Intel’s TDP has long been questioned, but this particular generation put the 95W TDP under fire as users noticed media outlets measuring power consumption at well over 100W on most boards. It isn’t uncommon to see the 9900K at 150W or more in some AVX workloads, like Blender, thus far-and-away exceeding the 95W number. Aside from TDP being an imperfect specification for power, there’s also a lot that isn’t understood about it – including by motherboard manufacturers, apparently. All manufacturers are exceeding Intel guidance for the Turbo boosting duration in some way, which is causing the uncharacteristically high power consumption that produces unfairly advantaged performance results. The other end of this is that the 9900K looks much hotter in some tests.

We previously deep-dived on MCE (Multi-Core Enhancement) practices with the 8700K, revealing the performance variance that can occur when motherboard makers “cheat” results by boosting CPUs out of spec. MCE has become less of a problem with Z390 – namely because it is now disabled by default on all boards we’ve tested – but boosted BCLKs are the new issue.

If you think Cinebench is a reliable benchmark, we’ve got a histogram of all of our test results for the Intel i9-9900K at presumably stock settings:

1 z390 motherboard differences cinebench histogram

(Yes, the scale starts at non-0 -- given a range of results of 1976 to 2300, we had to zoom-in on the axis for a better histogram view)

The scale is shrunken and non-0 as the results are so tightly clustered, but you can still see that we’re ranging from 1970 cb marks to 2300 cb marks, which is a massive range. That’s the difference between a heavily overclocked R7 2700 and an overclocked 7900X, except this is all on a single CPU. The only difference is that we used 5 different motherboards for these tests, along with a mix of auto, XMP, and MCE settings. The discussion today focuses on when it is considered “cheating” to modify CPU settings via BIOS without the user’s awareness of those changes. The most common change is to the base clock, where BIOS might report a value of 100.00, but actually produce a value of 100.8 or 100.9 on the CPU. This functionally pre-overclocks it, but does so in a way that is hard for most users to ever notice.

Hardware news this week has been largely overrun with major movers: Micron and Intel are set to end their partnership on 3D XPoint, PC sales have grown for the first time in 6 years, Z370 BIOS updates indicate an 8-core CPU on the horizon, AMD Ryzen CPUs could be targeting more than 8C in 2019, Western Digital is shutting down a major hard drive plant, and more.

As always, our show notes for the episode are below, with sources and links to all stories. We've also got a video for those who prefer the visual medium:

We visited EVGA’s suite for a look at the new OC Robot and built-in BIOS stress testing update for the X299 Dark motherboards. For the new X299 Micro 2 motherboard, we also learned the following of the VRM spec:

  • VCCIN : IR35201(Controller1 - 5PH double to 10PH) + IR3556 x10
  • VSA+VCCIO : IR35204(Controller2 - 1+1PH) + IR3556 (1+1)
  • VSM+VPP_C01 : IR35204(Controller3 - 1+1PH) + TDA88240 (1+1)
  • VSM+VPP_C23 : IR35204(Controller4 - 1+1PH) + TDA88240 (1+1)

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.

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:

There’s a new trend in the industry: Heatsinks. Hopefully, anyway.

Gigabyte has listened to our never-ending complaints about VRM heatsinks and VRM thermals, and outfitted their X470 Gaming 7 motherboard with a full, proper fin stack and heatpipe. We’re happy to see it, and we hope that this trend continues, but it’s also not entirely necessary on this board. That doesn’t make us less excited to see an actual heatsink on a motherboard; however, we believe it does potentially point toward a future in higher core-count Ryzen CPUs. This is something that Buildzoid speculated in our recent Gaming 7 X470 VRM & PCB analysis. The amount of “overkill” power delivery capabilities on high-end X470 boards would suggest plans to support higher power consumption components from AMD.

Take the Gigabyte Gaming 7: It’s a 10+2-phase VRM, with the VCore VRM using IR3553s for 40A power stages. That alone is enough to run passive, but a heatsink drags temperature so far below requirements of operating spec that there’s room to spare. Cooler is always better in this instance (insofar as ambient cooling, anyway), so we can’t complain, but we can speculate about why it’s been done this way. ASUS’ Crosshair VII Hero has the same VRM, but with 60A power stages. That board, like Gigabyte’s, could run with no heatsink and be fine.

We tested with thermocouples placed on one top-side MOSFET, located adjacent to the SOC VRM MOSFETs (1.2V SOC), and one left-side MOSFET that’s centrally positioned. Our testing included stock and overclocked testing (4.2GHz/1.41VCore at Extreme LLC), then further tested with the heatsink removed entirely. By design, this test had no active airflow over the VRM components. Ambient was controlled during the test and was logged every second.

Multi-core enhancement is an important topic that we’ve discussed before – right after the launch of the 8700K, most recently. It’ll become even more important over the next few weeks, and that’s for a few reasons: For one, Intel is launching its new B and H chipsets soon, and that’ll require some performance testing. For two, AMD is launching its Ryzen 2000 series chips on April 19th, and those will include XFR2. Some X470 motherboards, just like some X370 motherboards, have MCE equivalent options. For Intel and AMD both, enabling MCE means running outside of power specification, and therefore thermal spec of low-end coolers, and also running higher clocks than the stock configuration. The question is if any motherboard vendors enable MCE by default, or silently, because that’s where results can become muddy for buyers.

As noted, this topic is most immediately relevant for impending B & H series chipset testing – if recent leaks are to be believed, anyway. This is also relevant for upcoming Ryzen 2 CPUs, like the 2700X and kin, for their inclusion of XFR2 and similar boosting features. In today’s content, we’re revisiting MCE and Core Performance Boost on AMD CPUs, demonstrating the differences between them (and an issue with BIOS revision F2 on the Ultra Gaming).

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.

GamersNexus secured an early exclusive with the new Gigabyte Gaming 7 motherboard at CES 2018, equipped with what one could confidently assume is an AMD X470 chipset. Given information from AMD on launch timelines, it would also be reasonable to assume that the new motherboards can be expected for roughly April of this year, alongside AMD’s Ryzen CPU refresh. This is all information learned from AMD’s public data. As for the Gigabyte Gaming 7 motherboard, the first thing we noticed is that it has real heatsinks on the VRMs, and that it’s actually running what appears to be a higher-end configuration for what we would assume is the new Ryzen launch.

Starting with the heatsink, Gigabyte has taken pride in listening to media and community concerns about VRM heatsinks, and has now added an actual finstack atop its 10-phase Vcore VRM. To give an idea, we saw significant performance improvement on the EVGA X299 DARK motherboard with just the finned heatsinks, not even using the built-in fans. It’s upwards of 20 degrees Celsius improvement over the fat blocks, in some cases, since the blocks don’t provide any surface area.

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