Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 09:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: usb 3.1, Superspeed+, Superspeed Plus, asus, Z97-A/USB 3.1
Not too long ago Al and Ryan had a chance to play with a prototype USB 3.1 enclosure from ASUS and an add-in card with a controller from ASMedia. The Tech Report also received the prototype USB 3.1 enclosure with two mSATA drives running in RAID-0 mode but they happened to have an ASUS Z97-A/USB 3.1 motherboard which has a built in port and ASMedia controller. Their CrystalDiskMark results showed a ~75% boost in sequential read and write performance with 4K random write speeds also vastly increased. That is not the highlight of their review however; ASUS provided a list of upcoming USB 3.1 releases from multiple vendors so you can now get an idea when you might want to upgrade to a board with USB 3.1 on it.
"Today, we're going to take our very first look at some USB 3.1 gear. Asus has supplied us with a drive enclosure and a matching motherboard, which will help us gauge the kinds of performance gains users can expect."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Mushkin ECO2 240GB 7mm SSD Review @ TechwareLabs
- Crucial BX100 250GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- EDGE Boost Pro Micro SSD @ The SSD Review
- Crucial BX100 250 GB @ techPowerUp
- Crucial MX200 SSD @ HardwareHeaven
- Using RAID-5 Means the Sky is Falling! @ Benchmark Reviews
- Western Digital Green (WD60EZRX) 6 TB @ Tech ARP
- Western Digital 3.5″ Red 6TB NAS HDD @ eTeknix
- An uncomplicated Buffalo in SOHO: The LinkStation 441D 4-bay NAS box @ The Register
- Thecus N4310 Soho/Home Linux NAS Server Review @ Madshrimps
- Synology DiskStation DS115 NAS @ Kitguru
- SanDisk UltraFit USB 3.0 FlashDrive (16GB) @ Bjorn3d
- MyDigitalSSD OTG mSSD 512GB USB 3.0 @ eTeknix
- VisionTek USB Pocket SSD 120GB @ Bjorn3D
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
The X99-A is the base level board in ASUS' Intel X99 line of motherboard offering. Don't let the term "base level offering" throw you off though, ASUS put their best foot forward in designing this beauty. The board features full support for all Intel LGA2011-3 based processors paired with DDR4 memory operating in up to a quad channel configuration. Priced at a competitive price point of $274.99, the X99-A gives the more feature-packed (and vastly more expensive) boards a run for their money.
Courtesy of ASUS
Courtesy of ASUS
Just because the X99-A motherboard is designed to be the "entry-level" model of ASUS' X99 product line does not mean that they skimped on its design or features. The X99-A features the enhanced OC Socket and an 8+4 phase digital power system similar to that featured on its more costly siblings, centered around the Extreme Engine Digi+ IV solution. Extreme Engine Digi+ IV combines ASUS' custom designed Digi+ EPU chipset, IR (International Rectifier) sourced MOSFETs, high-quality chokes, and 10k Black Metallic capacitors for unrivaled power delivery capabilities. The board is further augmented by the integration of ASUS' Crystal Sound 2 audio subsystem for superior audio reproduction.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 10, 2015 - 09:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: strix, gtx 960, factory overclocked, DirectCU II, asus, 4GB
The ASUS Strix Series is popular around PC Perspective thanks to the hefty factory overclocks and the quiet and efficient DirectCU II cooling. We have given away 2GB versions of the GTX 960 and Josh recently wrapped up a review of the tiny GTX 750 Ti for SFF builds.
Today ASUS announced the STRIX-GTX960-DC2OC-4GD5, a 4GB version of the Strix GTX 960 with a base clock of 165MHz higher than the default at 1291MHz and with a 1317MHz boost clock and memory clocked at 7010MHz. The DirectCU II cooling solution has proven to live up to the hype that surrounds it, indeed the cooler is whisper quiet and even under load which heavily overclocked it is much less noticeable than other solutions, especially when attached to Maxwell.
The outputs are impressive, DVI, HDMI and three DisplayPort outputs will have you gaming on a variety of monitors and it will support 4k resolutions, at reasonable graphics settings of course. Along with the card you get the familiar GPU Tweak utility for tweaking your card and for a limited time the card will come with a free one year XSplit Premium License to allow you to share your best and worst moments with the world. So far only the 2GB model is showing up at Amazon, NewEgg and B&H so you might want to hold off for a few days but it is worth noting that these cards will get you a free pre-ordered copy of Witcher 3.
Subject: Processors | March 10, 2015 - 02:20 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: uefi, motherboards, lga 1150, Intel, Broadwell, bios, asus
ASUS has announced that all current Intel 9 Series motherboards will support the upcoming 5th-Generation Intel Broadwell LGA 1150 CPUs with an UEFI update.
We reported last week that Intel’s 5th-generation Broadwell CPU had been demonstrated at GDC using Intel’s Iris Pro graphics, though official details about the new LGA versions of Broadwell are not yet public. The desktop variants will no doubt use the same 14nm process technology of the current BGA parts, and it has been rumored that the new CPUs will initially launch in both Core i5 and i7 versions, with the potential for Core i3 and Pentium branded parts to follow (though any potential product information is mere speculation at this point).
It will be interesting to see if the upcoming LGA 5th-Generation CPUs will be able offer any higher perfomance for desktop users compared to existing Haswell parts (such as the i7-4790K), or if there will even be unlocked processors. Considering Broadwell is a mobile-focused part designed for efficency and lower power consumption the chips could offer a compelling solution for small form-factor computers such as HTPCs, as they will presumably provide lower heat and higher IPC than existing parts.
The UEFI updates will go live later today (some updates have already been released) and include all ASUS motherboard models with Z97 and H97 chipsets.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2015 - 08:02 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, ROG Poseidon GTX 980, GTX 980, factory overclocked
On the box the ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 980 Platinum states a base of 1178MHz and a boost clock of 1279MHz but in testing [H]ard|OCP saw the card sitting at 1328MHz in game while on air cooling. They then proceeded to hook up a Koolance Exos-2 V2 and pushed the card to 1580MHz in game, though the RAM would only increase by 1.1GHz to 8.1GHz. As you would expect this had a noticeable impact on the performance and while it might not compete with the just announced Titan X at $640 it is also far less expensive though still $200 more than the Sapphire Vapor-X 290X it was tested against and $90 more than the 8GB version of that card. If you have the budget this GTX 980 is the fastest single GPU card on the planet right now.
"The highest overclocked GeForce GTX 980 based video card just landed. If the ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 980 Platinum video card with a hybrid air and liquid cooling system doesn't impress you, we are not sure what will when it comes to GPU. We push the Poseidon clocks and pit it against the AMD Radeon R9 290X for an ultimate showdown."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte WaterForce 3 Way SLI Review: A Force to Recon With @ Modders-Inc
- Gainward Phantom GLH GeForce GTX 960 2GB @ eTEknix
- MSI GTX960 Gaming 2G OC Edition @ Kitguru
- NVIDIA GTX 960 5-Way Roundup @ Hardware Canucks
- NVIDIA Game Ready 347.52 Driver Analysis @ eTeknix
- Sapphire Tri-x Radeon R9 290x 8GB @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2015 - 07:07 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: pcper, podcast, video, usb 3.1, Broadwell, Intel, nuc, Samsung, 840 evo, asus, Strix Tactic Pro, GTX 970, directx12, dx12
PC Perspective Podcast #338 - 02/26/2015
Join us this week as we discuss more USB 3.1 Devices, Broadwell NUC, another 840 Evo fix and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 1:46:04
EVGA Contest Winner!
Week in Review:
News item of interest:
Question: Alex from Sydney
Just a quick question regarding DirectX 12. I’m planning to buy a new graphics card soon but I want a DirectX 12 card for all the fancy new features so I’m considering either the GTX 970 or 980, the question I have is are these real DirectX 12 cards? Since DirectX 12 development is still ongoing how can these cards be fully DirectX 12 complaint?
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Quiet, Efficient Gaming
The last few weeks have been dominated by talk about the memory controller of the Maxwell based GTX 970. There are some very strong opinions about that particular issue, and certainly NVIDIA was remiss on actually informing consumers about how it handles the memory functionality of that particular product. While that debate rages, we have somewhat lost track of other products in the Maxwell range. The GTX 960 was released during this particular firestorm and, while it also shared the outstanding power/performance qualities of the Maxwell architecture, it is considered a little overpriced when compared to other cards in its price class in terms of performance.
It is easy to forget that the original Maxwell based product to hit shelves was the GTX 750 series of cards. They were released a year ago to some very interesting reviews. The board is one of the first mainstream cards in recent memory to have a power draw that is under 75 watts, but can still play games with good quality settings at 1080P resolutions. Ryan covered this very well and it turned out to be a perfect gaming card for many pre-built systems that do not have extra power connectors (or a power supply that can support 125+ watt graphics cards). These are relatively inexpensive cards and very easy to install, producing a big jump in performance as compared to the integrated graphics components of modern CPUs and APUs.
The GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti have proven to be popular cards due to their overall price, performance, and extremely low power consumption. They also tend to produce a relatively low amount of heat, due to solid cooling combined with that low power consumption. The Maxwell architecture has also introduced some new features, but the major changes are to the overall design of the architecture as compared to Kepler. Instead of 192 cores per SMK, there are now 128 cores per SMM. NVIDIA has done a lot of work to improve performance per core as well as lower power in a fairly dramatic way. An interesting side effect is that the CPU hit with Maxwell is a couple of percentage points higher than Kepler. NVIDIA does lean a bit more on the CPU to improve overall GPU power, but most of this performance hit is covered up by some really good realtime compiler work in the driver.
Asus has taken the GTX 750 Ti and applied their STRIX design and branding to it. While there are certainly faster GPUs on the market, there are none that exhibit the power characteristics of the GTX 750 Ti. The combination of this GPU and the STRIX design should result in an extremely efficient, cool, and silent card.
Followers of PC Perspective have likely seen a pair of stories previewing the upcoming performance and features of USB 3.1. First we got our hands on the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard and were able to run through our very first hands-on testing with USB 3.1 hardware. The motherboard had built-in USB 3.1 support and a device that was configured with a RAID-0 of Intel SSD 730 Series drives.
We followed that up with a look at the ASUS USB 3.1 implementation that included a PCIe add-on card and a dual-drive mSATA device also in RAID-0. This configuration was interesting because we can theoretically install this $40 product into any system with a free PCI Express slot.
Performance was astounding for incredibly early implementations, reaching as high as 835 MB/s!
In that last article I theorized that it would be some time before we got our hands on retail USB 3.1 hardware but it appears I wasn't giving the industry enough credit. ASUS passed us a list of incoming devices along with release schedules. There are 27 devices scheduled to be released before the end of April and ~35 by the middle of the year.
It's a daunting table to look at, so be prepared!
The product categories are mostly dominated by the likes of the a USB 3.1 to 2.5-in adapter; that would be useful but you aren't going to top out the performance of the USB 3.1 with a single 2.5-in SATA device. Iomaster has one listed as a "USB 3.1 to MSATA & M2 SSD enclosure" which could be more interesting - does it accept PCI Express M.2 SSDs?
Minerva Innovation has a couple of interesting options, all listed with pairs of mSATA or M.2 ports, two with Type-C connections. What we don't know based on this data is if it supports PCIe M.2 SSDs or SATA only and if it supports RAID-0.
A couple more list dual SATA ports which might indicate that we are going to see multiple hard drives / SSDs over a single USB 3.1 connection but without RAID support. That could be another way to utilize the bandwidth of USB 3.1 in a similar way to how we planned to use Thunderbolt daisy chaining.
We don't have pricing yet, but I don't think USB 3.1 accessories will be significantly more expensive than what USB 3.0 devices sell for. So, does this list of accessories make you more excited to upgrade your system for USB 3.1?
Just over a week or so ago Allyn spent some time with the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard, a fact that might seem a little odd to our frequent readers. Why would our storage editor be focusing on a motherboard? USB 3.1 of course! When we visited MSI at CES in January they were the first company to show working USB 3.1 hardware and performance numbers that we were able duplicate in our testing when MSI sent us similar hardware.
But ASUS is in this game as well, preparing its product lines with USB 3.1 support courtesy of the same ASMedia controller we looked at before. ASUS has a new revision of several motherboards planned with integrated on-board USB 3.1 but is also going to be releasing an add-in card with USB 3.1 support for existing systems.
Today we are going to test that add-in card to measure ASUS' implementation of USB 3.1 and see how it stacks up to what MSI had to offer and what improvements and changes you can expect from USB 3.0.
USB 3.1 Technology Background
Despite the simple point denomination change in USB 3.1, also known as SuperSpeed+, the technological and speed differences in the newest revision of USB are substantial. Allyn did a good job of summarizing the changes that include a 10 Gbps link interface and a dramatic drop in encoding overhead that enables peak theoretical performance improvements of 2.44x compared to USB 3.0.
USB 3.1 is rated at 10 Gbps, twice that of USB 3.0. The little-reported-on nugget of info from the USB 3.1 specification relates to how they classify the raw vs. expected speeds. Taking USB 3.0 as an example, Superspeed can handle a raw 5Gbps data rate, but after subtracting out the overhead (packet framing, flow control, etc), you are left with ~450MB/s of real throughput. Superspeed+ upgrades the bit encoding type from 8b/10b (80% efficient) to 128b/132b (97% efficient) *in addition to* the doubling of raw data rate. This means that even after accounting for overhead, Superspeed+’s best case throughput should work out to ~1.1GB/s. That’s not a 2x speed improvement – it is actually 2.44x of USB 3.0 speed. Superspeed+ alright!
The ASUS STRIX TACTIC PRO is a premium mechanical gaming keyboard featuring Cherry MX Brown switches and some serious style.
Keyboards are a very personal thing, and as this is one of the three primary interfaces with the system itself (along with the mouse and display), feel will help decide the experience. Without a doubt mechanical keyboard have become very popular with enthusiasts, but as more manufacturers have started offering them - and the market has begun to saturate - it becomes much more difficult to pick a starting point if you're new to the game. To further complicate a buying decision there are different types of key switches used in these keyboards, and each variety has its own properties and unique feel.
And on the subject of key switches, this particular keyboard built with the brown variety of the Cherry MX switches, and ASUS offers the option of Cherry MX Black, Blue, and Red switches with the STRIX TACTIC PRO as well. Our own Scott Michaud covered the topic of key switches in great detail last year, and that article is a great starting point that helps explain the different types of switches available, and how they differ.
The Cherry MX Brown switch in action
I'll go into the feel of the keyboard on the next page, but quickly I'll say that MX Brown switches have a good feel without being too "clicky", but they are certainly more stiff feeling than a typical membrane keyboard. While it's impossible to really describe how the keyboard will feel to a particular user, we can certainly cover the features and performance of this keyboard to help with a purchasing decision in this crowded market. At $150 the STRIX TACTIC PRO carries a premium price, but as you'll see this is also a premium product.