Subject: Motherboards | February 24, 2017 - 05:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: aorus, gigabyte, ryzen, b350, x370
Gigabyte have lead with five motherboards, two X370s under Aorus and three B350s with Gigabyte branding. They all share some traits in common such as RGB Fusion with 16.8 million colours to choose from and an application to allow you to customize the light show to your own specifications. It supports control from your phone if you are so addicted to the glow you need to play with your system from across the room.
Smartfan 5 indicates the presence of five headers for fans or pumps that will work with PWM and standard voltage fans, which can draw up to 12V at 2A. The boards also have six temperature sensors to give you feedback on the effectiveness of your cooling and modify it with the included application. Most models will offer Thunderbolt 3, Intel GbE NICs and an ASMedia 2142 USB 3.1 controllers which they claim can provide up to 16Gb/s. All will have high end audio solutions, often featuring a headphone pre-amp and high quality capacitors. There are a lot more features specific to each board, so make sure to click through to check out your favourites.
The Aorus boards, the GA-AX370-Gaming K7 and GA-AX370-GAMING 5 are very similar but if you plan on playing with your BCLK it is the K7 which includes Gigabyte's Turbo B-Clock. The Gigabyte lineup includes the GA-AB350M, GA-AB350-Gaming and GA-AB350-GAMING 3. The GA-AB350M is the only mATX Ryzen board of these five for those looking to build a smaller system. For audiophiles the full size the GAMING 3 includes an ALC1220 codec as opposed to the ALC 887 used on the other two models.
You can expect to see reviews of these boards which offer far more details on perfomance and features after they are released on March 2nd. Full PR under the break.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
With the release of Intel Z270 chipset, GIGABYTE is unveiling its AORUS line of products. The AORUS branding will be used to differentiate enthusiast and gamer friendly products from their other product lines, similar to how ASUS uses the ROG branding to differentiate their high performance product line. The Z270X-Gaming 5 is among the first to be released as part of GIGABYTE's AORUS line. The board features the black and white branding common to the AORUS product line, with the rear panel cover and chipset featuring the brand logos. The board is designed around the Intel Z270 chipset with in-built support for the latest Intel LGA1151 Kaby Lake processor line (as well as support for Skylake processors) and Dual Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2400MHz speed. The Z270X-Gaming 5 can be found in retail with an MSRP of $189.99.
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the Z270X-Gaming 5 motherboard: three SATA-Express ports; one U.2 32Gbps port; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable ports with Intel Optane support built-in; two RJ-45 GigE ports - an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC and a Rivet Networks Killer E2500 NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; ASMedia 8-Channel audio subsystem; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI video ports; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.
Subject: Motherboards | February 21, 2017 - 05:16 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ryzen, M.2, ddr4, biostar, amd, AM4
The X370GT7 is part of Biostar's racing series and features a black PCB with checkered flag artwork and LED-backlit "armor" over the rear IO edge. The motherboard surrounds the AMD AM4 socket with two large heat spreaders cooling a 8+4 Digital Power+ power phase (PowIRstage IC), four DDR4 slots (up to 64GB at 2667 MHz), and a M.2 (32 Gbps) slot with bundled SSD heat spreader that matches the racing and carbon fiber aesthetic.
The bottom half of the AM4 Motherboard houses the X370 chipset, six SATA 3 ports, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (running 1 at x16 or both at x8 with Ryzen, Bristol Ridge is limited to one x8 slot), one PCI-E 2.0 x16 (electrically x4) slot, and three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots. Biostar also highlights the inclusion of 5050 LED headers and a USB 3.1 front panel header with "Lightning Charger" which supports Quick Charge 2.0 (12V@1.5A) as well as Apple devices (5V@2.4A).
Around back, the X370GT7 has the following rear IO ports:
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2
- 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0)
- 3 x Video Outputs:
- 1 x DisplayPort (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x HDMI 2.0 (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x DVI-D (1200p@60Hz)
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8118AS)
- Audio (Realtek ALC1220, 8 channel Blu Ray Audio, "Biostar Hi-FI")
- 5 x Analog out
- 1 x S/PDIF
While an Intel NIC would have been nice to see, the Biostar board looks to offer up a decent package of connections and the Realtek audio codec has been around for a while and should be fairly well developed at this point though we will have to see how well Biostar's Hi-Fi implementation fares. Further, Biostar also offers a small touch panel on the board called GT Touch that lets users switch UEFI profiles between performance and eco-friendly modes as well as power and reset buttons for testing outside of a case. For LED fans Biostar bundles software called "LED DJ" that lets you configure an LED light show that responds to music being played on the PC. (Yes, this is a thing now hehe.)
It is nice to see Biostar rising to the occasion and offering up more options for Ryzen CPUs. Unfortunately as is the case with more things there is no word on pricing or availability yet though rumors would suggest an early march release to coincide with Ryzen processors hitting store shelves.
- CES 2017: Gigabyte Teases New AM4 Platform Motherboards
- AMD Details AM4 Chipsets and Upcoming Motherboards
- Dissecting AMD Zen Architecture - Interview with David Kanter
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ECS
The ECS Z170-Lightsaber motherboard is the newest offering in ECS' L337 product line with support for the Intel Z170 Express chipset. The Z170-Lightsaber builds on their previous Z170-based product, adding several enthusiast-friendly features like enhanced audio and RGB LED support to the board. With an MSRP of $180, ECS priced the Lightsaber as a higher-tiered offering, justified with its additional features and functionality compared to their previous Z170-based product.
Courtesy of ECS
ECS designed the Z170-Lightsaber with a 14-phase digital power delivery system, using high efficiency chokes and MOSFETs, as well as solid core capacitors for optimal board performance. The following features into the Z170-Lightsaber board: six SATA 3 ports; one SATA-Express port; a PCIe X2 M.2 port; a Qualcomm Killer GigE NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; four PCI-Express x1 slots; 3-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, Quick overclock, BIOS set, BIOS update, BIOS backup, and Clear CMOS buttons; Realtek audio solution; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI video port support; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Gen2 port support.
Subject: Motherboards | February 8, 2017 - 10:15 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, PCI-E 3.0, MXM, motherboard, mobile gpu, mini-stx, H110-STX-MXM, asrock
ASRock has announced a new mini-STX motherboard with an interesting twist, as the H110-STX MXM motherboard offers support for current MXM (version 3.0b, up to 120W) mobile graphics cards.
Like the ECS H110 motherboard featured in our recent Mini-STX build, the ASRock H110-STX MXM is based on the LGA1151 socket (though CPU TDP was not in the source post), offers a pair a DDR SODIMM slots for up to 32GB of DDR4 notebook memory. Storage support is excellent with dual SATA ports and M.2 SSD support. Importantly, this ASRock board uses PCI Express 3.0 on both the MXM (PCIe 3.0 x16) and M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4) slots. Display output capability is excellent as well, quoting the TechPowerUp post:
"Display connectivity includes one HDMI port that's wired to the CPU's onboard graphics, a second HDMI port wired to the MXM slot, a full-size DisplayPort wired to the MXM, and a Thunderbolt port with mini-DisplayPort wiring to the MXM."
There are some roadblocks to building up a gaming system with this motherboard, not the least of which is cost. Consider that compatible MXM 3.0b options (with a recent GPU) are hundreds of dollars from a place like Eurocom (a GTX 980M is around $800, for example). Naturally, if you had a damaged gaming notebook with a usable MXM GPU, this board might be a nice option for re-purposing that graphics card. Cooling for the MXM card is another issue, however, though harvesting an MXM card from a notebook could potentially allow implementing the existing thermal solution from the laptop.
Look closely and you will see a Z270 product name in this ASRock photo
Update: We now have full specifications from ASRock's product page, which include:
- Socket LGA1151 for Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron (Kabylake)
- Supports MXM Graphics Card (Type-B , Up to 120W)
- Supports DDR4 2400MHz, 2 x SO-DIMM, up to 32GB system memory
- 1 x HDMI (4K@60Hz), 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x Mini-DisplayPort
- 3x USB3.0 Type-A, 1x Thunderbolt 3 with USB 3.1 Type-C
- 1x M.2 (Key E), 2x M.2 (Key M)
- 1x Intel i219V Gigabit LAN
- DC 19V / 220W power input
Of note, the chipset is listed as Z270, though the product name and primary motherboard photo suggest H110. The H110-STX MXM is part of ASRocks industrial motherboard offerings (with signage and gaming the mentioned applications), and includes a 220W power supply. Pricing and availability were not mentioned.
Subject: Motherboards | February 7, 2017 - 02:35 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: z270 express, Maximus IX Formula, intel z270, ASUS ROG, asus
ASUS' Maximus Formula series have become familiar to high end system builders and the newest member looks to live up to our expectations. The list of features is comprehensive, including two M.2 slots and a U.2 slot, two USB 3.1 ports including a Type-C and an ASUS 2T2R dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac antenna. [H]ard|OCP had mixed results when overclocking, some testers had a perfect experience while others ran into some hurdles, that may be due to the processors they used so do not immediately write this motherboard off. Take a look at the full review before you decide one way or the other.
"ASUS is nothing like Hollywood. ASUS can actually turn out sequels which not only match the originals, but surpass them. ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus IX Formula is another sequel in the long line of Maximus motherboards. Can ASUS continue its long history of awesome sequels? One things for certain, it’s no Robocop 3."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock Z270 Extreme4 @ Kitguru
- MSI Z270 Gaming M7 @ [H]ard|OCP
- MSI B250M Mortar @ Modders-Inc
- MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MSI Z270 XPower Titanium Review @ Neoseeker
- ASUS ROG STRIX Z270F Gaming @ Kitguru
- ASUS Maximus IX Hero Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
Mini-STX is the newest, smallest PC form-factor that accepts a socketed CPU, and in this review we'll be taking a look at a complete mini-STX build that will occupy just 1.53 liters of space. With a total size of just 6.1 x 5.98 x 2.56 inches, the SilverStone VT01 case offers a very small footprint, and the ECS H110S-2P motherboard accepts Intel desktop CPUs up to 65W (though I may have ignored this specification).
PS3 controller for scale. (And becuase it's the best controller ever.)
The Smallest Form-Factor
The world of small form-factor PC hardware is divided between tiny kit solutions such as the Intel NUC (and the host of mini-PCs from various manufacturers), and the mini-ITX form-factor for system builders. The advantage of mini-ITX is its ability to host standard components, such as desktop-class processors and full-length graphics cards. However, mini-ITX requires a significantly larger enclosure than a mini-PC, and the "thin mini-ITX" standard has been something of a bridge between the two, essentially halving the height requirement of mini-ITX. Now, an even smaller standard has emerged, and it almost makes mini-ITX look big in comparison.
Left: ECS H110S-2P (mini-STX) / Right: EVGA Z170 Stinger (mini-ITX)
Mini-STX had been teased for a couple of years (I wrote my first news post about it in January of 2015), and was originally an Intel concept called "5x5"; though the motherboard is actually about 5.8 x 5.5 inches (147 x 140 mm). At CES 2016 I was able to preview a SilverStone enclosure design for these systems, and ECS is one of the manufacturers producing mini-STX motherboards with an Intel H110-based board introduced this past summer. We saw some shipping products for the newest form-factor in 2016, and both companies were kind enough to send along a sample of these micro-sized components for a build. With the parts on hand it is now time to assemble my first mini-STX system, and of course I'll cover the process - and results - right here!
Courtesy of ASUS
With the latest revision of the TUF line, ASUS made the decision to drop the well-known "Sabertooth" moniker from the board name, naming the board's with the TUF branding only. The TUF Z270 Mark 1 motherboard is the flagship board in ASUS' TUF (The Ultimate Force) product line designed with the Intel Z270 chipset. The board offers support for the latest Intel Kaby Lake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR 4 memory because of its integrated Intel Z270 chipset. While the MSRP for the board may be a bit higher than expected, its $239 price is more than justified by the board's build quality and "armored" offerings.
Courtesy of ASUS
The TUF Z270 Mark 1 motherboard is built with the same quality and attention to detail that you've come to expect from TUF-branded motherboards. Its appearance follows the standard tan plastic armor overlay on the top with a 10-phase digital power system. The board contains the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable ports; dual GigE controllers - an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC and an Intel I211 Gigabit NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; an 8-channel audio subsystem; MEM OK! and USB BIOS Flashback buttons; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.
Courtesy of ASUS
ASUS also chose to include the armored backplate with the TUF Z270 Mark 1 motherboard, dubbed the "TUF Fortifier".
Subject: Motherboards | January 12, 2017 - 03:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asrock, Z270 Extreme4, intel z270, atx
ASRock have changed in over the past couple of years from a choice of last resort for the budget conscious to creating some intriguing products. Look at how clean the design of their Z270 Extreme4 is, with heatsinks covering the majority of the components and a nice silver and black colour scheme. Aesthetics aside, it also has some nice features, such as a 1.5 amp water pump header, a pair of M.2 slots, USB 3.1 in both A and C flavours, three PCIe 3.0 16x slots of which two are reinforced metal and yes, it has Aura RGB LED controls. TechPowerUp tested it with an i7-7700K, check out their results here.
"It's Here! Our first look at Intel's Kaby Lake-supporting motherboards comes from none other than ASRock, with their white and black mainstream motherboard the ASRock Z270 Extreme4. With all the base features of Intel's latest, including a bit of ASRock's engineering magic thrown in, the ASRock Z270 Extreme4 is the perfect example of what you can expect from Intel's Kaby Lake platform."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock Z270 Extreme4 @ Hardware Secrets
- AORUS Gigabyte Z270X - Gaming 7 @ Hardware Secrets
- MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon @ Kitguru
- MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon Review @ Neoseeker
Subject: Motherboards | January 11, 2017 - 09:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x370, x300, ryzen, gigabyte, CES 2017, CES, b350, AM4, a320
Last week AMD provided additional details on the chipsets and AM4 platform (JoshTekk article link) that will support the company's upcoming Ryzen processors. On tap are the X370, B350, A320 for enthusiast, mid range, and budget markets respectively and the odd-man-out and somewhat mysterious pinky sized X300 chipset specifically geared for Mini ITX and other small form factor motherboards. Gigabyte answered some of Josh and I's questions on what actual motherboards will look like and what features manufacturers would take advantage of when it unveiled (nearly) its full lineup of AM4 motherboards at CES 2017.
Except for an X300-based motherboard which was absent from their booth, Gigabyte teased four new motherboards using each of AMD's new chipsets. Specifically, there will be two Aorus-branded high end X370-based motherboards known as GA-AX370-Gaming 5, GA-AX370-Gaming K5, a midrange B350-based Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 motherboard, and a budget micro ATX A320M-HD3 using the lower end A320 chipset.
All four of the motherboards surround the 1331-pin AM4 processor socket with four dual channel DDR4 DIMM slots, six SATA 6Gbps ports, at least one M.2 slot, at least two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and modern USB 3.1 external IO connections.
Tech Report takes a look at Gigabyte's planned AM4 motherboard lineup.
The Gigabyte GA-AX370-Gaming 5 is the company's highest end motherboard and is clad in silver and black with white heatspreaders and "armor" plating. Being part of the Aorus brand, the motherboard has RGB LEDs and is reportedly at feature parity with Gigabyte's RGB-lit Z270 offerings. Powered by a 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS, the Gaming 5 uses a 10-phase VRM along with large heat spreaders to facilitate overclocking. The board features three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots that are electrically wired as x16/x8/x4 with support for CrossFireX and SLI (though only AMD will let you go to three cards on the third x4 slot) and three PCI-E x1 slots. The storage subsystem includes a single U.2 port and two SATA Express connectors (part of the total six SATA 6Gbps, not in addition to).
External I/O includes:
- 1x PS/2
- 6x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (1 x Type-C)
- 2x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1x Intel
- 1x Killer Ethernet 2500
- 6x Audio
- 5x Analog out
- 1x SPDIF
Other little features like a BIOS code readout display and hybrid fan headers are part of the higher end boards but absent on the lower end ones.
Moving from the Gaming-5 to the GA-AX370-Gaming K5, the heat spreaders are scaled back and the color scheme is black and silver instead of white, silver, and black. Further, the power phases are less robust at seven phases, there is no LED display for error codes, no U.2 port, and no Killer Networks Ethernet. The slightly lower end board does keep the M.2 slot, SATA Express connectors, and PCI-E slots of the Gaming 5, however.
The Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 is where things start to noticeably change in the feature set. The VRM area is scaled back further with seven phases and a smaller heatsink. There is no U.2 or SATA Express, and one fewer PCI-E x1 slot than the X370 offerings. The motherboard does have three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (I am guessing still wired as x16/x8/x4 but AMD's slide from Josh's story is a bit unclear in this regard) but officially CrossFire and SLI are not supported according to AMD's slide. Around back, the board differs from the higher end models by including display outputs and lacking S/PDIF audio outputs. Specifically, the Gaming 3 board features:
- 2x USB 2.0
- 1x PS/2
- 4x Video outputs
- 1x VGA
- 1x DVI
- 1x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1x HDMI 2.0 [updated 10:32]
- 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2
- 1x Intel Gigabit Ethernet
- 3x Analog audio outputs (AmpUp! audio)
Finally, the lowest end A320M-HD3 is a micro ATX motherboard with four DDR4 slots, six SATA port, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (likely wired as x8/x4), a single M.2 slot, and a PCI slot of all things. The all black board uses a 7 phase VRM and thanks to most of the connectivity being housed in the processor and A320 chipset, the PCB looks rather barren. This does have the positive effect of allowing AMD to still put four DIMM slots on the board and two PCI-E slots with room to spare. External I/O on this board is identical to the AB350-Gaming 3 above.
In all, it is refreshing to see an updated AMD motherboard platform with the latest storage and graphics connectivity options, and while SATA Express and even U.2 aren't as useful as they could be (not many products actually use those connectors, M.2 has really stolen the show here) the inclusion of native USB 3.1 Gen 2 is great as is the ability to use all six SATA 6Gbps ports along with dual graphics cards (things get dicer when adding PCI-E storage and/or using the 4th x16 slot which may reduce the number of available SATA ports but that is a bit beyond this article.) It is nice to see these features coming from AMD directly and not having to rely on third party chips for modern features as AMD's AM3 platform had to. Seeing the initial launch boards take advantage of the new features fully is promising as well though I expect to see different configurations in the audio, M.2, and external I/O departments from future Gigabyte boards and their competitors.
I am curious to see how well the chipsets perform versus Intel's in the USB 3.1 and PCI-E storage departments as well as how overclocking will work with Ryzen and how far the AM4 platform boards will be able to push the new chips. It appears that AM4 has Zen off to a good start, and here's hoping that the AM4 platform will carry Zen into the future and help Ryzen, ahem, rise up to the task of delivering on all those performance promises from AMD!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!