Our leading story for this week is AMD's semi-custom Gonzalo APU for consoles, getting finalized now, although we also share some of that lead-story limelight with Der8auer. Der8auer, the world's favorite delidder and second favorite overclocker (we won't say who's first) has handily beaten our high score in the 3DMark Hall of Fame, and we now must respond to his challenge.
Plenty of other news for the week, too, like Intel's new Optane SSDs, IDC and Gartner reporting on CPU shortages, and the Spoiler exploit.
We had an opportunity to disassemble multiple EVGA RTX video cards, including the EVGA RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti, the latter featuring assistance from Der8auer of Caseking’s booth. Our coverage is still going live as we edit, render, and upload, but the immediate news item pertains to die size.
As a quick heads-up, just before getting started, we will be streaming our 8086K overclocking efforts live at 6PM EST on Wednesday, 7/11. It’ll stream to our YouTube channel directly.
Major news for this week consists of Taiwanese manufacturing company trade secrets being stolen, representing one of the most egregious cases of corporate espionage in the tech industry. We also talk about DIY CPU soldering, passive cooling, and scientific advancements in cooling materials.
Show notes below the video, as always.
Computex 2018 saw the unveil of pro overclocker Der8auer’s phase-change cooling solution, called the Phase-Shift Cooler, using a similar solution to 3M Novec. Novec coolant has been demonstrated before (and was again at Computex) for its low boiling point and ability to cool a system using “only” a condenser and coolant, but is on the restricted substances list in the EU for containing PFCs. This eliminates 3M Novec from the list of products available for consumer retail, and forced Der8auer and Caseking to find another solution. The pair did find another liquid with a low boiling point, but did not share with GamersNexus the specs of the liquid. Regardless, it’s the same idea.
For Der8auer’s Phase-Shift Cooler, about 40ml of liquid sits in a CPU block, attached via (presently) a large hose to a condenser and tank. Atop a 7920X with Prime95 running, roughly creating about a 140W heat load, the coolant evaporates and drafts up the pipe as a gas. As the gas hits the tank, it encounters the condensers and gets cooled by a pair of copper heatsinks and 90mm fans. Once condensation forms, it slowly drips back down the tube and returns to the block.
For our 2700/2700X review, we wanted to see how Ryzen 2’s volt-frequency performance compared to Ryzen 1. We took our Ryzen 7 2700X and an R7 1700 and clocked them both to 4GHz, and then found the lowest possible voltage that would allow them to survive stress tests in Blender and Prime95. Full results are included in that review, but the most important point was this: the 1700 needed at least 1.425v to maintain stability, while the 2700X required only 1.162v (value reported by HWiNFO, not what was set in BIOS).
This drew our attention, because we already knew that our 2700X could barely manage 4.2GHz at >1.425v. In other words, a 5% increase in frequency from 4 to 4.2GHz required a 22.6% increase in reported voltage.
Frequency in Ryzen 2 has started to behave like GPU Boost 3.0, where temperature, power consumption, and voltage heavily impact boosting behavior when left unmanaged. Our initial experience with Ryzen 2 led us to believe that a volt-frequency curve would look almost exponential, like the one on the screen now. That was our hypothesis. To be clear, we can push frequency higher with reference clock increases to 102 or 103MHz and can then sustain 4.2GHz at lower voltages, or even 4.25GHz and up, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to plot a volt-frequency curve with just multiplier and voltage modifications. We typically run out of thermal headroom before we run out of safe voltage headroom, but if voltage increases exponentially, that will quickly become a problem.
We covered Lian Li’s O11 Dynamic at CES earlier this year. It’s related to the older PC-O11 model, but this new version was designed in collaboration with professional overclocker Der8auer, whom we’ve interviewed several times. It’s obvious that he knows how important good cooling is, and his delidding tools make it clear that he wouldn’t carelessly put his name on a low quality product, so we were very interested in getting our hands on one of these cases for review.
Lian Li also has a reputation, and it doesn’t involve making enclosures that are normal looking or affordable by mortals. They took a step away from that reputation with the Alpha 550X and 330, cases that at least approach a competitive price. The O11 Dynamic goes a step further, with the Newegg pre-order price set at an affordable $100, or $130 by the time this is published.
Our Lian Li O11 Dynamic review precedes the inevitable O11 Air review, which is due for a release date in May or June. The O11 Dynamic will begin shipping immediately, and is targeted more for liquid cooling enthusiasts than air-cooled builds -- but you could still buy fans, obviously, and air cool the O11 Dynamic.
Overclocking engineer "Der8auer" has come out with his newest product: The Skylake-X Direct Die Frame cooling bracket. The bracket is intended to replace the ILM (independent loading mechanism) on the motherboard, used to act as a shim between a delidded CPU and a cooler. The goal is to not only delid the CPU and replace the compound, but also completely eliminate the heatspreader. Traditionally, the IHS would be kept post-delid, just with better compound and with removal of the silicone adhesive. In this application, you would delid the CPU, refresh the compound, remove the adhesive, and leave the IHS off, then mount it in the Skylake-X direct die bracket.
Some of our recent delid-focused content, "What We've Learned Delidding Intel CPUs," has highlighted that a light silicone adhesive seal vs. no seal vs. heavy seal can have significant impact on cooling. Heavy seals, for instance, can easily result in worse performance than stock -- even with liquid metal. We recommend not resealing the IHS at all and just allowing the cooler to retain the IHS, but a seal is sometimes needed. Shipping is a good example of this.
Just a quick update for everyone: We've got a major feature -- an end-of-year special that includes a short film (something we've never done before) -- going up tomorrow at around 9AM EST. That'll be sort of an end-of-year recap of a few key components, primarily those that disappointed us.
In the meantime, while we were playing one-day roles of directors and cinematographers, we've set to work on delidding another 7980XE. This will be our third delid of the 18C CPU, with another ~4~5 delids of lower-end CPUs from the past few months. Our previous delid was for Kyle of "Bitwit," which later led to our Intel X299 VRM thermal investigation of the ASUS Rampage VI Extreme motherboard's VRM temperatures. It was an excellent opportunity for us to explore potential sideshoot content pieces in more depth, and gave us multiple samples to build a larger sample size.
We're now up to 3x 18C CPUs delidded, and are collecting data on the latest for Ed from Tech Source. The delid just completed, and we're now in the resealing stage.
Running through the entire Skylake X lineup with TIM vs. liquid metal benchmarking means we’ve picked-up some very product-specific experience. Skylake X has a unique substrate composition wherein the upper substrate houses the silicon and some SMDs, with the lower substrate hosting the pads and some traces. This makes delidding unique as well, made easier with Der8auer’s Delide DieMate X (available in the US soon). This tutorial shows how to delid Intel Skylake X CPUs using the DieMate X, then how to apply liquid metal. We won't be covering re-sealing today.
Still, given the $1000-$2000 cost with these CPUs, an error is an expensive one. We’ve put together a tutorial on the delid and liquid metal application process.
Disclaimer: This is done entirely at your own risk. You assume all responsibility for any damage done to CPUs. We will do our best to detail this process so that you can safely follow our steps, and following carefully will minimize risk. Ultimately, the risk exists primarily in (1) applying too much force or failing to level the CPU, both easily solved, or (2) applying liquid metal in a way that shorts components.
There are many reasons that Intel may have opted for TIM with their CPUs, and given that the company hasn’t offered a statement of substance, we really have no exact idea of why different materials are selected. Using TIM could be a matter of cost – as seems to be the default assumption – and spend, it could be an undisclosed engineering challenge to do with yields (with solder), it could be for government or legal grants pertaining to environmental conscientiousness, or related to conflict-free advertisements, or any number of other things. We don’t know. What we do know, and what we can test, is the efficacy of the TIM as opposed to alternatives. Intel’s statement pertaining to usage of TIM on HEDT (or any) CPUs effectively paraphrases as “as this relates to manufacturing process, we do not discuss it.” Intel sees this as a proprietary process, and so the subject matter is sensitive to share.
With an i7-7700K, TIM is perhaps more defensible – it’s certainly cheaper, and that’s a cheaper part. Once we start looking at the 7900X and other CPUs of a similar class, the ability to argue in favor of Dow Corning’s TIM weakens. To the credit of both Intel and Dow Corning, the TIM selected is highly durable to thermal cycling – it’ll last a long time, won’t need replacement, and shouldn’t exhibit any serious cracking or aging issues in any meaningful amount of time. The usable life of the platform will expire prior to the CPU’s operability, in essence.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t better solutions. Intel has used solder before – there’s precedent for it – and certainly there exist thermal solutions with greater transfer capabilities than what’s used on most of Intel’s CPUs.
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