A home for your Bulldozer, the ASUS Crosshair V Formula

Subject: Motherboards | September 16, 2011 - 03:27 PM |
Tagged: asus, Crosshair V Formula, am3+

The ASUS Republic of Gamers is already waiting for Bulldozer to arrive as the Crosshair V Formula was designed for it.  Seven SATA III 6Gb/s ports in total, a dozen USB 2.0 and a half dozen USB 3.0 ports will give you as much connectivity as you want.  SupremeFX X-Fi 2 8-channel HD audio codec provides sound and four PCIe 16x slots will ensure even multiple GPUs will be running full out.  There will even be a Thunderbolt version, though that was not the one that took Gold at [H]ard|OCP.

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"The Crosshair V Formula is ASUS' ROG-based answer for the next generation AMD silicon, codenamed "Bulldozer." Built with all the bells and whistles you've come to expect from a Republic of Gamers' motherboard, the Crosshair V Formula looks to be the perfect companion for any AMD processor."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

IDF 2011: MSI Shows Off Upcoming X79 Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards, Processors | September 14, 2011 - 10:59 AM |
Tagged: x79, sandy bridge-e, msi, idf 2011, idf

Many of Intel's partners are on hand at IDF to showcase upcoming products and I was able to stop by the MSI booth yesterday to get a peek into the future of the X79 chipset.  This chipset will launch with the upcoming Sandy Bridge-E processors (for enthusiast) sometime later this year and introduce a new processor socket (Socket 2011) as well as some new features like dozens of PCI Express connections and quad-channel memory.

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The flagship board on display was the X79A-GD65 (8D) that is one of the few X79 boards I have seen sporting 8 DIMM slots (hence the name) and capacities as high as 64GB!  Most of the MSI features we have come to love on current motherboards are going to be on this line as well including Military Class components, OC Genie II and the much updated and improved ClickBIOS II.

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The board is completely 3-Way SLI ready (and CrossFire as well) and sports three total PCI Express 3.0 slots at x16 bandwidth but also adds in three more PCIe 2.0 slots for good measure. 

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There are 4x USB 3.0 ports, 12x USB 2.0 ports, 4x SATA 6G ports and 4x SATA 3G ports.  Needless to say the X79 platforms are going to be an enthusiast's dream.

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MSI is also likely to include a new breakout box with X79 motherboards that will reside in a 5.25-in bay slot on your case (and honestly I need more things to use up there these days) and give you a couple of USB ports, an OC Genie button that will double as a BIOS reset button when held down, and even integrated WiFi and Bluetooth.  The above photo is just a mock up but the plans are in place to deliver them with these new boards.

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Finally, MSI did have the much improved and updated ClickBIOS II UEFI on display and without a doubt it kicks the first version's ass.  We are working on a review that includes this new implementation so expect more on that soon.

Source: PCPer

IDF 2011: Lucid HyperFormance Technology Improves Game Responsiveness

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | September 14, 2011 - 02:12 AM |
Tagged: virtu, mvp, lucid, idf 2011, idf, hyperformance, hydra

Lucid has a history of introducing new software and hardware technologies that have the potential to dramatically affect the PC gaming environment.  The first product was Hydra shown in 2008 and promised the ability to use multiple GPUs from different generations and even different vendors on the same rendering task.  Next up was Lucid Virtu, a software solution that allowed Sandy Bridge processor customers to take advantage of the integrated graphics features while also using a discrete graphics card.  Lucid added support for AMD platforms later on and also showcased Virtual Vsync earlier this year in an attempt to improve user gaming experiences. 

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That is a nice history lesson, but what is Lucid discussing this time around?  The technology is called "HyperFormance" (yes, like "High-Performance") and is included in a new version of the Virtu software called Virtu MVP.  I'll let the Lucid press release describe the goals of the technology:

HyperFormance, found in the new model Virtu Universal MVP, boosts gaming responsiveness performance by intelligently reducing redundant rendering tasks in the flow between the CPU, GPU and the display. 3D games put the greatest demands on both the CPU and GPU. And as the race for higher performance on the PC and now in notebooks never ends, both CPUs and GPUs keep gaining performance.

First, a warning.  This software might seem simple but the task it tries to accomplish is very complex and I have not had enough time to really dive into it too deeply.  Expect an updated and more invasive evaluation soon.  There are a couple of key phrases to pay attention to though including the idea of boosting "gaming responsiveness performance" by removing "redundant rendering tasks".  The idea of boosting responsiveness pertains to how the game FEELS to the gamer and should be evident with things like mouse movement responsiveness and the stability of the on-screen image (lack of tearing).  Lucid's new software technology attempts to improve the speed at which a game responds to your actions not by increasing the frame rate but rather by decreasing the amount of time between your mouse movement (or keyboard input, etc) and what appears on the screen as a result of that action. 

How they do that is actually very complex and revolves around the Lucid software's ability to detect rendering tasks by intercepting calls between the game engine and DirectX, not around dropping or removing whole frames.  Because Lucid Virtu can detect individual tasks it can attempt to prioritize and learn which are being repeated or mostly repeated from the previous frames and tell GPU to not render that data.  This gives the GPU a "near zero" render time on that current frame and pushes the next frame through the system, to the frame buffer and out to the screen sooner. 

To think of it another way, imagine a monitor running at 60 Hz but playing a game at 120 FPS or so.  With Vsync turned off, at any given time you might have two to four or more frames being rendered and shown on the screen.  The amount of each frame displayed will differ based on the frame rate and the result is usually an image some amount of visual tearing; you might have to top 35% of the screen as Frame1, the middle 10% of the screen as Frame2 and the bottom 55% as Frame3.  The HyperFormance software then decides if the frame that is going to take up 10% of the screen, Frame2, has redundant tasks and if it can be mostly removed from the rendering pipeline.  To replace it, the Lucid engine just uses 65% of Frame3. 

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The result is an output that is more "up to date" with your movements and what is going on in the game engine and in "game time".  Like I said, it is a very complex task but one that I personally find very interesting and am looking forward to spending more time visualizing and explaining to readers.

Interestingly, this first implementation of HyperFormance does require the use of a multi-GPU system: the integrated GPU on Sandy Bridge or Llano along with the discrete card.  Lucid is working on a version that can do the same thing on a single GPU but that application is further out.

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Frame rate without HyperFormance 

There is a side effect though that I feel could hurt Lucid: the effective frame rate of the games with HyperFormance enabled are much higher than without the software running.  Of course, the GPU isn't actually rendering more data and graphics than it did before; instead, because HyperFormance is looking for frames to report at near zero frame times, benchmarking applications and the games themselves *think* the game is running much faster than it is.  This is a drawback to the current way games are tested.  Many gamers might at first be fooled into thinking their game is running at higher frame rates - it isn't - and some might see the result as Lucid attempting to cheat - it isn't that either.  It is just a result of the process that Lucid is trying to get to work for gamers' benefits.

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Frame rate with HyperFormance

Instead, Lucid is attempting to showcase the frame rate "increase" as a responsiveness increase or some kind of metric that indicates how much faster and reactive to the user the game actually feels.  It might be a start, but claiming to have 200% responsiveness likely isn't true and instead I think they need to spend some time with serious gamers and have them find a way to quantify the added benefits that the HyperFormance application offers, if any. 

There is a LOT more to say about this application and what it means to PC gaming but for now, that is where we'll leave it.  Expect more in the coming weeks!

Source: PCPer

IDF 2011: Intel Developer Forum Coverage Coming Soon!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Motherboards, Processors, Chipsets | September 12, 2011 - 10:22 AM |
Tagged: Intel, idf 2011, idf

It is once again time for our annual pilgrimage to the land of the Golden Gate to spend a few days with our friends at Intel and the Intel Developer Forum.  IDF is one of the most informative events that I attend and I am always impressed by the openness and detail with which Intel showcases its upcoming products and future roadmap.  This year looks to be no different.

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What do we have on the agenda?  First and foremost, we expect to hear all about Ivy Bridge and the architecture changes it brings to the Sandy Bridge CPUs currently in the market.  Will we see increased x86 performance or maybe increases in the likelihood of us recommending the integrated graphics?  More information is set to be revealed on the 22nm tri-gate transistor as well as the X79 chipset and the Sandy Bridge-E enthusiast platform.  SSDs and Ultrabooks are also set on the docket.  It's going to be busy.

But what would a week in downtown San Francisco be without visits from other companies as well?  We are set to meet with Lucid, MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte, Corsair, HP and of course, AMD.  I expect we will have just as much to say about what each of these companies has on display as we do Intel's event.  

I am planning on live blogging many of the sessions I will be attending so stay tuned to PC Perspective all week for the latest!!

Source: Intel

The new ASUS Maximus IV boards are "twins"

Subject: Motherboards | September 8, 2011 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: Maximus IV Extreme-Z, Maximus IV Gene-Z, asus, uATX, lga1155

If you are looking for a top of the line Z68 motherboard then two of the models you should consider are the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z and Maximus IV Gene-Z.  While they share many characteristics you can think of the Extreme-Z as the gaming board because of the four PCIe 16x slots and the Gene-Z as the media motherboard as it sports an HDMI out which the Extreme-Z does not.  As well as the difference in output, the Extreme-z has the common Realtek ALC 889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC while the Gene-Z has the higher end SupremeFX X-Fi 2 built-in 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC.  The final difference and perhaps the easiest to spot is that the Extreme-Z is a full ATX board while the Gene-Z is uATX.  Check out the performance of both boards in Legit Reviews latest article.

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"The ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z is aimed at those looking to squeeze every last Megahertz out of their second generation Intel Core processor. With features like the LN2 switch that will help get past that pesky little cold bug problem, we know this board is meant for the extreme user. When we were performing our overclocking with the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z it was a very smooth process. We were able to increase our multiplier to x51 and our Bclk to 100.4, though it showed up as 100.5 in CPUz. These settings brought us past the 5.1GHz mark and we were there in under an hour..."

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A Sapphire and platinum motherboard; gaudy or a work of art?

Subject: Motherboards | August 31, 2011 - 12:06 PM |
Tagged: x68, sandy bridge, sapphire pure platinum

Sapphire has been busy making a name for themselves as a high end motherboard maker in addition to their graphics card models.  The Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 is their first foray into SandyBridge and comes with a long host of features common to the Z68 platform as well as features common to Sapphire's GPUs such as a dual BIOS.  Hi Tech Legion had a great time overclocking with this board both manually and with the help of Sapphire's TriXXX software, getting a i5-2500K all the way to 4.74GHz.  Read on to see this impressive board in action.

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"The Pure Platinum Z68 is the Sapphire's first entry for the Z68 chipset of Intel, which is capable of technologies such as Smart Response and Virtu. The Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 includes 4 DIMM slots with support of up to 16GB of RAM with speeds of up to 1600+MHz. For network connectivity, the Sapphire Pure Platinum Z68 has a Marvell chip controlled Gigabit LAN port and wireless capability via a Bluetooth 2.1 receiver. Storage options are many in the Pure Platinum Z68, with 8 total SATA ports; 4 SATA II with RAID 0,1,5,10 and AHCI controlled by the Z68 chipset, while there are 2 SATA III ports also controlled by the Z68 and the last 2 are controlled by Marvell's controller. Peripherals on the Z68 Pure Platinum are 2 USB 3.0 with up to 12 total USB 2.0 ports (including the USB headers), with 4 on the rear panel."

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New Gigabyte Tool Switches SATA Mode In Windows

Subject: Motherboards | August 30, 2011 - 07:17 AM |
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.

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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?

Buy the Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3-iSSD; get a 20GB Intel SSD for free!

Subject: Motherboards | August 24, 2011 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z68XP-UD3-iSSD, Intel SRT, intel 311

Gigabyte has been talking about releasing a Z68 board with an integrated Intel 310 series drive since CES and they have finally released it.  The Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3-iSSD ships with a 20GB Intel 311 SSD already installed to let you take advantage of Intel SRT right off the bat.  Power users will be glad to know it is not integral and can be swapped out with a 40GB or 60GB model if you deem it necessary for your continued happiness.  That is just one of the huge list of features on Gigabyte's new board, which only seems to be missing support for 4 way CrossFire or SLI which when you look at the minuscule gains it provides is not a problem at all.  Head over to Legit Reviews to see this $240 monster run.

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"It's not very often that something throws me for a loop, at least not when it comes to motherboards any more. That's exactly what happened when I first heard about the GIGABYTE Z68XP-UD3-iSSD! My first thoughts were that it's a great idea, followed by that boards has to cost a pretty penny! After today's testing, I will stand by my initial though of that's a great idea. What truly blew my mind was the price. As I said above, I thought the GIGABYTE Z68XP-UD3-iSSD was going to cost a pretty penny, somewhere in the $350-$400. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the Z68XP-UD7-iSSD retails for only $239.99! Needless to say I was a bit shocked!"

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The new B3 revision of the ASUS P8P67 Pro is more Solid than Snake

Subject: Motherboards | August 17, 2011 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: lga1155, asus, P8P67 Pro rev b3

When testing the ASUS P8P67 Pro, [H]ard|OCP managed to get 4.8GHz out of an Intel i5 2500K; about as good a recommendation as you could hope for.  That is in addition to ASUS' specific BIOS which will disable Turbo scaling, pegging the CPU to the top speed whenever it is in use, which explains the higher scores in some of the benchmarks they ran.  The built in OC Tuner BIOS application will overclock the board for you, in the tests after about 5 minutes and a few reboots it stabilized a 2600K on the board at 43x102.1 or 4.39GHz and could be pushed higher if you manually raised the multiplier. The board may not have some of the extras available on other makes but as far as stability goes this board is hard to beat.

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"ASUS' latest foray in to the Intel LGA1155 market shows up in a competitive package, the P8P67 Pro. The board combines the features and technologies you've come to expect from ASUS and promises not to disappoint. This motherboard also happens to target the sub-$180 market so it will be on the list for budget minded builds."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

ECS Announces Three New A55 Based AMD Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | August 9, 2011 - 06:42 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: Tech Connect

X58 is still the king, check out the ASUS ROG Rampage III

Subject: Motherboards | August 9, 2011 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: asus, rampage III, ROG, X58

If you fell the inescapable need to overclock your CPU to insane speeds and get the bit of extra oomph that triple channel DDR3 can provide then the ASUS Rampage III is the ~$600 motherboard for you.  [H]ard|OCP recently reviewed the board and its incredible list of extra components, even going so far as trying to kill it in a three day incubation test.  Four PCIe 16x slots (dual 16x, quad 8x), two PCIe 1x slots, two SATA Gbp/s ports, a half dozen SATAII ports with two eSATA round out the internal connections.  Externally two USB 3.0 ports and eleven USB 2.0 ports will get your peripheral connected and there is not only a normal gigabit ethernet connection, they included wireless and a KillerNIC which happens to be on an ASUS ThunderBolt card.  Read on at [H]ard|OCP

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"While P67 and Z68 is all the rage, if you are looking for the most powerful computing system money can buy, then X58 is still it. ASUS promises to deliver everything you expect out of X58 and then some with its latest Republic of Gamers branded board. If you are looking for the ultimate X58 motherboard, it's the Rampage III Black Edition."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Gigabyte's new Z68X-UD3H-B3, the same one being given away at QuakeCon

Subject: Motherboards | August 1, 2011 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: Z68X-UD3H-B3, gigabyte

One of our planned giveaways at the 2011 PC Perspective Hardware Workshop during QuakeCon is the Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3.  Now if the fact that the board is being given away for free isn't enough to convince you to come, maybe the review at [H]ard|OCP will sway you to come.  It did pick up an Editors Choice and a Silver Award after all.  It has all of the bells and whistles associated with the Z68 chipset, from onboard video out to Intel SRT; as well Gigabyte went for top of the line components and a 7 phase power design.  It wasn't perfect though, the reviewers had minor difficulties with the storage system, from tweaking the onboard controllers to installing high end RAID cards, they felt that some improvements were required.  It also lacks a new UEFI style BIOS, but apart from that the board was solid and performed very well.

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"The Intel Express Z68 chipset is the new hotness and as a result tons of Z68 boards are hitting the market. Gigabyte isn't one to be left behind and as a result it has plenty of Z68 boards to choose from. The one we are evaluating here is the Z68X-UD3H-B3. Despite being somewhat of a budget board it certainly packs a ton of features and promises solid overclocking performance to boot."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Just Delivered: MSI Z68A-GD65 G3 Motherboard with PCI Express 3.0 Support

Subject: Editorial, Motherboards | July 29, 2011 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: z68, pcie 3.0, msi

Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

As we gear up for the PC Perspective Hardware Workshop at Quakecon 2011 next weekend, August 6th, we are starting to get in some very interesting products.  The coolest part?  All of this is going to be GIVEN AWAY to attendees!! 

MSI is supplying us with a pair of new motherboards for our system build contest that will be held during the workshop - faster person to get a system up and running will get some killer prizes.  Even better, these are some of the FIRST Z68A-GD65 G3 boards in the US - the very same ones we saw at Computex in June sporting the world's first PCIe 3.0 implementation.

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Sporting an LGA1155 socket and the new Z68 chipset, you get all the features associated with it including SSD caching and integrated graphics support.

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The classic features from MSI continue to exist here with the Military Class II components as well as the always well-received OC Genie button.

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It sports a total of 4 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DVI and VGA outputs and a lot more.  

One thing to note: this motherboard will ONLY support PCIE 3.0 speeds once the Ivy Bridge processors are released later this year so unless you have some unreleased hardware (and please do share!) then you aren't going to be seeing the advantages of this tech quite yet.  

Still, future proofing is good news!! 

Thanks to MSI for these boards and if you are coming to our workshop be prepared for your chance to win one before the rest of the worlds gets their hands on them!

Source: MSI

Sapphire jumps on the AMD A75 chipset

Subject: Motherboards | July 27, 2011 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: a75, sapphire, sapphire pure platinum, llano, hudson

Longtime GPU partner Sapphire is taking advantage of the new AMD A75 Hudson-D3 FCH chipset to put out their new Sapphire Pure Platinum A75 motherboard.  Onboard are five SATA3 ports, a single PCIe 16x, a single PCI 4x, two PCIe 1x, and two 32-bit PCI slots along with 7.1 sound from a Realtek ALC892 chip and a mini PCIe slot.  Externally you will find four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, a LAN port and even Bluetooth.  As far as budget boards for Llano go, Hi Tech Legion have not seen better and that was before they managed the 35% overclock.

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"Sapphire has just released their venture into Llano with the Sapphire Pure Platinum A75 Motherboard. The Platinum A75 offers all of the premium niceties that can be found with AMD's Lynx platform. First, there is the top tier A75 Hudson-D3 FCH chipset. This has an FM1 socket for the latest Llano APU chips. There is support for up to 16GB of 800/1033/1333/1600/1866 MHz speed DDR3 memory. This chipset offers exceptional connectivity as you get five SATA3 ports, one 16x PCI-E, two 1x PCI-E, one 4x PCI-E, two 32-bit PCI, and four USB 3.0 ports. Because the APU is a CPU/GPU combination, for video connectivity, there is an HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort available."

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Motherboards

Gigabyte's new Z68 board with added NF200 goodness

Subject: Motherboards | July 22, 2011 - 12:12 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, gigabyte Z68X-UD7-B3, NF200, z68

ASUS is not the only company with extra PCIe lanes on their X68 board anymore, as Gigabyte's new Z68X-UD7-B3 hits the market.  With an included NF200 chip there are four PCIe 16x slots, two of which run at 8x speeds.  You even get a PCIe x1 slots, and 2 PCI slots though the PCIe 1x is slightly blocked by the heatsink on the NF200.  [H]ard|OCP were very happy with this board, it survived 3 days in their torture chamber before finally crashing when most boards are considered solid it they can survive 24 hours.   If you need a high end SLI board, take a look at this review.

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"The Z68X-UD7-B3 is GIGABYTE's latest release supporting LGA1155 processors and new Z68 Intel Express Chipset. This motherboard looks to be gunning for a top spot with is mix of performance and features. Is the UD7 worth your hard earned dollars?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sapphire Introduces New Pure Platinum Motherboard Supporting AMD A-Series APUs

Subject: Motherboards | July 21, 2011 - 11:25 AM |
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.

Sapphire Pure Platinum A75.jpg

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.

Sapphire Pure Platinum A75_rearIO.jpg

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.

Source: Sapphire

Zotac thinks small with their new Z68 motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | July 15, 2011 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: zotac, mini-itx, z68

If you are looking to bring the benefits of the Z68 chipset to your LAN box, look no further than Zotac's Z68-ITX WiFi mini-ITX board.  They've done everything possible to trim down the size while keeping the functionality you need to play games. While there is only a single PCIe 16x slot and 4 SATA ports in total, you have 8 USB 2.0 ports and a pair of USB 3.0 as well as a variety of audio and video output ports.  As well there is a serious WiFi add on card with dual antenna to get you connected to your friends and enemies.  Check out the full review that TechPowerUp posted here.

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"ZOTAC recently announced their mini-ITX Z68 motherboard. Supporting standard desktop parts for expansion, the ZOTAC Z68-ITX WiFi offers all the features of the Intel Z68 chipset, including some decent overclocking. We put the Z68-ITX WiFi through the paces, and take this little roadster for a wild ZOTAC ride."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Gigabyte's high powered A75M-UD2H for the low powered Llano processor

Subject: Motherboards | July 11, 2011 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: llano, gigabyte, a75, fm1

Gigabyte made sure that a Llano user will be able to get all that they want out of the  A75M-UD2H; 8+2 phase power, five SATA II I ports and an eSATA on the backplate to keep the combo PS/2 port, D-sub port, DVI-D port, HDMI port, DisplayPort, optical SPDIF connector, two USB 2.0, four USB 3.0 port, one FireWire port, the Gigabit Ethernet port, and 8 channel audio ports.  As you can tell that backplate is very full. It also supports Crossfire with a pair of PCIe slots running 8x when both are populated. Taking the board through its paces was only one facet of Bjorn3D's review, they also pair the board and APU with an HD6870 to see how it performs with a powerful GPU.  Check out the review.

b3d_gigabytea75-ud4h.jpg

"When we looked at Llano, we determined that its CPU performance is similar to Athlon II X4 or Phenom II X4 840 processor, so why would a discrete GPU user choose Llano instead of an Athlon II X4 or Phenom II X4? Should the user choose a more expensive CPU for gaming? Firstly, Llano is more power efficient and runs much cooler than the 45nm processors. We'll be testing the second question today.

In this review, we are not only going to take a look at the GIGABYTE board, but we are also going pair the board with an HD 6870 and run a few games at 1920x1080 resolution with typical settings that average gamers would use to see the impact of CPU performance in games"

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Source: Bjorn3D

Video Perspective: AMD A-series APU Overclocking and Gaming Performance

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Processors | July 6, 2011 - 08:15 PM |
Tagged: amd, llano, APU, a-series, a8, a8-3850, overclocking

We have spent quite a bit of time with AMD's latest processor, the A-series of APUs previously known as Llano, but something we didn't cover in the initial review was how overclocking the A8-3850 APU affected gaming performance for the budget-minded gamer.  Wonder no more!

In this short video we took the A8-3850 and pushed the base clock frequency from 100 MHz to 133 MHz and overclocked the CPU clock rate from 2.9 GHz to 3.6 GHz while also pushing the GPU frequency from 600 MHz up to 798 MHz.  All of the clock rates (including CPU, GPU, memory and north bridge) are based on that base frequency so overclocking on the AMD A-series can be pretty simple provided the motherboard vendors provide the multiplier options to go with it.  We tested a system based on a Gigabyte and an ASRock motherboard both with very good results to say the least.  

We tested 3DMark11, Bad Company 2, Lost Planet 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Dirt 3 to give us a quick overall view of performance increases.  We ran the games at 1680x1050 resolutions and "Medium"-ish quality settings to find a base frame rate on the APU of about 30 FPS.  Then we applied our overclocked settings to see what gains we got.  Honestly, I was surprised by the results.

While overclocking a Llano-based gaming rig won't make it compete against $200 graphics cards, getting a nice 30% boost in performance for a budget minded gamer is basically a no-brainer if you are any kind of self respecting PC enthusiast. 

Source: AMD

The difference a letter can make; 4 LGA1155 boards from Gigabyte

Subject: Motherboards | July 6, 2011 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, sandybridge, ga-z68x, lga1155

Gigabyte's GA-Z68X-UD3P-B3, GA-Z68X-UD4-B3, GA-Z68X-UD5-B3 and GA-Z68X-UD7-B3 are up for review on X-bit Labs right now.   You need to be fairly observant to notice the difference in the models and have a great memory to know which is which at a glance.  They all share some similar characteristics, such as the lack of onboard video out but also share positive traits like Dual BIOS and Phase LEDs and a number of USB 3.0 and SATA 6G ports.  They had a few problems during the review which you might want to find out about before purchasing one of these boards.

xbt_giga1155.jpg

"Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3P-B3, GA-Z68X-UD4-B3, GA-Z68X-UD5-B3 and GA-Z68X-UD7-B3 mainboards do not have video Outs, that is why integrated graphics doesn’t work on them. They can use Intel Smart Response technology, but do not support any of the Lucid Virtu modes. Read our in-depth review to find out about other features of these mainboards."

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Source: X-Bit Labs