Reviewing the AMD R7 2700X was done outside of normal review provisions, as AMD didn’t sample us. We’ve had the parts for a month now, and that has meant following development, EFI updates, and more as they’ve been pushed. We have multiple chips of every variety, and have been able to cross-validate as the pre-launch cycle has iterated. Because of the density of data, we’re splitting our content into multiple videos and articles.

Today’s focus will be the AMD R7 2700X and R7 2700 reviews, especially for live streaming performance versus the i7-8700K, gaming performance, and production (Blender) performance. Most importantly, however, we dedicate time to talk about the significant improvements that AMD has made in the volt-frequency department. At a given frequency, e.g. 4.0GHz, Ryzen 2000 operates at a heavily reduced voltage versus Ryzen 1. We’ll dig into this further in this review, but check back later for our R5 2600X and 2600 reviews (combined in one piece), including 2600X vs. 8600K streaming benchmarks. We’re also looking at VRM thermals, motherboard PCBs and their VRM quality, memory overclocking and scalability (in this content), and more.

There is a lot of confusion about AMD’s branding – Zen 2 vs. Ryzen 2 vs. Zen+. We’re calling these CPUs “Ryzen 2,” because they’re literally called “Ryzen 2X00” CPUs. This is not the same as the Zen 2 architecture, which is not out yet.

Note: For overclocking, we only OC one CPU of each core count – so just the R7 2700X or R7 2700, but beyond validation of maximum frequency, there’s no need to OC both and run each through 20 hours of testing.

This week's hardware news recap primarily focuses on some GN-exclusive items pertaining to AMD's plans with system memory in the future, mostly looking toward DDR5 for CPUs and HBM integration with CPUs, creating "near memory" for future products. All of this, of course, is before the major Ryzen 2 review publication timelines on Thursday this week, 9AM Eastern, when you'll find still more CPU news to look over. Be sure to check back for that.

In the meantime, today's news covers memory stories, laptop updates, AMD staff changes, Spectre patches, and more.

AMD’s impending Ryzen 2 CPUs – not to be confused with Zen 2, the architecture – will launch on April 19, 9AM EST, and are preempted by yet another “unboxing embargo.” We’re not technically covered under these embargoes, as we’ve sourced parts externally and are operating independently for this launch. That said, as we’ve stated in a few places, we have decided to respect the embargo (although are under no obligation to do so) out of respect for our peers. This is also being done out of trust that AMD has rectified its preferential media treatment exhibited for Threadripper, as we were told the company would do.

Still, we wanted to share some preconditions we’re considering for test cases in our Ryzen 2 CPU reviews. Some of that will be covered here today, with most of the data being held for the April 19 embargo lift. We have been testing and iterating on tests for a few weeks now, updating EFI as new versions push and collecting historical data along the way.

The core specs – those regurgitated all over the internet, undoubtedly – will follow below.

The CPUs discussed today include (Amazon pre-order links below, although we never recommend pre-ordering PC hardware):

Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC is well-named: It’s either a reference to hell freezing over, as AMD and Intel worked together on a product, or a reference to the combined heat of Vega and an i7 in a box that’s 8.5” x 5.5” in size. Our review of Hades Canyon looks at overclocking potential, preempting something bigger, and benchmarks the combined i7 CPU and Vega M GPU for gaming and production performance. We’re also looking at thermal performance and noise, as usual. As a unit, it’s one of the smallest, most-powerful systems on the consumer market get right now. We’ll see if it’s worth it.

There are two primary SKUs for the Intel NUC on Newegg, both coming out on April 30th. The unit which most closely resembles ours is $1000, and includes the Intel i7-8809G with 8MB of cache and a limited-core Turbo up to 4.2GHz. The CPU is unlocked for overclocking. It’s coupled with an AMD Vega M GH GPU with 4GB of high-bandwidth memory, also overclockable, but does not include memory or an SSD. You’re on your own for those, as it’s effectively a barebones kit. If you buy straight from Intel’s SimplyNUC website, the NUC8i7HVK that we reviewed comes fully-configured for $1200, including 8GB of DDR4 and a 128GB SSD with Windows 10. Not unreasonable, really.

Intel has slowly been deploying mitigations for Spectre/Meltdown for recent platforms. In the most recent microcode revision guidance, Intel has indicated it will not deploy any microcode mitigations for the recently disclosed flaws for older processor platforms. Intel cited the following reasons:

Ask GN 75 is an excellent episode. We had great questions for this one, including discussion on X370 vs. X470 benchmarking for Ryzen 2000 series CPUs (e.g. R7 2700X, R5 2600X), which we’ll get in to more detail with in the near future. As noted in the episode, we’re technically not under embargo for the Ryzen 2 CPUs, but we’re planning to hold our review until embargo lift out of respect for AMD’s decision to stop giving special treatment to some media, for this round. That said, we still talk a bit about X370 vs. X470 benchmarking in the Ask GN episode.

The other excellent topic pertained to receiving review samples and balancing hardware criticism – basically behind-the-scenes politics. Find the episode below:

As we remarked back when we reviewed the i5-8400, launched on its lonesome and without low-end motherboard support, the Intel i5-8400 makes most sense when paired with B360 or H370 motherboards. Intel launched the i5-8400 and other non-K CPUs without that low-end chipset support, though, leaving only the Z370 enthusiast board on the frontlines with the locked CPUs.

When it comes to Intel chipset differences, the main point of comparison between B, H, and Z chipsets would be HSIO lanes – or high-speed I/O lanes. HSIO lanes are Intel-assigned per chipset, with each chipset receiving a different count of HSIO lanes. High-speed IO lanes can be assigned somewhat freely by the motherboard manufacturer, and are isolated from the graphics PCIe lanes that each CPU independently possesses. The HSIO lanes are as detailed below for the new 8th Generation Coffee Lake chipsets:

Intel has migrated its new i9 processor family to the portable market, or semi-portable, anyway. The i9-8950HK is an unlocked, overclockable 6C/12T laptop CPU, capable of turbo boosting to 4.8GHz when power and thermal budget permits.

The new i9-8950HK runs at a base clock of 2.9GHz, with single-core turbo boosting to 4.8GHz. We are unclear on what the all-core turbo boost max frequency is, but it’s clearly lower. TDP is rated at 45W, though note that this is more a measure of the cooling requirements and not the actual power consumption; that said, Intel’s TDP ratings almost always explicitly coincide with power consumption numbers. The 8950HK will move away from the quad-channel support of its desktop brethren, and instead move down to dual-channel memory at a base frequency of 2666MHz. Unlocked motherboards should theoretically permit higher memory speeds, though we are uncertain of the market options at this time.

Multi-core enhancement is an important topic that we’ve discussed before – right after the launch of the 8700K, most recently. It’ll become even more important over the next few weeks, and that’s for a few reasons: For one, Intel is launching its new B and H chipsets soon, and that’ll require some performance testing. For two, AMD is launching its Ryzen 2000 series chips on April 19th, and those will include XFR2. Some X470 motherboards, just like some X370 motherboards, have MCE equivalent options. For Intel and AMD both, enabling MCE means running outside of power specification, and therefore thermal spec of low-end coolers, and also running higher clocks than the stock configuration. The question is if any motherboard vendors enable MCE by default, or silently, because that’s where results can become muddy for buyers.

As noted, this topic is most immediately relevant for impending B & H series chipset testing – if recent leaks are to be believed, anyway. This is also relevant for upcoming Ryzen 2 CPUs, like the 2700X and kin, for their inclusion of XFR2 and similar boosting features. In today’s content, we’re revisiting MCE and Core Performance Boost on AMD CPUs, demonstrating the differences between them (and an issue with BIOS revision F2 on the Ultra Gaming).

This hardware news update looks into our original CTS Labs story, adding to the research by attempting to communicate with CTS Labs via their PR firm, Bevel PR. We also talk about leaked specifications for the R5 2600X, accidentally posted early to Amazon, and some other leaks on ASUS ROG X470 motherboards.

Minor news items include the loss of power at a Samsung plant, killing 60,000 wafers in the process, and nVidia’s real-time ray-tracing (RTX) demo from GDC.

Show notes below the video.

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