AMD AM4 Will Feature 140W Support and μOPGA

Later this year, perhaps in October, AMD will be launching with their highly anticipated Zen CPU architecture. Before that though, AMD will be releasing their new processor socket, AM4, with the Bristol Ridge lineup of APUs. As the socket that finally combines the CPU and APU lineups, it will replace the aging AM3+ and the relatively newer FM2+. According to a leak, AM4 will use μOPGA and support up to 140W chips and have 1,331 pins.

AMD has stuck with variants of PGA for the longest time and it looks like AM4 will continue the legacy. At 1,331 pins, that is a 33% increase over the about 950 pins previous AM and FM sockets have used. If AMD simply enlarges the current design, this would lead to a much larger package. This can lead to more fragile, costlier (especially for lower end chips) CPUs and require a new series of CPU heatsinks.

In order to combat this, AMD has used μOPGA compared to the normal OPGA they use. This will reduce pin diameter, allowing for more pins to crammed together at the cost of weaker pins. Reducing pin pitch or the distances between pins and staggering pins to fit more in the same space are also two likely strategies. For Intel, a 17% pin count cost 30% in space but moving from 115x to 2011 cost only about 66% size increase. If AMD does it well, AM4 may be compatible with AM3+ and FM2+ heatsinks and not have an overly large package.

Finally, AM4 is expected to support up to a whopping 140W TDP CPUs. This is similar to the top end Intel LGA 2011 chips will also feature a 140W TDP and not much more than current mainstream AM3+ chips which top out at 125W. By increasing the pin count slightly, AMD will sport a number close to Intel’s old enthusiasts platform of LGA 1366. By unifying the socket for their budget, mainstream and enthusiasts chips, AMD will make it easier for builders to upgrade, leaving it up to the motherboard vendors to differentiate their offerings.

AMD Launches A10 7890K and Athlon X4 880K

AMD has been getting ever more cyclical with their releases after their latest organizational shuffle. Last month, we saw the launch of the A10 7860K & Athlon X4 845 APU and CPU and this month we’re 2 more chips. Today, we are getting the A10 7890K and Athlon X4 880K, both of which sit on the top of the FM2 product stack for APU and CPU respectively.

Like their predecessors, the new chips feature a decent clock speed boost, 5% each of their slower siblings, or 200mhz increase. While it doesn’t look like much, that’s still more than the differentiation Intel gives their chips which is often only 100mhz. Despite only being 95W class chips, the 7890K will feature the 125W Wraith cooler while the 880K gets an all-new 125W Thermal solution. The 7890K runs at 4.1-4.3 Ghz with the iGPU at 866Mhz while the 880K is 4.0-4.2Ghz.

According to AMD, the 125W thermal solution is simply the Wraith cooler without the illuminated shroud, will all of the improve efficiency and performance. The A10 7870K will also feature with the new 125W cooler despite being 95W chips. This should allow for decent overclocking given the extra overhead or even  lower noise levels for stock usage. This should help AMD with their image that some consumers have of their chips being loud and hot.

Gigabyte Announces F2A88X-D3HP FM2+ Motherboard

AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture is predicted to offer a very competitive alternative to enthusiast Intel CPUs and could instigate a pricing war. This is great news for the consumer, as Intel currently dominates the higher-end CPU market, and is in need of some strong competition. That’s not to say the current AMD offerings aren’t a suitable choice, but they struggle to match Intel’s performance across the board. This is expected though given AMD’s current ageing sockets with both AM3+ and FM2+. Even though most hardware aficionados are waiting for AMD’s new CPUs which bring DDR4 support and a new socket, it doesn’t mean the older products are suddenly worthless. Perhaps, you want to build a HTPC or on a tight budget. It is quite strange to see new FM2+ motherboards being released in 2016, but at least it provides a better selection of features for those with a FM2+ based processor.

Gigabyte’s latest foray into the FM2+ scene is based on AMD’s A88X chipset and designed as a mid-range motherboard. The F2A88X-D3HP features the standard 24-pin ATX, 8-pin EPS, and includes a 6-phase VRM design. Additionally, there’s a single PCI-E 3.0 X16 expansion slot, one PCI-E 2.0 x16 (electrical x4), two legacy PCI to house older cards and three PCI-E 2.0 x1. The motherboard also supports up to 64GB of dual channel DDR3-2400 memory, and incorporates eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports.

Gigabyte integrated a total of two USB 3.1 ports, with one adopting the Type-A connector and the other uses Type-C. There’s another four USB 3.0 ports (two on the rear, and two more via internal headers). In terms of display options, you can choose from HDMI 1.4a, dual-link DVI, and D-Sub. As you might expect, the motherboard has 8-channel HD audio with an isolated section of the PCB and electrolytic capacitors. When it comes to networking, there is a Gigabit RJ45 port, and the motherboard utilizes Gigabyte dual UEFI BIOS technology.

AMD Launches A10 7860K & Athlon X4 845

Despite being stuck on the 28nm node for the past while, AMD has been working to bring more CPUs to consumers with better binning and performance as the process and technology matures. Case in point is the A10-7860K Godavari and Athlon X8 845 Carrizo chips launching today. Both chips are focused on increasing performance/watt either by using a new architecture design or simply better binning and process improvements.

First up is the 2M/4T Athlon X4 845, a 65W Carrizo part based on of the “Excavator” architecture. As expected of an Athlon part, it does not have an iGPU and uses the FM2+ platform with DDR3 and PCIe 3.0 x8. As the sole desktop Excavator part, the chip is a bit of a curiosity with only 2MB of L2 instead of the usual 4MB but still manages to have a higher IPC due to improved pre-fetch, large L1 cache and better branch prediction. The low power nature of Excavator also limits the clock speeds to 3.5-3.8Ghz.

Next we have the A10-7860K which is a Steamroller based 2M/4T chip with 512 GCN Stream Processors. With a 3.6-4.0Ghz clock speed, the chip places lower than the 7890K and 7870K but it comes in with a 30W lower TDP at 65W. Despite the lower TDP, the 7860K will get the 95W cooler which should make it a good choice for an HTPC/budget gamer. Overall these chips should tide AMD over till more Excavator and Zen based APUs hit later this year.

BIOSTAR Unveils New Pro Series FM2+ Motherboards

BIOSTAR has just announced its brand new Pro Series FM2+ lineup of motherboards designed specifically for AMD FM2+ processors. These new motherboards are aimed at those of you who are looking to build cheap and relatively powerful PCs based on AMD’s FM2+ socket CPUs. What makes them stand out among other similar offerings is the fact that they feature an enhanced power design that ensures increased durability and stability. Moreover, they are equipped with reinforced metal CPU retention backplates, and with improved audio solutions based on high-quality capacitors from Japanese manufacturer Nichicon. The Iron Heart Protect CPU backplate definitely deserves a closer look, as it prevents bending caused by heavy CPU coolers thus ensuring that the board does not suffer any circuit damage. The plate also draws away heat from the CPU and VRM areas, which is always a big plus.

The models included in the new lineup are the A70MD PRO, A70MG PRO and A68MD PRO, all of which support DDR3 RAM of up to 2600 MHz (OC). Other highlights include 5-phase VRMs, USB 3.0 connectors and BIOSTAR-specific features such as BIO-Relife, BIO-Flasher and BIO-Watch. Clearly, these are not the most feature-rich BIOSTAR motherboards out there, but considering the fact that they are aimed at more budget-friendly users, they’ll definitely get the job done without issues.

BIOSTAR Releases Hi-Fi A68U3P Budget Motherboard

Sometimes you don’t need the ability for quad graphics cards and high-end processors, sometimes you just want to build an office or media PC with great features without blowing your budget. BIOSTAR has a lot of motherboard for this type of scenario and they’ve just expanded with one more.

The newest BIOSTAR motherboard is dubbed the Hi-Gi A68U3P and it is based on the AMD A68 chipset with support for multi-core socket FM2+/FM2 processors from the A-series and E2-series.

 

The two DDR3 memory slots support up to 32GB total RAM with a speed of 2600MHz (OC). You get one PCI-E x16 3.0, one PCI-E x1 2.0, and one legacy PCI slot. Four SATA 3 connectors with RAID support provide you with internal storage options and while you can connect high-speed external devices through the USB 3.0 ports.

You’ll of course also get BIOSTAR’s Hi-Fi audio connections, in this case with 5.1 surround sound support and a Gigabit Ethernet port powered by Realtek’s RTL8111G chip.

The board caters to both those that want more pixels per connector with support for 4K2K and 3D HD display resolutions just as it does for those who want to protect their precious components from extra dangers through electrostatic discharges and sudden over-voltages.

Super LAN Surge Protection provides the LAN port with more advanced antistatic protection capabilities by adding an integrated chip to strengthen electrical stability and prevent damage from lightning strikes and electrical surges. BIOSTAR’s Super LAN Surge Protection series motherboards upgrade the existing standards with up to four times the protection.

BIOSTAR’s Hi-Fi A68U3P will have an MSRP of just $49 USD.

AMD Could Release a New Kaveri APU Soon

AMD are forever in the back seat of the CPU market, but in recent years they have dominated the low price point gaming sector with their line up of Accelerated Processor Units (APU). This is basically a hybrid CPU with real GPU cores crammed in.

The newest version, Kaveri has been with us for a few months, based on the FM2+ socket; with its flagship unit being the A10-7850k  (review here). Now there seems a new flagship APU is floating around the internet, dubbed the A10-7870k. The A0-7870k, on paper, it looks to be the same as the A10-7850k with a higher base clock; set to 3.9GHz.

Along with the A10-7870k, there are rumours of another lower spec chip, the A8-7670k. This follows a similar suit to the A10-7870k, by looking to be a beefed up version of its predecessor, the A8-7650k (review here). Pricing is still unconfirmed, but pre-order pricing of around 175EURO has been seen on some websites.

The new chips will be placed under the Kaveri series, but with the rumoured launch of Godavari, or Kaveri Refresh APU’s due this Summer, is this a strategic launch from AMD to fill the gap and draw our attention elsewhere? Who knows.

Are you an APU user? Will you be changing to these new APU’s on release or will you be waiting for the release of the Godavari to change your system? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to ComputerBase.de for providing us with this information.

BIOSTAR Announced TA70U3-LSP FM2+ A70M Motherboard

BIOSTAR has released the latest mainboard based on their exclusive A70M chipset from AMD, the TA70U3-LSP. The ATX sized motherboard is FM2+ based and comes with USB 3.0, SATA 3 and built in LAN Surge Protection among others.

The motherboard supports dual and quad core FM2+/FM2 processors, A-series, and E2-series processors and up to 32GB DDR3 RAM.

It has one PCI-E x16 3.0, two PCI-E x1 2.0, and three PCI expansion slots as well as six SATA connectors, one USB3 and two USB 2 headers. Gigabit Ethernet and 5.1 channel audio are also part of the deal. The TA70U3-LSP supports AMD Dual Graphics Technology and also has support for full HDMI 3D 1080p.

The LSP of the product name stands for Lan Surge Protection and that is done by adding extra integrated chips directly into the board to strengthen electrical stability.

 

 

Like all motherboards, it comes with a long list of exclusive features. BIOSTAR offers their SmartSpeedLan, ChargeBooster, BIO-Remote, BIOS malware protection and recovery. It’s also built with 100% solid capacitors.

No word on pricing or availability yet. But since they say it is released, it’s only a matter of time before it arrives at retailers around the world.

Thanks to BIOSTAR for providing us with this information

ASUS Crossblade Ranger (FM2+) Motherboard Review

Introduction and Closer Look


The last time ASUS released a Republic of Gamers series motherboard for an AMD platform was way back in late 2011. The motherboard in question was the ASUS Crosshair V Formula which ASUS have since refurbished and re-released as the Crosshair V Formula-Z. The key theme with ASUS ROG motherboards for AMD platforms is that they have never been produced for AMD’s APU platforms, until now. In a somewhat surprising move in August of this year ASUS announced their first ROG motherboard for AMD’s A-Series platform; to be called the Crossblade Ranger.

The Crossblade Ranger’s existence makes sense given the recent speculative report from Digitimes that claims AMD and ASUS have planned stronger cooperation together on APU related matters. Even if such speculation is untrue the Crossblade Ranger is still a welcomed addition to the marketplace as many ASUS ROG fans have been requesting such ROG treatment for the AMD APU platforms. While AMD’s FM2+ platform isn’t the obvious choice for a gaming system, having the flexibility to take advantage of AMD’s latest Steamroller based CPU architecture is only possible on the FM2+ socket. AMD recently released their fastest Steamroller-based CPU the Athlon X4 860K Black Edition. With 4 cores at 3.7-4GHz and a 95W TDP the 860K is identical to the A10-7850K in terms of the CPU component, the only difference is at $90 the 860K is half the price of the $180 7850K making it a great choice for gamers who want to go with a discrete graphics solution.

With all that in mind AMD’s FM2+ A88X platform makes an interesting choice for a budget gaming system; you can pair up AMD’s Athlon X4 860K with a sweet-spot discrete GPU like an R9 280X or GTX 770 and you’ll have no trouble smashing through the latest games at 1080p or 1440p. Where does the ASUS Crossblade Ranger fit in you say? Well the Crossblade Ranger brings all of the coveted gaming motherboard features from the expensive Z97 and X99 ROG boards down to a more attractive price point. By gaming motherboard features we aren’t just talking of “sticking on a Killer NIC and make it red”. I’m referring to things that Gamers can actually notice and make use of like the ASUS KeyBot hardware and software package that allows you to bind macros to your keyboard even if it doesn’t have macro keys. Or the ASUS ROG GameFirst III packet prioritisation software with Intel’s high-spec Gigabit controller that allows you to accelerate and organise your internet connection priorities. There’s also the ASUS SupremeFX audio implementation with automatic headphone impedance detection (Sonic SenseAmp), custom hardware level audio profiles for different game types that are set via an onboard switch (Sonic SoundStage) and a variety of software enhancements for in-game voice chat, bass enhancement and virtual surround sound (Sonic Studio). It doesn’t stop there either, ASUS also offer their Sonic Radar II software which provides positional data on audio signals received in-game as well as a functional RAMDisk package for users who have enough RAM to load one of their favourite games onto.

Packaging and Accessories

Being an ROG series motherboard the accessory bundle for the Crossblade Ranger is well-endowed. Among the usual assortment of documentation we find four SATA cables, a dark metallic rear I/O shield, ASUS Q-Connectors for your front panel connectors, an ASUS ROG mousepad, an ROG door-hanger and some sticky-labels for marking up each of your SATA devices to avoid confusion.

Closer Look

While all motherboard vendors now have a red and black motherboard offering there’s just something special about the ASUS ROG design. The Crossblade Ranger is a stunning looking board for gamers.

Along the right hand edge of the motherboard we find 8 SATA ports, a fan header, USB 3.0 header, the motherboard 24 pin, a MemOK! button, an LN2 mode jumper, a Slow Mode switch, probes for voltage read-offs, a reset button, a power on button and a debug LED.

The bottom starts with premium ELNA audio capacitors on the left, the audio front panel header next to that, the SoundStage button for hardware level audio profiles, a TPM header, ROG_EXT header, clear CMOS button, dual USB 2.0 headers, a KeyBot button and the front panel connectors.

The SupremeFX 2014 audio package comes on its own isolated PCB which is illuminated red. That red illumination can be disabled within the BIOS too.

The rear I/O offers up all of the essentials for any system: plenty of USB, a legacy PS/2 for those who like it, a variety of display connections if you choose to use an APU, Intel Gigabit LAN and a plethora of audio jacks.

At the top of the motherboard we find a pair of CPU fan headers, the first of two stylised CPU VRM heatsinks and an EPS 8 pin CPU power.

The second CPU VRM heatsink holds the Ranger nomenclature. Around the CPU socket ASUS use an 8 phase VRM which equips their newly designed allow chokes, 10K black metallic caps and the NexFETTMMOSFET design.

PCIe connectivity will allow for dual-GPU configurations but being an FM2+ motherboard we can’t imagine many users will be opting for more than a single graphics card. The lack of any M.2 ports is the noticeable omission when comparing this board to an ROG Z97 equivalent like the Maximus VII Ranger.

The back of the motherboard features reinforcement plates for improved stability and cooling: something no other motherboard vendors do.

Athlon X4 860K CPU Available Starting Next Week

Those who run a dedicated graphics card have no need for the built-in GPU counterpart that’s offered from within the APU’s, and AMD of course has it covered for them too. The newest addition to the FM2+ CPU lineup; the Athlon X4 860K CPU, will start shipping next week according to a tweet from AMD’s VP of Sales, Roy Taylor.

The new Athlon X4 860K CPU follows the same recipe as all the other current Athlon CPUs, but kicks it up a notch. It is a quad core running at 3.7 GHz with a turbo speed of 4 GHz. If this still isn’t enough and you’d like more power than it delivers right out of the box, you’ll be happy about it being a Black Edition. The unlocked multiplier allows for easy overclocking on most motherboards. The AMD X4 860K has 4MB cache (2 x 2MB) and supports up to 2133 MHz memory, like its current brothers.

It drops right into the FM2+ socket and comes with a TDP of 95 watt and a 3-year warranty. Overclockers UK has the new AMD CPU listed for pre-order at a price of £67.99 inc VAT; a great price for this CPU.

Thank you AMD for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Overclockers UK

New AMD FM2+ CPU Spotted

A new AMD CPU has been spotted in the support manual for the FM2A88X Pro+ motherboard from AsRock. The new CPU has a model number of 450 and the Athlon branding, so it probably won’t have an integrated GPU. With the Athlon X4 860K being released next week, it’s logical to assume that it will be a dual-core Kaveri version.

The support list states the Athlon 450 has a clock speed of 3.5 GHz and 1MB L2 shared cache at a TDP of 65 Watts. The list didn’t mention any turbo core speed and judging by the model number, this will be a CPU with a locked multiplier.

A few other characteristics can be gleaned from the AD450XYBI23JA part number. The digit “2” in the part number signifies the number of cores. The digit “3” confirms the size of L2 cache, 1 MB shared between 2 cores, and indicates the lack of L3 cache. The “JA” suffix tells us that the CPU will be based on stepping A1 of Kaveri core. Release date of the Athlon X2 450 is not known yet.

Thank you cpuworld for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of AMD.

AMD Preparing Round of APU Price Cuts

In the western market the “Back-To-School” shopping season is nearly upon us. It is that time of year where parents and students alike dump copious amounts of money into buying new desktop and laptop computers so what better time for AMD to drop some of their APU prices than now. According to X-Bit Labs AMD is preparing a variety of price cuts for its desktop APUs to help boost sales. From September 1st a select variety of APUs will get price cuts of 7-8%. The bulk of these price cuts are for Richland based parts but there’s a Kaveri price cut too.

For enthusiasts the notable reduction in price is with the A10-7700K which has $10 shaved off its price. Richland gets a lot cheaper too as the A10-6800K, A10-6700, A8-6600K, A8-6500 and A8-6500T all get price cuts. Full details of the price cuts can be seen in the table below. The source also notes AMD will be releasing a new A4-7300 APU, almost certainly based on Kaveri architecture given the 7XXX naming strategy. It features two cores at up to 4GHz with 1MB of L2 cache, Radeon HD 8470D graphics and 192 stream processors. The TDP is 65W and it uses the FM2(+) socket.

Expect AMD’s price cuts to filter through to the pre-built PC channel fairly quickly. DIY consumers should also be able to pick up AMD’s APUs at their new lower prices at some point in September depending on how quickly retailers adjust to the new pricing.

Source: X-Bit Labs

Image #1 courtesy of AMD, Image #2 courtesy of X-Bit Labs

Asus ROG Crossblade Ranger FM2+ Motherboard Revealed

Asus have just revealed the latest entry to their Republic of Gamers (ROG) range. The new Crossblade Ranger motherboard is the first AMD FM2+ board to come sporting the ROG brand and that obviously means that Asus have packed this one full of gamer friendly features for AMDs latest hardware. Intel Gigabit Ethernet, GameFirst III and LANGuard, SupremeFX 2014, the best gaming interface with KeyBot and the best gaming performance with exclusive Auto Tuning technology to unleash the true power of AMD accelerated-processing units (APUs).

Best gaming performance

ROG’s Auto Tuning technology enables Crossblade Ranger to unleash the true power of AMD APUs with just few clicks. Enabled by the TurboV Processing Unit (TPU), Auto Tuning adjusts the CPU frequencies and ratios to offer precise voltage control and advanced CPU-performance monitoring, efficiently enhancing system performance with the most stable overclocking profile – so gamers enjoy superb stability and high speeds while playing.
Crossblade Ranger is also compatible with ROG’s brilliant Front Base dual-bay gaming panel. When added to Crossblade Ranger, Front Base enables one-click performance boosting and real-time system monitoring to make gaming experiences even more enjoyable.

Crossblade Ranger even comes with a ROG mouse mat completely free of charge. The plush feel and stylish design enables gamers to flaunt the awesome power of Crossblade Ranger. No details on price or release date just yet, but you can bet it’ll be available pretty soon and will have a premium price tag to match its premium features.

Thank you Guru3D for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Guru3D.

4 Generations Of The AMD APU: How Much Progress Has Been Made?

Introduction


Cast your mind back to mid-2011 when AMD released its first “APU”. Back then “APU” (Accelerated Processing Unit) was a term not many of us were familiar with, although the concept wasn’t alien as we’ve had it for quite some time: a CPU that also provides a GPU. Up until the first AMD APU most CPUs had pathetic onboard GPUs that were good for about one display, some video playback and that’s about it – that applies to both AMD and Intel CPUs. Now we have APUs that are capable of realistic 1080p gaming and that large shift has occurred in just three years – largely thanks to AMD’s APUs.

We have gone through four generations of AMD’s game-changing idea “the APU”, arguably something that has driven integrated graphics performance forward on both AMD and Intel platforms. The ball started rolling when AMD released its desktop “Llano” FM1 platform in 2011, this was followed by “Trinity” and the FM2 platform in late 2012. AMD then brought out a refreshed FM2 platform APU with “Richland” in 2013 and we have seen AMD’s latest “Kaveri” FM2+ APU platform this year in 2014. That’s three years of the APU across four generations of product releases – even if Trinity to Richland was more incremental than generational. What we want to look at today is examining the all important question: how much progress has been achieved with the APU? It’s a fairly simple examination we will be doing, we will be testing AMD’s four APU flagships from each generation to see how performance has changed over the generations and over time. In testing today we have the A8-3870K (Llano), the A10-5800K (Trinity), the A10-6800K (Richland) and the A10-7850K (Kaveri). We will be putting all these APUs through the same selectionof tests with fully updated drivers, benchmarks and operating systems to give a conclusive look at the APU’s progress since its first inception.

We won’t bore you with all the technical details of the APU and its history, but we do encourage anyone who is interested to check out some of our reviews and feature articles that have included AMD APUs in the past as these explain a lot of the technical aspects. All our past APU reviews and featured content can be found below so just click on any of them to get started!

FM2+ Socket Is Here For At Least Another Two Years

It is hardly uncommon knowledge that AMD like to get as much use out of their sockets as possible, and their latest FM2+ socket looks set to stick with us until at least 2016 without any major changes. Their newer desktop and APU processors rely on this socket and it’s great news that AMD don’t chop and change their socket types very often, as it means you can get extended use out of your motherboard, while still enjoying the benefits of upgrading your CPU/APU each year.

Yet even for AMD the delay on upgrading from FM2+ stands out a little more than most and it is being attributed to things such as DDR4 memory proliferation and AMD’s “project Fast-Forward” which aims to put high-bandwidth memory right into the APU die, something that should help their integrated APU graphics hardware get past memory bottlenecks, but something we likely won’t see now until 2016 and beyond, once DDR4 prices fall.

AMD’s Carrizo APU is set to use FM2+ and will be targeted at low-TDP devices such as notebooks and tablets, which will feature their next-gen Excavator micro-architecture, so it looks like FM2+ is here to stay, what comes next is anyone’s guess.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TechPowerUp.

The eTeknix Guide To Building Your Own NAS System For Under $220


Introduction


There may be a lot of people like myself who have missed the “NAS bandwagon” and have made do with other fragmented storage solutions up until now: multiple storage drives on different devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones) with the gap being bridged between those multiple devices through space restricted cloud storage (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive) or portable storage (flash drives, external hard drives, SD cards). However, there has to be an easier way to unify all your storage needs – and that’s what today is all about. Like many of our readers I am a technology enthusiast – I like to get hands on with things and do it myself rather than just buying pre-built solutions that often hold a significant price premium. Therefore, what better way than to get involved with the NAS (Network Attached Storage) craze than to build your own! Your own centralised cloud storage, fileserver, storage server, media centre or whatever else you want to do with it – how cool is that? And despite what people may tell you, or even what your own preconceptions are, building a NAS has never been easier. There’s a wealth of affordable hardware out there and more importantly an abundance of free software to help you configure your own NAS setup.

The aim of this guide is quite a simple one – to take you through my personal experiences with building a 6-Bay capable NAS within a strict budget of $220 using FreeNAS. Why $220? Well I wanted to build a 2 disk NAS box capable of streaming media and storing all of my files for the lowest cost possible, but I also want the scope to be able upgrade to 4-6 drives in the future. A quick search on somewhere like Newegg will show you that 4-Bay diskless NAS systems start from $300 and range all the way up to $700, so I wanted to better those NAS systems and do it at a lower cost. I am only a home user (like most of you will be) so I really do not need loads of advanced enterprise features and technologies – I just need a reasonably fast NAS server capable of meeting my storage and media needs. Enter today’s build which I believe meets all of those criteria at a hair under $220. This build was an interesting one as we independently chose all the parts for our NAS guide that we wanted to use and then went to the companies to see if they were interested in sponsoring our build guide. A few weeks of planning later and here we are – so a huge thank you goes out to AMD, ASRock, Kingston Technology, SilverStone Technology and Western Digital for providing the parts to our NAS build guide. At just $220 this diskless NAS has the potential to scale up to six hard drives and offers a variety of RAID configurations as well as support for on-chip transcoding. So without any further ado let’s introduce all the details of our $220 NAS system, we will start by analysing the parts we chose: how much they cost and why we chose them.

Three New A58 Series FM2+ Motherboards Launched By MSI

MSI launched its three additions to the AMD A58 series FM2+ motherboards, the MSI A58-G41 PC Mate, MSI A58M-E35 and MSI A58M-E33, with support for the new AMD Kaveri APU having also compatibility with AM2 socket processors such as the Richland and Trinity APUs.

The motherboards are said to be available in ATX and mATX form factors, offering a great connectivity with its Dothill RAID controller, onboard LAN, PCIe 3.0, SATA and up to 12 USB ports. It is also stated to offer a multitude of multimedia features, such as H.264 hardware decoding and encoding, support for 4K UHD video, Blu-Ray playback and 8-channel HD Audio through HDMI, all suitable for multi-purpose multimedia use.

With the help of AMD’s Kaveri APU, the MSI A58 motherboards are said to support triple display 4K UHD configurations with up to 4096 x 2160 pixel resolution. Along with Military Class 4 components such as Hi-C CAPs, Solid CAPs, Dark CAPs, SFC and Dark Chokes, it ensures every PC runs stable under extreme conditions.

The MSI A58 motherboards are also equipped with a variety of new technologies, like OC Genie 4 providing easy to use overclockcing functions, the easy to use Click BIOS 4 and the Command Center software, providing the ultimate monitoring, tuning and controlling features for the hardware at hand.

More information about the MSI A58-G41 PC Mate, MSI A58M-E35 and MSI A58M-E33 can be found on MSI’s official website here.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of TechPowerUp

MSI Launches New A88XI AC FM2+ Mini-ITX Motherboard board

There aren’t many Mini-ITX FM2+ motherboards available on the market right now, so the latest reveal from MSI is certainly a good sign for those looking to build using the smaller form factor, and wanting some of the latest AMD hardware at the heart of their next build.

The latest FM2+ board from MSI is the MSI A88XI AC and it is based off of the AMD A88X chipset, although that much is obvious from the model number of the board. With support for Kaveri, the new board is packed full of features such as dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0, while being well equipped with connectivity options such as VGA, DVI-D, HDMI 1.4a, and it even packs a high-speed PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. There is a PCIe Mini Card slot, but this is taken up by the WiFi/Bluetooth module, although I see no reason why you wouldn’t take that out and apply your own device should you really need to. Connectivity gets better still with two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Etherner port, S/PDIF, four SATA 6Gbps ports and a single mSATA port.

The board is nicely designed with a black and white finish that should look great in virtually any system build, and with prices expected to be in the region of €90 give or take a little in either direction, it’s looking like pretty good value for money too.

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Fudzilla.

GIGABYTE Reveal A-Series ‘Kaveri’ Support For A88X, A78 & A55 FM2+ Motherboards

Gigabyte have announced official support for next generation AMD A-Series APUs based on the highly anticipated ‘Kaveri’ architecture. Gigabyte ‘Kaveri’ support includes current AMD A88X and A55 (rev3.0) platform motherboards plus forthcoming A78 platform motherboards.

“By enabling support on current GIGABYTE AMD motherboards for these new AMD A-Series APUs, GIGABYTE ensures our customers are able to take advantage of a whole new approach to PC architecture design,” commented Henry Kao, Vice President of GIGABYTE Motherboard Business Unit. “Combining the highest level of quality design with the most advanced set of features, GIGABYTE FM2+ motherboards offer the best user experience for these new A-Series APUs.”

“These FM2+ Series motherboards from GIGABYTE are the ultimate showcase for our new A-Series APUs,” said Bernd Lienhard, corporate vice president and general manager, Client Business Unit, AMD. “In collaboration with GIGABYTE, AMD is proud to enable a truly optimized user experience in terms of raw compute performance while creating an industry-leading visual and audio experience with the latest generation of our APUs.”

The new FM2+ Series motherboards are packed full of features including the new AMP-UP Audio technology which includes an upgradable OP Amp, studio-grade Nichicon capacitors and special gain boost switches. On top of that you’ll also find True Digital Power Delivery, Triple Display Support, AMD Dual Graphics, AMD Eyefinity and native support for 4K via HDMI and Display Port. The boards will also be backed up by many other Gigabyte features such as DualBIOS, 2 x copper PCB for better heat dissipation, one-fuse-per-port to provide reliable power to each USB port.

“The latest AMD A10-7850K and A10-7700K APUs integrate an enhanced CPU core based on the ‘Steamroller’ architecture with a new and updated Radeon Graphics core. Supporting native 8 GT/s PCI Express gen 3.0 and DX11.1 graphics, these new AMD A-Series APUs also offer native support for 4K resolution displays on HDMI and DisplayPort.”

GIGABYTE FM2+ Series Motherboard Models

AMD A88X Platform

  • G1.Sniper A88X
  • F2A88X-D3H
  • F2A88XM-D3H
  • F2A88XM-HD3
  • F2A88XM-DS2
  • F2A88XN-WIFI

AMD A55 Platform (rev3.0 and above)

  • F2A55-DS3
  • F2A55M-HD2
  • F2A55M-DS2

AMD A78 Platform (Forthcoming models)

  • F2A78M-D3H
  • F2A78M-HD2 F2A78M-DS2

We really look forward to seeing these boards hit the market, while Intel may still dominate many performances sectors, the FM2+ architecture does pack a lot of promise and having the support of some great motherboards will only make them better.

Thank you Gigabyte for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Gigabyte.

ASUS A88X-PRO (FM2+) Motherboard Review

Introduction


With AMD’s fourth generation of AMD APUs, Kaveri, just around the corner it couldn’t be a better time to look at a brand spanking new FM2+ motherboard from ASUS. Today we have the ASUS A88X PRO motherboard on the test bench and this high-end motherboard will make the perfect home for any Kaveri based system. Of course you can use Trinity or Richland APUs too as the FM2+ socket is backwards compatible with FM2 APUs, but the main reason these motherboards have been released is to cater for the new Kaveri APUs that have more CPU and GPU performance than their predecessors.  The ASUS A88X-PRO has already been released in a few markets, including the USA, but in the UK we won’t see this motherboard until some point next month. Of course Kaveri will take until the the end of Q1 to hit the shelves so there’s no rush in that regard. The specifications of the ASUS A88X-PRO FM2+ motherboard are as follows:

ASUS is pushing its 4 Way Optimisation package as one of the key features – this includes the Digi+ power controls, TPU performance boost, EPU energy savings and Fan Xpert 2 fan controlling and monitoring software.

ASUS claim that by enabling their GPU Boost function you can boost the graphics performance of locked APUs from within AI Suite III

ASUS are also using their 5X Protection package which includes digital power stability, overcurrent protection, ESD guards, 5K rated solid caps and a stainless steel shielded rear I/O

Other features of this motherboard included a revised ASUS UEFI BIOS, ASUS Remote GO! support for an advanced home wireless management system, all the latest connectivity (USB 3.0/ PCIe 3.0/ SATA III), AI Suite III, DirectKey (a dedicated “go to BIOS” button) and 4K/Multi-monitor support with the advanced FM2+ graphics that are due to come with Kaveri.

More details can be found on the product page here.

Gigabyte G1 Sniper A88X (FM2+) Motherboard Review

Introduction


AMD are rumoured to be exiting the high end desktop market with the FX series of processors on the AM3+ socket expected to be AMD’s last range of standalone CPU products. Of course the main reason for that decision by AMD, if it does turn out to be true, is that AMD simply cannot compete with Intel at the highest end market segment. However, when it comes to APUs AMD have a distinct advantage thanks to the advanced integrated graphical performance and so AMD’s APU platform isn’t going anywhere any time soon. AMD’s current APU products for the desktop platform are codename “Richland” and they bear the AX-6XXX monikers. The predecessors to those were “Trinity” which were of the AX-5XXX naming system. Of course Trinity and Richland APUs are virtually identical – using the same graphics VLIW4 architecture and the same 32nm Piledriver CPU cores, the main difference between the two is higher clock speeds and improved power efficiency. They are physically identical, both supporting the FM2 and FM2+ sockets on the A55, A75, A85X and A88X chipsets.

What’s coming after Richland is Kaveri, expected early next year Kaveri will run on the FM2+ socket with A88X and A85X motherboards. Today we have with us one of those newer Kaveri-Ready AMD desktop APU motherboards running off the A88X chipset. Of course the fact Kaveri isn’t here yet means we are using AMD’s best Richland APU, the A10 6800K, to test this motherboard as AMD Trinity and Richland APUs are compatible with all FM2+ motherboards.  Specifically we are reviewing Gigabyte’s G1 Sniper A88X motherboard today, this motherboard is Gigabyte’s best gaming offering for AMD’s APU platform featuring support for Trinity, Richland and Kaveri APUs, up to 64GB of 2400MHz memory, high quality audio with interchangeable op-amps, CrossFire support and support for up to 8 SATA III 6Gbps devices. Gigabyte have certainly left no stone unturned as they have tried to cram every feature a gamer could want into an attractively priced package. Below you can see the full specifications of this motherboard:

As always most motherboard vendors want to showcase unique or interesting features their motherboards have. In the case of Gigabyte, if we put the usual Ultra Durable 4 Plus component set aside, the main feature Gigabyte have developed and focused on is the audio implementation. Gigabyte’s extensive modifications start off with a USB digital to analogue converter with an isolated power source maximising the quality of the audio output. Gigabyte have also added Gain Boost switches which can switch between 2.5X and 6X Gain Boost ratios depending on the headphones or speakers being used. 

The star of the show, aside from the gold plated audio hardware, separated PCB and Nichicon Pro Audio caps, is the interchangeable Op-Amps. Gigabyte’s Premium Upgrade Kit, which is sold separately, includes three additional Op-Amps:

  • OP-AMP A – Burr-Brown – OPA2111KP
  • OP-AMP B – Linear Technology – LT1358CN8
  • OP-AMP C – Analog Devices – AD827JNZ

The kit also comes with an IC extractor to help you remove the current Op-Amp to swap in a new one. Of course each Op-Amp gives you a different tonality, different warmth and bass levels and so on. These are really aimed at gamers who are using headphones or 2.1 speakers as only the “green” audio jack is amplified by it. However, it really is quite nice to have the option to customise your audio – it is something we rarely ever see.

Enermax’s LIQMAX 120S Liquid CPU Cooler Series Announced

ENERMAX announced a new LIQMAX 120S series composed of the ELC-LM120S-HP and ELC-LM120S-TAA, which features a patented Shunt-Channel-Technology to improve thermal conductivity, a unique 3D extruded cold-plate structure designed for better stability and rapid heat conductivity. The HP variant has a high-pressure airflow fan while the TAA variant comes with patented blue circular LED lights. Both fans feature a Smart APS Control provides 3 peak RPM options.

The ENERMAX thermal team has taken a long-term development to improve upon Enermax’s liquid CPU cooler series. With the all-in-one, closed-loop system, the LIQMAX 120S-HP & LIQMAX 120S-TAA both provide superior cooling performance without the complexity of DIY water cooling kits. These maintenance free, all-in-one liquid cooling systems come with prefilled coolant in the system and offer trouble-free user installation.

The quality and design of the water block determines the cooling performance of a liquid cooler. This is why LIQMAX 120S applies ENERMAX’s new patented Shunt Channel Technology cold plate. The SCT and the unique 3D Extruded cold-plate structure give excellent stability and rapid heat conductivity, redistribute the coolant and maximize the utilization rate. The less utilized coolant has more opportunity to combine with the heated coolant which traveled through the hot zone.

Also, the renowned ENERMAX Twister Bearing is now integrated with High-Pressure Airflow Fan with APS Control. The fans also come with 3 cooling PWM variable modes, including Silent Mode at 600~1300 RPM, Performance Mode at 600~2000 RPM and Overclock Mode at 600~2500 RPM.

LIQMAX 120S-HP & LIQMAX 120S-TAA coolers also feature a ceramic bearing for longer life span. LIQMAX series supports the following Intel CPUs: LGA 775/1150/ 1155/1156/1366/2011; AMD based processors: AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1/FM2 with trouble-free smart bracket installation.

Thank you Hi-Tech Daily News for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Hi-Tech Daily News

Kotetsu CPU Cooler Released by Scythe

With the announcement of the new Kotetsu CPU Cooler, Japanese cooling expert Scythe is going forth to offer a 120 mm tower model with an aggressive pricing and great cost/performance ratio.

With the Kotetsu CPU Cooler, Scythe is able to prove that great performance does not necessarily require the heatsink to be very heavy. Kotetsu is equipped with four high-quality six millimeter copper heatpipes, an optimized aluminum fin-structure and an all-copper base-plate, yet puts up a weight of merely 480 grams.

Fast dissipation of heat from the fins is managed by the pre-mounted 120 mm Glide Steam axial fan, which rotates in a range between 400 and 1.400 rpm thanks to the PWM-support. The noise level varies between inaudible 5,3 dBa to still very silent 28,0 dBA. Although being very silent, supplied Glide Stream axial fan is able to move from 63,49 to 165,10 cubic meter per hour, respectively 20,7 to 79,0 cubic feet per minute. Similar to other Scythe CPU Cooler models, Kotetsu can also be equipped with an addition case fan, to create a Push-Pull constellation.

Another great feature of the new Kotetsu CPU Cooler is its compact size of 130 x 58 x 160 mm (W x H x D). Hence allows it to be used even for gaming systems based on Mini-ATX and Micro-ATX form-factor. Such systems have usually high restriction when it comes to the height and size of the built-in components. Scythe utilized the „H.P.M.S.” mounting system in addition, to assure an easy and fast mounting procedure.

Compatibility to a big variety of sockets is yet another specialty of Scythe. The Kotetsu CPU Cooler supports the Intel sockets LGA1150, LGA775, LGA1155, LGA1156 and LGA1366 as well as AMD sockets AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1 and FM2. All required mounting clips for the screw-based mounting system, alongside one wrench and thermal grease, are supplied as well.

Scythe Kotetsu CPU Cooler is available at a price of $38 / €28 / £23.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of TechPowerUp

AMD Kaveri Desktop APU Production And Launch Dates Revealed

A new report emerging from VR-Zone suggests we will see AMD’s Kaveri APUs this year after all, but they won’t become available until early 2014. The report suggests that initial production of Kaveri APUs begins in December 2013 with a target launch date of February 2014. The chip is expected to be announced on December 5th 2013 in one of AMD’s classic “paper launches”. Then consumers will have to about another 2 months to wait, until mid-February, to actually be able to get their hands on one of these Kaveri APUs.

Kaveri is built in the socket FM2+ package using the A88X chipset. The Kaveri APU features Steamroller CPU cores, GCN graphics cores, support for AMD TrueAudio, faster DDR3 memory support and PCIe 3.0 support, compared to the current generation Richland APUs.

Images courtesy of VR-Zone

Viper 3 Low Profile Series Memory Kits Revealed By Patriot

Patriot has revealed its latest memory which is dedicated to overclocking and extreme gaming. The Viper 3 series is about 3cm tall, providing clearance for large CPU coolers. Its heat shield does not limit CPU cooling options and provides thermal dissipation to extend the lifetime of the modules. Those who are looking for no hassle plug-and-play performance, these Viper 3 Low Profile modules provide full support for Intel XMP to make overclocking easy. Simply install the Viper 3 Low Profile Series modules in any XMP 1.3 enabled system and it will automatically select the maximum overclocking performance. No further tweaking is required to obtain maximum performance from these memory modules.

Built using high quality materials and hand-tested to ensure compatibility with the latest Intel and AMD processors, more specifically they are compatible with Intel 7 and 8 and AMD’s AM3+, FM1 and FM2 series processors. The Viper 3 Low Profile Series modules are dual and quad channel packed, being available in 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB Kits, with speeds of 1600 MHz – 1866 MHz – 2133 MHz.

A price has not yet been revealed for the Viper 3 Low Profile Memory kits, but those interested in more details about where to buy or all available memory kit combos can head over to Patriot’s official website for more information.

Thank you HardwareZone for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Partriot.

FinalWire Reveal AIDA64 v3.20 – Support For Windows 8.1

FinalWire today announced their latest official version of AIDA64 with version 3.2. The new update brings a whole bunch of new features that are crucial for staying up to date with the latest hardware and software developments in the technology industry.  The main change is support for Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 but improved compatibility for new SSDs, graphics cards, CPU sockets and processors (including optimisations for Ivy Bridge-E) have all been made. We of course used AIDA64 quite intensively in our most recent CPU review of the Core i7 4960X.

New features & improvements

  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 RTM and Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM support
  • Support for up to 128 logical processors and 2 processor groups
  • SensorPanel area graphs and histograms
  • Optimized 64-bit benchmarks for Intel Core i7 “Ivy Bridge-E” CPU
  • HTML report menu, revamped MHTML report format
  • Socket FM2+ and LGA-1150 motherboards support
  • DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.4, APP SDK 2.8.1, OpenCL 1.2 SPIR support
  • Support for Bochs PC Emulator 2.6.2
  • Intel 525, Intel 530, Samsung 840 Evo SSD support
  • GPU details for nVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti, GeForce GTX 760

Full details on new changes can be seen here. You can download the new AIDA64 right here.

Image courtesy of FinalWire

ASRock Reveal A88X FM2+ AMD Motherboards

ASRock have just unveiled their latest FM2+ socket motherboards based on the AMD A88X chipset according to TechPowerUp. These motherboards support the upcoming Kaveri APUs but are also backwards compatible with current AX-6XXX Richland series APUs as well as AX-5XXX Trinity series APUs, only Llano AX-3XXX APUs will not be compatible as they use a different socket – FM1.  In terms of what ASRock are offering ,well first up is the FM2A88X Extreme6+ motherboard which is an ATX form factor board with four DIMM slots and a 10 phase VRM.

There are two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots which default to 8X/8X when both populated. The third PCI Express lane is 16X physical but wired to 4X at Gen 2.0 speeds through the A88X chipset which also provides two PCIe 1X slots and two legacy PCI slots. The rest of the expansion includes 7 SATA III ports, one eSATA III port, dual link DVI, DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI. 8 Channel HD audio, Gigabit Ethernet and 6 USB 3.0 ports top the FM2A88X Extreme6+ off.

Next up is the FM2A88M Extreme4+ which is a Micro-ATX equivalent of the A88X chipset. This motherboard uses a 6 phase VRM, four DIMM slots and just a single PCI Express 3.0 X16 slot.

The second PCI Express slot is Gen 2 and wired to the chipset at 4X, there is also a legacy PCI slot and PCI Express 1 X slot to top off connectivity.

Other connectivity includes DVI, VGA, HDMI, four USB 3.0, 8 Channel HD audio and Gigabit Ethernet.

Images courtesy of ASRock