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.
Subject: Motherboards | October 21, 2011 - 01:46 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xeon, x79, SB-E, sandy bridge-e, motherboard, Intel, evga
Jacob Freeman of EVGA Google + fame recently posted a teaser photo of a certain shiny piece of X79 chipset baked silicon in the form of a new SR3 Super Record series motherboard. This monster of a board is packed to the brim with features, and mid tower cases need not apply.
Starting at the top of the board and working our way down, we are presented with not one but two socket 2011 Sandy Bridge-E Xeon processor sockets! One processor will have access to eight DDR3 DIMM slots while the other will have access to four DDR3 DIMM slots. While the RAM configuration may seem odd, EVGA wanted to make the transition from the boards SR2 predecesor as easy as possible, by allowing users to transfer all 12, triple channel DIMMs to the new SR3 motherboard. When all 12 RAM slots are populated, the board will run in triple channel mode, and when four or eight slots are populated, the motherboard will utilize the new quad channel interface. The RAM will be fed power via a eight phase PWM (pulse width modulation) circuitry. The board also features two eight pin EPS and two six pin PCI-E connectors, and seven PCI-E 3.0 slots that are all capable of running at least PCI-E 3.0 x8 and four of them are capable of providing PCI-E 3.0 x16 bandwidth, more than enough for even the beefiest SLI setup.
On the storage and IO front, the SR3 motherboard has 14 SATA ports, HD Audio via six 3.5mm jacks, USB 3.0 ports (the total amount is unclear), and eSATA support. The bottom right corner of the board lies a handy diagnostic screen to report error codes. Further, the motherboard will come with the new UEFI BIOS. Mr. Freeman states that the x79 motherboard is fully furnished with solid state capacitors from Sanyo (specifically POSCAP).
In short, this motherboard is a total beast. Please excuse me as I try to remove my jaw from the floor cartoon style.
Subject: Motherboards | August 30, 2011 - 07:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Utility, p67, motherboard, Intel, gigabyte, bios
According to Tech Power UP, Gigabyte recently released a Windows tool that allows users to change the SATA controller mode without digging into the BIOS. The SATA controller mode relates to how the controller on the motherboard or add-on card communicates with the hard drive or SSD. Users will be able to choose from legacy IDE, AHCI, and RAID modes. From the brightly colored Windows tool, users can change the setting accordingly. The utility will then write the setting to the CMOS and prompt the user to reboot the computer so that the change can take effect.
The tool will work with any Gigabyte motherboards with the Intel H61, H67, P67, or Z68 chipsets. Further, the utility will run on both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. It is available to download from here. The package comes as a zip file containing an executable that does not need to be installed, which is a welcome touch.
While the Gigabyte Disk Mode Switch tool will make changing the setting easier than digging through the BIOS, it effectively accomplishes the same thing. What this means from a practical standpoint is that the Windows tool for changing the SATA mode suffers from the same issues that changing it in the BIOS does; mainly that the (Windows) operating system does not like such drastic changes and the user may encounter problems with Windows recognizing the drive and/or assigning the proper drivers. This is an issue primarily when changing the SATA mode of the drive that the operating system is installed on. While there are some registry tweaks that promise to help smooth the process, it is generally recommend to ensure the proper SATA mode is set before installing Windows onto the drive. Therefore, this tool’s usefulness is somewhat questionable.
Have you encountered any issues in changing the SATA mode post-install? Is this gigabyte tool useful or just another piece of manufacturer "helpware" that DIYers will never use?
Subject: Motherboards | August 9, 2011 - 06:42 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, ECS, APU, amd, A55
According to Tech Connect, ECS is about to release three ECS FM1 motherboards powered by the lighter A55 chipset to compliment the company’s higher end A75 boards. The new A55 based motherboards will be known as the A55F-A, A55F-M2, and the A55F-M3, the first being ATX and the remaining two boards being micro-ATX.
The new motherboards will support AMD’s A Series APUs and will feature one PCI-E x16 slot, Gigabit Ethernet, and one VGA connection. The standard ATX sized A55F-A will further have four DDR3 DIMM slots, five SATA II 3Gb/s ports, 12 USB 2.0 ports, and HDMI and DVI video connectors. The A55F-M2 on the other hand with receive two DDR3 DIMM slots, six SATA 3Gb/s ports, 12 USB 2.0 ports, and HDMI and optional DVI connections. Lastly, the A55F-M3 has two DDR3 DIMM slots, four SATA 3Gb/s ports, and eight USB 2.0 ports.
More photos of the new boards can be seen here. Price and availability of the new A55 chipset motherboards have not yet been released.
Subject: Motherboards | July 21, 2011 - 11:25 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sapphire, motherboard, fusion, APU, amd
Sapphire Technologies, most popular for their line of AMD discrete graphics cards, has recently unveiled a new ATX motherboard supporting AMD’s A-Series APUs. Dubbed the Sapphire Pure Platinum A75, the board supports the latest interface standards including SATA 3 6Gbps, USB 3.0, PCI-E 2, and USB 2.0. Further, the board supports Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth, and four dual channel memory sockets.
The Pure Platinum A75 motherboard is a full ATX affair that is chock full of expansion slots. Four dual channel DIMM slots for DDR3 memory, two PCI-E 2 x1 slots, one PCI-E 2 x4 slot, one PCI-E 2 x16 slot, and two PCI slots along the bottom of the board. On the storage front, the motherboard contains five SATA 3 6Gbps ports with ACHI and RAID support and a single SATA 2 3Gbps port that is connected to the rear header and is used as an eSATA connection.
Other features of the board include Dual Graphics support when the APU is paired with a AMD HD 6600 or HD 6500 series for a boost in graphics performance by using both the discrete card and APU together. A single digital debug display, push buttons for resetting the BIOS, starting, and restarting the system, Dual BIOS support, and voltage test pads that allow voltage readings of the APU and memory circuits. Further, the motherboard uses gold plated connectors on the USB 3.0 and LAN ports in addition to solid capacitors and Sapphire Diamond Black chokes in the VRM area.
Rear IO of the board includes Display Port, DVI, HDMI, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR antenna, one eSATA port, and one PS/2 keyboard/mouse combination port. The board also included the standard fair of audio ports, supporting up to 7.1 audio.
According to Sapphire, the board is currently in production and will be available through the usual channel partners and retailers. You can check out more photos of the motherboard here.
Subject: Motherboards | June 29, 2011 - 08:08 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: z68, pcie 3.0, motherboard, Intel
ASRock recently unveiled a new enthusiast Z68 chipset based motherboard supporting the PCI-Express 3.0 standard. Dubbed the Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3, the company claims that when coupled with the upcoming Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs, “users are assured to enjoy the full power of PCIe Gen3 standard” as a powerful gaming motherboard.
The board further features the LGA 1155 socket, four DDR3 DIMM slots capable of 2133 Mhz, two PCI-Express 3.0 slots, one PCI-Express 2.0 x16, one PCIe x1 slot, and two PCI slots. IO standards include the latest SATA III 6 Gbps, Intel’s SRT (Smart Response Technology) caching, and USB 3.0. The board is further capable of supporting either NVIDIA Quad SLI or AMD CrossfireX technology. An on-board PLX PEX8608 chip has been added to allow the PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 3.0 ports to coexist at their native speeds.
Rear connections include a special Fatal1ty mouse port that users can adjust the polling rate of to anywhere between 125 Hz to 1000 Hz, eight USB ports (likely four USB 2.0, four USB 3.0), VGA output, two HDMI outputs, Digital audio out, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and 7.1 channel THX TruStudio audio outputs.
The ASRock board is ready to get its game on according to the company who stated that “is the world's first motherboard that supports PCIe 3.0 and goes on sale now.”
AMD Unleashes the 990FX: Paving the way for Bulldozer
Word of the AMD 990FX chipset first came around the end of last year. Speculation was brisk as to what new features it would bring, and when exactly it would help to usher in the age of Bulldozer to the world. Most thought that it would be a shrink of the then current 890FX, and the new SB950 southbridge would have improvements to the SATA 6G controller, as well as a native USB 3.0 implementation. Today we finally get to see the reality of the situation. It is not groundbreaking, nor is it altogether exciting, but it is certainly interesting.
The 990FX and SB950 chips are identical to the previous 890FX and SB850. They are the same silicon. For those hoping for new technology will be disappointed. But all is not lost! AMD did increase the HyperTransport specification from 3.0 to 3.1, which allows the HT bus to run at 6.4 GTPS as compared to the older 5.2 GTPS. This is in place to allow the upcoming Bulldozer chips to run the northbridge portion of the chip up to 3.2 GHz, and to give the CPU more bandwidth between the different busses on the board (eg. SATA, USB 3.0, and PCI-E connections).