Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

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.

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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.

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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.

Click here to read the entire MSI A88X-G45 Gaming Review!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Z97-WS motherboard is the latest release for the workstation board line with several evolutionary changes over its predecessor to take advantage of the Intel Z97 chipset features. ASUS changed little as far as the layout goes from the Z87 revision of the board, updating the board aesthetics with a richer gold and black coloration which is carried over into the board's capacitors and MOSFETs as well. The Z97-WS also features both SATA-Express and M.2 ports as well as optimizations to its CPU power circuitry to enhance the CPU 's performance potential and optimize power utilization. ASUS priced the Z97-WS competitively with a $289.00 MSRP in comparison to boards from other manufacturers with a similar feature set.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Z97-WS motherboard with an enhanced power delivery system, optimized to deliver the necessary power to the CPU with minimized power loss from excessively stressed components. The Z97-WS comes standard with eight digital power phases, featuring a new revision of the Dr MOS MOSFETs, Beat Thermal chokes, and Japanese-sourced 12k-hr rated solid capacitors. The Beat Thermal chokes offer up to 93% load-based power efficiency, resulting from the thermal-sensitive packaging design with integrated cooling fins as well as a specialized gold coating. The ASUS integrated the following features into the Z97-WS' design: four SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) 10 Gb/s port; two SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; an eSATA port; dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet NICs - an Intel I218-LV and an Intel I210-AT; four PCI-Express Gen3 x16 slots; one PCI-Express Gen2 x4 slot; two PCI-Express Gen2 x1 slots; dual 2-digit diagnostic LED displays; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, MemOK!, Q-Code Logger, and BIOS Flashback buttons; TPU, EPU, Dr. Power, and EZ_XMP switches; Realtek 8-channel audio solution; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Z97-WS motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of MSI

The MSI Z97 XPower motherboard is the flagship board in their Overclocking Series line of motherboards, optimized over the previous version XPower board to take advantage of the Intel Z97 Express chipset and Intel 5th generation Core processors. The design and the layout of the board remain reminiscent of that from the Z87 XPower with several components shifted to other locations to open up space and other switched out to be replaced by updated technologies. The most obvious changes to the board are the inclusion of integrated water barbs in the CPU VRM sink and the reduction of the integrated CPU power phases to 16 (from 32-power phases on the previous generation board). The board's color scheme is less diverse as well, with all integrated components colored to match the black and yellow theme. At a base MSRP of $399.99, the Z97 XPower carries a premium price to match its premium feature set.

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Courtesy of MSI

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Courtesy of MSI

The Z97 XPower motherboard was designed with 16 digital power phases for powering the CPU. The board alos comes standard with MSI's Military Class 4 digital components to maximize the board's performance potential, including Hi-C and Dark capacitors with super ferrite chokes and DrMOS MOSFET chips. To aid in cooling the CPU power circuitry and integrated PLX, MSI included a hybrid cooling solution into the sinks surrounding the CPU socket. The heat sinks can use traditional air cooling, or be hooked into an existing water loop using the provided 3/8" barbs.MSI integrated in the following components into the Z97 XPower's design: 10 SATA 3 ports; one M.2 10 Gb/s ports; an Intel I218-V GigE NIC; an Intel 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth adapter; five PCI-Express x16 slots for up to quad-card NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire support; two PCI-Express x1 slots; a 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, BIOS reset, cpu ratio control, base clock control, OC Genie, power discharge, and Go2BIOS buttons; Slow Mode boot,OC Genie mode, DirectOC mode, Multi-BIOS, and PCIe control switches; Realtek audio solution with isolated audio PCB and Nippon Chemi-con audio capacitors; dedicated per-channel headphone OP-AMPs; integrated V-Check voltage measurement points; hybrid VRM cooling solution; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI Z97 XPower motherboard!

Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Various

The Road to 1080p

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The stars of the show: a group of affordable GPU options

When preparing to build or upgrade a PC on any kind of a budget, how can you make sure you're extracting the highest performance per dollar from the parts you choose? Even if you do your homework comparing every combination of components is impossible. As system builders we always end up having to look at various benchmarks here and there and then ultimately make assumptions. It's the nature of choosing products within an industry that's completely congested at every price point.

Another problem is that lower-priced graphics cards are usually benchmarked on high-end test platforms with Core i7 processors - which is actually a necessary thing when you need to eliminate CPU bottlenecks from the mix when testing GPUs. So it seems like it might be valuable (and might help narrow buying choices down) if we could take a closer look at gaming performance from complete systems built with only budget parts, and see what these different combinations are capable of.

With this in mind I set out to see just how much it might take to reach acceptable gaming performance at 1080p (acceptable being 30 FPS+). I wanted to see where the real-world gaming bottlenecks might occur, and get a feel for the relationship between CPU and GPU performance. After all, if there was no difference in gaming performance between, say, a $40 and an $80 processor, why spend twice as much money? The same goes for graphics. We’re looking for “good enough” here, not “future-proof”.

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The components in all their shiny boxy-ness (not everything made the final cut)

If money was no object we’d all have the most amazing high-end parts, and play every game at ultra settings with hundreds of frames per second (well, except at 4K). Of course most of us have limits, but the time and skill required to assemble a system with as little cash as possible can result in something that's actually a lot more rewarding (and impressive) than just throwing a bunch of money at top-shelf components.

The theme of this article is good enough, as in, don't spend more than you have to. I don't want this to sound like a bad thing. And if along the way you discover a bargain, or a part that overperforms for the price, even better!

Yet Another AM1 Story?

We’ve been talking about the AMD AM1 platform since its introduction, and it makes a compelling case for a low cost gaming PC. With the “high-end” CPU in the lineup (the Athlon 5350) just $60 and motherboards in the $35 range, it makes sense to start here. (I actually began this project with the Sempron 3820 as well, but it just wasn’t enough for 1080p gaming by a long shot so the test results were quickly discarded.) But while the 5350 is an APU, I didn't end up testing it without a dedicated GPU. (Ok, I eventually did but it just can't handle 1080p.)

But this isn’t just a story about AM1 after all. Jumping right in here, let's look at the result of my research (and mounting credit card debt). All prices were accurate as I wrote this, but are naturally prone to fluctuate:

Tested Hardware
Graphics Cards

MSI AMD Radeon R7 250 2GB OC - $79.99

XFX AMD Radeon R7 260X - $109.99

EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 - $109.99

EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti SC - $153.99

Processors

AMD Athlon 5350 2.05 GHz Quad-Core APU - $59.99

AMD Athlon X2 340X 3.2 GHz Dual-Core CPU - $44.99.

AMD Athlon X4 760K 3.8 GHz Quad-Core CPU - $84.99

Intel Pentium G3220 3.0 GHz Dual-Core CPU - $56.99

Motherboards

ASRock AM1B-ITX Mini-ITX AMD AM1 - $39.99

MSI A88XM-E45 Micro-ATX AMD A88X - $72.99

ECS H81H3-M4 Micro-ATX Intel H81 - $47.99

Memory 4GB Samsung OEM PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 (~$40 Value)
Storage Western Digital Blue 1TB Hard Drive - $59.99
Power Supply EVGA 430 Watt 80 PLUS PSU - $39.99
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit - $99

So there it is. I'm sure it won't please everyone, but there is enough variety in this list to support no less than 16 different combinations, and you'd better believe I ran each test on every one of those 16 system builds!

Keep reading our look at budget gaming builds for 1080p!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of EVGA

The Z97 Classified motherboard is among EVGA's newest offerings in their Intel Z97 line of products. EVGA improved upon their previous revision Classified boards, adding in support for 5th generation Intel Core processors through integration with the Intel Z97 chipset. Most flagship motherboard command a premium price with the Z97 Classified being no exception. It's $379.99 MSRP may price it out of reach for many enthusiasts, but its integrated components and overclocking-friendly features more than justify the price.

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Courtesy of EVGA

EVGA designed the Z97 Classified board with an 8-phase digital power delivery system for the CPU, ensuring a stable system under any operational conditions. The Z97 Classified has the following integrated features: eight SATA 3 ports; an mSATA/mPCI-E port; dual Intel GigE NIC ports; five PCI-Express x16 slots; a PCI-Express x1 slot; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, and dual CMOS clear buttons; triple BIOS switche; PCIe disable switch jumper block; integrated EZ Voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of EVGA

Continue reading our review of the EVGA Z97 Classified motherboard!

Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Gigabyte

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).

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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.

Click here to read the entire review of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Z97X-SOC Force motherboard is the premier offering in GIGABYTE's Overclocking Series of boards. The overclocking series boards are designed with enhancements and features meant to appeal to enthusiasts and professional overclockers alike. The Z97X-SOC Force board deign is based on the previous generation Z87X-OC Force, featuring the same black and orange coloration typical to the series. The board does contain several evolutionary changes making the board easier to use and more appealing to its target users. At an MSRP of $209.99, the Z97X-S0C Force is competitively priced to appeal to all levels of enthusiasts.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE enhanced the board power regulation system designed into the current generation boards, allowing for use of a simplified cooling and fewer power phases. As a result, the Z97X-SOC Force is packed with 8-phase digital power circuit for the CPU, using International Rectifier (IR) based PowIRstage digital controllers and 10k-rated black solid capacitors to ensure system stability under any conditions. The Z97X-SOC Force board comes standard with the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 NIC; four PCI-Express x16 slots; a PCI-Express x1 slots; two PCI slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, CMOS battery clear, OC Ignition, OC Tag, OC Turbo, OC Touch, Settings Lock, Direct to BIOS, and Memory Safe buttons; Dual-BIOS, active BIOS, and IC Trigger switches; OC PCIe and OC DIMM switch jumper blocks; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC Force motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 motherboard is the newest member of thier TUF (The Ultimate Force) series. The board features the Intel Z97 chipset, but keeps the aesthetics and functionality you have come to expect from TUF series boards, and more specifically the Sabertooth line. That does not mean to say that ASUS did not improve the design of the Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 board. The Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 comes with a premium MSRP of $249.99 with features to justify its premium price point.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS used the previous Sabertooth board as a template to design and improve upon the Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1. The board includes the line's signature TUF Thermal Armor board overlay and TUF Fortifier back plate. With the new revision of the Thermal Armor, ASUS integrated two optional fans into its design as well as flow ports above the CPU VRM heat sinks to adjust the airflow through the Thermal Armor. The board is designed with an 8 phase digital power system with alloy chokes redesigned to run cooler than previous generation chokes, 10k-rated Titanium capacictors, and military-grade TUF MOSFETs. Additionally, ASUS integrated on board ESD (elctro-static discharge) protection into the rear panel keyboard/mouse, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, LAN, and audio ports to protect the motherboard and integrated components from voltage fluctuations and power surges.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1 Motherboard Review!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of MSI

MSI's Z97 Gaming 7 motherboard offers a bevy of updated features and aesthetics to usher in the Intel Z97 chipset-based product line. The intial update you'll notice are the design of the CPU VRM and chipset heat sinks. The VRM heat sinks have a unique banded design, reminiscent of a dragon's claws. This was done purposefully to cement the Gaming series moniker to the board in the user's mind. The chipset heat sink contains a glowing MSI corporate logo with the Dragon Gaming series shield logo centered above it. The black and red board color scheme is done tastefully with the red coloration used to accent and highlight the heat sinks. With an MRSP of $189, the Z97 Gaming 7 board is competitively priced to take the market by storm.

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Courtesy of MSI

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Courtesy of MSI

MSI designed the Z97 Gaming 7 board with a 12-phase digital power delivery system combining Hi-C and Dark capacitors with super ferrite chokes for optimal power delivery with enhanced power efficiency characteristics. The board includes the following integrated components: eight SATA 3 ports; one M.2 10 Gb/s ports; a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2205 NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; four PCI-Express x1 slots; a 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, and OC-Genie buttons; Slow Mode boot, Multi-BIOS, and Audio Power switches; left and right channel audio gain control switches; Realtek audio solution with isolated audio PCB and Nichicon audio capacitors; dedicated per-channel headphone OP-AMPs; integrated V-Check voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI Z97 Gaming 7 motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Like many other manufacturers, GIGABYTE is using the launch of the Intel Z97 Express chipset to update its product line aesthetics and makeup. The Z97X-Gaming G1-WIFI-BK motherboard is part of GIGABYTE's Black Edition product line, differentiated from other GIGABYTE offers because of the enhanced validation criteria each individual Black Edition product is put through prior to leaving the assembly plant. Each board is put through a 168 hour stress test, consisting of both CPU and GPU-based Lite Coin mining, to prove its worth as part of the elite Black Edition product line. The Z97X-Gaming G1-WIFI-BK motherboard itself shares components and aesthetics with their Gaming line, featuring the line's black and red coloration and the GIGABYTE Gaming logo (the silver eye) on the Z97 chipset heat sink. With an MSRP of $349, the board is priced at a premium, more than justified by its enhanced feature set and Black Edition enhanced validation criteria.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE paired the Z97X-Gaming G1-WIFI-BK motherboard with an 8 phase digital power delivery system to ensure clean power to the CPU under all operating conditions. Additionally, the board's VRM heat sinks can be integrated into an existing water loop using the provided G 1/4" threaded ports. Note that the PLX and chipset heat pipe is physically separate from the VRM heat pipe and does not benefit by water cooling the board's VRM cooler. The Z97X-Gaming G1-WIFI-BK motherboard boasts the following integrated feature list: eight SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; dual Gigabit NICs - an Intel i217V NIC and a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 NIC; an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth PCIe adapter; four PCI-Express x16 slot; three PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons; Dual-Bios and active BIOS switches; left and right channel audio gain control switches; Sound Blaster Core 3D audio solution; removable audio OP-AMP port; integrated voltage measurement points; hybrid VRM cooling solution; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z97X-Gaming G1-WIFI-BK motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Z97-Deluxe motherboard is the flagship board in ASUS' channel line of Intel Z97 chipset boards. ASUS revised its entire motherboard line for the Z97 chipset launch with the Z97-Deluxe featuring the updated channel board aesthetics as well as many design innovations built upon the previous board generation. With an MSRP of $399.99, ASUS priced the Z97-Deluxe at the level of other flagship motherboards with a plethora of integrated features and performance that more than justifies the price.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Z97-Deluxe to be a serious competitor in the enthusiast space, integrating a 16+2 phase digital power system to drive the CPU and DRAM with 10k-rated Japanese capacitors used through the board. The board also features an updated heat sink and heat pipe design to optimize passive heat transfer away from the digital VRM chipset and the Z97 chipset.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Z97-Deluxe motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction

With the release of the next generation desktop board line imminent, we wanted to give you a taste of the new ASUS offerings. ASUS offers support for current and next generation Intel Haswell processors as well as support for SATA 3 and next generation SATA storage solutions with their next generation boards.

ASUS sought to perfect their designs with the new board lines, building off the successess from the Intel Z87-based boards and improving them for better performance and usability. All board lines feature an updated UEFI BIOS with more GUI-driven interfaces and wizards, particularly aimed at those users who don't want to muck around in the Advanced mode settings. Additionally, all board lines feature updated heat sink designs and aesthetics to further differentiate them from their Z87 counterparts. ASUS also enhanced their AI Suite software with 5-Way Optimization functionality, instead of the 4-Way Optimization functionality integrated into the last generation of AI Suite. 5-Way Optimization functionality integrates TPU (Turbo Processing Unit), EPU (Energy Processing Unit), DIGI+ Power Control, Fan XPert 3, and Turbo App into a single cohesive entity.

ASUS will continue to market the next generation boards across their standard four board lines:

  • Channel series motherboards
  • Republic of Gamers series motherboards
  • TUF series motherboards
  • Workstation series motherboards

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Channel series banner

The Channel series boards include all board designs aimed at mainstream consumers and system builders.

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ROG series banner

The ROG (Republic of Gamers) series boards are geared more towards enthusiast and gamer users, featuring a black and red color scheme for eye-catching appeal. The boards also feature innovative designs and integrated components that differentiate them from the other lines.

Continue reading our introduction of the ASUS next generation motherboards!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction

GIGABYTE is doing some interesting things with their next generation line of boards, offering support for current and next generation Intel Haswell processors. Additionally, these next generation boards will offer support for SATA 3 and next generation SATA storage solutions.

The biggest difference between their new board lines and existing Intel Z87 motherboard lines is how they are differentiating the different board series. GIGABYTE will have a total of four board series in their new product line:

  • Normal series motherboards
  • Gaming series motherboards
  • Overclocking series motherboards
  • Black Edition series motherboards

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Normal Series motherboard
Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Normal Series boards encompass their channel boards for mainstream consumers and system builders.

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Gaming Series motherboard

The Gaming Series boards are geared more towards enthusiast and gamers users, featuring a black and red color scheme for eye-catching appeal.

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Overclocking Series motherboard
Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Overclocking Series boards are geared towards hard-core enthusiasts and the LN2 record setting crowd with features and designs specifically oriented to eeking out that last bit of speed and performance from the board.

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Black Edition Series motherboard
Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Black Edition Series boards build on several products from the other board lines, ensuring the utmost stability and performance through a specialized factory-performed testing regimen.

Continue reading our introduction of the GIGABYTE next generation motherboards!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VI Impact is ASUS' newest mini-ITX member of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) family. ASUS integrated design innovations from its Z77-based mITX board and added in some ROG-based innovations to come up with a wholly unique entity. With an MSRP of $229, the Maximus VI Impact comes in at the higher-end of the mITX price range with enough integrated features to more than justify the cost.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Similar to other members of the ROG-based Z87 releases, ASUS designed the Maximus VI Impact board with top of the line power components. The board's digital power system centers on an 8+2 phase power regulation system using 60 amp-rated BlackWing chokes, powIRstage MOSFETS, and 10k-rated Black Metallic capacitors. To save space on the board, the power components are mounted vertically on a hard-attached PCB to the right of the socket with the sound components and wireless networking on vertical removable cards to the upper left of the CPU socket and integrated into the board's rear panel.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VI Impact motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VI Formula is among the newest members of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) product line. From the design of its ROG Armor to its power regulation circuitry, the Maximum VI Formula takes the ASUS Z87 motherboard line to a whole new level.  The Maximus VI Formula does not come cheap at an MSRP of $329.99, but it is a steal in light of all the high-end component ASUS packed under the hood.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Maximus VI Formula with a top notch power delivery system, featuring an 8+2-phase digital power regulation system using BlackWing chokes, NexFET MOSFETS touting 90% efficiency, and 10k-rated Black Metallic capacitors. The ASUS integrated the following features into the Maximus VI Formula's design: 10 SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) SSD slot integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo II card; an Intel I217-V GigE NIC; an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo II card; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to tri-card support; three PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, MemOK!, BIOS Flashback, ROG Connect, DirectKey, and BIOS switch buttons; Probelt voltage measurement points; OC Panel support; SupremeFX Formula audio solution; CrossChill Hybrid air and water cooled VRM cooling solution; ROG Armor overlay; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VI Formula motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ECS

The Z87H3-A3X is ECS' latest release in their L337 Gaming board line. Similar to the A2X Extreme board, ECS designed the Z87H3-A3X with a liberal amount of gold, from the gold plating on its capacitors to the gold tint on its integrated heat sinks. This board is a steal at it $119.99 MSRP with its Intel Z87 chipset and performance-oriented components.

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Courtesy of ECS

ECS powers the Z87H3-A3X motherboard with a 6-phase digital power regulation system to ensure consistent power delivery to the CPU under all operating circumstances. The Z87H3-A3X includes the following integrated features: six SATA 6Gb/s ports and one eSATA port; an Intel GigE NIC; two PCI-Express x16 slots for up to dual-card support; four PCI-Express x1 slots; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support. The 80P button configures what information displays on the diagnostic display once the board has successfully initialized.

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Courtesy of ECS

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Courtesy of ECS

Being part of their L337 Gaming series boards, the Z87H3-A3X includes the Durathon power delivery solution and innovative cooling solution. The board's heat sinks are designed to enhance airflow over key components to aid in cooling, while the Durathon system incorporates enhanced power modules to maximum performance and minimize failure potential.

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Courtesy of ECS

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z87H3-A3X motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 motherboard is among GIGABYTE's flagship boards supporting the forth generation of the Intel Core processor line through the integrated Z87 chipset. The board offers support for the newest generation of Intel LGA1150-based processors with all the integrated features and port support you've come to expect from a high-end board. At an MSRP of $419.99, the G1.Sniper 5 premium price is only matched by its premium and expansive feature set.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE packed the G1.Sniper full of premium features to ensure its viability as a top-rated contender. The board features the Ultra Durable 5 Plus power technology and the Amp-Up Audio technology. Ultra Durable 5 Plus brings several high-end power components into the board's design: International Rectifier (IR) manufactured PowIRstage™ ICs and PWM controllers, Nippon Chemi-con manufactured Black Solid capacitors with a 10k hour operational rating at 105C, 15 micron gold plating on the CPU socket pins, and two 0.070mm copper layers imbedded into the PCB for optimal heat dissipation. GIGABYTE's Amp-Up Audio technology integrates an op-amp socket into the board's audio PCB, giving the user the ability to customize their audio listening experience. Additionally, the G1.Sniper 5 has the following integrated features: 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports; dual GigE NICs - an Intel NIC and a Qualcomm Killer NIC; four PCI-Express x16 slots for up to quad-card NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire support; three PCI-Express x1 slots; on board power, reset, and BIOS reset buttons; switch BIOS and Dual-BIOS switches; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 Z87 motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of EVGA

The EVGA Z87 Stinger is EVGA's Z87-based answer for the small form-factor crowd. Sporting the micro-ITX form factor, the board is featured packed and offers support for the latest generation of Intel LGA1150-based processors. While its MSRP of $229.99 may seem large for its small stature, the Z87 Stinger's feature list makes it well worth the outlay.

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Courtesy of EVGA

The EVGA Z87 Stinger board features a 6-phase power delivery system and an impressive 10 layer PCB. Additionally, EVGA designed the CPU socket with a higher amount of gold, as well as use of solid state capacitors throughout the board to ensure problem-free operation under all operational circumstances. The following features are integrated into the Z87 Stinger: 4 SATA 6Gb/s ports; 1 mPCIe/mSATA 6Gb/s port; 1 eSATA 6Gb/s port; an Intel GigE NIC; 1 PCI-Express x16 slot; on board power, reset, and BIOS reset buttons; BIOS Select switch; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of EVGA

Technical Specifications (taken from the EVGA website)

Performance

Based on Intel Z87 chipset

Memory

2 x 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 16GB of DDR3 (2666MHz+ in dual channel configuration)

Storage I/O

4 x Serial ATA 600MB/sec (4 Internal) with support for RAID 0 and RAID1

Expansion Slot

1 x16

Multi I/O

Audio connector (Line-in, Line-out, MIC)

Integrated Peripherals

6 Channel Creative Sound Core3D
1 x 10/100/1000 (Intel i217)

Form Factor

mITX Form Factor
Length: 6.7in - 170.18mm
Width: 6.7in - 170.18mm

Operating System Support

Windows 8 32/64bit
Windows 7 32/64bit
Windows Vista 32/64bit
Windows XP 32/64bit

Product Warranty

This product comes with a 3 year warranty. Registration is recommended.

Continue reading our review of the EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The GIGABYTE Z87X-UD5H is the upper tier of their Z87 desktop board line. The board supports the latest generation of Intel LGA1150-based processors and is crammed full of all the bells and whistles you would expect on more costly boards. With an MSRP of $229.99, the board is aggressively priced to compete with the other upper tier Z87 desktop boards like the MSI Z87 MPower.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Besides an impressive 16-phase digital power delivery system dedicated to the processor, the Z87X-UD5H features GIGABYTE's Ultra Durable 5 Plus technology. Ultra Durable 5 Plus brings several high-end power components into the board's design: International Rectifier (IR) manufactured PowIRstage™ ICs and PWM controllers, Nippon Chemi-con manufactured Black Solid capacitors with a 10k hour operational rating at 105C, 15 micron gold plating on the CPU socket pins, and two 0.070mm copper layers imbedded into the PCB for optimal heat dissipation. In addition to the Ultra Durable 5 Plus power features, GIGABYTE designed the board with the following features: 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports; two Intel GigE NICs; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to dual-card NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire support; two PCI-Express x1 slots; a PCI slot; on board power, reset, and BIOS reset buttons; switch BIOS and Dual-BIOS switches; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z87X-UD5H motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of MSI

The Z87 XPower board is the flagship motherboard in MSI's MPower product line. The board supports the latest generation of Intel LGA1150-based processors with all the over-engineered goodness you've come to expect from an MSI flagship board. The Z87 XPower sports the black and yellow theme of the product line, along with integrated LEDs to really make the board stand out. While its $439.99 retail may seem a bit high, the stability, features, and raw power of the board make it a wise investment for those that only want the best.

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Courtesy of MSI

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Courtesy of MSI

Designed with a 32-phase digital power system and an eight-layer PCB, the MSI Z87 XPower is armed to take any amount of punishment you can throw at it. MSI incorporated a plethora of features into its massive XL-ATX form factor board: 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports; a mSATA 6Gb/s port; a Killer E2205 GigE NIC; Intel 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth adapter; five PCI-Express x16 slots for up to quad-card NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire support; two PCI-Express x1 slots; Lucidlogix Virtu® MVP 2.0 support; onboard power, reset, BIOS reset, CPU ratio control, base clock control, OC Genie, power discharge, and Go2BIOS buttons; multi-BIOS and PCIe control switches; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; 14 voltage check points; independent audio subsystem PCB design; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI Z87 XPower motherboard!