The recent trend in memory prices have put a major hold on our PC build guides. For years – most of its 10-year existence – GN has published nearly monthly gaming & workstation PC build guides. We haven’t published one for several months now, and that’s because of the simultaneous collision of memory and video card prices. The two all-time high price jumps on GPUs (miner+gamer joint demand) and RAM (supply shortage & process switch) made PC building nearly impossible to afford. There’s been some alleviation of that lately, but not in memory prices directly. The onslaught of Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales have brought down other components enough to more or less neutralize the insane RAM pricing; now, for instance, the 1950X is $200 off MSRP, which instantly counters the RAM pricing being 2x what it should be. For this reason, we decided to revisit our PC build guides with a Threadripper 1950X workstation, built for 3D rendering (Blender), H264 video encoding with Handbrake, and some other batch processing work and Adobe Premiere work.
A Note About PC Builds
PC builds always get comments from people who want to express their infinite wisdom and intelligence in comments fields, likely because, of all the things we publish, PC building is the item with which folks have the most experience. A note, here: We’re building based on two primary criteria, which include:
- - We have used and tested the parts, and trust them for this build.
- - We are using this build internally as a temporary encode/render system, which means that it’s mostly to suit our needs; if you can do better, great, but we’re going for a workstation that can get our jobs done, then be unbuilt.
There are places you can cut costs on this build. We’ll include alternative parts listings for those instances.
Almost as painfully as for our DDR4 RAM sales article, we trudged through video card sales and “sales” alike in attempt to find gold in a strapped market. Video card sales weren’t as exciting as previous years, with some settling down to simply MSRP – in other words, half off – and others seeing $10-$20 drops. We found a couple of good ones, nonetheless, including GTX 1080, RX 570, RX 560, and GTX 1060 sales. Find those below.
This week’s hardware news recap covers major AMD Ryzen CPU sales (read more here), Intel Optane Xpoint DIMMs, new fabs spinning-up for Coffee Lake production, and more. Not covered in this news recap is the Gigabyte BIOS security push for Intel’s vulnerabilities and the FCC regulations (or lack thereof). You can learn more about those at the respective links.
Supporting news items for the week include Samsung Z-NAND, CaseLabs’ SMA8, FireFox Quantum, and more.
As usual, the show notes are below the embedded video.
In the calm before the global celebration of consumerism, it would seem that the entire range of AMD processors has gone on sale – or most of it, anyway. Several of these have tempted us for internal machines, at this point. The Threadripper 1950X has been available as low as $800 (from the usual $1000) price-point, the R7 CPUs are cut into R5 prices -- $260 for the 1700X is now common, and R5 CPUs have also been dropping in price. The timing is excellent, too, as we just posted our Best CPUs of 2017 Awards, which include several of these sale items.
As we continue to push through the busiest week of the year, we’re ramping into more end-of-year recap coverage pieces, pooling a year’s worth of testing into central locations. The first Awards Show was for the best cases of the year, and our next is for the best CPUs of 2017. This covers multiple categories, including gaming, hobbyist / small business production, overall value, and adds some special categories, like “Biggest Upset” and “Biggest Disappointment.”
As launch years go, 2017 has been the most packed of any in recent history. The constant back-and-forth between Intel and AMD has largely taken the spotlight from the rest of the industry, as each company moves to ship directly competing products in rapid-fire fashion.
This content looks at the best CPUs for 2017 in gaming, production (3D modeling, animation, and video rendering), budget gaming, and overall balance.
Enermax's Liqtech TR4 liquid cooler took us by surprise in our 240mm unit review, and again in our Liqtech 360 TR4 review. The cooler is the first noteworthy closed-loop liquid cooler to accommodate Threadripper, and testing proved that it's not just smoke and mirrors: The extra coldplate size enables the Liqtech to overwhelm any of the current-market Asetek CLCs, which use smaller coldplates that are more suitable to Ryzen or Intel CPUs.
Early reports surrounding Vega GPU packaging indicated minimally two different package processes, though later revealed a potential third. For the two primary forms of Vega GPU packaging, we’re looking at clear, obvious differences in assembly: The silicon (GPU + HBM) is either encased in an epoxy resin (“molded”) or is not encased at all (“resinless”). There is another type of resinless package that has been shown online, but we haven’t yet encountered this third type.
The initial concern indicated that packaging process could impact HBM2 contact to cooler coldplates – something for which, after working on this content, we later discovered new data – and we wanted to test that mounting pressure. Just last night, days after we finalized this content piece, we found another data point that deserves a separate article, so be sure to check back for the follow-up to this piece.
In the meantime, we’re using a chemically reactive contact paper to test various Vega GPUs and vapor chambers or coolers, then swapping coolers between those various GPUs to try and understand if and when differences emerge. Some brief thermal testing also helps us validate whether those differences, which would theoretically be spurred-on by packaging variance, are actually relevant to thermal performance. Today, we’re testing to see the mounting pressure and thermal impact from AMD’s various Vega 56 & 64 GPU packages, with a brief resurrection of the Frontier Edition.
Note: We used torque drivers for the assembly, so that process was controlled for.
The Intel/AMD news just won’t stop this week. Raja Koduri has indeed left AMD—and he has indeed joined Intel. This was a fair bit of conjecture until now (we even mentioned it in our most recent HW News video, not knowing whether it would be confirmed or debunked), but Intel has released an official statement confirming the move, and the existence of their newly formed Core and Visual Computing Group, which Koduri will helm.
Raja Koduri is a prominent figurehead in the industry, especially as it relates to graphics, visuals, and GPU computing. He notably led AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group, and served as director of graphics for Apple. News of his move to Intel came during his sabbatical he announced back in September, under which he intended to spend time with his family after a grueling Vega launch. His experience and expertise will doubtless be invaluable as part of Intel’s strategy to aggressively expand their presence in the GPU market.
Microsoft has, rather surprisingly, made it easy to get into and maintain the Xbox One X. The refreshed console uses just two screws to secure the chassis – two opposing, plastic jackets for the inner frame – and then uses serial numbering to identify the order of parts removal. For a console, we think the Xbox One X’s modularity of design is brilliant and, even if it’s just for Microsoft’s internal RMA purposes, it makes things easier for the enthusiast audience to maintain. We pulled apart the new Xbox One X in our disassembly process, walking through the VRM, APU, cooling solution, and overall construction of the unit.
Before diving in, a note on the specs: The Xbox One X uses an AMD Jaguar APU, to which is affixed an AMD Polaris GPU with 40 CUs. This CU count is greater than the RX 580’s 36 CUs (and so yields 2560 SPs vs. 2304 SPs), but runs at a lower clock speed. Enter our errata from the video: The clock speed of the integrated Polaris GPU in the Xbox One X is purportedly 1172MHz (some early claims indicated 1720MHz, but that proved to be the memory speed); at 1172MHz, the integrated Polaris GPU is about 100MHz slower than the original reference Boost of the RX 480, or about 168MHz slower than some of the RX 580 partner models. Consider this a correction of those numbers – we ended up citing the 1700MHz figure in the video, but that is actually incorrect; the correct figure is 1172MHz core, 1700MHz memory (6800MHz effective). The memory operates a 326GB/s bandwidth on its 384-bit bus. As for the rest, 40 CUs means 160 TMUs, giving a texture fill-rate of 188GT/s.
At long last, Intel and AMD have announced a partnership to build a new mobile chip. In broad terms, Intel will ship processors with integrated AMD Radeon graphics and HMB2--all on one package.
Intel and AMD have seemingly set their gaze on the current crop of gaming/production laptops and devices, which are far behind the trend of thinner, more power efficient devices with smaller footprints. PC enthusiasts on a mobile platform who want gaming performance and the power for content creation obviously don’t want to sacrifice function for form, so therein lies the rub--this is exactly the crux that Intel and AMD aim to address with this collaboration.
We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.