Subject: Processors | March 10, 2015 - 10:20 AM | 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 - 03:02 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 - 02:07 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!
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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.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2015 - 11:04 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SFF, nvidia, mini-ITX GPU, mini-itx, gtx 960, graphics, gpu, geforce, asus
ASUS returns to the mini-ITX friendly form-factor with the GTX 960 Mini (officially named GTX960-MOC-2GD5 for maximum convenience), their newest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 graphics card.
Other than the smaller size to allow compatibility with a wider array of small enclosures, the GTX 960 Mini also features an overclocked core and promises "20% cooler and vastly quieter" performance from its custom heatsink and CoolTech fan. Here's a quick rundown of key specs:
- 1190 MHz Base Clock / 1253 MHz Boost Clock
- 1024 CUDA cores
- 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 @ 7010 MHz
- 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x DVI output
No word on the pricing or availability of the card just yet. The other mini-ITX version of the GTX 960 on the market from Gigabyte has been selling for $199.99, so expect this to run somewhere between $200-$220 at launch.
ASUS has reused this image from the GTX 970 Mini launch, and so have I
The product page is up on the ASUS website so availability seems imminent.
Subject: Mobile | February 16, 2015 - 03:54 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: zenbook, UX305, ultraportable, ips display, core m, asus, 5Y10
ASUS has announced the availability and pricing for the ZenBook UX305, and the specifications are quite exceptional for the price. Not content to compete on hardware specs alone the design of the notebook is a miniscule 0.48” thick, making the UX305 the world’s thinnest ultraportable notebook according to ASUS.
As impressive as the slim profile of the aluminum design might be, it is more impressive to look over the main specifications of the $699 UX305:
- Intel Core M 5Y10 processor
- 8GB of LPDDR3 memory
- 256GB SSD
- 13.3-inch 1920x1080 IPS display (matte finish)
I'll let that sink in for a moment. Quite an impressive list given the MSRP for these specifications is, again, only $699. At this price it's going to be very difficult to beat the UX305 considering what’s under the hood, as this configuration contains double the memory and storage space compared to many ultraportables in this price class. And 1080p IPS on top of everything is just icing on the cake. Battery life should be very good considerin the processor the heart of this is Intel's newest low-power Broadwell-based Core M (the 5Y10), which features HD 5300 graphics and a TDP of just 4.5W. Moreover, the processor is passively cooled and the notebook features a completely fanless design for silent operation.
Since there are no fans to expell heat ASUS has made it a point to promise that the palm rest will always stay cool thanks to their “IceCool technology” (whatever that is - but I really hope it’s an ice cube cooling system). The UX305 is powered by a 45Wh Lithium Polymer battery that has a claimed 10-hour battery life, and the notebook features 802.11ac wireless, three USB 3.0 ports, and includes a USB Ethernet adapter (a nice touch). ASUS is also touting a premium sound system with this notebook, employing a B&O ICEpower amplifier and enhanced with their proprietary “SonicMaster audio”. Rounding out the feature list is an SD card reader and 720p webcam.
The notebook weighs in at 2.6 Lbs, and this configuration of the UX305 is available immediately (listed on their official store). With the surprisingly low MSRP it sounds like this ZenBook will be a solid choice for anyone looking for the latest notebook tech on a budget, and depending on performance and real-world battery life it could just be that mythical MacBook Air "killer" (if you're ok with Windows 8 over OS X, of course).
Subject: Motherboards | February 12, 2015 - 03:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: motherboard, Kaveri, Intel Gig-E, FM2+, DDR-3 2133, crossblade ranger, audio, asus, A88X
It has been a while since Josh reviewed the ASUS Crossblade Ranger so it seems appropriate to put up a reminder that there are some impressive AMD boards out there with The Tech Report's review of the board. This board has just about everything except an M.2 port, from the Asus SupremeFX 2014 with high end caps and EMI shielding to HDMI, DVI, and VGA display outputs to a BIOS button on the backplate which allows you to update the upgrade the motherboard's firmware without a CPU or RAM installed. Check out the full review to get a list of the other features as well as a glimpse into the personality traits the board displayed during testing.
"Asus' Crossblade Ranger is a tweaker-friendly, top-of-the-line motherboard for AMD's Socket FM2+ processors. We kicked the tires and turned up the clocks to see whether the Ranger lives up to its top billing."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASUS Rampage V Extreme Review @ OCC
- ASRock X99 OC Formula @ HardwareHeaven
- ASRock Fatal1ty X99M Killer mATX @ Kitguru
- ASRock X99X Killer @ HardwareHeaven
- ASUS X99-PRO Haswell-E Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MSI's X99S MPower @ The Tech Report