Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Chipsets, Memory, Displays | August 7, 2012 - 07:07 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 - 02:32 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 - 02:32 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 - 05:12 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 - 03:04 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.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 6, 2012 - 02:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, laptop, headsets, gaming, ASUS ROG, asus
Today we received a number of photos from ASUS that show off some upcoming hardware from their upcoming Republic of Gamers line. Except for the Xonar Phoebus (which has launched), the hardware in these photos is not yet released and ASUS has not revealed when it will be available for sale – or how much it will cost. Still, I can’t think of a better way to start the day than getting a glimpse of some shiny unreleased hardware – especially when I get to share it with you!
First up is a new Replublic of Gamers motherboard called the Maximus V Extreme. This board is similar to the mATX Maximus V GENE board that was announced recently, but the Extreme motherboard is full ATX.
While full specifications are unknown, from the photo you can see that the board has an LGA 1155 socket, making it compatible with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors. Further, it is sporting four DDR3 DIMM slots, five PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and one PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots. Other features of the board include ASUS’ Extreme Engine Digi+ II digital power control technology, power and reset buttons on the board itself, voltage check points, Lucid Virtu MVP GPU virtualization technology, and AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI support. The VRM area and southbridge area of the board is covered by large black and red heatsinks.
Rear IO includes five USB 2.0 ports (one to be used with ROG Connect), two USB 3.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit LAN, HDMI, DisplayPort, optical audio output, PS/2 port, five analog audio outputs and a TOSLink connector. Additionally, the board features CMOS clear and reset buttons, a mini-PCIe + mSATA combo card, and a Republic of Gamers OC Key accessory. The OC Key plugs into the DVI port of the graphics card and provides an on-screen-display for overclocking information and voltage tweaking.
In addition to the ASUS Maximus V Extreme, the company is producing the Maximus V Forumula motherboard, which is then further available with or without the ThunderFX audio accessory. The Formula board is another socket 1155 board with a red and black color scheme that is ready for Ivy Bridge processors and multi-GPU setups (SLI or CrossFireX). The heatsinks on the formula are a little less beefy than those on the Maximus V Extreme, but the VRM heatsinks are ready to be integrated into a water cooling loop. Further features include four DDR3 DIMM slots, eight SATA connectors, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, and a single PCI-E 3.0 x4 slot.
The board also features the SupremeFX integrated sound card (which has been isolated from the rest of the board by routing the wiring through its own PCB layer) and a mini-PCI-E + mSATA combo card. One version of the motherboard also comes with the SupremeFX accessory which you can see in the photo below.
Rear IO of the Maximus V Formula motherboard includes four USB 2.0 ports (one for ROG connect), four USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, DisplayPort, HDMI, Intel-powered Gigabit LAN, five analog audio jacks, two optical audio outputs, and CMOS clear and reset buttons.
The Maximus Extreme V Formula comes with a device called the ThunderFX that is a high end headphone amp and DAC offering 120dB SNR, and noise cancellation technology. The included GamEQ comes with three preset profiles but also offers you a wide range of options to tweak your sound to your own desires. There is also onboard audio in the form of the SupremeFX IV audio chipset which will keep those who prefer speakers more than happy with their audio quality.
You can also see that the large anodized aluminium heatsinks have barbs for you to include them in a watercooling loop so that all components on your motherboard can be cooled without resorting to fans to move air. GameFirst II is the name ASUS has given their networking software and it is designed to examine an prioritize packets to reduce lag and ping times. It comes with both an EZ Mode as well as offering advanced options for those who know what they are doing. As we have seen on other boards, the Maximus Extreme V Formula comes with a mPCIe Combo card with dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. This board is also shattering records in Super PI 32M, 3DMark05 and Heaven to name a few.
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | June 5, 2012 - 05:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thunderbolt, motherboard, gigabyte, ga-z77x-up5 th, computex
Intel’s 10Gbps copper-based Thunderbolt technology is big at this year’s Computex show, and Gigabyte was not shy about showing off their Thunderbolt hardware. Not to be outdone by the Intel booth, Gigabyte had on display a Thunderbolt motherboard and no less than 13 pieces of Thunderbolt hardware!
The motherboard in question is Gigabyte’s GA-Z77X-UP5 TH which is an ATX form factor board that supports Intel Ivy Bridge processors, dual UEFI BIOS technology, SLI and CrossFireX multi-GPU setups, four DDR3 DIMM slots, six SATA 6Gbps ports, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and a single legacy PCI slot. It also, of course, features a Thunderbolt port.
The list of Thunderbolt-enabled peripherals was impressive – they only seemed to be missing Thunderbolt docks. The full list of devices is available in the table below, but Gigabyte had the Apple Thunderbolt display, several Thunderbolt external hard drives, a Thunderbolt SSD, Thunderbolt-equipped RAIDed NAS boxes from several vendors, and the active Thunderbolt cables themselves (from Sumitomo Electric).
|Blackmagic design||UltraStudio 3D||Video editing|
|Blackmagic design||Intensity Extreme||Video editing|
|LaCie||eSATA Hub Thunderbolt||Hub|
|Promise Technology, Inc||Pegasus R6||Storage|
|Seagate||GoFlex ThunderBolt Adapter||HDD Adapter|
|Seagate||GoFlex Desk ThunderBolt Adapter||HDD Adapter|
|Sonnos||Sonnet ECHO ExpressCard||ExpressCard|
|Sumitomo Electric||Thunderbolt Cable||Cable|
|Western Digital||My Book Thunderbolt Drive||Storage|
Although Thunderbolt is going to be a niche connection (mostly due to expense of cables and components vs the “good enough” and much cheaper USB 3.0 standard) for the foreseeable future, Computex 2012 is trying its best to drive home the idea that Thunderbolt is not going away. There are definitely more Thunderbolt devices than I had originally predicted to show up at the show in Taipei.
Introduction and Features
Courtesy of ASUS
ASUS continues to optimize their hardware for the overclocking and PC gaming crowds, but they are also catering to a niche audience looking for ultra stable and durable PC components. ASUS's Sabertooth X79 motherboard is their one of their latest products to bear the TUF series label and sport customized hardware and thermal components as well as a desert camo color scheme to complete the military look. This $329 motherboard comes with a five-year warranty, digital power management system, rugged chokes, solid capacitors, and MOSFETs that have been certified through third party, military-grade testing.
Courtesy of ASUS
The Sabertooth X79 also comes with a host of other features to improve SSD caching and give users quad GPU support for CrossfireX and SLI graphics card configurations. This board also includes a unique UEFI BIOS and natively supports 2TB hard drives with 64-bit operating systems. The USB BIOS "Flashback" feature also helps new users update their motherboard BIOS without entering the BIOS. ASUS states that users can use any USB storage device with the latest BIOS, push the BIOS button located on the back I/O panel for three seconds, and the board will automatically update the BIOS using standby power. Very cool!
Courtesy of ASUS
The back I/O panel on the Sabertooth X79 is no slouch either as it gives users a healthy amount of USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and eSATA 6GB/s ports for greater performance and expandability options. They also added a small fan over the back I/O panel as part of their "TUF Thermal Armor" feature that will help cool and exhaust heat from ther motherboard out the back of the chassis. Let's move on to the rest of the Saberbooth X79's features where we will get our first out-of-the-box look at this motherboard.
Subject: Motherboards | June 1, 2012 - 07:06 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, motherboard, fm2, ECS, desktop, a85f2-a
Taiwan-based motherboard maker ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) recently announced an ATX form factor motherboard based on the AMD A85X chipset. The most exciting feature is that this motherboard uses the AMD FM2 CPU socket, and it is ready to accept desktop Trinity processors!
The A85F2-A Deluxe motherboard comes equipped with two PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots for CrossfireX mutli-GPU setups, three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. With four DDR3 DIMM slots, the board can support up to 64GB of memory. It further supports memory up to 2300MHz (officially). It also features seven 6Gb/s SATA ports with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 support.
External expansion (rear IO) includes six USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, and an eSATA connector. The A85F2-A Deluxe also features HDMI, DVI, and VGA video outputs as well as 8 channel analog audio.
On the software side of things, the motherboard has GUI uEFI BIOS, ECS MIB X, and support for multiple languages. The FM2 socket based motherboard also comes bundled with Norton AntiVirus, Muzee, Cyberlink Media Suite, and ECS iEZ (which is the driver and BIOS update (and fan control) utility.
The board has undergone numerous in-house tests (though be sure to also check out independent reviews), and has been rated ECS Nonstop Certified. The company also includes gold plated contacts and solid capacitors with the motherboard. It has also been rated for ESD protection on the VGA, USB, LAN, and HDMI ports.
The Trinity processor is the best part about the motherboard, however as it enables several new technologies including up to four displays, AMD Turbo Core 3, Open CL 1.1, and hardware video decoding with AMD’s UVD engine.
In addition to the A85F2-A Deluxe, ECS will also be releasing four other FM2 socket based motherboards including the A75F2-A2, A75F2-M2, A55F2-A2, and A55F2-M3. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or availability. Expect to see more details on these boards soon (possibly at Computex 2012?).
Subject: Motherboards | May 30, 2012 - 01:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, gigabyte, Ivy Bridge, Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H
Who doesn’t love some good ‘ole fashioned overclocking? Professional overclocker HiCookie employed liquid nitrogen cooling to push an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 3770K processor to 7.03 GHz, breaking the previous world record. In addition, he managed to push four DIMMs of G.Skill Trident X DDR3 memory to an amazing 3.28 GHz!
Popular motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte announced today that its motherboards have been used to shatter the previous Ivy Bridge CPU and DDR3 RAM world records. Using liquid nitrogen and a Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H motherboard, the overclocker pushed the i7 3770K to 7.03 GHz. The overclock is only running on a single core (two threads), but it does show that at least some Ivy Bridge processors are capable of high overclocks despite the issues some CPUs are having. The CPUz validation and HWBot submission are available here: CPUz, HWBot.
The Z77-UD3H motherboard used to take Ivy Bridge to 7.03 GHz.
As far as memory overclocking, the company used it’s GA-Z77X-UD5H motherboard and four G.Skill Trident X DDR3 DIMMs rated for 2800 MHz to achieve 3,280 MHz speeds under heavy overclocking. Gigabyte claims that the feat was due in part to their memory tuning capabilities and motherboard engineering. It seems crazy to think that only a few years ago, people were running 800 MHz memory–and this overclocked RAM is currently running faster than my i7 860 processor!
Deputy Director of Motherboard Marketing Tim Handley stated in the press release that "these new world records highlight our belief that top notch quality and design deliver truly world-class, record breaking performance.” They also hinted that a new series of motherboards that will be released at Computex 2012 are showing even better overclocking abilities.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Gigabyte’s new world record to be broken. I hope that whoever does break it manages to do it with more than one core as well. The full press release is available here.
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