Gigabyte is releasing security updates for Intel motherboards making use of Intel ME (Management Engine) and TXE (Trusted Execution Engine). The first batch of updates will be for Z370 and 200-series boards, with older generations following. Gigabyte will be supplying patched BIOS versions as well as the latest Intel ME and TXE drivers on their website.
Gigabyte’s announcement follows a notice from the Intel Security Center about “security vulnerabilities that could potentially place impacted platforms at risk.” These vulnerabilities have to do with MINIX, a lightweight OS designed by educator Andrew Tanenbaum (as discussed in this week’s HW News), and its use in Intel’s ME. As reported by Tom’s Hardware earlier this month, a Google team led by software engineer Ron Minnich is responsible for uncovering MINIX’s role in the ME and expressing their concerns in a presentation bluntly titled “Replace your exploit-ridden firmware with a Linux kernel.”
Continuing our holiday buyer’s guides, hardcore overclocker Buildzoid has joined us to analyze the best AMD motherboards currently on the market, looking at X370 and B350 for overclocking. The boards scale from $75 to $350 as we step through nearly every single AM4 motherboard out there, with clear guidance as to which boards are most suitable for different tasks. This was primarily done as a video, but the written section below will recap the highlights. Timestamps are also provided, if the video is preferred.
For this AMD motherboard buyer’s guide, we’re primarily highlighting boards in the $120 to $200 price range, but do talk about some of the budget Ryzen motherboards. VRM capabilities and heatsinks, BIOS menus, and memory overclocking compatibility all factor into our choices.
Since our delid collaboration with Bitwit, we’ve been considering expanding VRM temperature testing on the ASUS Rampage VI Extreme to determine at what point the VRM needs direct cooling. This expanded into determining when it’s even reasonable to expect the stock heatsink to be capable of handling the 7980XE’s overclocked heat load: We are seeking to find at what point we tip into territory of being too power-hungry to reasonably operate without a fan directly over the heatsink.
This VRM thermal benchmark specifically looks at the ASUS Rampage VI Extreme motherboard, which uses one of the better X299 heatsinks for its IR3555 60A power stages. The IR3555 has an internal temperature sensor, which ASUS taps into for a safety throttle in EFI. As we understand it, the stock configuration sets a VRM throttle temperature of 120C – we believe this is internal temperature, though the diode could also be placed between the FETs, in which case the internal temperatures would be higher.
Internet cafes and gaming centers probably aren’t a market segment most would recognize in the US, but they’re popular in other parts of the world--in particular, Asia--and ASUS seems to target that segment with the purpose-built Expedition A320M Gaming motherboard.
The entry-level AM4 board uses the low-end A320 chipset, and offers features that appear to identify with the rigors of crowded public places, such as iCafes and libraries. One such feature is the moisture-resistant coating on the motherboard, intended to protect against higher humidity environments. This is particularly useful in places like Taiwan, where humidity is high enough to cause corrosion on some components (that we’ve seen in person, no less). Additionally, the board has certain anti-theft features to help curb theft of memory modules and GPUs.
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.
This content piece aims to explain how Turbo Boost works on Intel’s i7-8700K, 8600K, and other Coffee Lake CPUs. This primarily sets forth to highlight what “Multi-Core Enhancement” is, and why you may want to leave it off when using a CPU without overclocking.
Multi-core “enhancement” options are either enabled, disabled, or “auto” in motherboard BIOS, where “auto” has somewhat nebulous behavior, depending on board maker. Enabling multi-core enhancement means that the CPU ignores the Intel spec, instead locking all-core Turbo to the single-core Turbo speeds, which means a few things: (1) Higher voltage is now necessary, and therefore higher power draw and heat; (2) instability can be introduced to the system, as we observed in Blender on the ASUS Maximus X Hero with multi-core enhancement on the 8700K; (3) performance is bolstered in-step with higher all-core Turbo.
We’ve talked about this in the past, but it’s worth reviving: The reason or keeping motherboard consistency during CPU testing is the inherent variance, particularly when running auto settings. Auto voltage depends on a lookup table that’s built on a per-EFI basis for the motherboards, which means auto VIDs vary between not only motherboard vendors, but between EFI revisions. As voltage changes, power consumption changes – the two are directly related – and so too the wattage changes. As a function of volts and amps, watts consumed by the CPU will increase on motherboards that push more volts to the CPU, regardless of whether the CPU needs that voltage to be stable.
We previously found that Gigabyte’s Gaming 7 Z270 motherboard supplied way too much voltage to the 7700K when in auto settings, something that the company later resolved. The resolution was good enough that we now use the Gaming 7 Z270 for all of our GPU tests, following the fix of auto voltages that were too high.
Today, we’re looking at the impact of motherboards on Intel i9-7960X thermals primarily, though the 7980XE makes some appearances in our liquid metal testing. Unless otherwise noted, a Kraken X62 was used at max fan + pump RPMs.
Product photos and renders for ASRock’s alleged Coffee Lake Z370 motherboards have leaked through Videocardz, detailing the ASRock lineup from top-to-bottom. The reported offering from ASRock includes a Z370 “Killer” motherboard (bearing similar branding to Fatal1ty boards), the Z370 Taichi high-end board, Z370M Pro4 Micro-ATX board, Z370M-ITX AC wireless board, and lower-end Z370 Extreme4 and Pro4 motherboards (both ATX).
X299 VRM thermals have been a topic of interest in the lab lately, as we’ve continued to learn how to work with our new power testing tools and have fully revamped CPU thermal testing. The time will come eventually, but for now, we’ve worked with Buildzoid to run some calculations on VRM thermals with the Gigabyte X299 Gaming 9 motherboard. These numbers are based off of GN testing for this video, where we overclocked the CPU to 4.5~4.6GHz and checked for power consumption at the 8-pin headers (of which there are two).
The Gigabyte X299 Gaming 9 motherboard makes some interesting choices with its VRM components, ultimately balancing between “ridiculous overkill,” to quote Buildzoid, and merely adequacy. The board is one of the higher quality motherboards out there right now, and so is worth a watch on the PCB break-down:
Out of all the Computex coverage we’ve posted thus far, X299 has proven to be the least successful in view count. Interest is low in X299, it seems, though X399 is doing a slight bit better. Regardless, it’s still important to go over everything: We’ve looked at the MSI X299 lineup (including XPOWER) and the Gigabyte Gaming 9, 7, and 3 lineup, with X399 between. Today’s focus is on the ASUS X299 boards, primarily the Rampage VI Extreme, with some additional details on the ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe, the Prime X299-A, and the TUF X299 Mark2. This all follows our X399 ASUS coverage, where we looked at the Zenith Extreme flagship.
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