As we’ve been inundated with Computex 2019 coverage, this HW News episode will focus on some of the smaller news items that have slipped through the cracks, so to speak. It’s mostly a helping of smaller hardware announcements from big vendors like Corsair, NZXT, and SteelSeries, with a side of the usual industry news.
Be sure to stay tuned to our YouTube channel for Computex 2019 news.
Our viewers have long requested that we add standardized case fan placement testing in our PC case reviews. We’ve previously talked about why this is difficult – largely logistically, as it’s neither free in cost nor free in time – but we are finally in a good position to add the testing. The tests, we think, clearly must offer some value, because it is one of our most-requested test items over the past two years. We ultimately want to act on community interests and explore what the audience is curious about, and so we’ve added tests for standardized case fan benchmarking and for noise normalized thermal testing.
Normalizing for noise and running thermal tests has been our main, go-to benchmark for PC cooler testing for about 2-3 years now, and we’ve grown to really appreciate the approach to benchmarking. Coolers are simpler than cases, as there’s not really much in the way of “fan placement,” and normalizing for a 40dBA level has allowed us to determine which coolers have the most efficient means of cooling when under identical noise conditions. As we’ve shown in our cooler reviews, this bypasses the issue where a cooler with significantly higher RPM always chart-tops. It’s not exactly fair if a cooler at 60dBA “wins” the thermal charts versus a bunch of coolers at, say, 35-40dBA, and so normalizing the noise level allows us to see if any proper differences emerge when the user is subjected to the same “volume” from their PC cooling products. We have also long used these for GPU cooler reviews. It’s time to introduce it to case reviews, we think, and we’ll be doing that by sticking with the stock case fan configuration and reducing case fan RPMs equally to meet the target noise level (CPU and GPU cooler fans remain unchanged, as these most heavily dictate CPU and GPU coolers; they are fixed speeds constantly).
Computex 2019 is next week -- a few days from now, technically -- and hardware news has been alight with PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 discussion for Intel platforms, Huawei's ban from the US, DDR4 overclocking close to 6GHz, and more. Intel's biggest news is certainly the PCIe 5 and DDR 5 discussion, which will be our leading story for today's news.
Written show notes are below the video embed.
The Versa J24 TG RGB Edition is a budget case from Thermaltake. Our understanding is that the J22/J23/J24/J25 are basically the same chassis with the same number of fans and different front panels, but trying to remember Thermaltake case SKUs is a great way to go crazy. The sample sent to us for review is specifically the RGB edition and not the newer ARGB edition, which may or may not have been a mistake on Thermaltake’s part, but saving $10 over an extra vowel is a win in our book.
The case interior is just big enough to fit an ATX motherboard with little room to spare on any side, but there are adequate cutouts along the front edge to route all the cables. The case is about as small as it can be without entering Q500L territory, almost exactly the same dimensions as the Meshify C but slightly longer. Cable management room is understandably restricted. There is space under the PSU shroud, but users with one or more 3.5” drives will struggle to find a place for power cables. The HDD cage can be removed or shifted 2.5cm back towards the rear of the case, a welcome change from budget cases that usually rivet the HDD cage in place.
Computex is coming up. We'll be at the show next week, which means most of our time will likely be spent covering new X570 motherboards for AMD and AMD's announcements, with NVIDIA's presence sparse at the show and Intel's focused on mobile. Beyond the motherboards and CPUs, we already have numerous cooler and case manufacturers lined-up for meetings, alongside some GPU board partners. In the meantime, this past week has set the stage for Computex with a focus on security vulnerabilities, tariffs, and X570 chipset sightings.
The show notes are below the embedded video.
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.
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