Subject: Motherboards | January 17, 2015 - 05:22 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SFF, nuc, motherboard, mini-itx, Intel
Bay Trail-M has been at the heart of several interesting micro-PC products in the past few months, but the limitations of the SoC have thus far kept these ultra-low power devices from becoming serious PC contenders. New products with AMD APUs look promising, and we will see how they perform once they become available. Meanwhile, Intel might be changing the mini-PC landcape soon with a new motherboard form-factor.
It doesn't have a name but the 5.5" square board looks like a smaller version of a thin mini-ITX design, with flush mounted DIMM slots and support for M.2 SSD storage. SemiAccurate is reporting that "it will support up to 16GB of DDR3L, an M.2 SSD and 2.5″ HD, 4x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, GbE, audio, and Wi-Fi". A mini-ITX board on the other hand, though slightly larger at 6.7" x 6.7", has the advantage of supporting full-size GPUs (except the thin-mini variant). But when size and power consumption are the primary concern the lack of PCIe expansion is less important, and this sub-ITX board offers socketed CPU support rather than a soldered BGA solution, permitting customization and potentially offering a more desktop-like upgrade path.
No word on availability of the prototype board from Intel, which the report said was seen at this year's CES. It would make sense that Intel has learned from their experience with the NUC and created a smaller form-factor, but it remains to be seen whether such a product will enter the retail channel or become an OEM part.
A Step Up for FM2+
I have been impressed by the Asus ROG boards for quite a few years now. I believe my first encounter was with the Crosshair IV Formula, followed by the CH IV Extreme with that crazy Lucidlogix controller. These were really outstanding boards at the time, even if one was completely overkill (and not terribly useful for multi-GPU via Lucidlogix). Build quality, component selections, stability, and top notch features have defined these ROG products. The Intel side is just as good, if not better, in that they have a wider selection of boards under the ROG flag.
Asus has had a fairly large hole in their offerings that had not been addressed until fairly recently. The latest AMD APUs based on FM1, FM2, and FM2+ did not have their own ROG member. This was fixed in late summer of this year. Asus released the interestingly named Crossblade Ranger FM2+ motherboard for the AMD APU market.
FM2+ motherboards are, as a rule, fairly inexpensive products. The FM2+ infrastructure does not have to support processors with the 219 watt TDPs that AM3+ does, instead all of the FM2+ based products are 100 watts TDP and below. There are many examples of barebones motherboards for FM2+ that are $80 and less. We have a smattering of higher end motherboards from guys like Gigabyte and MSI, but these are hitting max prices of $110 to $120 US. Asus is offering users in the FM2+ market something a little different from the rest. Users who purchase an AMD APU will be getting much the same overall experience that the top end Intel based ROG customers if they decide to buy the Crossblade Ranger, but for a much lower price.
The bundle is functional, but not overly impressive.
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | November 4, 2014 - 03:19 AM | Scott Michaud
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 $405. An upgraded wireless adapter should not increase the cost much at all.
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | November 4, 2014 - 01:12 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: X99, overclocking, msi, mpower, motherboards, motherboard
The X99S XPOWER is MSI's top-of-the-line overclocking motherboard. The company has just introduced the X99S MPOWER to complement it on their product stack. It is a similar motherboard with a smaller price tag that was reduced by removing a few optional features (I will outline the major differences, below). These are basically unrelated to performance and overclocking, minus the buttons to set the base clock on the motherboard itself and a couple of accessories (the XPOWER comes with a free Delid Die Guard and temporary fan stand). It is more things like the number of I/O ports.
The main differences with the MPOWER are:
- It does not have the fifth, eight-lane PCIe slot, just the four provided by Haswell-E.
- It has one Intel Gigabit Ethernet adapter, instead of two.
- It does not have built-in 802.11ac WiFi or Bluetooth.
- It has two less USB 3.0 ports (external).
- It has one less USB 2.0 port (internal, seemingly the "Direct USB" port for BIOS updates).
- It does not come with a Delid Die Guard or fan stand.
There are a few other differences, such as the XPOWER having an I/O port cover and a few extra on-board overclocking switches and buttons, but I cannot see anything that stands out. The current price difference is about 115$ at Newegg, which is a healthy saving if nothing is a deal-killer.
Subject: Motherboards | May 22, 2014 - 10:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z97, video, pcper, motherboard, live, gigabyte
Earlier this week we were visited by our good friend Leon Chen from GIGABYTE USA to talk all about his company's new lineup of Z97 motherboards. We discussed the various series' Gigabyte offers (Performance, Gaming, OC, Black Edition) as well as the unique features found on them including some impressive overclocking technology on the OC board and M.2 storage support for 10 Gb/s of bandwidth on others. We streamed the entire event live on http://www.pcper.com/live but if you missed, we have the replays of all the content included directly below for you to watch!
If you want to read our first review of a Gigabyte Z97 motherboard as well, be sure to check out Morry's article covering the GIGABYTE Z97X-Gaming G1-WIFI-BK Black Edition!
Part 1: Gigabyte Z97 Motherboard Overview with Leon!!
Part 2: Gigabyte Z97 Motherboard Software Demo and Q&A
If you want to be sure you know about any of our other upcoming live streaming video events, sign up for our PC Perspective LIVE! mailing list!
Subject: General Tech | May 15, 2014 - 01:15 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: motherboard, chipset
As Josh will reminisce while deep in his cups, those heady days when motherboard reviewers anxiously awaited the release of a new chipset are now are in the past. The CPU has absorbed the Northbridge where all the action was, leaving the Southbridge which is still a very interesting piece of technology but one that has become very similar between boards. Manufacturers now focus on what DigiTimes is referring to as brand power and channel relationships; recognizable branding, package deals and bundled products like Thunderbolt, DACs and wireless chargers. Reviewers look to the UEFI features which do differ from manufacturer to manufacturer as well as within the different family lines and software tools for overclocking when looking at the board instead of looking for the significant performance differences that once existed. There are certainly benefits to this as well, not many people remember reserving IRQ5 to PCI slot 3 nor many of the other unique eccentricities we all used to have to remember to be able to build systems in the past. After all, the only real constant is change.
"Competition in the motherboard industry is expected to gradually turn to focus on each player's brand power and channel relationships as newly developed technologies are becoming similar, according to sources from channel retailers in China."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- HGST and Seagate go head-to-head with Ethernet disk drives @ The Register
- Microsoft says Tor can't foil NSA surveillance or cyber crooks @ The Inquirer
- D-Day for net neutrality as FCC vote looms @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft bug hunters kicked 0day own goal @ The Register
- How to Provision AWS EC2 Instances with Salt Cloud @ Linux.com
- Introducing The Arduino Zero @ Hack a Day
Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2013 - 06:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: H81, haswell, mini ITX, mATX, atx, motherboard, asus
ASUS recently announced six new Haswell-compatible motherboards using Intel's budget H81 chipset. The new motherboards come in full ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX form factors. The new boards include the ATX H81-Plus, the Mini-ITX H81I-Plus, and four Micro ATX boards: the H81M-Plus, H81M-A, H81M-C, and H81M-E.
All of the boards have two DDR3 DIMM slots, a LGA 1150 CPU socket, and four SATA ports (two SATA III 6Gpbs and two SATA II 3Gbps). Aside from the physical dimensions, the boards vary in the number and type of PCI-E 2.0 connectors and rear IO port selection. Further, the motherboards feature ASUS' DIGI+ VRM and 5X protection (eg. overcurrent) technologies.
The H81-Plus features four PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots and two PCI-E x1 slots. Rear IO includes:
- 2 x PS/2
- 1 x COM
- 1 x Parallel
- 1 x VGA
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x RJ45 LAN
- 3 x analog audio ports
The Micro ATX H81M-Plus has a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot and three PCI-E x1 slots. It does not inlclude the parallel or COM ports on the rear IO, and instead provides digital video outputs. Specifically, the H81M-Plus provides the following rear IO.
- 2 x PS/2
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DVI-D
- 1 x VGA
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x RJ45 LAN
- 3 x Analog audio ports
The other micro ATX boards are variations of this design with slightly different IO and PCI-E .1 configurations. The ASUS H81M-A has the same rear IO as the H81M-Plus but has only two PCI-E x1 slots. The H81M-E is nearly identical to the H81M-Plus above except that there is no HDMI video output on the back panel. Finally, the H81M-C features two PCI-E 2.0 x 16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and switches out the HDMI port for a LPT parallel port stacked on top of the DVI and VGA ports on the rear IO panel.
In addition to the ATX and Micro ATX motherboards, ASUS is launching the H81I-Plus, which is a Mini ITX motherboard for Intel Haswell processors and using the budget H81 chipset. The board has a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 connector and four SATA ports (two SATA 6Gbps). Rear IO on the Mini ITX H81I-Plus includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x RJ45 LAN
- 3 x Analog audio jacks
ASUS has not released official pricing or availability information, but expect the boards to be available soon for under $100.
Read more about H81 motherboards at PC Perspective.
Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2012 - 09:53 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: overclocking, motherboard, gigabyte, contest
Gigabyte and Cooler Master have teamed up to host the Winter OC Whiteout overclocking competition. Enthusiasts are encouraged to push their systems as far as possible to achieve the highest 3D benchmark scores. Cooling methods like LN2 and liquid helium are encouraged to break existing records and grab the top spots, with certian hardware restrictions put in place over three classes to reportedly level the playing field.
The overclocking stages are as follows:
- Stage One: 3DMark11 DX11 “No X79” single GPU only
- Stage Two: 3DMark Vantange Dual Core, single GPU only
- Stage Three: Heaven DX11 “Full Out” Any CPU, single GPU only
The stages are fairly self-explanatory. For stage one, users are not allowed to use any Intel X79 hardware (motherboards or processors). In stage two, the limits are that users can only use single or dual core processors. Stage three opens up the system such that you can use any processor and graphics card combination. Further, all three stages are limited to a single graphics card per system.
The contest is being run by HWBot, and overclock submissions need to follow the site’s validation rules. You will need to use a specific HWBot desktop background and submit screenshots of the overclock that include the benchmark score as well as screenshots of CPU-Z’s CPU, Memory, and Mainboard tabs. Also, you will need to include a photo of your computer hardware.
The photos of your computer hardware will also be used for a bonus contest where Gigabyte and Cooler Master will pick ten of the most festive submission photos on January 10th. Those ten photos will be placed on the Gigabyte Tech Column facebook page. The photo from that page receives the most Facebook likes by January 20th will win a bonus prize.
The prizes for the three main overclocking stages include a Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H motherboard and a Cooler Master Seidon 120mm CPU cooler. On the other hand, the bonus prize is a Gigabyte Z77-UD4 motherboard and a Cooler Master Sirus S-5.1 gaming headset.
The contest will run from December 21st to January 20th, 2013. You can find more information over at the HWBot contest page.
Subject: Motherboards | October 31, 2012 - 03:59 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vishera, phenom, motherboard, ECS, atx, amd, am3, a970m-a deluxe
Elitegroup Computer Systems is on a roll this week for launching motherboards supporting AMD processors. In addition to its mini ITX offerings, the company is launching the A970M-A Deluxe in it’s full gold-clad ATX form factor glory (heh). It offers up support for AMD’s latest FX and Phenom II series processors along with SATA III 6Gbps and USB 3.0 for speedy storage. Unfortunately, there is no PCI-E 3.0. Otherwise, this is a high end motherboard and has the feature set to match.
In typical ECS fashion, the company has outfitted the board with gold colored heatsinks, EZ BIOS, solid capacitors, “Thor Ultra Protection,” a dust shield, and support for up to 140W TDP processors, among other features. The EZ BIOS is actually a uEFI BIOS that allows you to tweak settings using a graphical interface as well as automatic overclocking functionality that can overclock the AMD processor for you (to an extent).
Internal IO and board layout
The board has several gold-colored heatsinks over the VRM and southbridge hardware. Along the top of the board lies the AM3+ CPU socket and four DDR3 DIMM slots. The board supports up to 2133 MHz memory when overclocked and up to 32 GB of RAM (when using 8GB DIMMs). Expansion slots include two PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. The lower-right corner features five SATA III 6Gbps ports – two of which are positioned at right angles to the board. Expansion headers include three fan headers, one COM header, and three USB 2.0 headers (up to 6 additional ports) are also included on the board.
The rear panel IO includes:
- 1 x PS/2 combo port
- 1 x RJ45 port (Realtek 8111E Gigabit LAN Controller)
- 1 x eSATA 6Gbps port
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 8 x USB 2.0 ports
- 5 x Analog audio jacks (4 line out, 1 line in. Realtek ALC892 codec)
- 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
While we do not yet have US pricing, when converted from the stated RS 9,000 (according to Think Digit)to USD, the board is just under $170. No word yet on stateside availability. You can find more information on the ECS specifcations page.
Subject: Motherboards | October 31, 2012 - 11:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: motherboard, mini-itx, hdc-12/e-350d2, ECS, e-350d, amd
Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) has launched a new motherboard and processor combination that pairs a mini-itx form factor board with an AMD E-350D Accelerated Processing Unit (APU). Measuring 17cm x 17cm, the HDC-12/E-350D2 is similar to the Biostar product covered previously, except for feature set. The ECS model uses the cheaper A45 FCH chipset and does away with modern expansion ports such as PCI-E 3.0 and USB 3.0. While it is less capable, it is also less expensive that the other boards.
The board has a bundled AMD E-350D APU with dual CPU cores and integrated HD 6130 graphics. The memory controller supports a maximum of 16GB of DDR3 RAM running at 1066MHz via two DIMM slots on the motherboard. The A45 chipset supports two SATA II 3 Gbps ports, and that is one area where the low cost nature (and associated compromises) of the A45 chipset hits home as the higher end boards have more ports and support for SATA III 6 Gbps. Aside from some fan headers and headers for USB ports, the only other expansion option is a single legacy PCI slot at the bottom of the board.
External IO options include:
- 8 x USB 2.0
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 x analog audio jacks
The lack of an optical audio output is disappointing as well, but the board can be powered by a single 24 pix ATX cable – no 4 or 8 pin CPU power required. In the end it is a cheap base for a low power system. It would make a great router / firewall device with the addition of a PCI Ethernet NIC, for example. The only real downside would be wireless as you would need to use USB NICs to add that capability. This could also make for an entry level HTPC build as the APU is capable of hardware accelerating 1080p video.
Along with the HTPC vein, ECS is bundling coupons for free copies of Cyberlink's MediaEspresso 6.5 LE and MediaShow 5.1 LE transcoding and playback software with the motherboard.
The ECS HDC-12/E-350D2 will retail for a sub-$100 price, and should be available for purchase soon.
Read more about Mini ITX motherboards at PC Perspective.