Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VI Formula is among the newest members of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) product line. From the design of its ROG Armor to its power regulation circuitry, the Maximum VI Formula takes the ASUS Z87 motherboard line to a whole new level.  The Maximus VI Formula does not come cheap at an MSRP of $329.99, but it is a steal in light of all the high-end component ASUS packed under the hood.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Maximus VI Formula with a top notch power delivery system, featuring an 8+2-phase digital power regulation system using BlackWing chokes, NexFET MOSFETS touting 90% efficiency, and 10k-rated Black Metallic capacitors. The ASUS integrated the following features into the Maximus VI Formula's design: 10 SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) SSD slot integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo II card; an Intel I217-V GigE NIC; an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo II card; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to tri-card support; three PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, MemOK!, BIOS Flashback, ROG Connect, DirectKey, and BIOS switch buttons; Probelt voltage measurement points; OC Panel support; SupremeFX Formula audio solution; CrossChill Hybrid air and water cooled VRM cooling solution; ROG Armor overlay; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VI Formula motherboard!

New Intel Graphics Drivers Further Spread Quick Sync Video

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 25, 2014 - 10:33 AM |
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, Intel, iGPU, haswell

Recently, Intel released the 15.33.14.3412 (15.33.14.64.3412 for 64-bit) drivers for their Ivy Bridge and Haswell integrated graphics. The download was apparently published on January 29th while its patch notes are dated February 22nd. It features expanded support for Intel Quick Sync Video Technology, allowing certain Pentium and Celeron-class processors to access the feature, as well as an alleged increase in OpenGL-based games. Probably the most famous OpenGL title of our time is Minecraft, although I do not know if that specific game will see improvements (and if so, how much).

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The new driver enables Quick Sync Video for the following processors:

  • Pentium 3558U
  • Pentium 3561Y
  • Pentium G3220(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Pentium G3420(Unsuffixed/T)
  • Pentium G3430
  • Celeron 2957U
  • Celeron 2961Y
  • Celeron 2981U
  • Celeron G1820(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Celeron G1830

Besides the addition for these processors and the OpenGL performance improvements, the driver obviously fixes several bugs in each of its supported OSes. You can download the appropriate drivers from the Intel Download Center.

Source: Intel

CompuLab Launches Haswell-Powered SFF Intense PC 2

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 07:22 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, SFF, mintbox, linux, ipc2, haswell, compulab

CompuLab, the company behind the MintBox, launched its small form factor Intense PC 2 last month in four SKUs using Intel's latest Haswell processors. The systems are now available for purchase starting at $388 for the base model. The Intense PC 2 shares a similar form factor to the existing Intense PC and MintBox systems (resembling a consumer router), but features new hardware and IO options.

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The Intense PC 2 measures 6.3” x 7.4”x 1.57” and has an aluminum chassis that acts as a passive heatsink for the internal components. The case is dark gray with a finned top surface. The front of the system can be customized with FACE modules that offer different IO options. However, by default the Intense PC 2 has two USB 3.0 ports and three indicator LEDs on the front and the following IO ports on the rear:

  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports (Intel NICs)
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs
  • 1 x DisplayPort video output
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x RS232
  • 3 x (2 x analog, 1 x digital S/PDIF)
  • 1 x SIM card slot
  • 2 x antenna connectors

The FACE modules can expand connectivity to include VGA ouptuts, video capture inputs, additional networking, and additional USB ports (among other options).

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Internally, the Intense PC 2 has a small motherboard that comes with an Intel Celeron, i3, i5, or i7 Haswell processor, up to 16GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz memory (two slots), a single mSATA port, and a single mPCIE port (the mSATA port is a combo mSATA/mPCIe port). An 802.11ac+Bluetooth 4.0 radio is included as part of the package. The 15W TDP CPU can be passively cooled, and at the high end you can get up to an Intel Core i7 4600U with HD 4400 graphics. The dual core (plus hyperthreading) chip can turbo up to 3.3 GHz. The table below from the CompuLab specification sheet (PDF) details the hardware layouts of the various IPC2 SKUs.

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The Intense PC 2 is aimed at desktop users as well as the industrial sector. The passively cooled mini PC can be easily used as a desktop, home server, router+802.11ac access point, HTPC, or Steambox (streaming endpoint mainly), for example. It is also capable of driving signage and large 4K displays for adversiting and other tasks.

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The Intense PC is available in four base SKUs ranging in price from $388 to $902. Adding an SSD and/or pre-installed OS add to that base price. CompuLab offers a 5 year warranty on the SFF system.

Source: CompuLab

Intel Roadmap Including Xeon E7 v2 Lineup

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | February 19, 2014 - 12:28 AM |
Tagged: Intel, SoC, atom, haswell, Haswell-E, Airmont, Ivy Bridge-EX

Every few months, we get another snapshot at some of Intel's products. This timeline has a rough placement for every segment, from their Internet of Things (IoT) product, the Quark, up to the Xeon E7 v2. While it covers from now through December, it is not designed to be a strict schedule and might contain an error or two.

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Image Credit: VR-Zone

First up is Ivy Bridge-EX (Xeon E7 v2). PCMag has an interesting rundown on these parts in depth, although some aspects are a little fuzzy. These 22nm-based chips range from 6 to 15 cores and can access up to 1.5TB of memory, per socket. Intel also claims they will support up to four times the I/O bandwidth for disk and network transactions. Naturally, they have all the usual virtualization and other features that are useful for servers. Most support Turbo Boost and all but one have Hyper-Threading Technology.

Jumping back to the VR-Zone editorial, the timeline suggests that the Quark X1000 will launch in April. As far as I can tell, this is new information. Quark is Intel's ultra low-end SoC that is designed for adding intelligence to non-computing devices. One example given by Intel at CES was a smart baby bottle warmer.

The refresh of Haswell is also expected to happen in April.

Heading into the third quarter, we should see Haswell-E make an appearance for the enthusiast desktop and moderately high-end server. This should be the first time since Sandy Bridge-E (2011) that expensive PCs get a healthy boost to single-threaded performance, clock for clock. Ivy Bridge-E, while a welcome addition, was definitely aimed at reducing power consumption.

Ending the year should be the launch of Airmont at 14nm. The successor to Silvermont, Airmont will be the basis of Cherry Trail tablets and lower end PCs at the very end of the year. Moorefield, which is Airmont for smartphones, is not listed on this roadmap and should not surface until 2015.

Source: VR-Zone

(Phoronix) Intel Haswell iGPU Linux Performance in a Slump?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 21, 2014 - 11:12 PM |
Tagged: linux, intel hd graphics, haswell

Looking through this post by Phoronix, it would seem that Intel had a significant regression in performance on Ubuntu 14.04 with the Linux 3.13 kernel. In some tests, HD 4600 only achieves about half of the performance recorded on the HD 4000. I have not been following Linux iGPU drivers and it is probably a bit late to do any form of in-depth analysis... but yolo. I think the article actually made a pretty big mistake and came to the exact wrong conclusion.

Let's do this!

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According to the article, in Xonotic v0.7, Ivy Bridge's Intel HD 4000 scores 176.23 FPS at 1080p on low quality settings. When you compare this to Haswell's HD 4600 and its 124.45 FPS result, this seems bad. However, even though they claim this as a performance regression, they never actually post earlier (and supposedly faster) benchmarks.

So I dug one up.

Back in October, the same test was performed with the same hardware. The Intel HD 4600 was not significantly faster back then, rather it was actually a bit slower with a score of 123.84 FPS. The Intel HD 4000 managed 102.68 FPS. Haswell did not regress between that time and Ubuntu 14.04 on Linux 3.13, Ivy Bridge received a 71.63% increase between then and Ubuntu 14.04 on Linux 3.13.

Of course, there could have been a performance increase between October and now and that recently regressed for Haswell... but I could not find those benchmarks. All I can see is that Haswell has been quite steady since October. Either way, that is a significant performance increase on Ivy Bridge since that snapshot in time, even if Haswell had a rise-and-fall that I was unaware of.

Source: Phoronix
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ECS

The Z87H3-A3X is ECS' latest release in their L337 Gaming board line. Similar to the A2X Extreme board, ECS designed the Z87H3-A3X with a liberal amount of gold, from the gold plating on its capacitors to the gold tint on its integrated heat sinks. This board is a steal at it $119.99 MSRP with its Intel Z87 chipset and performance-oriented components.

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Courtesy of ECS

ECS powers the Z87H3-A3X motherboard with a 6-phase digital power regulation system to ensure consistent power delivery to the CPU under all operating circumstances. The Z87H3-A3X includes the following integrated features: six SATA 6Gb/s ports and one eSATA port; an Intel GigE NIC; two PCI-Express x16 slots for up to dual-card support; four PCI-Express x1 slots; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support. The 80P button configures what information displays on the diagnostic display once the board has successfully initialized.

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Courtesy of ECS

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Courtesy of ECS

Being part of their L337 Gaming series boards, the Z87H3-A3X includes the Durathon power delivery solution and innovative cooling solution. The board's heat sinks are designed to enhance airflow over key components to aid in cooling, while the Durathon system incorporates enhanced power modules to maximum performance and minimize failure potential.

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Courtesy of ECS

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z87H3-A3X motherboard!

CES 2014: Gigabyte BRIX MAX is Haswell based Android NAS Device

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2014, gigabyte, brix, brix max, haswell, Android, NAS

While browsing the Gigabyte suite at CES I came across a very interesting new product from Gigabyte that falls into the Brix family.  The Brix Max is a larger version of the Brix SFF chassis (taller) that includes support for four 2.5-in hard drives.  Powered by a 4th Generation Intel Core (Haswell) Core i5-4250U processor, this system is aimed towards the NAS market.  In particular, those that want tiny NAS devices.

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With a total fluid capacity of 1.2 liters (please don't fill your Brix with liquid...), the Brix Max includes a USB flash port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet and four USB 3.0 ports.  Maybe more surprising is the fact that this unit was running Android and marks the first time we have seen a Haswell platform running the OS.

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Gigabyte demoed the Brix Max powering a handful of networked devices and providing media content and backup storage for all sorts of other operating system.  I am still not sure what kind of software was running on the Android OS to facilitate the NAS functionality but the Max includes the ability to set users, partition different share locations and more.  Hopefully we'll be able to get a sample in at the offices to test out and let our readers know how an Android-based NAS can perform.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 motherboard is among GIGABYTE's flagship boards supporting the forth generation of the Intel Core processor line through the integrated Z87 chipset. The board offers support for the newest generation of Intel LGA1150-based processors with all the integrated features and port support you've come to expect from a high-end board. At an MSRP of $419.99, the G1.Sniper 5 premium price is only matched by its premium and expansive feature set.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE packed the G1.Sniper full of premium features to ensure its viability as a top-rated contender. The board features the Ultra Durable 5 Plus power technology and the Amp-Up Audio technology. Ultra Durable 5 Plus brings several high-end power components into the board's design: International Rectifier (IR) manufactured PowIRstage™ ICs and PWM controllers, Nippon Chemi-con manufactured Black Solid capacitors with a 10k hour operational rating at 105C, 15 micron gold plating on the CPU socket pins, and two 0.070mm copper layers imbedded into the PCB for optimal heat dissipation. GIGABYTE's Amp-Up Audio technology integrates an op-amp socket into the board's audio PCB, giving the user the ability to customize their audio listening experience. Additionally, the G1.Sniper 5 has the following integrated features: 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports; dual GigE NICs - an Intel NIC and a Qualcomm Killer NIC; four PCI-Express x16 slots for up to quad-card NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire support; three PCI-Express x1 slots; on board power, reset, and BIOS reset buttons; switch BIOS and Dual-BIOS switches; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 Z87 motherboard!

5,000 Pages of Intel Haswell Documentation for Linux

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 31, 2013 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: linux, iris pro, iris, Intel, haswell

'Tis the season to be sharing and giving (unless you are Disney).

According to Phoronix, Intel has shipped (heh heh heh, "boatload") over 5,000 pages of documentation and technical specs for their Haswell iGPUs including the HD, Iris, and Iris Pro product lines. The intricacies of the 3D engine, GPGPU computation, and video acceleration are laid bare for the open source community. Video acceleration is something that is oft omit from the manuals of other companies.

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Phoronix believes that Intel is, and has been, the best GPU vendor for open-source drivers. AMD obviously supports their open-source community but Intel edges them out on speed. The Radeon HD 7000 series is just beginning to mature, according to their metric, and Hawaii is far behind that. For NVIDIA, the Nouveau driver is still developed primarily by reverse-engineering. That said, documentation was released a few months ago.

Of course all of these comparisons are only considering the open-source drivers.

NVIDIA prides itself on their proprietary driver offering and AMD pretty much offers both up for the user to chose between. Phoronix claims that Intel employs over two-dozen open-source Linux graphics developers but, of course, that is their only graphics driver for Linux. That is not a bad thing, of course, because a launch open-source GPU driver is really identical to what they would launch for a proprietary driver just without slapping the wrists of anyone who tries to tweak it. It does make sense for Intel, however, because community support will certainly do nothing but help their adoption.

If you would like to check out the documentation, it is available at Intel's 01.org.

Source: Phoronix

Hardcoreware Reviews Intel Core i3-4340

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | December 19, 2013 - 01:05 AM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell

In another review from around the net, Carl Nelson over at Hardcoreware tested the dual-core (4 threads) Intel Core i3-4340 based on the Haswell architecture. This processor slides into the $157 retail price point with a maximum frequency of 3.6GHz and an Intel HD 4600 iGPU clocked at 1150MHz. Obviously this is not intended as top-end performance but, of course, not everyone wants that.

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Image Credit: Hardcoreware

One page which I found particularly interesting was the one which benchmarked Battlefield 4 rendering on the iGPU. The AMD A10 6790K (~$130) had slightly lower 99th percentile frame time (characteristic of higher performance) but slightly lower average frames per second (characteristic of lower performance). The graph of frame times shows that AMD is much more consistent than Intel. Perhaps the big blue needs a little Fame Rating? I would be curious to see what is causing the pretty noticeable (in the graph, at least) stutter. AMD's frame pacing seems to be very consistent albeit this is obviously not a Crossfire scenario.

If you are in the low-to-mid $100 price point be sure to check out his review. Also, of course, Kaveri should be coming next month so that is something to look out for.

Source: Hardcoreware