Showing Results: Most Recent
Pros: TL;DR A good looking, great performing, quiet card (plus included backplate). Nice value with the current promotional package - $30 discount + $30 rebate card + free Rise of the Tomb Raider game.
Overclocked without issues to 1458 MHz (using MSI Afterburner with custom fan profile) with temperatures no more than 65C in Valley Benchmark at 1080p Extreme HD preset. Easily beat my SLI GTX 670 setup on score, temperature, and noise. Firestrike yielded even greater improvements. See Other Thoughts below for detailed setup and results.
No coil whine that I could detect, and fans switch off by default below 60 degrees for silent operation. Even when they ramp up using my custom profile the noise is not objectionable. A gradually increasing, medium whooshing sound without objectionable high-pitched noise. I was a bit worried since others have reported coil whine and fan noise issues, but I guess I got lucky, as I am very sensitive to noise.
Elegant, understated looks with lighted white EVGA + model logo on top, which can be switched off if desired. A perfect match for my black and white build: white H440 case plus ASUS Z170-A motherboard with its white I/O section cover, and white Cable Mod custom cables.
Length is no greater than the ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU IIs it replaced, and it is slightly narrower. I estimate it's around 30% heavier, but strangely there is barely any sag when installed compared to those cards.
The price was right for me - with Newegg's promotional price of $649.99 with $30 mail-in rebate, plus free Rise of the Tomb Raider game included, which I wanted anyway. I received the previous Tomb Raider game with a GTX 670 purchase and it was better than I expected.
Cons: None to speak of. Although some cards can be had with a higher factory overclock, they cost more (especially the ones with built-in water cooling) and would not suit the look of my build as well. This card is plenty for 1440p gaming at 60+ FPS with mostly maxed out settings.
Other Thoughts: I have not truly pushed its limits yet as I don't want to stress the card unduly, and will settle for a medium overclock as adequate for everyday gaming. I was originally going to hang on to my GTX 670s until the next video card generation, but with their 2GB of VRAM they were going to be hampered in some of the newer games I recently bought, eg. Shadow of Mordor, GTA V, etc., especially at 1440p. When I saw the promo price + rebate + free Tomb Raider game I decided to take the plunge, and so far have not regretted my purchase.
My older cards in SLI performed quite well, but ran quite hot (and loud) in the H440, which is more suited to a single card setup (unless watercooled) due to its middling airflow capability.
Case: NZXT H440
Mobo: ASUS Z170-A
CPU: i7-6700K @ 4.7 GHz
Cooler: Corsair H100i w/ SP120 Quiet Edition fans
RAM: 32GB GSkill TridentZ @ 3000 MHz
SSD: Samsung 950 Pro M.2 (boot drive)
OS: Windows 10 Home
GPU: EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC ACX 2.0+ (reviewed product) vs. ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II SLI (comparison product)
Unigine Valley (1920x1080, 8xAA, Extreme HD preset):
GTX 670 SLI - FPS 81.0 (Min 38.3, Max 156.1) Score 3392
GTX 980 Ti - FPS 96.2 (Min 43.6, Max 183.2) Score 4026
GTX 670 SLI - 11172
GTX 980 Ti - 16141
Firestrike Extreme (1440p):
GTX 670 SLI - 5954
GTX 980 Ti - 8224
The 670s (@ 1215 MHz) would reach up to 90 degrees in the above tests, while the 980 Ti (@ 1458 MHz) never went above 65 degrees, and the 670 fan noise was subjectively twice as loud. Towards the end of testing the GTX 670s started glitching out and freezing, needing a forced reboot to recover, so I may have been driving them past their limit, whereas the 980 Ti reformed flawlessly throughout.
I also had the chance to test a friend's GTX 780s (ASUS Poseidon, though not watercooled) in SLI on an i7-4790K rig - they managed 14000+ in Firestrike without overclocking, which is pretty close to the 980 Ti. In that situation I would probably hang onto them for a while, despite their 3GB VRAM disadvantage.
I believe the Nvidia promo for the free Tomb Raider game is until 2/16/16 (or possibly they run out of codes) - don't quote me on that, it's "to the best of my knowledge". At any rate, I got my Steam code within an hour of my purchase on 1/14/16.
This is my first EVGA video card. I am very happy with its performance and quality, and glad I did not wait for the next generation of GPUs before upgrading.
Pros: This is a great looking motherboard, with an understated color scheme that blends in perfectly in my white NZXT H440 case. I especially like the white shroud covering the I/O ports.
While the build quality is a bit lightweight and it has fewer features than more expensive boards, it is adequate for my needs, with six SATA III ports plus one M.2 slot, and two USB 3.1 ports (one type A and one type C) at the rear in addition to two regular USB3.0 and two 2.0 ports.
The M.2 slot supports the new Samsung 950 Pro running at PCI-Express 3.0 x4 speeds- I installed the 512GB version as my boot drive (no problems there with a fresh install of Windows 10 Home) and got speeds of 2344 MB/s read and 1536 MB/s write (CrystalDiskMark scores), way faster than even the four Intel SSDs I have in RAID 0. It also does not steal bandwidth from my video cards, which run at x8 speeds in SLI.
RAM slots support up to DDR4 3400. I installed two 16GB sticks of G.SKILL TridentZ DDR4 3000 and got the advertised speed without problem after setting it up in the UEFI. There is an "EZ XMP" switch on the motherboard to make things even easier, but it turns on a green LED when enabled, so I left it off for esthetic reasons. The board also has a "Mem OK" button which allows automatic retuning of a bad memory overclock, and a "TPU" switch which when set to "I" or "II" can adjust processor overclock settings based on whether your CPU is air-cooled or water-cooled, respectively.
This is my first ASUS motherboard - it's only a small bonus, but the Q Connector for the front panel pins makes installing the leads much less fiddly, and I wish other manufacturers would provide something similar.
Overclocking is easy whatever your experience level, from the EZ Mode section, or Advanced Mode section of the UEFI, then there is the QFan Control which lets you set individual fan profiles. I got an easy, stable 4.6GHz overclock on my i7-6700K which idles in the mid-20s and goes up to mid-70s under load, cooled by a Corsair H100i using SP120 Quiet Edition fans. This is about ten degrees cooler all round than my Z97 build with an i7-4790K at stock speeds (4.0GHz with 4.4GHz turbo, same H100i cooler) in a much higher end board, the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 - more a reflection on Skylake architecture vs. Haswell/Devil's Canyon than this board in particular.
The UEFI has a Favorites section which lets you include your most used menu items from other areas, pretty handy if you delve into the UEFI a lot.
From Windows, the ASUS AI Suite has a section which allows similar adjustments to those above, but once I had my UEFI preferences set I didn't use that after trying it, as I like to have as few background services running as possible.
On the other hand, I really like the ASUS Boot Setting utility, which lets you reboot directly into BIOS/UEFI and also select Fast Boot/Normal Boot options.
Cons: ASUS has obviously cut corners on the build quality to provide everything this board has at a competitive price. Most notably, the flimsiest, ugliest I/O shield I have ever seen, stamped out of thin steel and with barely legible port labels. I managed not to cut my fingers on it, but installing the motherboard in the case required more force than I expected. I discovered why when I tried to plug in my mouse. Fortunately I had not supplied power yet, as one of the tabs on the I/O shield was bent out of position and was inserted into a USB port! Another reviewer had the same problem, it seems. ASUS, please persuade the bean counters to include a decent replacement, even for a couple of extra dollars on the price.
The VRM heatsinks are held down via pushpins rather than screws, and look pretty lightweight, although I have not had any overheating issues.
There is no debug LED display on the board. Instead, there are single red LEDs by the various areas (GPU, PCH, RAM) that light up during POST as each section is tested, then turn off when the test is passed. So you get a rough idea of what the problem may be, or rather where it is, but it's not as specific as a numerical code.
The audio codec is another area which has been skimped on, as it is the ALC 892 rather than the ALC 1150 which is almost standard on mid-range boards now.
Other Thoughts: This has just enough features for an entry-level Skylake gaming board at a price ASUS has met by aggressively trimming back on certain aspects, some of which relate to build quality eg that atrocious I/O shield, and some to functionality, eg the audio codec, number of SATA ports, lack of debug display etc..
On the other hand, the looks are attractive, and as long as everything keeps working I am quite happy with it. I use audio over HDMI or Displayport, and also have a USB DAC, so the ALC 892 codec doesn't matter as much as if I used the analog outputs. I replaced my previous high end Z97 board with this in my gaming rig due to its M.2 slot for which I purchased the Samsung 950 Pro.
Is it worth upgrading to this if you have an adequate Haswell, Ivy Bridge or even Sandy Bridge system? For gaming, probably not, given the cost of a new CPU plus DDR4 RAM in addition to the motherboard. Your money would be better spent on a video card upgrade, in most cases, unless you already have a really high-end card or cards that you know are being bottle-necked. If you want faster storage options, then this does beat previous generations with that native PCI-e x4 M.2 slot and more native Intel SATA III ports than Ivy Bridge or older.
Testing benchmarks against my Z97 rig the Intel 530 iGPU easily beat that system's 4600 iGPU in Unigine Valley - 27FPS vs 19FPS at Low settings. With video cards installed, scores were about the same. Cinebench CPU scores were about 10% higher on the Skylake build.
If you're building a brand new system, then I would say go with Skylake, given the falling cost of DDR4. As for the ASUS Z170-A, it's good enough at a fairly decent price. I'd personally spend a few dollars more for beefier build quality, better audio codec etc., but this was provided to me by Newegg for review purposes. It looks good in my system, and once I flashed the latest BIOS it's been stable and running well with a 4.6GHz overclock. I am, however, deducting one egg for that cheap I/O shield and audio codec which other manufacturers have better versions of in this price range.
Pros: This is an update to my earlier review, after having done more research on this model and its slightly more expensive sibling, the Corsair RM850i.
I discovered that the reason for the bulky 24-pin, EPS (CPU) and PCI-e cables is that they include capacitors near the connector ends for enhanced ripple suppression. With flat cables, including and/or hiding them would probably be more difficult than using traditional round braided cables. These capacitors are hidden under a length of heatshrink which encloses the end of the braided section, with a slight bulge revealing their location.
While their inclusion makes for less attractive cables, it apparently does wonders for ripple suppression, as when I looked at reviews and charts on various sites like Toms Hardware, the RMx series beat many other competitors by quite a margin.
I also found out that CableMod supplies custom cables for this model - these move the capacitors further back towards the PSU so they can be hidden behind the motherboard area.
Cons: My previous complaint regarding heat still stands, and some reviews of the RM850i mention that that model also gets quite warm. However, the RM850i is Corsair Link compatible, and its fan can be controlled by software, unlike the RM850X. It also has a fan test button, plus a better fan bearing (Fluid Dynamic Bearing vs Rifle Bearing).
Other Thoughts: I am raising my rating by one egg after having seen third party tests of this PSU's excellent efficiency and performance, and internal build quality with all-Japanese capacitors.
I am still not happy with the heat generation though, and as Tom's Hardware noted (for the RM750X, but the same applies here), a switch to allow normal fan operation would have been nice -- the fan is very quiet anyway -- instead of always being in semi-passive mode.
I discounted not having Corsair Link compatibility as a minor point in my previous review, but was then unaware that the fan speed could be controlled in addition to fan and power monitoring. In a well-ventilated case that can exhaust heat well, this may not be an issue -- aside from the (lack of) digital interface and fan bearing, it is identical to the RM850i -- so you could save a few dollars with this model as overall performance is the same.
My main build is in an NZXT H440, which is quiet, but only middling in terms of ventilation, and the RM850X would get really hot inside that case's PSU shroud. As I mentioned in my previous review, the unit I received would only briefly spin up the fan even at 54% output load. In my situation the RM850i would be preferable, due to its fan/power monitoring and fan control via Corsair Link (the current revision works really well compared to early releases).
Note: I received the Corsair RM850X from Newegg for the purposes of my review(s).