Hardware news is still rolling into the holidays, as one might expect, because this industry doesn't let its occupants sleep. We're also leading into CES 2020, which means leaks abound. Coverage today includes a few rumor topics -- the RX 5600 XT and Intel Z490, mainly -- with some other industry topics mixed-in. Kioxia (Toshiba) is developing new NAND, motherboard makers can't get rid of X299 fast enough, and Microsoft is talking about its Xbox Series X. Again.
HW News - Xbox Series X Console Announced, Intel's 2013 CPUs Come Back, & Plundervolt CPU VulnerabilitySaturday, 14 December 2019
We're always sort of surprised when hardware news steamrolls right through major holidays. It doesn't slow down. As we approach end of year, Microsoft dropped a major bombshell with its Xbox Series X console announcement, Intel has committed to making more 22nm CPUs, Plundervolt threatens CPU security, and more.
As always, show notes continue after the embedded video.
There's nothing quite as validating as finding out that your hobby is featured in a political misspending and wire fraud case and, for many hardware enthusiasts, that day came when a US politician was found guilty of illegally spending campaign money on over $1300 of Steam games. In the meantime, though, we've got news on AMD RX 5500 XT listings in China, AMD CPU marketshare growth via Steam Hardware Survey, NVIDIA saying that more FPS = more kills, and more.
Most of last week's hardware news revolved around AMD and its Navi and Ryzen product disclosures from the tech day, but plenty still happened during E3 week: Microsoft, for instance, announced its Scarlett console and rediscovered virtual memory, Comcast was caught violating the Consumer Protection Act over 445,000 times, USB 4.0 got lightly detailed for a 2020 launch, and more.
Show notes after the video embed.
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.
Elgato’s 4K60 Pro capture card is an internal PCIe x4 capture card capable of handling resolutions up to 3840x2160 at 60 frames per second, as the name implies. It launched in November with an MSRP of $400, and has remained around that price since.
The Amazon reviews for the 4K60 Pro are almost worthless, because Amazon considers the 4K60 Pro and Elgato’s 1080p-capable HD60 Pro to be varieties of the same product and groups their reviews together. There are only twenty-something reviews of the 4K60 compared to nearly two thousand for the HD60, so that may skew the results slightly. Of the three single-star reviews that are actually for the 4K60, one is from a gentleman who was expecting a seven-inch-long PCIe card to work in a laptop. As of this writing, nobody at all has reviewed it on Newegg, and it’s on sale for $12 off in both locations.
It doesn’t seem like these are flying off the shelves, which probably speaks more to the current demand for 4K 60FPS streaming than the product itself--it’s the cheapest of a very small number of 4K60-capable capture cards, and there’s not any consumer-level competition to speak of. $400 may seem like a lot, but the existing alternatives are much more expensive, like the Magewell Pro Capture HDMI 4K Plus, which (besides having an awful name) costs around $800-$900. The Magewell does have a heatsink and a fan, though, which the 4K60 Pro does not--more on that later.
This Elgato 4K60 Pro review looks at the capture card’s quality and capabilities for both console and PC capture, and also walks through some thermal and temperature measurements taken with thermocouples.
Sea of Thieves, the multiplayer-adventure-survival-pirate simulator from Rare, has finally been released after months of betas and stress tests. Judging by the difficulty they’ve had keeping the servers up after all that preparation, it seems like it’s been pretty popular. This comparison looks at Sea of Thieves Xbox One X vs. PC graphics quality, equalized graphics settings, and framerate/frametime performance on the Xbox.
SoT is also one of the first really big multiplayer titles to be added to the “Xbox Play Anywhere Program.” That means that it’s playable on both Xbox One and Windows 10 with a single purchase (yes, it’s a Windows 10 exclusive DX11 game). Also, Xbox and PC players are free to encounter each other ingame or even party up together, with the only obvious downside being forced to interact with the Windows 10 store and Xbox app. Together, these two aspects make a PC vs Xbox a very interesting comparison, since any player that owns a PC and an Xbox could easily switch.
Final Fantasy XV recently released on PC, and given the attention we drew to the benchmark’s LOD and HairWorks issues, it’s only fair that we take a look at the finished product. Prior to the PC release, the best playable version of the game was the cracked Origin preload the Xbox One X version, so our baseline for this graphics comparison is the Xbox at 4K using the “high” preset.
To match our PC settings to the Xbox version, we first selected the default choice for every option, which got us 90% of the way there. That includes “Average” settings for Model LOD, Anisotropic Filtering, Lighting, Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, and Filtering. Assets (high-quality asset pack), Geomapping (ground tessellation), and all NVIDIA features were turned off, anti-aliasing was set to TAA, and motion blur was turned on. Although this wasn’t a performance test, we limited framerate to the Xbox’s cap of 30FPS for good measure, and set resolution scaling to 100% (since dynamic resolution isn’t available on PC). This is a pretty close approximation of what the Xbox is capable of, and it’s an encouraging sight--the Xbox’s “High” is the PC’s “Average” in almost every category.
Consoles don’t offer many upgrade paths, but HDDs, like the ones that ship in the Xbox One X, are one of the few items that can be exchanged for a standard part with higher performance. Since 2013, there have been quite a few benchmarks done with SSDs vs. HDDs in various SKUs of the Xbox One, but not so many with the Xbox One X--so we’re doing our own. We’ve seen some abysmal load times in Final Fantasy and some nasty texture loading in PUBG, so there’s definitely room for improvement somewhere.
The 1TB drive that was shipped in our Xbox One X is a Seagate 2.5” hard drive, model ST1000LM035. This is absolutely, positively a 5400RPM drive, as we said in our teardown, and not a 7200RPM drive (as some suggest online). Even taking the 140MB/s peak transfer rate listed in the drive’s data sheet completely at face value, it’s nowhere near bottlenecking on the internal SATA III interface. The SSD is up against SATA III (or USB 3.0 Gen1) limitations, but will still give us a theoretical sequential performance uplift of 4-5x -- and that’s assuming peak bursted speeds on the hard drive.
This benchmark tests game load times on an external SSD for the Xbox One X, versus internal HDD load times for Final Fantasy XV (FFXV), Monster Hunter World, PUBG (incl. texture pop-in), Assassin's Creed: Origins, and more.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was officially released on PC this past December, but it’s been playable via Steam Early Access for nearly a year now. In all that time, none of us have played the game, despite many requests for benchmarks. Games that are in active development don’t make for easy testing, and neither do exclusively multiplayer games with tons of variance. Even Overwatch has the ability to play against bots.
Now that PUBG is 1.0 on PC and sort-of-released on Xbox, though, we have extra motivation to buckle down and start testing. We chose to start with the Xbox One X version, since the lack of graphics options makes things simpler. It’s listed as both 4K HDR ready and Xbox One X Enhanced, so our primary testing was done at 4K, with additional Xbox One X benchmarking at 1080p for PUBG. Technically, it’s a “Game Preview,” but the list of other titles in this category makes it look like something that was created expressly for PUBG. It also costs full PC price, $30.
This deep-dive looks at PUBG framerate and frametime performance (which is shockingly bad for a console), along with graphics analysis of the game’s visuals. Although the article covers testing and benchmarking in slightly more depth, we’d also strongly recommend watching the video, as it contains visual representation of what’s happening in-game.
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