The David of Z97 motherboards, Gigabyte's GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5

Subject: Motherboards | April 15, 2015 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged: z97, SFF, gigabyte, GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5

You could argue that the Z97 chipset is not the freshest but for serious gamers that are on a budget and for whom space is at a premium the $130 Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-GAMING 5 is a smart choice.  Four memory slots which support up to DDR3-3100, four PCI-e slots, an M.2 PCIe slot and even a SATA Express port mean you can support newer technology without breaking the bank, especially if you plan incremental upgrades.  It also has onboard Realtek ALC1150 7.1 surround sound with support for the Creative X-Fi MB3 and a swapable TI Burr Brown OPA2134 OP-AMP along with S/PDIF out also make this a good board for a fledgling sound artist.  Check out the full review at Modders Inc; you don't have to be big nor expensive to provide a long list of features.

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"Long are the days of the SUPER TOWER chassis being the king of the gamers den, in the past few years the SFF (Small Form Factor) has taken over the market. This is not only due to the compact size of mATX and ITX but that both form factors are continuing to squeeze performance into every bit of their tiny …"

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Motherboards

Source: Modders Inc

Gigabyte's Z97X Gaming 7, a decent motherboard all around

Subject: Motherboards | March 30, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z97X Gaming 7, z97, Intel

The Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 7 motherboard offers a nice balance between price and performance, at $172 it is a bit pricey but when on sale for around the $150 mark it is a great deal.  The onboard audio provided by Realtek's ALC1150 produced very good sound and while the Qualcomm Killer NIC E2201 doesn't offer benefits over a more generic NIC there are those who prefer the software which comes with it.  The board overclocked very well for [H] manually, providing noticeable boosts with solid performance, however the EasyTune software provided them with some issues.  Check out the full review right here.

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"GIGABYTE's Z97X Gaming 7 promises solid overclocking and performance. The feature list for the Z97X Gaming 7 is long and includes gamer focused features like a dedicated audio amplifier, Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 support and more. We've had mixed results with the GIGABYTE lately, so the real question is; does it work?"

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Motherboards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

MSI Unveils First AMD AM3+ Motherboard With USB 3.1

Subject: Motherboards | March 25, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, usb, msi, amd, am3+, 10Gbps

Last week, MSI launched a slew of new USB 3.1 equipped motherboards. Today, the company is releasing more details on one of the AMD-based products: the MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition. This upcoming motherboard is geared towards gamers using AMD FX (AM3+) processors and supports multi-GPU setups (both SLI and CrossFire). The 970A SLI Krait Edition has a black and white color scheme with rich expansion options and large aluminum heatsinks over the VRMs and northbridge.

MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition Motherboard.png

The AM3+ processor socket sits to the left of four DDR3 memory slots. Six expansion slots take up the majority of the lower half of the board and include two PCI-E x16, two PCI-E x1, and two PCI slots. Six SATA ports occupy the bottom-right corner with four at 90-degree angles. MSI is using its latest “Military Class 4” capacitors and other hardware along with gold audio traces connecting the rear IO audio jacks to the onboard sound chip.

Speaking of rear IO, you will find the following ports on the 970A SLI Krait Edition.

  • 2 x PS/2
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.1
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 6 x Analog Audio

The main feature that MSI is pushing with this new board is the addition of two USB 3.1 (Type A) ports to the AMD platform. This is the first AM3+ motherboard to support the faster standard – up to 10 Gbps using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller – while also being backwards compatible with older USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices.

MSI has not yet released pricing or availability, but expect it to launch soon for less than $100.

Josh's Thoughts

Few specifications have been released about this board so far, as well as no timetable for the launch.  It is a finished product and should be out "soon" as Tim mentioned.

There are a few things we can gather from the photo of the board.  The audio solution is not nearly as robust as we saw with the 970 Gaming motherboard.  I doubt it will have the headphone amplification, and the filtering is going to be less due to fewer caps used.  The audio is still physically isolated on the PCB, but it has not received the same focus as what we saw on 970 Gaming.

It looks like it is a full 8+2 power phase implementation, as it is taking up more space on the board than the 6+2 unit on the 970 Gaming did.  This should allow for a greater selection of CPUs to be used, as well as potentially greater overclocking ability.  It does not feature a separate SATA controller, so all 6 SATA ports on the board are handled by the SB950.  There are no external e-SATA ports, which really is not a big deal as those are rarely used.

This looks to be a nice addition to the fading AM3+ market.  For those holding onto their AMD builds and wish to upgrade, this looks to be an inexpensive option with next generation connectivity.  MSI looks to have paid the licensing fee necessary to support SLI, plus they utilize the same AMD 970 chipset on the 970 Gaming that is not supposed to be able to split the 1 x 16X PEG connection to 2 x 8X slots.  Some interesting design and chippery are required to that.

Source: MSI

When is an SoC not an SoC? When it is the GIGABYTE X99-SOC Champion

Subject: Motherboards | March 20, 2015 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, x99-soc champion, Intel, X99

Relatively new to the market is the $360ish Gigabyte X-99-SOC Champion, expensive compared to previous Intel boards but a decent price for an X99 board.  It has four PCIe 16x slots of which two can only run at 8x maximum as well as three PCIe 1x slots, a single M.2 and a single SEx connector as well as a half dozen SATA 6Gbps ports which can run in RAID and another 4 which are only able to run in AHCI mode.  There are no C-type connectors but there are a plethora of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports as well as a Thunderbolt header.  This is definitely a board for power users and manual overclockers as you can see in Hardware Canucks review here

You can also expect to see Morry's review of this Gigabyte board in the very near future.

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"GIGABYTE's X99-SOC Champion seems to have everything it takes to become a legendary motherboard. It has high end overclocking built into its bones and a low price but will that lead to success?"

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

MSI Announces New AMD And Intel Motherboards With USB 3.1

Subject: Motherboards | March 14, 2015 - 12:33 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, msi, FX, atx, asmedia asm1352r, amd, am3+

MSI recently announced a torrent of new motherboards that feature USB 3.1 ports. The refreshed lineup includes ten Intel models and, in an interesting twist, two AMD motherboards. MSI’s new motherboards support USB 3.1 by using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller that interfaces with the system via two PCI-E 2.0 lanes (PCI-E 2.0 x2). The controller is rated for the full 10Gbps USB 3.1 speeds. 

MSI X99 Z97 990FA 970A Motherboards WIth USB 3-1.png

It is worth noting that the boards use the traditional USB Type-A connector with one exception. The MSI Z97A Gaming 6 features the new reversible Type-C connector in the form of a single Type-C USB 3.1 port on the rear I/O panel. The other boards have at least two USB 3.1 ports on their rear I/O panels.

The new USB 3.1-supporting lineup is listed below:

  • AMD (970 chipset):
    • SLI Krait Edition
  • AMD (990FX chipset):
    • 990FXA Gaming
  • Intel (Z97 chipset):
    • Z97A Gaming 9 ACK
    • Z97A Gaming 7
    • Z97A Gaming 6
  • Intel (X99 chipset):
    • X99A Gaming 9 ACK
    • X99A Gaming 7
    • X99A Xpower AC
    • X99A Mpower
    • X99A SLI Krait Edition
    • X99A SLI Plus
    • X99A Raider

These new boards are all essentially minor refreshes of previous versions that add the Asmedia controller and faster USB 3.1 ports. You can expect all the multi-GPU and overclocking-friendly features to remain present on these new motherboards.

MSI USB 3.1 Motherboards.jpg

MSI's X99 Xpower AC (left) and Z97A Gaming 9 ACK (right) now support 10Gbps USB 3.1 ports.

AM3+ is still technically AMD's enthusiast platform, but it is still somewhat odd that MSI chose to add USB 3.1 support to AM3+ motherboards with AMD’s aging 990FX and 970 chipsets rather than FM2+ boards with the newer A88X chipset. On the other hand, you can now add much faster external storage to your AM3+ system to give it a bit more life. 

There is no word on pricing but expect the USB 3.1 models to come at a slight premium over the older models in each respective series.

Source: MSI

Report: ASRock to Reveal Mini-ITX Haswell-E Motherboard at CeBIT - The X99E-ITX/ac

Subject: Motherboards | March 13, 2015 - 11:34 PM |
Tagged: X99, mini-itx, Haswell-E, CeBIT 2015, asrock

AnandTech is reporting that motherboard maker ASRock will be showing off a new Haswell-E motherboard at CeBIT 2015, and it would represent an industry first as this new X99 board is in the mini-ITX form factor.

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Cramming an X99 system into mini-ITX does limit the platform, as the form-factor's two-DIMM limitation means this can only support dual-channel memory. The other obvious penalty is the single x16 PCI Express slot, though ASRock has incorporated an M.2 connector that may be using a x4 connection (the article points out the "Ultra M.2" listing on the box).

The LGA 2011-3 socket is apparently a slim version according to the report, but it still dominates the tiny motherboard. Dual Intel NICs and included 802.11ac WiFi make this very capable from a networking standpoint, but with limited expansion and reduced memory bandwidth this will appeal to only a limited number of users. Very compact micro-ATX enclosures and existing X99 motherboards in the mATX form-factor can already provide a platform for a very powerful small build, but there is something to be said for the engineering that has made the move the mini-ITX possible.

asrock-x99e-itx-ac-plyta-glowna-3.jpg

Image credit: SweClockers

One item of interest is the inclusion of a heatsink and fan with the motherboard, and given the unusual layout and socket design it is unclear what the aftermarket cooler support might be like with this motherboard. We should see further details soon as CeBIT 2015 kicks off next week.

Source: AnandTech

ASUS Announces UEFI Update with Socketed 5th-Gen Intel Broadwell Support for 9 Series Motherboards

Subject: Processors | March 10, 2015 - 10:20 AM |
Tagged: uefi, motherboards, lga 1150, Intel, Broadwell, bios, asus

ASUS has announced that all current Intel 9 Series motherboards will support the upcoming 5th-Generation Intel Broadwell LGA 1150 CPUs with an UEFI update.

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We reported last week that Intel’s 5th-generation Broadwell CPU had been demonstrated at GDC using Intel’s Iris Pro graphics, though official details about the new LGA versions of Broadwell are not yet public. The desktop variants will no doubt use the same 14nm process technology of the current BGA parts, and it has been rumored that the new CPUs will initially launch in both Core i5 and i7 versions, with the potential for Core i3 and Pentium branded parts to follow (though any potential product information is mere speculation at this point).

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming LGA 5th-Generation CPUs will be able offer any higher perfomance for desktop users compared to existing Haswell parts (such as the i7-4790K), or if there will even be unlocked processors. Considering Broadwell is a mobile-focused part designed for efficency and lower power consumption the chips could offer a compelling solution for small form-factor computers such as HTPCs, as they will presumably provide lower heat and higher IPC than existing parts.

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The UEFI updates will go live later today (some updates have already been released) and include all ASUS motherboard models with Z97 and H97 chipsets.

Source: ASUS

Gigabyte's Super OverClocking X99 board

Subject: Motherboards | March 9, 2015 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: x99 soc champion, X99, gigabyte

There are a lot of features on the Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion and if you want Haswell-E and can afford DDR4 it is currently on sale at Amazon for $310, expensive but in range with other flagship boards.  It is capable of supporting triple and quad GPU setups, has 10 SATA 6Gbps ports, a SEx port and even M.2 along with a half dozen USB 3.0 ports and eight legacy USB ports.  [H]ard|OCP had a few issues with the UEFI BIOS, nothing deal breaking but it certainly made overclocking more of a chore than on other X99 boards and may have reduced the top frequencies below what the board is actually capable of.

We will see if a newer UEFI release and other skilled hands can coax some more performance out of this board soon, as Morry will be reviewing this board in the near future.

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"The X99 SOC Champion LGA 2011-v3 socketed motherboard from GIGABYTE has all the ingredients for record breaking performance, rock solid stability, and outstanding performance. GIGABYTE's hardware design has been moving in the right direction lately so how does this "Super OverClocking" motherboard hold up to stress?"

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

EVGA would like to give you a GTX 960 SSC and a Z97 FTW motherboard

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | February 20, 2015 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: z97, gtx 960, giveaway, evga, contest

I know, the nerve of some people. Jacob from EVGA emails me this week, complaining about how he has this graphics card and motherboard just sitting in his cubicle taking up space and "why won't I just give it away already!?"

Fine. I'll do it. For science.

So let's make this simple shall we? EVGA wants to get rid of some kick-ass gaming hardware and you want to win it. Why muddle up a good thing?

The Prizes

  • EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SSC
     
    • The EVGA GeForce GTX 960 delivers incredible performance, power efficiency, and gaming technologies that only NVIDIA Maxwell technology can offer. This is the perfect upgrade, offering 60% faster performance and twice the power efficiency of previous-generation cards*. Plus, it features VXGI for realistic lighting, support for smooth, tear-free NVIDIA G-SYNC technology, and Dynamic Super Resolution for 4K-quality gaming on 1080P displays.
       
    • The new EVGA ACX 2.0+ cooler brings new features to the award winning EVGA ACX 2.0 cooling technology. A Memory MOSFET Cooling Plate (MMCP) reduces MOSFET temperatures up to 11°C, and optimized Straight Heat Pipes (SHP) reduce GPU temperature by an additional 5°C. ACX 2.0+ coolers also feature optimized Swept fan blades, double ball bearings and an extreme low power motor, delivering more air flow with less power, unlocking additional power for the GPU.

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  • EVGA Z97 FTW Motherboard
     
    • Welcome to a new class of high performance motherboards with the EVGA Z97 lineup. These platforms offer a return to greatness with a new GUI BIOS interface, reimagined power VRM that focuses on efficiency, and are loaded with features such as Intel® Gigabit LAN, Native SATA 6G/USB 3.0 and more.
       
    • Engineered for the performance users with excellent overclocking features. Includes a GUI BIOS that is focused on functionality, new software interface for overclocking in the O.S., high quality components, M.2 storage option and more.

evgacontest2.jpg

The Process (aka how do you win?)

So even though I'm doing all the work getting this hardware out of Jacob's busy hands and to our readers...you do have to do a couple of things to win the hardware as well. 

  1. Fill out the questionnaire below.
     
  2. Enter the "secret phrase" from tonight's 337th episode of the PC Perspective Podcast. We'll be live streaming at 10pm ET / 7pm PT or you can wait for the downloadable version at http://www.pcper.com/podcast or the video version on our PC Perspective YouTube channel

The contest will run for one week so you will have more than enough time to listen to or watch the podcast and get the super-secret answer. We'll ship to anywhere in the world and one person will win both fantastic prizes! Once the contest closes (Wednesday, February 25th at 12pm ET) we'll randomly draw a winner from the form below that got the correct answer!

A HUGE thanks goes to our friends at EVGA for supplying the hardware for our giveaway. Good luck!

Source: EVGA

A flagship A88X board for well under $200, remember the ASUS Crossblade Ranger

Subject: Motherboards | February 12, 2015 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: motherboard, Kaveri, Intel Gig-E, FM2+, DDR-3 2133, crossblade ranger, audio, asus, A88X

It has been a while since Josh reviewed the ASUS Crossblade Ranger so it seems appropriate to put up a reminder that there are some impressive AMD boards out there with The Tech Report's review of the board.  This board has just about everything except an M.2 port, from the Asus SupremeFX 2014 with high end caps and EMI shielding to HDMI, DVI, and VGA display outputs to a BIOS button on the backplate which allows you to update the upgrade the motherboard's firmware without a CPU or RAM installed.  Check out the full review to get a list of the other features as well as a glimpse into the personality traits the board displayed during testing.

topdown.jpg

"Asus' Crossblade Ranger is a tweaker-friendly, top-of-the-line motherboard for AMD's Socket FM2+ processors. We kicked the tires and turned up the clocks to see whether the Ranger lives up to its top billing."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Tom's Hardware Tests USB 3.1 on MSI's X99A Gaming 9 ACK

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Storage | February 11, 2015 - 09:59 PM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, usb, msi, asmedia

UPDATE: Not to be self-serving, but we have our own story online now looking at the performance of early USB 3.1 hardware on PC Perspective as well! Be sure to check that out!

USB 3.0, for storage, is fast. If you are using an external, spindle-based hard drive, it will perform basically as fast as an internal sibling would. Apart from my two SSDs, I do not even have an internal drive anymore. You can safely install games to external hard drives now.

usb-ss-logo.png

But with USB 3.1, the spec doubled to 10 Gbps, which matches the first generation Thunderbolt connector. A couple of weeks ago, Tom's Hardware put it to the test with an ASMedia USB3.1 to SATA 6 Gbps developer board. Sure enough, when you are raiding a pair of Intel 730 SSDs, you can achieve over 700 MB/s read/write in CrystalDiskMark.

About the most interesting part of Tom's Hardware testing is their CPU usage benchmark. While USB 3.0 on Intel's controller choked a CPU thread, USB 3.1 on ASMedia's controller did not even reach half of a thread's maximum (the CPU in question is a Core i7-5930K Haswell-E at 3.5 GHz).

So until we get flash drives that are constrained by USB 3.0's fairly high ceiling, we might be able to have reduced CPU usage.

GIGABYTE's clean looking X99 Gaming 5

Subject: Motherboards | January 27, 2015 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, X99 Gaming 5, X99

If you like a nice clean black motherboard design with a few red highlights then the Gaming Series from Gigabyte is a great choice and their new X99 Gaming 5 will let you update to DDR4 and Haswell-E.  The four PCIe 3.0 slots can support up to x16/x0/x16/x8 or x8/x8/x16/x8 with the appropriate processor and the storage system is rather impressive with up to 10 SATA 6Gbps ports, a single SATA Express port, M.2, eight USB 3.0 port and eight USB 2.0 ports of which four are shielded for use with external DACs.  Speaking of sound, there is an OP-AMP socket and dedicated audio capacitors to let you get the best out of the onboard Realtec codec.  To see how it performs, overclocks and even more check out [H]ard|OCP's full review or if you need even more features you can look back at Morry's review of the Gaming G1.

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"GIGABYTE’s latest X99 Gaming 5 promises to be a solid overclocker with great features and a reasonable price tag. It comes with features like "Server Level Chokes" from Cooper Bussman and an all digital power solution from Power IR. Long Lifespan Durable Black capacitors and single package MOSFETs make the list as well."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel's 5.5-inch Socketed Motherboard is 28% Smaller than Mini-ITX

Subject: Motherboards | January 17, 2015 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc, motherboard, mini-itx, Intel

Bay Trail-M has been at the heart of several interesting micro-PC products in the past few months, but the limitations of the SoC have thus far kept these ultra-low power devices from becoming serious PC contenders. New products with AMD APUs look promising, and we will see how they perform once they become available. Meanwhile, Intel might be changing the mini-PC landcape soon with a new motherboard form-factor.

 

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Intel's 5.5" motherboard (Image credit: SemiAccurate)

It doesn't have a name but the 5.5" square board looks like a smaller version of a thin mini-ITX design, with flush mounted DIMM slots and support for M.2 SSD storage. SemiAccurate is reporting that "it will support up to 16GB of DDR3L, an M.2 SSD and 2.5″ HD, 4x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, GbE, audio, and Wi-Fi". A mini-ITX board on the other hand, though slightly larger at 6.7" x 6.7", has the advantage of supporting full-size GPUs (except the thin-mini variant). But when size and power consumption are the primary concern the lack of PCIe expansion is less important, and this sub-ITX board offers socketed CPU support rather than a soldered BGA solution, permitting customization and potentially offering a more desktop-like upgrade path.

No word on availability of the prototype board from Intel, which the report said was seen at this year's CES. It would make sense that Intel has learned from their experience with the NUC and created a smaller form-factor, but it remains to be seen whether such a product will enter the retail channel or become an OEM part.

Source: SemiAccurate

CES 2015: ASUS Talks 500 Million Motherboard Mark, Ecosystem Goals

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 02:51 AM |
Tagged: video, ces 2015, CES, asus, 500 million motherboards

In 2014, ASUS crossed the 500 million motherboards sold mark for total units, an achievement to be proud of for certain. And while I would have thought that the awesome keychains made for the occasion that feature the X99-Deluxe on one side and the ISA-386C from 1989 on the other would be enough, ASUS is going to go further. Expect a several month long celebration that will feature unique content, prizes and giveaways as well as special edition hardware like the Sabertooth Z97 Mark S and its all white PCB.

I got the chance to speak with Dennis Pang about the 500 million mark, what the company sees as its vision for the immediate future and how it has used its experience to move into other consumer markets like keyboards, mice, monitors, networking and more.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

High end features on a low end budget; the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer

Subject: Motherboards | January 7, 2015 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: asrock, fatal1ty, 990fx, killer, amd

For a mere $144 you can pick up an impressive AM3+ board, the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer and for $185 you can install an FX-8370E on the board.  This leaves you budget leftover to pick up an impressive GPU, SSD and some value priced DDR3 allowing you to create a system that is significantly less than an Intel based on and still lets you game in style.  This particular board offers three PCIe 2.0 x16 Slots and a pair of PCIe x1 slots, five SATA 6Gbps ports and an NGFF M.2 port, 7 channel Realtek ALC1150, a TI NE5532 headset amp and quite a few USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports.  As Modders-Inc points out it is not the newest product on the market but it has a brilliant feature set and as it is often on special a little patience could net you an even better deal.  Check out the review and remind yourself that while AMD is down, it is not quite out yet.

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"It is an odd way to start the new year with a review of what many enthusiasts consider old technology (990FX mainboard) but the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer is an interesting and unique in that it incorporates many modern comforts not found on other 990FX mainboards. Plus, with the release of lower power 95W FX processors a few months ago, …"

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Source: Modders Inc

CES 2015: Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion Motherboard Launches

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 08:06 PM |
Tagged: x99-soc champion, X99, gigabyte, ces 2015, CES

Gigabyte has been catering to extreme overclocking with several recent motherboard releases, the most recent of which is the new X99-SOC Champion. Gigabyte made some interesting decisions for this design that focus on increasing overclocking capability over just about everything else.

x99champ-1.jpg

First, you'll notice that the board features only 4 DIMM slots over the eight that are found on most other X99 boards. This lowers the amount of electrical noise, increases signal integrity and trace length can be reduced, all in an effort to increase stable memory clock rates. Gigabyte was proud to show off that they were able to reach DDR4 memory speeds of over 4100 MHz using some Corsair memory! SMT mounted DIMM slots also help with this.

x99champ-2.jpg

The CPU socket is also different in that it has 2083 pins on it rather than the standard 2011 pins that the socket uses. These added pins increase the amount of power available to the processor, which is useful for extreme LN2 overclocking. Interestingly, Gigabyte has put a dip switch on the board that enables and disables those pins should you wish to disable them for safety or other reasons.

Pricing is still up in the air though the Gigabyte X99-SOC Force currently sells for $349 so I would expect the Champion to be above that. Availability starts this month.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: MSI Z97I Gaming ACK Mini-ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 03:24 AM |
Tagged: z97i gaming ack, z97, video, msi, M.2, ces 2015, CES

We have definitely seen our share of Z97 motherboards using the Mini-ITX form factor by now, but the new MSI Z97I Gaming ACK offers a couple of unique twists worth noting. First, the board features both wireless and wired Killer Networking components, has four SATA 6 Gb/s ports and a total of six USB 3.0 ports. Click BIOS, OC Genie and Command Center are all MSI specific features found on the ACK.

z97i-1.jpg

The most interesting feature though is the rear-mounted M.2 port that allows the user to install a full 10 Gb/s M.2 storage device on the back side of the motherboard! Obviously you will have to be sure that the stand offs on your case will allow the spacing required for an M.2 device, but MSI doesn't think it will be a problem for most cases. It's a very interesting way to integrate more hardware on a design that is incredibly space limited. (Note: you'll have to watch the video to see the rear mounted M.2 port.)

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: MSI Implements USB 3.1 and USB Type-C Connector

Subject: Motherboards, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c, usb 3.1, msi, ces 2015, CES

If you are like me, you probably thought the world of USB was going to be stable for a bit. Not so much as it turns out! MSI was showing off a couple of new products in its suite at CES 2015 that showcase new performance levels for USB as well as a much-needed new connector type.

usb3.1-1.jpg

First up, USB 3.1, the upgrade that includes performance as high as single channel Thunderbolt, 10 Gbps. MSI will be shipping USB 3.1 on a new revision of the GT72 gaming notebook as well as on the X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard shipping in February or March. Each will feature two ports of USB 3.1 capable of some impressive speeds.

usb3.1-2.jpg

These results are based on a RAID-0 implementation of a pair of Intel SSD 730 SSDs running on a prototype USB 3.1 capable controller that MSI didn't want us to show you. Seeing USB speeds reaching as high as 694 MB/s are impressive, exceeding that of the best USB 3.0 speeds we have seen at 470 MB/s. Considering we are looking at very early devices and software implementations, MSI's results on this board are fantastic.

Maybe more exciting than a speed boost to some USB users is implementation of the USB Type-C connector on the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard due in the same time frame.

usb3.1-3.jpg

There are several advantages to this new connector for both users and OEMs. First, it is reversible meaning you can plug plug the connector in upside down and it will work (finally!). It is also small, able to fit on the slimmest phones and tablets. Both sides of the cable are going to be the same, so any device that can use a Type-C connector will be able to use most any cable.

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Power delivery also improves - 10 watts (5V at 2A), 60 watts (12V at 5A) and even up to 100 watts (20V at 5A)! And all of this power can be sent through that tiny Type-C connector as well leaving the possibility of charging your laptop through the same connector as your phone.

Expect both USB 3.1 as well as Type-C connectors to be a big shift in the middle of Q1.

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PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Consider the ECS Z97I-DRONE for your next Mini-ITX system

Subject: Motherboards | December 16, 2014 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: z97, ECS, GANK, Z97I-Drone, mini ITX, SFF

We haven't seen an ECS DRONE board here since Morry reviewed the Z87GH3-A3X last January but the series is still alive.  MadShrimps wrapped up a review of the newer ECS Z97I-Drone, a Mini-ITX board which should soon be available for under $100.  The board will support DDR3-3000 and M.2 storage as well as being designed with 5-Phase PWM and ICY Chokes and other features that first appeared on higher end boards but are now available at the lower end as well.  Since it is a Micro-ITX board there is only room for a single PCIe 3.0 16x slot which does limit the system somewhat but still performs up to spec.  Check out the full review to see if this is a board you want to build a SFF system with.

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"ECS does not disappoint with the release of the cheap ECS Z97I-Drone which allows installation of a powerful Haswell processor which can be paired with RAM up to 16GB and eventually a potent VGA card inside the provided PCI Express x16 slot; be warned however that using a beefy CPU cooler will likely cover the PCI-Express slot completely so we would recommend either sticking with the stock Intel cooler or adopting an all-in-one water cooling solution, which is so accessible these days."

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Source: MadShrimps

MSI X99S Gaming 7 for the enthusiast with a bit of a budget

Subject: Motherboards | December 2, 2014 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: X99S GAMING 7, msi, LGA2011-3, Intel X99, Haswell-E, Dragon Gaming Series

Morry has covered the previous generation of Gaming 7 as well as $465 X99 Gaming 9 but we haven't yet seen the slightly lower priced X99 Gaming 7 which can be had for just under $300 right now.  The reduction in price does not seem to have hurt the feature set with full speed M.2 support, four PCI-E x16 slots of which three can be used for multiple GPU setups as the other lanes are tied up with SATA Express and M.2 and other storage connections.  As you may remember from Morry's reviews the UEFI is rather impressive looking and effective as well, a single push of the onboard OC Genie button will get you a mild overclock, Hardware Canucks had better luck with a manual overclock for those who have the patience.  Check out their full review of a well designed and decently priced X99 board right here.

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"MSI's X99S Gaming 7 is something of a rarity; MSI has included a full stable of gamer-centric features and yet it is quite affordable when compared to other X99 motherboards."

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