While we crank away at finalizing the review for the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X, the Ryzen R5 CPUs, and some other products, we decided to run a PCB & VRM quality analysis of MSI’s card. The new GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X is another in a line of overbuilt VRMs, but interesting for a number of reasons (especially given the quality of this round’s reference VRM).

In our analysis of the PCB, we go over VRM design, overclocking potential, and power mods. The power mod section (toward the end of the video) discusses shunt shorting and how to trick the GPU into permitting a higher power throughput than natively allowed.

View Buildzoid’s analysis below:

The first unlocked i3 CPU, upon its pre-release disclosure to GN, sounded like one of Intel’s most interesting moves for the Kaby Lake generation. Expanding overclocking down to a low/mid-tier SKU could eat away at low-end i5 CPUs, if done properly, and might mark a reprisal of the G3258’s brief era of adoration. The G3258 didn’t hold for long, but its overclocking prowess made the CPU an easy $60-$70 bargain pickup with a small window of high-performance gaming; granted, it did have issues in more multi-threaded games. The idea with the G3258 was to purchase the chip with a Z-series platform, then upgrade a year later with something higher-end.

The i3-7350K doesn’t quite lend itself to that same mindset, seeing as it’s ~$180 and leaves little room between neighboring i5 CPUs. This is something that you buy more permanently than those burner Pentium chips. The i3-7350K is also something that should absolutely only be purchased under the pretense of overclocking; this is not something that should be bought “just in case.” Do or do not – if you’re not overclocking, do not bother to consider a purchase. It’s not uncommon for non-overclockers to purchase K-SKU Core i7 CPUs, generally for desire of “having the best,” but the 7350K isn’t good enough on its own to purchase for that same reason. Without overclocking, it’s immediately a waste.

The question is whether overclocking makes the Intel i3-7350K worthwhile, and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this review’s set of benchmarks. We test Blender rendering, gaming FPS, thermals, and synthetics in today’s review.

For comparison, neighboring non-K Intel products would include the Intel i5-7500 (3.4GHz) for $205, the i3-7100 for $120, and Intel i3-7320 (4.1GHz) for $165. These sandwich the 7350K into a brutal price category, but overclocking might save the chip – we’ll find out shortly.

To catch everyone up, we’ve also already reviewed the Intel i7-7700K ($350) and Intel i5-7600K ($240), both of which can be found below:

At the tail-end of a one-day trip across the country, this episode of Ask GN tides us over until our weekend burst of further content production. We’re currently working on turning around a few case reviews, some game benchmarks, and implementing new thermal calibrators and high-end equipment.

In the meantime, this episode addresses questions involving “doubled” DRAM prices, delidding plans for the i7-7700K, contact between a heatsink and the back of a video card, and a few other topics. Check back posthaste as we’ll ramp into publication of our i5-7600K review within the next day.

Video below, timestamps below that:

Our latest episode of Ask GN talks CPU IHS inclusion, delidding, RAM overclocking, some other tech questions, and a new trial GN shirt. We also talk about and demonstrate the audio quality differences between a Sennheiser MD46 and Sennheiser G3 lav kit, as some readers/viewers had inquired about our audio gear during CES.

The IHS discussion is an interesting one, and we’ll soon be demonstrating the cooling differences between delidded and lidded CPUs. Until then, though, we’re talking strength and the reasoning for an IHS to begin with.

Video below, timestamps to follow:

In the latest feature from overclocker Buildzoid, we follow-up on our full review of the Gigabyte Z270X Gaming 7 motherboard with a VRM analysis of the motherboard. The Gigabyte Gaming 7 of the Z270X family, ready for Kaby Lake, is one of the pricier boards at $240 and attempts to justify its cost in two ways: Overclocking features and RGB LEDs (naturally).

Gigabyte’s Z270X Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard was the first to host our Intel i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU that we reviewed. The board also forced us to try a few different motherboards for our Kaby Lake CPU thermal benchmarking, because the initial numbers were astronomically high. We’ll get to that later.

Gigabyte’s newest rendition of its Gaming 7 line places the Z270 7th Gen chipset on the motherboard, alongside the RGB LEDs expected of the company’s “Aorus” brand. The board bills itself a rather high-end solution – at least, before venturing into extreme OC territory – and does so under a $240 banner. Also on our bench the next two weeks, the MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (Z270) and MSI Tomahawk (Z270) were used as a point of comparison against the Gaming 7. As Kaby Lake and the i7-7700K are brand new, the three boards are all we’ve used from the 200-series chipsets thus far.

(UPDATE: We talk about Auto vCore issues in this review. Please note that Gigabyte has since updated its BIOS to fix these problems. Learn more here.)

Hardware news has, somewhat surprisingly, maintained its pace through the late months of the year. We normally expect a slowdown in December, but with AMD’s onslaught of announcements (Instinct, Ryzen, Vega), and with announcements leading into CES, we’ve yet to catch a break.

This week’s hardware news focuses on the RX 460 unlocking discovered by Der8auer, new SSDs from Corsair (MP500) and Zadak, and TSMC’s fab expansion.

Video below:

Buildzoid returns this week to analyze the PCB and VRM of Gigabyte's GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force GPU, providing new insight to the card's overclocking capabilities. We showed a maximum overclock of 2151.5MHz on the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force, but the card's stable OC landed it at just 2100.5MHz. Compared to the FTW Hybrid (2151.5MHz overclock sustained) and MSI Sea Hawk 1080 (2050MHz overclock sustained), the Gigabyte Xtreme Water Force's overkill VRM & cooling land it between the two competitors.

But we talk about all of that in the review; today, we're focused on the PCB and VRM exclusively.

The card uses a 12-phase core voltage VRM with a 2-phase memory voltage VRM, relying on Fairchild Semiconductor and uPI Micro for most the other components. Learn more here:

Buildzoid of “Actually Hardcore Overclocking” joined us to discuss the new EVGA GTX 1080 FTW PCB, as found on the Hybrid that we reviewed days ago. The PCB analysis goes into the power staging, and spends a few minutes explaining the 10-phase VRM, which is really a doubled 5-phase VRM. Amperage supported by the VRM and demanded by the GPU are also discussed, for folks curious about the power delivery capabilities of the FTW PCB, and so is the memory power staging.

If you're curious about the thermal solution of the EVGA FTW Hybrid, check out the review (page 1 & 3) for that. EVGA is somewhat uniquely cooling the VRAM by sinking it to a copper plate, then attaching that to the CLC coldplate. We say “somewhat” because Gigabyte also does this, and we hope to look at their unit soon.

The theoretical end of AMD's Polaris desktop GPU line has just begun shipment, and that's in the form of the RX 460. Back at the pre-Computex press event, AMD informed us that the Polaris line would primarily consist of two GPUs on the Polaris architecture – Polaris 10 & 11 – and that three cards would ship on this platform. Two of the three have already shipped and been reviewed, including the ~$240 RX 480 8GB cards (review here) and ~$180-$200 RX 470 cards (review here). The next architecture will be Vega, in a position to potentially be the first consumer GPU to use HBM2.

Today, we're looking at Polaris 11 in the RX 460. The review sample received is Sapphire's RX 460 Nitro 4GB card, pre-overclocked to 1250MHz. The RX 460, like the 470, is a “partner card,” which means that no reference model will be sold by AMD for rebrand by its partners. AMD has set the MSRP to $110 for the RX 460, but partners will vary widely depending on VRAM capacity (2GB or 4GB), cooler design, pre-overclocks, and component selection. At time of writing, we did not have a list of AIB partner prices and cards available.

As always, we'll be reviewing the Sapphire RX 460 4GB with extensive thermal testing, FPS testing in Overwatch, DOTA2, GTA V, and more, and overclock testing. Be sure to check page 1 for our new PCB analysis and cooler discussion, alongside the in-depth architecture information.

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