We recently reviewed (and weren’t impressed by) the Thermaltake Level 20 MT, but Thermaltake is nothing if not prolific, and there’s always a new enclosure to try. The A500 TG was released back in October under the full name “Thermaltake A500 Aluminum Tempered Glass Edition Mid-Tower Chassis,” and enters the lab today for a full thermal, acoustic, and build quality review.

Thermaltake’s A500 case primarily touts aluminum, glass, and trend-advancing features without necessarily introducing new ideas. It’s OK for a case to advance features rather than invent them, but it really must make advancements at the $250 price-point of the A500.

Intel i7-9700K Review vs. 8700K, 9900K, 2700, and More

By Published December 26, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Intel’s new i7-9700K is available for about $400 to $430, which lands it between the 9900K – priced at around $550, on a good day – and the 8700K’s $370 price-point. We got ours for $400, looking to test the new 8C/8T CPU versus the not-that-old 8700K and the hyperthreaded 9900K of similar spec. Intel made a big move away from 4C/8T CPUs and the incumbent pricing structure, with the 9700K acting as the first K-SKU i7 to lack hyperthreading in some time.

The elimination of hyperthreading primarily calls into question whether hyperthreading is even “worth it” once running on an 8C, high-frequency CPU. The trouble is that this is no longer a linear move. In years past, a move from 4C/8T to 8C/8T would be easier to discuss, but Intel has moved from a 6C/12T 8700K part of a lower price – in the $350-$370 range, on average – to an 8C/8T 9700K at a higher price. Two more physical cores come at the cost of four additional threads, which can post benefit in some thread-bound workloads – we’ll look at those in this content.

Hardware news for this week keeps things relatively lighthearted, focusing on uplifting stories about Charter (Spectrum) owing $170 million dollars in settlement fees for fraudulent marketing, RGB software being susceptible to malware, and NAND prices dropping further in 2019. Aside from that, coverage highlights the advancement of TSMC's 3nm fabrication plant (in addition to an upcoming 5nm plant) and further departure of AMD higher-ups on the Radeon group.

Show notes below the embedded video:

We already reviewed an individual NVIDIA Titan RTX over here, used first for gaming, overclocking, thermal, power, and acoustic testing. We may look at production workloads later, but that’ll wait. We’re primarily waiting for our go-to applications to add RT and Tensor Core support for 3D art. After replacing our bugged Titan RTX (the one that was clock-locked), we were able to proceed with SLI (NVLink) testing for the dual Titan RTX cards. Keep in mind that NVLink is no different from SLI when using these gaming bridges, aside from increased bandwidth, and so we still rely upon AFR and independent resources.

As a reminder, these cards really aren’t built for the way we’re testing them. You’d want a Titan RTX card as a cheaper alternative to Quadros, but with the memory capacity to handle heavy ML/DL or rendering workloads. For games, that extra (expensive) memory goes unused, thus demeaning the value of the Titan RTX cards in the face of a single 2080 Ti.

This is really just for fun, in all honesty. We’ll look at a theoretical “best” gaming GPU setup today, then talk about what you should buy instead.

Today, we’re reviewing the NVIDIA Titan RTX for overclocking, gaming, thermal, and acoustic performance, looking at the first of two cards in the lab. We have a third card arriving to trade for one defective unit, working around the 1350MHz clock lock we discovered, but that won’t be until after this review goes live. The Titan RTX costs $2500, outbidding the RTX 2080 Ti by about 2x, but only enables an additional 4 streaming multiprocessors. With 4 more SMs and 256 more lanes, there’s not much performance to be gained in gaming scenarios. The big gains are in memory-bound applications, as the Titan RTX has 24GB of GDDR6, a marked climb from the 11GB on an RTX 2080 Ti.

An example of a use case could be machine learning or deep learning, or more traditionally, 3D graphics rendering. Some of our in-house Blender project files use so much VRAM that we have to render instead with the slower CPU (rather than CUDA acceleration), as we’ll run out of the 11GB framebuffer too quickly. The same is true for some of our Adobe Premiere video editing projects, where our graph overlays become so complex and high-resolution that they exceed the memory allowance of a 1080 Ti. We are not testing either of these use cases today, though, and are instead focusing our efforts on the gaming and enthusiast market. We know that this is also a big market, and plenty of people want to buy these cards simply because “it’s the best,” or because “most expensive = most best.” We’ll be looking at how much the difference really gets you, with particular interest in thermal performance pursuant to the removal of the blower cooler.

Finally, note that we were stuck at 1350MHz with one of our two samples, something that we’ve worked with NVIDIA to research. The company now has our defective card and has traded us with a working one. We bought the defective Titan RTX, so it was a “real” retail sample. We just wanted to help NVIDIA troubleshoot the issue, and so the company is now working with it.

Thermaltake Level 20 MT Review: Elementary Mistakes

By Published December 19, 2018 at 9:15 pm

We’ve covered one of Thermaltake’s Level 20 cases before, specifically the small form factor VT, which sought to bring the ultra-expensive Level 20 line down to ‘normal’ consumers. The Level 20 MT is a mid-tower in the same style, pairing rounded silver edges with flat tempered glass panels to equate “class,” or something, while overlooking some basic design concepts. We’re specifically reviewing the Level 20 MT ARGB, which comes with three 120mm ARGB intake fans at the front.

The front panel is restrictive, with tiny 1cm strips of mesh on either side of the glass section. Deceptively, these strips aren’t in the path of airflow and don’t act as filters. There isn’t any filtration at all in front of the fans, which instead pull air through the narrow gaps behind the edges of the front glass panel. There’s also a wider gap hidden at the bottom of the front panel, typical for cases with sealed designs like this.

Despite EOY slow-downs in the news cycle, we still spotted several major industry topics and engineering advancements worthy of recap. Aside from Intel's recent announcements, the most noteworthy news items came out of MIT for engineering efforts on 2.5nm-wide transistors, out of Intel for acquiring more AMD talent, and out of the rumor mill for the RTX 2060, which is mostly confirmed at this point.

As always, show notes are below the embedded video:

The Disappointment PC 2018 is Live

By Published December 14, 2018 at 7:11 pm

It’s been quiet on the website for the past week as we’ve been traveling and ramping our testing operations. Video took a lot of time this week, as we were working on our newest Disappointment PC build, following our highly popular 2017 version. The Disappointment PC (which now has an accompanying shirt on our store) is a collection of the most, well, disappointing parts of 2018, all in one box. Like last year, we spent a lot of time to make a fun and different intro, taking a short film approach with a horror slant. Last year, it was a haunted Vega FE card.

Separately, we wanted to let you all know (on the article side) that we are working hard to revamp the website. We hope to re-launch sometime in the next month or two, if not much sooner, and implement a better back-end editing system for writers to work on. Our goal is to really expand article capabilities and output by end of first quarter 2019, but to put the systems in place by end of year. Personally speaking, the website is where I started, and the growth of GN makes it hard to do high-quality articles every day while also putting out high-quality video, managing a team, and running the business. I still prefer writing the articles, but I need some assistance from the rest of the team. Overhauling the site will enable that, and we’re hugely excited for it.

Anyway, without further delay, here’s the new Disappointment PC build. We’ll leave this one to video, as the first 3 minutes are what make it special. If you’d like to support our efforts, please consider picking up one of the Disappointment Build shirts on the store.

Extreme Ultra-Violet Lithography is something of a unicorn in the space of silicon manufacturing, and has been discussed for generation upon generation. EUV only recently started seeing any form of use in mass produced products, with Samsung kicking off high-volume efforts recently. Intel has also made progress with EUV, deviating from its choice of DUV lithography for a struggling 10nm process and instead setting sights on a 7nm option. This is our leading news item in the recap today, with RAM price declines following closely behind.

As always, show notes are below the embedded video.

The comments section of our Walmart case review and system review tell the story of what people think of Great Wall: everyone is expecting a fire, as the shell of the PSU is uninspiring, its rating sticker is lacking some metrics (maximum 12V capabilities, for example), and the brand isn’t familiar to a western audience. The funny thing is that this would be sort of similar to hearing “Asetek” for the first time, then making fun of it for being foreign to the market. Asetek supplies almost all of the closed-loop liquid coolers currently popular in North America, but never sticks its own branding on those. Great Wall is also a supplier, including being a supplier to brands viewed generally positively in the Western market.

To be fair, everything about the Great Wall 500W 80 Plus PSU does look like a cheap power supply – and it is cheap – but there’s nothing that should indicate this is an exploding power supply. Great Wall’s association with Walmart here is probably hurting their brand more than the inverse, funny enough, but we’ll be digging into that today.

We previously mentioned that Great Wall actually is a supplier and makes PSUs for Corsair, for instance, as discussed in our Walmart case review. It’s uncommon to find Great Wall PSUs unbranded, and this one didn’t even have the maximum 12V capabilities listed, so this unit did attract criticism from the community. What we’re here to do is test whether it’s deserving of that criticism, using our power supply testing setup to benchmark efficiency, ripple, and over-current protections.

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