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:

Having gone over the best CPUs, cases, some motherboards, and soon coolers, we’re now looking at the best GTX 1080 Tis of the year. Contrary to popular belief, the model of cooler does actually matter for video cards. We’ll be going through thermal and noise data for a few of the 1080 Tis we’ve tested this year, including MOSFET, VRAM, and GPU temperatures, noise-normalized performance at 40dBA, and the PCB and VRM quality. As always with these guides, you can find links to all products discussed in the description below.

Rounding-up the GTX 1080 Tis means that we’re primarily going to be focused on cooler and PCB build quality: Noise, noise-normalized thermals, thermals, and VRM design are the forefront of competition among same-GPU parts. Ultimately, as far as gaming and overclocking performance, much of that is going to be dictated by silicon-level quality variance, and that’s nearly random. For that reason, we must differentiate board partner GPUs with thermals, noise, and potential for low-thermal overclocking (quality VRMs).

Today, we’re rounding-up the best GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards that we’ve reviewed this year, including categories of Best Overall, Best for Modding, Best Value, Best Technology, and Best PCB. Gaming performance is functionally the same on all of them, as silicon variance is the larger dictator of performance, with thermals being the next governor of performance; after all, a Pascal GPU under 60C is a higher-clocked, happier Pascal GPU, and that’ll lead framerate more than advertised clocks will.

There aren’t many ways for cooling manufacturers to differentiate atop of a supplier’s product, like the Asetek Gen5 pumps, but you’d be surprised at how much goes into them behind the scenes. NZXT was the first manufacturer permitted to build a fully custom and complex PCB for its RGB-illuminated Kraken coolers, followed-up in short order by EVGA, who dropped the price significantly for the same-size radiators. We’re reviewing the new EVGA CLC 240 today, following-up our previous (positive) CLC 280 and (negative) CLC 120 reviews.

Although they’re all ultimately Asetek products, the EVGA CLC series has thus far competed well with the NZXT Kraken and Corsair H-series coolers. EVGA aimed to strike a balance between the higher-cost features of the Kraken coolers (like manufacturer-customized lighting) and the more function-focused Corsair H-series coolers. The effort yielded ~$130 280mm closed-loop liquid coolers, coming in below the $150-$160 Kraken X52/X62 units and around the H115i (presently $140).

We generally liked the price:performance positioning of the CLC 280 unit, but found the CLC 120 nearly impossible to justify. The 120 wasn’t a far step from good 240mm coolers, like the H100i V2, but EVGA only recently began shipping CLC 240 units.

This week's hardware news recap includes some follow-up discussion from our Intel i7-8700K review, primarily focused on addressing incorrect references of thermal testing cross-review/cross-reviewer. We also talk Coffee Lake availability and pricing, as it was unknown at time of finalizing the review, and dive into some of the new Z370 motherboards. EVGA's Z370 FTW and Classified K have both been announced (and we followed-up with EVGA to get pricing information), alongside a new Micro board in Z370 format.

Beyond this, we've got the usual listing of new product announcements and industry news, including USB3.2's specification, headless video cards, Star Citizen 3.0 alpha pushed to Evocati, and AIM's death.

Taking apart EVGA's GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 Hybrid isn't too different from the process for all the company's other cards: Two types of Phillips head screws are used in abundance for the backplate, the removal of which effectively dismantles the entire card. Wider-thread screws are used for the shroud, with thinner screws used for areas where the backplate is secured to front-side heatsinks (rather than the plastic shroud).

That's what we did when we got back from our PAX trip -- we dismantled the FTW3 Hybrid. We don't have any immediate plans to review this card, particularly since its conclusions -- aside from thermals -- will be the same as our FTW3 review, but we wanted to at least have a look at the design.

EVGA’s booth was among the few hardware exhibitors carrying new product at PAX West. The company’s DG-7 series is finally nearing completion, now going on a year of press coverage, and has one final round of showings prior to a November launch. With that final round, EVGA has begun showing white and white/black two-tone versions of the high-end DG-77. The tooling is the same, it’s just a matter of color preference.

The DG-77 was on show again at PAX West, now in white, and included some semi-finalized specifications for November launch. The DG-77 should likely include four fans – we’re not sure on sizes, but probably 120mm – with support for 280mm front radiators (potentially up to 360mm, unconfirmed) and 240mm top radiators. A single rear exhaust port is also available at 120mm, and likely will be populated stock. The case market is competitive enough right now to demand a $100-$130 price range on the enclosure, but EVGA hasn’t finalized pricing just yet.

Although it may feel like one GTX 1080 Ti isn’t too different from the next, that’s only “true” when comparing the least meaningful metric: Framerate. Once we’ve established a baseline framerate for the actual GPU – that is, GP102 – there’s not going to be a whole lot of difference between most partner cards. The difference is in thermals and noise, and most people don’t go too in-depth on either subject. For our testing, we look at thermal performance on various board components (not just the GPU), we look at noise, and we look at noise-normalized thermal performance (every card at 40dBA) for cooling efficiency testing.

EVGA’s SC2 Hybrid is an SC2 in every aspect except for cooling. The PCB is the same, the clocks are the same, and so the gaming performance is the same. For this reason alone, there’s no point to testing FPS. If framerates are all you care about, check our SC2 review.

This year’s Computex featured the usual mix of concept and prototype cases, some of which will never make it to market (or some which will be several thousand dollars, like the WinBot). We particularly liked the “Wheel of Star” mod at Cooler Master, the “Floating” from In Win, Level 20 from Thermaltake, and Concept Slate from Corsair – but none of those are really meant to be bought in large quantities. This round-up looks at the best cases of Computex that are in the category of being purchasable, keeping cost below $400. We’ll be looking primarily at ATX form factor cases, with one Micro-STX co-star, with a few “needs work” members in the mix.

This case round-up won’t include everything we saw at the show and will exclude the more exotic cases, like the Concept Slate and the In Win WinBot, but still has plenty to get through. Before getting started, here’s a list of the relevant coverage of individual products and booths that are discussed herein:

We attended EVGA’s Press Day in Taipei before the start of Computex, where we tore down the new Kingpin 1080 Ti card and spoke with engineering staff about power design. EVGA showcased a number of other items too, including the DG-70 line of cases, a new mechanical keyboard, and EVGA’s new SC15 laptop.

The new ATX mid-tower cases are the DG-73, DG-75, and DG-76, all of which use the same tooling (from what we’ve seen thus far), meaning the differences are largely cosmetic. The DG-73 will be the most budget-focused and features an acrylic side panel window, while the DG-75/76 have tempered glass panels. All three have a tempered glass front panel that is slightly offset, which could allow for front airflow intake through side ventilation, something we’ve seen before. Cable routing could prove to be difficult as there are no dedicated pass-throughs or grommets; instead, the DG-73, DG-75, and DG-76 use an open plate style design for cable management.

Following our in-depth first-look coverage of the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti Kingpin card, we now turn to the company’s upcoming motherboard releases in the X299 family. This coincides with Intel’s Kaby Lake X (KBL-X) & Skylake-X (SKY-X) CPU announcement from today, and marks the announcement of EVGA’s continued embattlement in the motherboard market. All the boards are X299 (LGA 2066) to support Intel’s refreshed KBL and new SKY-X CPUs, consolidating the platforms into a single socket type and with greater DIMM support. That doesn’t mean, however, that the motherboard makers will fully exploit the option of additional DIMMs for HEDT CPUs; EVGA has elected to forfeit half the DIMMs on the new EVGA X299 DARK board in favor of greater overclocking potential. We’ll talk through the specs on the new EVGA X299 DARK, X299 Micro, and X299 FTW K, along with VRM design and power components used.

The motherboard lineup does not yet include pricing or hard release dates, but we do know that the tiering will go: Dark > FTW K > Micro, with regard to price.

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