EK Releases Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti XTREME GAMING Water Block

EK is one of the most prestigious names when it comes to water cooling hardware and evokes a sense of confidence whenever you purchase any of their products. Some time ago, Gigabyte unleashed the GTX 980 Ti XTREME GAMING featuring a superb cooling solution, OC BIOS mode, striking RGB illumination and much more. It’s arguably one of the best custom designed GTX 980 Ti cards on the market and geared towards overclocking. However, if you want to leverage extra performance or simply prefer a slimmer design, EK has released a full water block for this particular GPU. The EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG is a high performance water block which actively cools the GPU, VRAM and voltage regulation module as the water flows over essential components. The water block covers the entire PCB to create a visually stunning appearance and there’s also a stylish backplate from EK’s web shop.

The EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG water block features EK’s unique central inlet split-flow cooling engine design for best possible cooling performance, which also works flawlessly with reversed water flow without adversely affecting the cooling performance. Moreover, such design offers great hydraulic performance, allowing this product to be used in liquid cooling systems using weaker water pumps. On another note, the base is constructed from nickel-plated electrolytic copper while the top section is made of premium POM Acetal or acrylic depending on which model you choose. By default, screw-in brass standoffs are installed to allow for a safe and painless install.

To simplify the search for suitable and compatible water blocks, EK is adding newly released products from various manufacturers to their Cooling Configurator database. This allows you to see if there are any blocks for motherboards, memory or graphics cards right now. In terms of pricing, the Nickel model will retail for 119.95 Euros. This is also the price for the unit sporting both Acetal and Nickel. If you just want the blackplate, it can be purchased for 29.95 Euros.

Colorful Announces GTX 980 Ti iGame KUDAN

Even though the current Maxwell line-up is set to be replaced by Pascal relatively soon if recent revelations are true, it hasn’t stopped new custom models from entering production. Colourful, a vendor offering high-end solutions primarily in the Chinese market has announced their latest product based on the GM200 core. This particular GPU entitled, the GTX 980 Ti iGame KUDAN utilizes an overclocked core of 1203MHz and boost reaching 1304MHz. On another note, the graphics card is powered by two 8-pin PCI-E connectors and includes three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI and a DVI-I port. Of course, it’s built on the 28nm process and comes with 6GB GDDR5 memory using a 384 bit bus.

The GTX 980 Ti iGame KUDAN opts for a unique cooling solution with an integrated water cooling loop and five heatpipes. Furthermore, the densely packed fin array provides exceptional thermal dissipation and should allow for some impressive manual overclocking performance. The water cooling aspect even allows you to add the GPU to a custom loop via the embedded block mount.

Colourful have employed silver plating technology to improve the PCB’s reliability compared to traditional copper alternatives. This also reduces oxidation and should allow for a longer lifespan.

The graphics card employs an impressive power delivery to enable large overclocks, and there’s EMI shielding throughout. This hefty cooling solution and impeccable components makes it a great choice of users demanding the ultimate in performance. While the timing is a little strange given the upcoming release of Pascal, I highly doubt the GTX 980 Ti is suddenly going to become outclassed by lower end options. However, its price might reduce by a decent amount once the new cards arrive.

Sapphire Nitro OC R9 Fury Graphics Card Review

Introduction


The initial unveiling of AMD’s Fury X was eagerly anticipated due to the advent of high bandwidth memory, and potential to revolutionize the size to performance ratio of modern graphics cards. This new form of stackable video RAM provided a glimpse into the future and departure from the current GDDR5 standard. Although, this isn’t going to happen overnight as production costs and sourcing HBM on a mass scale has to be taken into consideration. On another note, JEDEC recently announced GDD5X with memory speeds up to 14 Gbps which helps to enhance non-HBM GPUs while catering to the lower-mid range market. The Fury X and Fury utilizes the first iteration of high bandwidth memory which features a maximum capacity of 4GB.

There’s some discussion regarding the effect of this limitation at high resolutions but I personally haven’t seen it cause a noticeable bottleneck. If anything, the Fury range is capable of outperforming the 980 Ti during 4K benchmarks while it tends to linger behind at lower resolutions. AMD’s flagship opts for a closed-loop liquid cooler to reduce temperatures and minimize operating noise. In theory, you can argue this level of cooling prowess was required to tame the GPU’s core. However, there are some air-cooled variants which allow us to directly compare between each form of heat dissipation.

Clearly, the Fury X’s water cooling apparatus adds a premium and isn’t suitable for certain chassis configurations. To be fair, most modern case layouts can accommodate a CLC graphics card without any problems, but there’s also concerns regarding reliability and the possibility of leaks. That’s why air-cooled alternatives which drop the X branding offer great performance at a more enticing price point. For example, the Sapphire Nitro OC R9 Fury is around £60 cheaper than the XFX R9 Fury X. This particular card has a factory overclocked core of 1050MHz, and astounding cooling solution. The question is, how does it compare to the Fury X and GTX 980 Ti? Let’s find out!

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The Sapphire Nitro OC R9 Fury comes in a visually appealing box which outlines the Tri-X cooling system, factory overclocked core, and extremely fast memory. I’m really fond of the striking robot front cover and small cut out which provides a sneak peek at the GPU’s colour scheme.

On the opposite side, there’s a detailed description of the R9 Fury range and award-winning Tri-X cooling. Furthermore, the packaging outlines information regarding LiquidVR, FreeSync, and other essential AMD features. This is displayed in an easy-to-read manner and helps inform the buyer about the graphics card’s functionality.

In terms of accessories, Sapphire includes a user’s guide, driver disk, Select Club registration code, and relatively thick HDMI cable.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance Analysis

Introduction


Rise of the Tomb Raider originally launched on November 10th and received widespread critical acclaim from various press outlets. Unfortunately, the game went under the radar because Fallout 4 released on the same day. This was a strategic error which hindered the game’s sales and prevented consumers from giving it their undivided attention. It’s such a shame because Rise of the Tomb Raider is a technical marvel when you consider the Xbox One’s limited horsepower. Even though it’s not technically an exclusive, PC players had to wait until after the Christmas period to enjoy the latest exploits of everyone’s favourite heroine.

The PC version was created by Nixxes Software who worked on the previous Tomb Raider reboot as well as a number of other graphically diverse PC games. The studio is renowned for creating highly polished and well-optimized PC versions featuring an astonishing level of graphical fidelity. Prior to release, NVIDIA recommended a GTX 970 for the optimal 1080p experience and 980 Ti for 1440P. Since then, there have been some performance patches from the developer and driver updates to help with scaling across various hardware configuration. This means it will be fascinating to see the performance numbers now that the game has matured and gone through a large number of post-release hot fixes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, which was itself, the second reboot to its series. It was released for Xbox One and Xbox 360 in November 2015 and for Microsoft Windows in January 2016. It is set to release for PlayStation 4 in late 2016.

The game’s storyline follows Lara Croft as she ventures into Siberia in search of the legendary city of Kitezh, whilst battling a paramilitary organization that intends on beating her to the city’s promise of immortality. Presented from a third-person perspective, the game primarily focuses on survival and combat, while the player may also explore its landscape and various optional tombs. Camilla Luddington returns to voice and perform her role as Lara.” From Wikipedia.

So, let’s get to it and see how some of the latest graphics cards on the market hold up with the latest from Crystal Dynamics!

ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


Since the official reveal of Intel’s latest mainstream LGA1151 platform, we’ve analysed the performance numbers of various Z170 motherboards and even taken an analytical look at the non-overclocking H170 offerings. However, there’s another chipset available to consumers even though it’s primarily marketed towards business users. More specifically, the B150 chipset includes Intel’s Small Business Advantage software package to manage a small network of PCs using fairly rudimentary desktop applications. As a result, it seems quite a bizarre choice to release a B150 motherboard which adopts a lavish visual design, although it might be suitable for business clients wanting to play games during their downtime.

In a similar vein to the H170 chipset, there are some technical limitations when opting for the more budget friendly options. For example, B150 motherboards support a maximum of 18 HSIO lanes (in addition to 16 PCI-E from the CPU) compared to 26 on Z170. Additionally, overclocking is disabled even with an unlocked multiplier CPU, the PCI-E lanes are reduced from 20 to 8, and there’s a small dip in USB 3.0 ports down from 14 to 12. Despite these cutbacks, there’s still more than enough connectivity, and features to please a large quantity of consumers. The ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA is a fascinating motherboard because it brings many of the high-end components from the Z170 range and comes with an excellent array of gaming focussed software. This means, it’s possibly the most ostentatious and impressive B150 motherboard I’ve encountered thus far, and I expect to see some impressive performance numbers in our typical benchmark procedure.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard is packaged in an attractive box which outlines the RGB sections and high-speed M.2 support. Additionally, there’s a promotional 15-day code to access a premium account in the free-to-play title, War of Warships.

On the rear, there’s a basic overview of the board layout, a technical synopsis and details about the AURA RGB lighting system. Furthermore, ASUS also provides information on the Digi+ VRM, USB 3.1 connectivity, premium audio hardware and gaming software.

In terms of accessories, the B150 PRO GAMING/AURA includes a user’s guide, cable labels, zip ties to help with cable management and drivers disk.

As you might expect, the motherboard comes with an I/O shield, SATA cables and M.2 fixing screws.

Windows 10 Drivers Gives AMD R9 Fury X Advantage Over Nvidia 980 Ti

We only have two major players left in the consumer graphics card market, AMD and Nvidia, and Nvidia has had the lead for quite some time now. The new AMD Fury, Fury X, and Nano cards are impressive on their own, but they still couldn’t quite beat Nvidia’s cards on the full scale.

The newest Windows 10 drivers seem to have given AMD an edge again as they have shown performance increases on all current generation AMD cards. However, the most impressive result to come out of this is that the Fury X managed to leap ahead of the Nvidia GeForce 980 Ti according to the latest comparisons by TechPowerUp via WCCFtech.

With the older test setup, Nvidia was ahead of AMD most of the way. The GTX 980 Ti was 8% ahead of the R9 Fury X, and the GTX 980 was 2% ahead of the R9 390X at 1440p. Moving up to 4K resolution and the GTX 980 Ti and R9 Fury X come in at the same result and so do the GTX 980 and R9 390X.

Older drivers and test setup

After the move to the newest Windows 10 drivers, which aren’t the recently announced Crimson update, Nvidia’s lead shrinks. At 1440p, the GTX 980 Ti that previously was 8% ahead of the R9 Fury X now comes in at the same result while the R9 390x makes up 5% and gets 3% ahead of the GTX980. Even the R9 290X gets a huge boost of 9% over the GTX 970 card.

Again, moving up to 4K resolution and we see that AMD takes the full lead. The R9 Fury X jumps ahead of the GTX 980Ti by 5%, the R9 390X and 290(X) also stay ahead of the GTX 980 and GTX970/GTX780 Ti respectively. This is pretty impressive and really shows what a driver optimising can do.

New Windows 10 AMD Drivers

BIOSTAR Launches Reference GTX 980 Ti

BIOSTAR is the latest vendor to supply the NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti which features 6GB GDDR5 memory, a core clock of 1000/1076MHz and memory of 7010MHz. In terms of accessories, the graphics card is bundled with a DVI-VGA adapter, Driver CD and Quick Guide. As you might expect, there isn’t anything surprising here as it’s a reference model. Although, even with the default core and boost clocks, the performance is simply staggering at resolutions up to 4K.

Barring the Titan X, the GTX 980 Ti is NVIDIA’s top-tier solution and comes in a variety of custom-cooling solutions from various vendors. Although, reference models are usually cheaper and I’m interested to see the BIOSTAR GTX 980 Ti price point. When choosing a particular vendor, it’s usually down to price, or warranty reputation. Additionally, some companies like EVGA engage in promotions which extends the warranty period up to 5 years. This is a nice bonus when purchasing a card over £500.

In the PC enthusiast market, BIOSTAR isn’t as recognizable as ASUS, Gigabyte MSI, Zotac and other brands, but they are beginning to bring motherboards and graphics cards to this section of the market.

Which is your favourite graphics card vendor and why?

EVGA Launches Pre-binned GeForce GTX 980 Ti K|NGP|N Tommorrow

Overclockers looking for the top clocking 980Tis won’t have to wait much longer. EVGA is launching their overclocking focused GeForce GTX 980 Ti K|NGP|N Edition GPU tomorrow. Designed in partnership with renowned overclocker Vince “K|NGP|N” Lucido, the card features 14+3 digital phase VRM, 12 PCB layers, cooling plates, triple BIOS and an impressive ACX 2.0+ copper heatsink.

While CPU overclockers have long had the opportunity to buy chips with nearly guaranteed overclocks, getting pre-binned GPUs direct from AIB partners is much more rare. With the 980 Ti K|NGP|N, EVGA is allowing customers to choose their own ASIC quality, which determines the leakage level of the GPU and can influence overclocking. By buying cards with higher ASIC levels, overclocking has more potential to reach higher clocks. Unlike the Silicon Lottery though, EVGA does not guarantee any specific overclock, so buyers are still taking a pretty heavy risk.

Prices for the 980 Ti K|NGP|N are pretty high as well, with the base 72% ASIC priced at $849.99 USD. It only goes up from there with 74% at $899.99, with 76% and 80% at $999.99 and $1049.99 respectively. That is quite a premium over other 980Tis that usually come in at about under $700, even for custom models. For those seeking the best overclocking performance though, they may be more than willing to pay the price.

Binning chips by ASIC does raise an interesting question. EVGA may be diverting all the high ASIC cards to the 980 Ti K|NGP|N, meaning regular 980 Ti from EVGA may on average, have lower ASIC than 980 Ti from other AIB partners. Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen but those high ASIC chips have to come from somewhere. If true, those looking to overclock on a budget may want to focus on non-EVGA 980 Ti and gamble with the silicon lottery. You can find the page with the card details and purchasing information here.