Our initial coverage of the Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard provided a first look at boards outfitted for AMD’s new Threadripper CPU. We’re now moving to ASUS to look at the Zenith Extreme motherboard, for which ASUS provided significantly fewer details than other motherboard vendors. Still, we were able to get a hands-on look and figure out a few of the basics.
The ASUS Zenith Extreme is AMD’s flagship X399 motherboard – pricing TBD, as AMD has not yet finalized socket and chipset prices – and will likely ship in August. As we understand it, Threadripper’s launch should be August 10th, which is around when all the motherboards would theoretically ship. Mass production is targeted for most boards in mid-August.
We posted a content piece pertaining to MSI’s pre-installed software – which we called “bloatware” – prior to the start of Computex. The company had responded at first with silence to emails, but then responded mid-week (in emails) with an overall neutral tone that suggested a wish to improve. There wasn’t much said in the emails, though, and certainly nothing official – so we sought out MSI’s US laptop representative at Computex, then asked for comment.
MSI’s Clifford Chun joined us, Product Manager of Laptops at MSI (US HQ), and discussed the company’s intermediary solution to the excessive pre-installed software. As Chun states in the video below, MSI will begin including an uninstaller package with their new laptops in 2H17. This utility will provide check boxes to each of the pre-installed applications and, upon launching it, will allow users to check and delete software. There is some irony to the idea of including more software to remove software, of course, but it’s a first step. It’d also be ideal to opt-in, not out, but marketing agreements do not generally permit this (as we said in the first video).
We’ll talk more below about why MSI is stuck in a difficult position, but first, the interview:
Most manufacturers have invited us to some sort of notebook press conference or briefing for this show, and there are a few reasons why: For one, nVidia is now pushing a new initiative to tighten requirements on manufacturers to build quieter laptops, and two, AMD R7 notebooks are now beginning to enter the channel. We’ll focus on MSI’s new notebooks here, alongside some additional coverage of nVidia’s new “Max-Q” initiative, named in true Bond-like fashion.
MSI’s new laptops use existing product lines from Intel and nVidia, so there’s no new silicon, but the company has revamped its chassis and cooling solution for the new GT75VR Titan, GE63VR Raider, and GE73VR Raider. Unfortunately, the company did not take questions during its press conference, so we’ll have to save our recent criticisms for a second booth visit later in the show. Regardless, we’ve got information on the hardware, and that’s something for which we’ve previously praised MSI. Based on upgrades to cooling, MSI boasted heavily in the press conference that the new notebooks would produce “30% higher performance,” though we do not know what they will be 30% higher than, or in what measurement.
Anyway, let’s cut through the marketing and talk hardware.
MSI’s flagship GTX 1080 Ti Lightning GPU made an appearance at the company’s Computex booth this year, where we were able to get hands-on with the card and speak with PMs about VRM and cooling solutions. The 1080 Ti Lightning is an OC-targeted card, as indicated by its LN2 BIOS switch, and will compete with other current flagships (like the Kingpin that we just covered). The Lightning does not yet have a price, but we know the core details about cooling and power.
Starting with cooling: MSI’s 1080 Ti Lightning uses a finned baseplate (think “pin fins” from ICX) to provide additional surface area for dissipation of VRM/VRAM component heat. This baseplate covers the usual areas of the board, but is accompanied by a blackout copper heatpipe over the MOSFETs & driver IC components for heat sinking of power modules. We’ve seen this design get more spread lately, and have found it to be effective for cooling VRM devices. The heatpipe is cooled by the Lightning’s 3-fan solution, as is the rest of the thick finstack above the custom PCB.
Following AMD’s Computex press conference, we headed over to the Gigabyte suite (after our X299 coverage) to look at the X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard. The new Gigabyte X399 Gaming 7 board is one of two that we’ve seen thus far – our ASUS coverage is next up – and joins the forces of motherboards ready for AMD’s Threadripper HEDT CPUs.
The Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard sockets Threadripper into AMD’s massive socket, dead-center, and uses three Torx screws to get at the LGA pin-out. The CPUs will provide 64 PCIe lanes, as we’ve already reported, with 4x PCIe Gen3 lanes reserved for high-speed transport between the CPU and chipset. The other 60 are assignable at the motherboard manufacturer’s will; in this case, Gigabyte willed for an x16/x8/x16/x8 full-length PCIe slots, with an additional 3x M.2 (x4) slots. That immediately consumes all 60 lanes, with the remaining 4 reserved for the chipset communications.
We ran into professional overclocker Der8auer at G.Skill’s Computex booth, who was keen to give us a hands-on delidding demonstration of a new 10C/20T Intel Skylake-X CPU. During the process, we also got our first real hands-on look at the CPU substrate and package – interesting in its own right – and underlying thermal compound choice. The lack of solder could have an explanation in chip longevity, something we’ll talk about a bit later.
This process involves Der8auer’s new delidding kit, an Allen wrench (looked like a 5mm wrench), and some force. Nothing difficult. The process is identical for both KBL-X and SKY-X, with the disclaimer that larger SKY-X CPU dies (like 14-18C chips) could pose some difficulties with extra capacitor density surrounding the CPU die. There’s much greater risk of damaging or destroying the 14C to 18C CPUs given this challenge, and although the 10C CPU was trivial, risk of damage is also present. SMD components sit close to the outer glue of the IHS, which means that delidding could potentially rip one of the SMDs off of the substrate. The SMDs on the sides of the CPU die are for memory channels, with the capacitor and RFID chip in the corner being less critical.
We attended AMD’s Press Conference event today in Taipei, Taiwan at Computex, where the company discussed its existing and new products for 2017. For our audience, the main focuses would be on the Threadripper 16C/32T CPU and Radeon RX Vega GPUs, both of which were highlighted at the event. AMD also began to lay-out their plan to enter the mobile market with R7 and R5 CPUs, as well as RX 500 series GPUs. The Ryzen R3 CPU lineup was not discussed in depth, but a Q3 launch date was confirmed during the press conference.
AMD presented their Vega Frontier Edition earlier in the month, with the card aimed towards deep learning, content creation, and enterprise industries alike. Vega: FE’s launch date is set for June 27 . The press event provided very limited information in regards to the Radeon RX Vega gaming GPUs, with the information dispensed primarily pertaining to the release date: RX Vega GPUs are set to launch at Siggraph 2017, which runs from July 30 to August 3, 2017 in Los Angeles.
We attended EVGA’s Press Day in Taipei before the start of Computex, where we tore down the new Kingpin 1080 Ti card and spoke with engineering staff about power design. EVGA showcased a number of other items too, including the DG-70 line of cases, a new mechanical keyboard, and EVGA’s new SC15 laptop.
The new ATX mid-tower cases are the DG-73, DG-75, and DG-76, all of which use the same tooling (from what we’ve seen thus far), meaning the differences are largely cosmetic. The DG-73 will be the most budget-focused and features an acrylic side panel window, while the DG-75/76 have tempered glass panels. All three have a tempered glass front panel that is slightly offset, which could allow for front airflow intake through side ventilation, something we’ve seen before. Cable routing could prove to be difficult as there are no dedicated pass-throughs or grommets; instead, the DG-73, DG-75, and DG-76 use an open plate style design for cable management.
Maligned as they are by gamers, rubber dome keyboards have one great advantage (other than price): they’re hard to get dirty and easy to clean, thanks to the eponymous rubber membrane, which usually keeps dust and liquid away from the underlying contacts. Corsair now intends to correct this with their new extra-durable K68 keyboard.
Corsair imagines a horrifying, over-the-top scenario:
Preceding the embargo lift of Intel’s X299 announcement, we met with Gigabyte at Computex 2017 to discuss the company’s new line of X299 motherboards. New launches include the Gaming 9, Gaming 7, Gaming 3, and Ultra Durable 4 motherboards (along with a workstation board, which we won’t focus on) for the X299 chipset, hosting KBL-X and SKY-X CPUs. We’ve already detailed some of EVGA’s boards as well, so if KBL-X or SKY-X interests you, also check that content out.
That said, we’re still not quite sure why KBL-X exists. It’s an odd part: Kaby Lake refreshed on a new socket type, where half the motherboards will be comparatively overpriced by means of being outfitted for Skylake-X parts. KBL-X won’t, for instance, be able to leverage the left half of the DIMM slots on the X299 boards, while SKY-X will. It’s a weird move from Intel. Regardless, they’re not our focus right now: Let’s start with Gigabyte’s Gaming 9 line and work our way down, keeping in mind that these boards are really best leveraged with Skylake-X, though are technically compatible with KBL-X.
We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.