Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

Introduction

We've been hearing about Intel's VROC (NVMe RAID) technology for a few months now. ASUS started slipping clues in with their X299 motherboard releases starting back in May. The idea was very exciting, as prior NVMe RAID implementations on Z170 and Z270 platforms were bottlenecked by the chipset's PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI link to the CPU, and they also had to trade away SATA ports for M.2 PCIe lanes in order to accomplish the feat. X99 motherboards supported SATA RAID and even sported four additional ports, but they were left out of NVMe bootable RAID altogether. It would be foolish of Intel to launch a successor to their higher end workstation-class platform without a feature available in two (soon to be three) generations of their consumer platform.

To get a grip on what VROC is all about, lets set up some context with a few slides:

slide-1.png

First, we have a slide laying out what the acronyms mean:

  • VROC = Virtual RAID on CPU
  • VMD = Volume Management Device

What's a VMD you say?

slide-2.png

...so the VMD is extra logic present on Intel Skylake-SP CPUs, which enables the processor to group up to 16 lanes of storage (4x4) into a single PCIe storage domain. There are three VMD controllers per CPU.

slide-3.png

VROC is the next logical step, and takes things a bit further. While boot support is restricted to within a single VMD, PCIe switches can be added downstream to create a bootable RAID possibly exceeding 4 SSDs. So long as the array need not be bootable, VROC enables spanning across multiple VMDs and even across CPUs!

Assembling the Missing Pieces

Unlike prior Intel storage technology launches, the VROC launch has been piecemeal at best and contradictory at worst. We initially heard that VROC would only support Intel SSDs, but Intel later published a FAQ that stated 'selected third-party SSDs' would also be supported. One thing they have remained steadfast on is the requirement for a hardware key to unlock RAID-1 and RAID-5 modes - a seemingly silly requirement given their consumer chipset supports bootable RAID-0,1,5 without any key requirement (and VROC only supports one additional SSD over Z170/Z270/Z370, which can boot from 3-drive arrays).

On the 'piecemeal' topic, we need three things for VROC to work:

  • BIOS support for enabling VMD Domains for select groups of PCIe lanes.
  • Hardware for connecting a group of NVMe SSDs to that group of PCIe lanes.
  • A driver for OS mounting and managing of the array.

Let's run down this list and see what is currently available:

BIOS support?

170927121509.png

Check. Hardware for connecting multiple drives to the configured set of lanes?

170927-165526.jpg

Check (960 PRO pic here). Note that the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card will only work on motherboards supporting PCIe bifurcation, which allows the CPU to split PCIe lanes into subgroups without the need of a PLX chip. You can see two bifurcated modes in the above screenshot - one intended for VMD/VROC, while the other (data) selection enables bifurcation without enabling the VMD controller. This option presents the four SSDs to the OS without the need of any special driver.

With the above installed, and the slot configured for VROC in the BIOS, we are greeted by the expected disappointing result:

VROC-2.png

Now for that pesky driver. After a bit of digging around the dark corners of the internet:

VROC-11.png

Check! (well, that's what it looked like after I rapidly clicked my way through the array creation)

Don't even pretend like you won't read the rest of this review! (click here now!)

Apparently Kaby Lake Is Incompatible with Z370 Chipsets

Subject: Processors, Chipsets | September 23, 2017 - 06:52 PM |
Tagged: Z370, z270, kaby lake, Intel, coffee lake

According to the Netherlands arm of Hardware.info, while Kaby Lake-based processors will physically fit into the LGA-1151 socket of Z370 motherboards, they will fail to boot. Since their post, Guru3D asked around to various motherboard manufacturers, and they claim that Intel is only going to support 8th Generation processors with that chipset via, again, allegedly, a firmware lock-out.

intel-2017-chocolatelake-theredlist.jpg

Thankfully, it's not Chocolate Lake.
Image credit: The Red List

If this is true, then it might be possible for Intel to allow board vendors to release a new BIOS that supports these older processors. Guru3D even goes one step further and suggests that, just maybe, motherboard vendors might have been able to support Coffee Lake on Z270 as well, if Intel would let them. I’m... skeptical about that last part in particular, but, regardless, it looks like you won’t have an upgrade path, even though the socket is identical.

It’s also interesting to think about the issue that Hardware.info experienced: the boot failed on the GPU step. The prevailing interpretation is that everything up to that point is close enough that the BIOS didn’t even think to fail.

My interpretation of the step that booting failed, however, is wondering whether there’s something odd about the new graphics setup that made Intel pull support for Z270. Also, Intel usually supports two CPU generations with each chipset, so we had no real reason to believe that Skylake and Kaby Lake would carry over except for the stalling of process tech keeping us on 14nm so long.

Still, if older CPUs are incompatible with Z370, and for purely artificial reasons, then that’s kind-of pathetic. Maybe I’m odd, but I tend to buy a new motherboard with new CPUs anyway, but I can’t envision the number of people who flash BIOSes with their old CPU before upgrading to a new one is all that high, so it seems a little petty to nickel and dime the few that do, especially at a time that AMD can legitimately call them out for it.

There has to be a reason, right?

Source: Guru3D

Podcast #468 - AMD Raven Ridge rumors, Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2017 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: z270, windows 10, WD, video, toshiba, ShadowPlay, ryzen, podcast, nvidia, nuc, msi, max-q, Intel, gs63vr, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, gigabyte, EPYC, ansel, 2500U, 12TB

PC Perspective Podcast #468 - 09/21/17

Join us for discussion on AMD Raven Ridge rumors,  Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Sebastion Peak, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:39:59

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

Podcast #466 - ECS Z270, Clutch Chairz, AMD market share, Lenovo Yoga, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2017 - 09:46 AM |
Tagged: z270, Yoga 920, Yoga 720, video, Threadripper 1900x, superfish, skylake-x, podcast, Lenovo, IFA 2017, HP S700 Pro, GTX 1080, gigabyte, ECS, Die shot, Core i7-6700K, Core i5-6600k, Clutch Chairz, Aorus X5, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #466 - 09/07/17

Join us for discussion on ECS Z270 motherboards, Clutch Chairz, AMD market share, Lenovo Yoga, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:15:50

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:25:05 Casper
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:09:10 Allyn: FolderTimeUpdate
  4. Closing/outro

Source:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Specifications

For Intel’s Z270 chipset ECS has a pair of motherboard options, with the ATX Z270-LIGHTSABER and mini-ITX Z270H4-I. We have a look at both of these offerings today.

DSC_0435.jpg

The Z270-LIGHTSABER tries to live up to that name with customizable LED lighting around the board, which is controlled through the system setup. It boasts a 14-phase power delivery and all solid caps, and offers simplified overclocking through the ECS MIB X interface and Intel XMP 1.2 and 1.3 memory support. Additionally the LIGHTSABER offers comprehensive storage options with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot (Intel Optane is supported), U.2 port, and a full complement of SATA III ports. There is also a Killer E2500 NIC, and premium audio with a dedicated TI headphone amp, among the other features.

For its part the Z270H4-I packs many of the same features as its ATX cousin, though this mini-ITX motherboard only provides a 6-phase power design, and does not feature the LED lighting or dedicated headphone amp of the Z270-LIGHTSABER. It does provide the same full PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot with Intel Optane support, and while the Z270H4-I does not have a Killer NIC it replaces this with a pair including an Intel I-219V and Realtek LAN. The Z270H4-I also supports M.2 wireless cards and includes an optional pair of wireless antennae.

DSC_0431.jpg

I installed my Core i7-7700K in both motherboards and in addition to some baseline benchmarks I tried out some casual overclocking and will provide general usage impressions with both boards.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z270-LIGHTSABER and Z270H4-I motherboards!

Podcast #459 - Threadripper Pricing, Liquid Cooled VEGA, Intel Rumors, and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2017 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: zenbook, z270, wireless charging, water cooling, VR, video, Vega, TSMC, thermaltake, SILVIA, podcast, Pacific, Oculus, Kabby Lake-R, corsair, Contac, asus, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #459 - 07/20/17

Join us for Threadripper Pricing, Liquid Cooled VEGA, Intel Rumors, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg, Jim Tanous

Program length: 1:46:03

 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:36:30 Jeremy: Deal on a Ryzen 7 1700
    2. 1:41:04 Allyn: Still using WMC? You need EPG123!
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

G.Skill Releasing DDR4 4333 MHz Memory Kit, Working on DDR4 4500 MHz

Subject: Memory | April 22, 2017 - 04:40 PM |
Tagged: z270, G.Skill Trident Z, G.Skill, dual channel, ddr4

For enthusiasts with a need for speed, G.Skill unleashed a new DDR4 memory kit recently that ratchets up two 8GB modules to 4333 MHz out of the box. The new 16GB kit will soon take the top spot in the company’s Trident Z series and will come with the traditional brushed metal heat spreader with red accent.

00_tridentz_x2.png

The new 16 GB (2 x 8GB sticks) Trident Z memory kit was validated on Intel’s Z270 platform using an Asus ROG Maximus IX Apex motherboard and an overclocked Intel Core i5-7600K. (The processor was clocked at 4200.20 MHz on a x40.0 multiplier and 104.98 MHz bus speed.) The DDR4 kit is running with CAS latencies of 19-19-19-39 and is needs 1.40 volts.

Not content to sit on its laurels, G.Skill is reportedly also working on cranking speeds up even further with a prototype DDR4 kit running at 4400 MHz and a “proof of concept” test of a 16 GB kit running at 4500 MHz. The DDR4-4500 kit is being stress tested while specifications are still under development and it will be “some time” before it is ready for market. G.Skill did manage to at least run Windows and some benchmarks at those RAM clock speeds though using the same Z270 platform listed above (with the Core i5 7600K clocked at 4360.36 MHz on a 108.98 MHz bus and x40.0 multiplier). The benchmark runs reported up to 65 GB/s write speeds, 55 GB/s read speeds, and 52 GB/s copy speeds specifically. DDR4 has come a long way in the speed department to where it is today and apparently still has room to grow.

01_ddr4_4500mhz_bandwidth.png

Unfortunately, as is the case with most announcements of this nature, no official pricing and availability was mentioned. Looking around online, I would expect the 16GB DDR4-4333 kit to come in somewhere around $280 and be available within the next month or so.

I would love to see what a kit this fast would do for Ryzen as far as alleviating the CCX-to-CCX bottleneck over the Infinity Fabric assuming the Ryzen memory controller can handle those speeds! Also, faster memory has helped AMD’s APUs in the past, so these extremely fast kits that are coming out should pair well with AMD's upcoming Raven Ridge though they will need to come down in price a lot to actually meet the budget of a good budget gaming build (right now with the kits in the $250+ range it would be better to just put the premium into a graphics card – though that kind of defeats the purpose of using the APU heh).

Source: G.Skill

Take 5 to read through the Ryzen roundup

Subject: Processors | April 11, 2017 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: z270, ryzen 5, ryzen, amd, 1600X, 1400

As you have already read through Ryan's review of the Ryzen 1600X and 1500X running on MSI's B350 Tomahawk you know about how the chips measure up to Intel's offerings at the same price point.  Life being what it is, there is always a trade between testing everything and publishing results in a timely manner so it is possible that we missed your favourite game, benchmark or test setting which is why roundups such as this exist.  For instance over at [H]ard|OCP the tests were performed on an MSI Krait Z270 Gaming motherboard and they also had a chance to review the $169 Ryzen 5 1400. 

Drop by to take a look and don't forget there are a whole lot more just below.

r51400.PNG

"AMD has been on a tear with its new Ryzen 7 CPUs over the past few weeks and now it is time for the Ryzen 5 processor family performance to be explored. We are giving away the AMD Reviewer's Kit with a 1600X and 1500X, instead we bought 1600 and 1400 processors to review here today. All data is retail CPUs, and all overclocked to 4GHz."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

MSI's new Z270 GAMING M6 AC, look closely and you might even find a kitchen sink

Subject: Motherboards | March 10, 2017 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Z270 GAMING M6 AC, z270, ryzen, msi, amd

The new MSI Z270 GAMING M6 AC has a huge selection of features, up to and including a free Phanteks RGB LED strip for those who suffer from chronic RGBitis

MSI270.jpg

The add-in card you see on the side is an Intel Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card which supports MU-MIMO.  The onboard audio is powered by Nahimic, which MSI refers to as Audio Boost 4 and it is isolated from the other components on the motherboard to prevent noise.  There is a U.2 slot and two M.2 slots with a removable heatsink they call M.2 Shield.  They fully isolated the memory circuit design and as you can see below The Witcher 3 seems to like the DDR4 Boost design.

benches.jpg

Check out the PR below for a closer look at the features included, including the special USB slot for your VR headset and the One-Click to VR option.

MSI, world leading in gaming hardware innovation, is proud to announce a brand new Enthusiast GAMING motherboard, the Z270 GAMING M6 AC with its incredibly versatile and complete foundation for a high-end gaming system. Inspired from a futuristic armored spaceship, the Z270 GAMING M6 AC design with multilayer plating, wings and armaments emphasize an ultramodern style. Erupting from the core, the entire color spectrum flows through illuminated lines. The complete motherboard and heatsink design offers a strong look and feel and uses heavy quality components to deliver the best performance and stability as the base of any gaming rig. Added features such as Audio Boost 4 with Nahimic 2, Twin Turbo M.2 with M.2 Shield, VR Boost, Killer LAN & Intel WIFI AC, and the option to fully customize the RGB LEDs to any color using Mystic light, makes the Z270 GAMING M6 AC one of the most high-end and desirable Z270 motherboards to build a gaming rig with.

DDR4 Boost
Through fully isolating the memory circuit design, the DDR4 Boost ensures maximum performance and stability. The technical enhancements of DDR4 Boost allow for more stability at higher memory speeds compared to other brands.DDR4 Boost benchmark based on The Witcher 3 Enjoy the additional boost in gaming performance or when working with large video and photo files. Enable Intel® Extreme Memory Profile with ease using a single option in the BIOS to gain performance and create a perfectly stable system.

Twin Turbo M.2 with M.2 shield & U.2
Enjoy a blazing fast system boot up and insanely quick loading of applications and games with MSI motherboards. Twin Turbo M.2 delivers PCI-E Gen3 x4 performance with transfer speeds up to 64 Gb/s for the latest SSDs. It also supports the all-new Intel® Optane™ technology. M.2 Shield (patent pending) is a thermal solution, which keeps the M.2 or Optane™ device safe and cool to prevent damage and thermal throttling. M.2 GENIE makes setting up RAID easy by taking less steps, using any M.2 or PCI-E SSD (even when used in a mixed configuration). The Z270 GAMING M6 AC supports the latest storage interface, U.2 as well.

Audio Boost 4 with Nahimic 2
With Audio Boost, powered by Nahimic, MSI motherboards deliver the highest sound quality through the use of premium quality audio components and an isolated audio PCB. An added audio cover and golden audio connectors ensure the purest audio signal.

VR Ready & VR Boost
VR Boost is a smart chip that ensures a clean and strong signal to a VR optimized USB port located on the back, to reduce motion sickness caused by a bad signal. The One-Click to VR option in the MSI Gaming App gets your PC primed for VR use in just a single click by setting your components to max. performance and preventing other applications from impacting your VR experience negatively.

Intel Wi-Fi AC with Antennas
Optimize your gaming rig to deliver game networking traffic over LAN for the best possible online gaming experience, while using WiFi for other online applications. This next-generation Intel® Wi-Fi / Bluetooth solution uses smart MU-MIMO technology, delivering AC speeds up to 867Mbps. Perfect for streaming and gaming at the same time.

Includes free Phanteks RGB LED strip
This RGB LED strip helps to transform and synchronize colors in your case to any liking. Simply connect the plug & play strip to the Mystic Light Extension pin header located on MSI motherboards, without the need of external power, and set a color and choose an LED effect to match it with your motherboard and other peripherals RGB LEDs. Use the included double sided 3M tape to place the strip firmly wherever you want inside (or even outside) your chassis.

Source: MSI
Author:
Manufacturer: Corsair

Woof

The Corsair Bulldog, version 2.0, is now shipping and upgrades the internal components to a Z270 motherboard and upgrade fans with improved noise profiles. Other than that, the Bulldog looks, style, form and function remain unchanged.
 
 
The design is likely still dividing opinions; the short squat form factor with angular exterior will appeal to some, but the dimensions are perfectly suited to sitting in or around a TV and entertainment center. And because of the spacing and design of the interior, the mini ITX form factor can support any performance level of GPU and Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors. This gives users the flexibility to build for ultimate performance, making the dream of a 4K-ready gaming PC in the living room a possibility.
 
DSC02379.jpg
 
Our quick video review will talk about the design, installation process and our experiences with the system running some premium components.
 
bulldog1.jpg
  • Corsair Bulldog 2.0 (includes case, PSU, MB and CPU cooler)
  • Intel Core i7-7700K
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4
  • Corsair Z270 Motherboard mini ITX
  • Corsair Hydro GTX 1080
  • 480GB Neutron GTX SSD
  • 600 watt Corsair PSU

The barebones kit starts at $399 through Corsair.com and includes the case, the motherboard, CPU cooler and 600-watt power supply. Not a bad price for those components!

bulldog2.jpg

You won't find any specific benchmarks in the video above, but you will find some impressions playing Resident Evil 7 in HDR mode at 4K resolution with the specs above, all on an LG OLED display. (Hint: it's awesome.)