Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 6, 2012 - 05:33 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 - 08:04 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 - 10:06 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 - 04:12 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.
Subject: Motherboards | May 23, 2012 - 05:15 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z77, thunderbolt, msi, motherboard
The MSI Z77A-GD80 motherboard that was first shown off at CES 2012 has officially launched today. The new motherboard is based on the Z77 chipset and supports Intel’s latest 22nm Ivy Bridge processors as well as the new Thunderbolt interface (a demo of Thunderbolt can be found here).
The MSI board further utilizes their “Military Class III” components, UEFI / Windows GUI ClickBIOS II firmware, and their automatic overclocking OC Genie II software. The board also features four DIMM slots for up to 32GB of DDR3 2800MHz memory, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, four PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, four SATA II and four SATA III. It also supports two-way SLI or three-way Crossfire for multi-GPU setups and has an additional USB 3.0 header for expansion cards or front panel ports.
Rear IO includes 4 USB 2.0 ports, a combination PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, digital and optical audio outputs, HDMI, Gigabit LAN, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA output, and 6 port analog audio output.Last but not least the Thunderbolt port, resting under the VGA output. MSI is pushing the new transfer technology hard in the press release because of the super fast transfer rates (theoretically up to 10Gbps).
Unfortunately, there is no word on pricing or availability for this motherboard (yet). Stay tuned to future updates as more information is released. More photos of and specification details for the new Thunderbolt equipped motherboard can be found here.
Introduction and Features
Courtesy of Gigabyte
We are still making our way through an avalanche of X79 motherboards on our test bench that leverages the power of Sandy Bridge-E CPUs, but we didn't want to wait any longer on powering up Gigabyte's GA-X79-UD5 extended ATX motherboard. Gigabyte has really stepped up their game by offering optimized LGA 2011 for no-nonsense PC builders, hardware enthusiasts, serious overclockers, and even FPS/RPG PC gamers. Our review of the X79-UD5 is going to evaluate every aspect of the board's ability to handle automatic and manual overclocking, DX10/DX11 gaming, and other synthetic and real-world benchmarks.
Courtesy of Gigabyte
The Gigabyte X79-UD5 motherboard takes full advantage of the new features available with the LGA 2011 platform and X79 Express chipset like the abiliy to use up to 64GBs of quad-channel memory via eight DIMMs and support for dual and triple AMD CrossfireX or NVIDIA SLI graphics card configurations for multi-monitor, high-definition gaming. These features should make ultra enthusiasts grin from ear to ear because they will probably be the ones who tandem this board with an Intel Core i7-3960X processor and dual NVIDIA GTX 680s graphics cards that were just released earlier this week. The $299 price tag on this board also places it right in the middle of the pack of LGA 2011 motherboards available on Newegg and other vendors.
Introduction and Features
Courtesy of MSI
My first Sandy Bridge-E motherboard review of 2012 showcases the talents of Intel's latest i7-3820 3.6GHz quad-core processor and MSI's X79A-GD65 (8D) ATX motherboard. The enhancements included in the LGA 2011 platform combined with MSI's unique optimizations to the board's overclocking, gaming, and power management capabilities should make for an exciting testing experience.
Courtesy of MSI
MSI currently has six motherboards that support the LGA 2011 socket and the X79A-GD65 (8D) is considered one of their higher-end offerings at $289.99. This board targets users who want to take advantage of three PCI-E x16 slots for AMD CrossfireX or NVIDIA SLI configurations. It also gives users the ability to use up to two SATA 6GB/s and four SATA 3GB/s devices courtesy of the X79 chipset. MSI also used a second ASMedia controller to add two more SATA 6GB/s ports to the board. All of these SATA3 ports support Intel's Rapid Storage Technology, but the SATA3 devices managed by the X79 chipset can only handle RAID 0 and 1 versus the ASMedia chip that handles RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.
Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 05:34 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wireless router, motherboard, audio, asus
At CES 2012 this week, popular motherboard manufacturer Asus showed off quite a few products. Among the new products, the company is releasing a wireless gigabit router, wireless repeater and Ethernet bridge, a new motherboard, and the Republic of Gamers (ROG) Xonar Phoebus audio sound card set.
The two new wireless products are the Asus RT-N66U, which is a dual band Wireless N Gigabit router, and the Asus EA-N66 Wi-Fi Ethernet bridge. The RT-N66U is a dual band Wireless N router that promises up to 900 Mbps over Wi-Fi thanks to two simultaneous Wireless N streams of 450 Mbps maximum each. One stream is done at 2.4 GHz and on the other stream data is broadcast and received on the 5 GHz spectrum. Asus has bundled the router with 26 dbm Wi-Fi amplifiers to extend the network's range. Other hardware includes three Wi-Fi antennas on the rear of the device, a four port Gigabit Ethernet switch, WAN port, two USB ports, power button, power input, and reset button. The front and top of the router shows off a stylish black pattern, blue status LEDs, and the Asus RT-N66U "Dark Night" name/logo while the back/bottom of the router contain plenty of ventilation ports and a stand to hold the router vertical. On the software side of things, the router features QoS, or Quality of Service, traffic management that the company claims can address up to 300,000 data sessions, eight SSIDs (for setting up guest networks, for example), and the company's ASUSWRT firmware. Downloading files without needing a PC and remote management of USB devices are also features.
The EA-N66 is a wireless Ethernet bridge and Wi-Fi access point. Under the hood of the rather (shall we say) stylized design, it is capable of using either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz wireless spectrum in 450 Mbps bands. Asus claims that when the repeater is paired with their new router, "the EA-N66 gives gamers incredible network speeds and coverage for multi-player gaming sessions."
As Asus demonstrated for us at CES, their new Rampage IV Formula motherboard features a SupremeFX III sound card chip connected to the rear audio ports by traces on their own PCB layer. This "moat" of traces (that light up red, even!) being on a separate PCB layer helps to eliminate interference caused by the other electrical components on the board. Now, you get isolated sound without needing to take up a PCI-E slot. In the video below, Asus shows off the feature.
The Rampage IV motherboard also comes with a bundled headphone amplifier dubbed the ThunderFX. It provides up to 120 dB of amplification and can support up to 600 Ohm high end headphones. The amplifier is EMI shielded and with ENC support, the ThunderFX has dedicated channels for headphone audio and in-game voice chat. Further, the box is compatible with both PCs and game consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360), and enables regular PC gaming headsets to be used with the consoles. Last up, it has three audio presets for FPS, RTS, and Racing games.
Asus is also showing off the Xonar Phoebus sound card and breakout box for gaming under the company's Republic of Gamers brand. The set includes a PCI-E sound card capable of driving 600 Ohm headphones and a SNR (signal to noise ratio) of 118 dB. The card itself is shielding using, according to Asus, "carefully selected materials and perfectly shielded" to block EMI (electromagnetic interference) and and isolate itself from other issues caused by the other components in the case. The other piece of hardware is the Xonar Phoebus control box that integrates array microphones to reduce environmental noise when using voice chat and VOIP calls by "up to 50 percent." It further allows volume control and has Dolby Home Theater V4 surround sound and the GX3.0 gaming engine to enhance headphone audio when gaming.
More information can be found here. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or availability.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Motherboards | January 5, 2012 - 01:44 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x79, msi, motherboard, big bang II, big bang 2
MSI is hoping to make a "big bang" with their new flagship Big Bang-XPower II X79 based motherboard. The board itself is full sized ATX, and sports a dark matte gray PCB with glossy black connectors and heat-sinks. The rear IO is aluminum and the PCH heat-sink has six copper heat-pipes (or supa' pipes as we like to call them around the office). The board has quite a few overclocker and enthusiast friendly features.
Specifically, the new Big Bang II is based on the X79 chipset and is ready to accept a Sandy Bridge-E (Socket 2011) processor. A total of 8 DIMM slots makes for some quad channel goodness, and MSI claims that the board will be able to support up to 128 GB (RAM Drive anyone!?) of RAM when 16GB DIMMS become available. Further, the motherboard is PCI-E 3.0 compliant and is ready for 4-way SLI or Crossfire multi-gpu setups in addition to sound cards and RAID controllers thanks to its seven total PCI-E expansion slots.
All this kit is going to need quite a bit of power, and MSI has gone so far as to brand their motherboard with the "Xtreme Power Design," which seems to indicate they mean serious business. More than the name, the two 8 pin and 1 6 pin (in addition to traditional 24 pin ATX power) connectors for the CPU and Graphics/PCI-E 3 devices respectively. The two CPU power connectors deliver 300 watts while the VGA connector can provide an additional 150 watts of power to compliment the total maximum power draw of 770 watts (!). (Needless to say, I would need a new PSU to push this board to its max). Managing this power is a 22 phase PWM "with hybrid design power" using solid and Hi-c capacitors. The VRM area of the board is massive, in other words.
The overclocker friendly features include voltage check pins for CPU, RAM, and chipset, and a backup BIOS with accompanying switch. Further, a Direct Overclock button to adjust the CPU BCLK (in intervals as small as .1MHz), and power and reset buttons on the board itself are also included. Last up is a feature called PCI-E CeaseFire, which allows users to completely turn off graphics cards without needing to physically remove them from the motherboard by using a series of switches next to the Direct OC buttons. MSI claims that the Big Bang-XPower II is "the optimal weapon for enthusiast overclockers to break world records."
Rear IO includes a PS/2 port, six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet, six analog audio jacks, S/PDIF optical and coaxial audio outputs, a Clear CMOS button, and a Firewire port.
Needless to say, this board boasts quite a few features! More information can be found here.