Hardware

The AMD Athlon X4 880K is the CPU we've been waiting for. Since the A10-7870K and A10-7860K APU reviews, our conclusions have generally been pointing in this direction. For the dGPU-using gaming audience, it makes better sense for budget buyers to grab a cheap CPU and dGPU than to buy an APU alone. There is a place for the APUs – ultra-budget, tiny, quiet HTPCs capable of video streaming and moderate gaming – but for more “core” gaming, the CPU + dGPU move currently does yield major gains. Even just throwing a 250X at an APU has, in some of our tests, nearly doubled gaming performance. For such a dirt-cheap video card, that's a big gain to be had.

And so AMD's Athlon X4 880K enters the scene. The price is all over the map right now. MSRP is $95 from AMD, but the X4 880K isn't (as of this writing) available through major first-party retailers like Amazon and Newegg. We've seen it for $104 from third-party Newegg sellers, but as low as $90 from sites we've never heard of, if you count those. In theory, though, the X4 880K will eventually come to rest at $95.

The new CPU is effectively a step between the 7870K and 7890K, but with the IGP disabled. This lowers validation cost while offering effectively equivalent CPU performance. AMD's X4 880K operates on a two-module, four-core Excavator architecture with a stock clock-rate of 4.0 to 4.2GHz (boosted). For comparison, the A10-7890K runs 4.1 to 4.3GHz, so there's a 100MHz gain over the X4 880K. Easily negated with overclocking, as the 880K is a K-SKU, multiplier-unlocked chip. The 880K has a 95W TDP and is paired with AMD's 125W near-silent (NS) cooler.

This review and benchmark of the Athlon X4 880K tests thermals, gaming (FPS) performance, and compares against higher-end i3 & i5 CPUs, APUs, and the old X4 760K.

SilverStone acts like somewhat of a boutique manufacturer within the US market. The products are often unique or risk-taking, sometimes bench-topping or just plain competitive – but the brand also has lower visibility when compared against US juggernauts Corsair or global market contenders Cooler Master.

One of the newest SilverStone cases competes in the ~$70 price-point, directly matched against recently reviewed cases (Phanteks P400, Rosewill Gungnir, Corsair 400C). The SilverStone Kublai KL05-BW is on bench for review today, including case walkthrough, thermal / temperature benchmarking, cable management, and build quality analysis. The enclosure diverges from recent trends by opting-out of a PSU shroud, it's kept the optical drive bays, and has taken a minimalistic-but-effective approach to cooling. More on that below.

Gaming laptops have historically been synonymous with “cinder block” – particularly true for the GTX 980M, GTX 980, and GTX 970M units we've reviewed – but that isn't always the case. Still, slimming down the form factor comes at the substantial risk of increased thermals. Packing high-performance silicon densely into a small box is a breeding ground for poor dissipation potential, offset only by careful controls (throttles) and, normally, a hefty amount of copper. Thermals happen to be our test specialty; we're particularly interested in exploring the temperature readings of MSI's new GE62 Apache Pro 6QD laptop, a 15.6” portable with a GTX 960M and i7-6700HQ.

But it's not all about thermals. Our GE62 6QD Apache Pro ($1300) review benchmarks gaming (FPS) performance of the GTX 960M & i7-6700HQ, looks at thermals, and tests battery life. For a bout of fun, we threw in a battery life test with the keyboard backlight and background software disabled, just to see if it'd increase longevity. Games used for real-world benchmarking include GRID: Autosport (battery life analysis), DiRT Rally, The Witcher 3, GTA V, Metro: Last Light, and Shadow of Mordor.

AMD's newest line of APU refreshes does more than just change the clockrates – they've also improved TDP with the launch of the A10-7860K APU. We just received the A10-7860K and A10-7890K APUs for review, including their new Wraith and Near-Silent heatsinks (Wraith review, Wraith noise comparison). Today, we're benchmarking the A10-7860K for gaming (FPS) and thermal performance, particularly vs. the A10-7870K or cheap dGPU solutions.

The new A10-7860K APU runs on Kaveri architecture with TDP upgrades, similar to what was seen on the recently refreshed 300-series AMD GPUs. The A10-7860K runs the same two-module, four-thread (2C/4T) approach as almost every other APU, including the A10-7870K that we reviewed previously. The 7860K unit operates between 3.6GHz and 4.0GHz (boosted) on its 65W thermal package, with an IGP frequency of 754MHz. The lower heat production and power draw should coincide to theoretically allow for longer boosted periods, too, as the APU won't throttle itself as frequently to control temperatures.

The mid-tower ATX market seems like it's burgeoning with options right now. Everyone's got some kind of mid-tower-with-shroud available, and those who don't already have one on the way. Of late, we've looked at the NZXT S340 (arguably the start to all this), the Corsair 400C – a good progression, Phanteks' disappointing P400, and we'll soon look at SilverStone's RL05B.

All of these cases seem to fall within the $60 to $100 range, too: The NZXT S340 is $60-$70, the Corsair 400C is $90-$100, the Phanteks P400 is $60-$90, and the Gungnir is a flat $65. SilverStone's forthcoming RL05B will land at about $60.

For today, we're reviewing and benchmarking Rosewill's own mid-tower gaming case, the “Gungnir.”

It's been one case after another lately: The Corsair 400C, NZXT Manta, Revolt 2, and now the Phanteks Eclipse P400.

Phanteks' Eclipse P400 is immediately reminiscent of the NZXT S340 enclosure, which we've pinpointed as the origin of the industry's obsession with PSU shrouds and limited drive support. That's not to say there can't be multiple products in the category – it's good to see continual innovation atop well-founded concepts, and new competition drives development further.

The Phanteks Eclipse P400 ($70 to $90) first entered our lives at CES 2016, where we got hands-on with its significantly larger convention sibling, the Project 916. The Phanteks Eclipse P400 review benchmarks cooling performance, looks at thermal walls, ease-of-installation, cable management, and overall value of the case.

Revolt 2 SFF Gaming PC Review: Thermal & FPS Benchmarks

By Published February 06, 2016 at 11:55 am

System Integrators (SIs) generally don't make much – they're builders, not manufacturers, and source parts at oft-discounted prices to build machines per customer spec. Every now and then, an SI will come out with some exclusive case (Origin and CyberPower have both done this) that's often only exclusive for a couple-month window; for the Revolt 2, iBUYPOWER actually designed and manufactured their own SFF enclosure, opting-out of the usual OEM route taken by the industry.

The iBUYPOWER Revolt 2 gaming PC uses a small form factor enclosure with jutting edges, a showroom-styled top and front panel, and allocates its resources most heavily toward showmanship. For a brand which has historically supported eSports venues with portable rigs for tournaments, it's no wonder that design initiatives drove this aesthetics focus.

Our review of the iBUYPOWER Revolt 2 gaming PC benchmarks temperatures (GPU & CPU thermals), FPS in games (Black Ops III, GTA V, and more), and compares the cost against an equivalent DIY solution.

Teased at CES 2016, Corsair's 400C ($90) enclosure swiftly followed the chart-topping 600C, a case that dominated our GPU cooling charts. The 600C and 600Q cases instituted an inverted motherboard layout – rotating and flipping board installation such that the GPU is oriented “upside-down” – but stuck with tried-and-died optical drive support. To allow for an enclosure more fitting of the “mid-tower” form factor, Corsair removed the 5.25” support in its new Carbide Series 400C & 400Q cases, shrinking the height from ~21 inches to ~18.27 inches.

This review of the Corsair Carbide 400C benchmarks cooling performance for CPUs and GPUs, all accompanied by build quality and installation analysis. The 400Q is more-or-less the same case, just with the window removed and sound-damping material added.

AMD's new “Wraith” CPU cooler makes a few engineering changes: Overall surface area of the aluminum heatsink has increased 24%, the fan has been heavily modified from the previous stock cooler (which should be named the “banshee,” given its shrill output), and it's got an LED. We first got eyes-on with the Wraith at CES 2016, but have returned today with in-house validation of CPU cooler performance.

Today marks the list date of AMD's new Wraith CPU cooler, which will accompany “specially marked” processors for no added cost, we're told. The Wraith replaces AMD's old stock cooler, pictured in this article, though both products will remain shipping. The FX-8370 units with the old cooler will sell for a new, dropped price. MSRP stands at $200 for the FX-8370 Wraith Edition, as we're calling it, bumping the non-Wraith FX-8370 down to $190. That's a $10 difference for the denser cooler with LED back-light – now just to determine whether the $10 is worthwhile.

This review benchmarks AMD's Wraith CPU cooler vs. the original stock AMD CPU cooler, then throws-in an aftermarket air cooler for comparison. We modulate fan RPMs between the two AMD coolers to get a feel for overall efficiency and noise-thermal trade-offs.

NZXT Manta Mini-ITX Case Review & Benchmark

By Published January 26, 2016 at 10:00 am

Deriving a computer case from a Ferrari 458 seems like a bit of a stretch – but everyone's got to have an origin story, and that's where NZXT started with its Manta case. A previous tour of NZXT's offices showed us that case designers do, in fact, plaster photos of cars upon the office walls and leverage the visual prompts in concepting phases. The Manta makes its statement with curved, stamped paneling made of all steel, creating somewhat of a 'bubbled' look to the enclosure.

The mini-ITX case is NZXT's first venture into sub-ATX form factors since the Vulcan, but keeps to a familiar “tower” form factor that we're calling “Full-Size ITX.” It's not the shoebox form factor that ITX system builders may be used to and feels like a slightly distant cousin to the S340 ($70). In this NZXT Manta ($140) review, we run in-depth cooling benchmarks for a gaming system, analyze build quality, and determine overall value vs. other market contenders.

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