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.

Having gone over the best CPUs, cases, some motherboards, and soon coolers, we’re now looking at the best GTX 1080 Tis of the year. Contrary to popular belief, the model of cooler does actually matter for video cards. We’ll be going through thermal and noise data for a few of the 1080 Tis we’ve tested this year, including MOSFET, VRAM, and GPU temperatures, noise-normalized performance at 40dBA, and the PCB and VRM quality. As always with these guides, you can find links to all products discussed in the description below.

Rounding-up the GTX 1080 Tis means that we’re primarily going to be focused on cooler and PCB build quality: Noise, noise-normalized thermals, thermals, and VRM design are the forefront of competition among same-GPU parts. Ultimately, as far as gaming and overclocking performance, much of that is going to be dictated by silicon-level quality variance, and that’s nearly random. For that reason, we must differentiate board partner GPUs with thermals, noise, and potential for low-thermal overclocking (quality VRMs).

Today, we’re rounding-up the best GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards that we’ve reviewed this year, including categories of Best Overall, Best for Modding, Best Value, Best Technology, and Best PCB. Gaming performance is functionally the same on all of them, as silicon variance is the larger dictator of performance, with thermals being the next governor of performance; after all, a Pascal GPU under 60C is a higher-clocked, happier Pascal GPU, and that’ll lead framerate more than advertised clocks will.

MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio Shown

Saturday, 23 September 2017

MSI is still building GTX 1080 Ti models, it seems. The Pascal 1080 Ti series has to be one of the most prolific AIB partner cards in a long time: EVGA has an insurmountable catalogue, at this point, ASUS and Gigabyte branched-out 1080 Ti units, and MSI is now adding a triple-fan cooler that seems to be taking some of Zotac's style

The new MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio will join the company's existing line of cards, including the Gaming X, Gaming Z, Lightning X, Lightning Z, Seahawk, et al. The Gaming X Trio switches from "Twin Frozr" to a triple-fan cooler, using two fans of larger size (they look to be 90mm, maybe 100mm) and one of smaller size, located centrally. Unlike some of the competition, all three fans spin in the same direction and use the same blade design, just different sizes.

This week's hardware news recap gives us a break from Vega -- if a brief one -- so that we can discussed nVidia's multi-chip GPU white paper, AMD's Ryzen Threadripper CPUs (1920X + 1950X), the R3 CPUs, and new fabs for Samsung. This discussion also bleeds over into DRAM shortages and NAND prices, particularly relating to Micron's fab "event" from last week.

The show notes are below the embedded video, for folks who prefer the notes and sources.

Before getting started: Our Vega FE Hybrid mod has just gone through its final data pass, and is now in video editing and writing. The content will arrive tomorrow!

That cleared away, as we know a lot of folks are excited for the mod's results, we're now focusing on the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning card momentarily. This is a video card that we first covered at Computex 2017, where we detailed initial specifications, MOSFETs and power components, and the target use case of XOC or heavy overclocking. We didn't yet have information on the card internals, but our latest tear-down (embedded below) gives some insight on the card's design. There are some unique features on this card that should pose an interesting A/B test during thermal benchmarking.

Our approach to reviewing the MSI GE72 7RE gaming laptop has been more drawn-out than normally, as we’ve individually run tests for FPS performance and for the impact of pre-installed software on the machine. Today, we’re combining all of those numbers into our final review of the MSI GE72 7RE notebook and its 1050 Ti & i7-7700HQ hardware, coming to an ultimatum on the product as a whole.

The MSI GE72 7RE Apache Pro runs a 17.3” display, making for what is an abnormally large form factor for a 1050 Ti, and is able to accommodate a larger keyboard as a result. It’s not a perfect keyboard, as we’ll discuss in the video, but it does have a numpad and most standard keys. This larger form factor is also critical for the sprawling cooling solution, which makes use of the additional area to spread out its heatpipes and dual-fan cooling. It’s a trade-off, as always: A bigger laptop does mean better cooling, but a 1050 Ti does sort of seem the perfect fit for a 14-15.6” machine. From experience, we can say that you won’t be opening this display in an economy seat on an airplane – but if that’s not how the laptop is being used, you end up with what is still a slim, fairly light option.

Our model included a 128GB SSD from Toshiba (but supply changes, so that’s not a guaranteed supplier), 1TB HDD, 2x8GB DIMMs, the 1050 Ti, and an i7-7700HQ. The price for this unit, which we had on loan, would run around $1200-$1300.

MSI representatives were excited to show us the company’s new AIC M.2 adapter & cooler combo, noting that it should address our previous concerns (that the company had validated, with some SSDs) regarding the M.2 heat “shields.” The AIC is a PCIe x8 device that can run 2x M.2 SSDs (at full throughput) in RAID, or can mount a 2.5” drive to the back-side of the card. Each M.2 SSD is mounted under an MSI heat sink, which they still erroneously call heat “shields,” which is made of a yet-unknown material. If it is the same as the first generation of heat “shields,” it is a stainless steel. If it is the new generation, MSI has gone to aluminum, following our earlier complaints of poor thermal transfer and dissipation. The AIC also carries with it a small blower fan, which pushes air through the chamber and out the back. An acrylic cover and LED offer some more interesting visuals.

Our initial coverage of the Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard provided a first look at boards outfitted for AMD’s new Threadripper CPU. We’re now moving to ASUS to look at the Zenith Extreme motherboard, for which ASUS provided significantly fewer details than other motherboard vendors. Still, we were able to get a hands-on look and figure out a few of the basics.

The ASUS Zenith Extreme is AMD’s flagship X399 motherboard – pricing TBD, as AMD has not yet finalized socket and chipset prices – and will likely ship in August. As we understand it, Threadripper’s launch should be August 10th, which is around when all the motherboards would theoretically ship. Mass production is targeted for most boards in mid-August.

We posted a content piece pertaining to MSI’s pre-installed software – which we called “bloatware” – prior to the start of Computex. The company had responded at first with silence to emails, but then responded mid-week (in emails) with an overall neutral tone that suggested a wish to improve. There wasn’t much said in the emails, though, and certainly nothing official – so we sought out MSI’s US laptop representative at Computex, then asked for comment.

MSI’s Clifford Chun joined us, Product Manager of Laptops at MSI (US HQ), and discussed the company’s intermediary solution to the excessive pre-installed software. As Chun states in the video below, MSI will begin including an uninstaller package with their new laptops in 2H17. This utility will provide check boxes to each of the pre-installed applications and, upon launching it, will allow users to check and delete software. There is some irony to the idea of including more software to remove software, of course, but it’s a first step. It’d also be ideal to opt-in, not out, but marketing agreements do not generally permit this (as we said in the first video).

We’ll talk more below about why MSI is stuck in a difficult position, but first, the interview:

Most manufacturers have invited us to some sort of notebook press conference or briefing for this show, and there are a few reasons why: For one, nVidia is now pushing a new initiative to tighten requirements on manufacturers to build quieter laptops, and two, AMD R7 notebooks are now beginning to enter the channel. We’ll focus on MSI’s new notebooks here, alongside some additional coverage of nVidia’s new “Max-Q” initiative, named in true Bond-like fashion.

MSI’s new laptops use existing product lines from Intel and nVidia, so there’s no new silicon, but the company has revamped its chassis and cooling solution for the new GT75VR Titan, GE63VR Raider, and GE73VR Raider. Unfortunately, the company did not take questions during its press conference, so we’ll have to save our recent criticisms for a second booth visit later in the show. Regardless, we’ve got information on the hardware, and that’s something for which we’ve previously praised MSI. Based on upgrades to cooling, MSI boasted heavily in the press conference that the new notebooks would produce “30% higher performance,” though we do not know what they will be 30% higher than, or in what measurement.

Anyway, let’s cut through the marketing and talk hardware.

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