Ask GN returns! We're now on Episode 68, having taken a brief haitus for CES. A lot of questions piled-up in that time, and we dedicated the usual ~25 minutes to address as many as we could in that time window. Of note, a large number of you have been asking about GPU and RAM prices, and we recently had our own encounter with severe price surges at a Microcenter location. We also received questions pertaining to component failure, proper handling of components (ESD, oil/grease, etc.), GPU failure, and must-have tools for our arsenal. 

Oh, and as a bonus, we take a question on "dream testing methods" that are unachievable (presently) due to time/money/practicality limitations. Great questions this week from the community. Find the video and timestamps below:

PC versus console is an ancient debate, long discussed by the wisest and most scholarly of YouTube commenters. PCs are described as expensive, bulky, and difficult to assemble or work with, while consoles are called underpowered, underperforming systems that hold game development back for the duration of each generation. The pro-console responses to our first Xbox One X tests usually boiled down to: “it’s still better than a $500 PC.”

It’s a reasonable argument, and it’s the basis on which consoles are sold these days. By popular demand*, then, we’ve built a $500 PC to compare to the Xbox One X (list price: $500) in performance. We tested whether the 4K-capable Xbox One X is “better” than an equivalently priced PC, judging by framerates in two of the Xbox’s first batch of 4K-enabled games, Destiny 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins.

Given the recent insanoland surge in RAM and GPU prices, the argument is more poignant than ever. DIY PCs stand to lose marketshare if people can’t afford to build a cheap machine, and so we thought we’d use our new in-house software to benchmark a low-end PC and an Xbox One X.

While researching GPU prices and learning that GDDR5 memory price has increased by $20-$30 on the bill of materials lately, we started looking into the rising system memory prices. RAM pricing has proven somewhat cyclic over the past few years. We’ve reported on memory price increases dating back to 2012, and have done so seemingly every 2 years since that time. This research piece pulls five years of trend data, working in collaboration with PCPartPicker, to investigate why memory prices might be increasing, when we can expect a decrease, and more.

DRAM prices are crazy right now. We’ve driven that point into the ground over the past few years, but pinpointing a “when” and a “why” is a difficult proposition. With the help of PCPartPicker, we’ve identified some general trends that seem almost cyclic, and provide some relief in pointing toward an eventual downturn.

We’re revisiting a topic from July 2017, initially published in the middle of one of last year’s cryptocurrency booms. That topic was our discussion with GPU add-in board partners and PSU makers, where we collected anonymized, aggregate thoughts on cryptomining and its impact on the consumer GPU market. Given the tremendous growth of the cryptocurrency community in the time since, and the recent explosion of GPU prices up to 3-5x their MSRP (depending on if it’s a primary or secondary seller), we decided it was time to revisit the topic once more.

This information is anonymized and aggregated for a few reasons: One, no one would be able to share their thoughts otherwise, as this isn’t a topic that can be officially approached; two, it allows folks to speak more freely, as if there were an official response, you can be assured it’d tread the line of neutrality to a point of being bereft of insight. We spoke to most of the major GPU board partners and some PSU maker representatives, including the original group of folks we spoke with in mid-2017, now back to re-evaluate their positions from six months ago.

Overclocking engineer "Der8auer" has come out with his newest product: The Skylake-X Direct Die Frame cooling bracket. The bracket is intended to replace the ILM (independent loading mechanism) on the motherboard, used to act as a shim between a delidded CPU and a cooler. The goal is to not only delid the CPU and replace the compound, but also completely eliminate the heatspreader. Traditionally, the IHS would be kept post-delid, just with better compound and with removal of the silicone adhesive. In this application, you would delid the CPU, refresh the compound, remove the adhesive, and leave the IHS off, then mount it in the Skylake-X direct die bracket.

Some of our recent delid-focused content, "What We've Learned Delidding Intel CPUs," has highlighted that a light silicone adhesive seal vs. no seal vs. heavy seal can have significant impact on cooling. Heavy seals, for instance, can easily result in worse performance than stock -- even with liquid metal. We recommend not resealing the IHS at all and just allowing the cooler to retain the IHS, but a seal is sometimes needed. Shipping is a good example of this.

We spent the whole of 2017 complaining about airflow in cases, and it seems that some manufacturers have heard our complaints for 2018. Cooler Master has revamped its H500P to now feature a mesh face, and has also resolved significant build quality concerns with the front and top panels. Enermax rebuilt its Saberay to use mesh front and top panel inserts (optionally), a major step forward. Lian Li put out the best case at this year’s show, focusing on both looks and airflow (with two different models).

This is our review of the best cases of 2018, CES edition, following on a now six-year (!) tradition of “Best Case” coverage from CES. We started CES case round-ups in 2012, and have advanced them significantly since. Our demands have also changed significantly, as we look more toward function-focused designs that can artfully integrate ease-of-installation features.

UPDATE: We worked with Google's local Fiber team directly -- who responded quickly to this post -- and got Fiber installed and working. After a month of settling in, everything seems good now. We haven't had any additional issues with Google Fiber, and can now recommend the service over the competition (easily). As long as Google doesn't lose other customers in the system, like it did with us, we can strongly recommend the service.

Original Article: Google Fiber isn’t all that it’s cracked-up to be.

The company has routinely demonstrated impressive bouts of incompetence as we’ve tried to subscribe to the service, and today was the latest artistic expression of that ineptitude. Thus far, Google hasn’t been any better than the old TWC or AT&T ISPs, with regard to support, and has been significantly worse in installation and setup. Once fiber is setup, we hope that the speeds will account for the tremendous pain that Google and its contractors have been; we imagine it’ll all be worth it, as it’s still gigabit speeds, and it’s still going to help on our uploads – it’s just a matter of getting everything working.

For this, we’re ignoring that it took a few years for the crew to embed the lines in the roads. That’s expected, and not something we’re complaining about. This complaint is more about the post-payment service.

We signed-up for Google Fiber in August of 2017, or 4-5 months ago. Our first appointment for Google Fiber installation was scheduled for November 6, 2017. 73 days later, we still do not have Fiber installed. It is presently January 18, 2018. We have also been charged for the service, despite having no service. Our “free month” credit, bordering on a scam, has been consumed, and we’ve been billed for the second month of no service.

Adding a day to our CES 2018 trip meant that we were able to regroup with about half of the NA-based "YouTubers" and technical media outlets, allowing for a lot of discussion on content creation, quality of content, and products shown at the event. One of those meetings was with Luke Lafreniere, formerly of Linus Media Group and presently of Floatplane (under the same roof, technically), who joined us to "review" CES 2018. During this on-camera-only content, we covered major product launches at the show, best and worst products, improvement to the case industry, and lacking product elsewhere. We also venture into the topic of virtual reality gaming and its waning marketing, alongside discussion of blockchain branding attached to nearly every major vendor.

It's a fun, looser video, and allows us to decompress with other media. For our video audience -- and even those who prefer the articles -- we think this one will be enjoyable for all of you, if only for the candid approach to the PC industry in early 2018.

Intel Publishes Internal Test Data on Meltdown Patches

By Published January 16, 2018 at 11:53 pm

Intel has released its own internal testing of architectures dated from Skylake to Coffee Lake, using Windows 10 and Windows 7, in A/B testing between the Meltdown kernel patch. We’ve done some of our own testing (but need to do more), but not with the applications Intel has tested. As usual, exercise grain-of-salt-mining for first-party numbers, but it’s a starting point.

Intel claims that it’s found its CPUs largely retain 95-100% of their original performance (from pre-patch, with some worst-case scenarios showing 79% of original performance – Skylake in SYSMark 2014 SE Responsiveness, namely. On average, it would appear that Intel is retaining roughly 96% of its performance, based on its own internal, first-party data.

Here’s the full chart from the company:

Cherry MX 6.0 Mechanical Keyboard Review

By Published January 15, 2018 at 10:35 pm

Cherry MX switches have long been well-regarded in the keyboard community. They were first introduced in 1983, and since then have become commonplace in the mechanical keyboard market – which was the only keyboard market before the invention of rubber domes. Yet Cherry not only produces MX switches for other keyboards, but also produces keyboards – and claim to be the oldest keyboard manufacturer still in business.

One of the most recent additions to Cherry’s keyboard lineup is the Cherry MX 6.0 – not exactly the cleverest name – which aims to be a high-end keyboard meant to suit both typists (such as office workers) and gamers alike. It features MX Red switches, a moderately reserved style, red backlighting, an excellent build quality, Cherry Realkey, and a hefty price of $176.

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