We've been playing around with Zotac's GTX 980 Extreme for about a week now. The story of Zotac in this launch cycle is sort of an interesting one. The company has been making mini-PCs (“ZBOX”) and nVidia video cards for many years now, but they've managed to remain in an unremarkable B-list / C-list of vendors in the GPU market. I don't think many would really disagree with the statement that Zotac has historically not been the first company that pops into mind when looking for a new GeForce card. But all of that changed with the GTX 980 and Game24, where we caught our first glimpses of a revitalized effort to capture the limelight.
From a design standpoint, the GTX 980 Amp! Extreme is positioned to be the best overclocking GM204 device on the market, short of adding liquid. It will compete with K|NGP|N on air. The triple-fan setup uses dual flanking exhaust and a single, central intake fan, with a massive copper coldplate mounted to the semiconductor, stemming from which are four heatpipes that feed into an aluminum sink. This will help cool the ~171W TDP device that can theoretically (2x8-pin) consume upwards of 300W (or more) when overclocked correctly. Additional aluminum is available near the somewhat over-engineered VRM, making for what should be cooler phases when placed under load. The problem is just that, though – we can't place the card under load. Yet. We've been trying for an entire week now, and I think we've deduced the heart of the issue.
In recent years, 1440p Korean off-brand monitors like the QNIX 2710 have become popular among PC enthusiasts; these korean screens have unique advantages -- including the ability to overclock refresh rates -- at low prices, but often have stuck/dead pixels, backlight bleed, and bad stands. With 4K being all the hype at CES, along with AMD and nVidia both touting their newest “4K Gaming Ready” GPUs, Korean manufacturers have not ignored this upcoming market and the profit that can be had from it.
Everyone's making a home theater PC now. They've all entered the market, but we've seen names vary from “HTPC” to “Steam Machine” to “Mini Gaming PC.” They're everywhere: We recently reviewed Zotac's EN760 gaming box outfitted with the 860M, a ~$500 solution to mid-range gaming in the living room; Syber Gaming, a subsidiary of CyberPower, also has solutions shipping; Gigabyte has its Brix that we've spoken about; Alienware is making a mini PC for the living room, too.
After its CES debut, system integrator iBUYPOWER has officially launched its “SBX” entertainment system, a dedicated cross-breed of a console/PC for the living room.
In the past gaming laptops have generally been heavy, loud, bulky, and have had short battery life. In the days of Fermi GPUs, if somebody had asked me if nVidia would bring along high performance at a low TDP in a laptop, I would have laughed.
Yet here we stand today, alongside nVidia’s GTX 900M series release.
NVidia's GTX 970M and 980M launched alongside several laptop SKUs today, including new products by MSI, Origin PC, CyberPower, and others. The first of our many laptop write-ups includes CyberPower's updated Fangbook, an i7-4870HQ-equipped unit hosting nVidia's new GTX 970M, 8GB of RAM, and a 4K screen for UHD gaming.
The Fangbook Edge ships in two versions, both equipped with the GTX 970M and both using a shell effectively identical to MSI's GS70 Stealth notebook – one of the skinniest gaming notebooks we've ever written about. The SKUs are differentiated only by the display; the Fangebook Edge Gaming Notebook uses a 1920x1080 15.6” display, whereas the Fangbook Edge 4K Gaming Notebook uses – as indicated by the name – a 3840x2160 15.6” display.
It feels like we've been linking back to our GTX 980 review relentlessly, and it's going to happen just a few more times this month. NVidia has officially unveiled its GTX 900-series mobile lineup, starting today with the 980M, and indicates a heavy focus on extended battery life when gaming at high framerates.
The news comes after a previous announcement of the company's “Battery Boost,” a notebook technology that eases off the GPU throttle more regularly when driving a portable unit without an AC drop to the wall. NVidia has had its scope on mobile gaming for at least a year now, but seems to be more serious this time; the company opened our briefing with industry growth trends, emphasizing that gaming notebook growth has expounded five times in three years. In light of this, the current leading graphics manufacturer presented the below image – “Closing the Gap” – and informed us that the GTX 980M would retain nearly 80% of the performance exhibited by the GTX 980 desktop video card. Considering that the GTX 680M was closer to 60% of the GTX 680's performance, the gains are noticed and large.
After reviewing the GTX 980 a few weeks ago, we had the chance to get hands-on with MSI's 4G GTX 970 and ZOTAC's GTX 970 Omega video cards. At the time, we had the specs for the GTX 980 “Extreme” video card, but didn't have one available.
Now we've got two.
Six new headset SKUs just hit the gaming market, all from eSports sponsor and peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries. The company has updated its lineup to scale from $60 at entry-level up through $200 with the Elite series of headsets. We've previously gotten hands-on with SteelSeries' Siberia Elite, a high-end gaming headset that's getting an update in this launch cycle.
SteelSeries new headset stack looks like this:
Shortly after Game24 and the GTX 980 unveil (fully benchmarked here), we visited the likes of NZXT, HyperX (Kingston), CyberPower, and others to learn more about the inner-workings of the industry. This is something we're making a habit of, including previous tours of nVidia's phenomenally expensive silicon failure analysis lab and Kingston's SMT line, where we showed how RAM & SSDs are made.
We found a fairly high-end system in the CyberPowerPC meeting room that was begging for video coverage. The unit used a modified version of NZXT's S340 enclosure, through the window of which we spotted nVidia's new GTX 980. As for the processor, the custom-built rig was running on Intel's Devil's Canyon 4790K CPU overclocked about 10% (it's capable of more, but would require fine tuning due to thermal constraints). The CPU was topped-off with NZXT's X61 that we've previously spoken about – a 280mm CLC powered by Asetek, staking variable pump speed as its claim to fame – and the host platform was Gigabyte's SOC Force Z97 overclocking motherboard. A full 32GB of HyperX Fury memory (clocked at 1866MHz natively and easily overclocked) was found slotted into the board. We previously reviewed HyperX Fury over here.
MSI certainly didn't invent second-hand embarrassment or technology industry sexism, but you might think that to be the case after watching one of their “how to build a PC” videos that features bikini-clad women (semi-NSFW “how to build an MSI computer” video). I suppose you'd be less likely to ESD a component with fewer clothes, but something tells me that it wasn't MSI's intention to convey that helpful advice. Corsair wants in on the second-hand embarrassment “gaming” videos, apparently, and has done so by inking its keyboards with a tribal tattoo.
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