Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of MSI
With the Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt, MSI took an award winning design and tweaked it to bring an affordable Thunderbolt-based solution to the masses without sacrificing on quality or performance. We put this board through our grueling battery of tests to validate the board's performance promises. The MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt can be found at your favorite retailer for the reasonable price of $169.99.
Courtesy of MSI
The Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt sports a simple design and layout with some of the bells and whistles found on the higher priced boards omitted to keep the feature set intact and the price to a minimum. MSI includes the following features in the Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt's design: SATA 2 and SATA 3 ports; a Realtek GigE NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to tri-card support; USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports; and a single Thunderbolt port in the rear panel. For an in-depth overview on Thunderbolt technology and its advantages over other interconnect technologies, please see our review here.
Courtesy of MSI
Subject: Motherboards | March 19, 2013 - 01:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asrock, Z77 OC Formula, Intel Z77X
If you are shopping for a Z77 motherboard you have a lot of choice in make and model as well as price, they range from sub-$100 models to high end boards like the $225 ASRock Z77 OC Formula. For that extra price you get a motherboard built with 12+4 phase power, premium alloy chokes, dual-stack MOSFETs and 8 layers of copper. It is not just high end components, you also get a pair of PCIe 16x slots, a single PCIe 4x slot and a pair of 1x slots for add-in cards as well as four SATA 6Gbps ports and two SATA 3G ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports and 8 USB 3.0 ports along with onboard audio from Realtec's ALC898. [H]ard|OCP did some testing to see if this board lives up to the OC in its name, which it did rather handily.
"Generally speaking our ASRock experiences have been positive save for one or two minor complaints. We’ve looked inexpensive but very popular ASRock model motherboards. Today we are taking a look at a higher end more expensive ASRock offering. The Z77 OC Formula caught our eye and will hopefully perform as good as it looks."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock Z77 Pro4-M @ [H]ard|OCP
- Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H @ Funky Kit
- Gigabyte GA-H77N-WiFi Motherboard Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- ASUS P8Z77-V LK Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- GIGABYTE Z77N-WiFi @ Tweaktown
- MSI's Z77IA-E53 Mini-ITX @ The Tech Report
- BIOS Option Of The Week - SDRAM Tras Timing Value @ TechARP
- Biostar Hi-Fi A85W @ Kitguru
- ECS A85F2-A GOLDEN @ Tweaktown
- ECS A970M-A Deluxe Motherboard Review @ OCC
Subject: Motherboards | March 19, 2013 - 12:55 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, qualcomm
The slowdown of PC sales has finally even impacted Intel's supply chain as they reduce the number of chips stocked in inventory. Even after these years of domination over AMD on the desktop Intel has not been reducing their supplies of chips as they were still selling them at a brisk pace. It is obvious that has changed over the past year as the lowering sales of PCs and laptops finally lead to Intel reducing the number of chips they have on hand. They were not the only ones to make this move, with AMD and others also reducing their stocks somewhat. One area The Register did not report on is GPUs, with the short lifespan of a GPU the stocks of new silicon are also goign to be quite reduced and you should see more discounts on lower end GPUs as resellers try to offload them. As we have seen before people are still buying electronics, just smaller, more portable devices; Qualcomm's available stock has had to increase by 24% over the same time period.
"Bean counter iSuppli reckons the major manufacturers acted swiftly to prevent expensive backlogs of baked silicon forming: the average number of days between producing inventory and selling it declined five per cent. The value of the inventory piles also fell five per cent, or $600m, from Q3 to Q4 of 2012, we're told."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- How Fusion-io redlined its PCIe flash motor to hit 9.6 MEEELION IOPS @ The Register
- EA Origin vuln puts players at risk @ The Register
- Oracle Virtual Box Virtual Machine Tips @ PCSTATS
- Win an Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti TOP Graphics Card @ eTeknix
AM3+ Last Gasp?
Over the past several years I have reviewed quite a few Asus products. The ones that typically grab my attention are the ROG based units. These are usually the most interesting, over the top, and expensive products in their respective fields. Ryan has reviewed the ROG graphics cards, and they have rarely disappointed. I have typically taken a look at the Crosshair series of boards that support AMD CPUs.
Crosshair usually entails the “best of the best” when it comes to features and power delivery. My first brush with these boards was the Crosshair IV. That particular model was only recently taken out of my primary work machine. It proved itself to be an able performer and lasted for years (even overclocked). The Crosshair IV Extreme featured the Lucid Hydra chip to allow mutli-GPU performance without going to pure SLI or Crossfire. The Crosshair V got rid of Lucid and added official SLI support and it incorporated the Supreme FX II X-Fi audio. All of these boards have some things in common. They are fast, they overclock well, and they are among the most expensive motherboards ever for the AMD platform.
So what is there left to add? The Crosshair V is a very able platform for Bulldozer and Piledriver based parts. AMD is not updating the AM3+ chipsets, so we are left with the same 990FX northbridge and the SB950 southie (both of which are essentially the same as the 890FX/SB850). It should be a simple refresh, right? We had Piledriver released a few months ago and there should be some power and BIOS tweaks that can be implemented and then have a rebranded board. Sounds logical, right? Well, thankfully for us, Asus did not follow that path.
The Asus Crosshair V Formula Z is a fairly radical redesign of the previous generation of products. The amount of extra features, design changes, and power characteristics make it a far different creature than the original Crosshair V. While both share many of the same style features, under the skin this is a very different motherboard. I am rather curious why Asus did not brand this as the “Crosshair VI”. Let’s explore, shall we?
Subject: Motherboards | March 8, 2013 - 06:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: roundup, motherboards, mini-itx, celeron 847, APU, amd e-450
While high end motherboards and processors tend to get the most attention from enthusiasts, sometimes less is better (*waits for Josh to stop laughing on the podcast). More often than not seen integrated in small form factor OEM boxes, there are a few motherboards out there that come as a bare board and integrated processor to be the basis of low power desktops, network devices, and home theater PCs. Both Intel and AMD have hats in the low power game, and Hartware.de has pitched four such low power boards against each other. The MSI C847MS-E33-847 and Biostar NM70I pack Intel Celeron 847 CPUs, The Zotac D2550-ITX WIFI hosts an Intel Atom D2550 processor plus a NVIDIA GT 610 IGP, and the ASUS E45MI-M Pro is powered by an AMD E-450 APU.
Hartware.de puts several low power boards into the thunderdome to see which one(s) reign supreme.
As it turns out, the results are nearly in line with what one might expect. The Atom D2550-powered system was the slowest, the APU and ASUS motherboard was the fastest, and the Celeron was somewhere in the middle. The AMD E-450 APU used the most power, and the system was one of the most expensive, however. Interestingly, the Atom system was not all that much more power efficient than the Celeron despite the lower performance and weaker hardware. The Celeron 847 chip had decent CPU performance, and mid-range power and some of the best thermals. All of the configurations were able to playback media, but the AMD system gave the most fluid results.
If you are in the market for low power system parts, the review is worth checking out.
Here are some additional Motherboard reviews from around the web:
- GIGABYTE Z77N-WiFi Mini-ITX @ TweakTown
- ASRock Z77 Pro4-M LGA 1155 @ HardOCP
- Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 FM2 @ PC Perspective
- ASRock's Z77E-ITX Mini ITX @ The Tech Repot
- ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 @ OCaholic
I'm pleasantly surprised at all the Mini-ITX motherboards being made lately.
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Motherboards | March 5, 2013 - 03:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qualcomm, msi, killer nic, Intel Z77
MSI says “JUST GAME!”... but... I must write up their announcement first...
The computer components company would like us to “JUST GAME!” on their gaming motherboards, of course. This press release is for the MSI Killer Z77 gaming motherboard. The board supports the DDR3-3000, Creative Sound Blaster Cinema with Crystalizer, OC Genie II, and Military Class III initiatives.
But to call yourself Killer, you got some big shoes to fill.
Yes MSI, we get it. Challenge accepted.
What makes it a “Killer” announcement is the addition of a Killer E2200 LAN chip from Qualcomm's Bigfoot Networks. We have a fair amount of experience with the gamer networking hardware company; Ryan wrote a review all the way back in 2006. Since then, the company found themselves scooped up by Qualcomm where they found their technology integrated into motherboards from various manufacturers. They have also dabbled into wireless technology.
MSI proclaims with the E2200 LAN chip, their motherboard will have to use less space to house the chip when compared to the earlier Killer E2100. Also, for users running Windows 8, the E2200 was designed to support that operating system. Linux gamers? You too, but not until the second half of 2013.
If you want to see what the PR people have to say, check out Qualcomm's blog post.
Subject: Motherboards | February 22, 2013 - 03:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thin mini-itx, mini ITX, gigabyte, AIO
Gigabyte recently launched two new motherboards that conform to the Thin Mini-ITX specification. This new spec is essentially Mini-ITX but keeps heatsinks and rear IO height to a minimum--allowing for thinner All-In-One PCs and HTPC chassis. The two new boards are the GA-H77TN and GA-B75TN, and they support Intel Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge processors, SODIMMs, and mSATA SSDs. Considering the boards measure a mere 17cm x 17cm and are 2.5cm high, it is a lot of power in a small package (I can hear Josh laughing on the podcast next week already).
The GA-H77TN (rev. 1.1) motherboard is based on the Intel H77 chipset while the GA-B75TN (rev. 1.1) is based on the Intel B75 chipset. They boards are fairly similar, but the cheaper B75 chipset does not support as many SATA 6Gbps ports. Both boards use laptop-style DDR3 SODIMM memory at up to 8GB of dual channel DDR3 1600 and either an Intel Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge processor. Also, both thin mini ITX motherboards include a PCI-E 3.0 x4 expansion slot (up to 25W), mini PCI-E slot, and mSATA expansion slot.
The motherboards also include support for Intel’s onboard CPU graphics (ie. HD 4000) and Realtek ALC887 audio codecs. The video oputs include HDMI 1.3, DisplayPort, and LVDS, with DisplayPort providing support for up to 2560x1600 resolutions. The onboard audio chip can support 7.1 channel audio, but only when using the front panel audio.
Rear IO on both the GA-H77TN and GA-B75TN includes;
- 1 x DC-input
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet jack
3 x Video outputs
- 1 x HDMI 1.3 @ 1920x1200
- 1 x DisplayPort @ 2560x1600
- 1 x LVDS
- 4 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x audio jacks (line in/out)
The Gigabyte GA-H77TN has two SATA 6Gbps ports, two SATA 3Gbps ports, and one mSATA port. On the other hand, the GA-B75TN supports a single SATA 6Gbps port, three SATA 3Gbps ports, and one mSATA port.
The two thin mini-ITX motherboards should be available for purchase soon, but there is no word on a specific release date. While currently listed as out of stock on Newegg, the site does provide a hint at pricing. The GA-H77TN has a price of $125 while the GA-B75TN is retailing for approximately $110. Thin Mini-ITX cases are somewhat rare, but the form factor can certain enable some neat designs and the more motherboards avaialble, the more likely it is that new thin chassis will be developed.
The full press release is below:
Subject: Motherboards | February 18, 2013 - 04:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, ATIV Smart PC 500T, Surface Pro, tablet
Samsung has produced a Surface Pro tablet they call the ATIV Smart PC 500T, which comes paired with a keyboard/docking station. Powered by an 1.5GHz Atom Z2760 and 2GB of DDR2-800 with a 64GB e.MMC iNAND SSD for storage the device the performance will beat a WinRT tablet but it is not going to compete with a laptop. Strangely one of the most advertised features, the S Pen, was not present in the Canadian package so it is not included in this review. Silent PC Review noticed that Samsung are working on the 500T's page, though they do not know if it was to correct the erroneous text stating the S Pen comes with the basic model or simpy to give time to have S Pens shipped and attached. The 11.6" 1366 x 768 screen was washed out in comparison to the Microsoft Surface Pro and it did not seem as sturdy as the Microsoft product either. Check out the full review to get a better idea how this tablet performs.
"Windows 8 is making possible a new class of mobile convertibles that flip between tablet and notebook. The Samsung ATIC Smart PC 500T is one example, based around a new Atom core and built around a big (for tablets) 11.6" screen, but there's an Ivy Bridge upgrade available in the 700T. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Surface Pro shows us a different vision of the convertible."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Vizio Thin+Light CT15: Something New and Edgy @ AnandTech
- Origin EON11-S Gaming Notebook @ Tweaktown
- Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro Review @ TechReviewSource
- NZXT Cryo X60 Laptop Cooler @ Rbmods
- Sony Xperia Tablet S @ Tweaktown
- Otterbox Defender for Nokia Lumia 920 @ Kitguru
- Analogix SlimPort adapter with the Nexus 4 @ LanOC Review @ LanOC
- verclockersUK Ultima 10.1" IPS Android 4.1 Tablet @ eTeknix
- Google Nexus 7 Tablet 16GB @ Funky Kit
- Nokia Lumia 620 @ The Inquirer
- Google Nexus 4 Smartphone Review 2.0 - Two Months with Google's Superstar Smartphone @ Tweaktown
Subject: Motherboards | February 18, 2013 - 02:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Z77, asrock, Z77 Extreme4
ASRock has been steadily gaining popularity with system builders that want a balance between price, features and performance without sacrificing support or stability. At $120, the ASRock Z77 Extreme4 seems to fit the first criteria, the pair of PCIe 3.0 16x slots capable of handling two cards at 8x speeds, four SATA 6Gbps ports and a half dozen USB 3.0 ports meet the second. [H]ard|OCP tested the performance and stability of the board recently, getting an stable 4.8GHz overclock on their i7 3770K, demonstrating that even a value board can compete with expensive models. The sacrifice made was in the thickness of the PCB, it is much thinner than most motherboards and while [H] did not break the PCB they had a few stressful moments; drop by to read about them.
"While ASRock is a well known new comer in the motherboard market, we’ve not exactly been fans of ASRock products based on past experiences. ASRock’s popularity grows and as a result we are taking another look at a motherboard from in the hope of understanding this popularity. Is it just price, or is there more to ASRock’s offerings?"
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- Zotac's Z77-ITX WiFi Mini-ITX @ The Tech Report
- ASRock's Z77E-ITX Mini-ITX @ The Tech Report
- GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 Intel Z77 Motherboard Review @ Legit Reviews
- Gigabyte Z77X UD4H Motherboard Review @ Ninjalane
- ASRock Z77 Extreme11 @ Tweaktown
- ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Champion and X79 Professional Review: From a Gamer to Gamers @ AnandTech
- ASUS ROG Maximus V Extreme Intel LGA1155 @ techPowerUp
- ECS A85F2-A Golden Review @ OCC
- ASRock 990FX Extreme9 Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- AMD Trinity A10-5800K & GIGABYTE F2A85X-UP4 @ Overclockers.com
- ASRock 990FX Extreme9 @ Kitguru
Define an Enthusiast CPU...
FM2 poses an interesting quandary for motherboard manufacturers. AMD provides a very robust and full featured chip for use with their processors (A85X) that would lend itself well to midrange and enthusiast class motherboards. Unfortunately, AMD does not provide a similarly high end CPU as compared to the competition at price ranges that would make sense for a motherboard that would cost between $140 and $250 on the FM2 platform.
So these manufacturers are constrained on price to offer fully featured motherboards that take advantage of all aspects of the A85X FCH (Fusion Controller Hub). Until AMD can deliver a more competitive CPU on the FM2 platform, motherboard manufacturers will be forced to design offerings that can really go no higher than $129 (the current price of the fastest A10 processor from AMD). This is not necessarily a bad thing though, as it has forced these manufacturers to really rethink their designs and to focus their energies on getting the greatest bang-for-the-buck. AMD is selling a decent number of these processors, but the market is constrained as compared to the Intel offerings utilizing the 1155 BGA infrastructure.
Gigabyte has taken this particular bull by the horns and have applied a very unique (so far) technology to the board. This is on top of all the other marketing and engineering terms that we are quite familiar with. The company itself is one of the top three manufacturers of motherboards in the world, and they typically trail Asus in terms of shipments but are still ahead of MSI. As with any motherboard manufacturer, the quality of Gigabyte products has seen peaks and valleys through the years. From what I have seen for the past few years though, Gigabyte is doing very well in terms of overall quality and value.
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