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.

Intel has released its own internal testing of architectures dated from Skylake to Coffee Lake, using Windows 10 and Windows 7, in A/B testing between the Meltdown kernel patch. We’ve done some of our own testing (but need to do more), but not with the applications Intel has tested. As usual, exercise grain-of-salt-mining for first-party numbers, but it’s a starting point.

Intel claims that it’s found its CPUs largely retain 95-100% of their original performance (from pre-patch, with some worst-case scenarios showing 79% of original performance – Skylake in SYSMark 2014 SE Responsiveness, namely. On average, it would appear that Intel is retaining roughly 96% of its performance, based on its own internal, first-party data.

Here’s the full chart from the company:

NZXT today announced its first-ever motherboard, the NZXT N7, a $300 Z370 board with integrated HUE RGB and GRID fan controller. This is NZXT’s first attempt at a motherboard, and seems to take a very NZXT-approach to everything: It’s visuals first, with this one, using the company’s newfound perforated design aesthetic across a steel surface plate on the board. NZXT has a lot of interesting – and odd – design decisions in the N7 motherboard. We’ll walk through some of those today.

The NZXT N7 motherboard is an ATX Z370 option, and we think we found NZXT’s OEM partner – we’ll save that for the end.

This content piece was highly requested by the audience, although there is presently limited point to its findings. Following the confluence of the Meltdown and Spectre exploits last week, Microsoft pushed a Windows security software update that sought to fill some of the security gaps, something which has been speculated as causing a performance dip between 5% and 30%. As of now, today, Intel has not yet released its microcode update, which means that it is largely folly to undertake the benchmarks we’re undertaking in this content piece – that said, there is merit to it, but the task must be looked at from the right perspective.

From the perspective of advancing knowledge and building a baseline for the next round of tests – those which will, unlike today’s, factor-in microcode patches – we must eventually run the tests being run today. This will give us a baseline for performance, and will grant us two critical opportunities: (1) We may benchmark baseline, per-Windows-patch performance, and (2) we can benchmark post-patch performance, pre-microcode. Both will allow us to see the isolated impact from Intel’s firmware update versus Microsoft’s software update. This is important, and alone makes the endeavor worthwhile – particularly because our CPU suite is automated, anyway, so no big time loss, despite CES looming.

Speaking of, we only had time to run one CPU through the suite, and only with a few games, as, again, CES is looming. This is enough for now, though, and should sate some demand and interest.

As we pack before CES, this is just a quick video update in a non-standard format. We decided to put together a loose video that details the practical learnings of delidding -- things we've picked up over the past few months of taking the IHS off processors. During this time, we've learned a few tricks pertaining to resealing, preventing electrical shorts and damage, and applying liquid metal. These are all things that we could have used when learning about delidding, and so we decided to compile it into one content piece. The format is less formal and in our "tear-down" setup, just with a different tone to the content.

There’s been a lot of talk of an “Intel bug” lately, to which we paid close attention upon the explosion of our Twitter, email, and YouTube accounts. The “bug” that has been discussed most commonly refers to a new attack vector that can break the bounding boxes of virtual environments, including virtual machines and virtual memory, that has been named “Meltdown.” This attack is known primarily to affect Intel at this time, with indeterminate effect on AMD and ARM. Another attack, “Spectre,” attacks through side channels in speculative execution and branch prediction, and is capable of fetching sensitive user information that is stored in physical memory. Both attacks are severe, and between the two of them, nearly every CPU on the market is affected in at least some capacity. The severity of the impact remains to be seen, and will be largely unveiled upon embargo lift, January 9th, at which time the companies will all be discussing solutions and shortcomings.

For this content piece, we’re focusing on coverage from a strict journalism and reporting perspective, as security and low-level processor exploits are far outside of our area of expertise. That said, a lot of you wanted to know our opinions or thoughts on the matter, so we decided to compile a report of research from around the web. Note that we are not providing opinion here, just facts, as we are not knowledgeable enough in the subject matter to hold strong opinions (well, outside of “this is bad”).

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.

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:

Intel’s 8600K CPU changes the story significantly for the company’s i5 lineup. When AMD’s R5 CPUs launched, we noted that the i5-7600K 4C/4T CPU had a “fading grasp,” highlighting that the R5 1600(X) achieved close enough gaming performance while offering greater versatility. The gap between an R7 and i7 remained much more significant – enough that we could, and do, still recommend an i7 for some workloads – but the R5 and i5 distance grew closer, and so the R5s became easy to recommend. Now, with the i5-8600K, Intel moves its mid-range lineup to 6C/6T designs, maintains high clocks (higher, even), and potentially makes up for losses on the 4C units.

We just bought Intel’s i5-8600K CPU for $300, following high demand for a review, and ran it through the benchmark ringer. We’ve previously reviewed other Intel 8th Gen units, including the i7-8700K (review here), the i5-8400 (review here), and the i3-8350K (review here). This review looks at the Intel i5-8600K benchmark performance, including overclocking (to 5GHz), Blender, gaming, thermals, and power consumption.

MSI has updated BIOS versions for their Intel 100, 200, and 300 series motherboards. They’re the latest of several manufacturers, including Gigabyte a week ago, to address security vulnerabilities in Intel’s TXE (Trusted Execution Engine). Intel says they have “provided system and motherboard manufacturers with the necessary firmware and software updates,” so it’s now up to those manufacturers to implement them. An Intel tool that detects whether systems are vulnerable is available here, as well as a list of vendors that have already released updates.

Owners of affected MSI motherboards should visit and find their model. BIOS and other downloads can be found under the “service” tab for each board. Instructions are similar for most other manufacturers.

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