western Digital’s affinity for deferring to colors as to identify products, where other HDD vendors prefer fantastic creature names (BarraCuda, IronWolf, SkyHawk, etc.). As stated above, Western Digital has seriously changed its lineup. The WD Green drives have been painted blue, as they’ve been folded into the WD Blue umbrella. Furthermore, the WD Blue brand has seen the addition of an SSHD offering and SSDs in both 2.5” and M.2 form factors. This in no small part thanks to Western Digital’s acquisition of SanDisk—another notable development since our last article. With that, the WD Blue brand has expanded to become Western Digital’s most comprehensive mainstream product line-up.
Other changes to the Western Digital rainbow include the expanding of WD Black, and confusingly enough, WD Green brands. Starting with the latter, Western Digital rebranded all WD Green HDDs as WD Blue, selling WD Blues under two different RPMs, but recently reentered the SSD market with both. However, the WD Green SSDs are currently unavailable, perhaps due to the global NAND shortage. Likewise, the WD Black series has spilled over into the realm of NVMe/PCIe based storage and WD Black HDDs have expanded capacities up to 6TB; that’s quite a change from the 4TB flagship model we covered back in 2014. Lastly, there is WD Purple, of which we will retroactively cover here.
EVGA’s CLC 120 cooler fell on our bench shortly after the EVGA CLC 280 ($130), which we reviewed last week against the NZXT X62 & Corsair H115i. The EVGA CLC 120 prices itself at $90, making it competitive with other RGB-illuminated coolers, but perhaps a bit steep in comparison to the cheaper 120mm AIOs on the market. Regardless, 120mm territory is where air coolers start to claw back their value in performance-to-dollar; EVGA’s chosen a tough market to debut a low-end cooler, despite the exceptionally strong positioning of their CLC 280 (as stated in our review).
We made Gigabyte aware of an unnecessarily high auto vCore table back in December, prior to the launch and NDA lift of Kaby Lake processors. By the time of review, that still hadn’t been resolved, and we noted in our Gigabyte Aorus Z270X Gaming 7 review that we’d revisit thermals if the company issued an update. Today, we’re doing just that. Gigabyte passed relevant information along to engineering teams and worked quickly to resolve the high auto vCore (and thus high CPU temperatures) on the Gaming 7 motherboard.
We’ve been impressed with Gigabyte’s responses overall. The representatives have been exceptionally helpful in troubleshooting the issue, and were open ears when we presented our initial concerns. The quick turn-around time on a BIOS update and subsequent auto vCore reduction shows that they’re listening, which is more than we can say for a lot of companies in this business. In an industry where it’s easier to jam fingers in ears and ignore a problem, Gigabyte’s fixed this one.
Hardware sales are hard to come by this time of year, but that didn’t stop us from finding a decent price on a new ASUS Z270 motherboard, a GTX 1070, and an RX 480. If you’re in the market for the Z270 chipset and a Kaby Lake processor, check out our review of the i7 7700k and i5 7600k. And of course, if upgrading from a pre-Skylake architecture, be mindful as DDR4 RAM prices are set to increase, as pointed out in our Ask GN 42 and in a recent article by Patrick Lathan on the site.
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