ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


Since the official reveal of Intel’s latest mainstream LGA1151 platform, we’ve analysed the performance numbers of various Z170 motherboards and even taken an analytical look at the non-overclocking H170 offerings. However, there’s another chipset available to consumers even though it’s primarily marketed towards business users. More specifically, the B150 chipset includes Intel’s Small Business Advantage software package to manage a small network of PCs using fairly rudimentary desktop applications. As a result, it seems quite a bizarre choice to release a B150 motherboard which adopts a lavish visual design, although it might be suitable for business clients wanting to play games during their downtime.

In a similar vein to the H170 chipset, there are some technical limitations when opting for the more budget friendly options. For example, B150 motherboards support a maximum of 18 HSIO lanes (in addition to 16 PCI-E from the CPU) compared to 26 on Z170. Additionally, overclocking is disabled even with an unlocked multiplier CPU, the PCI-E lanes are reduced from 20 to 8, and there’s a small dip in USB 3.0 ports down from 14 to 12. Despite these cutbacks, there’s still more than enough connectivity, and features to please a large quantity of consumers. The ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA is a fascinating motherboard because it brings many of the high-end components from the Z170 range and comes with an excellent array of gaming focussed software. This means, it’s possibly the most ostentatious and impressive B150 motherboard I’ve encountered thus far, and I expect to see some impressive performance numbers in our typical benchmark procedure.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard is packaged in an attractive box which outlines the RGB sections and high-speed M.2 support. Additionally, there’s a promotional 15-day code to access a premium account in the free-to-play title, War of Warships.

On the rear, there’s a basic overview of the board layout, a technical synopsis and details about the AURA RGB lighting system. Furthermore, ASUS also provides information on the Digi+ VRM, USB 3.1 connectivity, premium audio hardware and gaming software.

In terms of accessories, the B150 PRO GAMING/AURA includes a user’s guide, cable labels, zip ties to help with cable management and drivers disk.

As you might expect, the motherboard comes with an I/O shield, SATA cables and M.2 fixing screws.

ASRock Z170 Motherboards Pictured Ahead of Launch

Ahead of next week’s Computex in Taiwan, ASRock has released pictures of their latest motherboard. Based around Intel’s next-generation 100 series chipset for Skylake, the Z170 will be the top platform for the mainstream segment. The pictures show the Z170 Gaming K6 and the Z170 Extreme 7 in their full glory along with Intel’s LGA 1151.

For the Gaming K6, it’s quite obviously targeted towards gamers with the red and black aesthetic most OEMs are using with their gaming products. Branding remains the same with the Fatal1ty line with the name etched on the board but not in the model. M.2 slot resides pretty much where we have come to expect as well as the now prevalent SATA Express along with the SATA 3 ports. As expected DDR4 is used for the 4 DIMM slots.

The Extreme 7, targetting a more enthusiast audience comes with the industry standard black and gold theme. In line with it’s with enthusiast status, the Extreme 7 comes with not 1 but 3 M.2 slots. Being based on Z170, not all of the M.2 and PCIE slots can be used at the same time. Another differentiator also appears to be two removable BIOS chips, great for eliminating risk when messing with the firmware.

Both boards tout key features offered by Z170, mainly the 20 PCIE 3.0 lanes which is particularly useful for the Extreme 7 with it’s 4 x16 slots. Both boards are expected to feature Realtek ALC 1150 onboard audio, branded Purity Sound 3 with prominent EMI shielding. As high-end boards, both also offer onboard buttons and BIOS code readouts. The large number of USB 3 ports are also prominent with Z170, coming standard with the chipset. With Biostar having also teased their Z170 board, Skylake is sure to be right around the corner.

Gigabyte Reveal Z97X-Game Plus Motherboard

Motherboard giant Gigabyte have released possibly one of the last of the Z97 motherboards we will see before the release of Intel Skylake processors later this year. The Z97X-Game Plus motherboard is a nice return to the old G1 Sniper colour theme, GREEN. This motherboard release is timely with the announcement of the two Intel Broadwell Unlocked chips earlier for June 2nd.

This motherboard is designed to compete within the mainstream $150 product group, such as the Asus Z97-Pro Gamer; motherboards around this price group are gamer orientated and feature rich, just missing out on the top end, premium series such as the G1 Gaming and ROG series.

All typical Z97 features are present, three-way graphics support (x16/na/na or x8/x8/na or x8/x4/x4), M.2 slot, six SATA 6Gb/s ports and SATA express. Something which is pleasant to see is the simply awesome Gigabyte AMP-UP onboard audio and Killer E2200 gigabit ethernet, all for $150.

Would this motherboard be enough to tempt you to upgrade to Z97? Are you excited for the upcoming release of the Broadwell Unlocked processors or will you be waiting for Skylake later this year? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

eTeknix 2014 Christmas Tech Buying Guide

Christmas time is almost here and as we wrap up warm over winter, we’re also wrapping up on a year of incredible products here at eTeknix HQ. We’ve had hundred of reviews this year, but no doubt many of you are eagerly writing your letters to Santa, or at least dropping hints to your parents, partner or friends for what you want for Christmas. Of course, there’s no doubt a fair few of you who are eager to treat themselves to something cool this Christmas. We’ve scratched our heads and had a really good think about what some of our favourite bits of technology are from this last year, and if you’ve still got some money left after the manic Black Friday sales, perhaps some of these products will be perfect for you.

While I admit that I couldn’t fit all of our favourites onto this list, its certainly a killer list of great products and they’ve all won awards from us here at eTeknix for one reason or another. If you’re after a headset, a chassis, a new keyboard, graphics card, or other cool gadget, you’ll find something that’s right for you in our guide.


Astro A38 Wireless Gaming Headset

The Astro A38 headset really stood out for me, not only is it one of the more stylish looking headsets I’ve ever reviewed, but the sound quality is nothing short of incredible. They’re a little expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for and Astro have yet to create a product that was anything less than stunning. They’re a perfect gift for yourself or someone else and ideal for those who love to listen to music and play games on the go, and the wireless technology and NFC pairing makes them very user friendly.

Check out our full review here – £144 from Astro Gaming


NZXT H440 Mid-Tower Chassis

A great PC deserves a great chassis and the H440 is certainly one of my all-time favourites. It’s not the biggest, and it may not even be the best chassis ever, that much is subjective, but it’s certainly got a lot of great features.  From the PSU shroud that helps keep cable management looking neat and tidy, to the comprehensive set of dust filters, thick sound dampening material lined panels and the large side panel window; you’ll find a lot to love about this chassis.

Check out our full review here – £89.99 from Overclockers


Thermaltake Core V71 Full Tower Chassis

Not all chassis’ are created equally, the Core V71 packs an incredible range of features that make it an ideal choice for high-end systems. The Thermaltake Core V71 looks great, but the real magic comes from its extreme flexibility. It has class leading radiator and fan mounting support and there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to build a stunning air-cooled system thanks to its array of 200mm pre-installed fans, or an incredible custom water cooling loop thanks to its modular interior. If you need extreme performance without spending crazy amounts of money, this chassis needs to be at the top of your list.

Check out our full review here – £131.34 from CCL Computers


Cooler Master Novatouch TKL Keyboard

Treating yourself to a high-quality mechanical keyboard is a solid investment for anyone who uses their computer a lot. Mechanical keyboards are expensive, but their overall build quality and performance goes a long way to justifying the cost. The NovaTouch TKL isn’t your average mechanical and features something called Hybrid Capacitive Switches that offer a truly premium and luxurious typing experience. If you want to treat your fingers to a more enjoyable typing experience, try out this keyboard!

Check out our full review here – £149.99 from Overclockers


Zowie FK1 Gaming Mouse

I have yet to use a Zowie mouse that wasn’t impressive and the FK1 is by far one of their best. While this mouse only offers minor revisions over its previous model, such as a slightly larger body and an improved sensor, it’s performance is second to none. It’s ambidextrous, has one of the best performing sensors available, great ergonomics and a stylish design. If you’re serious about your gaming and want something that offers eSports levels of performance, then you’ll love what the Zowie FK1 has to offer.

Check out our full review here – £49.99 from Overclockers


Nvidia Shield Android 5.0 Gaming Tablet

Mobile gaming is something that never really excited me, but Nvidia have really pulled out all the stops with their Shield Tablet. It’s powered by the incredibly powerful Tegra K1 graphics chip and it’s one of the fastest tablets on the market. It recently received an update that added the latest Android 5.0 operating system, as well as enabling Nvidia’s GRID cloud gaming service and all this comes on top of features like in-home game streaming, 4K video output, wireless controller support and a whole lot more. The Shield Tablet is easily one of the most versatile portable on the market.

Check out our full review here – from £239.99 at Overclockers


Nvidia GeForce “Maxwell” GTX 970 Graphics Card

Nvidia are on our list once again, first they dominate the mobile gaming market, now they’re showing their worth once again in the desktop GPU market. While we admit that the GeForce GTX 980 is an incredible graphics card, you’ll not be disappointed by their GTX 970 as it offers most of the performance of its bigger brother at a much more affordable price tag. This card is packed with the latest features, it looks fantastic and for gaming, it’s one of the best cards you can buy right now. If you want to welcome your computer into the world of high-end PC gaming, this is a great place to start.

Check out our full review here (Asus Strix GTX 970) – from £247.99 at Overclockers


Asus Rampage V Extreme LGA 2011-3 Motherboard

Intel really set a new standard for PC performance this year with the launch of their consumer X99 chipsets. It’s not a cheap upgrade right now, but a new support for the latest high-end CPUs, DDR4 memory and a wave of new features make this motherboard perfect for the enthusiast and professional markets. The Asus Rampage motherboard series has long been a popular choice and the V Extreme is certainly one of the best available right now.

Check out our full review here – £329.99 from Overclockers


Gigabyte Z97X Gaming5 1150 Motherboard

Extreme motherboards are one thing, but they’re a little out of the reach of your average consumer. The Gigabyte X97X Gaming 5 series of motherboards offers a lot of exciting features that make them a great choice for high-end gaming PCs, without the colossal price tags that you’ll find with enthusiast grade products. We loved this motherboard when we review it and while the black and red colour scheme is getting a little bit repetitive in the gaming market, it’s still a great looking board that is perfect for a wide range of systems.

Check out our full review here – £109.99 from Overclockers


Gigabyte Brix Ultra Compact System

A lot of the fame and glory goes to big gaming rigs with multiple graphics cards, loads of hard drives, water cooling and all that other crazy stuff, but this system turns all that on its head. The Brix may be small, but it packs enough power to be worthy of our Extreme Performance award! When space is limited, this little rig will fit on the back of your monitors VESA mount and it packs enough performance to get through a heavy workflow with ease. It’s a little expensive, but for a full-fledged PC that’s small enough to fit in a backpack, it’s a bargain!

Check out our full review here – £503.96 from Scan


PC Specialist Vortex 440 System

If you’re looking to upgrade to an X99 equipped system, then it’s likely that you’ll also be investing in DDR4 memory, a new CPU and a whole host of other components, so why not take all the fuss out of the process and invest in one of the best systems we’ve reviewed this year, the PC Specialist Vortex 440. We loved this system, partly because it was packed full of high-end hardware, but also because it was incredible value for money. Despite what the high price tag may suggest, the Vortex 440 actually worked out cheaper to buy than it would to build it yourself; now that’s a deal we can get behind!

Check out our full review here – around £1500 (customisable) from PC Specialist


OCZ Arc 100 240GB SSD

There’s a lot of SSD hard drives on the market right now and there are so many great ones that it’s now very easy to find one suitable for your system. The OCZ ARC 100 really stood out for us as it offers excellent performance, solid reliability, lots of features and it’s also competitively priced (per GB). Upgrading to an SSD is a great way to give your system a new lease of life, your system will boot faster and all of your games will benefit greatly from the speed boost. There is a cheaper 120GB model available, but the 240GB is the best balance of storage and value, making it a great choice for a boot drive.

Check out our full review here – £94.99 from Overclockers


Asus RT AC68U Dual Band Wireless Router

A really great router is something a lot of people overlook, it can be daunting spending a lot of money on tech like this, but the rewards soon pay for themselves. With more and more devices becoming internet connected, it’s likely that you’re not reaching the full potential of your devices networking capabilities. If you’re wanting to stream movies around your house from a NAS, play games online, while browsing the web from smartphones, tablets, consoles and other devices, then you’re going to see huge benefits from a router that can handle the most demanding workloads without sacrificing performance. The Asus RT AC68U looks great and offers a simple way to improve your home network. It’s expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for.

Check out our full review here – £166.98 from Overclockers


Crucial 32GB 2133MHz Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Kit

DDR4 memory marks the first major update to RAM memory formats in desktop systems in years, but it comes with a steep price tag. However, should you choose to make the leap for your high-end X99 platform build, then you should really consider the Crucial 32GB 2133MHZ kit. If you’re not too bothered about the aesthetics, this memory really does impress in terms of performance and offers excellent value for money vs many of the other DDR4 products on the market.

Check out our full review here – £319.99 from Overclockers


So, what will you be asking Santa for this year?

Gigabyte Reveal New Z97-HD3P Motherboard

Flagship, extreme performance and overclocking motherboards steal a lot of the spotlight, which is understandable, but the reality is that we often purchase our consumer based products from further down the range. The new Gigabyte’s Z97-HD3P is their latest entry-level socket LGA1150 motherboard for the Intel Z97 Express chipset and if you’re just after a reliable board for a day-to-day gaming and work PC, this could be a great option for you.

Priced at around $100 the board is certainly affordable, but it still comes packed full of features that make it a tempting option for any system builder; a 4-phase VRM for clean power delivery, four DDR3 DIMM slots, a single PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot, PCI 2.0 x16 (electrical x4), two PCIe 2.0 x1 and two legacy PCI.

There are six SATA 6Gb/s ports, one SATA Express port which draws from two 6 Gb/s ports, and an M.2 10 Gb/s slot; which overall may not be that impressive, but it’s more than enough for the majority of people. Other connectivity options include D-Sub, DVI, HDMI, 4 USB 3.0 ports on the back and two more from the header. There’s 8-channel Realtek ALC887 audio on-board; it’s also worth mentioning that the board features audio-grade electrolytic capacitors and PCB ground-layer isolation which should help improve the sound quality and reduce electrical noise.

This is a solid mid range board and if the performance is up to scratch, which I suspect it will be, this could be a very popular board for Gigabyte.

Thank you Gigabyte for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gigabyte.

Flagship Colorful iGame Z97 Ymir-X Motherboard Revealed

Colourful have just officially launched their flagship socket LGA1150 motherboard. The iGame Z97, also known as the “Flame Warrior” motherboard is the product of their partnership with Chaintech. The motherboard made its first appearance at Computex earlier this year, but it’s now ready for the consumer market.

The board features a standard ATX form-factor, drawing power from the usual 24-pin ATX connection and an 8-pin EPS connector. Overclocking looks promising too, with a 16-phase CPU VRM, driver-MOSFETs and Poscap capacitors that should allow good power delivery. You’ll also find on-board base-clock tweaking switches, auto-OC buttons, PCIe slot power gating, and a feature rich UEFI dual-BIOS.

There are four DDR3 DIMM slots, three PCI-e 3.0 16X (electrical x8/x4/x4 when all three are populated, x8/x8 when two are, and x16 when one is.) This is backed up by four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports, mSATA 6 Gb/S port (can also be used as mPCIe, dual like DVI, D-Sub, HDMI, DisplayPort, Killer E2200 Ethernet, 8 Channel HD, Six USB 3.0 ports (four rear, two header). Overall it doesn’t sound like connectivity is going to be an issue and this is pretty much what we would expect to see from any flagship board.

The board is expected to hit the Asia-Pacific and European markets very soon, expect more details on price and availability in the coming weeks.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TechPowerUp.

Biostar Hi-Fi B85S2G LGA1150 Motherboard Revealed

Biostar are back with their latest motherboard based around the Intel B85 single-chip architecture. The new Hi-Fi B85S2G motherboard supports Intel’s latest 4th generation Core i7 and Core i5 processors (LGA 1150).

The new board is aimed at the professional market, ideally for businesses and small firms who need business rich features and a very competitive price to keep their budgets in line. Although the new board is still consumer friendly, and may even prove popular with those who still mine virtual currency thanks to its plentiful selection of PCI-E slots.

All the popular features are here too, including dual gigabit LAN, including load balancing to allow much better networking capabilities. 100% solid capacitors, Intel RST, and most importantly Intel Small Business Advantage for added security.

The Hi-Fi B85S2G comes with support for Direct3D 11.1, HDMI, Blu-ray audio DRM and provides the higher audio output of 24 bit/ 192KHz rather than the 16 bit/ 48KHz from typical motherboards. They’re also Windows 8 ready and have BIOSTAR’s BIO-Remote2 and BIOS Online Update feature for easy management of the system BIOS as well as BIOSTAR’s Charger Booster function.

More details and prices will likely follow soon, but given their target market we expect them to be very competitive.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TechPowerUp.

ASUS H97-Pro Gamer LGA1150 Motherboard Revealed

Asus are back with yet another gaming series motherboard in the form of their new H97-Pro Gamer. The new ATX motherboard brings with it features like 10 Gbit/s M.2 and SATA Express connectivity, Intel Gigabit Ethernet and GameFirst II networking technology; these features combined are great for boosting general performance and will certainly reap rewards for competitive gamers who need lighting fast performance. Also included in the hardware are features like SupremeFX and Sonic Radar II, both designed to improve and enhance in-game audio.

“H97-Pro Gamer’s networking is powered by Intel Gigabit Ethernet. This has the advantage of communicating directly with Intel processors to offer exceptionally-high Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) throughput, lowering overall processing demands and improving efficiency – releasing more power for games and gameplay. Using independent network-assessment tools, ASUS engineers calculated that Intel Gigabit Ethernet deals with the UDP data packets that are vital for responsive gaming up to two times (2X) faster than competing gaming-LAN technologies.”

As with any good quality motherboard these days, the H97-Pro Gamer is equipped with high quality and durable components; which Asus called “Gamer’s Guardian”. These include on-board resettable fuses that protect connection ports and DRAM from short-circuit damage, high-quality Japanese made 10K black-metallic capacitors and more.

The new board isn’t priced just yet, but expect it to be a sensible premium over standard H97 offerings. We’ll bring you more details as soon as we know them, but we do expect this board will be released in the very near future.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TechPowerUp.

6 New Boards On The Horizon From MSI for Intel’s 5th Gen Chipset

Over the last few weeks we have been hearing some interesting information come to light regarding Intel’s 5th Generation chipset and its Haswell Refresh processors and with a launch date of 11th May only a matter of weeks away now, we are starting to see snippets of information come through with regards to the motherboards that are going to power the 5th Generation processors.

MSI have been throwing out some teasers of what is to come in their latest motherboard lineup and whilst some boards were on display at this year’s CeBIT in Germany, they were only prototype items. This means that whilst they give us an insight into what is on offer when the boards finally go on sale, what is seen is only to be taken with a pinch of salt and things are likely to change between then and the final release.

So what do we know about the new line of motherboards and what features will we see across the product stack? Like previous generation boards we will see the latest release of many features including Military Class IV components, V-Check Points 2, OC Engine, Audio Boost 2 and new to this line of boards we will also see an M.2 interface for the latest SSDs as standard and a Delid Die Guard for the XPower AC as seen last week.

To break up what each board will bring to the market, have a look at the next couple of pages where I’ll touch on what each board has to offer as we go up through the stack. At the moment there is no work on pricing for any of these boards, although we will be certain to keep you all updated as information comes to light.