Frequency is the most advertised spec of RAM. As anyone who’s dug a little deeper knows, memory performance depends on timings as well--and not just the primary ones. We found this out the hard way while doing comparative testing for an article on extremely high frequency memory which refused to stabilize. We shelved that article indefinitely, but due to reader interest (thanks, John), we decided to explore memory subtimings in greater depth.
This content hopes to define memory timings and demystify the primary timings, including CAS (CL), tRAS, tRP, tRAS, and tRCD. As we define primary memory timings, we’ll also demonstrate how some memory ratios work (and how they sometimes can operate out of ratio), and how much tertiary and secondary timings (like tRFC) can impact performance. Our goal is to revisit this topic with a secondary and tertiary timings deep-dive, similar to this one.
We got information and advice from several memory and motherboard manufacturers in the course of our research, and we were warned multiple times about the difficulty of tackling this subject. On the one hand, it’s easy to get lost in minutiae, and on the other it’s easy to summarize things incorrectly. As ASUS told us, “you need to take your time on this one.” This is a general introduction, to be followed by another article with more detail on secondary and tertiary timings.
We’re calling this content the “Most Room for Improvement at Computex 2018” content piece. A lot of products this year are still prototypes, and so still have lots of time to improve and change. Many of the manufacturers have asked for feedback from media and will be making changes prior to launch, hopefully, but we wanted to share some of our hopes for improvement with all of you.
Separately, Linus of LinusTechTips joined us for the intro of this video, if that is of interest.
Last month, we published an article detailing the FTC addressing predatory warranty conditions, and in so doing, the FTC notified six companies of infractions violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. At the time of that writing, the names of the notified companies were not disclosed; however, Motherboard obtained the names via a Freedom of Information Act request, and they are as follows:
There’s a new trend in the industry: Heatsinks. Hopefully, anyway.
Gigabyte has listened to our never-ending complaints about VRM heatsinks and VRM thermals, and outfitted their X470 Gaming 7 motherboard with a full, proper fin stack and heatpipe. We’re happy to see it, and we hope that this trend continues, but it’s also not entirely necessary on this board. That doesn’t make us less excited to see an actual heatsink on a motherboard; however, we believe it does potentially point toward a future in higher core-count Ryzen CPUs. This is something that Buildzoid speculated in our recent Gaming 7 X470 VRM & PCB analysis. The amount of “overkill” power delivery capabilities on high-end X470 boards would suggest plans to support higher power consumption components from AMD.
Take the Gigabyte Gaming 7: It’s a 10+2-phase VRM, with the VCore VRM using IR3553s for 40A power stages. That alone is enough to run passive, but a heatsink drags temperature so far below requirements of operating spec that there’s room to spare. Cooler is always better in this instance (insofar as ambient cooling, anyway), so we can’t complain, but we can speculate about why it’s been done this way. ASUS’ Crosshair VII Hero has the same VRM, but with 60A power stages. That board, like Gigabyte’s, could run with no heatsink and be fine.
We tested with thermocouples placed on one top-side MOSFET, located adjacent to the SOC VRM MOSFETs (1.2V SOC), and one left-side MOSFET that’s centrally positioned. Our testing included stock and overclocked testing (4.2GHz/1.41VCore at Extreme LLC), then further tested with the heatsink removed entirely. By design, this test had no active airflow over the VRM components. Ambient was controlled during the test and was logged every second.
Ahead of CES 2018, ASUS is announcing their ROG bezel-free kit, a way for gamers to augment the visibility of the display bezels within multi-monitor setups. Such a product theoretically offers a seamless display setup; or rather, the imitation of one. The bezel-free kit makes use of vertical lenses affixed to mounting brackets on the top and bottom, that attach the monitors at a 130 degree angle. From there, the lenses use light refraction to essentially wax away the appearance of the bezels. How well this works, or how obtrusive the lenses or mounts are, remains to be seen. Should GamersNexus get a chance to see this up close, we’ll update accordingly.
AMD’s partner cards have been on hold for review for a while now. We first covered the Vega 64 Strix when we received it, which was around October 8th. The PowerColor card came in before Thanksgiving in the US, and immediately exhibited similar clock reporting and frequency bugginess with older driver revisions. AMD released driver version 17.11.4, though, which solved some of those problems – theoretically, anyway. There are still known issues with clock behavior in 17.11.4, but we wanted to test whether or not the drivers would play nice with the partner cards. For right now, our policy is this: (1) We will review the cards immediately upon consumer availability or pre-order, as that is when people will need to know if they’re any good; (2) we will review the cards when either the manufacturer declares them ready, or at a time when the cards appear to be functioning properly.
This benchmark is looking at the second option: We’re testing whether the ASUS Strix Vega 64 and PowerColor Red Devil 64 are ready for benchmarking, and looking at how they match versus the reference RX Vega 64. Theoretically, the cards should have slightly higher clocks, and therefore should perform better. Now, PowerColor has set clock targets at 1632MHz across the board, but “slightly higher clocks” doesn’t just mean clock target – it also means power budget, which board partners have control over. Either one of these, particularly in combination with superior cooling, should result in higher sustained boost clocks, which would result in higher framerates or scores.
Having gone over the best CPUs, cases, some motherboards, and soon coolers, we’re now looking at the best GTX 1080 Tis of the year. Contrary to popular belief, the model of cooler does actually matter for video cards. We’ll be going through thermal and noise data for a few of the 1080 Tis we’ve tested this year, including MOSFET, VRAM, and GPU temperatures, noise-normalized performance at 40dBA, and the PCB and VRM quality. As always with these guides, you can find links to all products discussed in the description below.
Rounding-up the GTX 1080 Tis means that we’re primarily going to be focused on cooler and PCB build quality: Noise, noise-normalized thermals, thermals, and VRM design are the forefront of competition among same-GPU parts. Ultimately, as far as gaming and overclocking performance, much of that is going to be dictated by silicon-level quality variance, and that’s nearly random. For that reason, we must differentiate board partner GPUs with thermals, noise, and potential for low-thermal overclocking (quality VRMs).
Today, we’re rounding-up the best GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards that we’ve reviewed this year, including categories of Best Overall, Best for Modding, Best Value, Best Technology, and Best PCB. Gaming performance is functionally the same on all of them, as silicon variance is the larger dictator of performance, with thermals being the next governor of performance; after all, a Pascal GPU under 60C is a higher-clocked, happier Pascal GPU, and that’ll lead framerate more than advertised clocks will.
In keeping up with our end of the year coverage, such as The Best CPUs of 2017, The Best PC Cases of 2017, and Best RAM sales, we’ve now put together the most noteworthy gaming monitors of the year. Monitors aren’t something we’ve spent much time with this year, although there are a couple we’ve gotten hands-on with and recommend. As the holidays approach—and thus, the most consumer-centric time of the year—we hope this guide of top-rated monitors will help take some of the guesswork out of any purchasing decisions.
We’ll look at best monitors in categories such as UltraWide, 4K gaming, budget 1080p, 1440p, G-Sync, FreeSync, and a handful of honorable mentions. This list includes Black Friday and other sales for monitors.
Since our delid collaboration with Bitwit, we’ve been considering expanding VRM temperature testing on the ASUS Rampage VI Extreme to determine at what point the VRM needs direct cooling. This expanded into determining when it’s even reasonable to expect the stock heatsink to be capable of handling the 7980XE’s overclocked heat load: We are seeking to find at what point we tip into territory of being too power-hungry to reasonably operate without a fan directly over the heatsink.
This VRM thermal benchmark specifically looks at the ASUS Rampage VI Extreme motherboard, which uses one of the better X299 heatsinks for its IR3555 60A power stages. The IR3555 has an internal temperature sensor, which ASUS taps into for a safety throttle in EFI. As we understand it, the stock configuration sets a VRM throttle temperature of 120C – we believe this is internal temperature, though the diode could also be placed between the FETs, in which case the internal temperatures would be higher.
AMD-exclusive partner XFX announced its competition to ASUS' still might-be-out-some-day-maybe Vega 64 Strix video card. At this point in time, partner cards still feel something like super cars: Nice to look at, probably won't own it.
But they're coming, so we're told, and the new target time seems to be "sometime in November." AMD partners have largely indicated supply issues of the Vega GPUs as the limiting factor of card presence on the market. The supply should build-up at some point, it's just a matter of if partners can secure a restock date to build confidence with retailers and distributors.
We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.