Hardware

EK Waterblocks makes some of our favorite quick release valves, but their previous attempt at a semi-open loop liquid cooler – the EK Predator – terminated after an overwhelming amount of issues with leakage. It was a shame, too, because the Predator was one of the best-performing coolers we’d tested for noise-normalized performance. Ultimately, if it can’t hold water, it’s all irrelevant.

EK is attempting to redeem themselves with the modular, semi-open approach set-forth with the new EK-MLC Phoenix series. A viewer recently loaned us the EK-MLC Phoenix 360mm cooler and Intel CPU block ($200 for the former, $80 for the latter), which we immediately put to work on the bench. This review looks at the EK-MLC Phoenix 360mm radiator and CPU cooling block, primarily contending against closed-loop liquid coolers (like the H150i Pro and X62) and EK's own Fluid Gaming line.

SilverStone Primera PM02 Case Review vs. PM01, RL06

By Published February 11, 2018 at 2:57 pm

The PM02 is the successor to Silverstone’s Primera 01, a case we’ve often referenced but have never fully reviewed. As Silverstone points out on their site, Primera is Spanish for “first,” so please take a quiet moment to appreciate the name “Primera 02.” This (still) isn’t a review of the PM01, but since it will continue to be sold alongside the PM02 (~$140), we took this opportunity to do some testing and make a close comparison. The original Primera should be a familiar sight to anyone that’s seen our render rig or the community-funded gift PC from a few months ago. Because the two cases seen in those videos are being used, we acquired yet another for this article--we like the 01 a lot.

This review will benchmark the SilverStone PM01 vs. the PM02 and RL06 airflow PCs, with additional testing conducted across other popular on-market cases, including the H500P.

MSI GTX 1070 Ti DUKE Review: Thermals & Overclocking

By Published January 25, 2018 at 11:07 pm

We recently bought the MSI GTX 1070 Ti Duke for a separate PC build, and decided we’d go ahead and review the card while at it. The MSI GTX 1070 Ti Duke graphics card uses a three-fan cooler, which MSI seems to now be officially calling the “tri-frozr” cooler, and was among the more affordable GTX 1070 Ti cards on the market. That reign has ended as GPU prices have re-skyrocketed, but perhaps it’ll return again to $480. Until then, we’ll write this assuming that price. Beyond $480, it’s obviously not worth it, just to spell that out right now.

The MSI GTX 1070 Ti Duke has one of the thinner heatsinks of the 10-series cards, and a lot of that comes down to card form factor: The Duke fits in a 2-slot form factor, but runs a three-fan cooler. This mixture necessitates a thin, wide heatsink, which means relatively limited surface area for dissipation, but potentially quieter fans from the three-fan solution.

NOTE: We wrote this review before CES. Card prices have since skyrocketed. Do not buy any 1070 Ti for >$500. This card was reviewed assuming a $470-$480 price-point. Anything more than that, it's not worth it.

Cherry MX 6.0 Mechanical Keyboard Review

By Published January 15, 2018 at 10:35 pm

Cherry MX switches have long been well-regarded in the keyboard community. They were first introduced in 1983, and since then have become commonplace in the mechanical keyboard market – which was the only keyboard market before the invention of rubber domes. Yet Cherry not only produces MX switches for other keyboards, but also produces keyboards – and claim to be the oldest keyboard manufacturer still in business.

One of the most recent additions to Cherry’s keyboard lineup is the Cherry MX 6.0 – not exactly the cleverest name – which aims to be a high-end keyboard meant to suit both typists (such as office workers) and gamers alike. It features MX Red switches, a moderately reserved style, red backlighting, an excellent build quality, Cherry Realkey, and a hefty price of $176.

Corsair H150i Review: The First 6th Gen Asetek Pump

By Published January 08, 2018 at 2:00 pm

From the show floor of CES, we’re posting our review of Corsair’s new 6th Generation Asetek coolers, including the H150i Pro, a 360mm closed-loop liquid cooling solution. The H150i Pro launched at $170, accompanied by the H115i Pro, a $140 280mm liquid cooler. Both use the new 6th generation of Asetek cooling, which Corsair debuted at Computex 2017. No other company has yet shown or hinted at Gen6 products, marking this the first for Asetek’s new coolers.

In large part, as you’ll see in testing, the coolers aren’t heavily modified in the cooling department – most the changes are to better accommodate RGB LEDs and Gen4-style side-mount tubing. Corsair also specified a smaller coldplate for the Gen6 H150i and H115i Pro CLCs, marking the first coldplate change by Asetek in years. In terms of the pump assembly, that functions mostly the same as it always has – though we’ll do a tear-down after CES.

As for Corsair’s part, that’s largely comprised of changes requested of Asetek (coldplate size, PCB changes), with the rest of the changes being the inclusion of ML-series fans. The magnetic levitation fans used come in 2x 140 (H115i) and 3x 120 (H150i) variants, and are silence-focused, not outright performance-focused. This shifts review discussion to focus more on acoustic performance and noise-normalized performance. Speaking of, Corsair has included a 0RPM mode for its new CLCs, meaning that sub-45C liquid temperatures can be accompanied by 0RPM fan speeds – silence, in other words. At least, silence aside from the pump, which makes an audible pump whine and chirping noise during high-speed operation. The pump can me slowed down (1100RPM), at which point it does genuinely become inaudible – but not under its higher speed (~2800RPM) conditions. Granted, the use cases for each are clear: Silence or performance – pick one, not both.

Lian Li is known more for unusual cases -- enclosures shaped like yachts, trains, or desks -- rather than more practical everyday midtowers, but the new Alpha 550 ($190-$220) and Alpha 330 ($100) cases may change that. This is our second attempt at reviewing the Alpha: the first review sample came with no side panel and a box of free diamonds, courtesy of the shipping service. We’re reviewing the second one today, a shiny new Alpha 550X, and will be looking at thermals, noise, and build quality, with comparisons to the Alpha 330.

Cougar Conquer Case Review: Open-Air Eccentricity

By Published December 21, 2017 at 8:54 pm

The Cougar Conquer is an open-air case with a unique design that’s already attracted a lot of attention. We’ve reported on Cougar products in the past and reviewed their budget 200K keyboard back in 2015, but this is the first hands-on experience we’ve had with one of their enclosures. Cougar gets some points by default for managing to ship a glass-panelled case from Asia without anything shattering, unlike another case we received (review coming soon).

The Conquer is a huge case. It’s easy to underestimate its size in pictures because of its unusual shape, but it’s large enough to easily fit a full ATX board at a diagonal, making it both taller and wider than standard cases. The vast majority of the chassis is constructed from 5mm thick aluminum and both sides are tempered glass, making it much heavier than the skeletal frame implies. It’s technically an open air chassis, but with a case-like frame, providing mounting points for several fans.

We never bothered to review Fractal’s popular Define R5--by the time we got a chance, it was already old news. Since the R5’s release, we’ve reviewed both the Define C (and Meshify C) and given them very high marks. Now, the R5’s successor is here, ready for 2017 with a full PSU shroud and a tempered glass side panel. There are no LEDs, though, so we must all mourn.

OK, mourning over. This Fractal Define R6 review looks at build quality, thermal and acoustic performance, and cable management features. This enclosure is one of the few to impress us in the last few months, given the prevalence of cases like the Bitfenix Enso, and we found the R6’s build quality to be even better than the already-liked Define/Meshify C.

Recapping our previous X299 VRM thermal coverage, we found the ASUS X299 Rampage Extreme motherboard to operate against its throttle point when pushing higher overclocks (>4GHz) on the i9-7980XE CPU. The conclusion of that content was, ultimately, that ASUS wasn’t necessarily at fault, but that we must ask whether it is reasonable to assume such a board can take the 500-600W throughput of an overclocked 7980XE CPU. EVGA has now arrived on the scene with its X299 DARK motherboard, which is seemingly the first motherboard of this year to use a fully finned VRM heatsink in a non-WS board. Our EVGA X299 DARK review will initially look at temperatures and VRM throttling on the board, and ultimately look into how much the heatsink design impacts performance.

EVGA went crazy with its X299 DARK motherboard. The craziest thing they did, evidently, was add a real heatsink to it: The heatsink has actual fins, through which a heatpipe routes toward the IO and into another large aluminum block, which is decidedly less finned. The tiny fans on top of the board look a little silly, but we also found them to be unnecessary in most use cases: Just having a real heatsink gets the board far enough, it turns out, and the brilliance of the PCH fan is that it pushes air through M.2 slots and the heatsink near the IO.

EVGA’s X299 DARK motherboard uses some brilliant designs, but also stuff that’s pretty basic. A heatsink with fins, for one, is about as obvious as it gets: More surface area means more spread of heat, and also means fans can more readily dissipate that heat. The extra four phases on the motherboard further support EVGA in dissipating heat over a wider area. EVGA individually places thermal pads on each MOSFET rather than use a large strip, which is mostly just good attention to detail; theoretically, this does improve the cooling performance, but it is not necessarily measurable. Two fans sit atop the heatsink and run upwards of 10,000RPM, with a third, larger fan located over the PCH. The PCH only consumes a few watts and has no need for active cooling, but the fan is located in such a way that (A) it’s larger, and therefore quieter and more effective, and (B) it can push air down the M.2 chamber for active cooling, then force that air into the IO shroud. A second half of the VRM heatsink (connected via heatpipe to the finned sink) is hidden under the shroud, through which the airflow from the PCH fan may flow. That’s exhausted out of the IO shield. Making a 90-degree turn does mean losing about 30% pressure, and the heatsink is far away from the PCH, but it’s enough to get heat out of the hotbox that the shroud creates.

Here's an example of what clock throttling looks like when encountering VRM temperature limits, as demonstrated in our Rampage VI Extreme content:

The revolution of 200mm fans was a short-live one. Large fans are still around, but the brief, bombastic era of sticking a 200mm fan in every slot didn’t last long: The CM HAF X, NZXT Phantom 820, SilverStone Raven 02 (180mm), Throne & Thor, and 500R all have designs that have largely been replaced in the market. That replacement comes in the form of an obsession with the word “sleek” in marketing materials, which generally means flat, unvented paneling that would conflict with the poorer static pressure performance of large fans. That’s not to say 200mm fans are inherently good or bad, just that the industry has trended away from them.

That is, until the Cooler Master H500P, which runs 2x MasterFan MF200R units dead-center, fully garnished with RGB LEDs. We didn’t necessarily like the H500P in its stock configuration (but did fix it), but we know the case is popular, and it’s the best test bench for 200mm fans. There’s a good chance that purchasers of the NF-A20 are buying them for the H500P.

And that’s what we’re reviewing today. In this benchmark, we’re reviewing the Noctua NF-A20 200mm fans versus the Cooler Master MasterFan MF200Rs, which come stock with the H500P. The MF200R fans will almost certainly become available separately, at some point, but presently only ship with the H500P.

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