Subject: Motherboards | September 28, 2017 - 01:31 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: aorus, gigabyte, coffee lake, Z370, Z370 AORUS, RGB LED, gaming, overclocking
This week Gigabyte took the wraps off its lineup of Z370 motherboards that will support Intel’s 8th Generation Coffee Lake processors. The new lineup is comprised of five models that incorporate Gigabyte Ultra Durable technology, Dual BIOS, server grade digital power delivery, ESS Sabre DAC, a high-quality headphone amplifier, M.2 thermal guards, RGBW and Digital LED headers, and support for monitoring and control of fans and water pumps using RGB Fusion and Smart Fan 5 respectively. At the top of the lineup is the Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 which appears to have a lot to offer for enthusiasts planning a Coffee Lake build.
The LGA 1151 socket is surrounded by an improved digital VRM setup that is rated at 60A per power phase. The board uses 10K Ultra Durable Black capacitors as well. The VRMs are cooled by large aluminum heatsinks as well as a small fan tucked away under the “thermal armor” above the rear I/O panel connectors. Using Gigabyte’s Smart Fan 5 technology, the built-in fan as well as CPU and case fans can be set to stop when the PC is idle and only spin up when needed.
Speaking of cooling, the board has eight fan/water pump Hybrid Fan headers (one is rated at 3A) and nine temperature sensors.
There are four DDR4 DIMM slots to the right of the processor socket that support up to 4400 MHz memory clockspeeds. Storage is handled by six SATA 6Gbps ports, two M.2 (PCI-E/SATA), and one smaller PCI-E M.2 slot with support for Intel’s Optane Memory technology. Expansion slots include three PCI-E x16 slots (x16/x8/x4) and three PCI-E x1 slots. Other internal headers include a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C front panel, additional USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, two RGBW LED headers, two Digital LED headers, two temperature sensor headers, and one Thunderbolt 3 Add-in card header. Power, reset, OC, and Clear CMOS buttons are also included on the board to make running it on a test bench and overclocking a bit easier.
For the RGB fans, there are several lighting zones on this board including on the VRMs, on the “Thermal Armor”, around the DIMM slots, around the PCI-E x16 slots, on the Z370 chipset heatsink, and a LED strip along the right side of the board that you can customize the look of with a 3D printer.
In addition to the Z370 chipset, Gigabyte is also using ASMedia silicon for additional USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, a Realtek chip for a USB 3.1 Gen 1 hub, Intel GbE LAN and Rivet Networks Killer E2500 NIC for Gigabit Ethernet, and Realtek ALC1220 audio codec for audio.
On the audio front, Gigabyte is spicing things up a bit by pairing that Realtek ALC1220 audio codec with an ESS9018Q2C DAC, Nichicon and WIMA audio capacitors, independent analog power(LME49720), a smart headphone amp (auto-detects impedance), gold plated audio jacks, and support for USB DAC-UP 2 technology (adjustable voltage to compensate for voltage drop).
Around back the Aorus Gaming 7 features:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 5 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A
- 2 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
- 1 x S/PDIF
- 5 x 3.5mm audio out.
It appears that Gigabyte has packed a lot of hardware into its flagship Z370 motherboard, and with the actively cooled VRMs it should be a decent overclocker even when using water cooling for the CPU (though noise from the small fan might be an issue). Unfortunately, Gigabyte has not yet released pricing information. On the bright side, there are several models in the Aorus Z370 lineup for those that do not want the Killer networking, third PCI-E x16 slot, as many LEDs, or ESS Sabre audio where there is room to save some money to put towards a graphics card or monitor. I'll leave it up to Sebastian and Morry to determine if the audio is audiophile and CMOS placement is good enough respectively.
What are your thoughts on the Aorus Z370 lineup? Is it enough to entice you to upgrade to Coffee Lake?
Subject: Motherboards | July 25, 2017 - 12:16 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ryzen, RGB LED, overclocking, e-atx, asus, AM4
Asus recently took the wraps off of its X370 ROG Crosshair VI Extreme E-ATX motherboard which is the company’s new flagship motherboard for the AMD Ryzen platform. The new board is packed with features and is aimed at extreme overclockers and gaming enthusiasts.
The massive board surrounds the AMD AM4 socket with four DDR4 DIMM slots, a 12 phase Digi+ VRM, and a plethora of expansion and storage connections including two PCI-E 3.0 x16, one PCI-E 2.0 x16, three PCI-E 2.0 x1, two M.2 slots, and 8 SATA 6Gbps ports. One of the M.2 slots sits under the passive PCH heatsink and connects directly to the CPU while the other M.2 slot does not benefit from the passive heatsink and shares bandwidth with the PCI-E 2.0 lanes coming from the chipset.
The board has a massive VRM heatsink that can also be swapped out for a monoblock that can be integrated into a custom water cooling loop with ASUS partnering with Bitspower for a monoblock that will be sold separately (the board will also work with monoblocks from other manufacturers) and will include sensors to measure flow rate, temperature, and leak detection. The board also has a header that will allow you to attach those same sensors to another point in your loop with all the sensor data being available through ASUS’ Fan Xpert 4 software. There are 13 fans headers on board (16 with fan extension card) with one dedicated pump header and two groups of four fan headers that are placed closed together to make wiring up radiators a bit cleaner. The X370 ROG Crosshair VI Extreme also sports multiple RGB LED lighting zones and two headers that will allow users to extend the lighting to RGB LED strips, fans, and cases (one header is for addressable LEDs and the other is for standard LED strips up to 3A). The on board lighting zones include the IO and VRM cooler, the two SafeSlot (metal-reinforced) PCI-E x16 slots, the chipset heatsink, and the right edge of the board. The audio jacks are also LED color coded which is actually kind of cool since it can be hard to see what colors the jacks are when the case is under a desk! Other useful features include an ROG backplate and a right angle 24-pin power connector to make cable management a bit easier. There are also the usual overclocker friendly error code display, power and reset buttons, and voltage read points for multimeters. Further, the board features a dedicated base clock generator and a “TPU” (TurboV Processing Unit) that helps manage voltage to the VRMs and controls the clock generator. The external clock generator is important when overclocking Ryzen and hitting extremely high memory frequencies.
Asus is using an Intel I211-AT Gigabit Ethernet controller for the wired networking and there is also support for Intel 8265-powered 802.11 ac Wi-Fi. Sound is handled by a SupremeFX S122 codec paired with ES9023P ESS Sabre DAC with high end capacitors and TI op-amps for a 113 dB line in (for recording) and 120 dB output.
Rear I/O is where the Extreme board is a bit wanting with:
- 2 x Antenna connectors
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2
- 6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 5 x Gold plated 3.5mm jacks
- 1 x S/PDIF (Optical)
- 2 x Clear CMOS and BIOS Flashback buttons
On one hand, I am not sure what else they could have included (Thunderbolt is really the only missing thing and not strictly needed), but it does look a bit barren even compared to the Crosshair VI Hero.
Asus’ flagship AMD AM4 motherboard will be available in early August with an MSRP of $349.
I am interested to see if the X370 ROG Crosshair VI Extreme really does up the ante especially in the overclocking department versus the ROG Crosshair VI Hero which seems to be a popular choice for overclockers aiming to break records. I am looking forward to reviews to see whether the $100 premium is worth it (the Crosshair VI Hero is $245 or $270 with AC Wi-Fi).
Personally, I think I would rather go with a cheaper motherboard and better graphics card or SSD, but for those not on a budget I can see them opting for the board with all the bells and whistles (and RGB)!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 3, 2017 - 11:16 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: computex, bitfenix, mid tower, E-ATX Case, RGB LED, gaming, tempered glass
BitFenix had several new PC cases on display at its Computex booth, but the one that caught my eye was the sub-$100 Enso mid-tower that has some premium features including a large tempered glass side panel, RGB LED and fan controllers, removable filters, and various cable management features. The BitFenix Enso has a clean design that out of the box limits the RGB to a nice looking front panel while allowing enthusiasts to go crazy with aftermarket LED strips and LED fans if they wish.
The BitFenix Enso mid-tower (Image credit: KitGuru)
The new Enso chassis measures 8.2" x 19.2" x 14.4" (209 x 487 x 442mm).and is clad in all black with clean lines and edges that strikes a balance between boxy and gaudy (heh). The front is a smooth panel that slightly angles out (no external drive support here) with RGB LEDs in all four corners. The front I/O is up top with two USB 3.0, two audio, and power and reset buttons. The left side is almost entirely comprised of a tempered glass side panel that is held on by black thumbscrews.
The top has a mesh grill with support for two 120mm fans along with a removable magnetic fan filter. There is also room for a 120mm fan in the back and two 120mm fans up front (where there is also a removable filter that pulls out from the left side of the front panel). There is not enough room up top for a water cooling radiator up top, but there is plenty of room for up to a 240mm radiator in the front.
The bottom of the case has a compartment for the bottom mounted up to 220mm power supply (which also has a removable dust filter) and two 3.5” drives along with space to hide excess cables. This area is covered by a simple black shroud that should make cable management easier.
Dropping support for external drive bays and extra 3.5” bays, BitFenix is able to support E-ATX motherboards, long graphics cards (up to 320mm, their demo used an Asus Strix GTX 1080), and water cooling radiators in a compact mid-tower case. BitFenix states it is possible to mount a 360mm radiator in the front, but it the specifications suggest if you would be limited to two fans with matching vents.
Lots of tie downs and space to hide cables! (Image credit: Bitwit Kyle)
The right side panel is blank, and removing it reveals the back of the motherboard tray. There is room for three 2.5” SSDs with one behind the motherboard and two behind the front fans. The motherboard tray has a large CPU cutout, lots of spots to tie up cables, and rubber grommets for passing cables through to the motherboard and graphics card. Having move of the components sitting behind the motherboard tray means that making a clean looking build will be a bit easier (no drive power cables to hide).
The front panel RGB LEDs are “addressable” which is to say that they can be controlled via the controller at the back or via software where BitFenix is working with Asus to allow its RGB LEDs to be controlled with its Aurora software. There is also a fan controller that looks to accept PWM and control 3-pin fans from that signal. The case is also compatible with LED fans and LEDs strips (the BitFenix demo used strips from Asus that could be controlled with the Asus software). As far as the front panel, you can choose a color or activate a gentle pulsing color change mode that cycles through the colors of the rainbow.
(Image credit: Bitwit Kyle)
Out of the box, the BitFenix Enso will have the front panel LEDs and controllers, but users will need to purchase fans and/or LED strips separately. This is not necessarily bad news though because it allows enthusiasts to pick the fans and LEDs they want (or don’t want), and it also allows the case to hit the budget sub-$100 market with lots of nice DIY-friendly features.
According to a BitFenix representative, the BitFenix Enso will arrive around the end of Q3 2017 or towards the beginning of Q4 with an MSRP of $79.
It looks like an impressive budget case, and if they can hit that $79 target it should be a great value that will let you show off your DIY build without breaking the bank! From the videos at Computex, I am really liking the design as well. What are your thoughts?
Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2017 - 04:29 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: RGB LED, Mushkin, mechanical keyboard, kailh brown
Memory and SSD manufacturer Mushkin appears to be branching out into other markets with the launch of its Carbon KB-001 mechanical keyboard.
The Carbon KB-001 is built from CNC anodized and brushed aluminum and offers a frameless floating key design in black and gray color scheme. The keyboard uses Kailh Brown key switches and has per-key RGB LED lighting, media playback controls on the function keys, and a Windows key lock. Further, Mushkin claims its mechanical keyboard offers N-key rollover and anti-ghosting technologies.
Other nice touches include a small wrist rest (not detachable unfortunately for those with less desk space) and braided USB cable.
The Carbon KB-001 certainly looks sleek though we will have to wait until reviews hit to known how well it performs. Mushkin has not announced pricing or availability, but The Tech Report claims it will launch for around $70 which is not bad at all if the build quality is there
Mushkin appears to be joining the likes of G.Skill, Corsair, and others in diversifying into other markets and away from only specializing in memory and mass storage. In the end this should be a good thing for Mushkin and for consumers as it means memory manufacturers are going to be able to hang in there despite low memory prices and we can continue to see competition. Compared to the spinning rust market where the small guys have gotten swallowed up and we have only three major players left, there are a ton of memory and SSD players -- and I hope it stays that way!
Subject: General Tech | August 9, 2016 - 06:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, patriot, viper v760, Kailh, RGB LED
Patriot have been focusing on peripherals as of late, while still more commonly known for volatile memory they have branched out into numerous other product lines. The Viper V760 uses Kailh switches equivalent to Cherry MX Brown; of the RGB LED variety for this is another colourful keyboard. Techgage tried out this keyboard in their latest review, appreciating many of the features of the board, perhaps most notibly the price of $100 or less.
"While mechanical keyboards have slowly become ubiquitous, not everyone has had a chance to try one out. For this article, we not only test out the latest keyboard from long-time memory company Patriot, with its Viper V760, we take a look at it from a new perspective – the perspective of someone who’s never used a mech before."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro M White @ Kitguru
- Cooler Master Masterkeys Lite L @ eTeknix
- SteelSeries APEX M800 Keyboard @ techPowerUp
- Tesoro GRAM Spectrum RGB Gaming Keyboard @ Modders-Inc
- Tt eSPORTS Ventus Z Gaming Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
- Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum RGB Tunable Gaming Mouse Review @ NikKTech
- G.SKILL Ripjaws MX780 @ Benchmark Reviews
- Dream Machines DM1 Pro Mouse @ techPowerUp
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 29, 2016 - 02:51 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: water cooling, RGB LED, phanteks, GPU Water Block
Phanteks, a company that produces cases, CPU coolers, and fans has unveiled its first GPU cooler in the form of a full cover water block for Nvidia's GTX 1080 Founder's Edition (and any partner PCBs that use the reference design) graphics card. The PH-GB1080-X is a full cover nickel plated copper block with acrylic top and black (aluminum?) accents on the edges of the block. There are two ports for inlet/outlet on both top and bottom (so users could SLI multiple cards and water cool in series or parallel). Phanteks allegedly uses Dupont Viton for the gaskets which is a "high-performance seal elastomer" for the aerospace industry (and overkill for the temps that will be seen in a PC water loop heh).
In addition to the acrylic top, users can plug in three (1mm) RGB LEDs into the bottom edge of the card to add a glow effect. Oddly, Phanteks shows the LEDs using three individual cables that then go off to a reported proprietary power adapter that can plug into RGB motherboards or Phanteks' cases. Having the LEDs running off of a single cable (or bundled together) coming of the back edge of the card closest to the motherboard would have been helpful to cable management!
Phanteks' new water block is available for pre-order now for $129.99.
Using a water block on the GTX 1080 should allow users to easily achieve above 2000 MHz GPU clocks and have the card clockspeeds be much more stable than on air. Gamer's Nexus tested their GTX 1080 with an EVGA all in one cooler and managed to crank the GPU clockspeeds up to 2164 MHz and the memory clockspeeds up to 5602 MHz. That 2164 MHz clockspeed is quite the overclock and while it was only a bit above what they achieved on air, the clocks were much more stable and actually able to be maintained during long gaming sessions unlike on air. A custom water loop and a water block like the one Phanteks is selling should do just as well as Gamer's Nexus' results if not ever so slightly better.
If you already have a water loop in your system and have been waiting for a block to go with your GTX 1080 you now have another option!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 30, 2016 - 03:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: das keyboard, mechanical keyboard, Omron, RGB LED
Das Keyboard has just launched a crowd-funding campaign for their new Das Keyboard 5Q. The company is known to make high-end keyboards with a focus on productivity, even to the point of marketing some models with blank keycaps to force users to learn QWERTY. This model is an “extra bright” RGB LED keyboard that uses these lights to deliver data to the user's peripheral vision (because you're not looking at your keyboard while you type, right?)
Over the last year or so, RGB LED peripherals have become more commonplace. A new RGB LED keyboard from a gaming company will come in at around the $120 - $170 USD price range. Das is known to be on the higher end of the pricing curve, though. The Das Keyboard 5Q is expected to retail for $229 (although backers perks starting at $109 contain the keyboard -- and Das Keyboard is an established company, so it seems likely that these rewards will be fulfilled).
What you're getting for this cost is a high-quality, mechanical keyboard (with Omron switches) that has an open API. Their examples range from slowly alerting you of notifications, which can be expanded with a press of the volume button, to displaying your CPU load. Their pitch is that you cannot dismiss your keyboard and it's always on your desk, so, using color, it can continually notify you how much free time you have until something needs your attention. You'll need to decide for yourself if that seems reasonable and will help you be productive, or if it will just add to your anxiety, preventing you from zoning out into a good chunk of work.
As always, Kickstarters are backing products, not purchasing them, but Das Keyboard expects backers to receive their keyboards by January 2017.
Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2016 - 03:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, logitech, G810 Orion Spectrum, RGB LED
Logitech's G810 Orion Spectrum utilized their own proprietary Romer-G switches, they are non-linear with a 1.5mm travel and an actuation force of 45g; they also allow for an impressive light show. The software which controls the LEDs is quite impressive, the Freestyle mode allows you to change the illuminated portion on everything on the keyboard up to and including the logo, media keys and even the three Lock keys. You can read about how Hardware Canucks felt about these switches as well as watch a video showing off the RGB LEDs in their review.
"The Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum includes multiple improvements over previous G-series keyboards, including the new Romer-G switch, RGB lighting and a simpler, more efficient design."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum Tenkeyless RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ NikKTech
- Zalman Z-Machine ZM-K700M Gaming Keyboard Review @ OCC
- Gamdias Mechanical Gaming Combo @ Benchmark Reviews
- Razer Black Widow Tournament Edition Chroma @ Kitguru
- Razer Wildcat Gamepad @ Kitguru
- Ozone Neon Precision Laser Mouse Review @ Neoseeker
- Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum Gaming Mouse @ Tech ARP
- Corsair Scimitar MOBA Mouse Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Roccat Kova Gaming Mouse Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2016 - 12:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ripjaws, RGB LED, mechanical keyboard, G.Skill, Cherry MX
Memory maker G.Skill recently announced a refresh of its mechanical keyboard line that tweaks the KM780 series and cuts $10 off of the MSRP pricing. The two new refreshed products are the Ripjaws KM780R RGB and KM780R MX.
The new keyboards use an aluminum plate/base, Cherry MX switches, and a black anodized finish on the frame. The KM780R MX is backlit by red LEDs while the KM780R RGB can have custom per-key backlighting. Both feature a full QWERTY layout plus number pad as well as media playback keys, a LED volume level display, and six macro keys (three on-board key profiles). There is also USB and analog audio pass-through ports.
G.Skill is offering the new gaming keyboards in several models depending on your choice of key switch. Specifically, users can choose from Cherry MX blue, brown, or red switches. Connecting via USB, they employ anti-ghosting and full N-key rollover tech as well.
The every so slightly cheaper KM780R series does away with its predecessors bundled extra gaming key caps and key removal tool. The KM780R MX has an MSRP of $120 while the KM780R RGB model has an MSRP of $159.99 (Note that the brown and red variants are actually $140 on Amazon right now, but the Cherry MX blue version is not on sale.)
While I have not used them, the original models from last year appear to have garnered quite a bit of praise in reviews (particularly from AnandTech). It seems like G.Skill has not changed much and the R variants are more of the same for a bit less, and that's probably a good thing. I'm looking forward to seeing full reviews though, of course.
Have you tried the memory giant's other products before?
Also read: Mechanical Keyboard Switches Explained and Compared by Scott Michaud @ PC Perspective
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 11:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, cooler master, mechanical keyboard, RGB LED
Back in September, we mentioned that the CoolerMaster QuickFire XTi was launched worldwide. They have now launched three more keyboards. Two of them have Cherry MX switches and RGB LEDs, while the third uses a supposedly high-quality membrane switch.
According to The Tech Report at the show, Cooler Master has apparently used their own LED solution, rather than just purchase Cherry MX RGB switches directly. They also say that they needed to change the housing to fit those. The MasterKeys Pro L and S are fairly minimalist keyboards. I assume L stands for long, and S stands for short, because the S is the tenkeyless version of the L (which means it is cut off to the right of the arrow keys).
The Devastator II has switches that Cooler Master calls “Mem-chanical.” They apparently created high-end membrane switches that are supposed to feel like tactile mechanical ones. I guess this means that they were trying to emulate the Cherry MX Brown force curve. This doesn't say what quality the keyboard will end up being, that said, one of the most precise keyboards I've had (according to my straight-edge test) was a Microsoft Media keyboard from the early 2000s.
The Devastator II also has an ambidextrous mouse. Not sure about pricing and availability, though. The Tech Report claims $30, which is right around what the original Devastator costs today.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!