The X370s aren't here yet so take a gander at the fancy X270 from GIGABYTE

Subject: Motherboards | February 28, 2017 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: intel z270, Aorus Z270X Gaming 9, gigabyte

What an interesting time it will be with Intel slinging Z270's at the same time AMD's Z370 arrives on the scene; there is no possible way some people could get confused.  It will also make the next generation of board names interesting as the two companies fight for numbering rights.  GIGABYTE's Aorus Z270X Gaming 9 comes with an impressive price tag of $500, so it will be interesting to see if [H]ard|OCP finds the feature set on the board worth of that investment.  The four 16x PCIe 3.0 slots will support four GPUs simultaneously and there are both a pair of M.2 and U.2 slots, to say nothing of the onboard SoundBlaster.  Head on over to read through the full review.

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"GIGABYTE’s Z270X Gaming 9 is one of the most feature rich and ultra-high end offerings you’ll see for the Z270 chipset this year. We were super fond of last year’s similar offering and as a result, the Z270X Gaming 9 has very large shoes to fill. With its massive feature set and overclocking prowess, it is poised to be one of the best motherboards of the year."

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Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Supports CrossFire On B350 and X370 Chipsets, However SLI Limited to X370

Subject: Motherboards | February 26, 2017 - 01:29 AM |
Tagged: x370, sli, ryzen, PCI-E 3.0, gaming, crossfire, b350, amd

Computerbase.de recently published an update (translated) to an article outlining the differences between AMD’s AM4 motherboard chipsets. As it stands, the X370 and B350 chipsets are set to be the most popular chipsets for desktop PCs (with X300 catering to the small form factor crowd) especially among enthusiasts. One key differentiator between the two chipsets was initially support for multi-GPU configurations with X370. Now that motherboards have been revealed and are up for pre-order now, it turns out that the multi-GPU lines have been blurred a bit. As it stands, both B350 and X370 will support AMD’s CrossFire multi-GPU technology and the X370 alone will also have support for NVIDIA’s SLI technology.

The AM4 motherboards equipped with the B350 and X370 chipsets that feature two PCI-E x16 expansion slots will run as x8 in each slot in a dual GPU setup. (In a single GPU setup, the top slot can run at full x16 speeds.) Which is to say that the slots behave the same across both chipsets. Where the chipsets differ is in support for specific GPU technologies where NVIDIA’s SLI is locked to X370. TechPowerUp speculates that the decision to lock SLI to its top-end chipset is due, at least in part, to licensing costs. This is not a bad thing as B350 was originally not going to support any dual x16 slot multi-GPU configurations, but now motherboard manufacturers are being allowed to enable it by including a second slot and AMD will reportedly permit CrossFire usage (which costs AMD nothing in licensing). Meanwhile the most expensive X370 chipset will support SLI for those serious gamers that demand and can afford it. Had B350 supported SLI and carried the SLI branding, they likely would have been ever so slightly more expensive than they are now. Of course, DirectX 12's multi-adapter will work on either chipset so long as the game supports it.

  X370 B350 A320 X300 / B300 / A300 Ryzen CPU Bristol Ridge APU
PCI-E 3.0 0 0 0 4 20 (18 w/ 2 SATA) 10
PCI-E 2.0 8 6 4 0 0 0
USB 3.1 Gen 2 2 2 1 1 0 0
USB 3.1 Gen 1 6 2 2 2 4 4
USB 2.0 6 6 6 6 0 0
SATA 6 Gbps 4 2 2 2 2 2
SATA RAID 0/1/10 0/1/10 0/1/10 0/1    
Overclocking Capable? Yes Yes No Yes (X300 only)    
SLI Yes No No No    
CrossFire Yes Yes No No    

Multi-GPU is not the only differentiator though. Moving up from B350 to X370 will get you 6 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) ports versus 2 on B350/A30/X300, two more PCI-E 2.0 lanes (8 versus 6), and two more SATA ports (6 total usable; 4 versus 2 coming from the chipset).

Note that X370, B350, and X300 all support CPU overclocking. Hopefully this helps you when trying to decide which AM4 motherboard to pair with your Ryzen CPU once the independent benchmarks are out. In short, if you must have SLI you are stuck ponying up for X370, but if you plan to only ever run a single GPU or tend to stick with AMD GPUs and CrossFire, B350 gets you most of the way to a X370 for a lot less money! You do not even have to give up any USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports though you limit your SATA drive options (it’s all about M.2 these days anyway heh).

For those curious, looking around on Newegg I notice that most of the B350 motherboards have that second PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot and CrossFire support listed in their specifications and seem to average around $99.  Meanwhile X370 starts at $140 and rockets up from there (up to $299!) depending on how much bling you are looking for!

Are you going for a motherboard with the B350 or X370 chipset? Will you be rocking multiple graphics cards?

Also read:

Gigabyte is Ryzen up to the challenge of their rivals

Subject: Motherboards | February 24, 2017 - 05:30 PM |
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. 

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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.

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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.

Source: Gigabyte
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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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.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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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.

Continue reading our preview of the GIGABYTE Z270X-Gaming 5 motherboard!

Biostar Launches X370GT7 Flagship Motherboard For Ryzen CPUs

Subject: Motherboards | February 21, 2017 - 05:16 AM |
Tagged: ryzen, M.2, ddr4, biostar, amd, AM4

Biostar is gearing up for AMD's Ryzen release with the launch of several new AM4 motherboards using the X370 and B350 chipsets. At the top of the product stack is the flagship X370GT7 motherboard.

Biostar X370GT7.jpg

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:

  • PS/2
  • 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.

Also read:

Source: Biostar
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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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.

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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.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z170-Lightsaber Motherboard!

ASRock Announces H110-STX MXM Mini-STX Motherboard with MXM GPU Support

Subject: Motherboards | February 8, 2017 - 10:15 AM |
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.

H110_STX_MXM.jpg

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.

H110_STX_MXM_2.jpg

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.

Source: TechPowerUp

The new ASUS Maximus IX Formula is put through its paces

Subject: Motherboards | February 7, 2017 - 02:35 PM |
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.

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"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."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

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).

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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.

DSC_0268.jpg

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!

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Continue reading our review of a mini-STX computer build featuring ECS and SilverStone!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction

Introduction

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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.

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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.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS also chose to include the armored backplate with the TUF Z270 Mark 1 motherboard, dubbed the "TUF Fortifier".

Continue reading our preview of the ASUS TUF Z270 Mark 1 motherboard!