Our initial coverage of the Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard provided a first look at boards outfitted for AMD’s new Threadripper CPU. We’re now moving to ASUS to look at the Zenith Extreme motherboard, for which ASUS provided significantly fewer details than other motherboard vendors. Still, we were able to get a hands-on look and figure out a few of the basics.
The ASUS Zenith Extreme is AMD’s flagship X399 motherboard – pricing TBD, as AMD has not yet finalized socket and chipset prices – and will likely ship in August. As we understand it, Threadripper’s launch should be August 10th, which is around when all the motherboards would theoretically ship. Mass production is targeted for most boards in mid-August.
Following AMD’s Computex press conference, we headed over to the Gigabyte suite (after our X299 coverage) to look at the X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard. The new Gigabyte X399 Gaming 7 board is one of two that we’ve seen thus far – our ASUS coverage is next up – and joins the forces of motherboards ready for AMD’s Threadripper HEDT CPUs.
The Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard sockets Threadripper into AMD’s massive socket, dead-center, and uses three Torx screws to get at the LGA pin-out. The CPUs will provide 64 PCIe lanes, as we’ve already reported, with 4x PCIe Gen3 lanes reserved for high-speed transport between the CPU and chipset. The other 60 are assignable at the motherboard manufacturer’s will; in this case, Gigabyte willed for an x16/x8/x16/x8 full-length PCIe slots, with an additional 3x M.2 (x4) slots. That immediately consumes all 60 lanes, with the remaining 4 reserved for the chipset communications.
We attended AMD’s Press Conference event today in Taipei, Taiwan at Computex, where the company discussed its existing and new products for 2017. For our audience, the main focuses would be on the Threadripper 16C/32T CPU and Radeon RX Vega GPUs, both of which were highlighted at the event. AMD also began to lay-out their plan to enter the mobile market with R7 and R5 CPUs, as well as RX 500 series GPUs. The Ryzen R3 CPU lineup was not discussed in depth, but a Q3 launch date was confirmed during the press conference.
AMD presented their Vega Frontier Edition earlier in the month, with the card aimed towards deep learning, content creation, and enterprise industries alike. Vega: FE’s launch date is set for June 27 . The press event provided very limited information in regards to the Radeon RX Vega gaming GPUs, with the information dispensed primarily pertaining to the release date: RX Vega GPUs are set to launch at Siggraph 2017, which runs from July 30 to August 3, 2017 in Los Angeles.
Another day, another GPU driver update. This one comes from AMD, with Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition update version 17.5.2. The new version fixes several bugs and also improves Prey’s performance on the RX 580.
Bugfixes include a NieR: Automata crash, long Forza: Horizon 3 load times, an issue with CrossFire systems where the main display adapter could appear disabled in Radeon settings, and a system hang when entering sleep or hibernate with the RX 550.
AMD hosted its financial & analyst day today, revealing information on Vega, Threadripper, notebook deployments of its CPUs & GPUs, and data center products. Some timelines were loosely laid-out with initial benchmark previews, provided an outline for what to expect from AMD in the remainder of 2017.
Most of our time today will be spent detailing Vega, as it’s been the topic of most interest lately, with some preliminary information on the CPU products.
AMD’s RX 560 continues a trend of refreshing the Polaris line, but with a more notable change than the previous RX 580RX 570 refreshes: The RX 560 fully unlocks itself to 16 CUs, up from the previous 14 CUs of the RX 460. This change (in addition to voltage-frequency changes) instantly accounts for performance increases over the RX 460, theoretically making for a more exciting update than was had with the 580 & 570. That’s not to say that the predecessors of this 500 line were unworthy, but they certainly weren’t eye-catching for anyone who’d followed the 400-series launch.
Our review of the Sapphire RX 560 Pulse OC 4GB ($115) card is the first look at this new low-end line from AMD, updating the entry-level, sub-$120 market (in theory) with fresh competition. The incumbent would be the GTX 1050, which we previously thought a better buy than the RX 460. Today, we’re seeing how that’s changed in seven months.
To catch everyone up on the RX 500 refresh thus far, it’s mostly been a glorified BIOS update to the RX 580 and RX 570 cards, driving higher frequency, permitting higher voltage under OV, and trading more power for some performance. Nothing special, but enough to keep AMD in the game until its eventual Vega launch. We found the RX 580 to be a strong competitor to the GTX 1060, particularly at the price point, though noted that owners of RX 480 series cards shouldn’t bother considering an upgrade – because it’s not one. This 500 series is not meant for owners of the 400 series. Tune out until Vega, Volta, or high-end Pascal makes sense.
Sapphire’s RX 560 Pulse OC has one of the weakest cooling solutions we’ve seen of late, but – as we learn in our VRM+VRAM temperature testing – it’s sufficient for this type of card. A low-end GPU doesn’t draw much power, and so Sapphire skates by with its MagnaChip Semiconductor MDU1514 + MDU1517 3-phase power design.
As this content is relatively straight-forward, given the low price, let’s dive straight into testing.
Intel’s i3/i5/i7 and AMD’s R5/R7 CPUs are the big competitors in the PC gaming world, but they aren’t the only options out there: AMD released cheap but capable Athlon X4s in 2016, and in January of this year Intel released the 2C/4T Pentium G4560 ($70), a 14nm Kaby Lake processor for ~$64~$70. We didn’t fully review the older and (briefly) popular Pentium G3258, but it has showed up in Ask GN and individual benchmarks, so we were excited to do comprehensive testing on this modern iteration.
The G4560 lacks the feature that made the G3258 so popular: the ability to overclock. Buying a dirt-cheap dual-core processor and cranking the frequency up was enough for decent performance in limited-thread games, although the G3258 often suffers from extreme stuttering in more modern titles. The limitations lead us to believe that Intel doesn’t want to compete with its own more expensive 2C/4T unlocked i3 and locked i3-7100 ($120) & 7300 ($150).
We came away from our revisit of the once-king Sandy Bridge 2600K and 2500K CPUs impressed by the staying power of products that came out in Q1 2011, considering Intel’s unimpressive gains since that time.
At the time of Sandy Bridge’s release, AMD’s flagship CPUs were 45nm K10-based Phenom IIs, designed to compete in price/performance with the 45nm Lynnfield (Nehalem i5) quad cores. Later that year, AMD’s underwhelming Bulldozer architecture would launch and inevitably replace the Phenom line. Given that we’ve already looked at Intel’s 1Q11 offerings, we decided to revisit AMD’s Phenom II CPUs in 2017, including the Phenom II X6 1090T (Black Edition) and Phenom II X6 1055T. These benchmarks look at AMD Phenom II performance in gaming and production workloads for the modern era, including comparisons to the equal-aged Sandy Bridge CPUs, modern Ryzen 5 & 7 CPUs, and modern Intel CPUs.
AMD’s taken a page out of nVidia’s book, apparently, and nVidia probably took that page from Apple – or any number of other companies that elect to re-use product names. The new Radeon Pro Duo uses the same name as last year’s launch, but has updated the internals.
The RX 580, as we learned in the review process, isn’t all that different from its origins in the RX 480. The primary difference is in voltage and frequency afforded to the GPU proper, with other changes manifesting in maturation of the process over the past year of manufacturing. This means most optimizations are relegated to power (when idle – not under load) and frequency headroom. Gains on the new cards are not from anything fancy – just driving more power through under load.
Still, we were curious as to whether AMD’s drivers would permit cross-RX series multi-GPU. We decided to throw an MSI RX 580 Gaming X and MSI RX 480 Gaming X into a configuration to get things close, then see what’d happen.
The short of it is that this works. There is no explicit inhibitor built in to forbid users from running CrossFire with RX 400 and RX 500 series cards, as long as you’re doing 470/570 or 480/580. The GPU is the same, and frequency will just be matched to the slowest card, for the most part.
We think this will be a common use case, too. It makes sense: If you’re a current owner of an RX 480 and have been considering CrossFire (though we didn’t necessarily recommend it in previous content), the RX 580 will make the most sense for a secondary GPU. Well, primary, really – but you get the idea. The RX 400 series cards will see EOL and cease production in short order, if not already, which means that prices will stagnate and then skyrocket. That’s just what retailers do. Buying a 580, then, makes far more sense if dying for a CrossFire configuration, and you could even move the 580 to the top slot for best performance in single-GPU scenarios.
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