For the third year in a row, before the year comes to an end, lets look back at some of the worst CPU and PC graphics products released in 2019. Just like we have guides dedicated to the best CPUs and best GPUs you can buy, this is our hall of shame equivalent. Not meaning to create controversy, take this piece as informational light reading for the holidays.
In 2017 the products that made the list included the Core i7-7700K, Z270 motherboards and Nvidia’s TitanXp, while last year we picked the DDR4 version of the GeForce GT 1030, AMD’s Radeon RX 580 2048SP and Intel’s Skylake-X Refresh among others fail products.
Turns out this year we received a rather diverse range of rubbish or flawed hardware, so this feature should be a bit of fun and with that, let’s get to the first item on our list, Intel’s Cascade Lake-X... yes, the entire range of Intel HEDT processors.
Intel Cascade Lake-X
Last year we nominated the Skylake-X Refresh as one of the worst CPU releases, calling it 2018’s biggest snooze-fest. The refresh did nothing to make Intel more competitive. Performance remained the same, pricing remained the same, and the only real change saw the chips soldered which made them worse for overclockers who like to delid.
You would think that a year later cutting prices in half would be cause for excitement, but alas they’re still worse value than competing Threadripper parts. In fact, Threadripper is a distant target for Intel these days, just tackling AMD’s mainstream Ryzen 9 parts is a real challenge for the chip maker.
It’s our opinion that if you can’t offer the fastest HEDT parts, you have to offer the most value, and that’s something AMD accomplished with the first two generations of Threadripper. The $1,000 flagship Core i9-10980XE is more often than not done in by the cheaper Ryzen 9 3950X, and if you require more PCIe lanes, then the 2nd-gen Threadripper 2950X is in many ways a better alternative, and for much less. Then for those serious about performance, the 10980XE looks embarrassing sitting next to either the Threadripper 3960X or 3970X.
To be completely clear, none of the Cascade Lake-X processors are particularly bad, they’re just not competitively priced, which again is shocking to think given how Intel has dropped the price of the 18-core model from $2,000 to $1,000 in a 12-month period.
It’s unfortunate that Intel is in a position where they’re forced to refresh the same product again and leave their HEDT platform virtually unchanged for a third generation. Current 10nm manufacturing woes and 14nm shortages means that you still can’t find a Core i9-10980XE in stock. Hopefully Intel can course correct soon, but for now their HEDT parts are making our list of yearly worst hardware.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 (standard, non-Super version)
AMD’s newly released Radeon RX 5500 XT was seriously underwhelming, with pricing that is barely competitive with what Nvidia already has on offer, and stacking up worse when compared to AMD’s older Polaris GPUs such as the RX 580. But compared to the GeForce GTX 1650 that saw the light in April, the 5500 XT can at least match some of its direct competitors at the same price point.
The vanilla GTX 1650 was and still is largely a pointless product, as we called it in our day-one review. The GTX 1650 couldn't even compete with 2+ year old options, which were cheaper. Coming in at an MSRP of $150, $20 above existing Radeon RX 570 cards, the 1650 was often much slower. At $110 the GTX 1650 would have been competitive, not particularly exciting but at least competitive.
The GTX 1650 did have one ace up its sleeve: it doesn’t require external PCIe power. However not one reviewer was sent a model that didn’t require a 6-pin PCIe power connector, completely negating the one advantage this product had. To make it a compelling option, it also needed to come in a low-profile form factor, but to date just two models that we know of feature an LP design: the MSI GTX 1650 4GT LP OC and the Zotac GTX 1650 Gaming LP. Both are hard to find and usually retail at a premium.
Short of a very niche use case in OEM PCs that don't have a 6-pin PCIe power connector, the GTX 1650 was one of the worst GPU releases in 2019. On average, the cheaper RX 570 is 20% faster at 1080p and 24% faster at 1440p. That’s a massive difference, particularly given the 570 is cheaper.
Adding insult to injury (or course correction?), just six months later Nvidia released the GTX 1650 Super which is actually a good value product. Basically for $10 more you’re looking at almost 40% more performance. Ouch, talk about buyer's remorse for original 1650 owners?
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
We had planned to include the Radeon VII in this list, at least as a gaming graphics card, but honestly even for gaming it wasn’t that bad relative to the GeForce RTX 2080. You might also think it’s a stretch to include the Ryzen 7 3800X when it costs just $20 more than the 3700X. This seems reasonable for what should be better binned silicon. But this wasn’t always the case, the original MSRP asked for $70 over the 3700X, and for that you didn’t get much, if anything.
During heavy workloads, we found that the 3800X clocked between 100 - 150 MHz higher, which amounts to a 2.5 - 4% frequency increase. This increases CPU power consumption by around 12%, which meant it ran a few degrees hotter, potentially making it a bit louder.
In short, you are getting 3% more performance at best, by spending 21% more of your money. We also don’t like the TDP rating, but we're not going to dredge that up all over again. Needless to say, the 65w to 105w rating isn’t as significant as you might think when comparing the 3700X and 3800X.
Intel Core i9-9900KF / i9-9900KS
Essentially what Intel has done here is create hype around a new product that’s not new at all. They’re charging users more money to cherry pick the best silicon, while reducing the overall quality of the 9900K range by limiting it to parts that can’t easily run at 5 GHz or beyond.
As a result, a few months out from the 9900KS release people started to notice how poorly new 9900K processors were overclocking and binning specialist ‘Silicon Lottery,’ had to drop the 9900K altogether. Typically as a CPU ages the manufacturing process that it’s based on will mature and this leads to a higher chance of ending up with better quality silicon, so typically you’d see parts like the 9900K that usually overclocked to 5 GHz, start to do it more frequently as times goes by.
Our concern with the 9900KS is that Intel now has the option to release a new CPU series and send reviewers the best silicon available at the time while also selling it to early adopters initially. After which point they activate an aggressive binning process, saving top tier silicon for an upcoming special edition series and sell it at a premium.
The chance of purchasing a lower quality silicon chip is always a possibility, but with this change your chance of winning the silicon lottery goes from say ~30%, to zero.
While we’re not wrapped with the idea of the 9900KS, there is also the 9900KF model. What we have here is a 9900K that overclocks no better, the integrated graphics are disabled, and it costs no less. Asking to pay full price for a defective 9900K is no joke.
Intel is so tight on 14nm supply right now that they’re selling everything, parts once destined for the bin are now binned as special versions without iGPUs. In our opinion, they’d be better off selling them to overclockers without the IHS, Intel could save a few bucks there, and overclockers would appreciate having to avoid the delidding step.
MSI X570 Gaming Pro Carbon
In anticipation to AMD’s 3rd-gen Ryzen processors, we were interested to see how the 12 and 16-core models would go on the new X570 motherboards. We were so excited that we got our hands on almost every X570 motherboard in existence, and there’s a lot of them.
After running a VRM thermal comparison between the various X570 boards, we felt there was some expectation around MSI’s offerings. Given how good their B450 Tomahawk board is, many planned to purchase an MSI X570 board. Unfortunately, MSI made some kind of miscalculation with their mid-range X570 boards and they run significantly hotter than the competition's. So much so that the temperatures these boards hit under heavy load in a cool room is completely unacceptable.
With a stock 3900X in a cool 21 C room with no direct air flow, the MSI X570 Gaming Pro hits an insane 106 degrees. For context, the (great) Asus TUF Gaming X570-Plus peaks at just 73 degrees.
Worse still was the X570 Gaming Pro Carbon, a rather expensive $260 motherboard that throttles in heavy workloads when paired with the 3900X. MSI has since confirmed our test results are accurate and a second source, Hardware Info has published similar findings.
The X570 Gaming Pro Carbon was so bad that MSI was forced to replace it with the X570 Unify, which thankfully is a very nice board. Unfortunately they haven’t updated the rest of their more affordable X570 lineup, which includes the Gaming Edge.
The MSI X570 Gaming Pro Carbon is perhaps the worst motherboard we’ve ever tested. MSI do appear to have accepted our findings and say they’re committed to improving things in the future, so we'll be watching to see them deliver B550 boards next year.
Asus TUF Gaming X3 Radeon RX 5700 XT
Asus has delivered some of the best X570 boards on the market, but the same is not true for their Radeon RX 5700 graphics cards. The Asus TUF Gaming X3 version of the Radeon RX 5700 XT is straight up a disaster.
Quite a few consumers took the plunge because the TUF is one of their most affordable 5700 XT models. It's also a good looking card with three fans, so what could go wrong?
The card's design doesn't cool the memory effectively and as a result runs alarmingly hot, hitting an insane 104 degrees for the GDDR6 memory when gaming. We suggested this was far too high in our review and that it would almost certainly lead to issues, calling it a flawed product that you should avoid.
Since that review went live, we've seen user reviews popping up on retailers such as Newegg and Amazon, most of them reporting high operating temperatures, loud fans, and stability issues. The response from Asus customer support has been fairly typical, not admitting to anything, and simply feeding their customers the usual BS such as the following:
“Thank you for the in depth review, we always appreciate hearing back from our customers. I'm sorry to hear that you are having temperature and fan noise issues with your graphics card, please accept my apologies. All Asus products undergo intensive quality control, testing and inspections. What you've experienced was not intentional or representative of our brand.”
As far as we're aware, there’s no real fix for this product, yet Asus continues to sell 2019’s worst quality graphics card.
It's a Wrap
This has been yet another exciting year for PC hardware, but we believe 2020 will be even better. It’s been a rough year for Intel, although the company's still massively profitable. AMD has had a cracker of a year, and they're definitely the kings of the desktop. It will be interesting to see where they can take things from here.
AMD's still got their work cut out for them on the GPU front as the situation is a lot less impressive there. The Radeon RX 5700 series launch has been successful, but clearly Nvidia is not resting and we're expecting big things from the green team next year.
Speaking of GPUs, we decided to give the Radeon VII a pass because despite its short shelf life, it was somewhat competitive with the RTX 2080 for gaming and for workstation usage it was an amazing bargain. We also considered the GeForce RTX 2080 Super because it's simply bad value but with no alternative in sight that can deliver that level of performance, it's more of a luxury item and not a bad product overall.
Did we miss any products? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comments.