Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of MSI

With the Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt, MSI took an award winning design and tweaked it to bring an affordable Thunderbolt-based solution to the masses without sacrificing on quality or performance. We put this board through our grueling battery of tests to validate the board's performance promises. The MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt can be found at your favorite retailer for the reasonable price of $169.99.

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Courtesy of MSI

The Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt sports a simple design and layout with some of the bells and whistles found on the higher priced boards omitted to keep the feature set intact and the price to a minimum. MSI includes the following features in the Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt's design: SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports; a Realtek GigE NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to tri-card support; USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports; and a single Thunderbolt port in the rear panel. For an in-depth overview on Thunderbolt technology and its advantages over other interconnect technologies, please see our review here.

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Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI Z77A-GD45 motherboard!!

Recent gains in gaming on Linux

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2013 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: linux, Ivy Bridge, ubuntu 13.04

Phoronix has released a pair of reviews focusing on the graphical performance changes we have seen recently when gaming on a Linux system.  The first looks at the last seven major kernel updates and how they changed the performance of Intel's HD4000 graphics core.  The news is not great, in most cases the performance remained mostly unchanged and there are a few instances where the performance gain seen by kernel 3.4 have disappeared by 3.8 and in some cases it would make sense to wait until Mesa 9.1 arrives. 

Their second article looks at the upcoming Ubuntu 13.04 release and the support the OS will have for AMD's GPUs straight out of the box with no customization.  From there they move onto Intel's HD3000 graphics with good results to report.  The new OS will not be out until April, but from what Phoronix has seen not only will this kernel handle discrete and integral GPUs well, the performance is the best they've seen yet.

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"With the Intel Haswell product launch coming up soon, here's a look at how the Intel "Ivy Bridge" HD 4000 graphics support has matured on the seven most recent Linux kernel releases. This benchmarking shows how the performance of the Intel DRM driver has changed between the Linux 3.2 kernel and the Linux 3.8 kernel that's presently under development when using the integrated graphics found on the latest-generation Core i7 CPU."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Phoronix

Intel is still playing coy when it comes to 7W SDPs

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2013 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: Intel, SDP, 7 watt, core i5, 3339Y, Ivy Bridge

One of the biggest controversies coming out of CES 2013 was Intel's redefining of TDP as SDP so that they could rate their new Ivy Bridge processor at 7W.  Scenario Design Power is a measurement of the power consumed in certain specific usage situations, which Intel refuses to disclose the specifics of.  From what The Inquirer found out, there will actually be a spectrum of SDPs which consumers can choose from, though again Intel is not saying much about the specifics of the workloads or of the chips themselves.  You can check out what little we know here, though until we have more details it is hard to decide if this will obfuscate the actual power draws of chips or become a new useful metric in the future.

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"CHIPMAKER Intel remains coy about the precise definition of the workload used to calculate its scenario design power (SDP) metric that it has applied to its Y series Core processors.

Intel quietly introduced the new SDP metric at CES where it revealed a 7W Ivy Bridge chip and received some criticism for relying on a new metric to hit its headline figure. When The INQUIRER asked Intel to define the scenario in which the Core i5 3339Y chip hits the 7W figure, the firm said it was "not prepared to talk about the workload at this time"."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Ultrabooks 2.0

Intel is a yearly presence at CES and typically have a few interesting things to talk about.  Last year we got to see Will.I.Am on stage telling us all about how the Ultrabook has changed his artistic life.  Oddly enough, things have not changed dramatically for the company.  Ultrabooks have inherited the latest Ivy Bridge processors which were released last Spring.  Medfield is still the primary cell phone processor for Intel.

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The first area they covered  is the cellphone market.  Medfield is still the go-to processor and Intel claims that it has better performance and battery life than even the latest Qualcomm products.  Intel is introducing a new reference phone for emerging markets around the world codenamed Lexington.  Based on the Z2420 and the XMM6265 modem, this budget smartphone will be Android based with certain optimizations instituted by Intel in collaboration with Google.

Intel has achieved more wins throughout the next few months.  Acer, Safaricom, and Lava will all be announcing new smart phones based on Intel silicon.  Details of these products will be released later in the quarter.

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Medfield will be replaced by Clover Tail+ and then further on with their next gen 22 nm product.

Click to read about more of Intel's CES 2013 coverage.

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of EVGA

Sometimes, good things do come in small packages. The latest board on our test bench from EVGA proves that fact, the EVGA Z77 Stinger. The Z77 Stinger is a micro-ITX form factor board based on the Intel Z77 chipset, but don’t let its size fool you. This board is packed with features and delivers the performance that we’ve come to expect out of its full-size brethren. At a mere $199.99 base price, the EVGA Z77 Stinger would be at home in any enthusiast’s full tower case or HTPC build.

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Courtesy of EVGA

Even with its small stature, the EVGA Z77 Stinger promises to pack some power. It features support for the following: SATA 2, SATA 3, eSATA, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 type devices; two different network types featuring an Intel GigE NIC and an Atheros Bluetooth adapter; PCI-Express x16 3.0 and m-PCIe ports; and HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.1a style video ports. With the addition of an m-PCIe adapter, the board can support onboard Wi-Fi as well.

Continue reading our review of the EVGA Z77 Stinger mini-ITX Motherboard!!

New 22nm Pentiums and Celerons for the new year

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2012 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: pentium, celeron, Intel, 22nm, G2130, G2020, G2020T, G1620, G1610, G1610T, Ivy Bridge

There won't be any new Intel desktop processors for Christmas and even in the New Year it will be the entry level lineup that is first refreshed.  Six older Pentium and Celeron models will hit EOL and be replaced with new Ivy Bridge based 22nm models, likely with similar specs and reduced power consumption.  The news for mobile processors is a little better with the Core i7-3687, Core i5-3437U, Celeron 1037U, 1007U, 1020M and 1000M all slated for the first quarter of 2013.  DigiTime also mentions a new 20nm member of the 530 series of SSDs should be arriving at the same time.

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"Intel is set to upgrade its entry-level desktop Pentium and Celeron product lines in the first quarter of 2013 with the launch of Ivy Bridge-based 22nm Pentium G2130, G2020 and G2020T and Celeron G1620, G1610 and G1610T processors, while its existing Sandy Bridge-based 32nm Pentium G870, G645 and G645T as well as Celeron G555, G550 and G550T will be phased out of the market starting the end of 2012, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Ivy Bridge without the HD Graphics

The processor market is kind of stale these days; there aren't a lot of releases and the dominance of Intel in the high-end CPU market kind of makes things uninteresting.  We still have lot of great AMD processors in the low and mid-range markets but if you want a $200+ card part you will probably find your way into the world of Intel.

Today's processor review cuts across segments with a unique twist.  The Intel Core i5-3350P can be picked up at Newegg.com for $189 putting it right in the price point of the AMD FX-8150 (Zambezi) and the AMD FX-8320 (Vishera).  It also undercuts the very popular Intel Core i5-3570K by $50 or so while still offering some impressive performance results.

The only catch: this Ivy Bridge based processor does not include any integrated graphics.

The Intel Core i5-3350P

Intel recently released a couple of Ivy Bridge based processors that have disabled the integrated graphics completely, the 3350P being one of them.  This allows Intel to sell processor die that might have a defect on the GPU portion to increase the relative yield rate of their 22nm process and also gives them another weapon to fight off any pricing competition from AMD.

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Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i5-3350P Ivy Bridge Processor!!

Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Digital Storm

A small, custom chassis

UPDATE 11/22/2012

Right before the holiday weekend we got an email from Digital Storm detailing some changes to the Bolt system based on ours, and other reviewers, feedback.  Design changes include:

  • "Quieter operation" after moving from a Bronze level 500 watt 1U power supply to a Gold level unit.  I have put that part in quotes because I am hesitant to believe that much has changes on the sound levels of the system; we are still talking about a 1U unit here with two tiny fans.  Until DS publishes some sound level metrics, we'll consider this a modest change.
  • Digital Storm has also given the Bolt "a less glossy and improved external finish" to help prevent fingerprints and dust from reflecting in light.

In addition, there have been some hardware changes in the Level 3 unit that we were sent that are fairly significant:

  • Upgrade from a 60GB cache SSD to a 120GB SSD dedicated to the OS installation.
  • Storage drive lowered from a 1TB to a 500GB
  • Upgrade from a Core i5-3570K to a Core i7-3770K CPU

That is a pretty hefty change in hardware specs, in particular the move from the Core i5-3570K to the i7-3770K.  That increases the CPU performance of the Bolt pretty handily and they were able to do that without raising the price.  

This definitely gives us a better opinion overall for the entire Digital Storm Bolt configuration as tested and makes it a much better option when compared to the other recent systems we have reviewed.

END UPDATE 11/22/2012

A couple of months ago Digital Storm contacted us about a new design they were working on that they claimed would easily become the highest performance, smallest custom PC on the market.  The result of that talk was the new Digital Storm Bolt, a system designed in-house by DS to target PC gamers that want a powerful PC without the bulk of traditional desktop designs.

Digital Storm claims that the Bolt is the "thinnest, most powerful gaming PC ever designed" and we tend to agree.  This is not chassis that you can buy off the shelf but instead was custom designed for this system and actually requires some very specific hardware for it to function completely.  Items like a 1U power supply, 90 degree PCI Express riser extensions and slim-line optical drives aren't found in your standard gaming PCs.

Available in several starting "levels" of configuration, the Digital Storm Bolt can include processors from the Core i3-2100 all the way up to the Core i7-3770K and graphics cards starting at the GTX 650 Ti 2GB and increasing to the GTX 680 2GB.  Our system came with the following hardware:

  • Intel Core i5-3570K @ 4.2 GHz
  • Low Profile CPU Heatsink
  • 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz memory
  • GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB
  • 60GB cache SSD + 1TB 7200 RPM HDD
  • Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WiFi motherboard
  • 1U 500 watt power supply
  • Windows 7 Home Premium x64
  • Custom DS Bolt Chassis

Starting cost for this configuration is $1,599.

Check out our quick video review!

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The box the Bolt ships in is pretty timid compared to some of the crates that have hit our office recently but that's just fine by me.  Due to the small size of the case though I have actually had some laptop boxes (the Alienware M18x comes to mind) that were bigger!

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There she is, the Digital Storm Bolt, a combination of custom steel case design and fingerprint-loving piano black paint.  Measuring just 14-in tall and 3.6-in wide the case is going to be able to fit and blend in places other desktops simply could not.

Continue reading our review of the Digital Storm Bolt system!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Specs

Introduction

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Courtesy of ECS

As part of their Black Extreme line of motherboards, the ECS Z77H2-AX pairs the promise of performance and a mile-long feature list with looks that could kill. We decided to put this board through the paces, throwing our normal suite of benchmark and functionality tests to see how well it lived up to its reputation. The ECS Z77H2-AX seems to be well priced at its $309.99 base price with all the higher-end features and bling built into the board.

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Courtesy of ECS

From the initial unboxing of the board, I was dumbstruck. ECS literally gold-plated every heat-producing surface on this board, giving it a very unique look and feel. The board itself has no shortage of features with SATA 2, SATA 3, mSATA, and eSATA ports, support for 3 different networking types, and enough USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports for anyone.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z77H2-AX Golden Motherboard!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Intro and Tech Specs

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

 

Today we will be evaluating the ASUS P8Z77 WS motherboard on the test bench, evaluating its performance and functionality in various ways to ensure that the board works up to the standards we’ve come to expect from ASUS. At $339 a base price, this Intel Z77 chipset based board is part of the ASUS Workstation series, designed to meet the needs of the harsh corporate and server environments requiring optimal component functioning over a 24/7 timeframe.

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Courtesy of ASUS

 

The P8Z77 WS is a feature-rich solution with dual Intel-based GigE NICs, an ASUS customized UEFI BIOS, and multi-GPU PCI 3.0 support offered innately through the Intel Z77 chipset as well as the integrated LicidLogix Virtu MVP chipset.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Continue reading our review of the ASUS P8Z77 WS Workstation Motherboard!!