Hardware

This is a review of a revision of the Define S2, a case which we already dismissed as nearly identical to the Define R6 (a case we liked and found of high build quality), making this the third review we’ve published of the same(-ish) enclosure. That description may not sound promising, but the newest case’s name does: the Meshify S2 establishes a trend of Fractal “meshifying” cases by replacing solid front panels with better-ventilated ones, as they did previously with the Meshify C (another case we liked) and Meshify C Mini.

Our AMD Radeon VII review is one of our most in-depth in a while. The new $700 AMD flagship is a repurposed Instinct card, down-costed for gaming and some productivity tasks and positioned to battle the RTX 2080 head-to-head. In today’s benchmarks, we’ll look uniquely at Radeon VII cooler mounting pressure, graphite thermal pad versus paste performance, gaming benchmarks, overclocking, noise, power consumption, Luxmark OpenCL performance, and more.

We already took apart AMD’s Radeon VII card, remarking on its interesting Hitachi HM03 graphite thermal pad and vapor chamber. We also analyzed its VRM and PCB, showing impressive build quality from AMD. These are only part of the story, though – the more important aspect is the silicon, which we’re looking at today. At $700, Radeon VII is positioned against the RTX 2080 and now-discontinued GTX 1080 Ti (the two tested identically). Radeon VII has some interesting use cases in “content creation” (or Adobe Premiere, mostly) where GPU memory becomes a limiting factor. Due to time constraints following significant driver-related setbacks in testing, we will be revisiting the card with a heavier focus on these “content creator” tests. For now, we are focusing primarily on the following:

The Intel Xeon W-3175X CPU is a 28-core, fully unlocked CPU capable of overclocking, a rarity among Xeon parts. The CPU’s final price ended up at $3000, with motherboards TBD. As of launch day – that’s today – the CPU and motherboards will be going out to system integrator partners first, with DIY channels to follow at a yet-to-be-determined date. This makes reviewing the 3175X difficult, seeing as we don’t yet know pricing of the rest of the parts in the ecosystem (like the X599 motherboards), and seeing as availability will be scarce for the DIY market. Still, the 3175X is first a production CPU and second an enthusiast CPU, so we set forth with overclocking, Adobe Premiere renders, Blender tests, Photoshop benchmarking, gaming, and power consumption tests.

In a post-Linum TI world, it’s likely that a lot of you look at system integrators a little differently – or, more likely, exactly the same. After we began our Walmart system review, we put in a last-minute, rushed order for an iBUYPOWER RDY system with significantly better parts than what we could get in the Walmart build. This was before Linus had begun his series, too, and so all we knew was that the parts listing included a 9700K instead of an 8700, clearly an improvement, and an RTX 2080 instead of a GTX 1080 Ti, and iBUYPOWER did this at a lower price. The question was whether or not the assembly was any good and if any other mistakes were made along the way.

Before starting on this one, we need a trip down memory lane: We had just ordered the Walmart system, originally meant to be an i7-8700 non-K CPU with GTX 1080 Ti, and had paid over $2000 to get it. Of course, that fateful order ended up being accidentally shipped with an 8700 with a GTX 1070 and was actually the $1500 SKU, but close enough. The motherboard was an H310 platform that runs a slower DMI and only one DIMM per channel, the case had literally 3-4mm of space between the glass and the front panel, and the USB3 cable was held in with glue. Off to a good start.

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.

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