Redefining Price/Performance with AMD Motherboards
Motherboards are fascinating to me. They always have been. I remember voraciously reading motherboard reviews in the mid-90s. I simply could not get enough of them. Some new chipset from SiS, VIA, or ALi? I scoured the internet for information on them and what new features they would bring to the table. Back then motherboards did not have the retail presence they do now. The manufacturers were starting to learn to differentiate their products and cater to the enthusiasts who would not only buy and support these products, but also recommend them to friends/family/the world.
Today motherboards are really the foundation for any PC build. Choosing a motherboard is no longer just picking up some whitebox board that has a 440 BX chipset. Now users are much more active in debating what kind of features they need, what kind of feedback has this manufacturer received from consumers, what kind of ratings the board has on Amazon or Newegg. Features like build quality or overclocking performance sway users from company to company and product to product.
In the past 15 years or so we have seen some pretty rigid guidelines for pricing of motherboards. The super cheap “PC Chips” style motherboards existed below the $90 range. The decent, but unexciting motherboards with the bare minimum of features would go from $90 to $150. The $150 and beyond products were typically considered enthusiast class motherboards with expanded features, better build quality, and more robust power delivery options. Thankfully for consumers, this model is being shaken up by the latest generation of products from AMD.
MSI insures that everything is nicely packed and protected in their black and red box.
I mentioned in the previous Gigabyte G1.Sniper.A88X review that AMD and its partners do not have the luxury of offering a $150 and above FM2+ motherboard due to the nature (and pricing) of the latest FM2+ APUs. I am fairly sure the amount of people willing to spend $200 on a motherboard to house a $179 APU that seemingly overclocks as well on a cheap board as it does a more expensive one (meaning, not very well at all) is pretty low. If there is one bright side to the latest Kaveri APUs, it is that the graphics portion is extremely robust in both graphics and OpenCL applications. The hope for AMD and users alike is that HSA will in fact take off and provide a significant performance boost in a wide variety of applications that typically require quite a bit of horsepower.
Subject: Processors | July 8, 2014 - 11:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: intel atom, Pentium G3258, overclocking
Technically it is an Anniversary Edition Pentium processor but it reminds those of us who have been in the game a long time of the old Celeron D's which cost very little and overclocked like mad! The Pentium G3258 is well under $100 but the stock speed of 3.2GHz is only a recommendation as this processor is just begging to be overclocked. The Tech Report coaxed it up to 4.8GHz on air cooling, 100MHz higher than the i7-4790K they tested. A processor that costs about 20% of the price of the 4790K can almost meet its performance in Crysis 3 without resorting to even high end watercooling should make any gamer on a budget sit up an take notice. Sure you lose the extra cores and other features of the flagship processor but if you are primarily a gamer these are not your focus, you simply want the fastest processor you can get at a reasonable amount of money. Stay tuned for more information about the Anniversary Edition Pentium as there are more benchmarks to be run!
"This new Pentium is an unlocked dual-core CPU based on the latest 22-nm Haswell silicon. I ran out and picked one up as soon as they went on sale last week. The list price is only 72 bucks, but Micro Center had them on sale for $60. In other words, you can get a processor that will quite possibly run at clock speeds north of 4GHz—with all the per-clock throughput of Intel's very latest CPU core—for the price of a new Call of Shooty game.
Also, ours overclocks like a Swiss watchmaker on meth."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Pentium G3258 Dual Core Processor Gaming Performance @ Legit Reviews
- Intel Pentium G3258 Processor Review @ Legit Reviews
- Intel Core i7 4790K @ eTeknix
- Devil's Canyon Intel Core i7-4790K @ Legion Hardware
- Overclocking the Core i7-4790K @ The Tech Report
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Memory | July 6, 2014 - 07:53 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overclocking, memory, gigabyte
About a week ago, HWBOT posted a video of a new DDR3 memory clock record which was apparently beaten the very next day after the movie was published. Tom's Hardware reported on the first of the two, allegedly performed by Gigabyte on their Z97X-SOC Force LN2 Motherboard. The Tom's Hardware article also, erroneously, lists the 2nd place overclock (then 1st place) at 4.56 GHz when it was really half that, because DDR is duplex (2.28 GHz). This team posted their video with a recording of the overclock being measured by an oscilloscope. This asserts that they did not mess with HWBOT.
The now first place team, which managed 2.31 GHz on the same motherboard, did not go to the same level of proof, as far as I can tell.
This is the 2nd fastest overclock...
... but the fastest to be recorded with an oscilloscope that I can tell
Before the machine crashes to a blue screen, the oscilloscope actually reports 2.29 GHz. I am not sure why they took 10 MHZ off, but I expect it is because the system crashed before HWBOT was able to record that higher frequency. Either way, 2.28 GHz was a new world record, and verified by a video, whether or not it was immediately beat.
Tom's Hardware also claims that liquid nitrogen was used to cool the system, which brings sense to why they would use an LN2 board. It could have been chosen just for its overclocking features, but that would have been a weird tradeoff. The LN2 board doesn't have mounting points for a CPU air or water cooler. The extra features would have been offset by the need to build a custom CPU cooler, to not use liquid nitrogen with. It is also unclear how the memory was cooled, whether it was, somehow, liquid nitrogen-cooled too, or if it was exposed to the air.
FM2+ Has a High End?
AMD faces a bit of a quandary when it comes to their products. Their APUs are great at graphics, but not so great at general CPU performance. Their products are all under $200 for the CPU/APU but these APUs are not popular with the enthusiast and gaming crowd. Yes, they can make excellent budget gaming systems for those who do not demand ultra-high resolutions and quality settings, but it is still a tough sell for a lot of the mainstream market; the primary way AMD pushes these products is price.
Perhaps the irony here is that AMD is extremely competitive with Intel when it comes to chipset features. The latest A88X Fusion Control Hub is exceptionally well rounded with four native USB 3.0 ports, ten USB 2.0 ports, and eight SATA-6G ports. Performance of this chipset is not all that far off from what Intel offers with the Z87 chipset (USB and SATA-6G are slower, but not dramatically so). The chip also offers RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 support as well as a 10/100/1000 Ethernet MAC (but a physical layer chip is still required).
Now we get back to price. AMD is not charging a whole lot for these FCH units, even the top end A88X. I do not have the exact number, but it is cheap as compared to the competing Intel option. Intel’s chipset business has made money for the company for years, but AMD does not have that luxury. AMD needs to bundle effectively to be competitive, so it is highly doubtful that the chipset division makes a net profit at the end of the day. Their job is to help push AMD’s CPU and APU offerings as much as possible.
These low cost FCH chips allow motherboard manufacturers to place a lot of customization on their board, but they are still limited in what they can do. A $200+ motherboard simply will not fly with consumers for the level of overall performance that even the latest AMD A10 7850K APU provides in CPU bound workloads. Unfortunately, HSA has not yet taken off to leverage the full potential of the Kaveri APU. We have had big developments, just not big enough that the majority of daily users out there will require an AMD APU. Until that happens, AMD will not be viewed favorably when it comes to its APU offerings in gaming or high performance systems.
The quandary obviously is how AMD and its motherboard partners can create inexpensive motherboards that are feature packed, yet will not break the bank or become burdensome towards APU sales? The FX series of processors from AMD do have a bit more leeway as the performance of the high end FX-8350 is not considered bad, and it is a decent overclocker. That platform can sustain higher motherboard costs due to this performance. The APU side, not so much. The answer to this quandary is tradeoffs.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 12, 2014 - 10:17 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: overclocking, nvidia, gtx titan z, geforce
Earlier this week I posted a review of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Z graphics card, a dual-GPU Kepler GK110 part that currently sells for $3000. If you missed that article you should read it first and catch up but the basic summary was that, for PC gamers, it's slower and twice the price of AMD's Radeon R9 295X2.
During that article though I mentioned that the Titan Z had more variable clock speeds than any other GeForce card I had tested. At the time I didn't go any further than that since the performance of the card already pointed out the deficit it had going up against the R9 295X2. However, several readers asked me to dive into overclocking with the Titan Z and with that came the need to show clock speed changes.
My overclocking was done through EVGA's PrecisionX software and we measured clock speeds with GPU-Z. The first step in overclocking an NVIDIA GPU is to simply move up the Power Target sliders and see what happens. This tells the card that it is allowed to consume more power than it would normally be allowed to, and then thanks to GPU Boost technology, the clock speed should scale up naturally.
Click to Enlarge
And that is exactly what happened. I ran through 30 minutes of looped testing with Metro: Last Light at stock settings, with the Power Target at 112%, with the Power Target at 120% (the maximum setting) and then again with the Power Target at 120% and the GPU clock offset set to +75 MHz.
That 75 MHz offset was the highest setting we could get to run stable on the Titan Z, which brings the Base clock up to 781 MHz and the Boost clock to 951 MHz. Though, as you'll see in our frequency graphs below the card was still reaching well above that.
Click to Enlarge
This graph shows clock rates of the GK110 GPUs on the Titan Z over the course of 25 minutes of looped Metro: Last Light gaming. The green line is the stock performance of the card without any changes to the power settings or clock speeds. While it starts out well enough, hitting clock rates of around 1000 MHz, it quickly dives and by 300 seconds of gaming we are often going at or under the 800 MHz mark. That pattern is consistent throughout the entire tested time and we have an average clock speed of 894 MHz.
Next up is the blue line, generated by simply moving the power target from 100% to 112%, giving the GPUs a little more thermal headroom to play with. The results are impressive, with a much more consistent clock speed. The yellow line, for the power target at 120%, is even better with a tighter band of clock rates and with a higher average clock.
Finally, the red line represents the 120% power target with a +75 MHz offset in PrecisionX. There we see a clock speed consistency matching the yellow line but offset up a bit, as we have been taught to expect with NVIDIA's recent GPUs.
Click to Enlarge
The result of all this data comes together in the bar graph here that lists the average clock rates over the entire 25 minute test runs. At stock settings, the Titan Z was able to hit 894 MHz, just over the "typical" boost clock advertised by NVIDIA of 876 MHz. That's good news for NVIDIA! Even though there is a lot more clock speed variance than I would like to see with the Titan Z, the clock speeds are within the expectations set by NVIDIA out the gate.
Bumping up that power target though will help out gamers that do invest in the Titan Z quite a bit. Just going to 112% results in an average clock speed of 993 MHz, a 100 MHz jump worth about 11% overall. When we push that power target up even further, and overclock the frequency offset a bit, we actually get an average clock rate of 1074 MHz, 20% faster than the stock settings. This does mean that our Titan Z is pulling more power and generating more noise (quite a bit more actually) with fan speeds going from around 2000 to 2700 RPM.
At both 2560x1440 and 3840x2160, in the Metro: Last Light benchmark we ran, the added performance of the Titan Z does put it at the same level of the Radeon R9 295X2. Of course, it goes without saying that we could also overclock the 295X2 a bit further to improve ITS performance, but this is an exercise in education.
Does it change my stance or recommendation for the Titan Z? Not really; I still think it is overpriced compared to the performance you get from AMD's offerings and from NVIDIA's own lower priced GTX cards. However, it does lead me to believe that the Titan Z could have been fixed and could have offered at least performance on par with the R9 295X2 had NVIDIA been willing to break PCIe power specs and increase noise.
UPDATE (6/13/14): Some of our readers seem to be pretty confused about things so I felt the need to post an update to the main story here. One commenter below mentioned that I was one of "many reviewers that pounded the R290X for the 'throttling issue' on reference coolers" and thinks I am going easy on NVIDIA with this story. However, there is one major difference that he seems to overlook: the NVIDIA results here are well within the rated specs.
When I published one of our stories looking at clock speed variance of the Hawaii GPU in the form of the R9 290X and R9 290, our results showed that clock speed of these cards were dropping well below the rated clock speed of 1000 MHz. Instead I saw clock speeds that reached as low as 747 MHz and stayed near the 800 MHz mark. The problem with that was in how AMD advertised and sold the cards, using only the phrase "up to 1.0 GHz" in its marketing. I recommended that AMD begin selling the cards with a rated base clock and a typical boost clock instead only labeling with the, at the time, totally incomplete "up to" rating. In fact, here is the exact quote from this story: "AMD needs to define a "base" clock and a "typical" clock that users can expect." Ta da.
The GeForce GTX Titan Z though, as we look at the results above, is rated and advertised with a base clock of 705 MHz and a boost clock of 876 MHz. The clock speed comparison graph at the top of the story shows the green line (the card at stock) never hitting that 705 MHz base clock while averaging 894 MHz. That average is ABOVE the rated boost clock of the card. So even though the GPU is changing between frequencies more often than I would like, the clock speeds are within the bounds set by NVIDIA. That was clearly NOT THE CASE when AMD launched the R9 290X and R9 290. If NVIDIA had sold the Titan Z with only the specification of "up to 1006 MHz" or something like then the same complaint would be made. But it is not.
The card isn't "throttling" at all, in fact, as someone specifies below. That term insinuates that it is going below a rated performance rating. It is acting in accordance with the GPU Boost technology that NVIDIA designed.
Some users seem concerned about temperature: the Titan Z will hit 80-83C in my testing, both stock and overclocked, and simply scales the fan speed to compensate accordingly. Yes, overclocked, the Titan Z gets quite a bit louder but I don't have sound level tests to show that. It's louder than the R9 295X2 for sure but definitely not as loud as the R9 290 in its original, reference state.
Finally, some of you seem concerned that I was restrticted by NVIDIA on what we could test and talk about on the Titan Z. Surprise, surprise, NVIDIA didn't send us this card to test at all! In fact, they were kind of miffed when I did the whole review and didn't get into showing CUDA benchmarks. So, there's that.
A refresh for Haswell
Intel is not very good at keeping secrets recently. Rumors of a refreshed Haswell line of processors have been circulating for most of 2014. In March, it not only confirmed that release but promised an even more exciting part called Devil's Canyon. The DC parts are still quad-core Haswell processors built on Intel's 22nm process technology, but change a few specific things.
Intel spent some time on the Devil's Canyon Haswell processors to improve the packaging and thermals for overclockers and enthusiasts. The thermal interface material (TIM) that lies in between the die and the heat spreader has been updated to a next-generation polymer TIM (NGPTIM). The change should improve cooling performance of all currently shipping cooling solutions (air or liquid), but it is still a question just HOW MUCH this change will actually matter.
You can also tell from the photo comparison above that Intel has added capacitors to the back of the processor to "smooth" power delivery. This, in combination with the NGPTIM, should enable a bit more headroom for clock speeds with the Core i7-4790K.
In fact, there are two Devil's Canyon processors being launched this month. The Core i7-4790K will sell for $339, the same price as the Core i7-4770K, while the Core i5-4690K will sell for $242. The lower end option is a 3.5 GHz base clock, 3.9 GHz Turbo clock quad-core CPU without HyperThreading. While a nice step over the Core i5-4670K, it's only 100 MHz faster. Clearly the Core i7-4790K is the part everyone is going to be scrambling to buy.
Another interesting change is that both the Core i7-4790K and the Core i5-4690K enable support for both Intel's VT-d virtualization IO technology and Intel's TSX-NI transactional memory instructions. This makes them the first enthusiast-grade unlocked processors from Intel to support them!
As Intel states it, the Core i7-4790K and the Core i5-4690K have been "designed to be used in conjunction with the Z97 chipset." That being said, at least one motherboard manufacturer, ASUS, has released limited firmware updates to support the Devil's Canyon parts on Z87 products. Not all motherboards are going to be capable, and not all vendors are going to the spend the time to integrate support, so keep an eye on the support page for your specific motherboard.
The CPU itself looks no different on the top, save for the updated model numbering.
Core i7-4790K on the left, Core i7-4770K on the right
On the back you can see the added capacitors that help with stable overclocking.
The clock speed advantage that the Core i7-4790K provides over the Core i7-4770K should not be overlooked, even before overclocking is taken into consideration. A 500 MHz base clock boost is 14% higher in this case and in those specific CPU-limited tasks, you should see very high scaling.
Subject: Motherboards | May 17, 2014 - 03:15 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z97, video, pcper live, overclocking, motherboards, live, giveaway, gigabyte
With the official release of the new Intel Z97 chipset underway, we are elbow deep in new motherboard reviews and information. Our friends at Gigabyte are making a stop at the PC Perspective offices on May 21st to help educate our readers and viewers on all the changes brought about. This includes the new technologies of the Z97 chipset as well as the Gigabyte-specific features added throughout the multiple motherboard lines. We'll be live streaming the event and of course will archive it for those of you unable to be there.
If you want to catch up on what has been happening in the motherboard world, you should read Morry's Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 Black Edition review.
Gigabyte Z97 Motherboard Live Stream
10am PT / 1pm ET - May 21st
Be sure you stop by and join in the show! Questions will be answered, prizes will be given out and fun will be had! Who knows, maybe we can break some stuff live as well?? On hand to give away to those of you joining the live stream, we'll have a sweet Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 3 motherboard!!
Methods for winning will be decided closer to the event, but if you are watching live, you'll be included. And we'll ship anywhere in the world!
We want the event to be interactive, so we want your questions. We'll of course being paying attention to the chat room on our live page but you'll have better luck if you submit your questions about the Gigabyte Z97 products before hand, in the comments section below. You don't have to register to ask and we'll have the ability to read them beforehand!
Subject: Motherboards | May 14, 2014 - 05:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: asus, ASUS ROG, giveaway, live, motherboards, overclocking, pcper live, video, z97
Last week we received a visit from none other than ASUS' own JJ Guerrero, motherboard master extraordinaire. During a live stream hosted on http://pcper.com/live we did a walk through of basically every Z97 motherboard that the company is launching this month. That includes the mainstream series of boards like the Z97-A and Z97-Deluxe, the ROG (Republic of Gamers) series, the TUF series (Sabertooth!) and even the Z97-WS Workstation board.
Not only did we look at motherboard features and hardware performance but we also had demonstrations of the new ASUS features like 5-Way Optimization, AutoTuning, Keybot and more. It was pretty compelling content and users thinking about upgrading their platforms in the near future should without a doubt look at the videos we have posted below.
Seriously though, we streamed for more than 5 hours.
As a result we have a collection of five videos to share with everyone from our PC Perspective YouTube channel. Enjoy!
(PS - If you want to check out our first review of the ASUS Z97-Deluxe, please do so. It turned out to be quite impressive.)
ASUS Z97 Mainstream Motherboards Overview
ASUS Z97 Feature Demonstration - AutoTuning, FanXpert III, 5-Way Optimization, UEFI
ASUS Z97 ROG Series Overview and Keybot, Sonic Studio Demos
ASUS Z97 TUF Series Overview - Sabertooth and Gryphon
ASUS Z97-WS Workstation Overview
Subject: Motherboards | May 8, 2014 - 03:46 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z97, video, pcper live, overclocking, motherboards, live, giveaway, ASUS ROG, asus
Don't let me shock you with this one - the Intel Z97 chipset is a thing. And our good friends at ASUS are stopping by the offices this week to tell us ALL ABOUT the new motherboards they have built based around said chipset. If you have been paying attention then you'll know we posted a review of the brand spanking new ASUS Z97-Deluxe motherboard on our website last week.
ASUS Z97 Motherboard Live Stream
10am PT / 1pm ET - May 8th
Be sure you stop by and join in the show! Questions will be answered, prizes will be given out and fun will be had! Who knows, maybe we can break some stuff live as well?? On hand to give away to those of you joining the live stream, we'll have these prizes:
- 1 x Z97-A Motherboard
- 1 x Maximus VII Hero
Methods for winning will be decided closer to the event, but if you are watching live, you'll be included. And we'll ship anywhere in the world!
ASUS and I also want the event to be interactive, so we want your questions. We'll of course being paying attention to the chat room on our live page but you'll have better luck if you submit your questions about the ASUS Z97 products before hand, in the comments section below. You don't have to register to ask and we'll have the ability to read them beforehand!
I'll update this post with more information after the reviews and stories start to hit, so keep an eye here for more details!!
So Many MHz, So Little Time...
If you've looked at memory for your system lately you've likely noticed a couple of things. First, memory prices have held steady for the past few months, but are still nearly double what they were a little over a year ago. Second, now that DDR3 has been a mature standard for years, there is a vast selection of RAM from many vendors, all with nearly identical specs. The standard has settled at 1600MHz for DDR3, and most desktop memory is programmed for this speed. Granted, many modules run at overclocked speeds, and there are some out there with pretty outlandish numbers, too - and it’s one of those kits that we take a look at today.
Hardly subtle, the Kingston HyperX 'Predator' dual channel kit for review today is clocked at a ridiculous 1066MHz OVER the 1600MHz standard. That's right, this is 2666MHz memory! It seems like such a big jump would have to provide increased system performance across the board, and that's exactly what we're going to find out.
We all want to get the most out of any component, and finding the best option at a given price is part of planning any new build or upgrade. While every core part is sold at a particular speed, and most can be overclocked, there are still some qualifying factors that make selecting the fastest part for your budget a little more complicated. Speed isn't based on MHz alone – as with processors, where it often comes down to number of cores, how many instructions per clock cycle a given CPU can churn out, etc.