Hardware

The GTX 980's placement in notebooks heralded the now-present era of desktop GPUs in laptops, but was still sort of a trial of the tech. NVidia and AMD have both introduced their Pascal and Polaris architectures in full, uncut versions to notebooks this generation, with performance generally within about 10% of an equivalent desktop build. Despite the desktop-level power, battery life should also be improved resultant of an overall reduction in power consumption by the GPU and the CPU alike. And almost every other component, for that matter – like DDR4, which requires lower voltage and draws less power than DDR3.

Today, we're looking at the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro laptop with GTX 1060 & i7-6700HQ, priced at $1600. The benchmarks follow our previous notebook 1070 vs. 1080 tests, but with proper depth and hands-on. Note also that we already wrote about the GE62VR's bloatware problem.

In this review of the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro ($1600), we'll be testing FPS on the GTX 1060, temperatures, noise levels, and build quality.

Implementation of liquid coolers on GPUs makes far more sense than on the standard CPU. We've shown in testing that actual performance can improve as a result of a better cooling solution on a GPU, particularly when replacing weak blower fan or reference cooler configurations. With nVidia cards, Boost 3.0 dictates clock-rate based upon a few parameters, one of which is remedied with more efficient GPU cooling solutions. On the AMD side of things, our RX 480 Hybrid mod garnered some additional overclocking headroom (~50MHz), but primarily reduced noise output.

Clock-rate also stabilizes with better cooling solutions (and that includes well-designed air cooling), which helps sustain more consistent frametimes and tighten frame latency. We call these 1% and 0.1% lows, though that presentation of the data is still looking at frametimes at the 99th and 99.9th percentile.

The EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid has thus far had the most interesting cooling solution we've torn down on an AIO cooled GPU this generation, but Gigabyte's Xtreme Waterforce card threatens to take that title. In this review, we'll benchmark the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force card vs. the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid and MSI/Corsair 1080 Sea Hawk. Testing is focused on thermals and noise primarily, with FPS and overclocking thrown into the mix.

A quick thanks to viewer and reader Sean for loaning us this card, since Gigabyte doesn't respond to our sample requests.

Rosewill's Cullinan PC case is the company's most modern endeavor since the R5, and manages to get to the front of the case industry's current trends. It's a mid-tower with a PSU shroud and a full tempered glass side window, which is checking almost all the boxes created by NZXT's H440, In-Win's more expensive cases, and Corsair's 760T. The only 2016 trend missing from the Cullinan is a set of RGB LED fans, but they've still got blue LEDs.

We first saw the Rosewill Cullinan mid-tower at Computex 2016, but the case was impacted by shipping delays (and other internal delays) that pushed back its launch until now-ish. In theory, the ~$150 Cullinan will begin availability just before October, and should begin shipping to customers by the first week of October. That long lead-in to production has allowed competitors to enter the growing market of cases with tempered glass side panels, including Corsair with its brand new 460X, In Win with its 303, and Anidees with its identical AI Crystal ($150).

The Anidees AI Crystal and Rosewill Cullinan enclosures both boast 5mm thick tempered glass side windows and a 4mm thick tempered glass front panel. The enclosures target the front edge of a trend in the industry to adopt tempered glass on affordable cases (read: ~$100 to ~$200), replacing the cheaper acrylic that's found in almost all windowed panels. Rosewill and Anidees both use Chinese OEM designer Jonsbo, whom we believe to be a customer of case factory God Speed Casing. If that name's familiar, it's because God Speed Casing is the manufacturer used (and effectively grown) by NZXT; we've even toured their factories in China.

The GTX 1060 3GB ($200) card's existence is curious. The card was initially rumored to exist prior to the 1060 6GB's official announcement, and was quickly debunked as mythological. Exactly one month later, nVidia did announce a 3GB GTX 1060 variant – but with one fewer SM, reducing the core count by 10%. That drops the GTX 1060 from 1280 CUDA cores to 1152 CUDA cores (128 cores per SM), alongside 8 fewer TMUs. Of course, there's also the memory reduction from 6GB to 3GB.

The rest of the specs, however, remain the same. The clock-rate has the same baseline 1708MHz boost target, the memory speed remains 8Gbps effective, and the GPU itself is still a declared GP106-400 chip (rev A1, for our sample). That makes this most the way toward a GTX 1060 as initially announced, aside from the disabled SM and halved VRAM. Still, nVidia's marketing language declared a 5% performance loss from the 6GB card (despite a 10% reduction in cores), and so we decided to put those claims to the test.

In this benchmark, we'll be reviewing the EVGA GTX 1060 3GB vs. GTX 1060 6GB performance in a clock-for-clock test, with 100% of the focus on FPS. The goal here is not to look at the potential for marginally changed thermals (which hinges more on AIB cooler than anything) or potentially decreased power, but to instead look strictly at the impact on FPS from the GTX 1060 3GB card's changes. In this regard, we're very much answering the “is a 1060 6GB worth it?” question, just in a less SEF fashion. The GTX 1060s will be clocked the same, within normal GPU Boost 3.0 variance, and will only be differentiated in the SM & VRAM count.

For those curious, we previously took this magnifying glass to the RX 480 8GB & 4GB cards, where we pitted the two against one another in a versus. In that scenario, AMD also reduced the memory clock of the 4GB models, but the rest remained the same.

EVGA GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid Review vs. MSI Sea Hawk X

By Published August 30, 2016 at 6:23 pm

We're finally reviewing the real EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid ($730), having built our own several months ago by using a liquid cooling kit. The EVGA version, though, is more official – and it's also using an FTW custom PCB rather than the 5-phase reference board we relied upon. The FTW Hybrid has better power management and delivery, in theory, alongside a far more advanced cooling solution than we instituted on our own DIY Hybrid.

In this review, we'll primarily and most heavily be focusing on thermals between the Sea Hawk X and the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid, but will also look at FPS and overclocking performance. Noise and power testing are additionally available, along with some unique Boost functionality discussion.

Keyboards can come in many shapes, sizes, and styles, and yet it seems that the market is flooded with a focus on “gamer” styles with sharp angles and gaudy, unnecessary design additions – no, fake rivets and wings aren’t needed on any keyboard. For this reason alone, it’s refreshing to see a large peripherals company with some history of edgy products choose to design a simple and minimalistic keyboard.

Logitech has taken this route with its new G610 keyboard by creating a simple and minimalistic mechanical keyboard that provides all required features at its price point of $90.

No reference card has impressed us this generation, insofar as usage by the enthusiast market. Primary complaints have consisted of thermal limitations or excessive heat generation, despite reasonable use cases with SIs and mITX form factor deployments. For our core audience, though, it's made more sense to recommend AIB partner models for superior cooling, pre-overclocks, and (normally) lower prices.

But that's not always the case – sometimes, as with today's review unit, the price climbs. This new child of Corsair and MSI carries on the Hydro GFX and Seahawk branding, respectively, and is posted at ~$750. The card is the construct of a partnership between the two companies, with MSI providing access to the GP104-400 chip and a reference board (FE PCB), and Corsair providing an H55 CLC and SP120L radiator fan. The companies sell their cards separately, but are selling the same product; MSI calls this the “Seahawk GTX 1080 ($750),” and Corsair sells only on its webstore as the “Hydro GFX GTX 1080.” The combination is one we first looked at with the Seahawk 980 Ti vs. the EVGA 980 Ti Hybrid, and we'll be making the EVGA FTW Hybrid vs. Hydro GFX 1080 comparison in the next few days.

For now, we're reviewing the Corsair Hydro GFX GTX 1080 liquid-cooled GPU for thermal performance, endurance throttles, noise, power, FPS, and overclocking potential. We will primarily refer to the card as the Hydro GFX, as Corsair is the company responsible for providing the loaner review sample. Know that it is the same as the Seahawk.

The theoretical end of AMD's Polaris desktop GPU line has just begun shipment, and that's in the form of the RX 460. Back at the pre-Computex press event, AMD informed us that the Polaris line would primarily consist of two GPUs on the Polaris architecture – Polaris 10 & 11 – and that three cards would ship on this platform. Two of the three have already shipped and been reviewed, including the ~$240 RX 480 8GB cards (review here) and ~$180-$200 RX 470 cards (review here). The next architecture will be Vega, in a position to potentially be the first consumer GPU to use HBM2.

Today, we're looking at Polaris 11 in the RX 460. The review sample received is Sapphire's RX 460 Nitro 4GB card, pre-overclocked to 1250MHz. The RX 460, like the 470, is a “partner card,” which means that no reference model will be sold by AMD for rebrand by its partners. AMD has set the MSRP to $110 for the RX 460, but partners will vary widely depending on VRAM capacity (2GB or 4GB), cooler design, pre-overclocks, and component selection. At time of writing, we did not have a list of AIB partner prices and cards available.

As always, we'll be reviewing the Sapphire RX 460 4GB with extensive thermal testing, FPS testing in Overwatch, DOTA2, GTA V, and more, and overclock testing. Be sure to check page 1 for our new PCB analysis and cooler discussion, alongside the in-depth architecture information.

AMD's RX 470 has been on our time table since May, when the pre-Computex press event informed us of a “mid-July” release. Well, it's mid-July – wait.

August 4th. It's August 4th. The RX 470 is available effective today, coinciding with embargo lift on reviews, and we've had time to thoroughly analyze the card's performance. The RX 470 is a partner card and will not be available as a reference model, though some partner cards may as well be reference models; they're using the reference RX 480 cooler, just with new colors, back-plates, or LEDs.

AMD has positioned its RX 470 in the sub-$200 market, listing its MSRP as $180. AIB partners will price their cards according to any custom coolers or pre-overclocks applied, though the floor has been set, more or less. That plants the 470 in a presently unchallenged market position: AMD's biggest current-gen competition in this price-range is its own RX 480 4GB card, the GTX 1060 being nVidia's lowest tier offering.

Before our deep-dive review on the Sapphire RX 470 Platinum, card architecture, thermal & endurance throttles, power, and FPS, let's run through the specs.

In Win 303 Case Review vs. NZXT S340, Corsair 400C

By Published August 03, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Discussion of In Win is normally around trade show systems, often of the “$2400 animatronic deathbot” variety. The not-a-Transformer systems still exceed price-points of $400, as found with the trademark orange-and-glass D-Frame. In Win's image has firmly solidified as one of a designer company: the cases tend to be artful, of high build quality, and expensive, leaving the low-end market to peddle its flimsy steel panels and acrylic windows.

Today marks our first review of an affordable In Win case, and the first affordable In Win case we find legitimately innovative and well-suited for mainstream gaming PCs. The In Win 303 is a $90 enclosure with a full, 3mm-thick tempered glass side window, a half-chamber top-mounted PSU with unique radiator mounting, and a simplified (but not minimalistic) exterior. The case uses 1.2mm thick SECC steel paneling, making it one of the most rigid enclosures on the market – and that's across the entire sub-$200 price-range, not just the budget price-point; that said, most directly competing cases use 0.6mm or 0.8mm steel.

Prior to working on this case, we toured the In Win factory (while in Taipei for Computex – a short drive to Taoyuan) and got a first-hand look at the manufacturing process. The unique experience has afforded us a unique ability to judge the case for its engineering and materials. Check the In-Win Factory Tour content for that.

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