Subject: Motherboards | October 31, 2012 - 11:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, mini-itx, hdc-12/e-350d2, ECS, e-350d, amd
Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) has launched a new motherboard and processor combination that pairs a mini-itx form factor board with an AMD E-350D Accelerated Processing Unit (APU). Measuring 17cm x 17cm, the HDC-12/E-350D2 is similar to the Biostar product covered previously, except for feature set. The ECS model uses the cheaper A45 FCH chipset and does away with modern expansion ports such as PCI-E 3.0 and USB 3.0. While it is less capable, it is also less expensive that the other boards.
The board has a bundled AMD E-350D APU with dual CPU cores and integrated HD 6130 graphics. The memory controller supports a maximum of 16GB of DDR3 RAM running at 1066MHz via two DIMM slots on the motherboard. The A45 chipset supports two SATA II 3 Gbps ports, and that is one area where the low cost nature (and associated compromises) of the A45 chipset hits home as the higher end boards have more ports and support for SATA III 6 Gbps. Aside from some fan headers and headers for USB ports, the only other expansion option is a single legacy PCI slot at the bottom of the board.
External IO options include:
- 8 x USB 2.0
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 x analog audio jacks
The lack of an optical audio output is disappointing as well, but the board can be powered by a single 24 pix ATX cable – no 4 or 8 pin CPU power required. In the end it is a cheap base for a low power system. It would make a great router / firewall device with the addition of a PCI Ethernet NIC, for example. The only real downside would be wireless as you would need to use USB NICs to add that capability. This could also make for an entry level HTPC build as the APU is capable of hardware accelerating 1080p video.
Along with the HTPC vein, ECS is bundling coupons for free copies of Cyberlink's MediaEspresso 6.5 LE and MediaShow 5.1 LE transcoding and playback software with the motherboard.
The ECS HDC-12/E-350D2 will retail for a sub-$100 price, and should be available for purchase soon.
Read more about Mini ITX motherboards at PC Perspective.
Subject: Motherboards | October 29, 2012 - 11:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z77, thunderbolt, motherboard, extreme6/tb4, asrock
Update: The specifications page is now live on the ASRock website.
Pegatron-owned motherboard company ASRock has launched a new Z77 motherboard with dual Thunderbolt ports dubbed the Extreme6/TB4. While all the nitty-gritty details are still up in the error due to an error on the ASRock site, we do have some information on the board worth sharing.
The ASRock Extreme6/TB4 is based on the Z77 chipset, which supports socket 1155 processors (Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge). Further, the board has four DIMM slots for DDR3 memory running at up to 2800MHz. Additionally, the Extreme6/TB4 uses gold capicitors, digital power technology, and a 8+4 power phase. Quad SLI and CrossFireX multi-GPU technologies are also features.
It features two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (x16/x8 or x8/x8), two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. For storage, the motherboard has four SATA III 6Gbps ports (RAID 0/1/5/10) and several USB headers.
Rear panel IO includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x eSATA
- 1 x eSATA/USB
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x VGA
- 2 x Thunderbolt
- 5 x Analog audio jacks
- 1 x S/PDIF optical audio port
- 1 x HDMI
Thanks to the two Thunderbolt ports on the rear IO panel, the new ASRock motherboard can support up to 12 devices (with passthrough ports) and two DisplayPort displays. That's a lot of Thunderbolt gear!
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or when the motherboard will be available for purchase.
Read more about Intel’s Thunderbolt technology at PC Perspective.
Subject: General Tech | October 23, 2012 - 06:50 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, motherboard, mATX, gigabyte, fm2, APU
Gigabyte recently unveiled a low-cost micro ATX form factor motherboard for Trinity APUs called the F2A75M-HD2. The motherboard is aimed at low cost home theater and small form factor builds using AMD’s Trinity APUs. It measures 225 x 174 mm and offers up a number of features despite the small size. The board itself features the FM2 processor socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots (up to 32GB DDR3 1866Mhz), and a 5-phase VRM feeding the APU power. It also features Gigabyte’s dual BIOS chip technology and a UEFI BIOS.
Internal I/O includes one PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, one PCI-E 2.0 x1 slot, and one legacy PCI slot. Four SATA III 6Gbps ports are available, and the A75 chipset supports RAID 0, 1, and 10. Two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 headers are also available on the board for expansion.
Rear I/O of the Gigabyte F2A75M-HD2 motherboard includes:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x VGA
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 3 x Analog audio jacks
- 1 x PS/2 port
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet jack
While no specific availability date or MSRP was announced, you can expect this micro ATX Trinity-powered motherboard to be available soon for around $70 USD.
Read more about Gigabyte's FM2 motherboard lineup at PC Perspective.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
It's been a couple months since we've had a chance to evaluate a Z77-based motherboard, so we are taking this opportunity to throw ASUS's P8Z77-V Deluxe on our test bench to put it through our comprehensive real-world and synthetic benchmarks. This $279 board has been available for several months and supports the LGA 1155 platform that includes Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors.
Courtesy of ASUS
There are many features to drool over about the ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe, but my favorite ones include the board's unique power management features, Wi-Fi functionality with remote access, and customized UEFI BIOS. This board also includes other enhancements that focus on support for faster USB 3.0 and PCIe 3.0 integration as well as extra SATA 6GB/s ports that provide double the bandwidth of current bus systems.
Subject: Motherboards | October 3, 2012 - 02:52 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, motherboard, gigabyte, fm2, APU
AMD’s latest Trinity APUs launched yesterday, and with that Gigabyte launched its flagship socket FM2 motherboard, the GA-F2A85X-UP4. This board was shown off earlier this year, but now we have all the details. This motherboard is packed with all the Gigabyte technology you would expect from an enthusiast board, and some of the more interesting features include the Ultra Durable 5 capacitors, a digital PWM array, single package IR3550 PowIRStage ICs, and dual APU clock generators to push overclocking of non-K edition processors as far as possible – at least in theory. Also interesting is the inclusion of Lucid’s Virtu MVP GPU virtualization technology, two EFI BIOS chips, switchable graphics, and the ability to crossfire certain 6000-series discrete graphics cards with the GPU in the Trinity APU.
Internal connectivity options include the FM2 socket, four DDR3 DIMM slots (up to 64GB @ 1866MHz), seven SATA 6Gbps ports, one eSATA 6Gbps port, and support for RAID O, 1, 5, 10, and JBOD. Furter, the GA-F2A85X-UP4 supports three PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots. The first slot runs at x16 or x8 if there are two GPUs installed. The second and third slots run at x8 and x4 respectively. Gigabyte has also included three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots for sounds and networking cards.
Internal IO headers include one CPU fan, four system fans, one S/PDIF, one USB 3.0, four USB 2.0, one serial, one clear CMOS, and one TPM.
Rear I/O on the flagship Trinity motherboard includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x S/PDIF
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x eSATA
- 1 x RJ45
- 6 x analog audio jacks
This board is packing a lot of hardware, and the price is right around $130 depending on the retailer. The GA-F2A85X-UP4 is available now. Interestingly Gigabyte has also announced the F2A85XM-D3H based on the same A85X chipset as the flagship F2-A85X-UP4 as well as some lower tier motherboards based on the A75 and A55 chipsets with new FM2 sockets. Unfortunately, these motherboards do not appear to be available yet. If you are interested in those boards (which should cost less), keep an eye out for the F2A75M-D3H, and F2A55M-HD2 – or simply watch PC Perspective’s homepage of course!
In the meantime, you can find more photos of the GA-F2A85X-UP4 on Gigabyte's website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Chipsets, Memory, Displays | August 7, 2012 - 10:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z77, motherboard, mini-itx, Intel, gigabyte, ga-h77n-wifi
During a European roadshow, Gigabyte showed off a new Mini-ITX form factor motherboard for the first time. Called the GA-H77N-WIFI, the motherboard is well suited for home theater and home server tasks. Based on the H77 chipset, it is compatible with the latest Intel Core i3 (coming soon), i5, and i7 "Ivy Bridge" processors. The board goes for an all-black PCB with minimal heatsinks on the VRMs, and the form factor is the same size as the motherboard that Ryan recently used in his Mini-ITX HTPC build.
The GA-H77N-WIFI features a LGA 1155 processor socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, PCI Express slot, two SATA 3Gbps ports, two SATA 6Gbps ports, and an internal USB 3.0 header. There are also two Realtek Ethernet controller chips and a Realtek audio chip.
- 1 PS/2 port
- 2 USB 3.0 ports
- 2 HDMI ports
- 1 DVI port
- 2 Antenna connectors (WIFI)
- 4 USB 2.0 ports
- 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 1 Optical S/PDIF port
- 5 Analog audio jacks
The dual Gigabit Ethernet ports are interesting. It could easily be loaded with open source routing software and turned into router/firewall/Wi-Fi access point. To really take advantage of the Ivy Bridge support, you could put together a nice media server and HTPC recording/streaming box (using something like SiliconDust's HDHomeRun networked tuners or Ceton's USB tuner since this board is very scarce in the way of PCI-E slots). What would you do with this Mini-ITX Gigabyte board?
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or availability, but the motherboard is likely coming soon. You can find more information on the motherboard over at tonymacx86, who managed to snag get some photos of the board.
Subject: Motherboards | July 23, 2012 - 05:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, memory profile, memory, ECS, amp, amd
Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) recently announced its support for the new AMD Memory Profile (AMP) technology. The A85F2-A Deluxe will be the first of the company’s motherboards to support AMP.
AMP is AMD’s version of Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) which amounts to known-safe automatic overclock settings. The AMP profiles are stored in the DDR3 memory modules and can be read by supporting motherboards. Now knowing the proper voltage, CAS latencies, and timings to use, the motherboard can ideally automatically configure the modules to run at optimal speeds.
The setting will be able to be enabled/disabled in the BIOS of the new ECS motherboard, as shown in the screenshot below. According to its press release, ECS is the first company to integrate AMD Memory Profile support into its motherboards, and it is honored to lead the charge. “Making a unique and glory prominent product is the only purpose for ECS.”
Here’s hoping the implementation works well and is more accurate than my experience with XMP profiles has been! Will you be using AMP in your AMD builds?
Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2012 - 05:32 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, hidden gems, hardware, gigabyte, contest
Motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte is currently running its Hidden Gems contest asking for users to submit photos of their old and trusty Gigabyte-based computers. On August 10th, they will pick three winners who will receive brand new Gigabyte motherboards. The contest ends July 31st, 2012 and winners will be chosen on August 10th. For those curious it does involve “liking” Gigabyte on Facebook, and you must be at least 17 years old. It is unclear but does indeed seem to be open to those outside the United States.
According to Gigabyte, it is running the contest to celebrate “our illustrious history as the leading motherboard manufacturer.” The company wants its users and fans to dig up old photos or videos of their old Gigabyte motherboards and computers. Those photos will then be shared with other contest entrants where they can be talked about and voted on.
After liking the Gigabyte Motherboard Tech Column Facebook page, you can navigate to its website and upload a photo or video of your Gigabyte PC. The Grand Prize will be awarded to the submission that gets the most votes while the “Team Gigabyte” prize will be given to the users chosen by the Gigabyte team. Finally, the “Most Deserving of an Upgrade” prize will be awarded to the entry that shows off the oldest motherboard.
The Grand Prize winner will receive a G1.Sniper M3 motherboard – which we recently reviewed. It is a micro ATX socket 1155 motherboard that features Intel’s Z77 Express chipset and support for its Ivy Bridge processors. It has four DDR3 DIMM slots, one PCI-E x1 and three PCI-E x16 slots. Rear IO includes four USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, a PS/2 port, and VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs. The G1.Sniper M3 also features eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio output, and 5 channel analog audio output.
For the Team Gigabyte prize, the winner will receive the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H motherboard which is an Ivy Bridge compatible board that supports up to 32GB (4x8GB) of DDR3 memory, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, Gigabit Ethernet, 7.1 channel analog audio output, 8 USB 3.0 ports, and six USB 2.0 ports. This board is regular ATX sized which accounts for the increased expandability.
Last but not least is the “Most Deserving of an Upgrade” prize. The winner will be given a Gigabyte B75M-D3H motherboard. This motherboard is powered by the B75 chipset and features an LGA 1155 socket, four DDR3 DIMM slots, two PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI slots, one SATA 6Gbps port, and five SATA 3Gbps ports. Rear IO includes a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA port, HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, and three analog audio jacks.
If you aren’t against using Facebook and have some Gigabyte motherboards around, it might be worth checking out. Just remember to get your entries in before July 31, 2012 if you do want a chance to win. More information can be found on the Hidden Gems contest page at event.gigabyte.com/hidden_gems/.
Subject: Motherboards | June 6, 2012 - 08:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zeus, wolverine, power phase, motherboard, dual gpu, concept, computex, asus
ASUS has a history of showing off crazy high-end concept motherboards that are not likely to come to market but may help influence future motherboard products by getting the creative sparks of innovation flowing in engineers’ minds.
At this year’s Computex 2012, Asus showed off two concept motherboards that it is calling Zeus and Wolverine. While Zeus tackles Thunderbolt and integrated GPUs, Wolverine approaches the problem of getting clean power to the CPU by pushing the limits of the number of power phases that can be integrated into ATX-sized motherboards.
You will notice on the Zeus motherboard that the bottom of the board holds a bank of two 8 pin and two six pin power connectors. The two eight pin connectors are labeled VGA 1 and VGA 2 while the two six pin connectors are labeled VGA 3 and VGA 4 respectively. At first this seems like a regular X79 chipset (socket 2011) based motherboard with giant heatsinks for overclockers. After doing a double take (at least I did), you will notice that the board has no PCI-E connectors!
Instead, the board has a large heatsink, and under that heatsink are two GPUs in CrossFire configuration. Tech Power Up believes that the GPUs being used are two AMD 7800 “Pitcairn” series mobile graphics cards in CrossFire configuration. While the desktop variants are fairly low power, they would need active cooling or a larger heatsink, which I think is what lead them to consider that ASUS may be using mobile-class cards. Reportedly, ASUS did not create this board to suggest GPU integration, but to show off dual Thunderbolt ports on an X79 motherboard.
Connectivity on the board includes a socket 2011 CPU, eight DDR3 DIMM slots, ten SATA connectors, (and on the rear IO panel) a WiFi radio, eight USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, Gigabit LAN, 7.1 channel analog audio output, optical audio output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, and two eSATA ports.
As far as the dual GPU integration goes, however... I don’t expect we’ll be seeing a move in the industry like this any time soon, at least not on high-end Enthusiast boards (though I could see an argument for small form factor (SFF) budget gaming systems from OEMs). Dedicated graphics card technology moves at such a rapid pace compared to motherboards that it is just not feasible to market a feature like this to enthusiasts. While they may keep the same motherboard for years, those same users will likely upgrade their graphics cards at least once to stay current. Further, with the cost of these high-end motherboards already approaching exorbitant, adding integrated GPUs that don’t mesh well with the purpose of a high end system pushes the cost higher and demand to a point that these boards just don’t seem realistic.
While Zeus was more of a powerhouse with a twist (albeit one that isn’t really feasible to market), the other motherboard – Wolverine – is a “because we can” board but one that could have an impact on the industry today. ASUS has taken its Digi+ digital power to the extreme by packing as many power phases as it could into an ATX form factor motherboard. In total, they managed to place 40 power phases onto the PCB – notice how the CPU socket had to be shifted to the right to make room!
Other features on the board include eight SATA connectors, four DIMM slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, LGA 1155 socket, and three PCI 3.0 x1 slots. On the rear the board features four USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, a WiFi radio, Gigabit LAN, BIOS buttons, optical audio output, 7.1 channel analog audio output, and what looks like two eSATA ports.
Granted, I’m not suggesting that we will be seeing motherboards coming out with 40+ power phases anytime soon. I can see this influencing future designs, however. Even heavy overclockers (water and air cooling levels) don’t really /need/ 40 power phases but we could start seeing vendors put out boards with half of that and still have it be a big improvement.
What do you think of the two new ASUS concept motherboards? You can see more images of the boards over at AnandTech's gallery. Do you think they are on the right track? If not what areas do you think motherboard manufacturers need to improve?
Subject: Motherboards | June 6, 2012 - 06:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z77, msi, motherboard, mini-itx, Intel, htpc, computex
MSI is showing off a lot of motherboards at Computex 2012. One in particular that stuck out to me was a mini ITX motherboard that sported Ivy Bridge compatibility, four SATA ports (2 which are SATA 6Gbps), and PCI-E 3.0 compliant making it perfect for an high performance HTPC build. The motherboard in question is the MSI Z77IA-E53 and as the name suggests it is based around Intel’s Z77 chipset.
The mini-ITX form factor motherboard sports MSI’s ClickBIOS II UEFI BIOS and its OC Genie II technology as well as THX TruStudio Pro audio. Other features include an LGA 1155 socket for Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge (Core i7, i5, i3, Pentium or Celeron) processors, two DDR3 DIMM slots (up to 16GB of 2800MHz), and a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot at the very bottom of the motherboard.
On the back of the board, the Z77IA-E53 features HDMI and VGA video outputs, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, Gigabit LAN, PS/2 port, optical audio outpu, three 3.5mm jacks for analog audio output, and WiFi and Bluetooth radios.
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or availability.