Our leading story for this week is AMD's semi-custom Gonzalo APU for consoles, getting finalized now, although we also share some of that lead-story limelight with Der8auer. Der8auer, the world's favorite delidder and second favorite overclocker (we won't say who's first) has handily beaten our high score in the 3DMark Hall of Fame, and we now must respond to his challenge. 

Plenty of other news for the week, too, like Intel's new Optane SSDs, IDC and Gartner reporting on CPU shortages, and the Spoiler exploit.

Our initial AMD Radeon VII liquid cooling mod was modified after the coverage went live. We ended up switching to a Thermaltake Floe 360 radiator (with different fans) due to uneven contact and manufacturing defects in the Alphacool GPX coldplate. Going with the Asetek cooler worked much better, dropping our thermals significantly and allowing increased overclocking and stock boosting headroom. The new drivers (19.2.3) also fixed most of the overclocking defects we originally found, making it possible to actually progress with this mod.

As an important foreword, note that overclocking with AMD’s drivers must be validated with performance at every step of the way. Configured frequencies are not the same as actual frequencies, so you might type “2030MHz” for core and get, for instance, 1950-2000MHz out. For this reason, and because frequency regularly misreports (e.g. “16000MHz”), it is critical that any overclock be validated with performance. Without validation, some “overclocks” can actually be bringing performance below stock while appearing to be boosted in frequency. This is very important for overclocking Radeon VII properly.

The Intel Xeon W-3175X CPU is a 28-core, fully unlocked CPU capable of overclocking, a rarity among Xeon parts. The CPU’s final price ended up at $3000, with motherboards TBD. As of launch day – that’s today – the CPU and motherboards will be going out to system integrator partners first, with DIY channels to follow at a yet-to-be-determined date. This makes reviewing the 3175X difficult, seeing as we don’t yet know pricing of the rest of the parts in the ecosystem (like the X599 motherboards), and seeing as availability will be scarce for the DIY market. Still, the 3175X is first a production CPU and second an enthusiast CPU, so we set forth with overclocking, Adobe Premiere renders, Blender tests, Photoshop benchmarking, gaming, and power consumption tests.

Hardware news coverage largely focuses on silicon fabrication this week, with TSMC boasting revenue growth from 7nm production, Intel planning its own 7nm and EUV renovations in US facilities, and other manufacturers getting on-board the 7nm and EUV production train. Beyond this news, we cover a class action lawsuit against AMD for Bulldozer, Samsung's new 970 SSDs, and Backblaze's hard drive reliability report. Note further that GN is in the news, as we're planning a liquid nitrogen (LN2) overclocking livestream for Sunday, 1/27 at 1PM EST. We will have a special guest present.

Show notes below the embedded video, as always.

After our launch-day investigation into delidding the 9900K and finding its shortcomings, we’ve been working on a follow-up involving lapping the inside of the IHS and applying liquid metal to close the story on improvement potential with the delid process. We’re also returning to bring everyone back to reality on delidding the 9900K, because it’s not as easy as it may look from what you’re seeing online.

We already know that it’s possible to see performance improvement, based on our previous content and Roman’s own testing, but we’ve also said that Intel’s solder is an improvement over its previous Dow Corning paste. Considering that, in our testing, high-end Hydronaut paste performs nearing the solder, that’s good news when compared to the older thermal compound. Intel also needed to make that change for more thermal headroom, so everyone benefits – but it is possible to outperform it.

We've been working hard at building our second iteration of the RIPJAY bench, last featured in a livestream where we beat JayzTwoCents' score in TimeSpy Extreme, taking first place worldwide for a two-GPU system. Since then, Jay has beaten our score -- primarily with water and direct AC cooling -- and we have been revamping our setup to fire back at his score. More on that later this week.

In actual news, though, it's still been busy: RAM prices are behaving in a bipolar fashion, bouncing around based on a mix of supply, demand, and manufacturers trying to maintain high per-unit margins. Intel, meanwhile, is still combating limited supply of its now-strained 14nm process, resulting in some chipsets getting stepped-back to 22nm. AMD is also facing shortages for its A320 and B450 chipsets, though this primarily affects China retail. We also received word of several upcoming launches from Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA -- the RTX 2070 and Polaris 30 news (the latter is presently a rumor) being the most interesting.

We always like to modify the reference cards – or “Founders Edition,” by nVidia’s new naming – to determine to what extent a cooler might be holding it back. In this instance, we suspected that the power limitations may be a harder limit than cooling, which is rather sad, as the power delivery on nVidia’s RTX 2080 Ti reference board is world-class.

We recently published a video showing the process, step-by-step, for disassembling the Founders Edition cards (in preparation for water blocks). Following this, we posted another piece wherein we built-up a “Hybrid” cooling version of the card, using a mix of high-RPM fans and a be quiet! Silent Loop 280 CLC for cooling the GPU core on a 2080 Ti FE card. Today, we’re summarizing the results of the mod.

“How frequently should I replace liquid metal?” is one of the most common questions we get. Liquid metal is applied between the CPU die and IHS to improve thermal conductivity from the silicon, but there hasn’t been much long-term testing on liquid metal endurance versus age. Cracking and drying are some of the most common concerns, leading users to wonder whether liquid metal performance will fall off a cliff at some point. One of our test benches has been running thermal endurance cycling tests for the last year now, since September of 2017, just to see if it’s aged at all.

This is a case study. We are testing with a sample size of one, so consider it an experiment and case study over an all-encompassing test. It is difficult to conduct long-term endurance tests with multiple samples, and would require dozens (or more) of identical systems to really build-out a large database. From that angle, again, please keep in mind that this is a case study of one test bench, with one brand of liquid metal.

For today, we’re talking about volt-frequency scalability on our 8086K one more time. This time, coverage includes manual binning of our core, as we already illustrated limitations of the IMC in the overclocking stream. We’ve also already tested the CPU for thermal and acoustic performance when considering liquid metal applications.

The Intel i7-8086K is a binned i7-8700K, so we thought we’d see what bin we got. This testing exhibits simple volt-frequency curves as plotted against Blender and Firestrike stability testing. Note that our stability tests were limited to 30 minutes in an intensive Blender workload. Realistically, this is the most achievable for publication purposes, and 99% of CPUs that pass this test will remain stable. If we were selling these CPUs, maybe like Silicon Lottery, it’d obviously be preferable to test for many hours.

In case you missed it, we spent four hours live overclocking an Intel i7-8086K just a couple days ago. The OC effort was watched by about 2300 people concurrently, spanning all four hours, and was one of our most successful streams to-date. The viewership was beaten only, and unsurprisingly, by our #RIPLTT stream’s 5000 concurrent viewers.

As for the testing, it was all 8086K overclocking in Firestrike Physics, with some additional memory overclocking in the final two hours. Components used were varied, depending on what was happening at any given time, and the final frequency was high. We closed at 5.35GHz, running a 101 BCLK with 53x all-core multiplier. Some additional testing was done in effort to push individual cores to 54x, but we couldn’t get it stable. Despite our ultimate core limitations at just under 5.4GHz, the CPU itself – barring the IMC – is the best-binned 8700K we’ve had hands-on with yet. Our 8086K (which is a binned 8700K) managed to hold 5.1GHz at roughly 1.3V with relative stability in Firestrike, only running into exponential increases in voltage requirement upon pushing 53x multipliers. We even attempted 1.5V for a 5.4GHz overclock, but just couldn’t stabilize. Our plan is to return in the future with a bigger or more exotic cooling solution atop the die. Our X62 did admirably, and the delid with liquid metal (Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut) kept thermals in check, but lower is still better.

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