Lian Li is known more for unusual cases -- enclosures shaped like yachts, trains, or desks -- rather than more practical everyday midtowers, but the new Alpha 550 ($190-$220) and Alpha 330 ($100) cases may change that. This is our second attempt at reviewing the Alpha: the first review sample came with no side panel and a box of free diamonds, courtesy of the shipping service. We’re reviewing the second one today, a shiny new Alpha 550X, and will be looking at thermals, noise, and build quality, with comparisons to the Alpha 330.
As we approach the New Year, there are still discounts and sales leftover from the holiday season. We put together a couple items we found that can save money while GPU and flash-based memory prices are still high.
Just a quick update for everyone: We've got a major feature -- an end-of-year special that includes a short film (something we've never done before) -- going up tomorrow at around 9AM EST. That'll be sort of an end-of-year recap of a few key components, primarily those that disappointed us.
In the meantime, while we were playing one-day roles of directors and cinematographers, we've set to work on delidding another 7980XE. This will be our third delid of the 18C CPU, with another ~4~5 delids of lower-end CPUs from the past few months. Our previous delid was for Kyle of "Bitwit," which later led to our Intel X299 VRM thermal investigation of the ASUS Rampage VI Extreme motherboard's VRM temperatures. It was an excellent opportunity for us to explore potential sideshoot content pieces in more depth, and gave us multiple samples to build a larger sample size.
We're now up to 3x 18C CPUs delidded, and are collecting data on the latest for Ed from Tech Source. The delid just completed, and we're now in the resealing stage.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is looking into the possibility of DRAM price-fixing between the major memory and Flash suppliers, with specific interest from the Pricing Supervision Department of said commission. An official from the regulatory body, Xu Xinyu of NDRC, stated the following: “We have noticed the price surge and will pay more attention to future problems that may be caused by ‘price fixing’ in the sector.”
This comes following recent reports that Samsung initiated plans to increase supply by 20%, which still failed to meet rising demand. The NDRC told the China Daily, a state-run media outlet, that the NDRC has paid attention to DRAM pricing and demand over the past 18 months, and that memory suppliers are now under the eye of the NDRC. There are only four major suppliers in the industry, and those include SK Hynix, Micron, Toshiba, and Samsung.
The goal for today is to trick an nVidia GPU into drawing more power than its Boost 3.0 power budget will allow it. The theoretical result is that more power will provide greater clock stability; we won’t necessarily get better overclocks or bigger offsets, but should stabilize and flatline the frequency, which improves performance overall. Typically, Boost clock bounces around based on load and power budget or voltage. We have already eliminated the thermal checkpoint with our Hybrid mod, and must now help eliminate the power budget checkpoint.
This content piece is relatively agnostic toward nVidia devices. Although we are using an nVidia Titan V graphics card, priced at $3000, the same practice of shunt resistor shorting can be applied to a 1080 Ti, 1070, 1070 Ti, or other nVidia GPUs.
“Shunts” are in-line resistors that have a known input voltage, which ultimately comes from the PCIe connectors or PCIe slot. In this case, we care about the in-line shunt resistors for the PCIe cables. The GPU knows the voltage across the shunt (12V, as it’s in-line with the power connectors), and the GPU also knows the resistance from the shunt (5mohm). By measuring the voltage drop across the shunt, the GPU can figure out how much current is being pulled, and then adjust to match power limitations accordingly. The shunt itself is not a limiter or a “dam,” but a measuring stick used to determine how much current is being used to drive the card.
This content piece is video-centric, but we have a full-length feature article coming tomorrow -- and it's focused on shunt shorting, something we have spent the past few days playing around with. For today's, however, we point you toward our render rig's GPU diagnostics, where we pull a Maxwell Titan from the machine, try to determine why it's overheating, and show some CLC / AIO permeation testing in the process. Rather than weigh the loops, which makes no sense (given the different manufacturing tolerances for the radiators and pumps), we emptied two loops -- one new and one old -- to see if the older unit's liquid had permeated the tubes. If it had, then we'd measure less liquid in the older loop, showing that a year of heavy wear had caused the permeation. You can find out what happened in the video below.
The short of it is that, between the two loops, we saw no meaningful permeation -- we also noted that the pump impellers were still spinning, and that the thermal paste seemed fine. Our next steps will be to remount the CLC and test again.
Fortunately, this GTX 1060 isn't prepped for mass market or DIY consumer adoption -- we've got enough confusing naming as is. The GTX 1060 presently exists in 3GB and 6GB AICs, with the former also containing one fewer SM (or a 10% core reduction). There is also the lesser-known 1060 6GB card with boosted 9Gbps memory speeds, part of a refreshed effort by nVidia and its partners earlier this year. According to Chinese language website Expreview, a new GTX 1060 5GB card is allegedly planned for release in Asian markets, primarily targeted for use in internet cafes and PC bangs. We have not independently verified the story at this time.
From what the story indicates, it seems as if this particular GTX 1060 model will carry the original 1280 CUDA cores (as opposed to the 1152 FP32 lanes on the 1060 3GB), with the primary difference existing in a 1GB reduction to capacity and 160-bit memory interface.
This episode of Ask GN, shipping on Christmas day, answers a few pertinent questions from the last few weeks: We'll talk about whether we made ROI on the Titan V, whether it makes more sense to buy Ryzen now or wait for Ryzen+/Ryzen2, and then dive into the "minor" topics for the segment. Smaller topics include discussion on choosing games for benchmarking -- primarily, why we don't like ROTTR -- and our thoughts on warranty/support reviews, with some reinforced information on vertical GPU mounting. The conclusion focuses on an ancient video card and some GN modmat information.
The embedded video below contains the episode. Timestamps are below that.
The monstrosity shown in our latest GN livestream was what ranked us among the top-10 on several 3D Mark world benchmarks: It was a mixture of things, primarily including benefit of having high-end hardware (read: buying your way to the top), but also compensating for limited CPU OC skills with a liquid cooling mod. Our Titan V held high clocks longer than it had any business doing, and that was because of our Titan V Hybrid Mod.
It all comes down to Boost 3.0, as usual, and even AMD’s Vega now behaves similarly. The cards look at their thermal situation, with nVidia targeting 83-84C as a limiter, and then adjust clocks according to thermal headroom. This is also why there’s no hard guarantee on clock speed, because the card functionally “overclocks” (or “downclocks,” depending on perspective) itself to match its thermal budget. If we haven’t exceeded the thermal budget – achievable primarily with AIB partner coolers or with a liquid mod – then we have new budgets to abide to, primarily power and voltage.
We can begin solving for the former with shunt mods, something we’ve done and for which we’ll soon publish data, but we can’t do much more than that. These cards are fairly locked down, including BIOS, and we’re going to be limited to whatever hard mods we can pull off.
We previously went through the process of dismantling, draining, and refilling an Enermax Liqtech TR4 closed-loop liquid cooler (some call these "AIOs") in an attempt to determine how serviceable the CLCs are. This particular cooler wasn't too difficult to refill, as we showed in our accompanying video, but we still wanted to check thermal results to see if the cooler had worsened in performance. The goal wasn't to make it better, just to see if it could be serviced, and without negative impact to cooling ability.
Keep in mind that fluid selection will matter: If the CLC mixes metals, as many do, you'll want to include a biocide of some sort in your refill. There are plenty of mixtures that would achieve this. We used an EK Cryofuel with biocide additive, with distilled water as the primary component (>90%) for the liquid composition. Our thermal test methodology is the same as in all our Threadripper cooler reviews, including the Enermax 360 vs 240 review. If curious how we tested, head over there.
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