Hardware

Intel’s continuing to bring the heat, literally and figuratively, and is now leveling its new 10C/20T part squarely at AMD. We have a separate in-depth review coming up on the 10600K, which has interesting implications for the R5 3600 and the realm of gaming, but for launch, we need to start with the flagship 10900K. That’s not the 10900X, mind you, but the 10900K, which is the part socketable for LGA1200 and Z490 motherboards. We’ll be looking at whether Intel’s die sanding worked for leveling-off thermals, benchmarking games, initial overclocking on the ASUS Max XII Extreme, production workloads versus the 3900X, and more.

UPDATE: Intel i5-10600K review is now live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQVBlCfb72M

The Thermaltake Level 20 RS ARGB is part of a small resurgence of Cooler Master HAF-esque cases that have come out in the wake of the H500P, with the two big 200mm RGB front intake fans that were distinctive of that case. We’re not going to try to pick apart Thermaltake’s naming conventions this time, so we’ll just say that although the chassis clearly reuses tooling from some earlier case, it’s not the Level 20 MT that we reviewed in 2018. This Level 20 uses mesh.

This is the big one: In this review, we’re benchmarking the AMD R3 3300X $120 CPU, but we’re specifically interested in the real-world impact of the CCX-to-CCX communication latency in the Ryzen 3 3100 versus the Ryzen 3 3300X at the same overclocked frequency of 4.4GHz. It’s massive in some instances, beyond 20%, and eliminates the ability to just overclock the otherwise identical 3100 to meet the 3300X performance for cheaper. As discussed in our Ryzen 3 3100 review that’s already live, the 3300X runs a 4+0 core configuration with everything on one CCD, on one CCX, while the 3100 runs a 2+2 configuration on two CCXs on that CCD. We’re going to look at how much that impacts performance, but also review the 3300X versus basically every other current CPU, and a few older ones.

Today we’re reviewing the AMD R3 3100 and Ryzen 3 3300X, but we have a dedicated content piece for the AMD R3 3300X because we added benchmarks for the two CPUs at the same frequency, exposing the latency difference between them. For this specific article and video, we’re focusing all of our attention on the AMD R3 3100 CPU at $100, potentially a high-volume part for budget PC builds. That includes overclocking, power consumption, gaming benchmarks, frequency analysis, production workloads (Premiere, Photoshop, compile, et al.), and more. Our AMD Ryzen 3 3300X review will post within a couple of hours on this one (on YouTube, at least, if not also on the site), and that’ll feature head-to-head 4.4GHz overclocks on the R3 3100 vs. R3 3300X, where the 3300X’s 4+0 core CCX configuration can be tested for its real-world latency impact versus the 2+2 3100. 

Writing this review, it felt like we were writing a review script from the same era as the 7700K, and not just because AMD is positioning itself against the 2017 CPU. Back when we reviewed the 7700K, all the comparisons were to the 6700K, the 4790K, the 2600K – the theme was that it was all intra-brand competition. The same is happening now, where we’re throwing a few Intel names out there as comparisons, but until the 10-series, AMD really is just competing against itself. It’s fascinating in a way, because from a reviewer and editorial standpoint, it really does feel like dejavu – except it’s a different company in 2020. The new AMD Ryzen 3 3100 and 3300X CPUs have a release date set for May 21, 2020, with the Intel 10th “Gen” release date set for May 20, 2020.

The Phanteks P400A Digital was one of the most impressive cases we reviewed last year, providing good airflow and a full set of four fans for a reasonable price, but you’d be hard pressed to find it in stock for that price anywhere currently. The P300A is a newer and even less expensive option with the same style of mesh front panel that we covered at CES in January

The original be quiet! Pure Base 500 completely failed to pique our interests. It was another mid-tower we knew would have subpar airflow in the $80-$90 range (depending on the configuration), not cheap enough to excuse faults or expensive enough to make it offensively bad. We’re much more interested in the new variant, the 500DX. We were informed back at CES that the DX stands for Deluxe, which may or may not have been made up by be quiet! on the spot, but the gist is a slightly higher-end airflow focused model that’s still part of the Pure Base line, traditionally the least expensive of their three case families. The DX is priced at $99.90, a little more than the original, but comes with an additional fan, RGB lighting, and a mesh front panel. Today we’ll be reviewing the 500DX and pulling our Pure Base 500 from storage to do some tests and comparisons with the original.

The last time we worked with Zalman on a review ended with the company offering to "buy advertising" in exchange for us taking down the review. That was for the company’s Zalman R1 case, which we published in 2015 and which is still live. That was just 6 months after Zalman defaulted on a ~3 billion won loan and had its export and accounting documents forged by its parent company, done to fake higher profits than reality and receive large bank loans. That phone call we received was also right around the time that Zalman’s former parent company, Moneaul, had its CEO sentenced to a record-setting 23 years in prison in Korea for defrauding banks for loans. The parent company owed over $31 million USD in damages, folded, and left Zalman unsupervised to try and fix its reputation.

Zalman apparently thought that offering to buy $500 of advertisements in exchange for taking a review down was a good way to do that, and so we swore them off and never worked with them again. We wrote about this around the time it happened, but did not name Zalman directly at time of writing. It was more of a warning shot to the industry not to engage in that sort of behavior. In the time since, Zalman has changed ownership and its PR and marketing staff has changed, so we’re willing to give them another shot. We can’t ever forget what functionally amounted to, in our opinion, an attempted bribe to take down a negative review, but we can try to look at Zalman as a new company. That’s what it claims to be, anyway. The company’s newest product is its CNPS 20X tower cooler, which we've purchased for review today against other big air coolers and liquid coolers. Competing products include the Noctua NH-D15, Deep Cool Assassin III, Corsair A500 (if you can call it “competition”), and Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280.

We’ve got a lot of thermal performance in a highly-controlled test environment today, but we need to start with the marketing of this cooler, which makes some fantastical claims.

Today’s review has been the most-requested review from our commenters for about 6 months now, and it’s not even a piece of silicon. The Arctic Liquid Freezer II series has gotten heavy community interest because of high reported performance in the enthusiast forum userbase. We wanted to look at it with our new testing methodology that we’ve spent six months revising to see how the Liquid Freezer performs against incumbents, including the NZXT Kraken X62 (similar to the X63 we reviewed), the Noctua NH-D15, and a growing list of others. The Liquid Freezer’s biggest marketing point, currently wedged in between being a gimmick and a useful feature, is its included VRM fan on the coldplate housing. Our review includes benchmarks of VRM thermal performance with and without this fan, tested in A/B fashion, and also tests of surface levelness, CPU core thermals on the 3950X and 3800X at 120W and 200W, noise tests, and time-to-max temperature.

Cases below $70 with breathable, mesh front panels have become rarer in the past few years, but the trend is starting to pick back up: At CES, we saw a deluge of $60-$70 mesh cases, like the Phanteks P300A, which takes the principles of the P400A and down-costs them, and the SilverStone Fara R1, which is meant to be a successor to our long-praised Silverstone RL06. The RL06 was a long-time budget masterpiece. It managed chart-topping performance at around $70-$80, accomplished with four 120mm fans, a short chassis length that brought fans closer to components, and a mesh front. Now, we’re reviewing the spiritual successor to the Silverstone RL06, and that’s the Fara R1 mesh variant that we saw at CES.

The Fara R1 is one of several cases in the Fara line that share the same basic chassis tooling, like the V1, but the feature that sets the R1 apart and the reason we requested it for review is its mesh front panel--we haven’t seen many well-ventilated cases for budget builders lately, and our impending economic doom is the perfect time for budget builds. There’s always a bright side. Silverstone does, in fact, refer to this case as the Fara R1, but GN Sr. Camera Operator Andrew thought that the box said “FARAR1.” Maybe that’d be how DIYPC would name its Zondda follow-up, but not Silverstone.

Either way, enough people have complained about Silverstone’s letter-letter-number-number case names (especially us), or they were in danger of a repeat. If the full name is too much to handle, the official abbreviation is FAR1.

Silverstone shaved every penny it could off the production of this case, for better or worse, creating a utilitarian enclosure that reminds us strongly of the Cooler Master NR600, another budget mesh case that launched in early 2019 and has remained a strong competitor at the $70-ish price point since. The R1 is also positioned to be a successor to our perennial budget-tier favorite, the Silverstone RL06, which is almost impossible to find at a decent price these days. Today we’ll see how the Fara R1 stacks up against these and other cases in build quality, noise, and thermals.

We’ve been hot and cold on Fractal over the past couple years. Their whole lineup has had consistently high build quality, but our opinions have ranged from the highly-rated Meshify cases that have excellent cooling potential (with some aftermarket fans added in) down to the highly-priced and unexciting Define S2 Vision RGB. Today we’re reviewing the Define 7, successor to the Define R6, a case that fell on the positive end of that scale in our review. We’re sure there’s some reason for Fractal dropping the “R,” but we neglected to ask.

As soon as the Define 7 was out of the box, we noticed how lightly tinted the glass was. The Define 7 TG comes in both dark tint and light tint versions, and the light tinted version with a white interior is a stark contrast to almost every other tinted glass case we’ve reviewed. For whatever reason, case manufacturers have tended towards extremely dark glass tints for years, which is a step back from the transparent plastic windows that were more common in the olden days (a decade ago). The choice is there for customers who want the dark tint, but we much prefer clear glass that lets the white interior shine.

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