Podcast #252 - Z87 Motherboards, Xbox One, Lenovo Y500 Gaming notebook and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 23, 2013 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: z87, Y500, xbox one, xbox, video, Temash, Richland, podcast, pcper, msi, Lenovo, Kaveri, Kabini, Jaguar, Intel, hgst, gtx 650m, Giagbyte, ECS, asus, APU, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #252 - 05/23/2013

Join us this week as we discuss Z87 Motherboards, Xbox One, Lenovo Y500 Gaming notebook and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 1:17:01

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. 1:04:30 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

 

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction

Today, ASUS introduces their Intel Z87-based motherboard lineup with board refreshes across all of their product lines: ASUS (mainstream), Republic of Gamers (ROG), The Ultimate Force (TUF), and Workstation (WS). With the exception of their TUF and ROG board lines, ASUS decided to introduce a new and improved color scheme for their boards - black and gold. The motherboard surfaces are black with gold colored heat sinks. While black and gold may not seem like the best match-up, don't judge the boards until you have seen them first hand - the black and gold go very well together.

ROG Motherboards

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ASUS Maximus VI Gene
Courtesy of ASUS

Their ROG line will include the Maximus VI Extreme, the Maximus VI Formula, the Maximus VI Gene, and the Maximus VI Hero. All ROG boards feature the standard red and black color scheme common to that brand. Additionally, ASUS includes SupremeFX audio standard with all ROG boards and their Sonic Radar on-screen overlay technology. Sonic Radar is an in-game overlay that can be used to accurately pinpoint game-based sound sources. For powering these boards, ASUS includes 60amp-rated blackwing chokes and NexFET MOSFETS with 90% power efficiency operation. Use of these power components was seen to reduce on-board temperatures in the ASUS labs by as much as 5 degrees Celcius.

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ASUS Maximus VI Extreme
Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS upped the ante even more with their Maximus VI Extreme board by including the ASUS OC Panel. This panel includes a display and can be mounted in a 5.25" drive bay or used externally for real time voltage and temperature monitoring as well as tweaking of various frequency and voltage BIOS settings. The ASUS OC Panel is supported on all ROG boards and will be available for after-market purchase for the non-Extreme boards.

04-ROG MAXIMUS VI HERO.jpg

ASUS Maximus VI Hero
Courtesy of ASUS

The Maximus VI Hero motherboard is the newest member of the ROG line, branded as a more affordable solution for the gamer. This board is marketed as a head-to-head competitor for MSI's MPOWER board.

Continue reading our preview of the ASUS Z87 motherboard lineup!

Hardware Flashback: Asus P5A

Subject: Motherboards | May 15, 2013 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: asus, P5A, ALi, Aladdin V, 100 MHz, Super 7, amd, K6, K6-2, SDRAM

 

I first got into computers in the 8088 days, but I started to do it professionally when Socket 5 was transitioning to Socket 7.  The Pentium 133 based Quantex system I bought after the Atlanta Olympics catapulted me into the modern computer age (I was previously using an Intel 386SX-16 MHz system from DAK… don’t get me started on that company).  It was also when AOL was the only internet service in Laramie, WY.  I started browsing hardware retailers and then moved onto independent review sites that were only then just popping up.  Tom’s and Anandtech were very new and did not feature many pictures because digital cameras were still quite rare.

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Remember when the 1/5/2 setup was considered optimal?  It allowed for the good modem and good soundcard to be installed!

One of the big shifts of the time is when Intel abandoned Socket 7 and forged ahead with Slot 1.  AMD had fit the K6 into the Socket 7 infrastructure, though it was initially designed for a proprietary socket.  Intel had the Pentium II line and things were moving fast in those days.  AMD was providing competition for Intel with excellent integer performance and adequate floating performance, as well as providing a socketed product that was cheaper to produce for both AMD and its motherboard partners.  Socket 7 was then morphed into Super 7 with support for 100 MHz FSB speeds.  This was a big jump for AMD as they spearheaded this move.  Cyrix, IBM, and Winchip all went along for the ride, but they often supported oddball bus speeds that did not always translate well into bus dividers for AGP and PCI.

The first wave of AGP enabled chipsets that also supported bus speeds above 66 MHz finally hit the market, and one of the first was the SiS 5591.  One of the first boards to support this chipset was the MTech R581A.  The board showed jumper settings that supported 100 MHz, but it was far from stable at that speed.  It did fully support 83.3 MHz, which gave many socket 7 users a nice boost when overclocking.  The first true 100 MHz chips were the VIA MVP-3 and the ALi M1571 (Aladdin V).  These natively supported the 100 MHz bus and ran it perfectly fine.  These chipsets allowed the later K6-2 and K6-3 chips to exist and compete successfully with the 100 MHz based Pentium IIs.

p5a_02.jpg

This particular model included the onboard ESS sound chip.  Pretty posh for the time.  Oh yes, there was a time before USB 2.0...

I had a heck of a time getting a hold of a VIA MVP-3 based motherboard at first, and I never actually laid hands upon any Aladdin V based unit during that time.  There was no Newegg or Tiger Direct back then, and most major distributors like Tech Data did not always stock a wide selection of products.  I was also not making a whole lot of money.  I was particularly jealous of all these other sites getting access to review hardware, but then again at this time I had only a handful of articles out and I had not even started Penstarsys.com yet.  So when guys like Tom and Anand got their hands on the Asus P5A, it was most definitely must-read material.

This was one of the first 100 MHz Super 7 based boards out there, as VIA was having some real issues with their MVP-3 chipset.  Eventually VIA fixed those issues, but not before ALi had a good couple of months’ lead on their primary competitor.  Of great interest for this board was the ability to run at 120 MHz FSB.  Very few boards could handle that speed well, but the 115 MHz setting seemed very stable.  I/O performance was also a step above the VIA chipsets, but VIA was fairly well known for having strange I/O issues at that time (not to mention AGP compatibility issues).  The Asus P5A was a great board for the time, and it did not suffer much from the AGP issues that plagued VIA.  Oddly enough, though ALi had the better overall chipset, they did not sell as well as the VIA products.  Asus still shipped a lot of them, so I guess that made up for the more limited selection.

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That is a single phase power... array?  Look at all that open space throughout the board!

Super 7 was a dying breed by 1999 with the introduction of the K7 Athlon, but the P5A sold very well throughout its entire lifespan.  The board I acquired had the K6-2 500 in the socket, and a BIOS update would provide support for the later K6-3+ and K6-2+ processors.  What perhaps strikes me most is the overall simplicity of the boards as compared to modern products.  The P5A looks like it has a single power phase going to the CPU, does not feature integrated Ethernet or other amenities, and only has two ATA-33 ports.  Interestingly enough, it does feature a ESS based audio codec.  Rare for those days!  Compare that to the monster products like the Crosshair V Formula Z or the G1.Sniper.3, I guess simplicity is overlooked these days?

Source: Asus

A last ride down Clover Trail? Asus' VivoTab Smart ME400C

Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2013 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: clover trail, asus, VivoTab Smart ME400C, atom

While the new Atom processors that we discussed are a long way off you can still pick up some interesting devices powered by the current generation.  The ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400C has a Z2760 @ 1.8GHz, 2GB DDR2 and a 64GB eMMC SSD which is not too shabby for a $400 device.  The 1366x768 resolution screen might not be the best but at 10.1" it is a reasonable choice for ASUS to make.  The Tech Report's testing showed you can expect about 10 hours of battery life and it is capable of running Windows 8 and legacy x86 software as opposed to the ARM powered WinRT tablets it competes with.  They do recommend you purhase the TranSleeve and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo seperately as you will save a good amount of money doing so.

TR_asusthing.jpg

"This Windows 8 tablet has an Atom processor, solid battery life, and a $430 price tag. Is it compelling as a tablet, and can it really double as a productivity PC?"

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Hardware Flashback: Asus K7M

Subject: Motherboards | May 8, 2013 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: asus, K7M, Irongate, AMD-751, VIA 686a, retro, Slot A, K7, athlon

 

It might not be entirely obvious to viewers, but I love old hardware.  I came across a stash of old machines at my workplace that we were going to just throw away.  I was able to grab a couple of pretty interesting products from years past that I wanted to share and chat about.  The first of this series should be very familiar to most of you, especially those around when Ryan started his first website.

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It is fun to reminisce about old hardware.  The K7M is a classic.

The Asus K7M was one of the first Slot A motherboards out.  It was arguably the most fully featured of the group.  Its primary competition was the FIC SD-11 and the Gigabyte GA-7IXE.  If you remember that monster of a board (with one very strange layout) then you  most certainly have fond memories of what Asus was able to bring to the table.

The K7M was based on the AMD “Irongate” northbridge (AMD-751).  This was a pretty fully featured chip at the time.  It supported SDRAM up to 100 MHz and featured AGP 2X.  This chip was rumored to contain IP from VIA, but it had distinctly better performance than the competing AGP 2X chipsets from VIA at the time.  I distinctly remember having fewer AGP issues with these boards than products from VIA.  The K7M eschewed the AMD 756 southbridge and instead used the VIA 686A controller.  This was an updated (and fixed) southbridge from VIA that supported up to ATA-66 speeds and USB 1.1.

k7m_02.jpg

Integrated audio was still uncommon back in the day.  If you thought mobo audio quality is bad now...

The K7M was a decent overclocker for the time, but little was known about the EV-6 bus and how it reacted to overclocking.  Bus speeds up to 107 MHz or so were common, but anything above that got pretty flaky fast.  Later BIOS revisions helped a bit, but the 751 was not going to be pushed much further.  It was not until official 133 MHz support came in did we see some legroom with overclocking.

The K7M was a very solid board for being an introductory product.  One thing that always amused me greatly was that Asus, Gigabyte, and other motherboard manufacturers would refuse to show Slot A boards on the floor of Comdex because they feared that Intel would come down upon them like a ton of bricks.  If a person wanted to see a Slot A board, they would have to go into a back room and view it from there, but only upon request.  It was not until the next year that some manufacturers cautiously showed off their AMD offerings.

k7m_03.jpg

Name that mini-slot above the AGP!

I ran this particular board for a while.  I believe I ran the SD-11 longer.  I was doing reviews all the time, so I was swapping out motherboards pretty frequently.  The Asus had a luxury feel about it as compared to the FIC and Gigabyte offerings.  It even had integrated audio and a game port.  Few other products of the time included such a perk.  AMD was on a roll with the original K7 Athlon, and Asus was one of the first partners to really produce a world class motherboard for the architecture.

Source: Asus

ASUS Adding RAIDR PCI-E SSDs To Its ROG Lineup

Subject: Storage | April 19, 2013 - 06:10 AM |
Tagged: trim, ssd, sandforce 2281, sandforce, ROG, raidr, raid, PCIe SSD, asus

ASUS is reportedly adding two new PCI-E Solid State Drives (SSD) to its Republic Of Gamers lineup. Dubbed RAIDR, the new PCI-E SSDs use 19nm Toshiba MLC NAND flash driven by two SandForce 2281 controllers. In turn, the two SandForce drives are put into a hardware RAID 0 configuration for maximum speed. The RAIDR SSD internals are encased in a stylized EMI shield along with a ROG-branded back-plate. In all, ASUS’ RAIDR SSDs measure 157 x 120 x 20mm.

Asus RAIDR PCI-E SSD.jpg

The ASUS RAIDR drives show up as a single disk driven by a standard AHCI controller, which allows the two RAID 0 SSDs connected via the PCI-E bus to be boot-able and support the TRIM command. Both RAIDR solid state drives also support Native Command Queuing (NCQ), SMART, Secure Erase, Windows 8 Secure Boot.

According to specifications provided by Sweclockers, ASUS is launching 120GB and 240GB versions of the PCI-E SSDs. Both capacities feature 100,000 IOPS, 128-bit AES encryption, and 620,000 MTBF ratings.

ASUS RAIDR PCI-E SSD Backplate.jpg

The 120GB RAIDR SSD supports up to 765MB/s sequential reads and 775MB/s sequential write speeds. On the other hand, the 240GB RAIDR drive supports up to 830MB/s sequential reads and 810MB/s sequential writes.

Additionally, ASUS is bundling its RAIDR drives with Kaspersky Antivirus 2013 and a number of ASUS utilities (including SSD TweakIt). The drives should be available sometime next month, but pricing is still unknown. Adding PCI-E SSDs is an interesting move by ASUS that should help the company diversify and expand its ROG branding. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how the drives stack up when they are released (and hopefully a PC Perspective review)!

Source: Sweclockers

A good value card that can become great once overclocked, ASUS' HD 7850 DirectCU II

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 18, 2013 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: asus, HD 7850 DirectCU II

With a custom cooler, 1 DP port, 2 DVI-I connectors, and 1 HDMI connector and only requiring a single PCIe 6 pin power connector the ASUS 7850 DirectCU II is a great blend of efficiency and flexibility for those looking for a card which costs around $200.  On the other hand if you have no plans to overclock the card, the GTX660 which [H]ard|OCP compared this card to is slightly more powerful, costs the same and is a better choice for those who are planning on running dual GPUs.  Check out the overclocked performance of this HD7850 in the full review. 

H_cu2.jpg

"ASUS has refreshed its AMD Radeon HD 7850 DirectCU II video card with DirectCU and DIGI+ VRM with Super Alloy Power, poised to give you a robust video card with an improved overclocking experience. We will see whether this new revision brings new value to the Radeon HD 7850 GPU and we will compare it to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Refreshing the non-Ti GTX 660

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 8, 2013 - 07:33 PM |
Tagged: gk106, gtx660, asus, GTX 660 DirectCU II OC

Not everyone can afford to spend $400+ on a GPU in one shot but sometimes they can manage it if the purchase is split into two.  For those considering a multi-GPU setup, it has become obvious from Ryan's testing that NVIDIA is the way to go.  The 660 Ti is a favourite but even it might be too rich for some peoples wallets which is why it is nice to see the ASUS offer their GTX 660 DirectCU II OC for $215 after MIR.  [H]ard|OCP just put up a review of this card covering both the FPS performance of the card as it was when it arrived as well as after they pushed the base clock up almost as high as the original boost clock.  If you are on a limited GPU budget you should check out the full review.

h660.jpg

"ASUS has delivered a factory overclocked GeForce GTX 660 DirectCU II OC to our doorstep to run through the wringer. We match this ASUS video card up against AMD's Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and Radeon HD 7850 to see which will prevail in the battle of the mainstream cards. There are good values at this price point."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

board.jpg

Courtesy of ASUS

The P8Z77X-I Deluxe is ASUS' high-powered answer to the small form factor crowd. Through some unique design decisions and an upright daughter-board, ASUS was able to cram a full 10-phase digital power delivery system into this board without sacrificing any other integrated components. It's nice to see a manufacturer step up and design a mini-ITX board in the same vein as its full-sized counterpart. We put the board through our normal gamut of tests to see how well this mighty Mini-ITX board sized up with its full-sized brethren. At a retail list price of $219, the P8Z77-I Deluxe needs to prove its worth against the full sized boards.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed a full 10 phases of digital power, housed in the board's upright daughter card sitting parallel to the CPU cooler. The P8Z77-I Deluxe with its high-end power plant is packed full of features, including SATA 2, SATA 3, e-SATA, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 ports for storage devices. Networking capabilities include an Intel GigE NIC, a Broadcom dual-port 802.11n adapter, and a Broadcom Bluetooth adapter. The board also features a single PCI-Express x16 slot for graphics cards and other expansion cards.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Continue reading our review of the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard!

ASUS Finalizes Mini-ITX System Friendly GTX 670 DirectCU Mini Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 3, 2013 - 10:14 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, mini-itx, gtx 670, GK104, directcu mini, asus

ASUS has finalized the design for its Kepler-based DirectCU Mini graphics card. The new card combines NVIDIA's GTX 670 GPU and reference PCB with ASUS' own power management technology and a new, much smaller, air cooler. The new ASUS cooler has allowed the company to offer a card that is a mere 17cm long. Compared to traditional GTX 670 graphics cards with coolers at approximately 24cm, the DirectCU Mini is noticeably smaller.

ASUS GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU Mini Graphics Card (2).jpg

The DirectCU Mini features a GTX 670 GPU clocked at 928MHz base and 1,006MHz boost. It also has 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus. The card requires a single 8-pin PCI-E power connector. Video outputs include two DVI, one DisplayPort, and a single HDMI port. The ASUS cooler includes a copper vapor chamber and a single CoolTech fan. According to ASUS, the DirectCU Mini is up to 20% cooler and slightly quieter than previous GTX 670 cards despite the smaller form factor.

This new card will be a great addition to Mini-ITX-based systems where saving space anyway possible is key. It is nice to know that gamers will soon have the option of powering a small form factor LAN box with a GPU as fast as the GTX 670. Even better, water cooling enthusiasts will be happy to know that the card still uses a reference PCB, meaning it is compatible with existing water blocks made for the current crop of GTX 670 cards.

ASUS GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU Mini Graphics Card (1).jpg

Pricing and availability have not been announced, but the small form factor-friendly GPU is now official and should be coming sometime soon.

Read more about the GTX 670 and Mini-ITX at PC Perspective.

Source: Fudzilla