We’ve gotten into the habit of fixing video cards lately, a sad necessity in an era plagued with incomplete, penny-pinching designs that overlook the basics, like screw tension, coldplate levelness, and using thermal pads that are about 60% smaller than they should be. MSI’s RX 5700 XT Evoke OC (review here) is the newest in this growing list of cards that any user could fix, unfortunately, and it’s for reasons we illustrated best in our tear-down of the card. Our testing illustrated that its cooling capabilities are sub-par when compared to the Sapphire Pulse, and not only that, but that the memory temperatures are concerningly high when noise-normalized in our benchmarks. Today, we’re fixing that with properly sized thermal pads.

Today’s review looks extensively at the thermals and noise of MSI’s RX 5700 XT Evoke OC card. It’s named “OC” because it has a higher stock clock than average – and higher than some other partner models, too – although the actual overclocking performance for all these cards is limited primarily by silicon quality and memory controller quality. We’ll be most heavily comparing the 5700 XT Evoke to the Sapphire 5700 XT Pulse, which performed excellently and got our recommendation in the review. The Evoke OC should cost around $430, although price isn’t final at time of writing, and that’d put it about $10-$20 ahead of Sapphire’s pricing, or $30 over AMD’s reference card. We’ll go deep with thermal and noise analysis today, alongside some gaming analysis, to see if MSI’s Evoke OC is worth the extra money.

Gaming performance is of minimal interest in this type of review. We’ve already established the 5700 XT’s performance in our initial review (and it didn’t change much in our Sapphire Pulse 5700 XT review), and so the point of interest is thermals and acoustic. Gaming performance hardly changes past what the base silicon can do, and overclocking performance is more luck-of-the-draw than PCB influence, and so we’ll only present a few gaming charts here to establish the average delta between the Evoke and Pulse or Reference models. The MSI RX 5700 XT Evoke OC should be available here whenever it’s actually listed, but partners have been slow to post cards on retailers.

We know that Sapphire’s Pulse is supposed to be $410, although current listings have it on pre-order at $420. We also know that the MSI card should be around $430, but they haven’t finalized that pricing. We’ll review based off of the information we (think) we have.

MSI’s really trying to make black-and-gold a thing for components this year. The company used to be a frontrunner for blue-and-black, then the black-and-red era of Z97 onward, and then the black-and-RGB era, and has now started making black-and-gold everything. That trend began with motherboards, like the Ace, but is continuing to video cards. Aside from that, the rest of this will come down to cooler quality. We’ll do a separate tear-down video on our YouTube channel, but let’s dive into thermal data.

We’re still in China for our factory and lab tours, but we managed to coordinate with home base to get enough testing on the GTX 1660 done that a review became possible. Patrick ran the tests this time, then we just put the charts and script together from Dongguan, China.

This is a partner launch, so no NVIDIA direct sampling was done and, to our knowledge, no Founders Edition board will exist. Reference PCBs will exist, as always, but partners have control over most of the cooler design for this launch.

Our review will look at the EVGA GTX 1660 dual-fan model, which has an MSRP of $250 and lands $30 cheaper than the baseline GTX 1660 Ti pricing. The cheapest GTX 1660s will sell for about $220, but our $250 unit today has a higher power target allowance for overclocking and a better cooler. The higher power target is the most interesting, as overclocking performance can stretch upwards toward a GTX 1660 Ti at the $280 price-point.

We’ll get straight to the review today. Our focus will be on games, with some additional thermal and power tests toward the end. Again, as a reminder, we’re doing this remotely, so we don’t have as many non-gaming charts as normally, but we still have a complete review.

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.

We recently bought the MSI GTX 1070 Ti Duke for a separate PC build, and decided we’d go ahead and review the card while at it. The MSI GTX 1070 Ti Duke graphics card uses a three-fan cooler, which MSI seems to now be officially calling the “tri-frozr” cooler, and was among the more affordable GTX 1070 Ti cards on the market. That reign has ended as GPU prices have re-skyrocketed, but perhaps it’ll return again to $480. Until then, we’ll write this assuming that price. Beyond $480, it’s obviously not worth it, just to spell that out right now.

The MSI GTX 1070 Ti Duke has one of the thinner heatsinks of the 10-series cards, and a lot of that comes down to card form factor: The Duke fits in a 2-slot form factor, but runs a three-fan cooler. This mixture necessitates a thin, wide heatsink, which means relatively limited surface area for dissipation, but potentially quieter fans from the three-fan solution.

NOTE: We wrote this review before CES. Card prices have since skyrocketed. Do not buy any 1070 Ti for >$500. This card was reviewed assuming a $470-$480 price-point. Anything more than that, it's not worth it.

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.

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