Big Things, Small Packages
Sapphire isn’t a brand we have covered in a while, so it is nice to see a new and interesting product drop on our door. Sapphire was a relative unknown until around the release of the Radeon 9700 Pro days. This was around the time when ATI decided that they did not want to be so vertically integrated, so allowed other companies to start buying their chips and making their own cards. This was done to provide a bit of stability for ATI pricing, as they didn’t have to worry about a volatile component market that could cause their margins to plummet. By selling just the chips to partners, ATI could more adequately control margins on their own product while allowing their partners to make their own deals and component choices for the finished card.
ATI had very limited graphics card production of their own, so they often would farm out production to second sources. One of these sources ended up turning into Sapphire. When ATI finally allowed other partners to produce and brand their own ATI based products, Sapphire already had a leg up on the competition by being a large producer already of ATI products. They soon controlled a good portion of the marketplace by their contacts, pricing, and close relationship with ATI.
Since this time ATI has been bought up by AMD and they no longer produce any ATI branded cards. Going vertical when it come to producing their own chips and video cards was obviously a bad idea, we can look back at 3dfx and their attempt at vertical integration and how that ended for the company. AMD obviously produces an initial reference version of their cards and coolers, but allows their partners to sell the “sticker” version and then develop their own designs. This has worked very well for both NVIDIA and AMD, and it has allowed their partners to further differentiate their product from the competition.
Sapphire usually does a bang up job on packaging the graphics card. Oh look, a mousepad!
Sapphire is not as big of a player as they used to be, but they are still one of the primary partners of AMD. It would not surprise me in the least if they still produced the reference designs for AMD and then distributed those products to other partners. Sapphire is known for building a very good quality card and their cooling solutions have been well received as well. The company does have some stiff competition from the likes of Asus, MSI, and others for this particular market. Unlike those two particular companies, Sapphire obviously does not make any NVIDIA based boards. This has been a blessing and a curse, depending on what the cycle is looking like between AMD and NVIDIA and who has dominance in any particular marketplace.
Subject: Storage | February 27, 2014 - 07:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SSD 730, ssd, Intel, Overclocked
Today marks the release of the first overclocked SSD to hit the market, the Intel 730 which is based on the SSD DC S3500 and SSD DC S3700 series for data centers. As these were drives specifically crafted for the datacenter they were both more expensive than consumer models and were optimized for completely different uses. The new Intel 730 drive is overclocked, the NAND functions at 600MHz compared to the DC's 400MHz and the cache RAM speed is jumped up to 100MHz from 83MHz. The Tech Report discovered that extra frequency comes at a price, the wattage consumed by this drive is significantly higher than just about any other SSD they have reviewed, no wonder Intel labels this as specifically for desktops.
Make sure to check out Allyn's fresh off the presses review of this drive and don't let his temperature readings shock you too much.
"Intel's new 730 Series desktop SSD is rather unique. It's based on the company's datacenter drives, it has an extra flash die onboard, and the controller and NAND are both clocked well beyond their usual speeds. We take a closer look."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Intel SSD 730 Series @ The SSD Review
- The SSD Endurance Experiment: Data retention after 600TB @ The Tech Report
- OCZ Vector 150 and OCZ Vertex 460 Review: New SSDs from Toshiba's OCZ Storage Solutions @ X-Bit Labs
- Crucial M500 480GB SSD @ NikKTech
- Sandisk X210 240GB Business Class Solid State Drive @ eTeknix
- ntel’s 3rd Generation SSD Controller Manufactured By LSI @ SSD Review
- Angelbird Adler SSDs & SSD2Go PRO Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MyDigitalSSD Super Cache 2 128GB M.2 SATA 6G @ SSD Review
- 8 PCIe & SATA M.2 SSDs Test ASRock’s Fatal1ty 990FX Killer AM3+ AMD MotherBoard @ SSD Review
- SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- SanDisk Connect 64GB Wireless Flash Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- ADATA DashDrive Elite SE720 128GB External SSD @ Kitguru
- Kingston DataTraveler Mini 3.0 16GB Flash Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB vs. Western Digital WD Black 4 TB Hard Drive Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Matsunichi 500GB USB 3.0 Portable HDD @ TechwareLabs
- Seagate Desktop SSHD 2 TB Hard Drive Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Thecus N5550 NAS Server @ NikKTech
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 10, 2013 - 05:48 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Overclocked, nvidia, just delivered, gtx 780, gtx 770, gtx 760, GTX 670 Mini, DirectCU II, DCII, asus
Returning home on Monday, I was greeted by several (slightly wet) boxes from Asus. Happily, the rainstorm that made these boxes a bit damp did not last long, and the wetness was only superficial. The contents were perfectly fine. I was pleased by this, but not particularly pleased with FedEx for leaving them in a spot where they got wet. All complaints aside, I was obviously ecstatic to get the boxes.
Quite the lineup. The new packaging is sharp looking and clearly defines the contents.
Inside these boxes are some of the latest and greatest video cards from Asus. Having just finished up a budget roundup, I had the bandwidth available to tackle a much more complex task. Asus sent four cards for our testing procedures, and I intend to go over them with a fine toothed comb.
The smallest of the bunch is the new GTX 670 DC Mini. Asus did some serious custom work to not only get the card as small as it is, but also to redesign the power delivery system so that the chip only requires a single 8 pin PCI-E power connection. Most GTX 670 boards require 2 x 6 pin connectors which would come out to be around 225 watts delivered, but a single 8 pin would give around 175 watts total. This is skirting the edge of the official draw for the GTX 670, but with the GK104 chip being as mature as it is, there is some extra leeway involved. The cooler is quite compact and apparently pretty quiet. This is aimed at the small form factor crowd who do not want/need a overly large card, but still require a lot of performance. While the GTX 700 series is now hitting the streets, there is still a market for this particular card. Oh, and it is also overclocked for good measure!
We see a nice progression from big to little. It is amazing how small the GTX 670 DC Mini is compared to the rest, and it will be quite interesting to see how it compares to the GTX 760 in testing.
The second card is the newly released GTX 760 DCII OC. This is again based on the tried and true GK104 chip, but has several units disabled. It has 1152 CUDA cores, but retains the same number of ROPS as the fully enabled chips. It also features the full 256 bit memory bus running at 6 Gbps. It has plenty of bandwidth to provide the card in most circumstances considering the amount of functional units enabled. The cooler is one of the new DirectCU II designs and is a nice upgrade in both functionality and looks from the previous DCII models. It is a smaller card than one would expect, but that comes from the need to simplify the card and not overbuild it like the higher priced 770 and 780 cards. As I have mentioned before, I really like the budget and midrange cards. This should be a really fascinating card to test.
The next card is a bit of an odd bird. The GTX 770 DCII OC is essentially a slightly higher clocked GTX 680 from yesteryear. One of the big changes is that this particular model foregoes the triple slot cooler of the previous generation and implements a dual slot cooler that is quite heavy and with a good fin density. It features six pin and eight pin power connections so it has some legs for overclocking. The back plate is there for stability and protection, and it gives the board a very nice, solid feel. Asus added two LEDs by the power connections which show if the card is receiving power or not. This is nice, as the fans on this card are very silent in most situations. Nobody wants to unplug a video card that is powered up. It retains the previous generation DCII styling, but the cooler performance is certainly nothing to sneeze at. It also is less expensive than the previous GTX 680, but is faster.
All of the cards sport dual DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI outputs. Both DVI ports are dual-link, but only one is DVI-I which can also output a VGA signal with the proper adapter.
Finally we have the big daddy of the GTX 700 series. The 780 DCII OC is pretty much a monster card that exceeds every other offering out there, except the $1K GTX Titan. It is a slightly cut down chip as compared to the mighty Titan, but it still packs in 2304 CUDA cores. It retains the 384 bit memory bus and runs at a brisk 6 Gbps for a whopping 288.4 GB/sec of bandwidth. The core is overclocked to a base of 889 MHz and boosts up to 941 MHz. The cooler on this is massive. It features a brand new fan design for the front unit which apparently can really move the air and do so quietly. Oddly enough, this fan made its debut appearance on the aforementioned GTX 670 DC Mini. The PCB on the GTX 780 DCII OC is non-reference. It features a new power delivery system that should keep this board humming when overclocked. Asus has done their usual magic in pairing the design with high quality components which should ensure a long lifespan for this pretty expensive board.
I do like the protective plates on the backs of the bigger cards, but the rear portion of the two smaller cards are interesting as well. We will delve more into the "Direct Power" functionality in the full review.
I am already well into testing these units and hope to have the full roundup late next week. These are really neat cards and any consumer looking to buy a new one should certainly check out the review once it is complete.
Asus has gone past the "Superpipe" stage with the GTX 780. That is a 10 mm heatpipe we are seeing. All of the DCII series coolers are robust, and even the DC Mini can dissipate a lot of heat.
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 16, 2012 - 03:23 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Overclocked, nvidia, gt640, gpu, gddr3
Interestingly, in spite of recent rumors suggesting that NVIDIA is refreshing the low-end GeForce GT 640 graphics card with GDDR5 memory, add-in-board partner Point Of View is launching an overclocked GT 640. What’s interesting is that the new card will be packing the older GDDR3. The card will come in two SKUs, a 1GB and a 2GB model – both with 384 CUDA cores. Using a 128-bit memory interface and a PCI-E 3.0 card interface, the card is based on NVIDIA’s 28nm “Kepler” GPU.
In addition to the GDDR3 memory, specifications include a 1006 MHz graphics clock, and 2020 MHz memory clock. Compared to the reference GT 640, the overclocked GT 640 has a healthy boost. The reference GPU clock speed is only 900 MHz while the memory clock speed is 1800 Mhz, meaning the Point of View TGT Ultra Charged has a 106 MHz GPU and 220 MHz memory overclock – very respectable. As Techpowerup notes, the factory overclocked card will cost around or € 115 with VAT tax (around $120 USD). That puts this card in between an AMD 7750 and AMD 7770. The overclocks should help it to get closer to the performance of the 7750, but it is still rather difficult to justify. Especially with a refreshed version with GDDR5 rumored to be in the works, I would hold off on buying any current GT 640 cards, and I think from our recent podcast Ryan would agree with me.\
What do you think though; let us know in the comments below. You can read more about the new factory overclocked GeForce GT 640 over at TechPowerUp.
What does $399 buy these days?
I think it is pretty safe to say that MSI makes some pretty nice stuff when it comes to video cards. Their previous generation of the HD 6000 and GTX 500 series of cards were quite popular, and we reviewed more than a handful here. That generation of cards really seemed to stake MSI’s reputation as one of the top video card vendors in the industry in terms of quality, features, and cooling innovation. Now we are moving onto a new generation of cards from both AMD and NVIDIA, and the challenges of keeping up MSI’s reputation seem to have increased.
The competition has become much more aggressive as of late. Asus has some unique solutions, and companies such as XFX have stepped up their designs to challenge the best of the industry. MSI has found themselves to be in a much more crowded space with upgraded cooler designs, robust feature sets, and pricing that reflects the larger selection of products that fit such niches. The question here is if MSI’s design methodology for non-reference cards is up to the challenge.
Previously I was able to review the R7970 Lightning from MSI, and it was an impressive card. I had some initial teething problems with that particular model, but a BIOS flash later and some elbow grease allowed it to work as advertised. Today I am looking at the R7950 TwinFrozr3GD5/OC. This card looks to feature a reference PCB combined with a Twin Frozr III cooling solution. I was not entirely sure what to expect with this card, since the Lightning was such a challenge at first.
Will it Strike Again?
It can now be claimed that we are arguably in our 4th generation of Lightning products from MSI. It can also be claimed that the 3rd generation of products really put that brand on the mainstream map. The R6970 and N580GTX (and XE version) set new standards for enthusiast grade graphics cards. Outstanding construction, unique pcb design, high quality (and quantity) of components, and a good eye for overall price have all been hallmarks of these cards. These were honestly some of my favorite video cards of all time. Call me biased, but I think when looking through other reviews those writers felt much the same. MSI certainly hit a couple of homeruns with their three Lightning offerings of 2011.
Time does not stand still. Resting on laurels is always the surest way to lose out to more aggressive competitors. It is now 2012 and AMD has already launched the latest generation of HD 7000 chips, with the top end being the HD 7970. This particular product was launched in late December, but cards were not available until January 9th of 2012. We are now at the end of March where we see a decent volume of products on the shelves, as well as some of the first of the non-reference designs hitting the streets. Currently Asus has its DirectCU II based 7970, but now we finally get to see the Lightning treatment.
MSI has not sat upon their laurels it seems. They are taking an aggressive approach to the new Lightning series of cards, and they implement quite a few unique features that have not been seen on any other product before. Now the question is did they pull it off? Throwing more features at something does not necessarily equal success. The increase in complexity of a design combined with other unknowns with the new features could make it a failure. Just look at the R5870 Lightning for proof. That particular card tread new ground, but did so in a way that did not adequately differentiate itself from reference HD 5870 designs. So what is new and how does it run? Let us dig in!
Subject: Mobile | January 12, 2012 - 09:50 PM | Matt Smith
Tagged: Overclocked, origin, laptop, desktop, cooling, CES
Origin is one of the big names in the boutique custom PC business, and this CES the company is once again striving to prove why it deserves such credentials. I stopped by the company’s suite and saw something cool, something practical, and something jaw-dropping.
Let’s save the best for first: Origin showed a Genesis system powered by a phase change cooling system built into the case. As a result of this system, the company is able to deliver cooling at temperatures nearing -40 degrees Celsius. The system also draws so much power that they could only run one at once – running both the phase change systems in the suite could be more than the room can handle.
With the processor’s thermals taken care of, Origin is able to overclock up to two core of the Core i7 3960X to 5.7 GHz, while the rest can be clocked up to 5.3 GHz. This is well above the base speed of 3.3 GHz and in the realm of speeds you’d expect to see in competitions.
The rest of the system is also technically impressive. Four 3GB GTX580s running in SLI are shoved in next to 12GB of RAM and two Corsair SSDs in RAID0. This impressive hardware allows the system to post a score of 6,613 in PCMark 7 and 23,014 in 3DMark 11 (with the video cards overclocked to 950 MHz).
What I found most interesting about the system, however, was Origin’s extreme attention to detail. They implemented a red-white-black theme that is conveyed not only by the motherboard and the video card but also the cooling tubes, heatsinks and even the numerous PCIe power cables sending juice to the GTX580s. Nothing was overlooked, and the result is a system that is sure to make any hardcore geek salivate.
Pricing is not available yet for this high-end configuration. Availability is expected to be around February or March.
Origin also has their cool new laptop designs on display. Like most boutique PC companies, the laptop chassis used by Origin is a generic design (by Clevo, I believe). However, the new Origin EON15-S and EON17-S will be using custom lid panels with a look that is somewhat reminiscent of muscle car’s hood.
The glossy prototype versions shown by Origin looked a bit cheap, but the company says the final product version will be matte. If so, these could be some sharp looking systems. Of course, the internals are as quick as ever – the EON17-S shown features a Core i7-2960XM overclocked to 4.5 GHz.
The company’s last announcement doesn’t involve a system, but rather a practial feature for customers - support. Origin is now offering free 24/7 lifetime support for its customers. This is retroactive, so previous customers now qualify for this assistance. Better still, the support is entirely US based. You won’t have to worry about your concerns being lost in translation. It is refreshing to encounter a company that is adding customer service and support rather than stripping it away.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Republic of Gamers Means Business
I have got to be honest with you - most of the time getting me excited for graphics cards any more is a chore. Unless we are talking about a new architecture from NVIDIA or AMD, card vendors are hard pressed to the same attention from me they used to a couple of years ago when every card release was something to pay attention to. Over the next week or so though it turns out that ASUS and Gigabyte have a few noteworthy items definitely worth some grade-A analysis and reviewing starting with today's: the ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 580 beast.
The Republic of Gamers brand is reserved for the highest-end parts from the company that are obviously targeted at three main segments. First, the serious gamers and enthusiasts that demand the top level performance either because they can't stand to lose at gaming or just want nothing but the best for their own experiences. Secondly are the professional overclockers that live on features and capabilities that most of us could only dream of pushing and that need LN2 to get the job done. Finally, the case modding groups that demand not only great performance, but sexy designs that add to the aesthetics of the design as whole and aren't boring. The ROG brand does a very commendable job of hitting all three of these groups in general and specifically with the new Matrix-series GTX 580.
In the following pages we will document what makes this card different, how it performs, how it overclocks and why it might be the best GTX 580 card on the market today.
MSI R6970 Lightning: High Speed, Low Drag
MSI has been on a tear as of late with their video card offerings. The Twin Frozr II and III series have all received positive reviews, people seem to be buying their products, and the company has taken some interesting turns in how they handle overall design and differentiation in a very crowded graphics marketplace. This did not happen overnight, and MSI has been a driving force in how the video card business has developed.
Perhaps a company’s reputation is best summed up by what the competition has to say about them. I remember well back in 1999 when Tyan was first considering going into the video card business. Apparently they were going to release a NVIDIA TnT-2 based card to the marketplace, and attempt to work their way upwards with more offerings. This particular project was nixed by management. A few years later Tyan attempted the graphics business again, but this time with some ATI Radeon 9000 series of cards. Their biggest seller was their 9200 cards, but they also offered their Tachyone 9700 Pro. In talking with Tyan about where they were, the marketing guy simply looked at me and said, “You know, if we had pursued graphics back in 1999 we might be in the same position that MSI is in now.”