While traveling, the major story that unfolded – and then folded – pertained to the alleged unlocking of Vega 56 shaders, permitting the cards to turn into a “Vega 58” or “Vega 57,” depending. This ultimately was due to a GPU-Z reporting bug, and users claiming increases in performance hadn’t normalized for the clock change or higher power budget. Still, the BIOS flash will modify the DPM tables to adjust for higher clocks and permit greater HBM2 voltage to the memory. Of these changes, the latter is the only real, relevant change – clocks can be manually increased on V56, and the core voltage remains the same after a flash. Powerplay tables can be used to bypass BIOS power limits on V56, though a flash to V64 BIOS permits higher power budget.

Even with all this, it’s still impossible (presently) to flash a modified, custom BIOS onto Vega. We tried this upon review of Vega 56, finding that the card was locked-down to prevent modding. This uses an on-die security coprocessor, relegating our efforts to powerplay tables. Those powerplay tables did ultimately prove successful, as we recently published.

Back at Home Base: Plans for the Month

By Published September 08, 2017 at 9:56 pm

We're finally back at home base. The past week of hardware news and pending releases means a queue the height of the door upon returning, so we've got a busy week ahead of us. Motherboards are in the mix, the Antec P8, multiple other new cases (a quick glance suggests four), feature tests for GPUs and CPUs, and more. We also have some serious website work to get done, including our final and official move to SSL (HTTPS), following which will be fixes to the comments section. We are also looking into overhauling the forums -- it's about time. This becomes a matter of determining how the community is split: A significant portion of direct backers are now in our Patreon Discord, but forums serve an important means for archival and 'slow' support with more searchability, so to speak. That needs to be overhauled. We're considering merging comments and forums on a per-post basis, but aren't sure yet.

Regardless, the first website update in queue is the SSL move, followed by some fixes to the comments and caching systems. These have been inhibiting us for years at this point, and with GN's constant growth, it's about time to get serious about the website's ability to handle an actual user base. This will also include fixes to email activation and the registration system, which has been bugged lately. We intend to keep the forums and comments open for all users in perpetuity, with Discord remaining Patreon-only (for now, anyway).

HW News: X399 & X299 Sales, Coffee Lake, CCXs of 1900X

By Published September 07, 2017 at 6:23 pm

We're on our way home from PAX West & a follow-up trip to Whistler, which means that this post will be exceptionally brief. We'll be back at home base shortly, and will begin normal testing and full-feature production at that point.

In the meantime, our latest news item (shot in the hotel while here) is viewable below. Sorry for the brevity on this one, folks, but we'll be home and producing full-length content ASAP.

Leaked ASRock Z370 Motherboard Shots for Coffee Lake

By Published September 06, 2017 at 11:29 pm

Product photos and renders for ASRock’s alleged Coffee Lake Z370 motherboards have leaked through Videocardz, detailing the ASRock lineup from top-to-bottom. The reported offering from ASRock includes a Z370 “Killer” motherboard (bearing similar branding to Fatal1ty boards), the Z370 Taichi high-end board, Z370M Pro4 Micro-ATX board, Z370M-ITX AC wireless board, and lower-end Z370 Extreme4 and Pro4 motherboards (both ATX).

Der8auer Delids 12-18C Intel Sky-X CPUs

By Published September 05, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Der8auer just delidded his high core-count Skylake-X CPU (12C to 18C), using the same kit that we used in our i9-7900X delidding video from Computex. Der8auer’s findings reveal a larger die than the 10C 7900X that we previously delidded, though the 12-18C units are ultimately using a die with disabled cores from the higher-end Xeon line. The delid also teaches us, critically, that even the 7920X CPUs are still not soldered. This isn’t necessarily a surprise, seeing as Intel’s operation has avoided soldering for the other recent CPUs, but we’re hoping that future Intel product lines move back to solder. Der8auer hasn't posted his findings of the 18C parts yet, so there is still room for a change -- but solder is looking unlikely.

Total War: Warhammer 2 will be officially released on September 28th but, as of August 31st, it was already the most preordered Total War title thus far, just as its predecessor was “the fastest selling Total War title on Steam.” That probably has something to do with Steam’s ever-increasing presence, but the preorder bonus is also tempting: the new TWW 1 Norsca DLC faction comes free (normally $10).

The Warhammer trilogy is being released as three full standalone games, rather than the large-scale expansions Total War fans may be used to. TWW 2 therefore includes several new graphical features: improved SSAO, volumetric fog with god-rays, a new sharpening filter, and improved wet surfaces. That’s good news overall, but it means our TWW 1 benchmark results won’t 100% carry over. Creative Assembly’s official system recommendations are as follows:

EVGA DG-77 White Case Hands-On at PAX West

By Published September 03, 2017 at 9:55 am

EVGA’s booth was among the few hardware exhibitors carrying new product at PAX West. The company’s DG-7 series is finally nearing completion, now going on a year of press coverage, and has one final round of showings prior to a November launch. With that final round, EVGA has begun showing white and white/black two-tone versions of the high-end DG-77. The tooling is the same, it’s just a matter of color preference.

The DG-77 was on show again at PAX West, now in white, and included some semi-finalized specifications for November launch. The DG-77 should likely include four fans – we’re not sure on sizes, but probably 120mm – with support for 280mm front radiators (potentially up to 360mm, unconfirmed) and 240mm top radiators. A single rear exhaust port is also available at 120mm, and likely will be populated stock. The case market is competitive enough right now to demand a $100-$130 price range on the enclosure, but EVGA hasn’t finalized pricing just yet.

Thermals and noise to align with final launch.

There were a lot of challenges going into this build: A lack of magnetism, a lack of lighting on the show floor of a convention center, and some surprises in between. Cooler Master allowed us to build in the brand-new Cosmos C700P case – a modular chassis with an invertible or rotatable motherboard tray – live at PAX West. After being faced with some challenges along the way, we recruited Cooler Master’s Wei Yang to turn it into a collaborative team build. It was one of the most fun builds we’ve done in a while, and the pressure of time meant that we were both taking turns dropping screws and reworking our aspects of the build. This was a real PC build. There were unplanned changes, parts that GN hasn’t used before, and sacrifices made along the way.

All said and done, the enclosure is exceptionally easy to work within: Every single panel can be removed with relative ease, so we were able to strip-down the case to barebones for the build. Our biggest timesink was asking to invert the motherboard tray to face the other side, since that’d add some flare to the build. This process isn’t intrinsically difficult, but it does require removal of a lot of screws – after all, the entire case can be flipped, and there are a lot of structural elements there. The motherboard tray detaches by removing 4-6 screws on the back-side, followed by six screws in the rear of the case, followed by a few more screws for the shrouds. We got some help for this process, as the case is one of the first working samples of the Cosmos C700P and there’s not yet a manual for which screws have to be removed.

(The video for this one is a read-through of this article -- same content, just read to you.)

Hands-On: Logitech G613 Wireless Keyboard, G603 Mouse

By Published September 02, 2017 at 4:08 am

Going hands-on at PAX West 2017, we stopped by Logitech’s booth to get more technical details on the Logitech G613 wireless keyboard, G603 wireless mouse, and some follow-up information on the PowerPlay mat and G903/G703 mice. The latter set of information will go live in our pending-publication review. The former is up for discussion today.

Both devices leverage the same wireless hardware used in the G900 mouse, which we previously reviewed and found to perform equivalently or superior to high-end wired mice. The myth of “wireless is always slower” was immolated by that product series, mummified and entombed alongside other black magic gamer peripheral mythology. The G613 is the first high-performance wireless keyboard that we’re aware of, levying Logitech’s Romer G switches (which feel similar to o-ring damped browns) and two modes of wireless connectivity. These include Bluetooth and Logitech’s now-standard high-performance wireless setup, dubbed “Lightspeed.” Interestingly, these two systems can be used asynchronously to create an ad-hoc KVM, switching to wireless for the high-performance machine (e.g. gaming box), then Bluetooth for the accompanying streaming box or compression machine. This, we think, is the most marketable feature of the G613, and so happens to also exist on the new G603.

Everyone talks game about how they don’t care about power consumption. We took that comment to the extreme, using a registry hack to give Vega 56 enough extra power to kill the card, if we wanted, and a Floe 360mm CLC to keep temperatures low enough that GPU diode reporting inaccuracies emerge. “I don’t care about power consumption, I just want performance” is now met with that – 100% more power and an overclock to 1742MHz core. We've got room to do 200% power, but things would start popping at that point. The Vega 56 Hybrid mod is our most modded version of the Hybrid series to date, and leverages powerplay table registry changes to provide that additional power headroom. This is an alternative to BIOS flashing, which is limited to signed drivers (like V64 on V56, though we had issues flashing V64L onto V56). Last we attempted it, a modified BIOS did not work. Powerplay tables do, though, and mean that we can modify power target to surpass V56’s artificial power limitation.

The limitation on power provisioned to the V56 core is, we believe, fully to prevent V56 from too easily outmatching V64 in performance. The card’s BIOS won’t allow greater than 300-308W down the PCIe cables natively, even though official BIOS versions for V64 cards can support 350~360W. The VRM itself easily sustains 360W, and we’ve tested it as handling 406W without a FET popping. 400W is probably pushing what’s reasonable, but to limit V56 to ~300W, when an additional 60W is fully within the capabilities of the VRM & GPU, is a means to cap V56 performance to a point of not competing with V64.

We fixed that.

AMD’s CU scaling has never been that impacting to performance – clock speed closes most gaps with AMD hardware. Even without the extra shaders of V64, we can outperform V64’s stock performance, and we’ll soon find out how we do versus V64’s overclocked performance. That’ll have to wait until after PAX, but it’s something we’re hoping to further study.

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