This is primarily a video project that revisits our popular SSD Architecture post from 2014. All of that content remains relevant to this day – SSD architecture has not substantially changed at a low level – but it's been deserving of a refresh. NAND Flash comprises the actual storage component of the SSD, and impacts more than just capacity; endurance, speed, and the cost-per-GB metric are all impacted by NAND Flash selection. The industry has slowly reached parity between TLC and MLC NAND devices for the mainstream and gaming segments, with VNAND getting a steady push through Samsung's channels. As for how MLC and TLC actually work, though, we turn to our content.

With this update, we've introduced a 3D animation to help visualize the complexities of voltage states and program/erases occurring on the disk actively. The original graphics and text of our architecture article can be found on this page.

NZXT's manufacturing birthplace is in Shenzhen, China, but the company moved to a new, high-end facility in 2000. The company now works with Godspeed Casing, a factory that NZXT is largely responsible for 'raising' from the ground-up. Over 1200 employees work at the factory, working with tens of millions of dollars of equipment on a daily basis. One of the largest, most impressive machines in the factory is the SAG-600, which can apply upwards of 600 metric tonnes of downward force to create case paneling. That machine alone costs $2 million (USD) and towers a few times over its operator.

This NZXT factory tour is part of our Asia trip, and marks the second stop in our extended “How Cases are Made” coverage. In-Win was the first factory we visited, based in Taoyuen, Taiwan, and we've now spent a day in China for NZXT's facilities. We'll soon be back in Taipei for further Computex and local factory coverage.

Let's look at NZXT's setup:

Just as we made it into Taiwan, we're already packing to fly to Shenzhen, China for more factory and HQ tours. During the first leg of our three-part Asia trip, the GN team traveled to Taoyuen, Taiwan – about an hour outside of Taipei – to visit the In-Win case & paint factories. In-Win is best-known for fronting insane projects at tradeshows, like the Transformer-inspired H-Tower and 805 Infinity, and all of those cases get made in the factories we visited.

Touring the In-Win case-making factory gave a look into how PC cases are made; we saw injection-molding machines, automated powder coat booths, giant sanding and CNC machines, 3D coordinate projection validators, and more.

It takes our technicians minutes to build a computer these days – a learned skill – but even that first-time build is completable within a span of hours. Cable management and “environment setup” (OS, software) generally take the longest, but the build process is surprisingly trivial. Almost anyone can build a computer. The DIY approach saves money and feels rewarding, but also prepares system owners for future troubleshooting and builds a useful, technical skillset.

Parts selection can be initially intimidating and late-night troubleshooting sometimes proves frustrating; the between process, though, the actual assembly – that's easy. A few screws, some sockets that live under the “if it doesn't fit, don't force it” mantra, and a handful of cables.

This “How to Build a Gaming Computer” guide offers a step-by-step tutorial for PC part selection, compatibility checking, assembly, and basic troubleshooting resources. The goal of this guide is to educate the correct steps to the entire process: we won't be giving you tools that automatically pick parts based on compatibility, here; no, our goal is to teach the why and the how of PC building. You'll be capable of picking compatible parts and assembling builds fully independently after completing this walkthrough.

GDC 2016 marks further advancement in game graphics technology, including a somewhat uniform platform update across the big three major game engines. That'd be CryEngine (now updated to version V), Unreal Engine, and Unity, of course, all synchronously pushing improved game fidelity. We were able to speak with nVidia to get in-depth and hands-on with some of the industry's newest gains in video game graphics, particularly involving voxel-accelerated ambient occlusion, frustum tracing, and volumetric lighting. Anyone who's gained from our graphics optimization guides for Black Ops III, the Witcher, and GTA V should hopefully enjoy new game graphics knowledge from this post.

The major updates come down the pipe through nVidia's GameWorks SDK version 3.1 update, which is being pushed to developers and engines in the immediate future. NVidia's GameWorks team is announcing five new technologies at GDC:

  • Volumetric Lighting algorithm update

  • Voxel-Accelerated Ambient Occlusion (VXAO)

  • High-Fidelity Frustum-Traced Shadows (HFTS)

  • Flow (combustible fluid, fire, smoke, dynamic grid simulator, and rendering in Dx11/12)

  • GPU Rigid Body tech

This article introduces the new technologies and explains how, at a low-level, VXAO (voxel-accelerated ambient occlusion), HFTS (high-fidelity frustum-traced shadows), volumetric lighting, Flow (CFD), and rigid bodies work.

Readers interested in this technology may also find AMD's HDR display demo a worthy look.

Before digging in, our thanks to nVidia's Rev Lebaredian for his patient, engineering-level explanation of these technologies.

Rummaging through Corsair’s suite at CES 2016 produced the usual convention findings: New cases, coolers, software updates, croissants – the conventional assortment of convention goods. Our primary objective for this visit had us focusing on the creation of more unique content, eventually developing into an interview on tooling, manufacturing processes, and the cost of making a case.

We were joined by Corsair’s George Makris, Director of Product Marketing, who openly spoke to the merits of various tooling designs for Corsair and competing cases. High points are recapped in the article following the video interview.

Well, maybe not everything – but certainly the most useful information to a system builder. We've written about how both thermalpaste and CPU coolers work in the past, but figured the topic was worth a revisit now that the site has grown substantially.

In this video and article accompaniment, we walk through thermal conductivity, contact efficiency between the coldplate and IHS, curing & aging, copper vs. aluminum cooling, and more.

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the only true danger present when building a PC; that is, other than the danger posed to hands by copper heatsinks. We've previously written about ESD and how it works, but now we're revisiting the topic with a solution to eliminate ESD concerns.

This how-to guide explains how to prevent ESD by grounding yourself when building a computer, specifically by making an ESD grounding wire. We've loosely recommend anti-static wrist straps in the past, but whether or not they actually work depends on how they're utilized by the builder. Simply strapping the band to your wrist and clipping it to the case isn't going to be enough to prevent ESD, though it's better than nothing. The approach we take in this guide is the very same that we use in our lab. It's a little bit of extra work, but anyone demanding certainty (or working with components more than once per build) should follow our example.

This article topic stems from a recent reader email. Our inquisitive reader was curious as to the nature of variable clock speeds, primarily asking about why GPUs (specifically nVidia's) would sometimes log slower clock speeds than the overclock settings; similarly, speeds are occasionally reported higher than even what a user OC reflects.

Variable clock speeds stem from boost settings available on both AMD and nVidia architecture, but each company's version differs in execution. This brief post will focus on nVidia Boost 2.0 and why it throttles clock speeds in some environments. None of this is news at this point, but it's worth demystifying.

Memory has a tendency to get largely overlooked when building a new system. Capacity and frequency steal the show, but beyond that, it's largely treated as a check-the-reviews component. Still, a few guidelines exist like not mixing-and-matching kits and purchasing strictly in pairs of two where dual-channel is applicable. These rules make sense, especially to those of us who've been building systems for a decade or more: Mixing kits was a surefire way to encounter stability or compatibility issues in the past (and is still questionable - I don't recommend it), and as for dual-channel, no one wanted to cut their speeds in half.

dual-channel-slider

When we visited MSI in California during our 2013 visit (when we also showed how RAM is made), they showed us several high-end laptops that all featured a single stick of memory. I questioned this choice since, surely, it made more sense to use 2x4GB rather than 1x8GB from a performance standpoint. The MSI reps noted that "in [their] testing, there was almost no difference between dual-channel performance and normal performance." I tested this upon return home (results published in that MSI link) and found that, from a very quick test, they looked to be right. I never got to definitively prove where / if dual-channel would be sorely missed, though I did hypothesize that it'd be in video encoding and rendering.

In this benchmark, we'll look at dual-channel vs. single-channel platform performance for Adobe Premiere, gaming, video encoding, transcoding, number crunching, and daily use. The aim is to debunk or confirm a few myths about computer memory. I've seen a lot of forums touting (without supporting data) that dual-channel is somehow completely useless, and to the same tune, we've seen similar counter-arguments that buying anything less than 2 sticks of RAM is foolish. Both have merits.

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