The Phanteks P400A Digital was one of the most impressive cases we reviewed last year, providing good airflow and a full set of four fans for a reasonable price, but you’d be hard pressed to find it in stock for that price anywhere currently. The P300A is a newer and even less expensive option with the same style of mesh front panel that we covered at CES in January

Hardware news this week is slammed with announcements to cover. NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD all had big announcements -- for once, all official and not rumors -- and that includes a big focus on upcoming GPUs. AMD reconfirmed its commitment to RDNA2 in 2020, despite global economic and manufacturing challenges. NVIDIA, meanwhile, invites everyone to "get amped" for its upcoming GTC Online event, a clear indicator of Ampere GPUs. Intel teased its Xe GPUs in an interesting packaging, something worth covering to the extent we currently can.

It’s time again for our CPU testing methodology to be updated, alongside the test bench. We’ve done some significant streamlining behind the scenes that make these tests easier to run and the results easier and more accurate to process, but on the public side, we’ve completely overhauled the software suite we’re using. Last time we updated our testing methodology, we added a code compile benchmark that was short-lived. The test featured GCC, Cygwin, some other environments, and ended up being a top-to-bottom sort by cache. We ditched that test (and consulted Wendell of Level1 Techs on it in this video), and we’re just now replacing it. New code compile benchmarking (with more usefulness) has been added for 2020, alongside the addition of Handbrake H.264 to H.265 transcoding (ranked by time), updated Adobe Premiere video rendering and Adobe Photoshop benchmarks, updated file compression and decompression benchmarks, and more. Gaming gets a total overhaul, too, with a big suite of new games added.

Additionally, we’ve updated several existing game and production benchmarks from last year’s suite, with a few left unchanged. This is to keep producing data that we can still compare to old data, which is useful for rapid analysis of parts that may not have been re-tested in the current year. For example, if we were testing a 10700K and wanted to reference its performance vs. a 2600K, but didn’t have a fresh retest, we could reference data from GTA V, Tomb Raider, Civilization, and ACO to form an understanding without fully retesting. We try to limit this, but time often gets the better of us, and it’s good to have reference points to ensure ongoing accuracy.

Intel today announced its 10-series desktop CPUs, which it’s calling “10th Gen,” and that includes the 10-core / 20-thread Intel i9-10900K. Intel confirmed several of the specs we’ve exclusively published in the past couple of HW News episodes, but we can now talk about it in a more official capacity. A bigger focus on thermals was one of the key points, but we were also interested to see expanded overclocking support as a heavily promised feature for the 10-series Intel CPUs. Intel’s press announcement left a lot to be desired from an informational standpoint and the company ended the call before getting through all of the press questions, but we still have information we can work through today. Unfortunately, the press call was not without its usual stuffing of marketing that bordered on territory of “probably literally made up,” but Intel later retracted those claims after questioning. More on that later.

The original be quiet! Pure Base 500 completely failed to pique our interests. It was another mid-tower we knew would have subpar airflow in the $80-$90 range (depending on the configuration), not cheap enough to excuse faults or expensive enough to make it offensively bad. We’re much more interested in the new variant, the 500DX. We were informed back at CES that the DX stands for Deluxe, which may or may not have been made up by be quiet! on the spot, but the gist is a slightly higher-end airflow focused model that’s still part of the Pure Base line, traditionally the least expensive of their three case families. The DX is priced at $99.90, a little more than the original, but comes with an additional fan, RGB lighting, and a mesh front panel. Today we’ll be reviewing the 500DX and pulling our Pure Base 500 from storage to do some tests and comparisons with the original.

News is busy this week and features a story that we'd love to know more about: The Cedar Supercomputer accidentally running cryptomining software for 6 hours a day under the nose of researchers. We're also talking about DDR5 and AMD's future roadmap (all tentative), the Ryzen 3 1200 AF & 1300 AF CPUs coming to market, Unigine Community 2 SDK, TSMC earnings, and more.

Show notes continue after the video embed.

The last time we worked with Zalman on a review ended with the company offering to "buy advertising" in exchange for us taking down the review. That was for the company’s Zalman R1 case, which we published in 2015 and which is still live. That was just 6 months after Zalman defaulted on a ~3 billion won loan and had its export and accounting documents forged by its parent company, done to fake higher profits than reality and receive large bank loans. That phone call we received was also right around the time that Zalman’s former parent company, Moneaul, had its CEO sentenced to a record-setting 23 years in prison in Korea for defrauding banks for loans. The parent company owed over $31 million USD in damages, folded, and left Zalman unsupervised to try and fix its reputation.

Zalman apparently thought that offering to buy $500 of advertisements in exchange for taking a review down was a good way to do that, and so we swore them off and never worked with them again. We wrote about this around the time it happened, but did not name Zalman directly at time of writing. It was more of a warning shot to the industry not to engage in that sort of behavior. In the time since, Zalman has changed ownership and its PR and marketing staff has changed, so we’re willing to give them another shot. We can’t ever forget what functionally amounted to, in our opinion, an attempted bribe to take down a negative review, but we can try to look at Zalman as a new company. That’s what it claims to be, anyway. The company’s newest product is its CNPS 20X tower cooler, which we've purchased for review today against other big air coolers and liquid coolers. Competing products include the Noctua NH-D15, Deep Cool Assassin III, Corsair A500 (if you can call it “competition”), and Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280.

We’ve got a lot of thermal performance in a highly-controlled test environment today, but we need to start with the marketing of this cooler, which makes some fantastical claims.

This week saw the leak-not-a-leak unveil of Crysis: Remastered, a launch for Minecraft RTX Beta and NVIDIA's DLSS 2.0, and AMD's 2nd Gen Epyc 7Fx2 CPUs. Additional stories include rumors about AMD's alleged Ryzen 3 3100 and 3100X CPUs (not to be confused with Ryzen 3000 or Zen 3), rumors about Sony Playstation 5 manufacturing concerns regarding price, Zoom account vulnerabilities, Folding at Home hitting 2.4 exaFLOPS, and coverage of the SMR hard drive issues.

Today’s review has been the most-requested review from our commenters for about 6 months now, and it’s not even a piece of silicon. The Arctic Liquid Freezer II series has gotten heavy community interest because of high reported performance in the enthusiast forum userbase. We wanted to look at it with our new testing methodology that we’ve spent six months revising to see how the Liquid Freezer performs against incumbents, including the NZXT Kraken X62 (similar to the X63 we reviewed), the Noctua NH-D15, and a growing list of others. The Liquid Freezer’s biggest marketing point, currently wedged in between being a gimmick and a useful feature, is its included VRM fan on the coldplate housing. Our review includes benchmarks of VRM thermal performance with and without this fan, tested in A/B fashion, and also tests of surface levelness, CPU core thermals on the 3950X and 3800X at 120W and 200W, noise tests, and time-to-max temperature.

Cases below $70 with breathable, mesh front panels have become rarer in the past few years, but the trend is starting to pick back up: At CES, we saw a deluge of $60-$70 mesh cases, like the Phanteks P300A, which takes the principles of the P400A and down-costs them, and the SilverStone Fara R1, which is meant to be a successor to our long-praised Silverstone RL06. The RL06 was a long-time budget masterpiece. It managed chart-topping performance at around $70-$80, accomplished with four 120mm fans, a short chassis length that brought fans closer to components, and a mesh front. Now, we’re reviewing the spiritual successor to the Silverstone RL06, and that’s the Fara R1 mesh variant that we saw at CES.

The Fara R1 is one of several cases in the Fara line that share the same basic chassis tooling, like the V1, but the feature that sets the R1 apart and the reason we requested it for review is its mesh front panel--we haven’t seen many well-ventilated cases for budget builders lately, and our impending economic doom is the perfect time for budget builds. There’s always a bright side. Silverstone does, in fact, refer to this case as the Fara R1, but GN Sr. Camera Operator Andrew thought that the box said “FARAR1.” Maybe that’d be how DIYPC would name its Zondda follow-up, but not Silverstone.

Either way, enough people have complained about Silverstone’s letter-letter-number-number case names (especially us), or they were in danger of a repeat. If the full name is too much to handle, the official abbreviation is FAR1.

Silverstone shaved every penny it could off the production of this case, for better or worse, creating a utilitarian enclosure that reminds us strongly of the Cooler Master NR600, another budget mesh case that launched in early 2019 and has remained a strong competitor at the $70-ish price point since. The R1 is also positioned to be a successor to our perennial budget-tier favorite, the Silverstone RL06, which is almost impossible to find at a decent price these days. Today we’ll see how the Fara R1 stacks up against these and other cases in build quality, noise, and thermals.

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