Titanfall's momentous beta launch didn't come without its share of issues -- which certainly doesn't do any favors for EA's reputation. Although the game is still presently in beta and many issues are excusable, the title will launch in a short number of weeks and should be going gold soon.
While we benchmarked Titanfall's PC performance to find the best video cards for the game last night, we ran into a number of screen tearing, stuttering, visual artifacting, V-Sync, mouse lag, black screen, and crash-to-desktop errors that we've attempted to resolve. Some were fixable, others... not so much.
It is very likely that many of these issues will be resolved permanently as driver manufacturers release updates for their devices and as Respawn releases Titanfall updates. In the meantime, though, here's what we do know.
NOTE: This has been updated with the launch version of the game!
During our hands-on press preview with Titanfall's PC deployment last night, we put the game through its paces on numerous GPU configurations atop our standardized test bench. Initial test attempts resulted in some frustration and hurdles, but with enough research and troubleshooting, we managed to develop a stable, reliable test bed for Titanfall's PC debut.
If you're yet unfamiliar with Titanfall, check out our (now-outdated) Titanfall Analysis.
In this Titanfall benchmark & analysis, we look at the best video cards for Titanfall, framerates (FPS), performance of APUs, SLI configs, & CrossFire, and more; the graphics devices we tested on Titanfall include AMD's 7850 1GB (+ CrossFire), the A10-5800K Trinity APU (7660D), NVIDIA's GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB (+ SLI), GTX 760 2GB, and GTX 580 1.5GB (for reference), and Intel's HD4000 integrated graphics processor (IGP) on the 3rd-Gen Ivy Bridge CPUs. This IGP is also found in modern Haswell CPUs.
Note: Titanfall is presently in early beta, so it is highly likely that these numbers will improve as the game nears launch and optimization patches are released. It is also likely that nVidia and AMD will release updated drivers with profiles for Titanfall shortly, at which point we will re-test the game appropriately.
AMD's R7 250 has had a boring life due to its relative uselessness when compared against slightly more expensive, significantly more powerful cards (see: GTX 650 Ti Boost, AMD 7850). AMD just announced their $100 R7 250X -- a step below the 260 (which is GCN 1.1-enabled and offers TrueAudio) and above the R7 250. It is equivalent to the Radeon 7770 in all aspects other than memory -- for which we are still awaiting information.
The new Radeon R7 250X runs on a GCN 1.0 Cape Verde GPU, meaning it lacks TrueAudio support (along with better CU optimization). It will likely ship with 1GB and 2GB SKUs in a GDDR5 configuration, though there is a possibility that AMD could ship the 2GB model in DDR3 configurations.
The new 250X will compete most directly vs. the already-uninteresting GTX 650, where gamers will see a slight FPS advantage in favor of the 250X at roughly the same price. For what it's worth, we're also expecting an nVidia GTX 750 Ti launch on February 18th.
With thanks to Antec, Cooler Master, and SilverStone, my boredom of closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) has subsided as more innovative designs have emerged. As we've discussed heavily before, a significant portion of the cooler industry goes through a single suppler: Asetek, who have a notoriously-long legal arm. Asetek's designs can be found most heavily used in NZXT and Corsair CLCs, and frankly, they're boring; they're rebadges with software options, in essence.
Antec's Kuhler H2O 1250 CLC blew away all other CLCs when we last tested a cooler, and now we're back to see if SilverStone can perform the same feat with their 240mm Tundra TD02 cooler. In this SilverStone Tundra TD02 benchmark and review, we'll look at the liquid cooler's installation, build quality, and thermal performance. This review will be a bit shorter than our previous CLC round-up and Antec 1250 review, as we've already covered many of the core cooling principles and can now focus purely on the unit.
Closed-loop liquid coolers first hit the market a few years ago, instantly becoming "the thing" to have; it was an easy solution for users who wanted to lay claim to liquid cooling, but didn't necessarily have funding / ability for an open loop system.
As these coolers emerged, it rapidly became evident that simply being a liquid cooler didn't make it inherently better than air. A solid, entry-level air cooler (like the AR01 or Hyper 212) will often out-endure and perform equally to a low-end liquid cooling solution. Just as with other aspects of hardware (a cheap Z87 board vs. an expensive H87 board, for instance), just because it's theoretically more advanced in one aspect, that doesn't mean the performance will outmatch a less technologically advanced product that employs higher-quality engineering. A tuned sleeper can blow past a high-end stock car, if we were to make analogous comparisons.
After our coverage of nVidia's GTX 780 Ti -- a $700 enthusiasts-only monster -- we turn now to AMD for a reality-check. For nearly a full year now, we've been recommending AMD's 7850 and nVidia's GTX 650 Ti Boost in the low-end, and given all the shifting of the high-end market, those suggestions have remained stable. We won't see nVidia's entry-level cards until next year, but AMD isn't waiting around: they've announced the R9 270, a card that aims to compete with existing mid-range cards at a significantly lower price-point.
We'll cover the AMD R9 270 specs, price, and preliminary benchmarks against the 7850 and GTX 760 below; new information on the Never Settle Bundle is also included.
Our history of working with SilverStone has been relatively limited, but we've always walked away impressed. This first happened with the SG08, then again with the Raven RV02 -- which now sits firmly at the top of our thermal bench for enclosures. In talking with the company, we've found that they feel incredibly confident in their products' performance and—while that's not uncommon in PR—they haven't been wrong yet. I can respect that.
The Argon AR01 cooler is another example of this: Having recently re-benched all our coolers on the 2013 GN Test Bench, SilverStone was eager to assert their dominance among air coolers. There are a few different models of the new Argon cooler, each purpose-built for different socket-types (and thus CPU sizes); the advantage to this is that—rather than ship a "one size fits all" unit, like the Hyper 212 or Respire T40—users can achieve peak thermal dissipation with optimized coldplate positioning.
Let's specifically look at Intel for demonstrative purposes: If you're not aware, the number accompanying LGA sockets is the pin-count for the socket. IB LGA1155 has 1155 pins that connect the socket and the CPU, SB-E LGA2011 has 2011 pins, and so on. As you can imagine, the physical substrate dimensions are dictated by the number of pins; this also tends to trend with more powerful (X-class) CPUs, which occupy their substrate with physically-larger silicon dies.
Its knee-high, monolithic stature almost resembles what you'd find in a server farm: Wide, imposing, and externally simple. NZXT's H630 was slowly leaked via a drawn-out, week-long marketing campaign, towing behind it a website revamp and the Sentry Mix 2; with all the fanfare reinforcing the H630's launch, NZXT puts itself in the vulnerable position of living up to hype. Let's see if they do.
This NZXT H630 silent gaming / PC case review looks at its benchmark performance, additional fans, specs, build quality, and briefly skims over noise level. We also tested multiple add-on fan configurations within the case, ideally helping interested buyers to determine the optimal fan configuration.
As with any modernized adaptation of an existing technology, closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) have become almost fad-like in their adoption. In part, this is because CLCs actually do have very legitimate advantages over traditional air coolers - they are highly noise-to-temperature efficient, for one thing, and have an aesthetic appeal for some users. The other part of this liquid cooling craze, though, I believe is attributable to a general doting of something new.
The thing is, not every liquid cooler is going to be inherently better than similarly-priced air coolers. Just having liquid in tubes (rather than copper-encased capillaries) does not make the units predisposed to superior cooling qualities; this said, a well-constructed liquid-cooling solution can certainly trounce a well-constructed air cooling solution -- it just comes down to the engineering in each product and consideration of other differences (noise). There's a reason we use radiators for large, hot things (cars, for one) in tandem with traditional air-cooling engineering (also found in car cooling systems in the form of air intakes, copper/aluminum sinks, etc.): Both have their place for optimizing maximized potential for thermal dissipation.
As I've explained innumerable times this past month, the overwrought enthusiast market has clambered over itself with new hardware for 2013. It's really quite unbelievable: As the mainstream desktop market wanes—due to many factors, like prolonged usable system lifespan and minimized consumer interest—the enthusiast and gaming markets have picked up competitive interest among manufacturers. There's suddenly a much greater incentive to establish and maintain a foothold in enthusiast computing, making for undeniably excellent news for our readers; today's case review of NZXT's Phantom 630 is a testament to that, given its swath of features for a previously unachievable price-point. We originally previewed the Phantom 630 at CES, found here.
This is also evident in other recent cases we've reviewed (or intend to review), like the upcoming Throne, Corsair's 900D (which looks amazing, by the way), SilverStone's entire line-up, and the far more affordable RAIDMAX Cobra and Armor Evolution. Quite simply put, we're seeing more features, more efficiency, and better performance at a lower cost to the consumer -- or as it's affectionately known, competition at its finest.
NZXT's Phantom 630 is the next to be reviewed & benchmarked, a particularly interesting case for its appeal to more budget-conscious gaming hardware enthusiasts. The price scale for gaming enclosures is an interesting one -- it's very heavy in the mid-range (~$100 sector) and top-end, but lightens up toward the bottom of the scale ($50~$70). The Phantom 630 is targeted at around $180, placing it firmly between mid-range full towers and hardcore enthusiast systems (like the Phantom 820 we reviewed, which was $250ish).
As always, let's start with the video review component and the hard specs.
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