Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

MSI Redefines AM3+ Value

It is no secret that AMD’s AM3+ motherboard ecosystem has languished for the past year or so, with very few examples of new products hitting the scene.  This is understandable since AMD has not updated the chipset options for AM3+, and only recently did they release updated processors in the form of the FX-8370 and FX-8370e.  It has been two years since the release of the original FX-8350 and another year since the high TDP FX-9000 series of parts.  For better or for worse, AMD is pushing their APUs far harder to consumers than the aging AM3+ platform.


MSI has refined their "Gaming" series of products with a distinctive look that catches the eye.

This does not mean that the AM3+ ecosystem is non-viable to both AMD and consumers.  While Intel has stayed ahead of AMD in terms of IPC, TDP, and process technology the overall competitiveness of the latest AM3+ parts are still quite good when considering price.  Yes, these CPUs will run hotter and pull more power than the Intel parts they are directly competing against, but when we look at the prices of comparable motherboards and the CPUs themselves, AMD still holds a price/performance advantage.  The AM3+ processors that feature six and eight cores (3 and 4 modules) are solid performers in a wide variety of applications.  The top end eight core products compete well against the latest Intel parts in many gaming scenarios, as well as productivity applications which leverage multiple threads.

When the Vishera based FX processors were initially introduced we saw an influx of new AM3+ designs that would support these new processors, as well as the planned 220 watt TDP variants that would emerge later.  From that point on we have only seen a smattering of new products based on AM3+.  From all the available roadmaps from AMD that we have seen, we do not expect there to be new products based on Steamroller or Excavator architectures on the AM3+ platform.  AMD is relying on their HSA enabled APUs to retain marketshare and hopefully drive new software technologies that will leverage these products.  The Future really is Fusion…

MSI is bucking this trend.  The company still sees value in the AM3+ market, and they are introducing a new product that looks to more adequately fit the financial realities of that marketplace.  We already have high end boards from MSI, ASRock, Asus, and Gigabyte that are feature packed and go for a relatively low price for enthusiast motherboards.  On the other end of the spectrum we have barebone motherboards based on even older chipsets (SB710/750 based).  In between we often see AMD 970 based boards that offer a tolerable mix of features attached to a low price.


The bundle is fair, but not exciting.  It offers the basics to get a user up and running quickly.

The MSI 970 Gaming motherboard is a different beast as compared to the rest of the market.  It is a Gaming branded board which offers a host of features that can be considered high end, but at the same time being offered for a price less than $100 US.  MSI looks to explore this sweet spot with a motherboard that far outpunches its weight class.  This board is a classic balance of price vs. features, but it addresses this balance in a rather unique way.  Part of it might be marketing, but a good chunk of it is smart and solid engineering.

Click to read the entire MSI 970 Gaming Review!

ASUS' X99-A, they trimmed the price but not the features

Subject: Motherboards | November 6, 2014 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: x99-a, X99, Intel, Haswell-E, asus

At $258 the ASUS X99-A is one of the more affordably priced X99 motherboards on the market and The Tech Report thoroughly tested it to see what, if anything, is lacking.  The board still has the "OC Socket" with extra pins which allow the certifiably insane to up their CPU voltage to 1.8V, it retains the M.2 socket, the DDR4 can hit 3000MHz even with all 8 slots populated and three of its six PCIe slots can be used together for SLI or Crossfire.  In fact The Tech Report has a very nice illustration showing how the board works with both 28 lane and 40 lane Haswell-E processors.  Check out the results of their testing right here.


"Rather than loading up on flashy extras and extraneous accessories, Asus' X99-A motherboard focuses on the basics. It has a sensible spec, loads of builder-friendly features, and a diverse array of powerful tweaking options. Read on to see what makes this our favorite Haswell-E motherboard to date."

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MSI Also Launches X99S GAMING 9 ACK Motherboard

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | November 4, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: msi, X99, motherboard, motherboards, qualcomm, killer, 802.11ac

The MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC motherboard is built for the Haswell-E architecture, and Morry did a review of it just a couple of week ago. He liked it, giving it a gold award. Now MSI has released a new model, the X99S GAMING 9 ACK, which is basically identical except for its wireless adapter. While the original AC-variant had Intel 802.11ac with dual antennas, the ACK comes with Qualcomm Killer-branded 802.11ac.


Again, for the rest of the motherboard, I will refer you to Morry's review. The only real difference is the Killer NIC and Wireless-AC combo, which is actually more than it seems. If I understand it correctly, "Smart Teaming" will monitor the specific applications using the network and split them between LAN and WiFi, with the more latency-dependent programs getting the wired connection. In theory, this is interesting except that both streams would need to merge in order to get out the internet, which will be your bottleneck. On the other hand, if this works with multiple internet connections, then I could see a use case. For instance, someone has a solid DSL connection alongside their high-bandwidth Cable ISP.

Or, of course, that could not work at all and the outbound internet will, in fact, be your bottleneck.

Pricing and availability is also not available. You can find the original X99S GAMING 9, with the Intel wireless network controller, for about $405. An upgraded wireless adapter should not increase the cost much at all.

Source: MSI

MSI Launches X99S MPOWER Motherboard

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | November 4, 2014 - 01:12 AM |
Tagged: X99, overclocking, msi, mpower, motherboards, motherboard

The X99S XPOWER is MSI's top-of-the-line overclocking motherboard. The company has just introduced the X99S MPOWER to complement it on their product stack. It is a similar motherboard with a smaller price tag that was reduced by removing a few optional features (I will outline the major differences, below). These are basically unrelated to performance and overclocking, minus the buttons to set the base clock on the motherboard itself and a couple of accessories (the XPOWER comes with a free Delid Die Guard and temporary fan stand). It is more things like the number of I/O ports.


The main differences with the MPOWER are:

  • It does not have the fifth, eight-lane PCIe slot, just the four provided by Haswell-E.
  • It has one Intel Gigabit Ethernet adapter, instead of two.
  • It does not have built-in 802.11ac WiFi or Bluetooth.
  • It has two less USB 3.0 ports (external).
  • It has one less USB 2.0 port (internal, seemingly the "Direct USB" port for BIOS updates).
  • It does not come with a Delid Die Guard or fan stand.

There are a few other differences, such as the XPOWER having an I/O port cover and a few extra on-board overclocking switches and buttons, but I cannot see anything that stands out. The current price difference is about 115$ at Newegg, which is a healthy saving if nothing is a deal-killer.

The X99S XPOWER motherboard is available now, although MSI does not provide an expected MSRP. I found it at Newegg for $270 (USD) and at MemoryExpress for $320 (CDN), though.

Source: MSI

The ASRock Z97 Extreme6 has a surprise for you M.2 fans

Subject: Motherboards | October 23, 2014 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: asrock, Z97 Extreme6, Broadwell, haswell

For just under $200 the ASRock Z97 Extreme is a good base to build a Broadwell or Haswell platform on for significantly less than a brand new Haswell-E system.  The design is quite clean and well spaced out to allow the use of a large cooler along with integral heat sinks improving the looks and thermals of the motherboard.  The first two PCIe 3.0 16x slots share 16 lanes between them, the third slot is PCIe 2.0 and is limited to a maximum of two lanes, with two 1x and a mini PCIe slot each getting one lane.  Four of the remaining PCIe 3.0 lanes are taken up by the M.2 socket, which gives you up to 32Gbps of transfer speed, not too shabby for a Z97 board.  There are a lot of other features, including two separate physical UEFI chips and a very comprehensive software suite to manage the system, which you read about at The Tech Report.


"With Broadwell compatibility and a secondary M.2 socket connected to four PCIe Gen3 lanes in the CPU, ASRock's Z97 Extreme6 might just be the most future-proof Haswell motherboard around. It's surprisingly affordable, too, despite having loads of other extras. Read on for more on a truly unique Z97 contender."

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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications



Courtesy of MSI

MSI upped the ante with their X99S Gaming 9 AC board, combining their black and red Dragon-inspired design with support for the newest Intel LGA2011-3 socket processors and DDR4 memory modules. The board features heat sinks over all the expected areas as well as a large LED-lit heat sink over the X99 chipset. MSI also integrates an armor-style overlay covering their audio components and an overlay cover for their rear panel. One of their most interesting additions is the MSI Streaming Engine, touted to assist with graphics encoding to make up for the lack of the integrated graphics processor in the Haswell-E CPUs. As a flagship board, the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC comes at a flagship price with an MSRP of $429.99.


Courtesy of MSI


Courtesy of MSI

MSI integrated an 8-phase digital power delivery system into the X99S Gaming 9 AC, 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 features: eight SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express port; one M.2 PCIe x4 32 Gb/s port; a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2205 NIC; Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; five PCI-Express x16 slots; a 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, and OC-Genie buttons; Slow Mode boot, Multi-BIOS, OC Genie mode, and Audio Power switches; Realtek audio solution with isolated audio PCB and Nichicon audio capacitors; dedicated per-channel headphone OP-AMPs; integrated V-Check voltage measurement points; Streaming Engine with integrated AVerMedia HD H.264 encoding chip; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.


Courtesy of MSI

Continue reading our review of the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC motherboard!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications



Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Z97X-UD5H motherboard is one of the middle tier offerings in GIGABYTE's channel line of boards. GIGABYTE updated the previous revision of their UD5H board, integrating the Intel Z97 Express chipset as well as updated heat sink and power circuitry design. At an MSRP of $189.99, the Z97X-UD5H offers a premium feature set at an affordable price.


Courtesy of GIGABYTE


Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE designed the board in accordance with the latest revision of their Ultra Durable design specifications, integrating a 12-phase digital power system so that the board would remain stable under any operating conditions. Ultra Durable 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 embedded into the PCB for optimal heat dissipation. The Z97X-UD5H motherboard includes the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; one M.2 10 Gb/s port; dual Gigabit NICs - an Intel I217-V NIC and a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slot; two PCI-Express x1 slots; two PCI slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons; Dual-Bios and active BIOS switches; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.


Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H motherboard!

ECS Launches L337 Gaming Z97I-Drone Mini ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | October 12, 2014 - 01:27 AM |
Tagged: z97, PCI-E 3.0, mini ITX, M.2, L337 Gaming, intel i218v, haswell, ECS

ECS recently introduced the mini ITX Z97I-DRONE under its L337 Gaming series. This new motherboard is aimed at gamers and overclockers looking to put together a high end small form factor system based around Intel’s Haswell processor and Z97 Express chipset.


The Z97I-DRONE is a mini ITX form factor board measuring 170mm x 170mm. It is based around the Intel Z97 Express chipset and supports Haswell processors. ECS has integrated several features aimed at gamers including Sound Blaster Cinema 2 audio, PCI-E 3.0, and an Intel I218V NIC. Beyond that, the Z97I-DRONE also incorporates high end power management hardware that enables overclocking. ECS uses what it calls “Hybrid Power” technology on the new mini ITX board which entails a 5-phase PWM to manage stable power delivery to the processor and memory, dual MOSFETs (which are reportedly 90% power efficient), Nichicon Japanese capacitors, and Icy Chokes which ECS states are more stable and produces 13% less heat versus ferrite chokes.

The internal layout is unique, with the internal headers, PCH, and five SATA III ports placed along the top half of the motherboard and the LGA 1150 socket sitting in the bottom right corner. The right edge of the board hosts two dual channel DDR3 memory slots that support a maximum of 16GB clocked at 3000+ MHz when overclocked. The power management “Hybrid Power” hardware sits to the left of the processor socket. A single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot sits on the bottom edge of the board. Further, Morry will be ecstatic to know that the CMOS battery is vertically mounted on the opposite side of the GPU slot and sits directly to the left of the M.2 slot above the processor socket (to the right of the southbridge). The board has internal headers for two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. ECS is using a Realtek ALC1150 8-channel audio codec to drive the audio outputs and an Intel I218V Gigabit LAN NIC for networking.


Rear IO on the mini ITX Z97I-DRONE consists of the following ports:

  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x Video Outputs
    • 1 x DVI
    • 1 x DisplayPort
    • 1 x HDMI
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x RJ45 (Intel I218V)
  • 6 x Audio Outputs
    • 5 x Analog Audio
    • 1 x Optical S/PDIF

Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, but if you are interested in this board keep an eye on this ECS product page.

Also read: ECS 2014 Press Event: LIVE, LIVA, LEAD, L337 @ PC Perspective.

Source: ECS

Gigabyte's X99-UD4 ... wait, is that what Dubstep is?

Subject: Motherboards | October 9, 2014 - 06:41 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Intel X99, X99-UD4

Gigabyte's X99-UD4 is going with a more aesthetically clean design than other X99 boards have been sporting, although it does have a 30-µm gold layer on the CPU socket, DIMM slots, and PCIe x16 slots so don't think they skipped out on the design.  Cooper Bussmann chokes and solid-state capacitors as well as International Rectifier's PowIRstage all-digital circuitry explain both the high power efficiency and smooth overclock settings that The Tech Report found when benchmarking this board.  However if you really want to see the most impressive feature on this board you have to head over and watch the video on the first page of the review.


"Buying into Intel's high-end desktop platform doesn't have to be exorbitantly expensive. Gigabyte's X99-UD4 motherboard offers an affordable path to Haswell-E, and it doesn't skimp on quality hardware or extra perks. We've taken a closer look at the board to see if the rest of it measures up."

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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications



Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VII Formula motherboard is one of the newest members of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) product line, integrating several new features to elevate the board to an entirely new level over is predecessor. From outward appearance the Maximus VII Formula looks very similar to its previous revision, the Maximus VI Formula. However, ASUS made some under-the-hood enhancements and minor layout adjustments to the board, utilizing the functionality of the integrated Intel Z97 chipset. The Maximus VII Formula comes with a premium MSRP of $369.00, but is well worth the cost given the premium feature set and performance potential of the board.


Courtesy of ASUS


Courtesy of ASUS


Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Maximus VII Formula motherboard with a top-rated 8-phase digital power delivery system, combining 60A-rated BlackWing chokes, NexFET MOSFETs with a 90% efficiency rating, and 10k Japanese-source Black Metallic capacitors, for unprecedented system stability under any circumstance. Additionally, ASUS integrate their updated SupremeFX Formula audio system for superior audio fidelity through the integrated audio ports. The Maximus VII Formula contains the following features integrated into its design: six SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) 10 Gb/s port integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo III card; two SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; an Intel I218V GigE NIC; an AzureWave (Broadcomm chipset) 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo III card; three PCI-Express Gen3 x16 slots; three PCI-Express Gen2 x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, Keybot, MemOK!, BIOS Flashback, ROG Connect, and Sonic SoundStage buttons; Probelt voltage measurement points; OC Panel support; SupremeFX Formula 2014 audio solution; CrossChill Hybrid air and water cooled VRM copper-based cooling solution; ROG Armor overlay; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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