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Introduction and Features
Corsair has just expanded their RM Series of PC power supplies to include a third line, the RMx Series, in addition to the original RM and RMi Series. The new RMx power supplies will be available in 550W, 650W, 750W, 850W and 1000W models and are designed by Corsair and built by Channel Well Technologies (CWT). We will be taking a detailed look at the new RM850x 850W PSU in this review.
The RMx Series power supplies are equipped with fully modular cables and optimized for very quiet operation and high efficiency. RMx Series power supplies incorporate Zero RPM Fan Mode, which means the fan does not spin until the power supply is under a moderate to heavy load. The cooling fan is designed to deliver low noise and high static pressure. All of the RMx power supplies are 80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency.
The Corsair RMx Series is built with high-quality components, including all Japanese made electrolytic capacitors, and Corsair guarantees these PSUs to deliver clean, stable, continuous power, even at ambient temperatures up to 50°C.
Corsair’s new RMx Series power supplies are nearly identical to the current RMi Series units except for these differences:
• Lower cost
• No Corsair Link interface
• 135mm fan vs. 140mm fan
• Additional 550W model
The following table provided by Corsair gives a good summary of the differences and similarities between the RM, RMx, and RMi Series power supplies.
(Courtesy of Corsair)
Corsair RM850x PSU Features summary:
• 850W continuous DC output (up to 50°C)
• 7-Year Warranty and Comprehensive Customer Support
• 80 PLUS Gold certified, at least 90% efficiency under 50% load
• 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 NR135L fan 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 RM850x : $149.99 USD
When approached a couple of weeks ago by Microsoft with the opportunity to take an early look at an upcoming performance benchmark built on a DX12 game pending release later this year, I of course was excited for the opportunity. Our adventure into the world of DirectX 12 and performance evaluation started with the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test back in March and was followed by the release of the Ashes of the Singularity performance test in mid-August. Both of these tests were pinpointing one particular aspect of the DX12 API - the ability to improve CPU throughput and efficiency with higher draw call counts and thus enabling higher frame rates on existing GPUs.
This game and benchmark are beautiful...
Today we dive into the world of Fable Legends, an upcoming free to play based on the world of Albion. This title will be released on the Xbox One and for Windows 10 PCs and it will require the use of DX12. Though scheduled for release in Q4 of this year, Microsoft and Lionhead Studios allowed us early access to a specific performance test using the UE4 engine and the world of Fable Legends. UPDATE: It turns out that the game will have a fall-back DX11 mode that will be enabled if the game detects a GPU incapable of running DX12.
This benchmark focuses more on the GPU side of DirectX 12 - on improved rendering techniques and visual quality rather than on the CPU scaling aspects that made Ashes of the Singularity stand out from other graphics tests we have utilized. Fable Legends is more representative of what we expect to see with the release of AAA games using DX12. Let's dive into the test and our results!
Taking Racing Games a Step Further
I remember very distinctly the first racing game I had ever played and where. It was in the basement of a hotel in Billings, MT where I first put a couple of quarters through the ATARI Night Driver arcade machine. It was a very basic simulator with white dots coming at you as if they were reflectors on poles. The game had a wheel and four gears available through a shifter. It had an accelerator and no brake. It was the simplest racing game a person could play. I was pretty young, so it was not as fun to me because I did not do well actually playing it. Like most kids that age, fun is in the anticipation of playing and putting the quarter in rather than learning the intricacies of a game.
Throughout the years there were distinct improvements. I played Pole Position and Enduro on the ATARI 2600, I had my first PC racer with Test Drive (the Ferrari Testarossa was my favorite vehicle) using only the keyboard. I took a break for a few years and did not get back into racing games until I attended the 3dfx T-buffer demo when I saw the latest NFS 4 (High Stakes) played at 1024x768 with AA enabled. Sure, it looked like the cars were covered in baby oil, but that was not a bad thing at the time.
One of the real breakthrough titles for me was NFS: Porsche Unleashed. EA worked with Porsche to create a game that was much closer to a simulation than the previous arcade racers. It was not perfect, but it was one of the first titles to support Force Feedback in racing. I purchased a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 joystick. The addition of FFB was a tremendous improvement in the game as I could feel the tires start to slip and experience the increased resistance to turns. This was my first real attempt at a racing game and actually completing it. I still have fond memories and it would be great to get a remastered version with better graphics and physics, while still retaining the simulation roots.
After PU I again stopped playing racers. The release of Project Gotham racing for the XBox rekindled that a bit, but I soon tired of the feel of the controller and the rumble rather than real FFB effects. Fast forward to Quakecon 2009 when I saw the first gameplay videos of the upcoming DiRT 2. This title was one of the first to adopt DX11 that would push the HD 5800 and GTX 480 video cards for all they were worth. This re-ignited my desire to race. I purchased DiRT 2 as soon as it was available for the PC and played with the aging (but still solid) Sidewinder FFB P2.
The box was a little beat up when it got to me, but everything was intact.
Something was missing though. I really wanted more out of my racing game. The last time I had used a wheel on a racing game was probably an Outrun arcade machine in the late 80s. I did some shopping around and decided on the Thrustmaster F430 Ferrari FFB wheel. It was on sale at the time for a low, low price of $76. It had a 270 degree rotation which is more apt for arcade racers than sims, but it was a solid wheel for not a whole lot of money. It was a fantastic buy for the time and helped turn me into a racing enthusiast.
During this time I purchased my kids a couple of low end wheels that use the bungee cord centering mechanism. These of course lack any FFB features, but the Genius one I acquired was supposed to have some basic feedback and rumble effects: it never worked as such. So, my experience to this point has been joysticks, bungee wheels, and a 270 degree F430 wheel. This does not make me an expert, but it does provide an interesting background for the jump to a higher level of product.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
What's better than an 18-channel NVMe PCIe Datacenter SSD controller in a Half Height Half Length (HHHL) package? *TWO* 18-channel NVMe PCIe Datacenter controllers in a HHHL package! I'm sure words to this effect were uttered in an Intel meeting room some time in the past, because such a device now exists, and is called the SSD DC P3608:
The P3608 is essentially a pair of P3600's glued together on a single PCB, much like how some graphics cards merge a pair of GPUs to act with the performance of a pair of cards combined into a single one:
What is immediately impressive here is that Intel has done this same trick within 1/4 of the space (HHHL compared to a typical graphics card). We can only imagine the potential of a pair of P3600 SSDs, so lets get right into the specs, disassembly, and testing!
Pack a full GTX 980 on the go!
For many years, the idea of a truly mobile gaming system has been attainable if you were willing to pay the premium for high performance components. But anyone that has done research in this field would tell you that though they were named similarly, the mobile GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA had a tendency to be noticeably slower than their desktop counterparts. A GeForce GTX 970M, for example, only had a CUDA core count that was slightly higher than the desktop GTX 960, and it was 30% lower than the true desktop GTX 970 product. So even though you were getting fantastic mobile performance, there continued to be a dominant position that desktop users held over mobile gamers in PC gaming.
This fall, NVIDIA is changing that with the introduction of the GeForce GTX 980 for gaming notebooks. Notice I did not put an 'M' at the end of that name; it's not an accident. NVIDIA has found a way, through binning and component design, to cram the entirety of a GM204-based Maxwell GTX 980 GPU inside portable gaming notebooks.
The results are impressive and the implications for PC gamers are dramatic. Systems built with the GTX 980 will include the same 2048 CUDA cores, 4GB of GDDR5 running at 7.0 GHz and will run at the same base and typical GPU Boost clocks as the reference GTX 980 cards you can buy today for $499+. And, while you won't find this GPU in anything called a "thin and light", 17-19" gaming laptops do allow for portability of gaming unlike any SFF PC.
So how did they do it? NVIDIA has found a way to get a desktop GPU with a 165 watt TDP into a form factor that has a physical limit of 150 watts (for the MXM module implementations at least) through binning, component selection and improved cooling. Not only that, but there is enough headroom to allow for some desktop-class overclocking of the GTX 980 as well.
A Diverse Lineup
ThinkPads have always been one of our favorite notebook brands here at PC Perspective. While there certainly has been some competition from well-designed portables such as the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3, the ThinkPad line remains a solid choice for power users.
We had the chance to look at a lot of Lenovo's ThinkPad lineup for Broadwell, and as this generation comes to a close we decided to give a brief overview of the diversity available. Skylake-powered notebooks may be just on the horizon, but the comparisons of form factor and usability should remain mostly applicable into the next generation.
Within the same $1200-$1300 price range, Lenovo offers a myriad of portable machines with roughly the same hardware in vastly different form factors.
First, let's take a look at the more standard ThinkPads.
Lenovo ThinkPad T450s
The ThinkPad T450s is my default recommendation for anyone looking for a notebook in the $1000+ range. Featuring a 14" 1080p display and an Intel Core i5-5300U processor, it will perform great for the majority of users. While you won't be using this machine for 3D Modeling or CAD/CAM applications, general productivity tasks will feel right at home here.
Technically classified as an Ultrabook, the T450s won't exactly be turning any heads with it's thinness. Lenovo strikes a balance here, making the notebook as thin as possible at 0.83" while retaining features such as a gigabit Ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, an SD card reader, and plenty of display connectivity with Mini DisplayPort and VGA.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Water cooling has become very popular over the last few years with the rise in use of the all-in-one (AIO) coolers. Those type of coolers combine a single or dual-fan radiator with a combination CPU block / pump unit, pre-filled from the factory and maintenance free. They are a good cooling alternative to an air-based CPU cooler, but are limited in their expandability potential. That is where the DIY water cooling components come into place. DIY water cooling components allow you to build a customized cooling loop for cooling everything from the CPU to the chipset and GPUs (and more). However, DIY loops are much more maintenance intensive than the AIO coolers because of the need to flush and refill the loops periodically to maintain performance and component health.
With the increased popularity in liquid cooling type CPU coolers and the renewed interest and availability of enthusiast-friendly parts with the introduction of the Intel Z97, X99, and Z170 parts, it was past time to measure how well different CPU water blocks performed on an Intel X99 board paired up with an Intel LGA2011-v3 5960X processor. The five water blocks compared include the following:
- Koolance CPU-360 water block
- Koolance CPU-380I water block
- Swiftech Apogee HD water block
- Swiftech Apogee XL water block
- XSPC Raystorm water block
Technical Specifications (taken from the manufacturer websites)
|Water Block Specifications|
|CPU-360||CPU-380I||Apogee HD||Apogee XL||Raystorm|
|Block Top Material||Nickel-plated Brass||POM Acetal|
|Base Plate Material||Nickel-plated Copper||Copper|
|Water Inlet||Jet Impingement Plate||Straight Pass-Thru||Jet Impingement Plate|
The Killer 1535 Wi-Fi adapter was the first 2x2 MU-MIMO compatible adapter on the market when it launched earlier this year, and is only found in a few products right now. We had a chance to test it out with the recently reviewed MSI G72 Dominator Pro G-Sync laptop, using the new Linksys EA8500 MU-MIMO router. How did it perform, and just what is MU-MIMO? Read on to find out!
Killer networks certainly haven’t skimped on the hardware with their new wireless adapter, as the Wireless-AC 1535 features two external 5 GHz signal amplifiers and is 802.11ac Wave 2 compliant with its support for MU-MIMO and Transmit Beamforming. And while the adapter itself certainly sounds impressive the real star here – besides the MU-MIMO support – is the Killer software. With these two technologies Killer has a unique product on the market, and if it works as advertised it would create an attractive alternative to the typical Wi-Fi solution.
MU-MIMO: What is it?
With an increasing number of devices using Wi-Fi in the average connected home the strain on a wireless network can often be felt. Just as one download can bring your internet connection to a crawl, one computer can hog nearly all available bandwidth from your router. MU-MIMO offers a solution to the network limitations of a typical multi-user home, and in fact the MU in MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User. The technology is part of the Wave 2 spec for 802.11ac, and it works differently than standard MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology. What’s the difference?
With standard MIMO (also known as Single-User MIMO) compatible devices take advantage of multiple data streams that are propagated to provide faster data than would otherwise be available for a single device. Multiple antennas on both base station and the client device are used to create the multiple transmit/receive streams needed for the added bandwidth. The multiple antennas used in MIMO systems create multiple channels, allowing for those separate data streams, and the number of streams is equal to the number of antennas (1x1 supports one stream, 2x2 supports two streams, etc.).
For multi-device users
One of the things that we still wrestle with here at PC Perspective is keeping a host of phones, tablets and mobile gaming devices charged and ready to go when we need them. Reviewing items means we need to have multiple devices ready to go to run tests and benchmarks at any given time. Keeping that collection of technology powered up can be a pain in the rear - adapters everywhere, cables strewn across the shelf, etc.
The same is true for me at home - even though we are only a two adult household, my wife and I each have a tablet we use regularly, smartphones and a host of accessories like wireless headphones, smart watches and more. And when company comes over it is expected that at least someone will need to top off the power to their phone.
Skiva has a USB charging accessory to help alleviate much of the headache involved with these situations. The Powerflow 7 Stand Charger combines a 7-port USB charger capable of 2.4A to each port with a simple stand to support 7 tablets and phones vertically. The result is a neatly organized set of hardware that is accessible when you need it.
Specs and Hardware
The AMD Radeon Nano graphics card is unlike any product we have ever tested at PC Perspective. As I wrote and described to the best of my ability (without hardware in my hands) late last month, AMD is targeting a totally unique and different classification of hardware with this release. As a result, there is quite a bit of confusion, criticism, and concern about the Nano, and, to be upfront, not all of it is unwarranted.
After spending the past week with an R9 Nano here in the office, I am prepared to say this immediately: for users matching specific criteria, there is no other option that comes close to what AMD is putting on the table today. That specific demographic though is going to be pretty narrow, a fact that won’t necessarily hurt AMD simply due to the obvious production limitations of the Fiji and HBM architectures.
At $650, the R9 Nano comes with a flagship cost but it does so knowing full well that it will not compete in terms of raw performance against the likes of the GTX 980 Ti or AMD’s own Radeon R9 Fury X. However, much like Intel has done with the Ultrabook and ULV platforms, AMD is attempting to carve out a new market that is looking for dense, modest power GPUs in small form factors. Whether or not they have succeeded is what I am looking to determine today. Ride along with me as we journey on the roller coaster of a release that is the AMD Radeon R9 Nano.
Introduction and Specifications
It has been a while since we took a look at some hard drives here at PC Perspective. While seemingly everyone is pushing hard into Solid State Storage, those spinning platters have gotten the computer industry by for several decades, and they won't be going away any time soon so long as magnetic domains can store bits for cheaper than electrons can. SSDs have been eating away at the market for OS and single drive mobile needs, but when it comes to bulk storage, nothing beats a great hard drive for the money. Since many users would rather avoid maintaining a large array of drives, getting the capacity of each 3.5" unit higher is still a need, especially for storage hungry consumers. Enterprise units have been pushing into 8TB territory lately, but the consumer sweet spot currently remains at 6TB. Western Digital entered this area in July of last year, pushing their popular Green and Red lines up to 6TB. While the capacity was great, those two lines are mean to be power saving, slower spinning drives. When platter speeds are low, the laws of physics (and of rotational latency) kick in and dictate that they could never perform as well as their 7200 RPM counterparts.
...and now they have filled that gap, with their Black and Red Pro models now made available in up to 6TB capacities. To clarify the product lines here, the Green and Black products are intended for usage as a single drive, while the Red and Red Pro are meant for operating in NAS devices and use in a RAID. The two drives in this review are the faster spinning models, so we should see better performance all around. Spinning those platters faster means more power drawn and more heat generated by air friction across the platters, as we can look into below:
Western Digital Red Pro 6TB:
- Model: WD6001FFWX
- Max Sequential Read: 214 MB/s
- Form Factor: 3.5”
- Interface Type: SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA 3)
- UBER: <1 in 1015
- Power (active/idle/standby): 10.6W/7.4W/1.6W
- Warranty: 5 years
Western Digital Black 6TB:
- Model: WD6001FZWX
- Max Sequential: 218 MB/s
- Form Factor: 3.5”
- Interface Type: SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA 3)
- UBER: <1 in 1014
- Power (active/idle/standby): 10.6W/7.6W/1.6W
- Warranty: 5 years
For comparison, the slower spinning 6TB Red and Green models run at 5.3W/3.4W/0.4W. Lesson learned - moving from ~5400 RPM to 7200 RPM roughly doubles the power draw of a high capacity 3.5" HDD. Other manufacturers are doing things like hermetically sealing their drives and filling them with Helium, but that is a prohibitively expensive proposition for consumer / small business drives, which is what the Black and Red Pro lines are meant to satisfy. It has also been proven that Helium filled drives are not the best if their track geometry is not optimized as well as it could be.
Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY
First impressions usually count for a lot, correct? Well, my first impression of a Grado product was not all that positive. I had a small LAN party at my house one night and I invited over the audio lead for Ritual Entertainment and got him set up on one of the test machines. He pulled out a pair of Grado SR225 headphones and plugged them in. I looked at them and thought, “Why does this audio guy have such terrible headphones?” Just like most others that have looked at Grados the first time, I thought these were similar to a set of WWII headsets, and likely sounded about as good. I offered my friend a more “gaming friendly” set of headphones. He laughed at me and said no thanks.
The packaging is relatively bland as compared to other competing "high end" headphones. Grado has a reputation of under-promising, yet overperforming.
I of course asked him about his headphones that he was so enamored with and he told me a little bit about how good they actually were and that he was quite happy to game on them. This of course got me quite interested in what exactly Grado had to offer. Those “cheap looking” headphones are anything but cheap. While the aesthetics can be debated, but what can’t be is that Grado makes a pretty great series of products.
Grado was founded by Joseph Grado in 1953. Sadly, Joseph passed away this year. Though he had been retired for some time, the company is still family owned and we are now seeing the 3rd generation of Grados getting involved in the day to day workings of the company. The headquarters was actually the site of the family fruit business before Joseph decided to go into the audio industry. They originally specialized in phonograph heads as well as other phono accessories, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Grado introduced their first headphones. Headphones are not exactly a market where there are massive technological leaps, so it appears as though there has been around three distinct generations of headphone designs from Grado with the Prestige series. The originals were introduced in the mid-90s then in the mid 2000s with the updated “i” series, and finally we have the latest “e” models that were released last year.
The company also offers five different lines of headphones that range from the $50 eGrado up to the $1700 PS1000E. They also use a variety of materials from plastic, to metal, and finally the very famous wood based headphones. In fact, they have a limited edition Grado Heritage run that was made from a maple tree cut down in Brooklyn very near to the workshop where Grado still handcrafts their headphones.
That townhouse in the middle? That is where the vast majority of Grado headphones are made. Not exactly what most expect considering the reputation of the Grado brand. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grado)
I was sent the latest SR225e models to take a listen to some time back. I finally got to a place where I could just sit down and pen about my thoughts and experience with these headphones.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of Corsair
Corsair's newest enthusiast targeted DDR4 memory kit features 4 x 4GB DDR4 modules rated for operating speeds of up to 3200MHz, catering to both the Intel X99 and Intel Z170 motherboards The modules are passively cooled with Corsair's Vengeance LPX aluminum heat spreads. The kit also comes with two Corsair Vengeance Airflow memory fans for additional active cooling.
Courtesy of Corsair
Courtesy of Corsair
The modules included with the the Vengeance DDR4-3200 16GB kit feature the latest design innovations in Corsair's Vengeance DDR4 memory line, including redesigned LPX heat spreaders for cool running at their rated 1.35V voltage. The modules have been optimized for quad channel operation with an Intel X99 motherboard as well as dual channel operation in an Intel Z170 motherboard, pairing well with both the Intel Haswell-E and Skylake processors. The modules also support the latest version of Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile), XMP 2.0.
AM3+ Keeps Chugging Along
Consumers cannot say that MSI has not attempted to keep the AM3+ market interesting with a handful of new products based upon that socket. Throughout this past year MSI has released three different products addressing multiple price points and featuresets. The 970 Gaming was the first, the 970 KRAIT introduced USB 3.1 to the socket, and the latest 990FXA-Gaming board provides the most feature rich implementation of the socket plus USB 3.1.
AMD certainly has not done the platform any real favors as of late in terms of new CPUs and architectures to inhabit that particular socket. The last refresh we had was around a year ago with the release of the FX-8370 and 8370e. These are still based on the Piledriver based Vishera core that was introduced three years ago. Unlike the GPU market, the CPU market has certainly not seen the leaps and bounds in overall performance that we had enjoyed in years past.
MSI has taken the now geriatric 990FX (based upon the 890FX chipset released in 2010- I think AMD might have gotten their money out of this particular chipset iteration) and implemented it in a new design that embraces many of the top end features that are desired by enthusiasts. AMD still has a solid following and their products are very competitive from a price/performance standpoint (check out Ryan’s price/perf graphs from his latest Intel CPU review).
The packing material is pretty basic. Just cardboard and no foam. Still, fits nicely and is quite snug.
The idea behind the 990FXA-Gaming is to provide a very feature-rich product that appeals to gamers and enthusiasts. The key is to provide those features at a price point that will not scare away the budget enthusiasts. Just as MSI has done with the 970 Gaming, there were decisions made to keep costs down. We will get into these tradeoffs shortly.
To the Max?
Much of the PC enthusiast internet, including our comments section, has been abuzz with “Asynchronous Shader” discussion. Normally, I would explain what it is and then outline the issues that surround it, but I would like to swap that order this time. Basically, the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark utilizes Asynchronous Shaders in DirectX 12, but they disable it (by Vendor ID) for NVIDIA hardware. They say that this is because, while the driver reports compatibility, “attempting to use it was an unmitigated disaster in terms of performance and conformance”.
AMD's Robert Hallock claims that NVIDIA GPUs, including Maxwell, cannot support the feature in hardware at all, while all AMD GCN graphics cards do. NVIDIA has yet to respond to our requests for an official statement, although we haven't poked every one of our contacts yet. We will certainly update and/or follow up if we hear from them. For now though, we have no idea whether this is a hardware or software issue. Either way, it seems more than just politics.
So what is it?
Simply put, Asynchronous Shaders allows a graphics driver to cram workloads in portions of the GPU that are idle, but not otherwise available. For instance, if a graphics task is hammering the ROPs, the driver would be able to toss an independent physics or post-processing task into the shader units alongside it. Kollock from Oxide Games used the analogy of HyperThreading, which allows two CPU threads to be executed on the same core at the same time, as long as it has the capacity for it.
Kollock also notes that compute is becoming more important in the graphics pipeline, and it is possible to completely bypass graphics altogether. The fixed-function bits may never go away, but it's possible that at least some engines will completely bypass it -- maybe even their engine, several years down the road.
But, like always, you will not get an infinite amount of performance by reducing your waste. You are always bound by the theoretical limits of your components, and you cannot optimize past that (except for obviously changing the workload itself). The interesting part is: you can measure that. You can absolutely observe how long a GPU is idle, and represent it as a percentage of a time-span (typically a frame).
And, of course, game developers profile GPUs from time to time...
According to Kollock, he has heard of some console developers getting up to 30% increases in performance using Asynchronous Shaders. Again, this is on console hardware and so this amount may increase or decrease on the PC. In an informal chat with a developer at Epic Games, so massive grain of salt is required, his late night ballpark “totally speculative” guesstimate is that, on the Xbox One, the GPU could theoretically accept a maximum ~10-25% more work in Unreal Engine 4, depending on the scene. He also said that memory bandwidth gets in the way, which Asynchronous Shaders would be fighting against. It is something that they are interested in and investigating, though.
This is where I speculate on drivers. When Mantle was announced, I looked at its features and said “wow, this is everything that a high-end game developer wants, and a graphics developer absolutely does not”. From the OpenCL-like multiple GPU model taking much of the QA out of SLI and CrossFire, to the memory and resource binding management, this should make graphics drivers so much easier.
It might not be free, though. Graphics drivers might still have a bunch of games to play to make sure that work is stuffed through the GPU as tightly packed as possible. We might continue to see “Game Ready” drivers in the coming years, even though much of that burden has been shifted to the game developers. On the other hand, maybe these APIs will level the whole playing field and let all players focus on chip design and efficient injestion of shader code. As always, painfully always, time will tell.
That is a lotta SKUs!
The slow, gradual release of information about Intel's Skylake-based product portfolio continues forward. We have already tested and benchmarked the desktop variant flagship Core i7-6700K processor and also have a better understanding of the microarchitectural changes the new design brings forth. But today Intel's 6th Generation Core processors get a major reveal, with all the mobile and desktop CPU variants from 4.5 watts up to 91 watts, getting detailed specifications. Not only that, but it also marks the first day that vendors can announce and begin selling Skylake-based notebooks and systems!
All indications are that vendors like Dell, Lenovo and ASUS are still some weeks away from having any product available, but expect to see your feeds and favorite tech sites flooded with new product announcements. And of course with a new Apple event coming up soon...there should be Skylake in the new MacBooks this month.
Since I have already talked about the architecture and the performance changes from Haswell/Broadwell to Skylake in our 6700K story, today's release is just a bucket of specifications and information surround 46 different 6th Generation Skylake processors.
Intel's 6th Generation Core Processors
At Intel's Developer Forum in August, the media learned quite a bit about the new 6th Generation Core processor family including Intel's stance on how Skylake changes the mobile landscape.
Skylake is being broken up into 4 different line of Intel processors: S-series for desktop DIY users, H-series for mobile gaming machines, U-series for your everyday Ultrabooks and all-in-ones, Y-series for tablets and 2-in-1 detachables. (Side note: Intel does not reference an "Ultrabook" anymore. Huh.)
As you would expect, Intel has some impressive gains to claim with the new 6th Generation processor. However, it is important to put them in context. All of the claims above, including 2.5x performance, 30x graphics improvement and 3x longer battery life, are comparing Skylake-based products to CPUs from 5 years ago. Specifically, Intel is comparing the new Core i5-6200U (a 15 watt part) against the Core i5-520UM (an 18 watt part) from mid-2010.
Introduction and First Impressions
The Enthoo Pro M is the new mid-tower version of the Enthoo Pro, previously a full-tower ATX enclosure from the PC cooler and enclosure maker. This new enclosure adds another option to the $79 case market, which already has a number of solid options. Let's see how it stacks up!
I was very impressed by the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ATX enclosure, which received our Editor’s Choice award when reviewed earlier this year. The enclosure was very solidly made and had a number of excellent features, and even with a primarily aluminum construction and premium design it can be found for $119, rather unheard-of for this combination in the enclosure market. So what changes from that design might be expect to see with the $79 Enthoo Pro M?
The Pro M is a very businesslike design, constructed of steel and plastic, and with a very understated appearance. Not exactly “boring”, as it does have some personality beyond the typical rectangular box, with a brushed finish to the front panel which also features a vented front fan opening, and a side panel window to show off your build. But I think the real story here is the intelligent internal design, which is nearly identical to that of the EVOLV ATX.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
The Z170-A motherboard is among initial offerings from ASUS' channel line of Intel Z170 chipset board line. The board features ASUS' new Channel line aesthetics, featuring white and black coloration to differentiate the line from their Z97 gold-theme offerings. ASUS uses the Z170-A to redefine the definition of a base-line motherboard, integrating many "upper-tier style" features not normally found on the lower tier offerings. The board's integrated Intel Z170 chipset integrates support for the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR4 memory. Offered at a price-competitive MSRP of $165, the Z170-A threatens to give the rest of the Z170-based boards a run for the money.
Courtesy of ASUS
The Z170 shares the same DIGI+ style power system of its higher priced siblings, featuring an 8-phase digital power delivery system. ASUS integrated the following features into the Z170-A board: four SATA 3 ports; one SATA-Express port; one M.2 PCIe x4 capable port; an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; two PCI-Express x1 slots; one PCI slot; on-board power, and MemOK! buttons; EZ XMP and TPU switches; Crystal Sound 3 audio subsystem; integrated DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, and VGA video ports; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.
Courtesy of ASUS
The Z170-A motherboard comes standard with ASUS latest iteration of their sound technology, dubbed Crystal Sound 3. Like its predecessors, Crystal Sound 3 integrates the audio components on a isolated PCB from the other main board components minimizing noise generation caused by those other integrated devices. ASUS designed the audio subsystem with high-quality Japanese-sourced audio and power circuitry for a top-notch audio experience.
The Tiniest Fiji
Way back on June 16th, AMD held a live stream event during E3 to announce a host of new products. In that group was the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X, R9 Fury and the R9 Nano. Of the three, the Nano was the most intriguing to most of the online press as it was the one we knew the least about. AMD promised a full Fiji GPU in a package with a 6-in PCB and a 175 watt TDP. Well today, AMD is, uh, re-announcing (??) the AMD Radeon R9 Nano with more details on specifications, performance and availability.
First, let’s get this out of the way: AMD is making this announcement today because they publicly promised the R9 Nano for August. And with the final days of summer creeping up on them, rather than answer questions about another delay, AMD is instead going the route of a paper launch, but one with a known end date. We will apparently get our samples of the hardware in early September with reviews and the on-sale date following shortly thereafter. (Update: AMD claims the R9 Nano will be on store shelves on September 10th and should have "critical mass" of availability.)
Now let’s get to the details that you are really here for. And rather than start with the marketing spin on the specifications that AMD presented to the media, let’s dive into the gory details right now.
|R9 Nano||R9 Fury||R9 Fury X||GTX 980 Ti||TITAN X||GTX 980||R9 290X|
|GPU||Fiji XT||Fiji Pro||Fiji XT||GM200||GM200||GM204||Hawaii XT|
|Rated Clock||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||1050 MHz||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||1126 MHz||1000 MHz|
|Memory Clock||500 MHz||500 MHz||500 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz||5000 MHz|
|Memory Interface||4096-bit (HBM)||4096-bit (HBM)||4096-bit (HBM)||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||512-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth||512 GB/s||512 GB/s||512 GB/s||336 GB/s||336 GB/s||224 GB/s||320 GB/s|
|TDP||175 watts||275 watts||275 watts||250 watts||250 watts||165 watts||290 watts|
|Peak Compute||8.19 TFLOPS||7.20 TFLOPS||8.60 TFLOPS||5.63 TFLOPS||6.14 TFLOPS||4.61 TFLOPS||5.63 TFLOPS|
AMD wasn’t fooling around, the Radeon R9 Nano graphics card does indeed include a full implementation of the Fiji GPU and HBM, including 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units and 64 ROPs. The GPU core clock is rated “up to” 1.0 GHz, nearly the same as the Fury X (1050 MHz), and the only difference that I can see in the specifications on paper is that the Nano is rated at 8.19 TFLOPS of theoretical compute performance while the Fury X is rated at 8.60 TFLOPS.
Retail Card Design
AMD is in an interesting spot right now. The general consensus is that both the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X and the R9 Fury graphics cards had successful launches into the enthusiast community. We found that the performance of the Fury X was slightly under that of the GTX 980 Ti from NVIDIA, but also that the noise levels and power draw were so improved on Fiji over Hawaii that many users would dive head first into the new flagship from the red team.
The launch of the non-X AMD Fury card was even more interesting – here was a card with a GPU performing better than the competition in a price point that NVIDIA didn’t have an exact answer. The performance gap between the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti resulted in a $550 graphics card that AMD had a victory with. Add in the third Fiji-based product due out in a few short weeks, the R9 Nano, and you have a robust family of products that don’t exactly dominate the market but do put AMD in a positive position unlike any it has seen in recent years.
But there are some problems. First and foremost for AMD, continuing drops in market share. With the most recent reports from multiple source claiming that AMD’s Q2 2015 share has dropped to 18%, an all-time low in the last decade or so, AMD needs some growth and they need it now. Here’s the catch: AMD can’t make enough of the Fiji chip to affect that number at all. The Fury X, Fury and Nano are going to be hard to find for the foreseeable future thanks to production limits on the HBM (high bandwidth memory) integration; that same feature that helps make Fiji the compelling product it is. I have been keeping an eye on the stock of the Fury and Fury X products and found that it often can’t be found anywhere in the US for purchase. Maybe even more damning is the fact that the Radeon R9 Fury, the card that is supposed to be the model customizable by AMD board partners, still only has two options available: the Sapphire, which we reviewed when it launched, and the ASUS Strix R9 Fury that we are reviewing today.
AMD’s product and financial issues aside, the fact is that the Radeon R9 Fury 4GB and the ASUS Strix iteration of it are damned good products. ASUS has done its usual job of improving on the design of the reference PCB and cooler, added in some great features and packaged it up a price that is competitive and well worth the investment for enthusiast gamers. Our review today will only lightly touch on out-of-box performance of the Strix card mostly because it is so similar to that of the initial Fury review we posted in July. Instead I will look at the changes to the positioning of the AMD Fury product (if any) and how the cooler and design of the Strix product helps it stand out. Overclocking, power consumption and noise will all be evaluated as well.