We’re resurrecting our AMD RX Vega 56 powerplay tables mod to challenge the RTX 2070, a card that competes in an entirely different price class. It’s a lightweight versus heavyweight boxing match, except the lightweight has a gun.
For our Vega 56 card, priced at between $370 and $400, depending on sales, we will be shoving an extra 200W+ of power into the core to attempt to match the RTX 2070’s stock performance. We strongly praised Vega 56 at launch for its easily modded nature, but the card has faced fierce competition from the 1070 Ti and 1070. It was also constantly out of stock or massively overpriced throughout the mining boom, which acted as a death knell for Vega throughout the mining months. With that now dying down and Vega becoming available for normal people again, pricing is competitive and compelling, and nVidia’s own recent fumbles have created an opening in the market.
We will be working with a PowerColor RX Vega 56 Red Dragon card, a 242% power target, and matching it versus an EVGA RTX 2070 Black. The price difference is about $370-$400 vs. $500-$550, depending on where you buy your parts. We are using registry entries to trick the Vega 56 card into a power limit that exceeds the stock maximum of +50%, allowing us to go to +242%. This was done with the help of Buildzoid last year.
One final note: We must warn that we aren’t sure of the long-term impact of running Vega 56 with this much power going through it. If you want to do this yourself, be advised that long-term damage is a possibility for which we cannot account.
In case you find it boring to watch an IHS get sanded for ten minutes, we’ve written-up this recap of our newest video. The content features a lapped AMD Ryzen APU IHS for the R3 2200G, which we previously delidded and later topped with a custom copper Rockit Cool IHS. For this next thermal benchmark, we sanded down the AMD Ryzen APU IHS with 600 grit, 1200 grit, 1500 grit, 2000 grit, and then 3000 grit (wet) to smooth-out the IHS surface. After this, we used a polishing rag and compound to further buff the IHS (not shown in the video, because it is exceptionally boring to watch), then we cleaned it and ran the new heatspreader through our standardized thermal benchmark.
We already have a dozen or so content pieces showing that delidding can improve thermal performance of Intel CPUs significantly, but we’ve always put the stock Intel IHS back in place. Today, we’re trying a $20 accessory – it’s a CNC-machined copper IHS from Rockit Cool, which purportedly increases surface area by 15% and smooths out points of contact. Intel’s stock IHS is a nickel-plated copper block, but is smaller in exposed surface area than the Rockit Cool alternative. The Intel IHS is also a non-flat surface – some coldplates are made concave to match the convex curvature of the Intel IHS (depending on your perspective of the heat spreader, granted), whereas the Rockit Cool solution is nearly perfectly flat. Most coolers have some slight conformity to mounting tension, flattening out coldplates atop a non-flat CPU IHS. For this reason and the increased surface (and contact) area, it was worth trying Rockit Cool’s solution.
At $14 to $20, this was worth trying. Today, we’re looking at if there’s any meaningful thermal improvement from a custom copper IHS for Intel CPUs, using an i7-8700K and Rockit Cool LGA115X heat spreader.
The goal for today is to trick an nVidia GPU into drawing more power than its Boost 3.0 power budget will allow it. The theoretical result is that more power will provide greater clock stability; we won’t necessarily get better overclocks or bigger offsets, but should stabilize and flatline the frequency, which improves performance overall. Typically, Boost clock bounces around based on load and power budget or voltage. We have already eliminated the thermal checkpoint with our Hybrid mod, and must now help eliminate the power budget checkpoint.
This content piece is relatively agnostic toward nVidia devices. Although we are using an nVidia Titan V graphics card, priced at $3000, the same practice of shunt resistor shorting can be applied to a 1080 Ti, 1070, 1070 Ti, or other nVidia GPUs.
“Shunts” are in-line resistors that have a known input voltage, which ultimately comes from the PCIe connectors or PCIe slot. In this case, we care about the in-line shunt resistors for the PCIe cables. The GPU knows the voltage across the shunt (12V, as it’s in-line with the power connectors), and the GPU also knows the resistance from the shunt (5mohm). By measuring the voltage drop across the shunt, the GPU can figure out how much current is being pulled, and then adjust to match power limitations accordingly. The shunt itself is not a limiter or a “dam,” but a measuring stick used to determine how much current is being used to drive the card.
The GTX 1060 Hybrid series has come to a close. This project encountered an unexpected speed bump, whereupon we inserted a copper shim (changing the stack to silicon > TIM > shim > TIM > coldplate) to bridge contact between the CLC and GPU. This obviously sacrifices some efficiency, as we're inserting two layers of ~6W/mK TIM between ~400W/mK copper, but it's still better than air cooling with a finned heatsink.
Our previous Hybrid projects (see: 1080, RX 480) axed the baseplate, thereby losing some VRAM and VRM cooling potential. For this project, we filed down the edges of the GPU socket to accommodate the protruding EVGA coldplate. This allowed us to keep the baseplate, granting better conduction to the VRAM and VRM. The blower fan is also still operating, but by removing the cover from the shroud (“window”), we're losing some pressure and air before it reaches the VRM. After speaking to a few AIB partners, we determined that the cooling was still sufficient for our purposes. An open air bench case fan was positioned to blast air into the “window” hole, keeping things a little cooler on average.
The GTX 1060 Hybrid tear-down went smoothly. We were able to remove all of the components with relative ease, look things over, and make a loose plan for part 2 – the build, which also seemed to go smoothly.
Until it didn't.
We were able to re-secure everything and, despite some very close clearance, even got the shroud back onto the card. Unfortunately, plugging it in revealed high idle temperatures, and a 30-second test led us to nearly 90C almost immediately. We terminated the test and cooled the card down, then re-evaluated the installation.
Before proceeding: This endeavor is entirely at the risk of the user, and there is a possibility of “bricking” or permanently damaging the hardware during this process.
In 4GB vs. 8GB AMD RX 480 benchmarking, our testing uncovered improvement in just a few titles – but the improvements were substantial when present. It is no mystery that early press samples of the card allowed for flashing to 4GB, which resulted in a 1750MHz memory clock and locked 4GB of the VRAM. This is reasonable, as media obviously wanted to test both versions of the card, but AMD wanted to limit sampling. We actually liked the way this was handled, given the option between a flashable sample and strictly an 8GB sample.
But there's more to it than that: Consumers have reported success flashing VBIOS from sold 4GB retail samples, resulting in 8GB cards. Let's talk about why AMD's shipping of “locked” cards makes sense, risks, and how to perform the procedure.
The final part of our AMD Radeon RX 480 Hybrid build is complete. We've conducted testing on the RX 480 with liquid cooling, successfully yielding additional overclocking headroom and reducing temperatures. We also ended up hitting 1.15V to the core when overvolting and overclocking, something we talk about more below.
The first part of this AMD RX 480 liquid cooling guide tore-down the video card, the second part built it back up with an Arctic Accelero Hybrid III and liquid cooler, and our new video and article explore the results. The short of it: Liquid cooling an AMD RX 480 significantly improves the temperatures, the noise output, and provides marginal extra overclocking room.
This video is a follow-up to our popular GTX 1080 Hybrid series, if you missed that.
Fallout 4 is a solid game, but like all games, it has its flaws. Luckily, Bethesda both allows and encourages mod development that oftentimes fixes these problems and add news features – and occasionally new problems – for Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. For Fallout games, Bethesda has released the GECK for modders to use. The GECK for Fallout 4 is yet to be released, but community-made tools have been created, are improving, and allow for a jump-start on mod development.
To help address the problems of Fallout 4 and improve upon its features, we’ve settled on seven essential mods for improving gameplay. These are among the best Fallout 4 mods currently out -- mechanically, at least -- and are must-haves for the mod list. Some simply make stats and information more clear, but others change the game’s dynamics more drastically.
Morrowind strongly stands as one of the best role-playing games ever made, leveraging its uniquely crafted environment to draw players ever inward toward the spirit of a truly fantastical landscape. The game's undertone is severe, its thunderous symphony of beautifully orchestrated music guiding players through blight-stricken Vvardenfell. And yet, Morrowind is also one of the loosest, kooky games we've ever played – something with which Creative Lead Ken Rolston agreed in our 2014 interview.
It was 2002 that Morrowind first hit store shelves – quite literally, as digital downloads didn't much exist – and shortly thereafter that expansions Tribunal and Bloodmoon accompanied the RPG. Countless attempts have been made to reimagine Morrowind on various engines of newer descent. Lately, we've been paying attention to the Skyrim engine's Skywind, Morrowind engine's Morrowind Rebirth, and ground-up engine and remake OpenMW.
The above video walks-through the three major Morrowind remakes, explaining each of their goals and levels of completion. The full script for this video can be found below, should a quick read-through be more appealing than video format.
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