G.Skill Ripjaws 4 2666MHz 16GB DDR4 Memory Kit Review

Introduction


Memory, the most vital part of any computer that gets overlooked the most. There’s not a lot to say about RAM apart from its expensive and very confusing. DDR4, the newest iteration of RAM is currently the fastest version of the consumer RAM, with speeds exceeding 3333MHz. RAM kits now come in a variety of shapes with the basic bare modules, right up to the simply stunning Ripjaws series.

Today we will be looking at the G.Skill Ripjaws 4 2666MHz 16GB memory kit. This is one of the more conservative memory kits that G.Skill produce with a rather tame 2666MHz clock speed, but this does let the manufacturing team set an impressive 15-15-15-35 timing. G.Skill are renowned the world over with how well their memory kits perform and most of the world’s memory overclocking records are set with G.Skill memory.

“G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 series performance DDR4 memory is designed for the ultimate experience on the latest Intel X99 platform! Whether you are processing large amounts of data or intense gaming, experience smooth system performance with the newest next-generation PC memory technology! All Ripjaws 4 memory kits are tested with G.SKILL’s extensive suite of testing software to ensure maximum performance and stability. Make Ripjaws 4 the ideal choice for your DDR4 system!”

That’s enough talking, let’s jump into testing.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

We won’t dwell on the packaging too much as it is very plain and simple. Four modules neatly packed into a small rectangular box. This kit is a quad-channel variety so each module is 4GB in size.

A Closer Look

The design of the Ripjaws series is very unique and very recognisable to most enthusiasts. I think the design could be taken to the next level if the ‘Ripjaws 4’ logo was laser etched on or cut out instead of a sticker.

ASUS TUF X99 Sabertooth (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


X99, the chipset that has brought workstation power to the consumer level, has been around with us for a few months now. In this time, motherboard manufacturers have had time to tweak and release their top of the line motherboards with the best features and settings. A little out of the gates with the trademark TUF SABERTOOTH motherboard is ASUS.

That’s right, we have received our sample of the legendary TUF (The Ultimate Force) series motherboard, based on the X99 chipset. This particular model series allows ASUS to cram as much military grade inspired technology as possible into one motherboard. Covered from top to bottom in a checkered plate style cover and using only the finest capacitors in the world.

ASUS cherry pick and test all of the components to server specifications, giving them the confidence to grace this motherboard with a 5 Year warranty period. The attention to detail on the TUF series allows the users to take full control of the system in terms of cooling, allowing you to control 9 adjustable fan headers in tandem with 12 real-time temperature sensors to really choose the best fan placement. Along with the ultra durability and cooling features presented by the TUF range, ASUS along include the brand new USB 3.1 format, capable of 10Gp/s transfers.

Let’s take a look if all these features really make an ounce of difference.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, ASUS is no exception and has crammed a huge array of features into this motherboard.

  • USB 3.1 Boost
  • USB BIOS Flashback
  • USB Charger+
  • Remote Go!
  • ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ mode
  • Turbo LAN
  • Push Notice
  • AI-Suite 3
    • Q-connector
    • Q-Shield
    • Q-LED
    • Q-Slot
    • Q-DIMM
    • OC Profile
    • CrashFree BIOS 3
    • ASUS EZ-Update
    • Disk Unlocker
    • EZ Flash 2

Now because this is one of ASUS’ trump cards, they’ve crammed in a little more ‘TUF’ features:

  • Ultimate Cool
    • Thermal Armour
    • Thermal Radar 2 with Thermistors
    • ICe
  • We Got Your Back
    • Fortifier
  • TUF Engine
    • 8+2 Phase Power
    • TUF  Components (10K capacitors, Chose & MOSFET)
    • DIGI+ Power Control
  • SAFE & Stable
    • TUF Detective
    • TUF ESD Guards 2
    • Dust Defenders
    • MemOK!

For more information on these functions, please visit the ASUS TUF X99 SABERTOOH product page.

Packaging and Accessories

The box is feature covered, yet simple; very plain and neutral colour scheme. It’s a shame really, I was expecting a metal briefcase similar to the AMD R9 295×2, that would really drive home the “TUF” standard.

Inside the box is a huge amount of accessories; consisting of manuals, driver disk, 6x SATA cables, 1x SLi bridge connector, 1x Q-shield (backplate), 1x Q-Connector kit (easy front panel header connector), 1x 40mm fan, 4x DRAM slot dust covers,  assortment of PCi-e dust covers, 3x thermistor cables, assortment of addition I/O and internal header dust covers.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 960 2GB ITX Graphics Card Review

Introduction and A Closer Look


The GeForce GTX 960 has been with us for a few months now, it has established itself as the ‘go-to’ graphics card for under $200. With the amount of power graphical power it produces at this price point, it has really been taken on by the mid-range enthusiast market and as such, NVIDIA allowed manufacturers to release an ITX version, much like the NVIDIA GTX 970 before it. This new form factor is set to take the Small Form Factor (SFF) a light. Well under the typical MSRP of the rest of the GTX 960 range, the ITX models. The push for the GTX 960 was to move stagnant gamers from their aging technology. The data was collected from a Steam survey; results showing the typical powered graphics card around a GTX 660 or lower.

Today we have Gigabyte’s offering into the ITX GTX 960 market, the Gigabyte Geforce GTX 960 2GB ‘ITX Edition’ OC; that’s a bit of a mouthful, so for the rest of the article, I will refer to it as GTX 960 ITX. The reason for the ‘ITX’ label is the entire length of the card is only 17cm, which is the length of an ITX motherboard. The card features all of the typical GTX 900 series features, but due to the decreased size, the flex display has been removed due to fewer output ports. Performance wise, it has two overclocked settings; OC and Gamer. The gamer has the highest overclock at around 8% over stock, but leaves the memory clock at the standard 7010MHz. It features the same 120W TDP and 128 Bit bus interface as the standard GTX 960, so let’s see if the increased clock speeds is enough to prove this ITX size card has what it takes to compete.

The packaging follows the same design as the other Gigabyte VGA boxes, plain and simple with just the key features.

Inside the box, we find a Molex to PCIe 6 pin cable, manual and driver disk.

The card is very plain, a very similar design to the GTX 970 ITX Edition. It features the newly implemented Windforce 92mm fan with increased air flow and silence.

Along the bottom of the card is nothing interesting; the PCIe interface and the side of the cooling shroud.

At the end of the card, we see the heatsink sticking out with open-ended fins for the hot air to be expelled.

Looking down onto the top of the card, still a very boring looking card, but you do get a look at those massive copper cooling pipes.

To keep the cost down, Gigabyte didn’t incorporate a backplate on this graphics card.

The outputs offered is very wide for a card this size, 1x HDMI, 2x DVI and 1x DisplayPort. This means there aren’t enough ports to carry out FlexDisplay.

 

Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4 2666MHz 32GB Memory Kit Review

Introduction


When you’re building a tower, memory normally gets the last thought; you budget for all of the other key parts and then you find yourself having to readjust when you remember that you didn’t add any memory to your basket. With consumer memory kits roughly starting off where DDR3 left off, the speeds are blisteringly fast; some exceeding 3333MHz.

Kingston is one of the most well-known memory manufacturers, with many years in the business; it knows its way around a memory module. Kingston produced some of the finest RAM I’ve ever owned in my personal computers; reliable speeds with great overclocking headroom. Today we look at the HyperX Fury DDR4 memory kit.

“HyperX® FURY DDR4 can handle even the toughest battle. It automatically recognises its host platform and overclocks to the highest frequency published (up to 2666MHz1) — so you can wreak havoc. FURY DDR4 runs at 1.2V, even at 2666MHz, so it stays cooler while you play. You don’t need to alter the voltage to reach higher speeds, which means there’s more power for other hardware in the system. FURY’s sleek, asymmetrical black heat spreader provides enhanced thermal dissipation to help keep your cool and help you stand out from the crowd.”

Let’s jump straight into it and see what the kit can really do.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

Packing is very similar to the rest of what Kingston offers its memory kits in. Two halves, one black with ridges for the modules and one clear to see the modules. Well, you could see them if there wasn’t so many information stickers in the way.

A Closer Look

A very premium looking memory kit. Pressed metal casing with raised and diamond etched ‘HyperX’ logo. This is just two of the four modules.

ECS Z97I-Drone LEET Gaming (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s Z97 platform has been around with us for almost a year now, so the marketplace is slightly saturated with motherboards from a huge array of manufacturers. Offering full support for the Haswell Refresh CPU’s, it has really brought new performance levels to the consumer market. While still producing the Z97 platform, Intel are soon to release the newest CPU lineup, named Skylake; with that introducing the new LGA 1151 socket motherboards. Focus has moved from the typical motherboard form factor, ATX and microATX to the ITX size. Tthis motherboard crams in most of the features of it’s bigger brothers, while being a tiny 17cm x 17cm size.

Today we have the Elitegroup (ECS) Z97I-Drone (GANK), under the LEET Gaming sub-division. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so let me explain with a picture.

In this iteration, ECS aim to bring top performance and gaming to the ITX market. In this review, things are going to be a little different; let’s do an ITX showdown with the four ITX motherboards that we’ve had in so far.; the ASUS Z97I-PLUS, Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming-5 and the AsRock Z97E-ITX/ac.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, Elitegroup offer a small amount of custom software with this motherboard which is highly functional.

  • eBLU BIOS Live Update
  • eDLU Drivers Live Update
  • eOC Easy Overclock

For more information on these functions, please visit the ECS Z97I-Drone product page.

Packaging and Accessories

The box comes in two parts, the outer protective cover with all of the information on; then a plain, further protection box where you find the motherboard and accessories.

In the box we find 2x SATA cables, I/O shield and a range of manuals and how-to guides.

Biostar Gaming Z97X (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s Z97 platform has been around with us for almost a year now, so the marketplace is slightly saturated with motherboards from a huge array of manufacturers. Offering full support for the Haswell Refresh CPU’s, it has really brought new performance levels to the consumer market. While still producing the Z97 platform, Intel are soon to release the newest CPU lineup, named Skylake; with that introducing the new LGA 1151 socket motherboards. Today we are going to be looking at a motherboard from Biostar, but first a little history lesson. Did you know Biostar has been around in the computer tech sector for as long as Gigabyte? That’s right, 29 years old and I bet some of you didn’t even know they existed. They’ve primarily stuck to OEM motherboards, which get bundled up into pre-built computers for high street retailers. Biostar has a rich history, being the first company to introduce Wi-fi on a motherboard back in 2003, the first manufacturer to offer an AM2 socket motherboard in 2007 and the first to offer a motherboard with USB 3.1 ports; today we will be looking at the board.

The motherboard in question is Biostar’s gaming motherboard, the Gaming Z97X. With more features than you could shake a stick at, it has more than enough wealth of knowledge built into it and with USB 3.1 as standard; it shouldn’t be a slouch either.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, Biostar is no different and bring a nice array of software

  • CPU / System Temperature Monitoring
  • CPU / System Fan Monitoring
  • Smart / Manual CPU / System Fan Control
  • System Voltage Monitoring
  • Smart Ear headphone Utility
  • BIO-Remote2
  • Biostar MAGIX Multimedia Software Suite
  • Smart Speed LAN

For more information on these functions, please visit the Biostar Gaming Z97X product page.

Packaging and Accessories

A nice style box, simple styling with the Biostar Gaming logo in the bottom right. Enlarged feature of the Killer E2201 networking chip.

In the box, we find 4x SATA cables, IO shield, manual, cable strap, screws, a 4GB USB stick/ card with all the drivers and utilities on and also the Gaming Commander.

WD RED 2.5-Inch 1TB in Four-Disk RAID Review

Introduction


Western Digital launched their WD RED line quite a while ago, and it’s been a successful one. We’ve previously had a look at how the 2.5-inch version with 1TB capacity performs as a single disk, but we’ve yet to look at how four of these will do in a RAID environment. The WD RED drives are primarily built for NAS usage, but they’re also well suited for SOHO users who want more performance and reliability in a small size.

Network attached storage is getting more traction every day and more and more people take the plunge into the world of NAS, but not everyone wants a large system. A tiny NAS with 2.5-inch drives is the solution, and the WD RED drives are perfect for this. They come as both 750GB and 1TB versions, but it’s the 1TB version that’s on the bench today.

The 2.5-inch WD drives run with an Intellipower spindle speed of 5400RPM and come with 16MB of cache, and an SATA 6Gbps interface. They’re rated to handle a workload of 120-150TB of data per year, which should be more data throughput than most small businesses will put their drives through.

The NAS optimized firmware, called NASware 2.0, is an exclusive technology to WD that gives their drives far more enhanced reliability with a 35% improvement in MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) over their standard desktop drives, better compatibility with NAS systems, and a more energy-efficient operation which in turn leads to lower operating temperatures, a longer warranty for piece of mind and a system known as 3D Active Balance Plus. This dual-plane balance control, has helped to drastically increase the reliability of the drives – with a better balance, there are far fewer vibrations and this means the platters will degrade at a much lower rate thus increasing the longevity of the drive and its performance.

The 2.5-inhc drives themselves are 9.5mm thick, which really isn’t a lot considering the capacity. The drives are powered by the Marvell 88i9446-NDB2 high-performance storage controller and it is paired with the Samsung K4H2816380-LCC 16MB cache chip. The motor controller is WD’s own Nautilus that handles the Intellispeed capabilities.

Gigabyte X99-Gaming-5P (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


X99, the best of the best when it comes to general consumer chipsets. Released back in August 2014, this has quickly taken the technology world by storm; offering some of the best performance only before seen in workstation systems.

Today at eTeknix, we have the newest addition to the Gaming 5 line-up, the X99-Gaming-5P. “What’s the difference compared to the original X99-Gaming-5 motherboard?” I hear you all saying in your mind; well that’s a tough one. On first impressions, it just seems Gigabyte took the original Gaming 5 motherboard and extended it into the large E-ATX width and added some fancy lights. On a deeper look into the comparison, it seems that the Gaming-5P is more aimed towards the overclockers and higher-end enthusiasts, offering support of up to 128GB RAM capacity and speeds of up to 3333MHz, that’s a massive increase over the standard 64GB and 2800MHz. Along with the RAM tweaks, Gigabyte has also added a CPU switch on the side of the motherboard, there are other additions; which I will go into later.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, Gigabyte is no exception and has brought a huge array of features to this motherboard.

  • Support for APP Center
    • Available applications in APP Center may differ by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also differ depending on motherboard specifications.
    • @BIOS
    • Ambient LED
    • EasyTune
    • EZ Setup
    • Fast Boot
    • Game Controller
    • Cloud Station
    • ON/OFF Charge
    • Smart TimeLock
    • Smart Recovery 2
    • System Information Viewer
    • USB Blocker
    • V-Tuner Š
  • Support for Q-Flash Š
  • Support for Smart Switch Š
  • Support for Xpress Install

For more information on these functions, please visit the Gigabyte X99-Gaming-5P product page.

Packaging and Accessories

Following true Gigabyte style, they use very similar boxing styles to most of their motherboard range now, very solid plastic box, black colouring with the series colour highlights (G1 Gaming red for this model).

Inside we see an absolute treasure trove of accessories, 6x SATA cables, 1x split power cable, 1x LED I/O shield, 1x single x-fire bridge, 1x single SLI bridge, 1x dual SLI bridge, 1x tri SLI bridge, 1x quad SLI bridge and the usual manuals and driver disk.

Crucial Ballistix Sport 2400MHz Quad Channel DDR4 16GB Memory Kit Review

Introduction


Memory, the most vital part of any computer that gets overlooked the most. There’s not a lot to say about RAM apart from its expensive and very confusing. DDR4, the newest iteration of RAM is currently the fastest version of the consumer RAM, with speeds exceeding 3333MHz.

Crucial are one of the big players in the RAM game, providing us with solid performance at a more affordable price. Today’s kit is the Ballistix Sport 2400MHz, one of Crucial’s cheaper sets, providing us with minimal heatsinks and the base unit to use a black PCB. Let’s see how this set compares to the likes of Corsair, G-Skill and our base 32GB Crucial DDR4 set.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

We won’t dwell on the packaging too much as it is very plain and simple. Ffour modules neatly packed into a small rectangular box. This kit is a quad-channel variety so each module is 4GB in size.

A Closer Look

The Ballistix Sport kit looks very understated. A very slimline heatsink panel on each side. Such a minimalistic design which I think might put some off due to looking a little “cheap”. Hopefully that is not the case with the performance.

Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 16GB 2400MHz Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Kit Review

Introduction


With every new DDR memory release comes a decline in operating voltage and a decrease in heat output. In the transition from DDR2 to DDR3 and now DDR4, we’ve seen voltages drop and the need for large memory heatsinks are no longer necessary. This allows memory brands to release high-performance memory kits in compact low profile form factors that require minimal cooling. Crucial Ballistix Sport LT is a great example of this – it boasts high frequency yet it still has a low profile design making it ideal for use in compact system builds and with large tower heatsinks that are definitely going to be necessary to cool some of Intel’s swanky new Haswell-E Core i7 5XXX processors.

2400MHz sits on the higher end of the consumer DDR3 kits, as a result we should expect to see some excellent performance from this new Crucial 2400MHz DDR4 kit but the real question is: how well can most applications take advantage of the improved memory architecture? Let’s find out in today’s review.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

Packaging is very boring here, a simple clip case displaying two modules with a very small amount, but useful information.

A Closer Look

Crucial seem to have taken the original SPORT memory kit design and added a lip to the upper edge, which hugs the top of the PCB and meet the other side at the top.

Gigabyte X99-UD4P (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


X99, the mother of the prosumer chipsets. It’s what everyone wants, fewer can afford and fewer can fully utilise; this is the ultimate top trump card and rightly so. Gigabyte is currently the leading manufacturer of motherboards, while also offering one of the largest X99 motherboard ranges of all the manufacturers.

It seems Gigabyte are giving a spruce up to some of their best-selling X99 motherboards by giving them the overclocked treatment. They’ve doubled the contact area of every pin and increased the quality of the pins in aid to increase bandwidth. Along with this, they’ve added this onto their renowned Ultra Durable motherboard, which uses some of the best capacitors available. Let’s see if all this pays off in today’s review.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, Gigabyte is no exception and has brought a huge array of features to this motherboard.

  • Support for APP Center
    • Available applications in APP Center may differ by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also differ depending on motherboard specifications.
    • @BIOS
    • Ambient LED
    • EasyTune
    • EZ Setup
    • Fast Boot
    • Cloud Station
    • ON/OFF Charge
    • Smart TimeLock
    • Smart Recovery 2
    • System Information Viewer
    • USB Blocker
    • V-Tuner Š
  • Support for Q-Flash Š
  • Support for Smart Switch Š
  • Support for Xpress Install

For more information on these functions, please visit the Gigabyte X99-UD4P product page.

Packaging and Accessories

Following true Gigabyte style, very similar boxing to most of their motherboard range now, very solid plastic box, black colouring with the series colour highlights (Ultra Durable Yellow for this model).

Inside, we see an absolute treasure trove of accessories, 4x SATA cables, 1x split power cable, 1x LED I/O shield, 1x single x-fire bridge, 1x single SLI bridge, 1x dual SLI bridge, 1x tri-SLI bridge, 1x quad SLI bridge and the usual manuals and driver disk.

Crucial Ballistix Elite 2666MHz Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Kit Review

Introduction


Memory, no matter how you look at it, you need it. Starting life as super slow DDR modules, it has come a long way from the simple 600MHz speeds, now exceeding 3000MHz in most higher end consumer kits. Module sizes have also come a very long way, back in the day with 128MB, yes Megabyte, to now 4GB modules as the standard with 8GB becoming the norm very soon.

The kit we have in today is the Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4 2666MHz. This is currently the highest clocked memory modules that Crucial produce, which is lower than what the likes of Corsair and G-Skill offer, but let’s see if this Elite 2666MHz kit has what it takes to compete with the big boys.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

We won’t dwell on the packaging too much as it is very plain and simple: four modules neatly packed into a small rectangular box. This kit is a quad-channel variety so each module is 4GB in size.

A Closer Look

The Crucial Elite range is all very similar, but the transition from DDR3 to DDR4 has seen the fins removed from the top of the heatsink; A lower profile makes room for a bigger CPU heatsink.

GTA V GPU Performance Review

Introduction


Grand Theft Auto V was released on Tuesday, along with that, NVIDIA has released yet another Game Ready Driver. However this time, AMD has decided to release one too, both offering optimised graphical drivers for most of their graphics card range.

Normally, we would only test a single driver and graphics card manufacturer, but because this is oriented towards GTA V performance, things are going to get a little more condensed.

Today we are going to be looking at seven of the top graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD, pitting them against each other to see which performs the best in GTA V, under our own choice of settings of course.

NVIDIA has released the GTA V optimised driver, GeForce Game Ready 350.12 and AMD has released a Beta driver, Catalyst 15.4. either can be downloaded by clicking the associated link.

Let’s begin shall we?

ASUS X99-A (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s current flagship consumer chipset, X99 has been around since August 2014. The X99 chipset was the first motherboard range to fully utilise DDR4 memory modules and put the much higher speeds to use. It’s starting to age slightly, being around 8 months old, so let’s see if this motherboard has any new tricks to bring to the game.

Today we have the ASUS X99-A ATX motherboard. In the X99 line-up, it’s the cheapest ASUS motherboard to date, with the next in line being the X99-S. ASUS has faltered lately, being knocked off the top motherboard manufacturer spot by Gigabyte (only by 300,000 units). Let’s see if this new budget X99 board has what it takes to bring ASUS back into the top spot.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, ASUS is no different and has brought a huge array of features to this motherboard.

  • 5 Way Optimisation by Dual Intelligent Processors 5
    • DIGI+ Power
    • TPU
    • EPU
    • ASUS
    • Turbo App
  • UEFI BIOS
  • ASUS HomeCloud Server
  • Remote GO!
  • Media Streamer
  • NFC Express 2 Support
  • Turbo LAN
  • Crystal Sound 2
  • Steam Support
  • UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
    • OC Tuner
    • CrashFree BIOS 3
    • EZ Flash 2
  • Q-Design
    • Q-Code
    • Q-Shield
    • Q-LED
    • Q-Slot
    • Q-DIMM
    • Q-Connector
  • USB 3.0 Boost
  • USB Charger+
  • Disk Unlocker
  • Ai Suite 3
  • MemOK!
  • EZ XMP

For more information on these functions, please visit the ASUS X99-A product page.

Packaging and Accessories

ASUS like to play it safe on their more wallet friendly motherboards. Keeping the box a simple black and white/ silver, which flows into the design of the motherboard itself. Extra’s are what you would expect, SATA cables, IO panel, manuals, driver CD, SLI bridge and a few stickers.

Asrock Z97E-ITX/ac (LGA-1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s Z97 platform is a perfect basis for a mini-ITX system build as it features enough performance to please even the most demanding user while still being power efficient enough to be tamed by small form factor cases and modest cooling solutions. Due to those reasons it isn’t surprising to see Intel’s LGA 1150 platform dominate the mini-ITX landscape. Creating a mini-ITX motherboard from AMD’s AM3+ or Intel’s LGA 2011 platforms is unfeasible from a number of perspectives including heat and for LGA 2011, the size of the socket and number of memory lanes required. We have seen other mini-ITX motherboards emerge for low power platforms like Intel’s Bay Trail, AMD’s Kabini and AMD’s FM2+ APU platform but relatively speaking all three of these platforms cannot rival Intel’s LGA 1150 in terms of raw performance. In short, Intel’s mainstream LGA 1150 platform offers the best balance of features, performance, pricing and power efficiency for the mini-ITX form factor.

Today we are setting our sights on one of ASRock’s newest additions to the line-up, the Z97E-ITX/ac. ASRock, a previous subdivision of AsusTek, has really taken the world by storm, becoming the 3rd biggest supplier of motherboards for the year 2013-2014. Being set on the Intel Z97 chipset, allows this motherboard to be compatible with all the LGA 1150 socket CPU’s such as the i5-4570k and i7-4700k. This particular board has been built using all the typical ASRock components; premium alloy chokes, 12K platinum capacitors and a sapphire black PCB, all combining to producing a stonker of a motherboard. Along with the usual hardware components, ASRock has managed to squeeze on the newest Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac, meaning a boost of up to 289% over 802.11n Wi-Fi, a M.2 port for super fast storage and much more.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, ASRock is no different and has brought a huge array of features to this motherboard.

  • ASRockSuper Alloy
  • ASRock 802.11ac WiFi
  • ASRock HDMi-In
  • ASRock Full Spike Protection
  • ASRock Cloud
  • ASRock App Shop
  • ASRock A-Tuning
  • ASRock Disk Health Report
  • ASRock USB Key
  • ASRock App charger
  • ASRock XFast LAN
  • ASRock XFast RAM
  • ASRock Restart to UEFI
  • ASRock FULL HD UEFI
  • ASRock My Favourites in UEFI
  • ASRock UEFI Guide
  • ASRock Instant Flash
  • ASRock Internet Flash
  • ASRock Crashless BIOS
  • ASRock Online Management Guard (OMG)
  • ASRock UEFI System Browser
  • ASRock UEFI Tech Service
  • ASRock Dehumidifier Function
  • ASRock Easy RAID Installer
  • ASRock Easy Driver Installer

For more information on these functions, please visit ASRock’s Z97E-ITX/ac product page.

Packaging and Accessories

Very typical enthusiast level extra’s. 2x SATA3 cables, install CD, ASRock Cloud manual, quick start manual, ASRock sticker and a single WiFi antennae.

Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ512GCSU 512GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Toshiba’s drives are mostly sold as OEM models and built into other products such as workstations and laptops, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to get a good spin on my test bench. Today I’m taking a closer look at the Toshiba HG6 series of solid state drives, more specific the Non-SED model with 512GB capacity (THNSNJ512GCSU).

The HG6 is a series of mainstream SATA Solid State Drives that combine high performance with power efficiency to satisfy a wide range of applications from notebook PCs to servers in the data centers. Toshiba is the inventor of NAND flash memory technology, so we know that we have some of the best on our hands when dealing with these drives.

Toshiba leverages its NAND flash memory expertise to optimize the performance and data integrity, integrating enterprise-class technology such as the Toshiba Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) for improved error correction and reliability. It is the 2.5-inch drive that I’m taking a look at today, but the drive is available in a wide variety of form factors such as mSATA and M.2 2280 and with capacities between 60GB and up to 512GB.

Toshiba’s Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) technology is in improved error correction code (ECC) that is said to be far superior to the otherwise used technologies and as such should provide you with far better data security. It also features End-to-End Data Protection, S.M.A.R.T., TRIM and Garbage collection. The drives support Read-only mode for emergency and serial ATA DIPM (Device Initiated Power Management), HIPM (Host Initiated Power Management) and Device Sleep for reduced power consumption.

The reduced power consumption from the above-mentioned features is great for use in laptops and so it the drives weight of just 53 grams. The HG6 is using Toshiba’s own A19nm Toggle 2.0 MLC NAND Flash memory as well as the in-house created Toshiba T635879BXBG SSD controller. It comes with a normal mean time to failure for this market segment of 1.5 million hours and an expected product life of 5 years. Since this is an OEM product, the warranty is based on whatever product you’ve purchased with it built-in.

The drive doesn’t use a RAM buffer like most SSDs on the market, but rather relies on the Adaptive Size SLC Write Cache technology that assumes a similar function as Samsung’s TurboWrite feature. It is treating a portion of the NAND as SLC for write operations to improve performance before flushing the writes to the MLC when idle. It’s also to be noted that Toshiba used thermal pads on all chips, providing the most efficient heat dissipation for high-performance systems such as servers.

OCZ Vector 180 480GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


We have had a look at the 960GB capacity of the new Vector 180 series already and today it’s time to take a closer look at the smaller sibling with 480GB capacity. The new mainstream and entry-level server SSD is packed full of great features and performance, and the 480GB capacity will probably hit the sweet spot for most people interested in this drive.

The drive is aimed at the mainstream market but still delivers more performance than most do in this segment and it lands right in the middle of features and performance. OCZ’s Vector 180 is built around the in-house created Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller that has been coupled with the latest generation of Toshiba’s A19 MLC NAND flash for great sequential speeds up to 550MB/s and a random performance up to 100k IOPS. This is surely a drive that will wake the interest of enthusiast.

The drive doesn’t just come with great speeds, it also has a great endurance with an official rating of 50GB/day. OCZ’s Power failure management plus (PFM+) is a great new feature that prevents partial data loss and corrupting in case of power failure. There are capacitors that ensure the data at rest is safe but all user data in the DRAM buffer will still be lost in the case of sudden power loss. The capacitors ensure that all metadata is safe and that the drive will continue to operate normally after a power loss, i.e. the NAND mapping table won’t be lost, which can brick the drive or at least slow down the next boot up as the drive has to go through recovery process. While not perfect, it’s a really great feature and extra security to have.

The 480GB model is using a total of 16 Toshiba A19nm NAND and two Micron RAM chips just like the 960GB model does, but they’re half the capacity, of course.

You can easily relax for the next five years as OCZ’ ShieldPlus warranty covers your drive, even without receipt or proof of purchase. This is absolutely one of the best warranty services around. Vector 180 comes with a full bundle including 3.5-inch adapter and Acronis True Image disk cloning software. Other available capacities are 120GB, 240GB, and 960GB

Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 8GB CrossFireX Review

Introduction


Here at eTeknix, we strive to give the consumer the best possible advice in every aspect of technology. Today is no different, as we have a pair of Sapphire’s amazing R9 290x 8GB Tri-x edition graphics cards to combine together for some CrossFireX action. The dedicated review for this graphics card can be found here. When striving for the best results, it is favourable to test 2 of the same models to allow for no variation in any clock speeds or variations in any integrated components, so today we should see some excellent results.

In the dedicated review, this graphics card has more than enough power to play most games at 4K resolution at 60FPS, faltering slightly in the more demanding Metro Last Light.

We inserted both graphics cards onto our Core i7 5820K and X99-based test system, ensuring adequate spacing for optimum cooling and that both have access to sufficient PCI-e bandwidth for CrossFire operation.

The typical ‘hot spot’ when arranging a CrossFire or SLI configuration is the closest graphics card to the processor, due to both of these cards being equipped with the Tri-x cooler, positioning isn’t an issue.

As these graphics cards have been subject to Sapphires treatment, they have slightly higher clock speeds than a reference model, but as these are both the same cards, there should be little to no variation in clock speeds; this will result in maximum gains during testing.  

Silicon Power Slim S80 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Silicon Power has been in the storage business for a long time and I’m glad to finally be able to put one of their drives on the bench and take it for a test run. Today I’m taking a closer look at the SP Slim S80 solid state drive that comes with promises impressive performance and is available with capacities up to 960GB. It is however, the 240GB model that I’m taking a look at today.

The Slim S80 is equipped with a Phison PS3108-S8 SATA-to-Flash micro-controller to deliver sequential transfer rates up to 550MB/s reads 500MB/s writes while offering impressive 4K random speeds of up to 80,000 IOPS. With such a performances, the Slim S80 can significantly reduce both boot times and quickly load applications as well as provide a higher reliability than traditional hard disk drives and provide higher reliability over traditional hard drive.

Silicon Power’s Slim S80 is carrying its name thanks to the 7mm height for use in ultrabooks, ultra slim notebooks, and similar narrow spaced usage areas; on top of that it only weighs 63 grams. Solid state drives are perfect to use in mobile devices thanks to the lack of mechanical parts so they aren’t affected by shocks and vibrations in the same way.

Built with both S.M.A.R.T., Wear Leveling techniques, and Error Correction Code, the Slim S80 should guarantee data safety on top of the great performance and a long lifespan. The used Phison controller also supports AES encryption to keep your data safe and DevSleep for a low power consumption in mobile devices.

Specifications

  • Capacity: 32GB/60GB/120GB/240GB/480GB/960GB
  • Dimensions: 100mm x 69.85mm x 7mm
  • Weight: 79g
  • Vibration Resistance Test: 20G
  • Shock Resistance Test: 1500G Max
  • Read up to 550MB/s、Write up to 500MB/s
  • 7mm slim design suitable for Ultrabooks and Ultra-slim notebooks
  • SATA III 6Gbps backward compatible with SATA II 3Gbps
  • Supports TRIM command and Garbage Collection technology
  • NCQ and RAID ready
  • Implemented with ECC technology to guarantee data transmission reliability
  • Built-in with SMART monitoring system
  • 3-year warranty

Besides the Phison controller, the S80 has 16 of Toshiba’s 19nm flash chips and a 256MB Nanya RAM chip.