Hardware

The Lian Li Lancool II is another budget case effort from Lian Li--budget relative to the rest of Lian Li’s past cases, at least. It’s the successor to the identically MSRP-ed $90 Lancool One, a case that we were mildly pleased with at the time but lacked the wow factor of Lian Li’s O11 line. The white version is $5 more, but Lian Li wisely sent the black one for review. The Lancool II has already gained a few points in our book just by being a “sequel” case that doesn’t look the same or worse than the original. In 2018, the year the Lancool One launched, our award for Best-Worst Case Trend went to pointless refreshes.

There were some fit and finish issues with our review sample, but let’s cover the features of the case first to provide some context. 

Other than the high heat felt by GDDR6 on MSI’s initial Evoke, our criticism over MSI’s poorly positioned and sized thermal pads also started some fires at the company. Shortly after our coverage, a few members of the MSI video card team flew out to us to discuss the issue, decisions that were made, and talk about the best way to fix it while remaining within the logistical confines of manufacturing. MSI had confirmed our testing, but also told us that it was working on solutions. Today, we’re revisiting the MSI Evoke to see if those promises have been met.

The original issue was that MSI used thermal pads which were only about 40% of the size of the top two memory modules, but also had poor mounting pressure and pads located far off-center. Further, the backplate was necessary to this test, as it acted like a thermal trap without any thermal interface between it and the PCB. The MSI Evoke ended up with the worst GDDR6 thermals out of all the partner 5700 XT cards we tested when noise-normalized and was among the worst even when auto. The 5700 XT reference was the only one worse.

The Threadripper line launched back in 2017, landing between the brand new and impressive Ryzen desktop chips and the extra high core count Epyc server CPUs. This launch lineup included the 8C/16T 1900X, the 12C/24T 1920X, and the 16C/32T 1950X. These were production-targeted CPUs (even more so than the main Ryzen line), best suited to individuals or small businesses doing rendering or heavily multithreaded tasks that didn’t merit a full Epyc server system. The 1920X launched at $800, but two years later it can be found on Amazon for 1/4th of that price. Today we’re going to figure out whether it’s worth even that.

We’ve picked several $200-ish CPUs to compare. The main competitor we’re considering is AMD’s own R5 3600, a chip with half the cores and half the threads. The newest Intel part we have that’s close to $200 is the 9600K, but it’s currently $240 on Amazon and therefore isn’t really a fair comparison. The i5-9400 is $200 new on Amazon and Newegg, but we don’t own one--we haven’t tested something that low on the Intel product stack since the slightly lower-spec i5-8400, so we’ll be using that as a stand-in, with the caveat that the 9400 would perform slightly better. Used and outdated PC hardware is almost always seriously overpriced and the 12C/24T Xeon E5-2697 v2 is no exception, but since it’s almost down to $200 on ebay and has the same core/thread count as the 1920X, we’ll also consider it.

The most common component review request from our viewers over the past few months has been the RX 5700 XT Red Devil. Powercolor was never able to get stock to send us one, but we finally sniped one when it popped-up on Amazon. This will likely be the last 5700 XT we review, unless something major comes out – or a THICC III – so we’ll finally have a fairly full picture of how the entire stack aligns compared to the much-praised RX 5700 XT Red Devil from PowerColor. The Red Devil has easily been the most universally recommended in comment threads and for review, and so we’ll be benchmarking it for thermals, noise, and build quality in today’s review.

We bought the Powercolor RX 5700 XT Red Devil for about $440 on Amazon, which puts it into the most direct engagement with Sapphire’s Nitro+ or MSI’s Gaming X variants of the RX 5700 XT GPU. We’ll be looking at the PowerColor card for thermals, acoustics, power budget, and fan/frequency response.

Our old coverage of the NZXT H700i included a lengthy section on what we deemed a bug-filled fusion of hardware and software that would be a waste of money even if it worked perfectly, with that device finding its way into a trashcan during the review. That was the “Smart Device” version 1, which was reclaimed from the trashcan for exactly this content piece. The intended function of this little black box was to automatically modulate fan speeds to find an optimal balance between noise and thermal performance, relying on internal microphones to gauge the noise-to-thermal response. In practice, its function is to raise the MSRP of the H700 and H710 by an average of $30. We didn’t actually get any performance numbers for the original smart device because we could never successfully coach it through the software calibration phase, something NZXT claims to have fixed in the two years since. Today, we’re testing to see if the smart device is still a net negative for the intelligence of the H-series cases.

It’s been a couple years now since we reviewed the H700i, and to NZXT’s credit, they do sell a cheaper version of the case without the device, so we’ll pause our diatribe there for now. Upon review of the H700i, we asked for an H700d -- or dumb, as dubbed by our Patreon community -- that would rid of the smart device and allow a lower price-point. This was eventually granted across the case family, and we’ve been happy to recommend the H700 as an option in the $130 to $150 category ever since.

As we alluded to in our NZXT H510 Elite review and H710 review, though, the Smart Device version 2 is here, and we’ve finally gotten around to testing it. The PCB inside the new Smart Device is visibly different, but the aim of this review is to see whether different is also better. Also, to actually review the Smart Device, since the software was too broken to test last time.

The NZXT H710 is a slight refresh of the H700 that we reviewed two years ago. To be precise, we reviewed the Smart Device-equipped H700i, but NZXT did us the favor of sending us the base version this time. The appearance and features of the case are almost identical to the original H700, so we’ll focus on cataloguing any minor changes and seeing how the H700 case design holds up in 2019.

XFX RX 5700 XT THICC II Ultra Review: Hard Pass

By Published September 25, 2019 at 1:50 pm

XFX’s highest-end RX 5700 XT might be called the THICC Ultra, but our review will look into whether it’s THICC in name only or if this meme-ified card can take cooling seriously. With all the plastic embellishments, the meme of a name, and the $450 price-point, this entire card’s existence seems mismatched and dichotomous. It’s got the professional look and high-end price-point, but the name of something you’d expect to find on AliExpress. As the most expensive 5700 XT we’ve bought or received yet, today we’ll tear into the XFX THICC for thermal performance, cooler quality, build quality, and positioning versus competition.

XFX has the RX 5700 XT THICC listed at $430 and $450, with our option being the more expensive of the two. By the listings, the only difference is the frequency, where the RX 5700 XT THICC II Ultra is clocked at an alleged 1730MHz to the THICC II non-Ultra’s 1605MHz base clock. If the cooler works well on the more expensive, higher-clocked model, it’ll work well on the lower-clocked one; that said, certain design failures can’t be overcome simply by lowering clocks, and we’ll be talking about that today.

Most closed-loop liquid coolers are unexciting, but that’s not true for today’s Swiftech H360X3 that we’re reviewing. When the vast majority of CLCs on the market are made by Asetek or CoolIT, it immediately makes companies like Swiftech interesting for their clever solutions to bypass Asetek patents or attempt to improve upon long-standing cooling designs. Most companies buy their CLCs from Asetek and CoolIT, including every single CLC made by NZXT, EVGA, Thermaltake, and Corsair, but some make their own or find alternative suppliers. The Swiftech H360X3 is a semi-open loop that’s easily expandable for water cooling, but also includes clear tubing with dyes for more custom-tuning without venturing into full open loop territory. Today, we’re testing the H360X3 to see how it does versus plainer solutions.

For the basics, the Swiftech H360X3 AIO – or CLC, as we continue insisting – should be priced at around $165 for the 360 variant, or $140 for the H240X3. The series includes three dyes (red, green, blue) to accompany its pastel white coolant that’s pre-filled.

We never reviewed the Corsair 460X, but now we are reviewing the Corsair iCUE 465X. It's good that we never reviewed the first case, because we’re thoroughly tired of trying to find new things to say about case revisions when we’ve just gotten through looking at the prior one. The 465X is a familiar design with a full-length PSU shroud and tempered glass side and front panels, but with open-air gaps on either side that so many case manufacturers seem afraid to commit to. Corsair's 465X is priced similarly to the NZXT H700 non-i, Cooler Master H500P Mesh, and Lian Li O11 Dynamic after fan purchases. Pricing is supposed to be in the $150-$160 range, with some impact assuredly from tariffs and the rest from the RGB LEDs, three fans, and cut-down Node internally.

We’ve reviewed an onslaught of cards from the RX 5700 series, including the RX 5700 and XT reference models, the Sapphire Pulse XT, MSI Evoke XT, and RX 5700 Red Dragon by PowerColor. Today, we’re looking at another non-XT model: The Sapphire RX 5700 Pulse is going head-to-head with the PowerColor RX 5700 Red Dragon, with the AMD Reference card tagging along to provide some much-needed perspective that, although there will only be one winner between these two AIB cards, both are a massive upgrade over AMD’s blower design.

As a reminder that’s hopefully unnecessary, the real difference from one board partner card to the next hinges upon thermals and acoustics, not necessarily gaming performance. There certainly can be a gaming performance impact, but this is typically limited to less than 2% change in performance from baseline for the RX 5700 series cards. AMD already maxed the silicon as much as it could and boosting isn’t as sensitive as NVIDIA cards; further still, the AMD RX 5700 non-XT model is artificially limited (without modifications, which are possible) to a SET frequency of 1850MHz (not necessarily GET). This, along with maxing the silicon, relegates most changes from cards to what we call “quality of life” features, like significantly reduced noise levels, PCB designs that might be more accommodating to one case or another, and reduced thermals. VBIOS power limitations are also at play, where VBIOS changes can allow cards to draw more power than reference, but won’t necessarily yield performance benefits as a result. Finally, another useful feature present on both the Sapphire and PowerColor models is dual VBIOS, which allows a backup if the user botches a flash.

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