With B350, B360, Z370, Z390, X370, and Z490, we think it’s time to revisit an old topic answering what a chipset is. This is primarily to establish a point of why we need clarity on what each of these provides – there are a lot of chipsets with similar names, different socket types, and similar features. We’re here to define a chipset today in TLDR fashion, with a later piece to explain the actual chipset differences.
As for what a chipset actually is, this calls back to a GN article from 2012 – though we can do a better job now. The modern chipset is a glorified I/O controller, and can be thought of as the spinal cord of the computer, while the CPU is the disembodied brain. Intel calls its chipset a PCH, or Platform Controller Hub, while AMD just goes with the generic and appropriate term “chipset.” The chipset is the center of I/O for the rest of the motherboard, assigning I/O lanes to devices like SATA, gigabit ethernet, and USB ports.
The hardware world has been busy for the past week. This week's news recap covers one rumor -- speculation that Intel "might" show a GPU in 2019 -- and then covers major news stories. One of those is Intel's Z390 chipset, whose block diagram has been detailed against existing Z370 block diagrams. We'll talk those chipset differences in the show notes (and the video) below. NVidia's earnings report also showed remarkably strong performance for the company, with mining revenue marking a new category of earnings at $289 million. What's unclear is how that's tracked -- we don't know if that's direct-to-miner sales, e.g. selling to large mining operations, or if that's also counting users who buy 10 GPUs at a time on Newegg. The latter might appear like a normal "gaming" purchase, depending on how it's all tracked and broken-down.
A handful of other news items are also present, including net neutrality discussion, Corsair's Obsidian 1000D and Spec-Omega, and a couple of other items. Learn more in the video below or, if you prefer written text, the show notes below that.
Intel’s Pentium G line has largely managed to hold-on as one of the better buys of the past few years. There was a brief period where the G3258 made a lot of sense for ultra budget-minded buyers, then the G4560 recently – particularly at the actually good price of $60 – and now Intel has its Pentium G 5000 series. The G4560 had stunted growth from limited stock and steep hikes on MSRP, forcing people to consider i3s instead, up until R3s shipped. The 4560 remained a good buy as it dropped towards $60, fully capable of gaming on the cheap, but it is now being replaced by the units we’re reviewing this month.
We’re starting with the Intel Pentium G5600, which is the most expensive of the new Pentium Gold line. At $95, it’s about $40 more than the G4560, $10 more than the G5500, and $20 more than the G5400. The R3 1300X is about $105, and the R3 1200 is about $95.
DDR5 may achieve mass switch-over adoption by 2022, based on new estimates out of memory makers. A new Micron demonstration had DDR5 memory functional, operating on a Cadence IMC and custom chip, with 4400MHz and CL42 timings. It's a start. Micron hopes to tighten timings over time, and aims to increase frequency toward 6400MHz as DDR5 matures. It's more of a capacity solution, too, with targeted densities at 16Gb and 32Gb for the future.
In addition to the week's DDR5 news, detailed in more depth below, we also have roadmap leaks from AMD and Intel that indicate Z490 and Z390 chipsets shipping this year. We're not yet sure what Z490's purpose is, but we know that it's an AMD product -- and the first of the new chipsets to take a Z prefix, just like Intel's performance series.
Our show notes below cover all the stories, or just check the video:
The headlining story for the past week covers the memory supplier class action that was recently filed (vs. SK Hynix, Samsung, and Micron), alleging conspiracy to fix prices. In contension for the headline story, Intel's 10nm process problems have grown more complicated, seemingly preempting the company's hiring of Jim Keller, former AMD Zen architect.
The AMD R5 2600 and 2600X are, we think, among the more interesting processors that AMD launched for its second generation. The R5 1600 and 1600X received awards from us for 2017, mostly laying claim to “Best All-Around” processor. The 1600 series of R5 CPUs maintained 6 cores, most the gaming performance of the R7 series, and could still capably stream or perform Blender-style production rendering tasks. At the $200-$230 price range, we claimed that it functionally killed the quad-core i5 CPU, later complicated by Intel’s six-core i5 release.
The R5 2600 and 2600X have the same product stack positioning as the 1000-series predecessors, just with higher clock speeds. For specs, the R5 2600X operates at 3.6GHz base and 4.2GHz boost, with the 2600 at 3.4/3.9GHz, and the R5 1600X/1600 operating at a maximum boost of 4.0 and 3.6GHz, respectively.
Reviewing the AMD R7 2700X was done outside of normal review provisions, as AMD didn’t sample us. We’ve had the parts for a month now, and that has meant following development, EFI updates, and more as they’ve been pushed. We have multiple chips of every variety, and have been able to cross-validate as the pre-launch cycle has iterated. Because of the density of data, we’re splitting our content into multiple videos and articles.
Today’s focus will be the AMD R7 2700X and R7 2700 reviews, especially for live streaming performance versus the i7-8700K, gaming performance, and production (Blender) performance. Most importantly, however, we dedicate time to talk about the significant improvements that AMD has made in the volt-frequency department. At a given frequency, e.g. 4.0GHz, Ryzen 2000 operates at a heavily reduced voltage versus Ryzen 1. We’ll dig into this further in this review, but check back later for our R5 2600X and 2600 reviews (combined in one piece), including 2600X vs. 8600K streaming benchmarks. We’re also looking at VRM thermals, motherboard PCBs and their VRM quality, memory overclocking and scalability (in this content), and more.
There is a lot of confusion about AMD’s branding – Zen 2 vs. Ryzen 2 vs. Zen+. We’re calling these CPUs “Ryzen 2,” because they’re literally called “Ryzen 2X00” CPUs. This is not the same as the Zen 2 architecture, which is not out yet.
Note: For overclocking, we only OC one CPU of each core count – so just the R7 2700X or R7 2700, but beyond validation of maximum frequency, there’s no need to OC both and run each through 20 hours of testing.
Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC is well-named: It’s either a reference to hell freezing over, as AMD and Intel worked together on a product, or a reference to the combined heat of Vega and an i7 in a box that’s 8.5” x 5.5” in size. Our review of Hades Canyon looks at overclocking potential, preempting something bigger, and benchmarks the combined i7 CPU and Vega M GPU for gaming and production performance. We’re also looking at thermal performance and noise, as usual. As a unit, it’s one of the smallest, most-powerful systems on the consumer market get right now. We’ll see if it’s worth it.
There are two primary SKUs for the Intel NUC on Newegg, both coming out on April 30th. The unit which most closely resembles ours is $1000, and includes the Intel i7-8809G with 8MB of cache and a limited-core Turbo up to 4.2GHz. The CPU is unlocked for overclocking. It’s coupled with an AMD Vega M GH GPU with 4GB of high-bandwidth memory, also overclockable, but does not include memory or an SSD. You’re on your own for those, as it’s effectively a barebones kit. If you buy straight from Intel’s SimplyNUC website, the NUC8i7HVK that we reviewed comes fully-configured for $1200, including 8GB of DDR4 and a 128GB SSD with Windows 10. Not unreasonable, really.
Intel has slowly been deploying mitigations for Spectre/Meltdown for recent platforms. In the most recent microcode revision guidance, Intel has indicated it will not deploy any microcode mitigations for the recently disclosed flaws for older processor platforms. Intel cited the following reasons:
As we remarked back when we reviewed the i5-8400, launched on its lonesome and without low-end motherboard support, the Intel i5-8400 makes most sense when paired with B360 or H370 motherboards. Intel launched the i5-8400 and other non-K CPUs without that low-end chipset support, though, leaving only the Z370 enthusiast board on the frontlines with the locked CPUs.
When it comes to Intel chipset differences, the main point of comparison between B, H, and Z chipsets would be HSIO lanes – or high-speed I/O lanes. HSIO lanes are Intel-assigned per chipset, with each chipset receiving a different count of HSIO lanes. High-speed IO lanes can be assigned somewhat freely by the motherboard manufacturer, and are isolated from the graphics PCIe lanes that each CPU independently possesses. The HSIO lanes are as detailed below for the new 8th Generation Coffee Lake chipsets:
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