Having reviewed over a dozen CPUs this year, it’s time to round-up the Best of 2019 with the first instalment of our annual GN Awards show. In this series, we’ll pick the best products for categories like performance, overall quality, gaming, overclocking, and more. Our goal today is to help you parse the best CPUs in each category so that you can pick the right parts for PC build purchases during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday sales.
At the end of this content, one of the two companies will walk away with a GN Award Crystal for its efforts this year. Our award crystals are 3D laser-engraved glass cubes that feature a GN tear-down logo, replete with easter eggs like MOSFETs, inductors, VRMs, PCIe slots, fans, and even screws, all in 3D.
One of the busiest weeks of the year is fast approaching: We'll soon be dealing with Threadripper 3 reviews and Intel i9-10980XE reviews, alongside the usual year-end content. In the interim, we've still got hardware news to cover, including this week's collection of industry and release topics for Intel, AMD, Crytek, Backblaze, and Corsair.
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The Threadripper line launched back in 2017, landing between the brand new and impressive Ryzen desktop chips and the extra high core count Epyc server CPUs. This launch lineup included the 8C/16T 1900X, the 12C/24T 1920X, and the 16C/32T 1950X. These were production-targeted CPUs (even more so than the main Ryzen line), best suited to individuals or small businesses doing rendering or heavily multithreaded tasks that didn’t merit a full Epyc server system. The 1920X launched at $800, but two years later it can be found on Amazon for 1/4th of that price. Today we’re going to figure out whether it’s worth even that.
We’ve picked several $200-ish CPUs to compare. The main competitor we’re considering is AMD’s own R5 3600, a chip with half the cores and half the threads. The newest Intel part we have that’s close to $200 is the 9600K, but it’s currently $240 on Amazon and therefore isn’t really a fair comparison. The i5-9400 is $200 new on Amazon and Newegg, but we don’t own one--we haven’t tested something that low on the Intel product stack since the slightly lower-spec i5-8400, so we’ll be using that as a stand-in, with the caveat that the 9400 would perform slightly better. Used and outdated PC hardware is almost always seriously overpriced and the 12C/24T Xeon E5-2697 v2 is no exception, but since it’s almost down to $200 on ebay and has the same core/thread count as the 1920X, we’ll also consider it.
Inspired by megastore compatriot Walmart, it seems Aldi now wants to sell a gaming PC to you alongside your groceries. Assuredly similar in spec, this week's news round-up also talks about the Archer 2 Supercomputer, which is probably equivalent to a few hundred thousand Aldi gaming computers. The Archer 2 will leverage about 748,000 cores built atop the Epyc processor lineup from AMD. More mainstream desktop-oriented news includes Intel's i3 chips potentially becoming more similar to i7s going forward, and PCIe Gen6 looking toward 2021.
Thermal Design Power, or TDP, is a term used by AMD and Intel to refer in an extremely broad sense to the rate at which a CPU cooler must dissipate heat from the chip to allow it to perform as advertised. Sort of. Depending on the specific formula and product, this number often ends up a combination of science-y variables and voodoo mysticism, ultimately culminating in a figure that’s used to beat-down forum users over which processor has a lower advertised “TDP”. With the push of Ryzen 3000, we’re focusing today on how AMD defines TDP and what its formula actually breaks into, and how that differs from the way cooler manufacturers define it. Buying a 95W TDP processor and a 95W TDP CPU cooler doesn’t mean they’re perfectly matched, and TDP is a much looser calculation than most would expect. There’s also contention between cooler manufacturers and CPU manufacturers over how this should be accurately calculated versus calculated for marketing, something we’ll explore in today’s content.
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News this week talks about a few product launches -- some not coming to the West -- and new tech demos for PCIe Generation 5 and CXL. We also cover Intel's ongoing battles with marketing, the Threadripper 3 rumors of incompatibility with X399, and advancements in reverse-engineering silicon products.
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The biggest news item this week came in the final hour of filming our weekly news show, and that's the Rockstar Games Red Dead Redemption 2 release for PC. It was a surprise announcement from Rockstar, but we now have a release date, information on updated graphics, and an eclectic mix of launch platforms listed for the PC launch of Red Dead 2. Additional news includes the ongoing lawsuit and countersuit between TSMC and GlobalFoundries, information on the Ryzen Surface products, Intel's X-series Cascade Lake pricing, Ryzen Pro 3000 CPUs, and the FCC's net neutrality rulings.
Hardware news headlines with some AMD 65W TDP parts whose specs were leaked to us in what appear to be official AMD documents, although we also have coverage of Intel's potential for another 14nm shortage, China's entrance into the DRAM market, and more. The DRAM market story is an interesting one, as the three incumbent players -- SK Hynix, Samsung, and Micron -- control functionally 100% of the market, with no new competition for a long time now. Memory supply is also rife with accusations of intellectual property theft and corporate espionage, something not likely to stop anytime soon.
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Hardware news headlines with AMD's delay of the 3950X and the 7nm shortage that TSMC is experiencing. The shortage, it seems, is one of those "good problems" to have -- TSMC's 7nm process is so popular that it's struggling to keep up with demand, and so the fab is working to increase wafer output. Separately, news talks issues with iCUE software causing impact to FPS, somewhat unsurprisingly, in coincidental timing with the 465X iCUE launch.
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Other than announcing our upcoming collaborative stream with overclocker Joe Stepongzi (Bearded Hardware), we're also talking Threadripper specification leaks, 6000MHz memory overclocking, RDNA 2 and Zen 3 roadmap information, and smaller items. For us, though, we're excited to announce that we're streaming some liquid nitrogen extreme overclocks with AMD parts this weekend. We haven't run both the 5700 XT and 3900X under liquid nitrogen at the same time, so we'll be doing that on Sunday (9/15) at 1PM Eastern Time (NYC time). On Saturday (9/14), we'll be streaming the efforts to overclock just the 3900X under liquid nitrogen. Joe Stepongzi, pro overclocker with a decade of experience in the 'sport,' will be joining us to help run the show.
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