Hardware

Today we’re reviewing the RTX 2060, with additional tests on if an RTX 2060 has enough performance to really run games with ray-tracing – basically Battlefield, at this point – on the TU106 GPU. We have a separate tear-down going live showing the even more insane cooler assembly of the RTX 2060, besting the previous complexity of the RTX 2080 Ti, but today’s focus will be on performance in gaming, thermals, RTX performance, power consumption, and acoustics of the Founders Edition cooler.

The RTX 2060 Founders Edition card is priced at $350 and, unlike previous FE launches in this generation, it is also the price floor. Cards will start at $350 – no more special FE pricing – and scale based upon partner cost. We will primarily be judging price-to-performance based upon the $350 point, so more expensive cards would need to be judged independently.

Our content outline for this RTX 2060 review looks like this:

  • Games: DX12, DX11
  • RTX in BF V
  • Thermals
  • Noise
  • Power

We’re putting more effort into the written conclusion for this one than typically, so be sure to check that as well. Note that we have a separate video upload on the YouTube channel for a tear-down of the card. The PCB, for the record, is an RTX 2070 FE PCB. Same thing.

The XFX RX 590 Fatboy is a card we tore-down a few months ago, whereupon we complained about its thermal solution and noted inefficiencies in the design. These proved deficient in today’s testing, as expected, but the silicon itself – AMD’s GPU – remained a bit of a variable for us. The RX 590 GPU, ignoring XFX and its component of the review (momentarily), is potentially a stronger argument between the GTX 1060 and GTX 1070. It’s a pre-pre-overclocked RX 480 – or a pre-overclocked RX 580 – and, to AMD’s credit, it has pushed this silicon about as far is it can go.

Today, we’re benchmarking the RX 590 (the “Fatboy” model, specifically) against the GTX 1060, RX 580 overclocked, GTX 1070, and more.

We recently reviewed (and weren’t impressed by) the Thermaltake Level 20 MT, but Thermaltake is nothing if not prolific, and there’s always a new enclosure to try. The A500 TG was released back in October under the full name “Thermaltake A500 Aluminum Tempered Glass Edition Mid-Tower Chassis,” and enters the lab today for a full thermal, acoustic, and build quality review.

Thermaltake’s A500 case primarily touts aluminum, glass, and trend-advancing features without necessarily introducing new ideas. It’s OK for a case to advance features rather than invent them, but it really must make advancements at the $250 price-point of the A500.

Intel i7-9700K Review vs. 8700K, 9900K, 2700, and More

By Published December 26, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Intel’s new i7-9700K is available for about $400 to $430, which lands it between the 9900K – priced at around $550, on a good day – and the 8700K’s $370 price-point. We got ours for $400, looking to test the new 8C/8T CPU versus the not-that-old 8700K and the hyperthreaded 9900K of similar spec. Intel made a big move away from 4C/8T CPUs and the incumbent pricing structure, with the 9700K acting as the first K-SKU i7 to lack hyperthreading in some time.

The elimination of hyperthreading primarily calls into question whether hyperthreading is even “worth it” once running on an 8C, high-frequency CPU. The trouble is that this is no longer a linear move. In years past, a move from 4C/8T to 8C/8T would be easier to discuss, but Intel has moved from a 6C/12T 8700K part of a lower price – in the $350-$370 range, on average – to an 8C/8T 9700K at a higher price. Two more physical cores come at the cost of four additional threads, which can post benefit in some thread-bound workloads – we’ll look at those in this content.

Today, we’re reviewing the NVIDIA Titan RTX for overclocking, gaming, thermal, and acoustic performance, looking at the first of two cards in the lab. We have a third card arriving to trade for one defective unit, working around the 1350MHz clock lock we discovered, but that won’t be until after this review goes live. The Titan RTX costs $2500, outbidding the RTX 2080 Ti by about 2x, but only enables an additional 4 streaming multiprocessors. With 4 more SMs and 256 more lanes, there’s not much performance to be gained in gaming scenarios. The big gains are in memory-bound applications, as the Titan RTX has 24GB of GDDR6, a marked climb from the 11GB on an RTX 2080 Ti.

An example of a use case could be machine learning or deep learning, or more traditionally, 3D graphics rendering. Some of our in-house Blender project files use so much VRAM that we have to render instead with the slower CPU (rather than CUDA acceleration), as we’ll run out of the 11GB framebuffer too quickly. The same is true for some of our Adobe Premiere video editing projects, where our graph overlays become so complex and high-resolution that they exceed the memory allowance of a 1080 Ti. We are not testing either of these use cases today, though, and are instead focusing our efforts on the gaming and enthusiast market. We know that this is also a big market, and plenty of people want to buy these cards simply because “it’s the best,” or because “most expensive = most best.” We’ll be looking at how much the difference really gets you, with particular interest in thermal performance pursuant to the removal of the blower cooler.

Finally, note that we were stuck at 1350MHz with one of our two samples, something that we’ve worked with NVIDIA to research. The company now has our defective card and has traded us with a working one. We bought the defective Titan RTX, so it was a “real” retail sample. We just wanted to help NVIDIA troubleshoot the issue, and so the company is now working with it.

Thermaltake Level 20 MT Review: Elementary Mistakes

By Published December 19, 2018 at 9:15 pm

We’ve covered one of Thermaltake’s Level 20 cases before, specifically the small form factor VT, which sought to bring the ultra-expensive Level 20 line down to ‘normal’ consumers. The Level 20 MT is a mid-tower in the same style, pairing rounded silver edges with flat tempered glass panels to equate “class,” or something, while overlooking some basic design concepts. We’re specifically reviewing the Level 20 MT ARGB, which comes with three 120mm ARGB intake fans at the front.

The front panel is restrictive, with tiny 1cm strips of mesh on either side of the glass section. Deceptively, these strips aren’t in the path of airflow and don’t act as filters. There isn’t any filtration at all in front of the fans, which instead pull air through the narrow gaps behind the edges of the front glass panel. There’s also a wider gap hidden at the bottom of the front panel, typical for cases with sealed designs like this.

The comments section of our Walmart case review and system review tell the story of what people think of Great Wall: everyone is expecting a fire, as the shell of the PSU is uninspiring, its rating sticker is lacking some metrics (maximum 12V capabilities, for example), and the brand isn’t familiar to a western audience. The funny thing is that this would be sort of similar to hearing “Asetek” for the first time, then making fun of it for being foreign to the market. Asetek supplies almost all of the closed-loop liquid coolers currently popular in North America, but never sticks its own branding on those. Great Wall is also a supplier, including being a supplier to brands viewed generally positively in the Western market.

To be fair, everything about the Great Wall 500W 80 Plus PSU does look like a cheap power supply – and it is cheap – but there’s nothing that should indicate this is an exploding power supply. Great Wall’s association with Walmart here is probably hurting their brand more than the inverse, funny enough, but we’ll be digging into that today.

We previously mentioned that Great Wall actually is a supplier and makes PSUs for Corsair, for instance, as discussed in our Walmart case review. It’s uncommon to find Great Wall PSUs unbranded, and this one didn’t even have the maximum 12V capabilities listed, so this unit did attract criticism from the community. What we’re here to do is test whether it’s deserving of that criticism, using our power supply testing setup to benchmark efficiency, ripple, and over-current protections.

The Intel i7-2600K is arguably one of the most iconic products released by Intel in the last decade, following-up the seminal Nehalem CPUs with major architectural improvements in Sandy Bridge. The 2600K was a soldered CPU with significant performance uplift over Nehalem 930s, and launched when AMD’s Phenom II X6 CPUs were already embattled with the previous Intel architecture. We revisited these CPUs last year, but wanted to come back around to the 2600K in 2018 to see if it’s finally time to upgrade for hangers-on to the once-king CPU.

Our original Intel i7-2600K revisit (2017) can be found here, but we had a completely different test methodology at the time. The data is not at all comparable.

The 2600K CPU was manufactured starting around 2009-2010, launching alongside the Intel Sandy Bridge 2nd Gen Core i-Series of CPUs. This launch followed Nehalem, which challenged the Phenom II X6’s appeal in a heated market. Sandy Bridge launched and has remained a well-respected, nearly idolized CPU since its launch. Intel made tremendous gains over Nehalem and hasn’t quite recaptured that level of per-core increase since. For everyone still on Sandy Bridge and the i7-2600K (or i7-2700K), we wanted to revisit the CPUs and benchmark them in 2018. These 2018 i7-2600K benchmarks compare against Ryzen (R7 2700 and others), the i7-8700K, and the i9-9900K, alongside several other CPUs. For anyone with a 2700K, it’s mostly the same thing, just 100MHz faster.

AMD Athlon 200GE Review & 3.9GHz Overclocking

By Published December 02, 2018 at 8:38 pm

The AMD Athlon 200GE CPU enters our benchmarking charts today, but we’re reviewing this one with a twist: For this benchmark, we’re testing the CPU entirely as a CPU, ignoring its integrated graphics out of curiosity to see how the $55 part does when coupled with a discrete GPU. To further this, we overclocked this supposedly locked CPU to 3.9GHz using multiplier overclocking, which is disabled by AMD on most boards likely for product segmentation of future 200-series parts. In this instance, the 200GE at 3.9GHz posts significantly improved numbers over stock, making it a candidate to replace the retired price position once held by the Intel Pentium CPUs, at least, up until the 14nm shortage.

In the past, the Intel G3258 and successor G4560 stood as affordable options for ultra-budget builds that were still respectable at gaming tasks. The Pentium G5000 series – including the G5400 and G5600 (in this today’s benchmark) – has skyrocketed in price and dwindled in availability. The G5600 and G5400 alike are in the realm of $100, depending on when you check pricing, with the G5400 often ending up more expensive than the G5600. A lot of this is due to demand, but supply is also weak with the ongoing 14nm shortage. Intel is busy allocating that fab space to other products, minimizing the amount of Pentium G CPUs on market and allowing retailers control to boost prices and meet what demand will pay. This has left a large hole in the market of low-end CPU + low-end dGPU solutions, and that’s a hole which AMD may be able to fill with its Athlon 200GE solution, which had a launch MSRP of $55.

Unlike Ryzen proper chips, the 200GE includes an IGP (Vega graphics) that enables it as a fully standalone part once popped into a motherboard; however, we think its IGP is too weak for most of our normal testing, and we know it’d underperform versus the R3 2200G. The G4560-style market is one we like to look at, so we decided to test the 200GE as an ultra-budget replacement for coupling alongside a low-end dGPU, e.g. a GTX 1050 or RX 550/560. If the CPU holds up against our standardized test battery, it’ll work when coupled with a low-end GPU.

We already made known our feelings of Walmart’s complete system build quality, but now we’re beginning to delve into individual and isolated component quality. We’re starting with the case, with plans to move on to the PSU next.

The Walmart case isn’t presently available as a standalone product, but it is sourced from a common supplier (much akin to the Jonsbo relationship with Rosewill and others), and so could go mainstream should a manufacturer find it worthwhile. What we’re really doing is an academic exercise to evaluate the quality of this case, including thermal tests, ease-of-installation discussion, and noise testing. This can’t be purchased separately, primarily rendering this piece as a secondary look at the overall component quality and choice for Walmart’s Overpowered DTW gaming PCs (DTW1, DTW2, DTW3).

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