Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GeForce GTX 980M Performance Testing

When NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 graphics cards last month, part of the discussion at our meetings also centered around the mobile variants of Maxwell. The NDA was a bit later though and Scott wrote up a short story announcing the release of the GTX 980M and the GTX 970M mobility GPUs. Both of these GPUs are based on the same GM204 design as the desktop cards, though as you should have come to expect by now, do so with lower specifications than the similarly-named desktop options. Take a look:

  GTX 980M GTX 970M
GTX 980
(Desktop)
GTX 970
(Desktop)
GTX 880M
(Laptop)
CUDA Cores 1536 1280 2048 1664 1536
Core (MHz) 1038 924 1126 1050 954
Perf. (TFLOP) 3.189 2.365 4.612 3.494 2.930
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 3GB 4GB 4GB 4GB/8GB
Memory Rate 2500 MHz 2500 MHz 7.0 (GT/s) 7.0 (GT/s) 2500 MHz
Memory Width 256-bit 192-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Architecture Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Kepler
Process Node 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
DirectX Version 12.0 12.0 12.0 12.0 11.0

Just like the desktop models, GTX 980M and GTX 970M are built on the 28nm process technology and are tweaked and built for power efficiency - one of the reasons the mobile release of this product is so interesting.

With a CUDA core count of 1536, the GTX 980M has 33% fewer shader cores than the desktop GTX 980, along with a slightly lower base clock speed. The result is a peak theoretical performance of 3.189 TFLOPs, compared to 4.6 TFLOPs on the GTX 980 desktop. In fact, that is only slightly higher than the GTX 880M based on Kepler, that clocks in with the same CUDA core count (1536) but a TFLOP capability of 2.9. Bear in mind that the GTX 880M is using a different architecture design than the GTX 980M; Maxwell's design advantages go beyond just CUDA core count and clock speed.

notebook1.jpg

The GTX 970M is even smaller, with a CUDA core count of 1280 and peak performance rated at 2.365 TFLOPs. Also notice that the memory bus width has shrunk from 256-bit to 192-bit for this part.

As is typically the case with mobile GPUs, the memory speed of the GTX 980M and GTX 970M is significantly lower than the desktop parts. While the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 that install in your desktop PC will have memory running at 7.0 GHz, the mobile versions will run at 5.0 GHz in order to conserve power.

From a feature set stand point though, the GTX 980M/970M are very much the same as the desktop parts that I looked at in September. You will have support for VXGI, NVIDIA's new custom global illumination technology, Multi-Frame AA and maybe most interestingly, Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR). DSR allows you to render a game at a higher resolution and then use a custom filter to down sample it back to your panel's native resolution. For mobile gamers that are using 1080p screens (as our test sample shipped with) this is a good way to utilize the power of your GPU for less power-hungry games, while getting a surprisingly good image at the same time.

Continue reading our review of the GeForce GTX 980M Mobile GPU!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Kingwin

Introduction and Features

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EZ-Clone in Standalone disk-cloning mode

Kingwin’s new EZ-Clone (Model: USI-2535CLU3) is a HDD/SSD adapter that can be used as a standalone disk-cloning device or as an external hard drive adapter. When used in standalone mode, the self-powered EZ-Cone can quickly clone one SATA/IDE drive to a new SATA drive in minutes (IDE to SATA or SATA to SATA) without being connected to a PC.

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EZ-Clone being used as an external drive adapter

When used as an external drive adapter the EZ-Clone provides connectors for attaching two SATA drives (SSD or HDD) and one IDE hard drive in 2.5” or 3.5” form factors. The EZ-Clone adapter connects to a PC using the high-speed USB 3.0 interface. When used as an external drive adapter, the user can access up to two external drives at the same time (two SATA drives or one SATA and one IDE drive).

Kingwin EZ-Clone Key Features: (from the Kingwin website)
•    EZ-Clone model: USI-2535CLU3
•    External USB 3.0 to dual-SATA & single-IDE clone adapter
•    Standalone disk duplicator with One-Touch Clone Button (no PC required)
•    Supports 2.5” and 3.5” IDE and SATA drives (HDD or SSD)
•    Compatible with SATA I/II/III (1.5/3.0/6.0 Gbps)
•    SATA Drive Hot-swap compatibility
•    Supports hard drives up to 3TB disk size
•    Dual output power supply with standard 4-pin and SATA power connectors
•    Up to 5 Gbps data transfer rate with USB 3.0 (also compatible with USB 2.0)
•    USB Plug-and-play capability
•    2 Drive LEDs (red) and four Clone Progress LEDs (blue)
•    Screw-less, easy to attach connectors
•    Windows and Mac OS compatible (no driver installation required)
•    1-Year Warranty from Kingwin
•    MSRP $39.99 USD ($33.99 from Amazon.com, Oct. 2014)

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Please continue reading our review of the Kingwin EZ-Clone HDD/SSD adapter!!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

** Edit **

The tool is now available for download from Samsung here. Another note is that they intend to release an ISO / DOS version of the tool at the end of the month (for Lunix and Mac users). We assume this would be a file system agnostic version of the tool, which would either update all flash or wipe the drive. We suspect it would be the former.

** End edit **

As some of you may have been tracking, there was an issue with Samsung 840 EVO SSDs where ‘stale’ data (data which had not been touched for some period of time after writing it) saw slower read speeds as time since written extended beyond a period of weeks or months. The rough effect was that the read speed of old data would begin to slow roughly one month after written, and after a few more months would eventually reach a speed of ~50-100 MB/sec, varying slightly with room temperature. Speeds would plateau at this low figure, and more importantly, even at this slow speed, no users reported lost data while this effect was taking place.

900x900px-LL-4985de76_2014-09-1720.18.26TestresultsforC_0.png

An example of file read speeds slowing relative to file age.

Since we first published on this, we have been coordinating with Samsung to learn the root causes of this issue, how they will be fixed, and we have most recently been testing a pre-release version of the fix for this issue. First let's look at the newest statement from Samsung:

Because of an error in the flash management software algorithm in the 840 EVO, a drop in performance occurs on data stored for a long period of time AND has been written only once. SSDs usually calibrate changes in the statuses of cells over time via the flash management software algorithm. Due to the error in the software algorithm, the 840 EVO performed read-retry processes aggressively, resulting in a drop in overall read performance. This only occurs if the data was kept in its initial cell without changing, and there are no symptoms of reduced read performance if the data was subsequently migrated from those cells or overwritten. In other words, as the SSD is used more and more over time, the performance decrease disappears naturally.  For those who want to solve the issue quickly, this software restores the read performance by rewriting the old data. The time taken to complete the procedure depends on the amount of data stored.

This partially confirms my initial theory in that the slow down was related to cell voltage drift over time. Here's what that looks like:

threshold shift.png

As you can see above, cell voltages will shift to the left over time. The above example is for MLC. TLC in the EVO will have not 4 but 8 divisions, meaning even smaller voltage shifts might cause the apparent flipping of bits when a read is attempted. An important point here is that all flash does this - the key is to correct for it, and that correction is what was not happening with the EVO. The correction is quite simple really. If the controller sees errors during reading, it follows a procedure that in part adapts to and adjusts for cell drift by adjusting the voltage thresholds for how the bits are interpreted. With the thresholds adapted properly, the SSD can then read at full speed and without the need for error correction. This process was broken in the EVO, and that adaptation was not taking place, forcing the controller to perform error correction on *all* data once those voltages had drifted near their default thresholds. This slowed the read speed tremendously. Below is a worst case example:

840 EVO 512 test hdtach-2-.png

We are happy to say that there is a fix, and while it won't be public until some time tomorrow now, we have been green lighted by Samsung to publish our findings.

Continue reading our look at the new Samsung 840 EVO performance restoration process!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

02-board.jpg

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Z97X-UD5H motherboard is one of the middle tier offerings in GIGABYTE's channel line of boards. GIGABYTE updated the previous revision of their UD5H board, integrating the Intel Z97 Express chipset as well as updated heat sink and power circuitry design. At an MSRP of $189.99, the Z97X-UD5H offers a premium feature set at an affordable price.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE designed the board in accordance with the latest revision of their Ultra Durable design specifications, integrating a 12-phase digital power system so that the board would remain stable under any operating conditions. Ultra Durable brings several high-end power components into the board's design: International Rectifier (IR) manufactured PowIRstage™ ICs and PWM controllers, Nippon Chemi-con manufactured Black Solid capacitors with a 10k hour operational rating at 105C, 15 micron gold plating on the CPU socket pins, and two 0.070mm copper layers embedded into the PCB for optimal heat dissipation. The Z97X-UD5H motherboard includes the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; one M.2 10 Gb/s port; dual Gigabit NICs - an Intel I217-V NIC and a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slot; two PCI-Express x1 slots; two PCI slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons; Dual-Bios and active BIOS switches; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

05-rear-panel.jpg

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H motherboard!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

SLI Setup and Testing Configuration

The idea of multi-GPU gaming is pretty simple on the surface. By adding another GPU into your gaming PC, the game and the driver are able to divide the workload of the game engine and send half of the work to one GPU and half to another, then combining that work on to your screen in the form of successive frames. This should make the average frame rate much higher, improve smoothness and just basically make the gaming experience better. However, implementation of multi-GPU technologies like NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire are much more difficult than the simply explanation above. We have traveled many steps in this journey and while things have improved in several key areas, there is still plenty of work to be done in others.

As it turns out, support for GPUs beyond two seems to be one of those areas ready for improvement.

IMG_9993.JPG

When the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 launched last month my initial review of the product included performance results for GTX 980 cards running in a 2-Way SLI configuration, by far the most common derivative. As it happens though, another set of reference GeForce GTX 980 cards found there way to our office and of course we needed to explore the world of 3-Way and 4-Way SLI support and performance on the new Maxwell GPU.

The dirty secret for 3-Way and 4-Way SLI (and CrossFire for that matter) is that it just doesn't work as well or as smoothly as 2-Way configurations. Much more work is put into standard SLI setups as those are by far the most common and it doesn't help that optimizing for 3-4 GPUs is more complex. Some games will scale well, others will scale poorly; hell some even scale the other direction.

Let's see what the current state of high GPU count SLI is with the GeForce GTX 980 and whether or not you should consider purchasing more than of these new flagship parts.

Continue reading our performance review of 3-Way and 4-Way SLI with the GTX 980!!

Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Features

Corsair recently released three new HXi Series Fully Modular power supplies: the HX1000i, HX850i, and the HX750i. All three power supplies are 80 Plus Platinum certified and support the Corsair Link digital interface. Corsair continues to offer a full line of high quality power supplies, memory components, cases, cooling components, SSDs and accessories to market for the PC enthusiast and professional alike. In this review we will be taking a detailed look at the HXi Series 1000W fully modular power supply.

2-HX1000i_AC_side.jpg

All three of the new Corsair HXi Series power supplies are optimized for silence and high efficiency. Zero RPM fan mode means the fan doesn’t spin until the PSU is under heavy load, and the fan itself is custom-designed by Corsair for low noise operation even at high loads. Flat ribbon-style black cables are fully modular to facilitate fast, clean builds.

The Corsair HXi Series is built with high-quality components, including all Japanese electrolytic capacitors, and is guaranteed to deliver clean, stable, continuous power, even at ambient temperatures as high as 50°C. HXi Series users can also install Corsair Link software to monitor power usage, efficiency, and fan speed.

80 Plus Platinum: High Efficiency – Low Heat HXi Series PSUs are 80 Plus Platinum certified, making them among the most efficient on the market. With efficiency of at least 92% at 50% load, your PC will remain cool and quiet, potentially saving money in the process.

Corsair Link Ready While the HXi is an analog power supply, it features a built in analog to digital bridge to communicate vital information to the Corsair Link software via USB. This allows the user to monitor and log fan speed, current and voltage of the +3.3V, +5V, and +12V rails, monitor power out, display power in and efficiency, and enable/disable OCP on the +12V rails.

Zero RPM Fan Mode offers silent operation at low to moderate loads. Thanks to a highly efficient design, the HXi Series power supplies generate minimal heat and are able to operate in a silent, zero RPM Fan Mode for up to 40% of the PSU’s maximum load (at 25°C room temperature). This means the HXi power supply can be completely silent while the PC is performing less intensive tasks. As the load and temperatures rise within the PSU, the thermally controlled fan gradually spins up for quiet operation even during more demanding computing.

Optimized for Low Noise Corsair continues to branch out beyond memory and power supplies and is paying close attention to fans and their applications. Within a PSU, the most important feature of a fan is high static pressure, allowing the fan to push air through the relatively high density of components. The NR135P intake fan was specifically designed to move more air through the power supply components with less noise. Fan blades are properly balanced to prevent resonance at higher RPMs and the fan features fluid dynamic bearings for quiet operation and long life.

In addition to the specially designed Corsair cooling fan the components on the HXi Series PCB are laid out to allow air to easily flow between them. The HXi PSUs also include fully modular cables made flat for easy installation and reduced airflow resistance.

3-HX1000i_DC_side.jpg

Corsair HX1000i PSU Features summary:

•    1,000W continuous DC output (up to 50°C)
•    7-Year Warranty and Comprehensive Customer Support
•    80 PLUS Platinum certified, at least 92% efficiency under 50% load
•    Corsair Link ready for real-time monitoring and control
•    Fully modular cables for easy installation
•    Flat ribbon-style, low profile cables help optimize airflow
•    Zero RPM Fan Mode for silent operation up to 40% load
•    Quiet fluid dynamic fan bearing for long life and quiet operation
•    High quality components including all Japanese electrolytic capacitors
•    Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
•    Safety Protections : OCP, OVP, UVP, SCP, OTP, and OPP
•    MSRP for the HX100i : $229.99 USD

Please continue reading our review of the Corsair HX1000i PSU!!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

02-profile-armor.jpg

Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VII Formula motherboard is one of the newest members of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) product line, integrating several new features to elevate the board to an entirely new level over is predecessor. From outward appearance the Maximus VII Formula looks very similar to its previous revision, the Maximus VI Formula. However, ASUS made some under-the-hood enhancements and minor layout adjustments to the board, utilizing the functionality of the integrated Intel Z97 chipset. The Maximus VII Formula comes with a premium MSRP of $369.00, but is well worth the cost given the premium feature set and performance potential of the board.

03-board-fly-apart.jpg

Courtesy of ASUS

04-power.jpg

Courtesy of ASUS

05-audio.jpg

Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Maximus VII Formula motherboard with a top-rated 8-phase digital power delivery system, combining 60A-rated BlackWing chokes, NexFET MOSFETs with a 90% efficiency rating, and 10k Japanese-source Black Metallic capacitors, for unprecedented system stability under any circumstance. Additionally, ASUS integrate their updated SupremeFX Formula audio system for superior audio fidelity through the integrated audio ports. The Maximus VII Formula contains the following features integrated into its design: six SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) 10 Gb/s port integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo III card; two SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; an Intel I218V GigE NIC; an AzureWave (Broadcomm chipset) 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo III card; three PCI-Express Gen3 x16 slots; three PCI-Express Gen2 x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, Keybot, MemOK!, BIOS Flashback, ROG Connect, and Sonic SoundStage buttons; Probelt voltage measurement points; OC Panel support; SupremeFX Formula 2014 audio solution; CrossChill Hybrid air and water cooled VRM copper-based cooling solution; ROG Armor overlay; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VII Formula motherboard!

Author:
Manufacturer: Rebellion

Quick Performance Comparison

Earlier this week, we posted a brief story that looked at the performance of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on the latest GPUs from both NVIDIA and AMD. Last week also marked the release of the v1.11 patch for Sniper Elite 3 that introduced an integrated benchmark mode as well as support for AMD Mantle.

I decided that this was worth a quick look with the same line up of graphics cards that we used to test Shadow of Mordor. Let's see how the NVIDIA and AMD battle stacks up here.

For those unfamiliar with the Sniper Elite series, the focuses on the impact of an individual sniper on a particular conflict and Sniper Elite 3 doesn't change up that formula much. If you have ever seen video of a bullet slowly going through a body, allowing you to see the bones/muscle of the particular enemy being killed...you've probably been watching the Sniper Elite games.

screen3.jpg

Gore and such aside, the game is fun and combines sniper action with stealth and puzzles. It's worth a shot if you are the kind of gamer that likes to use the sniper rifles in other FPS titles.

But let's jump straight to performance. You'll notice that in this story we are not using our Frame Rating capture performance metrics. That is a direct result of wanting to compare Mantle to DX11 rendering paths - since we have no way to create an overlay for Mantle, we have resorted to using FRAPs and the integrated benchmark mode in Sniper Elite 3.

Our standard GPU test bed was used with a Core i7-3960X processor, an X79 motherboard, 16GB of DDR3 memory, and the latest drivers for both parties involved. That means we installed Catalyst 14.9 for AMD and 344.16 for NVIDIA. We'll be comparing the GeForce GTX 980 to the Radeon R9 290X, and the GTX 970 to the R9 290. We will also look at SLI/CrossFire scaling at the high end.

Continue reading our performance results in Sniper Elite 3!!

Manufacturer: be quiet!

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

be quiet! is a relative new comer to the US computer component market with an award-winning reputation for high quality power supplies and components in their native Germany. Recently, they have branched out into the highly competive cooling space with their Dark Rock and Shadow Rock cooler lines. The Dark Rock Pro 3 is the newest member of their Dark Rock cooler line, featuring a massive dual tower radiator and dual fan design. The Shadow Rock Slim is a recent addition to their Shadow Rock line, featuring a smaller footprint single radiator design to maximize motherboard compatibility with the cooler. The Dark Rock Pro 3 comes with a premium MSRP of $89.99, while the Shadown Rock Slim is available at an MSRP of $49.99.

02-darkrock-pro3-profile.png

Courtesy of be quiet!

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Courtesy of be quiet!

As a flagship solution, the Dark Rock Pro 3 cooler has most of the nice to haves to find on top-end coolers from other manufactures - copper base plate and heat pipes, nickel plating on all copper surfaces, thick dual radiator construction, dual fans, and a massive amount of heat pipes to wick the heat away from the CPU surface as fast as possible. be quiet! developed the cooler using dual fans, a 120mm front fan and a 135mm inner fan. Heat is transfered from the copper base plate to the dual aluminum radiators by a dense array of seven copper heat pipes. All surfaces are nickel coated for corrosion protection and scratch resistance with the nickel plating black colored to give the cooler a sleek and menacing appearance.

Continue reading our review of the be quiet! CPU air coolers!

Manufacturer: NVIDIA

If there is one message that I get from NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 900M-series announcement, it is that laptop gaming is a first-class citizen in their product stack. Before even mentioning the products, the company provided relative performance differences between high-end desktops and laptops. Most of the rest of the slide deck is showing feature-parity with the desktop GTX 900-series, and a discussion about battery life.

nvidia-maxwell-mobile-logo.jpg

First, the parts. Two products have been announced: The GeForce GTX 980M and the GeForce GTX 970M. Both are based on the 28nm Maxwell architecture. In terms of shading performance, the GTX 980M has a theoretical maximum of 3.189 TFLOPs, and the GTX 970M is calculated at 2.365 TFLOPs (at base clock). On the desktop, this is very close to the GeForce GTX 770 and the GeForce GTX 760 Ti, respectively. This metric is most useful when you're compute bandwidth-bound, at high resolution with complex shaders.

The full specifications are:

  GTX 980M GTX 970M
GTX 980
(Desktop)
GTX 970
(Desktop)
GTX 880M
(Laptop)
CUDA Cores 1536 1280 2048 1664 1536
Core (MHz) 1038 924 1126 1050 954
Perf. (TFLOP) 3.189 2.365 4.612 3.494 2.930
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 3GB 4GB 4GB 4GB/8GB
Memory Rate 2500 MHz 2500 MHz 7.0 (GT/s) 7.0 (GT/s) 2500 MHz
Memory Width 256-bit 192-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Architecture Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Kepler
Process Node 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
DirectX Version 12.0 12.0 12.0 12.0 11.0

As for the features, it should be familiar for those paying attention to both desktop 900-series and the laptop 800M-series product launches. From desktop Maxwell, the 900M-series is getting VXGI, Dynamic Super Resolution, and Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA). From the latest generation of Kepler laptops, the new GPUs are getting an updated BatteryBoost technology. From the rest of the GeForce ecosystem, they will also get GeForce Experience, ShadowPlay, and so forth.

For VXGI, DSR, and MFAA, please see Ryan's discussion for the desktop Maxwell launch. Information about these features is basically identical to what was given in September.

nvidia-maxwell-battery.jpg

BatteryBoost, on the other hand, is a bit different. NVIDIA claims that the biggest change is just raw performance and efficiency, giving you more headroom to throttle. Perhaps more interesting though, is that GeForce Experience will allow separate one-click optimizations for both plugged-in and battery use cases.

The power efficiency demonstrated with the Maxwell GPU in Ryan's original GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 review is even more beneficial for the notebook market where thermal designs are physically constrained. Longer battery life, as well as thinner and lighter gaming notebooks, will see tremendous advantages using a GPU that can run at near peak performance on the maximum power output of an integrated battery. In NVIDIA's presentation, they mention that while notebooks on AC power can use as much as 230 watts of power, batteries tend to peak around 100 watts. Given that a full speed, desktop-class GTX 980 has a TDP of 165 watts, compared to the 250 watts of a Radeon R9 290X, translates into notebook GPU performance that will more closely mirror its desktop brethren.

nvidia-maxwell-mobile-designs.jpg

Of course, you probably will not buy your own laptop GPU; rather, you will be buying devices which integrate these. There are currently five designs across four manufacturers that are revealed (see image above). Three contain the GeForce GTX 980M, one has a GTX 970M, and the other has a pair of GTX 970Ms. Prices and availability are not yet announced.

Author:
Manufacturer: WB Games

Testing Notes

In what can most definitely be called the best surprise of the fall game release schedule, the open-world action game set in the Lord of the Rings world, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has been receiving impressive reviews from gamers and the media. (GiantBomb.com has a great look at it if you are new to the title.) What also might be a surprise to some is that the PC version of the game can be quite demanding on even the latest PC hardware, pulling in frame rates only in the low-60s at 2560x1440 with its top quality presets.

ShadowOfMordor-2014-10-03-14-12-17-99_0.jpg

Late last week I spent a couple of days playing around with Shadow of Mordor as well as the integrated benchmark found inside the Options menu. I wanted to get an idea of the performance characteristics of the game to determine if we might include this in our full-time game testing suite update we are planning later in the fall. To get some sample information I decided to run through a couple of quality presets with the top two cards from NVIDIA and AMD and compare them.

Testing Notes

Without a doubt, the visual style of Shadow of Mordor is stunning – with the game settings cranked up high the world, characters and fighting scenes look and feel amazing. To be clear, in the build up to this release we had really not heard anything from the developer or NVIDIA (there is an NVIDIA splash screen at the beginning) about the title which is out of the ordinary. If you are looking for a game that is both fun to play (I am 4+ hours in myself) and can provide a “wow” factor to show off your PC rig then this is definitely worth picking up.

Continue reading our performance overview of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Test System Setup

A while ago, in our review of the WD Red 6TB HDD, we noted an issue with the performance of queued commands. This could potentially impact the performance of those drives in multithreaded usage scenarios. While Western Digital acted quickly to get updated drives into the supply chain, some of the first orders might have been shipped unpatched drives. To be clear, an unpatched 5TB or 6TB Red still performs well, just not as well as it *could* perform with the corrected firmware installed.

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We received updated samples from WD, as well as applying a firmware update to the samples used in our original review. We were able to confirm that the update does in fact work, and brings a WD60EFRX-68MYMN0 to the identical and improved performance characteristics of a WD60EFRX-68MYMN1 (note the last digit). In this article we will briefly clarify those performance differences, now that we have data more consistent with the vast majority of 5 and 6TB Reds that are out in the wild.

Test System Setup

We currently employ a pair of testbeds. A newer ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt and an ASUS Z87-PRO. Storage performance variance between both boards has been deemed negligible.

PC Perspective would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, and Kingston for supplying some of the components of our test rigs. 

 
Hard Drive Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/TB / ASUS Z87-PRO
Memory Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 CL9
Hard Drive G.Skill 32GB SLC SSD
Sound Card N/A
Video Card Intel® HD Graphics 4600
Video Drivers Intel
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX
Operating System Windows 8.1 X64 (Update 1)
  • PCMark Vantage and 7
  • Yapt
  • IOMeter
  • HDTach *omitted due to incompatibility with >2TB devices*
  • HDTune
  • PCPer File Copy Test

Read on for the updated performance figures of the WD 6TB Red.

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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A little over a year ago, we posted our review of the Lenovo Y500, which was a gaming notebook that leveraged not one, but two discrete video adapters (2 x NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M in SLI, to be exact) to achieve respectable gaming performance at a reasonable price point (around $1,200 at the time of the review).

Well—take away nearly a pound of weight (to 5.7 lbs), slim the case down to around an inch thick, update the chipset, and remove one video card, and you’ve got the Lenovo Y50 Touch, which ought to be able to improve upon the Y500 in nearly every area if the specifications add up to typical results. Here’s the full list of what our review unit includes:

specs.png

While the GTX 860M (2 GB) is a far cry from, say, the GTX 880M (8 GB) we had the pleasure of testing in MSI’s GT70 2PE, it’s still a very capable card that should provide satisfactory results without breaking the bank (or the back). The rest of the spec sheet is conventional fare for a budget gaming notebook, with the only other surprise being the inclusion of a touchscreen—an option which replaces the traditional matte LCD panel in the standard Y50.

The configuration we received has already been slightly updated to include a CPU that’s a nudge better than the i7-4700HQ: the i7-4710HQ (which gains it 100 MHz in Turbo Boost clock rate). Otherwise, the specs are identical, and the street price is very close to that of the Y500 we originally reviewed: $1,139. Currently, an extra 10 bucks will also score you an external DVD+/-RW drive, and just 90 bucks more will boost your GTX 860M’s VRAM to 4 GB (from 2 GB) and your system RAM to 16 GB from 8 GB. That’s really not a bad deal at all.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo Y50 Touch Gaming Notebook!!

Author:
Manufacturer: EVGA

Installation and Overview

While once a very popular way to cool your PC, the art of custom water loops tapered off in the early 2000s as the benefits of better cooling, and overclocking in general, met with diminished returns. In its place grew a host of companies offering closed loop system, individually sealed coolers for processors and even graphics cards that offered some of the benefits of standard water cooling (noise, performance) without the hassle of setting up a water cooling configuration manually.

A bit of a resurgence has occurred in the last year or two though where the art and styling provided by custom water loop cooling is starting to reassert itself into the PC enthusiast mindset. Some companies never left (EVGA being one of them), but it appears that many of the users are returning to it. Consider me part of that crowd.

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During a live stream we held with EVGA's Jacob Freeman, the very first prototype of the EVGA Hydro Copper was shown and discussed. Lucky for us, I was able to coerce Jacob into leaving the water block with me for a few days to do some of our testing and see just how much capability we could pull out of the GM204 GPU and a GeForce GTX 980.

Our performance preview today will look at the water block itself, installation, performance and temperature control. Keep in mind that this is a very early prototype, the first one to make its way to US shores. There will definitely be some changes and updates (in both the hardware and the software support for overclocking) before final release in mid to late October. Should you consider this ~$150 Hydro Copper water block for your GTX 980?

Continue reading our preview of the EVGA GTX 980 Hydro Copper Water Block!!

Manufacturer: Seasonic

Introduction and Features

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Today we have a double header for your reading enjoyment. Not one, but two Platinum Series power supplies from Seasonic. The two latest additions to Seasonic’s flagship product line are the Platinum 1050W and Platinum 1200W PSUs. The power supplies feature tight voltage regulation (±1~2%), quiet operation (fanless mode), and high efficiency (80Plus Platinum certified). Both PSUs are fully modular and come backed by a 7-year warranty.

Seasonic is a well known and highly respected OEM that produces some of the best PC power supplies on the market today. In addition to supplying power supplies to many big-name companies who re-brand the units with their own name, Seasonic also sells a full line of power supplies under the Seasonic name. Both new power supplies feature an improved Hybrid Fan control circuit and upgraded copper conduction bars on the main PCB, which together help increase efficiency and performance.

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Seasonic Platinum 1050W & 1200W Special Features

Ultra Tight Voltage Regulation Improved load voltage regulation keeps the voltage fluctuations on the 12V output within +2% and -0% (no negative tolerance), and on the 3.3V and 5V outputs between +1% and -1%, which (under 80 Plus load conditions) results in smooth and stable operation.

Seasonic Hybrid Silent Fan Control The industry first, advanced three-phased thermal control balances between silence and cooling. The Hybrid Silent Fan Control provides three operational stages: Fanless, Silent and Cooling Mode.  In addition, a selector switch is provided to allow for manual selection between the Seasonic S2FC (fan control without Fanless Mode) or S3FC (fan control including Fanless Mode).

Reduced Cooling Fan Hysteresis is achieved by a new fan control IC, which optimizes how frequently the fan switches on and off. At 25°C ambient temperature the fan turns on when the load rises above 30% (±5%) and turns off when the load drops below 20% % (±5%). Due to this lag in response the fan switches on and off less frequently, which reduces power loss in Fanless and Silent Mode.

Dual Copper Conduction Bars on the power supply PCB help reduce impedance and minimize voltage drop, which further improves efficiency and performance.

80Plus Platinum The Platinum 1050W & 1200W power supplies are certified in accordance to the 80PLUS organization's Platinum standards, offering performance and energy savings with up to ≥92% efficiency and a true power factor of greater than 0.9 PF.

Full Modular Design (DC to DC) The Seasonic Platinum Series power supplies feature an integrated DC connector panel with onboard VRM (Voltage Regulator Module) that enables not only near perfect DC-to-DC conversion with reduction of current loss/impedance and increase of efficiency but also a fully modular DC cabling that enables maximum flexibility of integration and forward compatibility.

Seasonic Platinum Series 1050W & 1200W PSU Key Features:

•    80Plus Platinum certified super high efficiency
•    Ultra tight voltage regulation
•    Fully Modular Cable design with flat ribbon-style cables
•    Seasonic DC Connector Panel with integrated VRMs
•    DC to DC Converter design
•    Hybrid Silent Fan Control (3 modes of operation: Fanless, Silent and Cooling)
•    High-quality Sanyo Denki San Ace dual ball bearing fan with PWM
•    Ultra-tight voltage regulation (+2% and -0% +12V rail)
•    Dual copper conduction bars on PCB for improved efficiency and performance
•    Supports multi-GPU technologies
•    Conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors
•    High reliability 105°C Japanese made electrolytic capacitors
•    ErP Lot 6 2013 compliant and Intel Haswell processor ready
•    High current Gold plated terminals with Easy Swap connectors
•    Active PFC (0.99 PF typical) with Universal AC input
•    7-Year manufacturer's warranty worldwide

Please continue reading our Seasonic Platinum 1050W & 1200W power supply review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Micron

Introduction and Specifications

Today Micron lifted the review embargo on their new M600 SSD lineup. We covered their press launch a couple of weeks ago, but as a recap, the headline new feature is the new Dynamic Write Acceleration feature. As this is a new (and untested) feature that completely changes the way an SSD must be tested, we will be diving deep on this one later in this article. For the moment, let's dispose with the formalities.

Here are the samples we received for testing:

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It's worth noting that since all M600 models use 16nm 128Gbit dies, packaging is expected to have a negligible impact on performance. This means the 256GB MSATA sample should perform equally to its 2.5" SATA counterpart. The same goes for comparisons against M.2 form factor units. More detail is present in the specs below:

Specifications:

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Highlights from the above specs are the increased write speeds (no doubt thanks to Dynamic Write Acceleration) and improved endurance figures. For reference, the prior gen Micron models were rated at 72TB (mostly regardless of capacity), so seeing figures upwards of 400TB indicates Micron's confidence in their 16nm process.

Packaging:

Sorry to disappoint here, but the M600 is an OEM targeted drive, meaning its 'packaging' will likely be the computer it comes installed in. If you manage to find it through a reseller, it will likely come in OEM-style brown/white box packaging.

We have been evaluating these samples for just under a week and have logged *many* hours on them, so let's get to it!

Continue reading our review of the Micron M600 SSDs!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Apple

One Small Step

While most articles surrounding the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus this far have focused around user experience and larger screen sizes, performance, and in particular the effect of Apple's transition to the 20nm process node for the A8 SoC have been our main questions regarding these new phones. Naturally, I decided to put my personal iPhone 6 though our usual round of benchmarks.

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First, let's start with 3DMark.

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Comparing the 3DMark scores of the new Apple A8 to even the last generation A7 provides a smaller improvement than we are used to seeing generation-to-generation with Apple's custom ARM implementations. When you compare the A8 to something like the NVIDIA Tegra K1, which utilizes desktop-class GPU cores, the overall score blows Apple out of the water. Even taking a look at the CPU-bound physics score, the K1 is still a winner.

A 78% performance advantage in overall score when compared the A8 shows just how much of a powerhouse NVIDIA has with the K1. (Though clearly power envelopes are another matter entirely.)

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If we look at more CPU benchmarks, like the browser-based Google Octane and SunSpider tests, the A8 starts to shine more.

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While the A8 edges out the A7 to be the best performing device and 54% faster than the K1 in SunSpider, the A8 and K1 are neck and neck in the Google Octane benchmark.

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Moving back to a graphics heavy benchmark, GFXBench's Manhattan test, the Tegra K1 has a 75% percent performance advantage over the A8 though it is 36% faster than the previous A7 silicon.

These early results are certainly a disappointment compared to the usual generation-to-generation performance increase we see with Apple SoCs.

However, the other aspect to look at is power efficiency. With normal use I have noticed a substantial increase in battery life of my iPhone 6 over the last generation iPhone 5S. While this may be due to a small (about 1 wH) increase in battery capacity, I think more can be credited to this being an overall more efficient device. Certain choices like sticking to a highly optimized Dual Core CPU design and Quad Core GPU, as well as a reduction in process node to 20nm all contribute to increased battery life, while surpassing the performance of the last generation Apple A7.

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In that way, the A8 moves the bar forward for Apple and is a solid first attempt at using the 20nm silicon technology at TSMC. There is a strong potential that further refined parts (like the expected A8x for the iPad revisions) Apple will be able to further surpass 28nm silicon in performance and efficiency.

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of EVGA

The X99 Classified motherboard is EVGA's premier product offering for their Intel X99 chipset motherboard line. The board supports the Intel LGA2011-3 based processors along with DDR4 memory in a quad channel configuration. The X99 Classified board is a synthesis product for EVGA with all of the innovations from previous boards integrated for a superior offering. A premium product like this comes at a premium price point with an MSRP of $399.99.

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Courtesy of EVGA

The X99 Classified has a 10 phase digital power system and high performance solid state capacitors integrated to power the CPU under any circumstances thrown its way. EVGA designed the following features into the X99 Classified: 10 SATA 3 ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable ports; dual Intel Gigabit NICs - an Intel I217 and an Intel I210; five PCI-Express x16 slots; one PCI-Express x4 slot; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, and dual CMOS clear buttons; triple BIOS selector and Turbo switches; PCIe disable switch jumper block; integrated Probe IT voltage measurement system; GPU Link headers and cables; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of EVGA

Technical Specifications (taken from the EVGA website)

Microprocessor support Intel Socket 2011-3 Processor
PCH Intel X99 chipset
System Memory support Supports Quad channel DDR4 up to 3000MHz+ (OC).
Supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory.
USB 2.0 Ports 8 x from Intel X99 PCH – 6x external, 2x internal
Supports hot plug
Supports wake-up from S1 and S3 mode
Supports USB 2.0 protocol up to a 480 Mbps transmission rate
USB 3.0 Ports 6 x from Intel X99 PCH – 4x external, 2x internal
Supports transfer speeds up to 5Gbps
Backwards compatible USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 support
SATA Ports Intel X99 PCH Controller
6 x SATA 3/6G (600 MB/s) data transfer rate
- Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, AND RAID 10
- Supports hot plug
4 x SATA3/6G AHCI Only
Onboard LAN 1 x Intel i217 Gigabit Ethernet PHY
1 x Intel i210 Gigabit Ethernet MAC
Supports 10/100/1000 Mb/sec Ethernet
Audio Creative Core 3D (CA0132) Controller
6 Channel HD Audio
PCI-E Slots 5 x PCI-E x14 Mechanical Slots
- Arrangement - 1 x16, 2 x 16, 3 x8, 4 x8*
1 x PCI-E x4 Slot

*PCI-E lane distribution listed REQUIRES 40 lane CPU

Operating Systems Supports Windows 8 / 7
Size EATX form factor
12 inches x 10.375 inches (305x264mm)

Continue reading our review of the EVGA X99 Classified motherboard!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: Acer

Technical Specifications

Here they come - the G-Sync monitors are finally arriving at our doors! A little over a month ago we got to review the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q, a 2560x1440 144 Hz monitor that was the first retail-ready display to bring NVIDIA's variable refresh technology to consumers. It was a great first option with a high refresh rate along with support for ULMB (ultra low motion blur) technology, giving users a shot at either option.

Today we are taking a look at our second G-Sync monitor that will hit streets sometime in mid-October with an identical $799 price point. The Acer XB280HK is a 28-in 4K monitor with a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz and of course, support for NVIDIA G-Sync.

The Acer XB280HK, first announced at Computex in June, is the first 4K monitor on the market to be announced with support for variable refresh. It isn't that far behind the first low-cost 4K monitors to hit the market, period: the ASUS PB287Q and the Samsung U28D590D both shipped in May of 2014 with very similar feature sets, minus G-Sync. I discussed much of the general usability benefits (and issues) that arose when using a consumer 4K panel with Windows 8.1 in those reviews, so you'll want to be sure you read up on that in addition to the discussion of 4K + G-Sync we'll have today.

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While we dive into the specifics on the Acer XB280HK monitor today, I will skip over most of the discussion about G-Sync, how it works and why we want it. In our ASUS PG278Q review I had a good, concise discussion on the technical background of NVIDIA G-Sync technology and how it improves gaming.

The idea of G-Sync is pretty easy to understand, though the implementation method can get a bit more hairy. G-Sync introduces a variable refresh rate to a monitor, allowing the display to refresh at wide range of rates rather than at fixed intervals. More importantly, rather than the monitor dictating what rate this refresh occurs at to the PC, the graphics now tells the monitor when to refresh in a properly configured G-Sync setup. This allows a monitor to match the refresh rate of the screen to the draw rate of the game being played (frames per second) and that simple change drastically improves the gaming experience for several reasons.

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Continue reading our review of the Acer XB280HK 4K G-Sync Monitor!!

Manufacturer: Noctua

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Noctua

Noctua is a well known player in the CPU cooling business with their focus on high quality solutions that don't kill your eardrums. The NH-D15 cooler is their current flagship product, building upon the design of their much loved NH-D14 cooler for an even higher performance product offering. The NH-D15 is composed of dual cooling towers, threaded through by six heat pipes. The heat pipes and copper base are all nickel-plated, giving the unit the signature Noctua look. We put the NH-D15 up against other high-performance solutions to best gage its cooling abilities. High performance comes at a cost with the NH-D15 being no exception at a $99.99 MSRP.

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Courtesy of Noctua

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Courtesy of Noctua

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Courtesy of Noctua

The NH-D15 incorporates everything that Noctua has learned in designing its NH-D14 and U-series coolers, coming up with an extreme performance product that maintains almost universal motherboard compatibility. The cooler features twin 150mm wide cooling towers with airflow provided by dual NF-A15 150mm, 1500RPM fans. The heat transfers from the copper base plate to the aluminum radiator towers via six copper heat pipes. The copper base and heat pipes are all nickel-plated, providing scratch and corrosion resistance without affecting thermal transfer capabilities. To ensure optimal acoustics, the NH-A15 fans have rubber corner guards on all four corners to minimize fan vibration and vibration transfer to the radiator. The CPU base plate is seamless and polished to a mirror finish, ensuring an optimal mating surface.

Continue reading our review of the Noctua NH-D15 CPU air cooler!