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Joshua C.

Joshua C.

Joined on 07/07/07

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Product Reviews
product reviews
  • 13
Most Favorable Review

Powerful Power Hungry Card

GIGABYTE Radeon RX 5700 XT GAMING OC 8G Graphics Card, PCIe 4.0, 8GB 256-Bit GDDR6, GV-R57XTGAMING OC-8GD Video Card
GIGABYTE Radeon RX 5700 XT GAMING OC 8G Graphics Card, PCIe 4.0, 8GB 256-Bit GDDR6, GV-R57XTGAMING OC-8GD Video Card

Pros: - Fits in a "normal" 2-slot space - Very powerful - Good enough thermals for my ITX build - Drivers maturing steadily - AMD's wattman software offers great control - undervolting is literally the flick of a switch - Decently quiet, even under load

Cons: - Power hungry: spikes to 350W+ during intense renders - Some stability issues, but this is mostly due to AMD's drivers still needing to mature - Even with "good enough" thermals, it still runs very warm (~90C under load) - Need to undervolt to achieve best temp to performance - REQUIRES good ventilation

Overall Review: TL;DR: Two most important things to gather from this review: 1. If you're having stability issues with this card, make sure that it's getting enough power by plugging the 6-pin and 8-pin connectors in to different lines from the power supply, rather than daisy-chaining from the same one (especially if you have a <700W PSU). 2. If you're having trouble with thermals on the card, make sure that the air can exhaust from the heatsink properly, and try undervolting it from AMD's wattman interface. 3. If you're still having problems, make sure you don't have CCleaner installed. Somehow, that program made this GPU fail. --- I initially purchased this card back in August, 2019, when it was still brand new. I knew I wanted Navi since the rumors of it using the 7nm process began to circulate in early 2017, and the synthetic benchmarks from reviewers suggested that it would meet my hopes: AMD finally having an answer to Nvidia's years-long GPU dominance. My build had shifted a bit since the last AMD card I had, though; I went from a high-airflow ATX full-tower to an ITX shoebox; cooling, airflow, and space all require a bit more consideration. When I first got the card, we had...issues. The card ran 15C warmer than I was seeing in reviews from GN and the like, and it was crashing extremely frequently. Upgrading the drivers in the rest of my system helped some, but ultimately, it felt like I might have gotten a bad egg. At least one BSOD a day told me that _something_ was wrong, but the symptoms were ambiguous and inconsistent. I spent awhile focusing on the thermals, thinking that the warmth in the card was probably to blame. The card's cooler is built in such a way that the air exhausts out the sides, so I had to tune the fans in my case to account for the extra heat buildup. Even then, though, the thermals didn't come fully in line until I applied the auto-undervolt setting in AMD's wattman. But even with the thermals fixed, I was still crashing. That's when I found a forum post where someone else was having similar issues on an RX 590--and what resolved it was plugging the card in to two separate lines from the power supply. As it turns out, the power supply wasn't capable of delivering enough power over a single line to cover the spikes in power demand, and the card isn't built in such a way as to properly handle not having a glut of power available. Now that I've corrected this, and have each connector on a separate line, the GPU is substantially more stable--and runs MUCH better. These are the numbers I was expecting, and I'm glad to finally be getting them. Hat's off to AMD on making such an impressive entry to the mid-range market, and to Gigabyte for bringing such a great cooling solution to market, as well. I'm sincerely hoping that AMD corrects this issue as they iterate on the Navi architecture and move beyond it. Spiking to 350W of power draw does not seem normal for a mid-range GPU, and while drivers and firmware updates may help to improve this, it feels like something that system builders shouldn't have to account for.

Most Critical Review

Bright, but cheap

BitFenix BFF-WPRO-20025W-RP 200mm White LED Spectre PRO WHITE 200MM Case Fan
BitFenix BFF-WPRO-20025W-RP 200mm White LED Spectre PRO WHITE 200MM Case Fan

Pros: - Good airflow, while it works - Very bright LEDs - Comes with silicon tool-free attachments for vibration reduction

Cons: - Cheap plastic used for fan blades (one blade shattered off a few moments after plugging it in and spinning up) - Odd bracket design may be incompatible with some cases - No manual to show how to install or connect fan, or how to properly use the silicon attachments (the only way I could figure out was awkward and insecure).

Overall Review: I got this fan because it had the highest airflow rating among all of the 200mm fans I was looking at. Another reviewer mentioned needing to keep it vertically oriented to avoid operating noise, and this fit with my build, as I was going to install it as the front intake on a Corsair Obsidian 250D Mini-ITX case. When I received the fan, I opened it and connected it to my current desktop to make sure it worked. After beginning to get up to speed, one of the blades snapped off without any physical interference. It may have been damaged during shipping, as the box it came in was right up against the edge, and in its packaging, the blades are right up against the wall of the box, but it didn't seem like it. Mine was also dirty on the inside of the bracket when it arrived, like it had been used before and returned (even though the seals were new). I ultimately wound up returning the fan without a replacement, because the odd shape of the bracket made it so that the fan would not fit in the slot in the case for which it was intended, and would not align with the mounting holes, regardless of the fan's orientation.

One of the Best ITX Cases On The Market

LIAN LI TU150 Aluminum Tempered Glass ITX Case - Black Color - TU150WX
LIAN LI TU150 Aluminum Tempered Glass ITX Case - Black Color - TU150WX

Pros: * Highly recommended for ITX builds! * Tempered glass side panel gives the case a premium feeling * Solid build quality * Lots of room for cable management (see overall review for notes) * Room for slim 120mm fans at the bottom to aide in cooling GPU, if less than 3 slots * Plenty of room for air to get to the front intake * All panels are easy to remove, which allows for a very great deal of cable routing options * Very roomy—plenty of room to put a full tower air cooler * Clever storage mounting solution * Handle!

Cons: * Top panel has some restrictions in terms of cable access (makes PSU cable routing challenging) * Limited fan/radiator options * No filter on bottom intake (and no way to put one there, either) * Very little noise dampening * Might seem silly to say for an ITX box, but limited space is restrictive in terms of cooling options (doing a custom loop, or water cooling your GPU will be a challenge—good luck fitting a radiator *and* a reservoir *and* a pump in this case) * PSU extension cable is very thick and very stiff, which makes it challenging to manage * Doesn’t support ATX PSUs, but that would be a big ask for such a small case

Overall Review: All told, this case is excellent, but there are some areas where it could stand to be improved. Building in it was a breeze, and it generally has enough airflow to keep a mid-range system aimed at 2K 100+ FPS gameplay nice and cool. The tempered glass has a slight tint, which is enough to mask any “ugly” parts of the build while letting you show off any RGB goodness you’ve got inside (which I highly recommend). Switching to this case saw much better performance from a Gigabyte RX 5700XT Gaming OC, due to the additional airflow directed at the GPU. The only issue I had with building was that there are not very many holes cut into the aluminum at the top to allow cables to be routed through it—and what holes there are don’t have very much room (that and the fact that there are basically no ITX motherboards right now that have the USB-C header, which makes that front port useless). Note: If you’re building in this case after watching Linus build in this case, one thing you can do that he didn’t do is utilize the area under the top panel for cable management, which would have made his build substantially cleaner. Where this case struggles is in terms of its cooling options. It really is only meant for air cooling, or for using a single 120mm AIO cooler on the CPU. There is only one 120mm fan intake on the front, where there could be room for a 140mm fan or two 120mm fans if the metal was cut for it. The fan spots at the bottom are a nice touch, but they are extremely close to the GPU, and unless you’ve got a short GPU or a water block on a full-length GPU, there is no way to use the bottom fans for a radiator. Further, they are not filtered, and because of how close they are to the feet on the bottom of the case, there is not enough room to add a bottom filter. The biggest problem I’m having with this case at the moment is that it is *loud*, which is to say it doesn’t do much of anything to dampen the fan noise from my GPU. Those familiar with ITX cases are likely no strangers to the fact that these boxes are often very noisy, but it has become quite the distraction during intense gaming sessions (even after adjusting the fan curves to balance everything out). The solution, then, is to attempt liquid cooling, but that’s where this case falls short. It is *not* built for custom water cooling in any way. There is almost nowhere to mount a reservoir or a pump, and routing the power cables for those items would be a tremendous challenge. The intrepid system builder might try it anyway, but this case seems to be very clearly focused around optimizing it for air cooling. What I would suggest to Lian Li for the next revision of this case would be: * Cut more holes in the front of the case to allow for multiple fan configurations. There’s enough room on the aluminum for a 140mm fan (or two 120mm fans if placed judiciously), which would open up cooling options significantly. * Move the bottom fan cutouts away from the feet of the case just a few mm to allow for secondhand filters—or else provide a filter for that intake with the case. * Add more holes in the top area to allow for more cable management in that space. (one last note: the power buttons being on top is somewhat unfortunate, because my cats like to climb over the case, and have a habit of turning it on/off or restarting it, despite my best efforts at keeping the buttons hidden)

Performance matches Intel Core i7-3960x for a fraction of the price

AMD Ryzen 5 1st Gen - RYZEN 5 1600 Summit Ridge (Zen) 6-Core 3.2 GHz (3.6 GHz Turbo) Socket AM4 65W YD1600BBAEBOX Desktop Processor
AMD Ryzen 5 1st Gen - RYZEN 5 1600 Summit Ridge (Zen) 6-Core 3.2 GHz (3.6 GHz Turbo) Socket AM4 65W YD1600BBAEBOX Desktop Processor

Pros: - 65W TDP! - Socket pins are on the CPU instead of the socket (nice vs. Intel's LGA sockets where the pins bend if you look at them funny) - 6C/12T brings a LOT to the table - Did I mention that this thing ONLY needs 65W of cooling capacity?! - Excellent value for the dollar - Longevity - if I need to replace the CPU or Motherboard, I'll have a much easier time

Cons: - The Wraith heatsink it comes with isn't the LED model. :(

Overall Review: This CPU is the one I settled on after a bit of migration and experimentation with the Ryzen line, ultimately replacing an Intel Core i7-3960x on the x79 platform. I had originally tried a Ryzen 3 1300X to see if I could get away with slightly less processing power now that my computing needs have changed (I'm no longer doing massive jobs in After Effects), but the performance degradation was fairly noticeable. Moving to this CPU, though, feels like I have my old i7 back, and at a fraction of the cost (while consuming less power and running MUCH cooler). Ultimately, I am extremely pleased with this purchase, and am greatly pleased that AMD is back in the game. I expect similar performance could come from a Core i5 (and in fact many benchmarks have comparable i5 models beating this one by a few points), but for me, the longevity of AMD's sockets and chipsets wins. Intel's Z270 platform was only relevant for a single CPU generation, and the Z370 platform doesn't support the previous generation. There is also very little incentive for Intel to change this, while AMD has pledged that long-term compatibility is one of their goals.

It Works

CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) 288-Pin PC RAM DDR4 3000 (PC4 24000) Memory Kit Model CMK16GX4M2B3000C15
CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) 288-Pin PC RAM DDR4 3000 (PC4 24000) Memory Kit Model CMK16GX4M2B3000C15

Pros: Worked out of the box

Cons: -

Overall Review: DDR4's prices have been a little bit inflated lately, but this was a good Black Friday grab. Reviews I've seen have demonstrated a falloff in performance gains at speeds above DDR4 3000, so this RAM really is the sweet spot for RAM performance in the current hardware environment. Used with AMD Ryzen 5 on a B350 motherboard with zero issues.

Tricky Installation, but it works

Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 240 AIO CPU Liquid Cooler, White LED Pump, FEP Tubing, Dual 120mm Air Balance MF, Dual Dissipation Technology LGA 1700 Compatible
Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 240 AIO CPU Liquid Cooler, White LED Pump, FEP Tubing, Dual 120mm Air Balance MF, Dual Dissipation Technology LGA 1700 Compatible

Pros: - 240mm radiator - AM4 support out of the box - Simple white LED on the pump is a nice touch (the logo lights up)

Cons: - Noisy fans - AM4 hardware is finicky - the latches don't sit at 90 degrees, which made installation tricky. I wound up having to reapply my thermal paste twice to get it right.

Overall Review: I purchased this cooler because it was inexpensive, and a 240mm cooler would be a better idea than a 120mm cooler for the Mini ITX build I was putting together (keeping the CPU even 2-3 degrees cooler when everything is in close proximity is a good idea). However, this cooler proved difficult to work with, and the included fan screws wound up interfering with components on the motherboard and other items in the case (I actually wound up having to scrounge in ye olde parts bin to find some low profile screws - not a very pleasant distraction from the build process!). The fans are also the noisiest components in the system, producing a constant drone. Perhaps this is because I haven't installed the motherboard drivers yet, or perhaps it's because of their proximity to other fans, but they also seem to be running at a constant rate, rather than scaling with CPU use. I'll definitely be replacing them with low-profile, low-noise, high-static-pressure fans at some point (maybe Noctua has something I can use)! Also note: this unit does not come with preapplied thermal paste (though they do supply a full tube). This was good in my case, as I bought some Arctic Silver 5 paste, but if you're not comfortable with applying your own paste, you may want to consider a different unit. I got this on a deal for Black Friday, but I'm wishing I'd favored the overall thickness of a given unit over its price. SPECIFIC NOTE FOR PEOPLE PLANNING A BUILD IN THE CORSAIR OBSIDIAN 250D CASE: You will want to invest in at least low-profile fan mounting screws, as the thumb screws included will interfere with almost every component. Also, if you're planning to use a 200mm fan at the front with this cooler, either use a low-profile 200mm fan, or be prepared to have to sand away some of its sheath to make it fit (I do not recommend this, because plastic dust is bad). Also note that using this cooler makes putting 80mm fans on the rear to force air out rather challenging (my Noctua fans are snug with the tubing).