We recently revamped our CPU benchmarking for significantly expanded workstation benchmarks, allowing us to better analyze CPU performance in non-gaming scenarios. Of course, this methodology update wouldn’t be complete without revisions to our gaming tests. These updates include more games, better testing in games where we’ve encountered GPU bottlenecks (that limit usefulness in CPU reviews), and improved accuracy of results. This takes the knowledgebase of what we’ve learned over the past year and builds upon shortcomings we’ve found.
With Ryzen 3000 CPUs just around the corner, likely announced at Computex next week, we have begun the process of preparing our test bench for the inevitable 3700X (or whatever they end up calling it). This means re-running CPUs through our testing until we repopulate the charts in time for Ryzen 3’s release, which is a process that we’ll begin publishing today.
This content piece started with Buildzoid’s suggestion for us to install a custom VBIOS on our RX 570 for timing tuning tests. Our card proved temperamental with the custom VBIOS, so we ended up instead – for now – testing AMD’s built-in timing level options in the drivers. AMD’s GPU drivers have a drop-down option featuring “automatic,” “timing level 1,” and “timing level 2” settings for Radeon cards, all of which lack any formal definition within the drivers. We ran an RX 570 and a Vega 56 card through most of our tests with these timings options, using dozens of test passes across the 3DMark suite (for each line item) to minimize the error margins and help narrow-in the range of statistically significant results. We also ran “real” gaming workloads in addition to these 3DMark passes.
Were we to step it up, the next goal would be to use third-party tools to manually tune the memory timings, whether GDDR5 or HBM2, or custom VBIOSes on cards that are more stable. For now, we’ll focus on AMD’s built-in options.
Computex is just a few weeks away. Mark calendars for May 28 to June 1 (and surrounding dates) -- we're expecting AMD Ryzen 3000 discussion, Navi unveils or teases, and X570 motherboards in the CPU category, with potential Intel news on 10nm for mobile and notebook devices. This week's news cycle was still busy pre-show, though, including discussion of an impending end to Intel's CPU shortage, the AMD supercomputer collaboration with Cray, NVIDIA's move away from binned GPUs, and more.
As always, the show notes are below the embedded video.
Fractal’s Define S2 Vision RGB takes the glass-and-LED approach to cases that most manufacturers discovered a few years ago. This particular approach, as we’ve discussed in years prior, is to take an existing chassis that’s reasonably good, then glue glass to metal panel carriers and stick some RGB LED fans in the case. It’s a few minutes of PM work, but allows a case to be refreshed and upsold for more.
The trouble is that Fractal has already used this particular body in minimally half a dozen SKUs, with the R6 serving as the baseline, the Define S2 following, the S2 Meshify after that, and then all the variants with windows, solid panels, or color variations. We reviewed the R6 a while ago, and all those build notes apply here. We also reviewed the S2, where we said to read the R6 review for build quality notes. None of that has really changed, or at least, very little of it has.
The refresh is absolutely on the lazy side, as it really just is a re-refresh of a case with glass and LEDs. It’s an old approach to glass and LEDs. Although the body is fine, we need to see a lot more action to justify a $240 price, or $190 for the glass version without RGB LED fans (sticking a $50 price tag on LEDs alone).
This round-up is packed with news, although our leading two stories are based on rumors. After talking about Navi's potential reference or engineering design PCB and Intel's alleged Comet Lake plans, we'll dive into Super Micro's move away from China-based manufacturing, a global downtrend in chip sales, Ryzen and Epyc sales growth, Amazon EWS expansion to use more AMD instances, and more.
Show notes are below the embedded video, as always.
AMD didn’t claim that its R7 2700X Gold Edition would be special in any frequency or binning sense of the word, but exposure to the Intel i7-8086K has obviously led us to project our hopes onto AMD that it would be binned. This is, of course, a fault of our own and not of AMD’s, as it’s not like the company claimed binning, but we still wanted to try and see if we could get a golden Gold Edition sample. In this content, we’ll be establishing that the special 50th anniversary edition 2700X doesn’t come with higher clocks than stock (but it’s not like AMD claimed otherwise), then attempting to find more overclocking headroom than our 2700X and 2700 original samples.
For the most part, this CPU was released as a commemorative item. It has a laser engraving of CEO Lisa Su’s signature (not an actual signature), which clearly illustrates its purpose as more of one for display than some special bin. Despite the 50th Anniversary gift being gold, it would seem the 2700X Gold Edition is named more for its bundling with The Division 2 Gold Edition and a 1-year season pass, alongside World War Z. If you were buying these anyway, it’s not a bad deal. If not, you’d still be better off buying a 2700 and overclocking it – purely from a financial standpoint – than spending the extra money on the Gold Edition. That said, you wouldn’t get the box or laser-etched name, so once again, this is very obviously priced higher for AMD purists and fans.
One of our most popular videos of yore talks about the GTX 960 4GB vs. GTX 960 2GB cards and the value of choosing one over the other. The discussion continues today, but is more focused on 3GB vs. 6GB comparisons, or 4GB vs. 8GB comparisons. Now, looking back at 2015’s GTX 960, we’re revisiting with locked frequencies to compare memory capacities. The goal is to look at both framerate and image quality to determine how well the 2GB card has aged versus how well the 4GB card has aged.
A lot of things have changed for us since our 2015 GTX 960 comparison, so these results will obviously not be directly comparable to the time. We’re using different graphics settings, different test methods, a different OS, and much different test hardware. We’ve also improved our testing accuracy significantly, and so it’s time to take all of this new hardware and knowledge and re-apply it to the GTX 960 2GB vs. 4GB debate, looking into whether there was really a “longevity” argument to be made.
Other than the most exciting news -- that GN has restocked its Blueprint shirt -- there are other items for the past week that are also interesting, like AMD's Ryzen 3200G allegedly getting a delid and overclock, or Microsoft changing its tune on CPU shortages affecting Windows 10 adoption. Additional news includes Laptop Mag's research into notebook manufacturer support teams, ShadowHammer affecting 6 more companies (in addition to ASUS previously), and Samsung investment news.
As always, show notes follow the video embed.
We saw the yet-unnamed ASUS ROG Strix Helios at Computex 2018, where it landed a spot on our Most Room For Improvement list alongside the other two cases ASUS showed. ASUS doesn’t make cases--the company’s been around for 30 years, so we won’t say it’s never happened, but it’s definitely a rare occurrence. They worked with In Win to create the concept shown off at Computex, but the ASUS x In Win branding has disappeared from the production version and it’s our understanding that In Win is not involved in manufacturing. The Helios has to stand up to extra scrutiny as part of ASUS’ first foray into the case market. The ROG line has a reputation for solid hardware despite the over-the-top gamer branding, so it has big shoes to fill.The case is packed with as many features as possible, necessary or otherwise. The most distinctive is the velcro strap laced over the top panel, ostensibly an “ergonomic and stylish” handle for carrying the system to LAN parties. It helps a little for hoisting the case up on to a table, but this is not the enclosure to bring to a LAN party, even for the rare person that attends more than one per decade. Most of the case’s surface is glass and it weighs 18kg empty. At least the straps and the rails that they’re looped through are massive overkill, tested up to 50kg according to ASUS, so the most likely point of failure is the person lugging it around. The strap is fastened with velcro and can easily be removed before it gets dusty and gross, and we’d recommend doing so, since the case looks perfectly normal without it.
When we first received our sample, the “multifunction cover” over the cutouts to the side of the motherboard was knocked sideways in a way that looked like serious damage, but it was just loose. There was also a mysterious loose screw wedged into it, which we later discovered was from the front panel. The cover slides backwards and forwards to allow room for E-ATX motherboards, and it contains a 2.5” drive mount and built-in GPU braces. The braces are of limited usefulness since they mostly support the edge of the GPU closest to the motherboard, which is already held up by the PCIe slot. The rails for the supports are unpainted to allow the supports to slide up and down and stand out harshly against the black interior. GPU sag is a problem, but one without an elegant solution. The cover functions normally otherwise but offers very little clearance for plugs on the edge of the motherboard, and connecting the SATA cable for our boot drive was difficult.
NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 was sworn to secrecy, with drivers held for “unification” reasons up until actual launch date. The GTX 1650 comes in variants ranging from 75W to 90W and above, meaning that some options will run without a power connector while others will focus on boosted clocks, power target, and require a 6-pin connector. GTX 1650s start at $150, with this model costing $170 and running a higher power target, more overclocking headroom, and potentially better challenging some of NVIDIA’s past-generation products. We’ll see how far we can push the 1650 in today’s benchmarks, including overclock testing to look at maximum potential versus a GTX 1660. We’re using the official, unmodified GTX 1650 430.39 public driver from NVIDIA for this review.
We got our card two hours before product launch and got the drivers at launch, but noticed that NVIDIA tried to push drivers heavily through GeForce Experience. We pulled them standalone instead.
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