Hardware

Bitfenix Enso Case Review

By Published November 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

We made it through the C700P, H500P, Dark Base Pro 900, and Core G21, but cases we saw at Computex 2017 are still rolling in for review. This week, we’re examining the Bitfenix Enso, a budget case that hits both the tempered glass and RGB trends. It’s a pleasant change from the streak of ultra-heavy cases we’ve been reviewing, but as anyone who watched Steve’s recent address to case manufacturers will know, the Enso is far from perfect.

Our Bitfenix Enso review takes the case to task for thermals, alongside the usual acoustics and build quality testing. Our first look at the Enso (back at Computex) highlighted the case in a “needs work” category, calling out its extremely competitive price target and feature set, but also calling attention to concerns of ventilation. We’re back to see if Bitfenix has improved the case in the six months since.

Be Quiet! Dark Base 700 Case Review

By Published November 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Be Quiet!’s Dark Base cases are their highest-end silence focused models, and the newest of these is the Dark Base 700. We recently reviewed Dark Base Pro 900, but the 900 and 700 are much different cases. Naming conventions imply that the 700 is simply a scaled-down mid tower version of the full tower 900, but there are significant differences in tooling and features despite their external similarity.

The Dark Base 900 (including the Dark Base Pro) has an MSRP of $200 ($250 for the Pro), while the new Dark Base 700 has an MSRP of $180. The Dark Base 700 is loosely related to the 900, primarily in its invertible motherboard layout and material and panel quality, both of which are high for this case.

We’re reviewing the 360mm Enermax TR4 Liqtech cooler today, matched-up against the 240mm variant and with a special appearance from the Noctua NH-U14S TR4 unit. We previously benchmarked the Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 closed-loop liquid cooler versus the Noctua NH-U14S, resulting in somewhat interesting findings. The larger version of the Liqtech, the 360mm cooler, is now on the bench for comparison with an extra fan and a wider radiator. The NH-U14S returns, as does the X62 (mostly to demonstrate smaller coldplate performance).

We’re still using our 1950X CPU on the Zenith platform, overclocked to 4.0GHz at 1.35Vcore. The point of the OC isn’t to drive the highest possible clock, but to generate a larger power load out of the CPU (thus stressing to a point of better demonstrating performance deltas).

At time of publication, the Enermax Liqtech 240 TR4 is priced at ~$130, with the 360 at ~$150, and with the NH-U14S at ~$80.

Everyone’s been asking why the GTX 1070 Ti exists, noting that the flanking GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 cards largely invalidated its narrow price positioning. In a span of $100-$150, nVidia manages to segment three products, thus spurring the questions. We think the opposite: The 1070 Ti has plenty of reason to exist, but the 1080 is the now less-desirable of the options. Regardless of which (largely irrelevant) viewpoint you take, there is now a 1070, a 1070 Ti, and a 1080, and they’re all close enough that one doesn’t need to live. One should die – it’s just a matter of which. The 1070 doesn’t make sense to be killed – it’s too far from the GTX 1080, at 1920 vs. 2560 cores, and fills a lower-end market. The 1070 Ti is brand new, so that’s not dying today. The 1080, though, has been encroached upon by the 1070 Ti, just one SM and some Micron memory shy of being a full ten digits higher in numerical nomenclature.

For the basics, the GTX 1070 Ti is functionally a GTX 1080, just with one SM neutered. NVidia has removed a single simultaneous multiprocessor, which contains 128 CUDA cores and 12 texture map units, and has therefore dropped us down to 2432 CUDA cores total. This is in opposition to 2560 cores on the 1080 and 1920 cores on the 1070. The GTX 1070 Ti is much closer in relation to a 1080 than a 1070, and its $450-$480 average list price reinforces that, as GTX 1080s were available in that range before the mining explosion (when on sale, granted).

The NZXT H700i mid-tower is the largest of NZXT’s new H-series lineup, which also includes the H400i micro-ATX and H200i Mini-ITX enclosures. Visually, the H700i is a successor to the popular S340 and S340 Elite--sharp edges, smooth surfaces, and a prominent cable management bar are familiar features, but various updates and the new NZXT “smart device” set it apart.

There’s one strip of LEDs mounted on PCB at the top of the case and an additional 12” flexible magnetic strip in the accessory kit. The original plan was apparently to have two strips preinstalled, but this way the user can decide where to place the second one. Lighting is controlled by the smart device, which also attempts to control fan RPM-to-noise/thermals response curves. These curves are better set manually by the user, as we’ll discuss later.

In this review of the NZXT H700i case, we look at thermal performance, acoustics, build quality, and the “smart” device.

Coffee Lake returns to the bench for its third review, with benchmarks now focusing on the Intel i3-8350K unlocked 4C/4T CPU. The 8350K (on Amazon here) essentially usurps the market of the previous i5-7600K, but is potentially squelched by CFL brethren i5-8400 CPUs, planting the 8350K in the same price/performance positioning as the 7350K in January.

The 7350K was a good idea, but the wrong launch price. Pricing later fell by ~$30 and made more sense, but the initial ~$180 retail availability was far too high to be worthwhile. Now, with the gap between an i5 and an i3 emphasized with 6C i5 CPUs, those differences become more noteworthy. The i5-8400, ignoring the absence of sensible partner boards, is priced at around the same target as the 8350K (+/-$10). Again, assuming you can find any – and assuming retailers can stick to one price. The R5 CPUs are also more appropriate comparisons against the i3-8350K, despite the i3/R3 naming equivalence. In terms of price, the R3s target a completely different market, and are not an appropriate price-to-price comparison for the 8350K.

As a reminder before getting started, we deployed a new testing methodology with Coffee Lake (our 8700K review), and have not yet fully re-populated our CPU charts.

EVGA CLC 240 Review: Competing with the H100i V2

By Published October 16, 2017 at 10:58 pm

There aren’t many ways for cooling manufacturers to differentiate atop of a supplier’s product, like the Asetek Gen5 pumps, but you’d be surprised at how much goes into them behind the scenes. NZXT was the first manufacturer permitted to build a fully custom and complex PCB for its RGB-illuminated Kraken coolers, followed-up in short order by EVGA, who dropped the price significantly for the same-size radiators. We’re reviewing the new EVGA CLC 240 today, following-up our previous (positive) CLC 280 and (negative) CLC 120 reviews.

Although they’re all ultimately Asetek products, the EVGA CLC series has thus far competed well with the NZXT Kraken and Corsair H-series coolers. EVGA aimed to strike a balance between the higher-cost features of the Kraken coolers (like manufacturer-customized lighting) and the more function-focused Corsair H-series coolers. The effort yielded ~$130 280mm closed-loop liquid coolers, coming in below the $150-$160 Kraken X52/X62 units and around the H115i (presently $140).

We generally liked the price:performance positioning of the CLC 280 unit, but found the CLC 120 nearly impossible to justify. The 120 wasn’t a far step from good 240mm coolers, like the H100i V2, but EVGA only recently began shipping CLC 240 units.

The Intel i5-8400 review got delayed from initial publication when we figured it’d be worth adding 2666MHz gaming tests. 3200MHz is our standard DDR4 memory speed, providing a solid baseline across Intel and AMD CPUs, but makes less sense for lower-end CPUs with questionable memory speed support. “Questionable” is used here because, as of now, we are not sure whether B/H boards will support only the native memory speed of 2666MHz or higher multipliers. Some board vendors have suggested a possibility of unlocked memory multipliers of 32/36x, but haven’t confirmed, while other sources have suggested a maximum speed of 2666MHz. Because we cannot reasonably confirm either, we decided to just test both, then let the chips fall where they may in 1Q18. That’s the launch period for the B/H boards, as we understand it, and means that the i5-8400 will make much more sense in 1Q18 than now.

As it stands now, the i5-8400 launch seems confused: The only pairing options are Z370 motherboards, which – although cheap ones exist – just don’t make a whole lot of sense for a locked CPU. It’s extra money spent where there need not be extra spend, leaving for a CPU ecosystem that becomes muddied and mismatched. That doesn’t mean the CPU is bad, of course, but it does mean that real-world motherboard pairings of the CPU will likely be far more reasonably priced in a few months.

As has always been the case, including in the i7-8700K review, we are testing with MCE disabled. Our follow-up MCE coverage was not because we had originally tested with it enabled, but because we wanted to demonstrate the performance differences. Anyone capable of reading that piece in its entirety should be aware of that, as the two boards were averaged, though clearly literacy is not always the case – so we’re reiterating it here. MCE off. Plain and simple, as it always has been. We are still using the Ultra Gaming Z370 board.

The Cooler Master MasterCase H500P is the newest in the modular MasterCase series, but is inspired by the old high airflow (“HAF”) line of cases, mainly in the form of monster 200mm intake fans and a general “rugged and futuristic design.” We covered the H500P along with the Cosmos series refresh C700P at Computex back in June, and now the time for reviewing has finally come.

Cooler Master’s H500P exhibited significant and plentiful quality control concerns, questionable design decisions, and limited semblance to the meaning behind “High Airflow” in the “HAF” naming. The case has its ups, too, primarily in the looks and cable management deparatments -- but we’ll go through all of that in this review. For Steve’s (rather animated) take on this case, check the video.

Intel’s Coffee Lake CPUs aren’t a hard “response” to Ryzen; the CPUs have been taped-out for a while now, but the response appears to align more with the release timeline and pricing. X299 moved forward to compete with Threadripper, and Coffee Lake received a similar treatment. One thing we won’t know, of course, is whether the pricing is some sort of a response to Ryzen. Intel’s i7-8700K premiere CL CPU carries an MSRP target of $360 1ku, a $10-$20 jump over Kaby Lake 7700K CPUs with fewer cores and similar frequencies. Either way, the i7-8700K is here now, and we’ve got a densely packed review covering most aspects of Coffee Lake.

Our Intel i7-8700K review will focus on delidding, liquid metal application, overclocking, gaming & streaming benchmarks vs. Ryzen, power draw, and production benchmarks. Our i5-8600K review will post separately, as this is dense enough as-is.

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