Naming schemes are occasionally interesting topics – normally because a company has decided to stop naming its products after Greek gods, or because of its complexity. MSI's laptop lineup has grown enough in diversity to demand three primary lines (“Apache,” “Titan,” and “Stealth”), each of which is then assigned two significant numbers.
While visiting MSI at its office last week, we finally had a chance to demystify a naming scheme which the product managers acknowledge can be somewhat confusing. The laptops we looked at are all of the new 10-series nVidia options, previewed here, including the GT83, GT73, GE63, GS63, and GS73. Each character means something:
MSI and system integrator CyberPower are selling the new GT83VR Titan SLI notebook, which sells with K-SKU Intel CPUs and dual GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 GPUs. The move away from M-suffixed cards means that these GPUs are effectively identical to their desktop counterparts, with the exception of the GTX 1070's core increase and clock reduction.
That difference, just to quickly clear it away, results in 2048 CUDA cores on the notebook 1070 (vs. 1920 on the desktop) and a baseline clock-rate of 1645MHz on the notebook (1683MHz on the desktop). Despite talk about the 1060, 1070, and 1080 model notebooks, we haven't yet gotten into the SLI models for this generation.
Implementation of liquid coolers on GPUs makes far more sense than on the standard CPU. We've shown in testing that actual performance can improve as a result of a better cooling solution on a GPU, particularly when replacing weak blower fan or reference cooler configurations. With nVidia cards, Boost 3.0 dictates clock-rate based upon a few parameters, one of which is remedied with more efficient GPU cooling solutions. On the AMD side of things, our RX 480 Hybrid mod garnered some additional overclocking headroom (~50MHz), but primarily reduced noise output.
Clock-rate also stabilizes with better cooling solutions (and that includes well-designed air cooling), which helps sustain more consistent frametimes and tighten frame latency. We call these 1% and 0.1% lows, though that presentation of the data is still looking at frametimes at the 99th and 99.9th percentile.
The EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid has thus far had the most interesting cooling solution we've torn down on an AIO cooled GPU this generation, but Gigabyte's Xtreme Waterforce card threatens to take that title. In this review, we'll benchmark the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force card vs. the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid and MSI/Corsair 1080 Sea Hawk. Testing is focused on thermals and noise primarily, with FPS and overclocking thrown into the mix.
A quick thanks to viewer and reader Sean for loaning us this card, since Gigabyte doesn't respond to our sample requests.
Upon return home from PAX, we quickly noticed that the pile of boxes included an MSI GTX 1080 Sea Hawk EK graphics card, which use a pre-applied GPU water block for open loop cooling. This approach is more traditional and in-depth than what we've shown with the AIO / CLC solutions for GPUs, like what the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid uses (review here).
The Sea Hawk EK ($783) partners with, obviously, EK WB for the liquid cooling solution, and uses a full coverage block atop a custom MSI PCB for cooling. The biggest difference in such a setup is coverage of the VRAM, MOSFETs, capacitor bank, and PWM. The acrylic is channeled out for the inductors, so their heat is not directly conducted to the water block; this would increase liquid temperature unnecessarily, anyway.
We won't be fully reviewing this card. It's just not within our time budget right now, and we'd have to build up a wet bench for testing open loop components; that said, we'll soon be testing other EK parts – the Predator, mostly – so keep an eye out for that. The Sea Hawk EK was sent by MSI before confirming our review schedule, so we decided to tear it apart while we've got it and see what's underneath.
In Corsair's recently released Hydro GFX marketing video, we noticed that the video card on display used the protruded coldplate that we've been talking about since the 980 Ti Hybrid. That plate was recently put to the test in our GTX 1080 Hybrid vs. Sea Hawk review, where we found the protruded unit performs marginally better than the flat plate shipping with the Sea Hawk / Hydro GFX. We reached out to Corsair to discuss the change spotted in the marketing video, hoping to understand why the unannounced* (officially) modification was made, and have outlined the email responses below.
This seems largely to be a non-issue for users who purchased their cards from the official Corsair website, though we do have some contingencies for MSI Sea Hawk buyers. Note also that the temperature difference we spotted between the coolers is partially a result of new information we received regarding the Hydro GFX, primarily that the coldplate had its standoffs machined down by MSI prior to shipment. These machined standoffs have a larger tolerance (~0.2mm) for height than we've seen in from-factory Asetek CLCs (~0.05-0.08mm), which means mounting pressure could contribute to marginal thermal differences.
The video breaks things down most readily, but continue reading if preferred.
We're finally reviewing the real EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid ($730), having built our own several months ago by using a liquid cooling kit. The EVGA version, though, is more official – and it's also using an FTW custom PCB rather than the 5-phase reference board we relied upon. The FTW Hybrid has better power management and delivery, in theory, alongside a far more advanced cooling solution than we instituted on our own DIY Hybrid.
In this review, we'll primarily and most heavily be focusing on thermals between the Sea Hawk X and the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid, but will also look at FPS and overclocking performance. Noise and power testing are additionally available, along with some unique Boost functionality discussion.
When we received the new 10-series laptops for review, we immediately noticed sluggishness in the OS just preparing the environment for testing. Even with an SSD, opening Windows Explorer took at least one full second – eternity, by today's standards. It was anything but instant, as a new computer should be, and would prompt outrage from any real-world consumer.
Looking further into the issue, we realized that the system tray accommodated 13 icons of pre-installed software that opened on launch. This included an incessant warranty registration pop-up/reminder, Norton Anti-Virus (the biggest offender on spurious CPU utilization), about three different control panels – because we need multiple paths to one location – and a few other programs.
This, traditionally, is what's known as “bloatware;” it's software pre-installed by the manufacturer that the user didn't necessarily request, and bloats the system's processes to a crawl. Today, we're showing just how profoundly a new system's framerate is dragged down by bloat. Using an MSI GE62VR Apache Pro laptop (~$1600) with a GTX 1060 and an i7-6700HQ CPU (boosts to 3.5GHz), 16GB DDR4, and an M.2 SSD, we're clearly not running Windows on slow hardware. And that's the thing, too – even Windows is slow at the desktop level. Just using the desktop, we'd occasionally spike to ~30% load for no good reason, and frequently hit 100% load during file transfers (thanks, Norton).
For validation purposes, we also ran the same tests on an MSI GE62 Apache Pro with a GTX 970M and i7 CPU. That's one last-gen model and one current model, both clean Windows installs with all the factory-preset software included.
No reference card has impressed us this generation, insofar as usage by the enthusiast market. Primary complaints have consisted of thermal limitations or excessive heat generation, despite reasonable use cases with SIs and mITX form factor deployments. For our core audience, though, it's made more sense to recommend AIB partner models for superior cooling, pre-overclocks, and (normally) lower prices.
But that's not always the case – sometimes, as with today's review unit, the price climbs. This new child of Corsair and MSI carries on the Hydro GFX and Seahawk branding, respectively, and is posted at ~$750. The card is the construct of a partnership between the two companies, with MSI providing access to the GP104-400 chip and a reference board (FE PCB), and Corsair providing an H55 CLC and SP120L radiator fan. The companies sell their cards separately, but are selling the same product; MSI calls this the “Seahawk GTX 1080 ($750),” and Corsair sells only on its webstore as the “Hydro GFX GTX 1080.” The combination is one we first looked at with the Seahawk 980 Ti vs. the EVGA 980 Ti Hybrid, and we'll be making the EVGA FTW Hybrid vs. Hydro GFX 1080 comparison in the next few days.
For now, we're reviewing the Corsair Hydro GFX GTX 1080 liquid-cooled GPU for thermal performance, endurance throttles, noise, power, FPS, and overclocking potential. We will primarily refer to the card as the Hydro GFX, as Corsair is the company responsible for providing the loaner review sample. Know that it is the same as the Seahawk.
MSI has announced it will be releasing five new GTX 1060 3GB cards. The new Pascal video cards are set for an August release, and they will take on AMD’s 4GB RX 480 in the $200 - $250 market. The MSRP for the GTX 1060 3GB cards will be $200, but some cards may be priced higher to account for pre-overclocks and AIB partner value adds, like improved cooling.
The GTX 1060 3GB cards have 1152 CUDA cores, operating at a base clock of 1506MHz and a boost clock of 1708MHz – the same as the 6GB model, but with 128 fewer cores. MSI, like other AIB partners, will offer factory overclocked cards coupled with brand heatsinks.
MSI has begun filling-in its X99A line of Broadwell-E motherboards with workstation-targeted options, built for compliance with ECC Registered DIMMs and with boosted maximum data throughput via M.2. The motherboard fits LGA2011-3 socketed CPUs, including Haswell-E and Broadwell-E, and supports SLI with nVidia Quadro GPUs for production workloads. Additional focus is placed on storage controllers and HSIO allocation, fitting for a board that will be deployed in workstation environments (e.g. render machines, CAD/ProE machines).
The X99A Workstation motherboard uses what appears to be an 8-phase power design for its core VRM, with additional phases for the memory. The VRM is comprised of titanium inductors with a max temperature of 220C, supporting higher current for extreme overclocks. Dark capacitors (solid caps) populate the board and VRM's capacitor bank, rated for a 10-year lifespan.
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