In a world of tempered glass, LEDs, and gimmicks, it’s pretty rare that we come across a fully spartan product that focuses on performance. EVGA has filled that market segment with its DARK series motherboards, named at least partially for their lack of LEDs, and its coolers have traditionally been more price/performance focused than looks-oriented. The CLC series does have a couple RGB LEDs, but only enough to tick the marketing boxes. For the rest, the coolers are aimed at hitting a price/performance mix for the best value. Today, we’re reviewing EVGA’s new CLC 360 liquid cooler to see if it hits the mark.

EVGA’s CLC 360 should be priced about $150 on average, which puts it close to competition like the NZXT Kraken X62, Corsair H150i Pro, and some Deepcool Castle models. EVGA’s CLC 360 uses an Asetek pump at its core and is Asetek-supplied, with the usual customizations on top. As typical, these coolers are primarily differentiated by price, fan choice, and maybe warranty, with some further deviation from the supply by way of LEDs. EVGA has gone relatively spartan with LEDs and looks, instead prioritizing the focus on price and performance balance. With an Asetek Gen5 pump, we’re staying on the plastic three-pronged impeller rather than the newer metal impellers, but performance is overall unchanged between Gen5 and Gen6 – the differences are mostly in focus on reduction of permeation in the tubes.

Hardware news for this week is a bit sluggish, with Amazon’s Prime Day -- and the ensuing unrepentant consumerism -- seeming to occupy more than its share of headlines this week. Still, we’ve curated some of the more interesting stories including the latest report from Digitimes and an elucidating interview where Intel CEO Robert Swan cites being “too aggressive” as a key factor in Intel’s CPU shortage. Other topics include information on AMD’s Arcturus GPUs and what form they could take, a Toshiba Memory rebrand, and NZXT adding to its pre-built machines catalog. 

In recent GN news, we’ve delved ever further into Ryzen 3000 and the Zen 2 architecture, including a deep dive into AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive algorithm, looking at how Ryzen 3000 frequencies scale with temperature, and our R9 3900X overclocking stream.

We’re still in China for our factory and lab tours, but we managed to coordinate with home base to get enough testing on the GTX 1660 done that a review became possible. Patrick ran the tests this time, then we just put the charts and script together from Dongguan, China.

This is a partner launch, so no NVIDIA direct sampling was done and, to our knowledge, no Founders Edition board will exist. Reference PCBs will exist, as always, but partners have control over most of the cooler design for this launch.

Our review will look at the EVGA GTX 1660 dual-fan model, which has an MSRP of $250 and lands $30 cheaper than the baseline GTX 1660 Ti pricing. The cheapest GTX 1660s will sell for about $220, but our $250 unit today has a higher power target allowance for overclocking and a better cooler. The higher power target is the most interesting, as overclocking performance can stretch upwards toward a GTX 1660 Ti at the $280 price-point.

We’ll get straight to the review today. Our focus will be on games, with some additional thermal and power tests toward the end. Again, as a reminder, we’re doing this remotely, so we don’t have as many non-gaming charts as normally, but we still have a complete review.

EVGA’s RTX 2070 XC Ultra gave us an opportunity to compare the differences between NVIDIA’s varied RTX 2070 SKUs, including a low-end TU106-400 and a higher-end TU106-400A. The difference between these, we’ve learned, is one of pre-selection for ability to attain higher clocks. The XC Ultra runs significantly higher under Boost behavior than the 2070 Black does, which means that there’s now more to consider in the $70 price gap between the cards than just the cooler. This appears to be one of the tools available to board partners so that they can reach the $500 MSRP floor, but there is a performance cost as a result. With Pascal, the performance cost effectively boiled-down to one predicated on thermal and power headroom, but not necessarily chip quality. Turing is different, and chip quality is now a potential limiter.

In this review of the EVGA RTX 2070 XC Ultra, we’ll also be discussing performance variability between the two 2070 GPU SKUs. These theories should extrapolate out to other NVIDIA cards with these sub-GPU options. Note that we are just going to focus on the 2070s today. If you want to see how we compare the 2070’s value versus Vega or Pascal, check our 2070 review and Vega 56 power mod content pieces.

The real discussion is going to be in overclocking and thermals, as gaming performance typically isn’t too varied intra-GPU. That said, the GPU changes between these two (technically), so that’ll make for an interesting data point.

We previously deep-dived on MCE (Multi-Core Enhancement) practices with the 8700K, revealing the performance variance that can occur when motherboard makers “cheat” results by boosting CPUs out of spec. MCE has become less of a problem with Z390 – namely because it is now disabled by default on all boards we’ve tested – but boosted BCLKs are the new issue.

If you think Cinebench is a reliable benchmark, we’ve got a histogram of all of our test results for the Intel i9-9900K at presumably stock settings:

1 z390 motherboard differences cinebench histogram

(Yes, the scale starts at non-0 -- given a range of results of 1976 to 2300, we had to zoom-in on the axis for a better histogram view)

The scale is shrunken and non-0 as the results are so tightly clustered, but you can still see that we’re ranging from 1970 cb marks to 2300 cb marks, which is a massive range. That’s the difference between a heavily overclocked R7 2700 and an overclocked 7900X, except this is all on a single CPU. The only difference is that we used 5 different motherboards for these tests, along with a mix of auto, XMP, and MCE settings. The discussion today focuses on when it is considered “cheating” to modify CPU settings via BIOS without the user’s awareness of those changes. The most common change is to the base clock, where BIOS might report a value of 100.00, but actually produce a value of 100.8 or 100.9 on the CPU. This functionally pre-overclocks it, but does so in a way that is hard for most users to ever notice.

After the post-apocalyptic hellscape that was the RTX 2080 launch, NVIDIA is following it up with lessons learned for the RTX 2070 launch. By and large, technical media took issue with the 2080’s price hike without proper introduction to its namesake feature—that’d be “RTX”—which is still unused on the 2070. This time, however, the RTX 2070 launches at a much more tenable price of $500 to $600, putting it at rough price parity with the GTX 1080 hanger-on stock. It becomes easier to overlook missing features (provided the buyer isn’t purchasing for those features) when price and performance parity are achieved with existing products and rendering techniques. This is what the RTX 2070 looks forward to most.

Our EVGA RTX 2070 Black review will focus on gaming benchmarks vs. the GTX 1070, GTX 970, Vega 64, and other cards, as well as in-depth thermal testing and noise testing. We will not be recapping architecture in this content; instead, we recommend you check out our Turing architecture deep-dive from the RTX 2080 launch.

We're ramping into GPU testing hard this week, with many tests and plans in the pipe for the impending and now-obvious RTX launch. As we ramp those tests, and continue publishing our various liquid metal tests (corrosion and aging tests), we're still working on following hardware news in the industry.

This week's round-up includes a video-only inclusion of the EVGA iCX2 mislabeling discussion that popped-up on reddit (links are still below), with written summaries of IP theft and breach of trust affecting the silicon manufacturing business, "GTX" 2060 theories, the RTX Hydro Copper and Hybrid cards, Intel's 14nm shortage, and more.

We visited EVGA’s suite for a look at the new OC Robot and built-in BIOS stress testing update for the X299 Dark motherboards. For the new X299 Micro 2 motherboard, we also learned the following of the VRM spec:

  • VCCIN : IR35201(Controller1 - 5PH double to 10PH) + IR3556 x10
  • VSA+VCCIO : IR35204(Controller2 - 1+1PH) + IR3556 (1+1)
  • VSM+VPP_C01 : IR35204(Controller3 - 1+1PH) + TDA88240 (1+1)
  • VSM+VPP_C23 : IR35204(Controller4 - 1+1PH) + TDA88240 (1+1)

At EVGA’s headquarters in New Taipei City, Taiwan, GamersNexus received a hands-on overview of the company’s new semi-closed loop liquid nitrogen cooling setup. The setup was created by K|NGP|N and TiN, both of whom work in the Taiwan office, to increase overclocking efficiency and reduce LN2 usage to only necessary quantities. Typically, extreme overclocking involves manual pouring of liquid nitrogen (LN2) from a thermos, which the overclocker can either manually refill from the LN2 tanks or can refill from the exhaust. With this new system, K|NGP|N is able to circulate LN2 based upon software input of desired temperatures, with used LN2 getting pushed through a series of flexible steel tubing and out of an exit manifold. The result yields somewhat reusable LN2 and eliminates the hands-on thermos pouring element of XOCing, allowing overclockers to focus on the result and tuning. Theoretically, you could run off of large LN2 tanks (~180L) at conservative temperatures for weeks on end, then swap tanks and use the collected “runoff.”

Recapping our previous X299 VRM thermal coverage, we found the ASUS X299 Rampage Extreme motherboard to operate against its throttle point when pushing higher overclocks (>4GHz) on the i9-7980XE CPU. The conclusion of that content was, ultimately, that ASUS wasn’t necessarily at fault, but that we must ask whether it is reasonable to assume such a board can take the 500-600W throughput of an overclocked 7980XE CPU. EVGA has now arrived on the scene with its X299 DARK motherboard, which is seemingly the first motherboard of this year to use a fully finned VRM heatsink in a non-WS board. Our EVGA X299 DARK review will initially look at temperatures and VRM throttling on the board, and ultimately look into how much the heatsink design impacts performance.

EVGA went crazy with its X299 DARK motherboard. The craziest thing they did, evidently, was add a real heatsink to it: The heatsink has actual fins, through which a heatpipe routes toward the IO and into another large aluminum block, which is decidedly less finned. The tiny fans on top of the board look a little silly, but we also found them to be unnecessary in most use cases: Just having a real heatsink gets the board far enough, it turns out, and the brilliance of the PCH fan is that it pushes air through M.2 slots and the heatsink near the IO.

EVGA’s X299 DARK motherboard uses some brilliant designs, but also stuff that’s pretty basic. A heatsink with fins, for one, is about as obvious as it gets: More surface area means more spread of heat, and also means fans can more readily dissipate that heat. The extra four phases on the motherboard further support EVGA in dissipating heat over a wider area. EVGA individually places thermal pads on each MOSFET rather than use a large strip, which is mostly just good attention to detail; theoretically, this does improve the cooling performance, but it is not necessarily measurable. Two fans sit atop the heatsink and run upwards of 10,000RPM, with a third, larger fan located over the PCH. The PCH only consumes a few watts and has no need for active cooling, but the fan is located in such a way that (A) it’s larger, and therefore quieter and more effective, and (B) it can push air down the M.2 chamber for active cooling, then force that air into the IO shroud. A second half of the VRM heatsink (connected via heatpipe to the finned sink) is hidden under the shroud, through which the airflow from the PCH fan may flow. That’s exhausted out of the IO shield. Making a 90-degree turn does mean losing about 30% pressure, and the heatsink is far away from the PCH, but it’s enough to get heat out of the hotbox that the shroud creates.

Here's an example of what clock throttling looks like when encountering VRM temperature limits, as demonstrated in our Rampage VI Extreme content:

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