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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Asus ROG STRIX RX VEGA 56 OC Edition Review

Asus ROG STRIX RX VEGA 56 OC Edition - Its all about that Raw Unadulterated Power


The wait was finally over last year when AMD rolled out the much awaited Vega cards for consumers in form of the RX VEGA 56 and RX VEGA 64 that not only are their first prominent step in the right direction but also after ages pose a real threat to their Nvidia counterparts in the main-stream division dethroning the GTX 1070 & placing the VEGA 56 in between the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080 performance bracket! While the RX Vega 56 has been extremely successful and wooed in many enthusiasts and gamers including the ones who were beholden to a particular brand.
Thanks to Asus India I have with me today their latest Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition Graphics card for review which is as the name suggest the overclocked version of the Vega 56 and hosts a ton of other features including the ROG branding to say the least.

Asus RX Vega 56 OC Edition comes as one of the two cards that are based on the latest CGN 5.0 14nm FinFET architecture and have the Vega 10 GPU at their heart the same as that of the Vega 64, with 56 out of the total 64 compute units enables hence the name Vega 56 and has 3584 steam processor cores compared to the 4096 as that on the Vega 64. Apart from this the number of TMUs and ROPS are same on both models as 224 and 64 respectively. Our GPU today is clocked in at 1590Mhz boost which is 119Mhz over the reference model while the 20148 bus width 8GB HBM2 memory is at 800Mhz effective just like that on the reference edition so no changes there. All these tweaks give the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC a massive bandwidth of 410GB/s which is enough to handle any title in quad HD resolution.

What's in the Box!?


Asus brings the ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition in a big-heavy cardboard box which is mainly black in color with hints of green on the sides. The STRIX and Vega logo along with the graphics card image occupy most of the real estate on the packing while the Aura and VR ready logos are printed clearly at the bottom and the very top right side. At the top left corner we can find the signature 'R' logo which was all started by the Vega Frontier Edition to complete the whole package.

On the back side the box boasts about the 3 years warranty that the card comes with along with various technical and physical features that the RX Vega 56 comes loaded with such as the patented fan blade design, two times more contact area for the cooler, Aura sync etc.


Inside the outer cover you will find a big black box with the STRIX logo printed right in the center. Open this and you get a small envelop nestled inside a foam cavity under which the RX Vega 56 OC rests in a thick foam block wrapped in an anti static plastic bag.

On the accessories front the box included the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition Graphics Card along with the driver DVD, user manual and two ROG velcro cable ties. All in all the packaging is to the point and protective enough to keep this beefy card safe and secure during transit.

Take a Closer Look


The RX Vega 56 from Asus is an elegant looking card with an all black matte finish and a triple fan design which looks old but is infact an all new cooler design to keep this card cool even under extreme loads.

This unit weights in at 1.5Kg and measures in at 29.8x13.4x5.25 cm making it one of the longest and thickest cars you can find on the market today. Infact the card occupies two and a half expansion slots so keep this in mind before buying this card as it can pose an issue for ITX users going for a compact build.
Basally this is the same DirectCU cooler in size, design and specifications as that on the Asus ROG STRIX GTX 1080 Ti cards so as to provide the best cooling experience to this unit since we all know that there is a lot of hot and heavy technology under that hood to be cooled.


At the back the backplate is smooth with a X shaped retention bracket and is decorated with abstract designs all over the surface and the Asus and STRIX logo near the top end. We also find the ROG eye logo at one corner which is RGB LED lit and imparts the signature ROG look to this RX Vega 56 from Asus.

The Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC will offer five display connectors; you'll spot two 1.2 certified Display Ports, two HDMI 2.0b connectors and a DVI port. The dual HDMI arrangement is done with VR in mind.
This sort of arrangement enables 4K displays at 120Hz, 5K displays at 60Hz, and 8K displays at 60Hz (using two cables) making the RX Vega 56 the best in class for UHD gaming, VR Gaming, recording and streaming purposes.

The ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 uses a triple fan cooling solution with new IP5X dust resistant patented fan design for better-reliable cooling and air flow experience. There are six heatpipes embedded inside the thick aluminum heatsink, which is divided into two parts, with a nickle plated copper base that makes 40% more contact with the GPU surface for more efficient cooling with lower noise levels.  Since the Vega 56 is rated at 210 TDP this sort of arrangement is more than enough to keep this card cool even under intense load with enough headroom for overclocking which enabled Asus to release this OC Edition.
These fans don't spin at upto 55°C and after that they start spinning in an ordered fashion with the right one spinning first followed by the center fan and then the last left fan when the temperature reached above 60°C to eliminate unnecessary noise. It is also sounds and looks kind of cool to me so a few extra brownie points for this kind of implementation.


At the bottom side the entire graphics card is clean with no heatpipe or anything protruding outside of the huge plastic shroud but just the PCIe connector at one end. While at the top we can see ssupport for power connectors and SLI connectors, yes you can even SLI this monster if you have the need and money well more of money than need I'd say!

The rear houses the RGB header and two extra fan headers that will spin attached chassis fans at the graphics card fan RPM. These fan headers have been carried forward from the precious generation design of Asus STRIX and ROG cards and do a great job in not only providing some much needed fan headers but also are a life saver when working in tight environments such as ITX builds with less space and lesser fan headers on the motherboard! However the use of the RGB header is still questionable since connecting a RGB strip to this header and routing it through the chassis is going to both difficult and impractical.


Due to the heavy and beefy nature of this card Asus has reinforced the entire cooling solution and PCB with a steel bracket cum heatsink that originated from the IO plate and run through the entire area of the PCB aswell as the cooler to impart that much needed tensile strength to avoid the graphics card from sagging under its own weight.

To power the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition we have a two 8-pin PCIe power connectors on top which make it capable of withdrawing 375W on paper which is more than enough or sort of an overkill for a card rated at 210W TDP. This much power is enough to tweak the card for some further overclocking hopefully but it would definitely contribute to excessive heat generation if left at stock settings! Also Asus provides ts signature white LEDs on these connectors which light up and are static when the wires are properly connected and not those power phase activity lights as that on the reference design.

Benchmarks and Overclocking


Installing the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition was easy and it powered up like a breeze once we booted up the system.
GPUZ reported the correct frequencies with 1590Mhz on the clock and 800Mhz on the memory.
For benchmarking the graphics card our new test bench was as follows -

CPU: Intel Core i7 5930K @4.5Ghz
Motherboard: Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5P
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB DDR4 3000Mhz
Cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid Maker 240 
Graphics Card: Asus ROG STRIX RX VEGA 56 OC Edition

Storage: Corsair Neutron XTi 480GB
Power Supply: Cooler Master MasterWatt Lite 700
Case: Corsair Carbide SPEC Omega
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Now overclocking the RX Vega 56 is not like what we usually do with other cards, we just can't dial up the voltages and add in some increments to the clocks till we start seeing screen tearing, dots or system crashes, that won't work here or well not work in an optimum manner. These RX Vega cards depend a lot upon thermals so much as so that you would find a different temperature reading for the card and another on just for the HBM memory on board which has a dedicated threshold of around 85°C. With that being said I firstly started by under volting the card and at -12% I managed a perfect balance of temperature threshold, fan noise and performance gains. At this stage the performance boost was significant at around 9°C drop in maximum temperatures.
Secondly I tried to overclock this already overclocked card at the same -12% power limit and was surprised to have obtained a stable 1670Mhz on the clock and 810Mhz on the memory while keeping the fans at auto as that's what most people would do and not like to have a jet plane inside their chassis! At this point I would like to mention that if I kept the power limit same and increased the clocks or increased the power limit and tried to overclock the card the frequencies that I managed were less or nearly the same respectively but with a lot of heat generation and I had to turn on the fans to 70% to keep the temperatures under check. Keep notice that if you follow this route the performance gains are not that great and you get a very high power drawn along with annoying fan noises all the time!
So be it any RX Vega card and in our case the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC edition would work great if under volted with significant performance boost even if you leave the clocks as they are, its just that you have to tune and find that sweet spot for your card that goes well with your requirements. Our benchmarks today would be at stock and at what we achieved on overclock that is at 1670Mhz clock and 810Mhz on memory.

AIDA64 Extreme edition GPGPU


The AIDA64 GPGPU test not only calculates the read, write and copy speed of the graphics card and processor but is also very useful in observing the SHA-1 Hash and AES-256 score. These are indications of how well the GPU can handle number crunching or real life image or video rendering. Higher score shows a better card.

3DMark Fire Strike & Time Spy


Fire Strike and Time Spy by 3D Mark is a test suit that plays a cinematic scene to determine the FPS, GPU temperature and CPU temperature scaling everything via a cumulative score. It is a great tool to benchmark your GPU since the render is mostly GPU & memory dependent.

Battlefield 1


The latest installation to the Battlefield franchise and mind it the grandest one of them all aswell, Battlefield 1 is a prequel to the infamous Battlefield 1942 placing the players right in the middle of World War 1. Based on the latest Frostbite Engine by EA-DICE, Battlefield 1 takes advantage of DirectX 12 with asynchronous compute to weave together richly detailed worlds. It is heavily taxing on current-generation hardware, and you're handsomely rewarded for investing more into your graphics setup. Settings are at Ultra preset with full HD resolution.

Ashes of the Singularity 


The latest installation to the Battlefield franchise and mind it the grandest one of them all aswell, Battlefield 1 is a prequel to the infamous Battlefield 1942 placing the players right in the middle of World War 1. Based on the latest Frostbite Engine by EA-DICE, Battlefield 1 takes advantage of DirectX 12 with asynchronous compute to weave together richly detailed worlds. It is heavily taxing on current-generation hardware, and you're handsomely rewarded for investing more into your graphics setup. Settings are at Ultra preset with full HD resolution.Developed by Oxide Games & running on the Nitrous Game Engine Ashes of the Singularity is a real-time strategy game set in the future where descendants of humans (called Post- Humans) and a powerful artificial intelligence (called the Substrate) fight a war for control of a resource known as Turinium.
We've used the in-built benchmarking tool and the result is shown in an average of all the graphical tests conducted over various locations and topographies of the game. DX12 API, Quality set to Extreme, 4xMSAA and everything else to high.

Prey


After releasing the excellent Dishonored 2 France-based Arkane Studios hits it out of the park again with Prey, a first-person shooter published by Bethesda Softworks as a reboot from 11 years ago.
Unveiled at E3 2016, Prey uses the CryEngine graphics engine and audio from Audiokinetic's Wave Works Interactive Sound Engine (Wwise). It is exclusively DX11 based so no DX12 or Vulkan testing is possible.

Rise of the Tomb Raider


The latest installation of Lara Croft in the spectacular Rise of the Tomb Raider 2016 with stunning graphics and rich location makes it a great game to benchmark with while enjoying in the due course! We used DX12 and settings were at Ultimate on full HD resolution.

Call of Duty: WWII


Call of Duty: WWII is a first-person shooter video game developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. Not only is it a a gamer's delight but a graphics card nightmare when all the settings are cranked up offering real life graphics and optimized gameplay.

GTA V


Grand Theft Auto V is an open world, action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. If you like open world adventure then this is something that you don't wanna miss with great graphics, catchy story line and unlimited potential for mods that keep coming in and out every now and then on the web. Our settings are as follows with very high quality, 16xAF, 2xMSAA and FXAA enabled.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus


Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an action-adventure first-person shooter video game developed by Machine Games and published by Bethesda Softworks. Not only doe it put you in the shoes of a futuristic armored suit, yey suits are back, but also gives you the ability to mow down everyone with all guns blazing! The game is well optimized but beats down upon the graphics card at all settings cranked up resulting in high power draw and heat generation.

The Evil Within 2


The Evil Within 2 is a third-person survival horror video game developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I personally love playing this game these days in dark room specifically, your preferences might be otherwise. Great gameplay and a well optimized graphical engine make sit a treat for the gamer aswell as for their graphics cad.

Forza Horizon 3


Forza Horizon 3 is an open world racing video game developed by Playground Games and published by Microsoft Studios for Xbox One and Microsoft Windows 10. The game features cross-platform play between the two platforms and is heavily demanding when it comes to PC resources. Our settings are at ultra preset with FPS cap removed.

Noise & Temperature 


The fans on the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition don't spin till the card hits 55°C or more. We recorded the maximum temperature in Celsius that our card hit during extensive gaming & sound was measured in decibels from a distance of 3 feet. This was performed for both stock and overclocked speeds.

My Verdict  

AMD is back and its back for good with the RX Vega series namely as the RX Vega 56 over the 64 since the former delivers around 10% low performance with significantly lower power consumption, heat generation and can be tweaked to almost the same level with a much lower price point.
With that being said I come back to the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition in hand today and boy this is a beast of a card and when I say that I don't refer to the sheer physical size but also to the raw performance & the feature bundle that it comes with. This card can easily mow down any GTX 1070 in the market and even some of the GTX 1070 Tis including those from third party manufacturers in some titles and synthetic benchmarks by its out of the box frequency itself and Adrenaline driver which would obviously get better with time considering the new HBM2 memory that these Vega10 GPUs rely upon. Asus chose the cooler well for its STRIX RX Vega 56 OC and came up with something that delivers impressive performance at low temperatures and minimal noise along with additional fan headers and RGB headers, in case you need them.
Talking about its overclocking potential I'd say that the RX Vega 56 largely depends upon how you handle the voltages on this card and with the Super Alloy Power II components as Asus likes to call them we see a significant boost in performance by simply lowering down the power limit as the power delivery components on board handle everything seamlessly to yield the best possible combination. Even when it comes to increasing clock frequencies the card is not a slouch and I was surprised that I managed to add some extra Mhz on this already overclocked unit all of which was handled by the DirectCU cooler lets say in a cool manner!
Some might argue that the power consumption on any RX Vega 56 is high compared to that on the GTX 1070 or even above models but I say that the Vega 56 is winner when you consider the fact that it offers seamless 1440p gaming performance at a lower price point and saves you another heafty spending through the much cheaper FreeSync monitors. Also with 10.5TFLOPs under the hood the RX Vega 56 beats the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 that offer just 6.5TFLOPs and 8.9TFLOPs respectively which obviously won't matter in gaming but when you use softwares that actually use that power like Adobe Premier Pro etc then the RX Vega 56 would out shine its competition by a huge margin.
"The RX Vega 56 is the best AMD card till date and with the Asus ROG STRIX RX Vega 56 OC Edition the story gets only better. Solid build quality, unadulterated gaming performance and raw computing force makes this card the go to option for gaming, editing and rendering alike all of which is laced in the ROG goodness making it a worthy main-stream contender"

Pros - 

  • Good gaming performance
  • Solid build quality 
  • Runs cool and quiet under load
  • Higher bandwidth from HBM2 proves helpful at high resolution
  • Can be easily tweaked further for better performance  
  • Compatible Freesync monitors come at no extra cost

Cons - 

  • High power consumption  
  • Unstable pricing and availability
I give it a 8/10 earning our Gold Award!

Friday, 19 January 2018

ADATA XPG EMIX I30 Review

ADATA EMIX I30 - Bass and some more Bass!!


ADATA is a brand famous for its high end DRAM and NAND Flash products but recently they've come up with something new to venture into the territories of audio devices by launching three dedicated audio products. Carrying the XPG branding ADATA launched the XPG EMIX H30 and I30 headsets and a SOLOX F30 amplifier which are strictly aimed at gamers and promise to deliver ground breaking performance and comfort with catchy designs.
Today thanks to ADATA India I have with me the XPG EMIX I30 in-ear Gaming earphones which is the smaller cousin of the H30 which is a full sized over the head gaming headset.

Priced in at $80 the XPG EMIX I30 sports over-sized 13.5mm monomer drivers with a total impedance of 32Ohms and a design that fits snugly in ear canals rather than taking the over the head approach like most of the conventional gaming audio products do. Also the product features a patented 5.2 channel surround sound experience through the use of inner vacuum tubes that imitate a spatial effect.

Whats' in the Box!?


ADATA brings the XPG EMIX I30 in the new XPG theme packing that they've been following since their new XPG Gammix S10 M.2 SSD with a black and wine red colored box having an an abstract X imprinted in the backdrop along with the product image in the front. The XPG logo and and product name are clearly specified on the top and bottom side respectively along with some feature highlights.

On the side we have a list of all the contents inside the box and the back comes with a well labeled image of the earphones displaying the changeable ear tips, 5.2 surround sound, in-line controls etc. Its a good packaging and over all  justifies the the theme and motive of the product.

Open the box and you'll get everything snug fitted nicely inside a thick black cardboard box which slides out of the outer cover. Content wise we have the EMIX I30 earphones, a splitter cable for connecting to PC and laptops, three different sized ear tips, a splitter adapter or airplane adapter, a user manual and a hard top carry pouch which looks quite premium and can house the earphones along with a few of the provided accessories for traveling.

A Closer Look


The ADATA XPG EMIX I30 are physically quite large compared to normal in-ear earphones and are made up of premium grade plastic shells which looks like metal due to the kind of paints used. The black and red color scheme is what we expect from a XPG line product and so we get the same in the I30 aswell. Also these earbuds boast a 13.5mm driver made out of durable yet reactive monomer materials compared to the 10mm neodymium drivers that we generally come across in products of this category.

An inner vacuum tube allows EMIX I30 to transfer sound in a way that creates a convincing spatial effect. The elastic materials that line this tube move inwards and outwards based on frequency, allowing for a wider range than that offered by standard, non-reactive earphone designs. Each earphone has a micro-subwoofer embedded for bass boost, and together these designs create an impressive surround effect.

Coming with a 1.4m long silicon coated non braided cable the EMIX I30 has an in-line mic and control switch that serves a range of purposes such as receiving/declining a call, playing or pausing a track or even switching to the next track. Since its a single button one needs to get used to using it since everything depends on how many times you press the button for example, a single press will pause and restart music playback and also answer calls or end them, press twice to skip to the next track when playing music and three times to skip back to the previous track.

Connectivity wise the earphones use a four pole 3.5mm jack which is gold plated for enhanced signal transfer and better signal reception and transfer for clearer audio. This makes the product universally compatible with almost every device you can think of including gaming consoles, cell phones, tablets and a PC which puts in a widely useful category and not just a gaming oriented product.

Time to Hit the Cords!

Gaming Performance 


Since the ADATA EMIX I30 aims at gaming, obviously, we tested it with some of our all time favorites, Crysis 3 and Battlefield 1 for its excellent blend of audio, Middle Earth: Shadow of War for its pitch perfect environmental sounds and Forza Horizon 3 well simply 'coz I like that game!
In Crysis 3 we had no issue whatsoever in listening to or understanding what Prophet was saying and noises were fairly distinguished in the heat of battle but were sometimes overpowered by the bass! Battlefield 1 came out fully immersive especially when it came to sitting inside the battle tanks or listening to aerial bombing happening across the field. In Shadow of War we could really feel the voices coming from different directions and interestingly even though the bass on this earphone is heavy and its an earphone and not a headphone I could pinpoint locations of the enemy easily enough. The engines of Bugatti or Lamborghini never revved any better and we were blown away by the deep bass these cups had to offer but again in game chats or when a briefing is going on the background music overpowers it due to the heavy bass that these earphones have to offer.
Overall these earphones are great for gaming especially those that make use of deep bass and treble but you can find yourself at lost when at full volume playing games like CS:GO where in-game chats with your teammate are a vital part of the gameplay since the bass will overpower it. I found the 50%-75% to be the sweet spot of volume with these and you can sail through any type of games with this settings or else 100% is just too much for certain genre of titles.
Also the mic is static free and picks up noise at low levels, a bit of a nasal comes in but with a bit of an adjustment that can be taken care of. Its an in-line mic so you can easily adjust its orientation and placement as per your comfort but for me it worked best in its default placement only.

Music, Movies & Miscellaneous Stuff! 


For movies and music I plugged in the EMIX I30 into a ALC 1220 codec based audio solution on my PC motherboard and also we tested it with an Apple iPhone 5S and iPhone 7 for music playback. Firstly we went in for a wide variety like the dialogue intensive Schindler's List & 12 Years a Slave to high pitch titles like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Fast and the Furious 8, all came out in exceptional quality.
Bryan Adam's Heaven and some of my all time favorite Bollywood songs sounded great with exceptional lows accompanied by a good treble. Eminem Legacy and Rap God were as clear as they can be with bass nearing perfection for a gaming headset, even at full volume songs from 3 Doors Down, Motorhead or Metallica didn't crack displaying the true power of the 50mm drivers that it uses. The only issue that one might face is with the mids here since they tend to get over shadowed by the lows and the high bass which is quite common for gaming headsets but this can be overcome by compromising upon the loudness and decreasing the volume to around 75% which most users can since those 13.5mm drivers are quite loud anyways.

My Verdict

Whenever a brand steps into unfamiliar territories it is bound to stumble and fumble but with ADATA I'm pleasingly surprised with what they've done with their EMIX I30 in-ear gaming earphones and not headphones as its mentioned on the box! Considering its their first dedicated audio device they've done a better job than most of the veteran brands in the field especially when you consider the entire package that this product has to offer.
Looks wise the EMIX I30 is really well designed and build using a red and black color theme that would please most of the gamers out there albeit matching their gaming setups. The accessories that it comes bundled with are useful and make it a much more holistic approach with a special mention to the hard carry pouch which completes its on the go gaming and mobile approach. The 5.2 surround sound effect works well & the 13.5mm drivers are really loud and loud enough if you dial down the volume to decrease that bass and treble for watching dialogue intensive movies or playing games that rely heavily on in game chat and briefings.
But all this goodies doesn't mean that the XMP EMIX I30 is perfect, it does have its own shortcomings with the price tag topping the list, its just too expensive for what it has to offer. Its understandable that ADATA doesn't have a scale of economy in this category and that brings the price up but still the $80 price tag is too high for justification. I would've been happier if this was around the $50-$60 mark as that is where this pair of buds truly belong. Also the in-line remote for controls is a bit complicated given the fact that it has only one button to cover all that much, one needs to spend some time just to get familiar with it before putting it to real use. If only there were at-least two buttons to control all this with the number of presses deciding the functions then it would've been a tad bit easier.
"ADATA EMIX I30 is a step in the right direction with some very impressive features up its sleeves. It sounds great, looks solid and does exactly what it should for a gaming earphone but is plagued only by its high price tag!"

Pros - 

  • Bass heavy
  • Sounds great in games, music and movies
  • Comes with good number of accessories
  • Good build quality

Cons - 

  • Bass is overpowering at times 
  • Single button for all the functions 
  • Cable is non-braided
  • Price tag is too high
I give it a 6.5/10 earning our Silver Award!