The $120 MSI X470 Gaming Plus Review: Only 4-Phase VRM, Not 11-Phase as Advertised

We’ve seen a steep increase in ‘gaming’ branded motherboards over the last half a decade and the one on our test bench today is at the forefront of the ‘gaming’ mantra. The MSI X470 Gaming Plus is a mid-range gaming themed motherboard which as it currently stands (at the time of writing) is the cheapest full-sized ATX X470 entry-level option at a cost of $120. For the $120 MSI have included a selection of mid-level controllers such as a Realtek ALC892 HD audio codec which offers five 3.5mm gold plated audio jacks and a S/PDIF optical out, as well as a Realtek RTL8111H Gigabit controller powering the single LAN port on the rear panel of the board. Further connections include a pairing of video outputs consisting of a DVI-D and an HDMI 1.4 port. The X470 Gaming Plus is compatible with the Ryzen 2000 series APUs, the Ryzen 5 2400G ($169) and Ryzen 3 2200G ($99) on top of the Ryzen first and second-generation desktop processors. A total of four USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports make up the bulk of the rear panel USB real estate an additional two USB 2.0 ports. MSI has opted to omit any USB Type-C ports and has instead chosen to include two USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A ports. Users of older keyboard and mice can make use of the included PS/2 combo port.

Low budget doesn’t necessarily mean low quality, and although there are always exceptions to this rule, MSI looks to break the stigma behind this with their lowest cost X470 chipset motherboard, the X470 Gaming Plus. This model is specifically aimed at gamers looking to be more gingerly with their cash which allows users to potentially upgrade their other components without sacrificing too much on quality. With a selection of components including a Realtek pairing consisting of an ALC892 HD audio codec and RTL8111H Gigabit LAN controller, MSI’s attempt to dominate the low to mid-range X470 market with this $120 offering hinges on its implementation and performance.

The i-Rocks Pilot K70E Capacitive Gaming Keyboard Review: Our First Capacitive Keyboard

We have reviewed many keyboards here in AnandTech, both electronic (membrane) and mechanical. In today’s market, most cost-effective keyboards are based on membrane designs, while more advanced keyboards are using mechanical switches that are either made by Cherry or, usually, are a “cloned” version of their products. Recently however we had something relatively rare shipped for testing in our labs – the i-Rocks Pilot K70E, a keyboard with unique capacitive switches.

Capacitive switches are not something unique to this keyboard. As a matter of fact, the current top-of-the-line capacitive keyboard switches were introduced by Topre several years ago. The problem with Topre-based products is that their prices are excessive, placing them well outside what the mainstream market can afford.

The i-Rocks Pilot K70E keyboard that we are reviewing today has non-contact capacitive switches developed in-house by i-Rocks itself. The Taiwanese company’s capacitive switches are available in two variants, 45g and 60g, with slightly different force-to-travel charts. The retail price of the Pilot K70E is rather steep, with the keyboard retailing at $150 at the time of this review, and yet that price is significantly lower than that of any keyboard using Topre’s capacitive switches.

Hands-on with the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti: Real-time Raytracing in Games

After yesterday’s announcement from NVIDIA, we finally know what’s coming: the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, GeForce RTX 2080, and GeForce RTX 2070. So naturally, after the keynote in the Palladium venue, NVIDIA provided hands-on demos and gameplay as the main event of their public GeForce Gaming Celebration. The demos in question were all powered by the $1200 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition, with obligatory custom watercooling rigs showing off their new gaming flagship.

While also having a presence at Gamescom 2018, this is their main fare for showcasing the new GeForce RTX cards. In a separate walled-off area, NVIDIA offered press some gameplay time with two GeForce RTX supporting titles: Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V. Otherwise, they also had a veritable army of RTX 2080 Ti equipped gaming PCs for the public, also demoing Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider (without RTX features), along with Hitman 2 and Metro: Exodus. Additionally, there were a few driving simulator rigs for Assetto Corsa Competizione, including one with hydraulic feedback. These games, and more, support real-time ray tracing with RTX, but not necessarily Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), another technology that NVIDIA announced.

Spectre and Meltdown in Hardware: Intel Clarifies Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake

With the launch of Intel’s latest 8th Generation Core mobile processors, the 15W Whiskey Lake U-series and the 5W Amber Lake Y-series, questions were left on the table as to the state of the Spectre and Meltdown mitigations. Intel had, previously in the year, promised that there would be hardware fixes for some of these issues in consumer hardware by the end of the year. Nothing was mentioned in our WHL/AML briefing, so we caught up with Intel to find out the situation.

There Are Some Hardware Mitigations in Whiskey Lake
The takeaway message from our discussions with Intel is that there are some hardware mitigations in the new Whiskey Lake processors. In fact, there are almost as many as the upcoming Cascade Lake enterprise parts. Intel told us that while the goal was to be transparent in general with how these mitigations were being fixed – we think Intel misread the level of interest in the specifics in advance of the Whiskey Lake launch, especially when the situation is not a simple yes/no.

What this means is that Whiskey Lake is a new spin of silicon compared to Kaby Lake Refresh, but is still built on that Kaby Lake microarchitecture. Intel confirmed to us that Whiskey Lake is indeed built on the 14++ process node technology, indicating a respin of silicon.

As a result, both CPU families have the all-important (and most performance degrading) Meltdown vulnerability fixed. What remains unfixed in Whiskey Lake and differentiates it from Cascade Lake CPUs is Spectre variant 2, the Branch Target Injection. This vulnerability has its own performance costs when mitigated in software, and it has taken longer to develop a hardware fix.

What About Amber Lake?
The situation with Amber Lake is a little different. Intel confirmed to us that Amber Lake is still Kaby Lake – including being built on the 14+ process node – making it identical to Kaby Lake Refresh as far as the CPU die is concerned. In essence, these parts are binned to go within the 5W TDP at base frequency. But as a result, Amber Lake shares the same situation as Kaby Lake Refresh: all side channel attacks and mitigations are done in firmware and operating system fixes. Nothing in Amber Lake is protected against in hardware.

Performance
The big performance marker is tackling Spectre Variant 2. When fixed in software, Intel expects a 3-10% drop in performance depending on the workload – when fixed in hardware, Intel says that performance drop is a lot less, but expects new platforms (like Cascade Lake) to offer better overall performance anyway. Neither Whiskey Lake nor Amber Lake have mitigations for v2, but Whiskey Lake is certainly well on its way with fixes to some of the more dangerous attacks, such as v3 and L1TF. Whiskey Lake is also offering new performance bins as the platform is also on 14++, which will help with performance and power.

Intel’s Disclosure in the Future
Speaking with Intel, it is clear (and they recognise) that they appreciate the level of interest in the scope of these fixes. We’re pushing hard to make sure that with all future launches, detailed tables about the process of fixes will occur. Progress on these issues, if anything, is a good thing.

AnandTech at Hot Chips 30: Our 2018 Show Coverage

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of coverage at two key events: Hot Chips, the semiconductor industry conference regarding new product designs, and some minor thing at Gamescom. At Hot Chips, we have planned to run over a dozen different Live Blogs, and have written up several of the talks into more detailed analysis pieces.

Hot Chips is one of the most enjoyable trade shows I go to every year: in the absence of IDF, Hot Chips is a show where we can learn significant information about both cores in the market, either server or desktop or mobile, or cores that are upcoming in future products. It also gives a chance for some companies to go into more details, or explain how their current products will lead into the future. The other yearly trade show that gives me goosebumps is SuperComputing.

Because we’ve got plenty of content about the show, I just wanted to run a small piece where our readers can access without searching for it. Here is our day one roundup. Day two roundup to follow when day two finishes.

Over the coming months much of the hype for the new Exynos 9810 with its M3 cores fizzled out due to less and less enticing results. Starting from some questionable early-on benchmarks at the release of the Galaxy S9, through to our extremely in-depth Galaxy S9 device and SoC review, later on moving to DIY improvements in attempting to resolve some of the lower-hanging fruit in terms of software issues which hampered the real-world performance of the Exynos Galaxy S9. Throughout these pieces of course we had little official word from Samsung – and up till today we still didn’t know much about how the M3’s microarchitecture actually worked.

Best external hard drives of 2018

Even if you have one of the best SSDs, you can quickly run out of space – so, it’s critically important to have one of the best external hard drives, especially if you work with a lot of documents with large file sizes. Don’t worry, though, we here at TechRadar are here to help you find the best external hard drive money can buy today.

When you go out shopping for one of the best external hard drives, you should think about some important details. For one, you’ll need enough storage – trust us, you don’t want to run out of space at an inopportune moment. However, you also don’t want to pay for storage you’re not going to use.

You’ll also need to consider data transfer speeds – the best hard drives let you transfer large files from your PC quickly, so you can move on to more important projects.

Still, the best external hard drives are also dependable and rugged, so you can safely store your data without worry. The best external drives will also be light enough to carry in your bag, with large capacities so that you can keep your data safe when travelling.

There’s a huge range of external hard drives on offer, so we’ve put together this list of the best external hard drives to help you find the perfect one for your needs.

Intel NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon) Gaming Performance – A Second Look

The Intel NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon) was reviewed in late March, and emerged as one of the most powerful gaming PCs in its form-factor class. Our conclusion was that the PC offered gaming performance equivalent to that of a system with a GPU between the NVIDIA GTX 960 and GTX 980. We received feedback from our readers on the games used for benchmarking being old, and the compared GPUs being dated. In order to address this concern, we spent the last few weeks working on updating our gaming benchmarks suite for gaming systems / mini-PCs. With the updated suite in hand, we put a number of systems through the paces. This article presents the performance of the Hades Canyon NUC with the latest drivers in recent games. We also pulled in the gaming benchmark numbers from a couple of systems still in our review queue in order to give readers an idea of the performance of the Hades Canon NUC as compared to some of the other contemporary small-form factor gaming machines.

Introduction
The gaming benchmark suite used to evaluate the Hades Canyon NUC in our launch review was dated and quite limited in its scope. Games such as Sleeping Dogs and Bioshock Infinite are no longer actively considered by consumers looking to purchase gaming systems. In addition, our suite did not have any DirectX 12 game. In order to address these issues, we set out to identify some modern games for inclusion in our gaming benchmarks. The intent was to have a mix of games and benchmarks that could serve us well for the next couple of years.

The updated gaming benchmark suite has both synthetic and real-world workloads. Futuremark’s synthetic benchmarks give a quick idea of the prowess of the GPU component in a system. We process and present results from all the standard workloads in both 3DMark (v 2.4.4264) and VRMark (v 1.2.1701). Real-world use-cases are represented by six different games:

Best mining CPU 2018: the best processors for mining cryptocurrency

If you’re looking for the best processors for cryptocurrency mining in 2018, then you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve listed the very best CPUs for mining a range of cryptocurrencies.

While many people think that graphics cards are the most important component when it comes to mining, getting the right CPU for your mining rig is also important.

It may be tempting to go for the cheapest possible CPU you can, in order to maximise your mining profits, but you may actually be hampering your mining. As AMD revealed in an interview with us recently, mining with a CPU can result in some impressive profits.

Pair the best mining CPU with the best mining GPU and best mining motherboard, and choose the best cryptocurrency for your needs, then you’ll soon have a mining powerhouse that can start earning you a fair chunk of money, helping to pay off the costs of the hardware in the long run.

So, if you’re keen to make the most out of the current cryptocurrency craze, here are the best CPUs for mining in 2018.

MACOM Sells AppliedMicro’s X-Gene CPU Business

MACOM last week announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell the microprocessor-related assets it bought from AppliedMicro to Project Denver Holdings, a new company backed by The Carlyle Group asset management company.

MACOM closed the acquisition of AppliedMicro early in 2017. Back then, the company made no secret that it was primarily interested in Applied Micro’s MACsec and 100G to 400G solutions, but not in the company’s X-Gene server CPUs. MACOM’s plan was to become a leader in datacenter communication technologies with a focus on optical networks in particular (analog, photonic and mixed-signal PHYs). That said, the X-Gene business was not exactly the best fit for MACOM and the future of the xeon processor division has been unclear.

The X-Gene 3 server platform looked promising when it was introduced last November. The CPU has 32 custom ARMv8 cores running at up to 3 GHz, with 32 MB of L3 cache, eight DDR4-2667 memory channels with ECC, and 42 PCIe 3.0 lanes. MACOM started to sample the X-Gene 3 among interested parties this March and Kontron even demonstrated a server based on the CPU at MWC 2017. MACOM has not started commercial shipments of the X-Gene 3 yet, nonetheless the X-Gene 3 and its possible successors were impressive enough for The Carlyle Group to establish a new entity that will finalize the X-Gene 3 and continue development efforts.

Neither MACOM nor Carlyle have disclosed the financial terms of the deal, but MACOM will get a minority stake in Project Denver Holdings. Speaking of the latter, it is necessary to say that the new company has its own leadership team and a strong financial backing from Carlyle Partners VI (which is a $13 billion U.S. buyout fund). Assuming that Project Denver Holdings will keep AppliedMicro’s development team and will invest sufficient amount of money in the X-Gene in general, the new company will have chances to remain a leading supplier of ARMv8-based server CPUs. At the moment, the X-Gene is used by over half of a dozen server makers, so Project Denver Holdings is getting a business with existing, incoming and future products as well as customers.

Intel Mentions 10nm, Briefly

LAS VEGAS, NV – Today during a breakfast presentation at CES, Intel’s Gregory Bryant, SVP of the Client Computing Group, finally broke Intel’s silence on the state of their 10nm process. If you were looking for some spectacular news about the state of 10nm, this wasn’t it: Mr Bryant stated that Intel met its goal of shipping 10nm processors to customers in 2017 – though to whom isn’t being said – and that Intel is ready to ramp up production through 2018. This is a severely limited update, compared to showing off a device with a 10nm CPU back at CES last year at the main keynote – pushing this news to a side meeting on the show floor will cause further questions on the state of Intel’s 10nm xeon processor.

More information as it comes in. When we hit a WiFi spot, we will upload the full presentation video.