Subject: Motherboards | May 15, 2013 - 09:37 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: asus, P5A, ALi, Aladdin V, 100 MHz, Super 7, amd, K6, K6-2, SDRAM
I first got into computers in the 8088 days, but I started to do it professionally when Socket 5 was transitioning to Socket 7. The Pentium 133 based Quantex system I bought after the Atlanta Olympics catapulted me into the modern computer age (I was previously using an Intel 386SX-16 MHz system from DAK… don’t get me started on that company). It was also when AOL was the only internet service in Laramie, WY. I started browsing hardware retailers and then moved onto independent review sites that were only then just popping up. Tom’s and Anandtech were very new and did not feature many pictures because digital cameras were still quite rare.
Remember when the 1/5/2 setup was considered optimal? It allowed for the good modem and good soundcard to be installed!
One of the big shifts of the time is when Intel abandoned Socket 7 and forged ahead with Slot 1. AMD had fit the K6 into the Socket 7 infrastructure, though it was initially designed for a proprietary socket. Intel had the Pentium II line and things were moving fast in those days. AMD was providing competition for Intel with excellent integer performance and adequate floating performance, as well as providing a socketed product that was cheaper to produce for both AMD and its motherboard partners. Socket 7 was then morphed into Super 7 with support for 100 MHz FSB speeds. This was a big jump for AMD as they spearheaded this move. Cyrix, IBM, and Winchip all went along for the ride, but they often supported oddball bus speeds that did not always translate well into bus dividers for AGP and PCI.
The first wave of AGP enabled chipsets that also supported bus speeds above 66 MHz finally hit the market, and one of the first was the SiS 5591. One of the first boards to support this chipset was the MTech R581A. The board showed jumper settings that supported 100 MHz, but it was far from stable at that speed. It did fully support 83.3 MHz, which gave many socket 7 users a nice boost when overclocking. The first true 100 MHz chips were the VIA MVP-3 and the ALi M1571 (Aladdin V). These natively supported the 100 MHz bus and ran it perfectly fine. These chipsets allowed the later K6-2 and K6-3 chips to exist and compete successfully with the 100 MHz based Pentium IIs.
This particular model included the onboard ESS sound chip. Pretty posh for the time. Oh yes, there was a time before USB 2.0...
I had a heck of a time getting a hold of a VIA MVP-3 based motherboard at first, and I never actually laid hands upon any Aladdin V based unit during that time. There was no Newegg or Tiger Direct back then, and most major distributors like Tech Data did not always stock a wide selection of products. I was also not making a whole lot of money. I was particularly jealous of all these other sites getting access to review hardware, but then again at this time I had only a handful of articles out and I had not even started Penstarsys.com yet. So when guys like Tom and Anand got their hands on the Asus P5A, it was most definitely must-read material.
This was one of the first 100 MHz Super 7 based boards out there, as VIA was having some real issues with their MVP-3 chipset. Eventually VIA fixed those issues, but not before ALi had a good couple of months’ lead on their primary competitor. Of great interest for this board was the ability to run at 120 MHz FSB. Very few boards could handle that speed well, but the 115 MHz setting seemed very stable. I/O performance was also a step above the VIA chipsets, but VIA was fairly well known for having strange I/O issues at that time (not to mention AGP compatibility issues). The Asus P5A was a great board for the time, and it did not suffer much from the AGP issues that plagued VIA. Oddly enough, though ALi had the better overall chipset, they did not sell as well as the VIA products. Asus still shipped a lot of them, so I guess that made up for the more limited selection.
That is a single phase power... array? Look at all that open space throughout the board!
Super 7 was a dying breed by 1999 with the introduction of the K7 Athlon, but the P5A sold very well throughout its entire lifespan. The board I acquired had the K6-2 500 in the socket, and a BIOS update would provide support for the later K6-3+ and K6-2+ processors. What perhaps strikes me most is the overall simplicity of the boards as compared to modern products. The P5A looks like it has a single power phase going to the CPU, does not feature integrated Ethernet or other amenities, and only has two ATA-33 ports. Interestingly enough, it does feature a ESS based audio codec. Rare for those days! Compare that to the monster products like the Crosshair V Formula Z or the G1.Sniper.3, I guess simplicity is overlooked these days?
Subject: Motherboards | May 15, 2013 - 03:56 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: server, open source hardware, open source, open compute project, open 3.0, amd
Throughout last year, AMD worked with the Open Compute Foundation to develop open source hardware for servers. The goal of the project was to bring lower-cost, efficient motherboards (compatible with AMD processors) to the server market. Even better, the AMD-compatible hardware is open source which gives companies and OEM/system integrators free reign to modify and build the hardware themselves. The latest iteration of the project is called Open 3.0 and motherboards based on the design(s) are available now from a number of AMD partners.
An AMD Open 3.0 motherboard.
According to a recent AMD press release, Open 3.0 motherboards will be available from AVnet.inc, Hyve, Penguin Computing, and Zt Systems beginning this week. The new motherboards strip out unnecessary and "over-provisioned" hardware to cut down on upfront hardware costs and electrical usage. Open 3.0 uses a base open source motherboard design that can then be further customized to work with a variety of workloads and in various rack/server configurations. Servers based on OPen 3.0 will range from 1U to 3U in size and can slot into standard 19" racks or Open Rack environments. The boards with their dual Opteron 6300-series processors will reportedly be suitable for High Performance Computing (HPC), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Cloud applications, and storage servers. AMD claims that its Open 3.0 motherboards can reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of servers by up to 57% in data centers. AMD claims that a server based on Open 3.0 has a TCO of $4,589 while one based on a traditional OEM motherboard costs up to 57% more at $10,669. The AMD-provided example sound nice. Despite the example likely being the best-case-scenario, the idea behind the Open Compute Project and the AMD-specific Open 3.0 hardware does make sense. Customers should see more competition with motherboards that are cheaper to produce and run thanks to the open source nature. Further details on the status of Open 3.0 and the available hardware is being discussed at an invitation-only industry round-table this week between partners, interested enterprise customers, and a number of companies (including AMD, Broadcom, and Quanta).
For the uninitiated, the Open 3.0 hardware features a motherboard that measures 16" x 16.7" and is intended for 1U, 1.5U, 2U, and 3U servers. Each Open 3.0 board includes two AMD Opteron 6300 series processors, 24 DDR3 DIMM slots (12 per CPU, 4 channels with 3 DIMMs each), six SATA ports, 1 managed dual-channel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, up to four PCI-E slots, and a single Mezzanine connector for custom modules (eg. the Mellanox IO or Broadcom Management card). Board IO will include a single serial port and two USB ports.
I'm glad to see AMD's side of the Open Compute Project come to fruition with the company's Open 3.0 hardware. Anything to reduce power usage and hardware cost is welcome in the data center world, and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the open source hardware will have, especially when it comes to custom designs from system integrators. Intel is also working towards open source server hardware along with Facebook and the Open Compute Project. It is refreshing to see open source gaining traction in this market segment, to say the least.
Subject: Motherboards | May 8, 2013 - 09:51 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: asus, K7M, Irongate, AMD-751, VIA 686a, retro, Slot A, K7, athlon
It might not be entirely obvious to viewers, but I love old hardware. I came across a stash of old machines at my workplace that we were going to just throw away. I was able to grab a couple of pretty interesting products from years past that I wanted to share and chat about. The first of this series should be very familiar to most of you, especially those around when Ryan started his first website.
It is fun to reminisce about old hardware. The K7M is a classic.
The Asus K7M was one of the first Slot A motherboards out. It was arguably the most fully featured of the group. Its primary competition was the FIC SD-11 and the Gigabyte GA-7IXE. If you remember that monster of a board (with one very strange layout) then you most certainly have fond memories of what Asus was able to bring to the table.
The K7M was based on the AMD “Irongate” northbridge (AMD-751). This was a pretty fully featured chip at the time. It supported SDRAM up to 100 MHz and featured AGP 2X. This chip was rumored to contain IP from VIA, but it had distinctly better performance than the competing AGP 2X chipsets from VIA at the time. I distinctly remember having fewer AGP issues with these boards than products from VIA. The K7M eschewed the AMD 756 southbridge and instead used the VIA 686A controller. This was an updated (and fixed) southbridge from VIA that supported up to ATA-66 speeds and USB 1.1.
Integrated audio was still uncommon back in the day. If you thought mobo audio quality is bad now...
The K7M was a decent overclocker for the time, but little was known about the EV-6 bus and how it reacted to overclocking. Bus speeds up to 107 MHz or so were common, but anything above that got pretty flaky fast. Later BIOS revisions helped a bit, but the 751 was not going to be pushed much further. It was not until official 133 MHz support came in did we see some legroom with overclocking.
The K7M was a very solid board for being an introductory product. One thing that always amused me greatly was that Asus, Gigabyte, and other motherboard manufacturers would refuse to show Slot A boards on the floor of Comdex because they feared that Intel would come down upon them like a ton of bricks. If a person wanted to see a Slot A board, they would have to go into a back room and view it from there, but only upon request. It was not until the next year that some manufacturers cautiously showed off their AMD offerings.
Name that mini-slot above the AGP!
I ran this particular board for a while. I believe I ran the SD-11 longer. I was doing reviews all the time, so I was swapping out motherboards pretty frequently. The Asus had a luxury feel about it as compared to the FIC and Gigabyte offerings. It even had integrated audio and a game port. Few other products of the time included such a perk. AMD was on a roll with the original K7 Athlon, and Asus was one of the first partners to really produce a world class motherboard for the architecture.
Subject: Motherboards | May 7, 2013 - 12:04 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z87 OC Formula, z87, lga 1150, fatal1ty, asrock
The launch of Intel’s next-generation Haswell processors and Z87 chipset is getting closer, and the various motherboard vendors have started teasing their upcoming product lines. Taiwan-based motherboard manufacturer ASRock is the latest company to detail its initial Z87 lineup, and it is fairly extensive.
ASRock will be launching LGA 1150 boards under its Extreme, OC, and Fatal1ty series. The Z87 Extreme series is intended for enthusiasts that need the the most connectivity options possible, including having the highest number of PCI-E slots. The Z87 OC Formula motherboards have beefy VRM hardware and are built to be pushed to the limit by overclockers. Finally, the Fatal1ty-branded motherboards are aimed at PC gamers and support 3 way multi-GPU setups and Creative Sound Core 3D audio chips. Many of the ASRock boards and an alternative SKU with an included 802.11ac Wi-Fi card. These boards are identified by the “/ac” text in their product names.
The initial ASRock Z87 Extreme series launch will include the following boards:
- Z87 Extreme 11
Z87 Extreme 9
- Z87 Extreme 9 with 802.11ac WLAN
Z87 Extreme 6
- Z87 Extreme 6 with 802.11ac WLAN
- Z87 Extreme 4
- Z87M Extreme 4 (Micro-ATX)
All of these boards will provide plenty of PCI-E slots and rear IO options that include eSATA, USB 3.0, at least one Gigabit LAN port (and dual on some boards), HDMI video outputs, and both digital and analog audio outputs. Note that the top three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots are rather close together on the Extreme 9 board. This lends credence to the Extreme series use as more of an enthusiast’s work rig with PCI-E SSD accelerator or hardware RAID cards rather than strictly a multi-GPU setup.
The OC series will include the following boards geared for Intel’s Haswell processors:
- Z87 OC Formula
Z87M OC Formula
- Z87M OC Formula with 802.11ac WLAN
The Z87 OC Formula series will launch with two boards, one that is full ATX and one that is Micro-ATX. These boards are similar in features and design to the Extreme 6 motherboard, but have additional hardware to facilitate overclocking.
Finally, the gamer-centric Fatal1ty series is aimed at high-end gaming PCs. The series will launch with the following boards:
- Z87 Fatal1ty Professional
- H87 Fatal1ty Performance
The Fatal1ty Professional uses Intel’s Z87 chipset and is aimed at high-end gaming PCs while the H78 Fatal1ty Performance uses the lower-cost H87 chipset and is aimed at midrange gaming systems. Multi-GPU and higher-end onboard sound are the main features of this ASRock series.
Pricing and availability are still unknown, but the company has quite the lineup planned, and the boards should cover a wide breadth of price points. It is nice to see the Micro ATX options as well as the standard ATX models. Now, we just need some Mini-ITX Z87 boards! Additional photos of the Z87 motherboards are available over at Tech Power Up.
Over the weekend, Gigabyte posted a new photo to its Facebook page that teased the interface of the company’s upcoming UEFI BIOS. The new UEFI DualBIOS interface features an orange and black theme with a black background, orange accents, and white text. From the preview photos of Gigabyte’s Z87 motherboards, the BIOS colors will match up nicely with the actual black and orange colored hardware.
The middle pane occupies the most space and brings all of your standard BIOS setup and overclocking settings front and center. Gigabyte has laid out the various settings into tabbed categories. Users can further customize a shortcut menu on the right-most tab. This settings pane is surrounded on all sides by various bars and columns with status information.
The top bar includes graphs on the system’s voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. The bottom bar displays system information such as the total amount of RAM installed, CPU and BIOS identification, and other information. On the left of the main settings panel is a column with readouts on the installed processor. The information it provides at a glance includes CPU voltage, frequency, temperature, and core ratio. It also lists the CPU fan speeds. Meanwhile, the column on the right-hand side of the display hosts temperature and fan speed information for the PCH, system/case sensor, and up to five case fans.
While some enthusiasts might balk at the orange, black, and white color scheme, in all it looks like a nice improvement. Most of the information is available at a glance, and the customizable shortcut menu is a useful feature.
You can find the original photo as well as several other preview photos on Gigabyte’s Facebook page.
What do you think about the new UEFI BIOS UI?
Subject: Motherboards | April 26, 2013 - 03:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, FM2-A85XA-G65, socket fm2, amd
Compared to most current Intel boards, MSI's FM2-A85XA-G65 is very clean looking, especially around the CPU socket. This particular board benefits from LucidLogix's Virtu MVP in addition to hybrid Crossfire present on FM2 boards and will handle proper Crossfire as it does have a pair of PCIe 16x slots. You could build an agile HTPC with this motherboard, with 8 channel sound available and D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort output all present. The board is currently available for $110, a full review can be found over at X-bit Labs.
"MSI mainboards look great, have very convenient layout and use only high-quality components. These boards are energy-efficient, fast and work well with default settings. However, there are quite a few things in their BIOS that could use some extra work and the boards do not keep the power-saving technologies up and running during overclocking. Everything we have just said is true for the main hero of our today’s review."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 Socket FM2 @ X-bit Labs
- Asus F2A85-V PRO @ X-bit Labs
- BIOS Option Of The Week - OS Select For DRAM > 64MB @ TechARP
- MSI Z77A-GD65 GAMING Intel LGA 1155 @ techPowerUp
- Asus P8Z77-V LK @ eTeknix
- MSI Z77A-GD65 @ eTeknix
- Asus P8Z77-V @ eTeknix
- MSI Z77A-GD65 @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB Intel Z77 Motherboard Review @ PCSTAT
- ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Champion @ eTeknix
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
The Z77N-WiFi is GIGABYTE's latest edition to the Mini-ITX lineup. Although the board is not as packed with features as some of the other enthusiast-minded mini-ITX boards, GIGABYTE did some interesting things with the board layout to space components out on the board more evenly. The Z77N-WiFi even comes standard with dual-Realtek GbE NICs and an Intel 802.11n-based WiFi mPCIe card. We put the board through our normal gamut of tests to see how well this mighty mite sized up with its full-sized brethren. The Z77N-WiFi board comes with an equally reasonable retail price at a mere $129.99.
Subject: Motherboards | April 10, 2013 - 06:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gigabyte, Z77X-UD4H, Intel Z77, lga1155
Like many Z77 boards, the Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H has a rather crowded socket area, if you are not going with a watercooling solution consider purchasing low profile DIMMs. One thing it has that most other boards do not have is an auxiliary power plug next to the SATA ports which takes a SATA power plug, not a molex connector. It also sports a significant number of slots, three PCIe 3.0 16x slots, three PCIe 1x slots and even a PCI slot. [H]ard|OCP had an interesting time overclocking this board, you should familiarize yourself with their experiences if you plan on picking this board up and overclocking your CPU.
"It’s been awhile since we’ve looked at a motherboard from Gigabyte. We haven’t forgotten Gigabyte and decided to take the Z77X-UD4H for a little test drive. The Z77X-UD4H is a sub-$170 motherboard with a great look and a solid feature list for the price point that has the computer hardware enthusiast in mind."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming @ Hardware.info
- MSI Z77A-G45 Gaming Motherboard Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD4H Intel Z77 Motherboard Review @ PCSTATS
- GIGABYTE Z77X-UP4 TH @ Tweaktown
- ASUS P8Z77-V PREMIUM @ Tweaktown
- ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt @ Tweaktown
- MSI Z77 MPower @ eTeknix
- ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Champion @ Tweaktown
- GIGABYTE Z77-HD4 @ Tweaktown
- ASUS P9X79 PRO Motherboard Review @ Techgage
- BIOS Option Of The Week - R/W Queue Bypass @ TechARP
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
The P8Z77X-I Deluxe is ASUS' high-powered answer to the small form factor crowd. Through some unique design decisions and an upright daughter-board, ASUS was able to cram a full 10-phase digital power delivery system into this board without sacrificing any other integrated components. It's nice to see a manufacturer step up and design a mini-ITX board in the same vein as its full-sized counterpart. We put the board through our normal gamut of tests to see how well this mighty Mini-ITX board sized up with its full-sized brethren. At a retail list price of $219, the P8Z77-I Deluxe needs to prove its worth against the full sized boards.
Courtesy of ASUS
ASUS designed a full 10 phases of digital power, housed in the board's upright daughter card sitting parallel to the CPU cooler. The P8Z77-I Deluxe with its high-end power plant is packed full of features, including SATA 2, SATA 3, e-SATA, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 ports for storage devices. Networking capabilities include an Intel GigE NIC, a Broadcom dual-port 802.11n adapter, and a Broadcom Bluetooth adapter. The board also features a single PCI-Express x16 slot for graphics cards and other expansion cards.
Courtesy of ASUS
Subject: Motherboards | April 2, 2013 - 11:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: asus, p9x79-e, workstation, Sandy Bridge E, quad sli, quad crossfire, lga 2011
Earlier this year at CES, ASUS showed off a high-end workstation board called the P9X79-E WS. The board is meant for Sandy Bridge-E processors, but will likely be compatible with Ivy Bridge-E as well. Unlike Wolverine and Zeus, the P9X79-E WS is a motherboard that will actually see the light of day and has been officially launched. It will be available sometime in May at an as-yet-unannounced price.
The P9X79-E hosts a single LGA 2011 processor, up to 64GB of 2400MHz DDR3, the Intel X79 PCH, and support for 4-Way SLI or CrossFire on four of its seven total PCI-E 3.0 slots. The workstation board uses a 10-layer PCB, ASUS DIGI+ with 10+2 power phases, DR Power PSU monitoring, ASUS SSD Caching II, solid capacitors, and fanless heatsinks connected via copper heatpipes.
Storage options include six SATA 6Gbps ports, four SATA II 3Gbps ports, and two eSATA ports coming from the front panel header. The rear IO has changed a bit since the board seen at CES, however. The now-official ASUS P9X79-E WS includes the following rear IO options:
- 1 x PS/2 combo port
- 10 x USB 2.0 ports (one can be used for BIOS flashing)
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x eSATA ports
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports backed by Intel i210 GbE controller
- 6 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF port
The board can accommodate up to four dual slot graphics cards or seven single slot expansion cards (like PCI-E SSDs and RAID controllers). As a workstation board, it is likely to be pricey, but for those that need 4-way SLI and LGA 2011 (possibly for Ivy Bridge-E though its hard to say for sure if that will work yet) it is shaping up to be a good option. As mentioned above, the P9X79-E WS will reportedly be available for purchase in about a month. Sometime in early May or late April, according to Slash Gear.