Asus Maximus VIII Extreme Overclocking Review

Introduction


The Maximus VIII Extreme is the new top of the line socket 1151 board from Asus that just begs to be paired with a 6600K or 6700K for some overclocking goodness. The board was built for overclocking from the ground up and it should be fairly capable in extreme overclocking too. We are going to put it through its paces and see just how fun and powerful this board can be when pushing 6700Ks to the extreme, but first, let’s take a look at the features that will help us achieve the overclocks we desire.

Now we see the Maximus VIII Extreme without the heat-sink in all its black on black glory, the color scheme really looks beautiful. The board is built from the ground up for overclocking and has really gone a bit overboard with the features. The board will take dual 8-pin connectors for power along with the standard 24pin.

Onboard buttons for power, reset, safe boot, MemOK, and a POST led display. There are toggles for disabling DIMM channels as well as toggles for LN2 mode and Slow Mode for extreme overclocking. There are also voltage read points for various different board voltages.

Here we have the dual BIOS chips that are thankfully socketed instead of soldered. Why is that important you may wonder well it is much easier to replace one of these socketed chips by yourself than having to send the whole board into the company for RMA.

The inclusion of the combo PS2 mouse and keyboard is always a welcome sight as it simplifies things and will also reduce the load on the CPU over USB based options while you are overclocking.

For the CPU, the board is using an 8-phase fully digital VRM controlled by ASP1405 (IR based). Mosfets are Infineon BSG0812 (dual N-MOSFET with high + low side in the same package) capable of delivering 50A each. As for the iGPU, it is the same components again, but scaled down to a 4-phase design. DRAM has a dual-phase design with the digital ASP1103 controller.

Dinos22 Achieves Impressive New X99 OC World Record

Extreme overclocking is something that is reserved for just a few, but those who can and do this are highly passioned and most certainly very good at what they do. Records are being set and records are being broken all the time, but today a new world record was set for the X99 category as Dinos22, or Dino for ease, achieved an impressive 6000 MHz clock speed.

The new record was set by a GIGABYTE X99-SOC Champion board that once again proved as the best overclocking mother around as Dino took his Intel Core i7 5960X Haswell-E CPU to this impressive 6GHz speed. This was obviously achieved by using liquid nitrogen (LN2) and the CPU was running at -5 degrees Celcius during load.

Click for Large version

Dino is now ranked first out of 603 in the WR, ranked first for the for the Intel i7-5970X CPU, and also ranked first for global eight-core CPUs, once again nailing down the fact that he’s a world-class overclocker.

Dino himself had this to say about the new record: “Country Cup bench with Australia OC team (TeamAU and HWBOT OC team). GIGABYTE X99 SOC Champ is back in da house.”

Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S CPU Cooler Review

Introduction


Thermaltake have created some fantastic coolers in recent years, with a range that covers everything from air, to water, budget to premium, including their new and rather stunning custom loop water cooling gear. The model we’re looking at today covers several categories, it’s an AIO water cooler, which promises the high-end cooling thrills of their other water coolers, with a more affordable price tag, making it very attractive to those investing in their first water-cooled setup.

Check out the quick overview video below to find out why Thermaltake stripped down some of the features on this cooler and why that’s a good thing for (most) consumers.

The packaging is colourful and has all the major specification information on there that you will need.

The interior is pretty much what we see with all AIO coolers, a carton with protective bags overall smaller hardware components to keep them safe.

A pair of double curved fans, which can operate between 1200 and 2000 RPM, each fitted with a standard PWM connector and a black braided cable.

There’s no shortage of mounting options on offer, with separate rings and backplates for both Intel and AMD, 2011 screws, fan and chassis screws and even a Y-split PWM cable for the fans.

The radiator and pump are nicely designed, but also pretty standard. Those looking for something unique may want to look elsewhere, but it’s certainly presentable.

The radiator is a slim design, maximizing compatibility with most systems, while the 240mm length provides a good amount of surface area to dissipate heat from your CPU.

Two slim and long hoses mean that it’ll be easy to fit the pump inside your system, whether you have a small chassis, or a large one. The back of the pump has a Thermaltake logo on it, which looks pretty cool.

Pre-applied thermal paste is great for a quick and easy install, but there is no extra paste included, so you’ll need more if you plan to re-install in the future.

We won’t be using the stock paste of course, so I’ve cleaned it off. As you can see, we’ve got a good size copper contact plate and lots of screws providing a snug fit for the pump housing.

ASUS Z170 ROG Lineup Pictured

We’ve already seen what MSI, Gigabyte, ASRock and BIOSTAR plan to do with Intel’s upcoming Z170 platform. Today, we’re bringing you the launch lineup for the ROG series from ASUS. Short for Republic of Gamers, ROG has been the main gaming focused lineup from ASUS and offers their own gaming focused theme and features. These boards mark the 8th iteration of the ROG series.

From the looks of it, we have the complete launch ROG lineup with the usual suspects. We have the mATX Gene, the more budget friendly ATX Ranger, the mainstream Hero and the aptly named E-ATX Extreme. As with the Haswell launch, we can expect the ATX Formula and mITX Impact to come a bit after the Skylake launch.

Despite sticking to the familiar black and red motif, the colours are much more subtle this time around, taking a more stealthy look. The red parts act more like a highlight rather than being a main colour on the boards. ASUS also looks to have chosen a more grey colour for the metallic parts of the board, eschewing the older black.

The VRM heatsinks on the Hero and Extreme are also much more substantial than before, consuming the back I/O port as well.Given the hefty VRM sections and their beefy heatsinks, the new ROG boards should do well in the overclocking department as the FIVR is removed with Skylake.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information 

Dell’s Latest Tablet is Built to Withstand Extreme Conditions

Dell has expanded its Rugged line-up with a new Latitude tablet designed to operate in the harshest of environments. This model is resistant against mud, dust, sand, spillages and other hazards. The tablet can even be dropped from over four feet and has a temperature threshold between -20 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This device is capable of withstanding war zones, high-altitude mountains and industrial workplaces. According to Dell, the unit is,

“Designed for performance and reliability in the harshest conditions.”

In terms of specifications, the tablet features a multi-touch, 11.6 inch 1366×768 panel which can be easily viewed in direct sunlight. Furthermore, it is equipped with a 5th generation Intel Core CPU, Windows 8.1 (fully upgradable to Windows 10), up to a 512GB Solid State Drive and a battery lasting upwards of 12 hours. Dell also utilized a quad cooling solution to prevent throttling in hot locations. I can see this being useful during expeditions near volcanoes or climates with a blistering heat.

Pricing and availability is still unknown, but the niche nature of this device will incur a hefty price tag. Dell’s existing Latitude 12 Rugged laptop contains an Intel Core i3 CPU and 4GB of RAM which retails for $3,649. I wouldn’t expect the final price to be this high but the reinforced casing will undoubtedly increase manufacturing costs.

The Latitude 12 tablet is massive overkill for 99.99% of people but provides a vital service for those who require reliable hardware in tough situations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8Koj_xvdRA

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Latest Zotac Graphics Cards @ CeBIT 2015

During the second day of CeBIT 2015, we met up with ZOTAC; most famous for their graphics cards and mini PCs. During the meeting, we had the opportunity to handle and fully examine some of their newest GTX 900 series products. Some very high-quality finishes were seen here, the best bit that I took away was the constant questions of our initial feedback on the looks of the products. We appreciate a company that values everything you have to say about their products. We were personally asked about the aesthetics of the tri-fan coolers, Extreme and AMP coolers fitted to the GTX 970 and GTX 980.

We gave our honest opinion which were taken on board; so I wonder if our suggestion of an orange accented AMP cooler will be taken on board. Would you like to see some additional colours used in the cooler design? Subtle or in your face, let us know on Facebook or on our forums.

We look forward to see what other innovative products Zotac can bring us in the future. Any news or events, we will keep you updated.

 

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 970 Extreme OC Graphics Card Revealed

The new Zotac GTX 970 Extreme OC graphics card has been revealed this week, which features a new cooler design to help the card reach higher factory overclocks. The card is equipped with five heat pipes, three large fans, a built-in overclocking module and it’s one of the few Maxwell based cards that requires 8+8 power connectors (most are 6+6), which should be some indication of the extra performance that this card offers. The card comes with a 1203 base clock, 1355 boost and 7200 Mhz memory, so there is no doubt that this card is going to be one of the fastest GTX 970’s around.

The only downside to all of this performance is that the card is incredibly ugly, of course that is just my opinion, but the cooling solution looks very closed in with lots of weird carbon fibre panels and an extended shroud over the heat pipes; making the card look incredibly wide. The card is equipped with customisable LED lighting, but as you can see in the images, this looks pretty cheap and nasty overall and perhaps a more understated design would have been better.

No details on price or availability just yet, but expect to pay a small premium over the stock card for the extra speed and cooling features.

Thank you Chiphell for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Chiphell.

MSI GT70-2PE ‘Dominator Pro’ Gaming Notebook Review

Introduction


Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking at a few of MSI’s latest gaming notebooks, each featuring NVIDIA’s brand new 800 series GPUs. As we look back at the two units that we’ve seen already, the first of these being the GS60-2PE ‘Ghost Pro’ – which, as a mid range system, wows me with the amount of power that I has tucked away inside its slim and lightweight frame, giving it some credentials that could almost give it the right to be known as a Ultrabook. On the other hand, the GP70-2PE ‘Leopard’ that we looked at more recently brought some fresher and more up to date components over its older brother the straight up GP70. Although it featured a full solid state boot drive and the latest run of 800 series graphics from NVIDIA, the balance between some of the components such as the high-end processor and entry-level graphics card, along with a couple of note around the chassis such as the track pad left me a little disappointed as it has the right foundation to be a cracking budget option for the rapidly changing market.

The third and last system from MSI’s gaming series range that we’ve picked out for review today is targeted right at the top end of the gaming notebook market. Compared to the Ghost Pro which looks for the balance in performance and cost, along with functionality and the Leopard which is aimed more at the budget conscious gamer, the GT70-2PE ‘Dominator Pro’ is a no holds barred out-and-out performance system. Featuring a top end 880m GPU from NVIDIA, an i7 CPU from Intel, SuperRAID SSD and the capacity to upgrade its performance even further, the GT70 is set to be their flagship gaming notebook.

As we will see as we work through our tour of the GT70, like the Leopard we will see that its design and basic framework has been brought forward from a previous generation, meaning that even though it may looked like an older system on the outside, on the inside it is full of young blood that is waiting to get to work pushing pixels about like there is no tomorrow. Naturally, like many other things in life, top end performance does inherently bring with it a strong price tag and at £1,799.00 (inc VAT), this notebook is not for the faint hearted. Ultimately though, the most important question that we must ask as we look around this system is “does spending this much really pay itself off?” After all, you’ve not to feel that pleased if you’ve bought a Ferrari only to find that its got the gut of a typical four-door saloon.

  • Name: MSI GT70-2PE ‘Dominator Pro’
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4800MQ @ 2.4GHz
  • RAM: 16GB 1600MHz Kingston MSI16D3LS1KFG/8G (8GB*2)
  • SSD: 256GB SuperRAID RAID0 – 2x SanDisk SD6SF1M-128G mSATA SSD
  • HDD: HGST 1TB 7200RPM
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M 4GB
  • LAN: Killer E2200
  • WLAN: Killer Wireless-N1202 (802.11ac)
  • Monitor: 17.3″1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED backlit
  • Keyboard: Steelseries chiclet RGB blacklit
  • I/O: 3x USB3.0, 2x USB2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, 1x mDP, SD Reader, Mic-in, Headphone-out, line-in, line-out, 1x 1Gb LAN, FHD Webcam
  • ODD: DVD-RW DL
  • Battery: 9-Cell 7800mAh 87Wh
  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Dimensions: 42.8 x 28.8 x 5.5 cm
  • Weight: 3.9kg with battery (8.6lb)
  • Warranty: 2 year RTB
  • Price: £1799.00 Inc VAT

Looking down the crib sheet for this system, there’s no mistaking that MSI have got a ton of power behind the scenes, especially in the processing and graphics department. I’ll also note at this point that the SSD array and the stock memory has the potential to be pushed further and in some regions may come as a slightly different default configuration to what what I’ve got here today.

The package that comes alongside the notebook is strikingly similar to that of the Leopard, with a bundle of manuals and setup guides, a regional kettle lead and a 180W power adapter – this alone carries a bit of weight to it and considering the spec, it#s no wonder why.

Latest Gigabyte Motherboards at Computex 2014

As we continue round the halls and suites at this years Computex, it has only been a matter of time before we catch up with Gigabyte on one of their many stands. Looking through the massive array of products that are on show, the top end motherboards have always grabbed our attention and this year is by no means any exception.

The first motherboard that we come across is the top of the line Z97X-UD7 TH. Like previous generation boards, TH stands for Thunderbolt and on the back of the board we find two Thunderbolt ports alongside six USB3.0 ports, a spread of display outputs and Gigabit LAN. Inside the chassis users will have access to the latest SATA Express interface, three PCIe x16 lanes, three x1 lanes, Ultra Durable components, Realtek Audio and support for both 4th and 5th Generation Intel processors.

For the mainstream gamer, Gigabyte have recently refreshed their gaming orientated motherboards with the move to a red and black colour scheme (as everyone seems to be doing these days) and with Gigabyte’s Z97X-Gaming series of boards, we are not short of goodies.

Both the G1 and the GT boards follow a similar layout with the Gigabyte ‘Eye’ on the chipset cooler, support for 4 way SLI and CrossFire configurations and not forgetting both 4th and 5th generation Haswell processors. To give the gamers edge to both of these boards we find KillerLAN E2200 controllers on offer as well as OP-AMP audio – the G1 offering the better deal with a slightly higher spec to the caps and audio decoder.

Further along the motherboard line up we find a new series of boards that are soon to be available on the enthusiast market. Finished off with the ‘Black Edition’ tag line, these boards are for the out-and-out enthusiast who wants nothing but pure performance out of their system. Featuring SATA Express and M.2 SSD interfaces, the Black Edition boards combine many of the features from both the ranges above, including KillerLAN and Op-AMP audio, as well as carefully selected and binned components that are more capable of delivering the power to an overclocked and very hungry CPU. Estimated to be more expensive than both of the ranges detailed above, the Black Edition boards are Gigabyte’s answer to the black edition motherboards that we’ve seen from the likes of Asus.


The last set of boards that we come to are above all else in a league of their own – especially when it comes to performance. Dressed in Gigabyte’s black and orange overclocking outfit, these boards are what legendary overclockers such as HiCookie and Dinos22 use when they’re pushing processors, graphics cards and memory to the absolute limits.

In between the two boards that are on display (Z97X-SOC and Z97X-SOC Force for reference) is a smaller board with a plastic orange shroud over it and a massive fan. To the untrained eye this board has no meaning or use, but for the professionals like HiCookie (pictured below), this board, known as the G-Powerboard, delivers 24 phases and up to 750W of power directly to a modified graphics card, giving them the power they need to run at much higher clock speeds when under LN2, compared to the standard power delivery system that is found on a run-of-the-mill GPU. For extreme overclockers, the G-Powerboard is quite simply a must-have bit of kit.

Just incase a set of overclocking motherboards and the G-Powerboard wasn’t enough we find one more board on display that for the general consumer is virtually useless, but for the guys that only run on LN2, this board is a must have. Built very similar to the SOC Force, this LN2 edition board has only 2 DIMM slots and no holes around the CPU socket for mounting a conventional cooling system (hence being rendered useless to Joe-public). By removing the holes, the DIMM slots can be moved closer to the processor, reducing any interference that may cause unstable memory when overclocked – when your only goal is to hit a world record, boards like this is just what you need.

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB3.0 Flash Drive Review

Introduction


Since their launch, USB3.0 flash drives have been one of those items that any avid enthusiast has had to have in their portfolio of tech gadgets, but when we get down to the simple facts of what they have to offer over any other USB based flash drive, 99% of the time I would guarantee that it’s the higher capacity and read speeds that make them attractive. When we look at the bigger picture, it is easy to see why these two details make these flash drives desirable. With the amount of data that we are wanting to move around growing exponentially, being able to move large volumes of data in one hit and being able to transfer content to and from the drive quickly is key. There is though one problem that the vast majority of these drives have in common and that is all-round read performance. Being able to say you’ve got fast sequential speeds is one thing, but when we move down the ladder to the smaller file sizes, we soon start to see things not looking so great – especially when compared to the read performance figures that are available.

True to form there is always one manufacturer that sees this weakness in the market and ventures on to resolve the problem with a new class of drive and this is exactly what SanDisk has aimed to do with the Extreme PRO USB3.0 flash drive. Although we don’t know exactly which NAND in particular has been used, going by the specs we could make a fair bet that its of a synchronous variety and guaging by the sixe of the drive there could easily be two NAND packages alongside the drives controller. That said though, all of this is packed into an aluminium and black plastic body and with read and write speeds of 260MB/s and 240MB/s respectively on offer, we are touching on the performance that SATAII SSDs have to give. Sounds good doesn’t it? Boasting up to 60x the performance of USB2.0 flash drives is a big thing to shout about so it’s all down to those all important performance results to make or break SanDisk’s claims that this is truly an Extreme performing drive.


On the front of the matte black box we find a typical SanDisk layout with the drive on full view the model name and some key performance figures on display alongside the capacity. SanDisk have no need to use flashy graphics all over their packaging, instead preferring to use a top the point design with a small amount of flare with the product name printed in a gold like colour.

Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Over the last couple of years I’ve had a look at numerous SSDs from many of the leading manufacturers in the world of SSDs and storage in general, however there has been one vendor that I have not worked with up to this point. This is of course Plextor and as things go, This company is said to be right up there in the rankings with the likes of Kingston, OCZ, Corsair, Sandisk and many more; but flash-based storage is not where this company has its roots buried. Since the formation of the company way back in 1985, Plextor have been making their name well-known in the world of optical storage with their name being made synonymous with high quality optical drives and media that performed way above that of OEM grade drives and media.Back when optical based storage was much more popular than it is today, Plextor’s drives typically demanded a far greater price tag over white box products, however the end-user was prepared to pay the premium due to the fact that Plextor’s products were far less susceptible to errors when burning media, which would otherwise leave you with a pile of coffee mug ‘coasters’ as they were known. As the market has moved on and the popularity of optical media fallen, Plextor branched out to the solid state market with their first SSD, the M1, coming to market in 2009. Since then we have seen the M series of SSDs grow and mature through the M2, 3 and 4 series and on to the current generation M5 drives with all the leading technologies and performance figures that the end-user looks for and demands in today’s performance driven market.

The M5 Pro Xtreme is the pinnacle of Plextor’s SSD design today and over its little brother, the M5 Pro, the Xtreme on paper doesn’t seem to be different, but there have been one or two subtle changes made to give slightly better performance figures over the M5 Pro when handling smaller file sizes (~4K). Considering both use the same third-gen dual core Marvell controller and 19nm Toshiba toggle flash MLC NAND, the performance differences are purely down to the use of sixteen NAND packages on the Xtreme over eight on the Pro and lower level drives.

Inside the box we find a typical set of SSD accessories with two sets of screws and a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, installation and warranty leaflets and a copy of NTI’s SSD Solution for drive cloning and migration to Plextor SSDs.

Postage Stamp Size SSD Unveiled By Mach Extreme

Mach Xtreme Technology has just unveiled what is the smallest SATA-interface SSD on the consumer market. The new DIY SATA 2 Series SSDs are barely larger than a postage stamp, and is designed to serve as a boot drive for your operating system of choice. It is designed with hardware-modding enthusiast in mind, giving them a great tool that helps and gets the job done.

Mach Extreme says that the new DIY series uses the latest storage technology for extreme performance while offering hardware-modding enthusiast a fast, yet flexible storage solution that is 10 times smaller and lighter than a standard 2.5-inch SSD. Read speeds are said to be in the 220MB/s range while writes are performed at 80MB/s. Mach Xtreme manufacturers the DIY Series in both vertical and horizontal configurations, and packs them with storage capacities of 8GB up to 64GB.

Features:

  • SATA2 interface
  • No SATA signal cable needed
  • Driver-less Installation
  • Power Consumption: up to 1.2W
  • Max. Read Performance up to 220MB/s (64GB)
  • Max. Write Performance up to 80MB/s (64GB)
  • Dimensions: [V] 25.28 x 39.54 x 6.8mm / [H] 21.5 x 29.5 x 10.0 mm (LxWxH)
  • Weight: 6.5g [V] / 4.5g [H]
  • Certification: ROHS, CE, FCC
  • Capacity: 8GB (MXSSD2MSLD8G-V/H), 16GB (MXSSD2MSLD16G-V/H), 32GB (MXSSD2MSLD32G-V/H) and 64GB (MXSSD2MSLD64G-V/H)
  • Warranty: 2-Years

Thank you Tweak Town for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Tweak Town

Overclockers UK ‘Ultima 460i Scimitar’ Watercooled Gaming System Review

Introduction


Our look at pre-built systems continues today as we take a step up and look at a fully water-cooled system from the guys over at Overclockers UK. We’ve had a look at a range of systems so far that use off the shelf components that most users would buy and fit themselves, however there is always the scope for more and when it comes to getting more out of your system, custom water cooling loops are the next step. Water cooling for the most part is an uncharted area for a large number of people due to the seemingly complex process that is involved and more so the worry of the system leaking and damaging other components in the build.

Overclockers UK are one of the UK’s biggest hardware retailers, both in their shop at their warehouse in Stoke-On-Trent and more so through their website at www.overclockers.co.uk where this system and much, much more can be found – sadly not including giraffes! Overclockers UK pride themselves in having a large knowledge in overclocking their shop built systems, as their name would suggest and this they pass on to their huge consumer base with their pre-built systems.

The Ultima 460i Scimitar is one of OcUK’s more recent system creations with a hearty amount of power from the latest generation of Intel processors and one of the most powerful graphics cards on the market courtesy of AMD. To top all this off, the system has been overclocked and fully water-cooled with a custom loop, which itself is made up of parts from the biggest names in the water cooling market.

  • Name: Ultima 460i Scimitar 
  • Case: Cooler Master Cosmos II
  • MB: Gigabyte Z87X-OC
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 4770k @ 4.5GHz
  • RAM: 16GB Team Group Vulcan Orange 2133MHz (2x8GB)
  • SSD: 120GB Samsung 840
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 2TB
  • GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 7990 6GB
  • PSU: Corsair TX850W V2
  • ODD: OcUK DVD-RW / Blu Ray Combo
  • Radiators: XSPC EX120 120mm, XSPC EX360 120mm, Hardware Labs Black Ice SR-1 240 120mm
  • CPU Block: XSPC Raystorm
  • GPU Block: EK Water Block EK-FC7990 SE – Acetal
  • Pump: XSPC D5 Vario
  • Reservoir: EK Res X3 250
  • Fittings: XSPC Black Chrome Rotary & Compression
  • Fluid: Mayhems Pastel Orange
  • Fans: 6x Noiseblocker Black Silent Pro PLPS 120mm
  • OS: Optional Windows 7 or 8
  • Warranty: Minimum 24 month Collect and return (36 month optional)
  • Price: £2,764.00 inc VAT

As system specifications go, this is by far the longest and most impressive list that I’ve seen to date, however that is not all, it is also the biggest and heaviest system that I’ve had to haul around the office.

After muscling this hefty system up the stairs (which I will add was inside another box with loads of protective foam and heavy-duty straps around the outside), we find that the original boxes for the motherboard and GPU are included along with all of the manuals and extras for all the system components.

Sandisk Extreme II 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


The SSD market as many people know it is inundated with drives that have one of LSI’s SandForce SF-2281 controllers at their heart and whilst this is not a bad thing – given that they have proven reliability and some of the best performance to be had, they are not without their faults.

SSD owners today, use their drives for a multitude of tasks and breaking these tasks down to the way the drives see the data, we have two data types; compressible and incompressible. SandForce based drives typically use lossless data compression to minimise the write cycles to the flash in order to prolong its life span, however not all data sets can be compressed in this way and consequently when these controllers meet this type of data, the write speeds consequently slow down as the data takes more time to process.

SanDisk’s Extreme series of drives as we have here today, are now on to their second generation and following the success of the original Extreme that was based around the SF-2281 controller, SanDisk want to take the performance up a notch to give this drive a huge selling point against every other drive out there. To do this, the SandForce controller had to be laid to rest as the way it handles incompressible data was not going to be right for an ‘extreme’ drive. As a result, Marvell has been brought in with its top end controller and this teamed with SanDisk’s own 19nm Toggle NAND MLC flash and a 256MB cache is what is set to give this drive the grunt it needs to push it to the top of the SSD performance charts.

Gainward GeForce GTX 770 Phantom OC 2GB Graphics Card Review

While the GTX 780 and 770 were both released recently, there has been more focus from brands on the 770 counterpart as it offers much better value for money when looking at a price vs performance argument than pretty much any other card on the market from both AMD or Nvidia, and with that we’ve had a lot more GTX 770’s come through our door, than we have 780.

As we start plowing through these cards, we also found a chance to start working with a brand that is fairly new to us, and perhaps doesn’t have the biggest presence in the UK market, unlike other key manufacturer’s and this is Gainward. Today we find their GTX 770 Phantom OC landing with us which is said to offer all of the benefits of a GTX 770 with an increased clock speed thanks to the overclock and their patented Phantom cooling solutions which provides extreme silence and extreme cooling with a unique design behind it too.

With a slightly higher price point than a reference GTX 770, we’re here to find out if the extra £30 is worth spending, and if the overclock really does help push performance while remaining cool and quiet at the same time. We will be comparing this directly to a reference GTX 770 among other key cards that are currently on the market.

Before we get straight into the performance though, there are a few things we need to look at which includes the packaging and what Gainward bundle in with the card, before we take a detailed look at the card itself and its Phantom cooling solution. Once we’ve covered the design aspect, then we can get down to the nitty gritty and look at the specs in comparison to a stock card, and then find out if the performance increase really makes a difference while focusing on the performance of the cooler as well.

Of course, in natural eTeknix fashion, we will see if the overclock can be pushed even further by manually increasing the clock speed and memory speeds on the card, but lets start by taking a look at what the GTX 770 Phantom comes in and exactly what’s included.

The box itself is nice and includes a panel that flaps open to reveal a first view of the card. There are a few spelling errors on the packaging and some words are split between two lines, but this is no real problem to be honest. Inside we find a quick install guide, driver installation CD, twin 6-pin PCI-Express to single 8-pin PCI-Express power adapter, DVI to VGA adapter and a welcome addition; a HDMI to DVI adapter.

Asus Unveil Their Z87 Lineup – Including Never Seen Before Models

With Haswell on a close horizon and Intel still holding the fort under close guard with regards to their 4th Generation chips, we’ve been seeing the lid slowly lift from each of the motherboard vendors on what their new boards will have to offer. Asus is next in line to show off some of their new boards from their Series , TUF (The Ultimate Force) and ROG (Republic of Gamers) lines and at each level they are offering up the best they can in terms of performance, user experiences, stability and upgrade paths.

Jackie Hsu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Worldwide Sales commented “ASUS possesses the best research and development expertise, and as always we are confident that we offer our customers the finest quality with these new motherboards. We’re including a variety of media-praised exclusive features with each model, and are proud to announce that we have the most comprehensive Z87 motherboard launch line-up, all available simultaneously”

On the bottom end of Asus’ new line-up is a completely re-branded set of Series boards. The most notable part of this re-brand is the drop of the blue and black colour scheme that we have come to know with Asus entry level boards – the new colour scheme is based around a two tone yellow/gold, but thankfully this is not a shiny gold which would be rather displeasing to the eye. Whilst there are a number of boards in the Series range, looking at both ends of the range, Asus have covered all the grounds when it comes to compatibility – something which we have seen previously on their Z77 boards of a similar level. Between this board is a number of models that make a transition from a board for more mainstream builds, offering all the Z87 features. These include the Z87-C, Z87-PRO, Z87-PLUS and the Z87I-Delux (a mini ITX offering).

Top top end of the Series range see native PCI fully replaced with PCIe amongst other subtle changes. All the new series boards will see the integration of Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-way optimisation, DIGI+ Power Control, Fan Xpert 2 amongst other now offerings from Intel.

Moving up one stage and on to the TUF line of boards, this line only see some subtle changes with a full ATX board that in some respects looks very similar to the previous generation Z77 board. This is all because of the thermal armour that is laid across the PCB to keep the board as cool as possible and keep dust away from all empty slots with a series of Dust Defender plugs that fill empty ports. On the back of the PCB we see a new Fortifier metal plate that reinforces the PCB to prevent it warping whist in use and an airflow boosting valve design around the CPU power areas.

Making a fresh appearance to the TUF line-up is one of Asus’ many new boards. The Gryphon is a mATX version of the Sabertooth and like its bigger brother, it features all the same top quality components and features as well as the extended expected lifetime from its higher temperature tolerance. What is missing though is the thermal armour, however Asus will be supplying this separately and the two piece kit can be quickly mounted to the Gryphon’s PCB.

Top top of the new Z87 range is Asus’ top end ROG boards. These boards for a number of generations now have been renowned for their top end performance and overclocking abilities. New to the ROG line of boards and sitting mi-range is the HERO. This new board’s purpose is to offer mainstream the gamers the stepping stone into the ROG brand, but at a price point that is far more manageable compared to the flagship Maximus IV Extreme. As well as these two boards, Asus will also be launching an updated Maximus IV Gene and all these boards will feature Supreme FX audio as well as a new on-screen ‘Sonic-Radar’ that works as a viual overlay to any game to indicate the direction a proximity of a gun fire for example in a visual format.

The flagship Extreme board see a new overclocking tool, that unlike the previous generations OC-key is set to be far more user friendly and intuitive to use and alongside this in the Extreme box, users with find a 5.25″ drive bay adaptor to allow the OC Panel to operate as a fan control panel from the front of a case.

Corsair Unleash the Vengeance Extreme – The Worlds Fastest Memory Kit

So you’re in the market for some new memory and you want a kit that’s fast? Well normally you’ll be looking at 2133MHz, or 2400MHz, if you’ve got the need for more speed then there is the option of 2666Mhz or 2800MHz. The question is though, what if this is still not enough? Well if you’re as bonkers as the R&D team at Corsair are, then there is now the option for a 3000MHz kit!

Selecting the IC’s for this extreme kit is no easy feat, and after going through the most rigorous four-stage hand-screening process that Corsair engineers have done, less than 1 in 50 ICs will make the grade and be worthy of taking home on the PCB of one of these kits.  This is not where the validation ends, once the kits have been made, they need to pass performance tests on a select group of Z77 motherboards with an unlocked Ivy Bridge CPU that has the capability to run the kits at their intended speed

“We are focused on helping enthusiasts and overclockers push the boundaries of PC performance,” said Thi La, Senior VP and GM of Memory and Enthusiast Component Products at Corsair. “Our engineering team’s hard work has led to new performance optimization techniques for memory, which we are pleased to debut in our new Vengeance Extreme memory.”

If you’re mad enough to want one of these kits, then sit down first as the price may come as a shock. An 8GB kit with timings of 12-14-14-36 will set you back a cool US$749 and will only be available for a very limited time as the hand made modules are going to be few in numbers. Don’t worry about the question of overclocking as results have already been floating about seeing one of these kits running at 3144MHz overclocked. If overclocking is your game, then Corsair do include on of Kingpin Cooling’s LN2 memory pots for taking the kits to hyper levels of speed.