FreshTech Solutions Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

FreshTech Solutions is one of the leading system integrators in the UK and forged an impressive reputation for their huge range of pre-configured PCs. Whether you’re on a tight budget looking to try out PC gaming for the first time, or a content creator seeking the absolute best performance, there’s something to suit your requirements. Each PC is backed by generous warranty period and it’s even possible to purchase additional cover for further peace-of-mind. For example, on systems costing £1000 and above, you can increase the warranty length from 3 years to 5 years for £25. If you’re opting for a cheaper rig under the £1000 mark, then it’s possible to select three years cover for £25 and five years support at a cost of £50. This level of flexibility allows you to protect your investment for a period which you expect to use the system for.

When selecting a custom PC, the number of configurations and pricing variation means it’s extraordinarily difficult for novices to judge which model to go for. It’s not always a sensible approach to spend more if you’re unlikely to reap the benefits. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of custom PCs from FreshTech Solutions that we are happy to recommend at various price points. Hopefully, our readers will find this useful and those without technical knowledge can make an informed decision about which unit suits their usage scenario.


£529.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6400
  • 8gb Crucial DDR4 2133MHz
  • 120gb Kingston V300 SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • Nvidia GTX 950 2GB
  • Gigabyte H110M-S2H
  • Falcon Blue Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour)

The first machine we’re taking a look at targets consumers on a very tight budget who want to enter into the Intel ecosystem. While you could compile a cheaper build using an AMD CPU and AM3+ motherboard, it doesn’t offer much headroom in the future if you suddenly demand additional horsepower. The majority of games are GPU bound but there’s some examples including ARMA III and more recently, Black Desert Online which rely heavily on a system’s CPU performance. This particular build features a large enough capacity boot SSD to install the operating system and enjoy a snappier feel in Windows.

Also, the GTX 950 2GB graphics card is a great choice for 1080P gaming providing you turn down a few settings. On another note, the lack of overclocking isn’t an issue at this price and won’t impact on the user experience during graphically intensive games. Ideally, I’d recommend paying extra for the next tier, but this is a great choice for beginners moving away from consoles for the very first time.


£699.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 960 2GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Blue Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next system which retails for £699.00 offers overclocking functionality due to the unlocked K processor and Z170 chipset. Furthermore, the Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 contains an illuminated LED strip on the PCB to create a more ostentatious appearance. This higher end model includes the GTX 960 2GB GPU to maintain improved frame-rates at higher settings. It’s a significant boost over the GTX 950 and worth considering given the constant influx of modern titles requiring additional graphical grunt. Of course, it’ s still a budget option and pales in comparison to higher end graphics cards, but it should provide an enjoyable user-experience with a 1920×1080 display. Also, the boot SSD’s higher capacity allows you to store your favourites games and benefit from faster load times.


£899.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • WD 1TB WD10EZEX HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair CX600 80Plus Bronze PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Red Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next tier’s system costs £899.99 and has a number of key improvements including a secondary mechanical hard disk, 16GB RAM and GTX 970 graphics card. When discussing the previous systems it’s important to remember that I’d recommend adding a mechanical drive to store large sums of data. This allows you to easily install various games while ensuring the boot SSD doesn’t fill up rather quickly. Thankfully, this doesn’t increase the asking price by an exponential amount. On another note, the 16GB memory is useful when working with video, photo editing and other complex workloads. It’s not really necessary in games just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if 16GB becomes the standard in the next few years.

NVIDIA’s GTX 970 offers absolutely stunning performance even with a 2560×1440 monitor and can exceed 60 frames-per-second in various titles including the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. It’s unquestionably one of the best price to performance GPUs on the market and a suitable choice for a powerful gaming system.


£1049.00

 

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K Tested Overclock to 4.6GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • Seagate 1TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Falcon Gaming Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Moving towards the higher end market is a system which retails for £1049.00. This model contains a higher wattage power supply and Corsair water cooling unit to attain better temperatures. Furthermore, FreshTech Solutions guarantees the system will reach 4.6GHz and tests each overclock extremely carefully. This will be incredibly useful to consumers who feel apprehensive about overclocking their CPU and haven’t got any experience in this field. They really shouldn’t be concerned because the process is ridiculous simple. However, whenever anything goes awry, it’s important to have an excellent level of after-care support.


£1599.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i7 6700K Tested Overclock to 4.5GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 500GB SSD
  • Seagate 2TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

The £1599.00 system swaps out the i5 6600K for Intel’s enthusiast flagship i7-6700K on the LGA1151 chipset. Once again, FreshTech Solutions guarantees an impressive minimum overclock to reach significant gains compared to stock values. Also, the 500GB SSD is a great addition which allows you to install various applications without constantly checking on the remaining capacity. The system is housed in the highly regard Fractal Design R5 chassis which creates a more premium feel. Clearly, the main improvement revolves around the GTX 980Ti and is a major step up when compared to the GTX 970.

Even though the GPU isn’t capable of running games at maximum details on a 4K display, it’s able to really reach high figures on a 2560×1440 or 3440×1440 monitor. If you want to improve the performance even further, it’s possible to add a second GTX 980Ti due to the power supply’s 750 watts rating. The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard supports USB 3.1, SATA Express, multi-GPU configurations and opts for a superb audio solution. Once combined, this offers an absolutely staggering user-experience.


£1938.00

Specification:

  • Intel Core i7 5930K 3.50GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000MHz
  • 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 Solid State Drive
  • Seagate 2TB Hard Drive
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte X99-SLI
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Up to this point, we’ve focussed on the consumer LGA1151 chipset which offers great value for typical desktop tasks. Unfortunately, the platform only supports up to a 4-core 8-thread CPU. This severely limits the computational power during multi-threaded workloads. As a result, many professionals opt for 2011-v3 powered systems because they can leverage extra performance using 6-core or even 8-core processors. The next system totalling £1938.00 utilises a hex core processor with 40 PCI-E lanes and a 2TB hard disk.

Not only that, the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe boot drive is capable of an astounding maximum read of 2500MB/s and maximum write reaching 1500MB/s. This allows games to load faster and helps to process huge 4K video projects in a more efficient manner. Of course, this elite-grade PC opts for the best possible hardware including the GTX 980Ti and Gigabyte X99-SLI motherboard. This means you can have a powerful workstation and play demanding games in your leisure time.

If you’d like us to review any of the systems mentioned above, please let us know in the comments section below.

ASUS Sabertooth Z170 S (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction

ASUS have compiled a comprehensive Z170 motherboard range which caters to different sections of the consumer market. For example, the GAMING PRO line-up offers superb functionality and impeccable stability at an affordable price point. ROG products evoke a more premium feel and includes a stunning software suite for power users. The Sabertooth brand revolves around a stringent testing procedure to ensure each motherboard exhibits unprecedented reliability. The extreme thermal testing and deployment of TUF components prioritizes long-term durability. As a result, it’s a great option for consumers who demand a very high-end motherboard and have no intentions of upgrading in the near future.

Typically, motherboards opt for a red and black colour scheme because it’s the most popular option among the core gaming audience. Some time ago, ASUS unleashed the limited edition Z97 Sabertooth Mark S which utilizes an innovative white PCB and military camouflage. It’s quite rare to see motherboard sporting a white theme and while there is some competition from the MSI Krait series, ASUS is the only manufacturer to offer a pure white PCB.

The Sabertooth Z170 S is the spiritual successor to the Z97 Sabertooth Mark S and features a very unusual design philosophy. When adopting such a wacky colour scheme, it’s bound to have a polarizing reception and I’m fascinated to hear feedback on ASUS’ aesthetic choices. Looking beyond the visual aspects, I’m expecting to see some very impressive numbers given the premium electronics and DIGI+ Power Control.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard’s box is characterized by a white finish and contains camouflage highlights. This provides a great insight into the product’s unconventional styling and creates a web of intrigue. On the front, information regarding the 5 year warranty is displayed in a clear manner.

Moving onto the opposite side, there’s a detailed description of the product’s thermal radar monitoring made possible by the TUF ICe processor. On another note, the packaging outlines the rear I/O connectivity and basic motherboard layout.

Included in the package is a user’s guide, M.2 screws, driver’s disk, case badge, certificate of reliability, stickers and a gorgeous white I/O shield. As someone who loves the technical details of motherboards, it’s fantastic to read the reliability assessment document. Here, you can browse information regarding a huge array of tests such as moisture resistance, thermal shock, solder bath, salt spray and more!

There’s also four SATA cables, a Q Connector, CPU installation tool, back I/O dust cover and SLI bridge. The Q Connector is a really handy tool which eliminates the frustration factor when attaching front panel headers. Furthermore, the CPU installation tool is designed to minimize the contact time and pressure between your fingers and the CPU. While it’s not necessary for veteran builders, it could prevent beginners from causing damage during the build process.

Overclockers UK Titan Dark Zone Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Overclockers UK is one of the leading stockists of PC hardware and their engineering team produces an impressive range of custom rigs to suit contrasting tastes. Whether you’re looking for a silent air-cooled build, or extreme overclocked PC with premium water cooling parts, there’s something designed for your specific requirements. Often, whenever a new game is released which sells remarkably well, consumers like to pay homage with a system based around its theme. This can be a challenge especially if the game in question doesn’t have a distinctive colour scheme. The Division is an open world third-person shooter set in a bleak vision of New York City ravaged by a smallpox pandemic. This intriguing setting and captivating multiplayer confrontations have proved to be incredibly popular! As a result, The Division became Ubisoft’s fastest selling game on record and attracted a very passionate community.

This success story has given Overclockers UK inspiration for their latest gaming PC entitled the Titan Dark Zone. The system opts for orange braided PSU extension cables and vibrant LED lighting which creates a stunning aesthetic design. Combining the orange tones with black jet black components is quite unusual and a reference to The Division’s box art. Therefore, the Titan Dark Zone is a dream come true for fans of this particular title and features a very potent specification capable of powering VR devices without any concessions. The Intel i7-6700K is professionally overclocked to 4.5GHz using the Alpenfohn Broken 2 cooler. As a result, I expect to see an impeccable performance to noise ratio which surpasses many closed-loop-coolers. On another note, the 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory, factory overclocked GTX 980Ti and Samsung 250GB boot drive should be able to provide a sensational gaming experience even on high-resolution monitors. Rather surprising, Overclockers UK have decided to use a non-modular power supply which complicates cables management. On the other hand, the PSU has received a great deal of critical acclaim and showcases the careful decision-making process when designing a system’s specification.

Specifications

  • Name: Overclockers UK Titan Dark Zone
  • Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX
  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A-SLI Plus
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Alpenfohn Broken 2
  • System Memory: Team Group Elite 16GB (8x2GB) 2400MHz CL16 RAM
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung 250GB 850 Evo SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Seagate 2TB 7200RPM HDD
  • Graphics card: MSI GeForce GTX 980ti Armor X2 6GB
  • Power Supply: XFX TS 750W 80 Plus Gold
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive: N/A 
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
  • Warranty: Three Year (24 Month Collect and Return plus 12 Month labour) Mainland UK and Ireland Only
  • Price: £1549.99

Packing and Accessories

The system arrived in an extremely large box which cannot fit on my photography backdrop. This is the reason why I’ve taken a snapshot in the hallway to emphasize the package’s mammoth size. Overclockers UK always adopt such an attentive approach to packaging and employ durable materials which enhances the level of protection substantially. It’s evidently clear that the company has considered the strain delicate PCs go under during transit and taken every necessary step to dramatically reduce the probability of damage occurring.

Once the top cover has been removed, we can see an ample supply of durable cardboard inserts which holds the system firmly in position.

The Titan Dark Zone is placed in the original chassis box and secured with strong tape. Honestly, I’d be extremely surprised if you received the system with even cosmetic imperfections considering multiple layers were used for protective purposes.

There’s additional support inside the chassis box via two strong polystyrene blocks.

The system’s internal components are surrounded by three Instapak foam pieces. These are essential additions which protect the CPU mounting and prevent the graphics card from applying too much pressure on the PCI-E slot during delivery.

In terms of accessories, OCUK included a Welcome Pack and Windows 10 Home OEM DVD containing the product code. The Welcome Pack outlines the system’s specification, and warranty terms in an easy to understand manner. Personally, I love the overall presentation and solder joints design on the front cover.

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GPU-Z

MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


MSI has rapidly established itself as one of the most reputable motherboard manufacturers and constantly strives to enhance the user experience through an intuitive BIOS interface and marvellous reliability. Additionally, the company offers a huge range of products to suit various colour schemes and often creates extremely-unique designs as demonstrated by the gorgeous, Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM motherboard. Some time ago, MSI released the Z170A GAMING PRO which adopted a fantastic red and black theme to please the core gaming demographic. Although, it’s difficult to stand out when using this colour scheme because manufacturers tend to fixate on a safe, popular design. That’s not to say there’s anything particular wrong with utilizing these colours, but I’d prefer to see more vendors breaking the mould through truly unusual aesthetic choices.

Since the Z170A GAMING PRO’s release, MSI has listened intently to user feedback and decided to construct a brand new model entitled, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON. At first glance, the only difference appears to be the new carbon fibre skin. However, this isn’t the case because MSI has made a raft of changes to enhance the motherboard’s connectivity. More specifically, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON features two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one being type-A while the other is type-C. Furthermore, the redundant PCI slot has been dropped in favour of a fourth PCI-E x1 slot. Thankfully, the 180-degree angle SATA ports have been removed and replaced with a more suitable arrangement using right-angled connectors. Finally, the USB 3.1 Gen 1 layout features two on the rear and four via an internal header while USB 2.0 options now contain a total of 8 ports through a front four rear four setup.

With a recommended retail price of £119.99, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is destined to compete alongside the ASUS Z170 PRO GAMING. As a result, it will be fascinating to see how the different products compare and I expect the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON to remain very competitive in synthetic testing.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The motherboard comes is a visually appealing box which outlines the RGB functionality, and gaming focus. I particularly like the neon design from the background vehicle which corresponds with the sort of lighting embedded onto the motherboard’s PCB.

The rear portion is packed full of information regarding the motherboard’s layout, impressive software package and premium-grade hardware. This is presented in a really clean, and concise manner with statistics to help quantify the importance of each unique feature.

In terms of accessories, there’s a detailed user’s guide, product registration card, cable labels, CPU installation guide and driver disk. It’s great to see the inclusion of cable labels because they help with diagnostics if you have multiple drives in a RAID configuration and struggle to determine which is the boot device.

Here we can see the bundled I/O shield, SLI bridge and SATA cables. The I/O shield’s red lettering and MSI dragon logo evokes a luxury feel and emphasizes the motherboard’s target audience.

BIOSTAR GAMING H170T (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


BIOSTAR’s retail presence in the western market is rather small as stockists focus on the more recognizable vendors among consumers. Despite this, BIOSTAR is one of the leading Taiwanese global brands and produces a huge range of affordable hardware. Back in 2013, the company launched the first motherboard with an integrated Wireless LAN module which shows their commitment to innovation. Granted, BIOSTAR’s aesthetic design is an acquired taste and I strongly believe this is an area which needs fine tuning especially if they want to appeal to enthusiasts. While some users don’t really care about a motherboard’s appearance, it’s becoming quite common for system builders to have colour coordinated builds. Nevertheless, it’s always fascinating to test any BIOSTAR product and determine how well it stacks up against the competition.

As its name suggests, the BIOSTAR GAMING H170T is built on Intel’s H170 chipset, which supports the latest Skylake processors. Unlike the more expensive Z170 platform, overclocking is theoretically disabled on H170. However, BCLK overclocking is possible on H170 motherboards with the correct BIOS and even allows non-K CPUs to reach an impressive frequency boost. On another note, it’s essential to check every H170 motherboard’s specification as some models opt for DDR3L compatibility while others use DDR4 DIMMs up to 2133MHz. This particular example caters to the lower-end audience and features a maximum capacity of 32GB DDR3 memory, dual Gigabit LAN, 32Gb/s M.2 connector, and Realtek ALC892 audio codec. As a result, the GAMING H170T offers an attractive package for the budget-conscience user and I expect it to master the price to performance ratio.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard comes in an attractive box which clearly displays the model name on a leatherette background. This evokes a premium feel and reminds me of the Logitech G27’s leather rim. The overall design is understated but striking enough to appeal to the gaming clientèle.

On the rear, there is a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s connectivity options, power phases and other essential features. Furthermore, graphical diagrams are used to explain the benefits of high-end components such 10K rated capacitors and durable ferrite chokes.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a basic guide to use the Smart Ear 3D Utility, product catalogue and user’s manual. Unlike many booklets these days, the product catalogue is in colour which encourages the end-user to browse BIOSTAR’s extensive product range.

Other additions include a driver disk, I/O shield, SATA cables, and M.2 screws.

Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 TH (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


Intel’s latest Skylake architecture is built on the 14nm manufacturing process and designed to replace the previous generation, Haswell Refresh CPUs. However, the Core i7-6700K is currently a poor value proposition throughout Europe and costs upwards of £350. While the Z170 motherboards are an affordable proposition, some consumers are still waiting for CPU price cuts before considering making the switch. Furthermore, the i7-6700K is priced incredibly close to the X99-based Core i7 5820K which contains 6 cores and provides enhanced performance in multi-threaded workstation tasks.

Eventually, Skylake K-series CPUs should fall to reasonable pricing around the £250 mark and increase the sales of Z170 motherboards. The latest motherboard to arrive at eTeknix headquarters is the Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 TH which supports 3-way SLI, Turbo B-Clock Tuning IC, SATA Express, USB 3.1 Type-C and 40 Gb/s Thunderbolt 3 capable of powering dual 4K displays at 60Hz. Gigabyte’s engineering team has developed a feature-rich motherboard which utilizes the fastest connectivity options on the market. As a result, I expect it to perform remarkably well in every benchmark.

Packing and Accessories

The Z170X-UD5 TH is bundled in a visually appealing black and gold box which clearly displays the unit’s Thunderbolt 3 functionality.

On the rear, Gigabyte focused on the huge connectivity options and impressive speeds which come from Thunderbolt 3, and Intel’s USB 3.1 controller.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a user’s manual, installation guide, I/O shield, SLI bridge and driver disk.

Gigabyte also includes a G Connector to easily conect front panel headers, SATA cables and Rear I/O dust covers. These covers should prolong the rear connector’s lifespan as dust build-up can cause damage over time.

ASUS Z170I PRO GAMING (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


The capabilities of ITX motherboards have progressed at an exponential rate and easily provides the overclocking prowess, connectivity and stability required without making too many concessions compared to their ATX counterparts. Furthermore, the huge popularity of small form-factor LAN cases like the BitFenix Prodigy have made ITX systems a more viable proposition. However. feature-laden ITX motherboards traditionally incur a significant price increase as consumers pay for the convenience of more compact PCB designs.

ASUS has bucked this market trend and launched the aesthetically pleasing Z170i PRO GAMING motherboard around the £130 mark. This is an alluring price, given the SupremeFX audio, excellent software package and intuitive UEFI BIOS. Additionally, the 1151 chipset allows for large frequency overclocks and massive DDR4 memory speeds. When the single PCIe x16 slot is populated with a premium graphics card, you should be able to create a stunning portable gaming system which ekes out every inch of performance. Size isn’t a contributing factor during synthetic benchmarks and I expect the Z170I PRO GAMING to be quite competitive when compared against its ATX-based larger brother.

Packing and Accessories

The Z170I PRO GAMING packaging coincides with a World of Warships promotion and includes an exclusive invite code and 15-day premium account. From a visual standpoint, the box’s red and black theme fits with ASUS’ PRO GAMING branding.

On the rear, there is a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s flagship components, back I/O and main specification. The clear diagrams explain each notable feature in a clear and concise manner.

The Z170I PRO GAMING includes an I/O Shield, Cable Labels, user guide, driver disk, M.2 mounting hardware and WiFi antennas.

There is also an LGA1155 CPU holder and ample supply of SATA cables. The CPU holder is an ingenious tool which ensures the end-user avoids prolonged contact with the CPU. This reduces the chance of pin damage and offers a virtually foolproof installation procedure.

Eurocom Announces GTX 980 Sky X9 Gaming Notebook

Eurocom’s Sky X9 gaming notebook features a Core i7-6700K, up to 64GB DDR4 RAM, a desktop GTX 980 graphics card and choice between a 1920×1080 or 3840×2160 display. This staggering core specification is capable of supporting dual PCIe M.2 SSDs, two SATA 2.5″ drives and contains five USB 3.0 ports and single USB 3.1/Thunderbolt.

The laptop also utilizes Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 audio with two integrated ONKYO speakers which produce superb clarity under high and low volumes. On another note, the UEFI BIOS is unlocked and allows you to overclock the CPU in a similar vein to a standard desktop.  The unit’s superb thermal management gives some headroom to increase the i7-6700K’s frequency.

Mark Bialic, Eurocom President, discussed the changing nature of laptops over the years and said:

“In 1989 we created the first Desktop Replacement Notebook, in 2015 we have no created the first “desktop laptop’ system with socket based desktop Intel processor support and slot based MXM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 desktop graphics support to along with 64 GB of DDR4 memory”.

 

To add some visual flair, the Sky X9 features an RGB keyboard, and lighting customization integrated into the chassis. Eurocom’s incredibly powerful system allows for a number of upgrades including a G-Sync display. This really makes for a desktop-grade experience but there’s no wording about the recommend retail price.

Chillblast Fusion Master Skylake Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Chillblast is one of the most prestigious custom-PC builders in the industry and offers peace-of-mind with an unparalleled 5-year warranty. This impeccable customer service and sensible component selection makes each system a worthwhile investment and reassures the less technically-minded customer. In the past, we’ve reviewed a number of intriguing designs including the cube-sized Fusion Nano 960 and value-orientated, Fusion Barbarian. Today, we are looking at the company’s top-tier Skylake system which features the mod-friendly, Cooler Master MasterCase 5 chassis.

The Fusion Master Skylake incorporates an i7 6700K overclocked to 4.6GHz, 16GB Corsair 3000MHz DDR4 RAM, GTX 980 graphics card, 512GB Samsung M.2 PCIe SSD and the highly-rated Cooler Master V750 power supply. Additionally, the CPU’s manual overclock is tamed by a Nepton 240M all-in-one water cooling unit which dissipates in an efficient manner. Chillblast also opted for a 2TB SSHD data storage drive which combines the affordability and some speed benefits from a traditional SSD. I’m also pleased to see the Asus Z170 PRO motherboard which provides exceptional voltage control, and overclocking headroom without costing too much. In total, the Chillblast Fusion Master Skylake is a well-rounded, high-end gaming system and perfect for UHD resolutions.

Specifications

  • Name: Chillblast Fusion Master Skylake Gaming PC
  • Case: Cooler Master MasterCase 5 Gaming Case
  • Motherboard: Asus Z170 PRO GAMING Motherboard
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 6700K Overclocked to 4.6GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Cooler Master Nepton 240M CPU Cooler
  • System Memory: 16GB Corsair (2×8) 3000MHz DDR4
  • Main Boot Drive: 512GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Seagate 2000GB SSHD Hybrid Drive
  • Graphics card: Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Graphics Card
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master V750 750W PSU
  • Peripherals: Not Included
  • Monitor: Not Included
  • Optical Drive: None
  • Wireless: None
  • OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Warranty: 5 Years including 2 Years Collect and Return in the UK
  • Price: £1699

Packaging and Accessories

The system is bundled in a humongous outer box containing thick brown paper which surrounds the chassis’ main packaging. This keeps the inner box perfectly in position and prevents the system from moving around during transit. I have to applaud Chillblast for going the extra mile here as they could have just used the case packaging to cut costs. Thankfully, their attentive and professional approach means cosmetic or mechanical damage should be virtually eliminated.

On the side, there are two large stickers indicating the fragile nature of this system and directions for the courier. With such a massive parcel, these small touches help to prevent any major accidents and demonstrate the company’s careful planning.

The MasterCase 5 is supported by two extremely durable polystyrene blocks which feel remarkably strong and quite difficult to tear. Each side is labelled front and rear, which makes it surprisingly easy to reassemble the case in its original packaging. Unfortunately, there was a slight rip to the top cover but this didn’t result in scratches or small mishaps.

Once the case has been removed, the user is greeted with a precautionary message from Chillblast. This is just a simple safety procedure as a foam insert surrounds the main components to stop any cables or fittings becoming misaligned. I’m a huge advocate of using these internal foam supports as they often ensure the system arrives safely. Rather interestingly, the foam piece must have received a small degree of impact, as the taped section had come undone and started to peel away. As a result, this emphasizes how vital it is to use these foam sections when sending out an expensive, and heavy system.

The accessories are included in a plain, cardboard box and divided into sections using polythene bags. There is also a wonderful troubleshooting guide which provides a checklist in-case the system has difficulty booting. Chillblast decided to use close-up colour images to help diagnose any malfunctions and make the user more confident when fixing system problems. 

In terms of accessories, there is a UK power cable, driver discs, component manuals, SLI bridge, additional power connectors, cable-ties, and a host whole of other fittings. I’m overjoyed when custom PC companies bundle all the retail accessories together and presume you might need these extras in the future when upgrading the internal components. Thankfully, Chillblast provides everything you need to change the stock setup.

CPU-Z

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Gigabyte Z170XP-SLI (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


The Z170 chipset and Skylake CPU’s has been around for just over a week now and we have seen pretty much everything that each manufacturer has to offer. We now know that the huge connectivity options presented by the Z170 chipset that some manufacturers have included not on, but two or even three M.2 slots and multiple USB 3.0 ports. Along with those, you also have USB 3.1 Type A and Type C as standard and the vast majority of the Z170 series.

Today on the test bench, we take a look at one of the cheaper options on the market, the Gigabyte Z170XP-SLI. Don’t let the low MSRP of £120 fool you, this motherboard has more features than you can shake a stick at and is expected to outpace the competition at a higher price bracket.

This particular board boasts the latest Realtek audio codec to provide crisp and clear audio performance, combine that with high-speed RAM and a multi-graphics card setup and you have a great gaming computer that is capable of dominating the competition.

Key Features

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

  • App Centre
    • 3D OSD
    • @BIOS
    • Ambient LED
    • AutoGreen
    • Cloud Station
    • EasyTune
    • Easy RAID
    • Fast Boot
    • Smart timeLock
    • Smart Keyboard
    • Smart Backup
    • System Information Viewer
    • USB Blocker

Packaging and Accessories

The box is of a new design, featuring a character from the game Heroes of the Storm. This comes with a sole partnership between Gigabyte and Blizzard. The colour scheme outside of the main image resembles heavily of the Ultra Durable range with the orange highlights and logos.

The back of the box focuses on more key features with a large chart showing the speed increase of USB 3.1 over USB 3.0.

Inside the box is a nice amount of accessories. First up the paper based which consists of a door hanger, Gigabyte/Heroes of the Storm leaflet, Install guide and motherboard manual

Along with those are4x SATA 6Gb/s cables, I/O shield, Ultra Durable case sticker, SLI bridge and Gigabyte G-Connector.

The G-Connector is a great addition that allows you to securely clip in all of the front panel connectors into one hub and install at once; this makes the installation 100x easier as you can do it outside of the case while the motherboard is installed.

Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


We’ve had the Skylake-S processors and Z170 chipset for a little while now and in that time, we haven’t really seen much from our friends at Gigabyte. The Z170 chipset is one of the best that Intel has ever produced, even coming close to that of the X99 range thanks to the mainstream introduction of DDR4 memory support and USB 3.1 and Type-C as standard. The Z170 chipset opens the doors in terms of connectivity with the possibility of multiple M.2 ports, more USB 3.0 ports than you could ever use and Thunderbolt; which offers up to 40Gb/s transfer speeds.

Today in the testbench we have the simply stunning Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7. Looking into the Gigabyte and Z170 hierarchy, this motherboard could be considered as the second best offering, next to the G1 Gaming motherboard. Now here is where things can get slightly confusing, on the face, there are four G1 Gaming branded motherboards, which the branding goes: Gaming 3, Gaming 5, Gaming 7 and G1 Gaming.

In a new turn of styling, the Gaming range has been slapped with a white paint brush and I like it. For too long has “Gaming” motherboard ranges focuses on the dark red and black theme; white is fresh and crisp and works well with almost any colour scheme. Now Gigabyte hasn’t left the red and black altogether, this motherboard still has some of those colours integrated with the white to create something that is extremely attractive.

Specifications

The Gaming 7 motherboard, as you would expect, has almost all of the toys with some minor cutbacks to make the G1 Gaming appealing. There are twin Gigabit LAN ports, one Intel and the other Killer, twin M.2 ports, triple PCIex16 lanes for SLI and Crossfire configurations and even onboard display outputs that are capable of 4K video playback.

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, Gigabyte is no exception and offers a small, but powerful array of features with this motherboard.

Gigabyte App Center:

  • 3D OSD
  • @BIOS
  • Ambient LED
  • Auto Green
  • Cloud Station
  • Easy Tune
  • Easy RAID
  • Fast Boot
  • Smart TimeLock
  • Smart Keyboard
  • Smart Backup
  • System Information Viewer (SIV)
  • USB Blocker

Support for:

  • Q-Flash
  • Smart Switch
  • Xpress Install

Packaging

With the introduction of Z170, it seems Gigabyte has moved away from the red and black theme and introduced white. This is reflected on the box with the G1 Gaming logo and a World of Warships sticker.

The back of the box is similar to that of the other G1 Gaming boards. Feature filled with large portions of the box taken up with key features such as USB 3.1 speeds and double LAN ports.

Inside the box is a few accessories. On the manual side, it consists of the usual driver disk, install guide and motherboard manual. Along with that is an A4 poster promoting World of Warships with a free activation code on the back.

Along with those are 4x clear SATA 6Gb/s cables, G1 Gaming sticker, padded and illuminated IO shield, SLI bridge and G Connector.

This is an odd design for the SATA cables, maybe they are made like this to better blend in with the colour of the motherboard or to reflect the LED’s better.

The G-Connector is a great addition that allows you to securely clip in all of the front panel connectors into one hub and install at once. This makes the installation 100 times easier as you can do it outside of the case while the motherboard is installed.

ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Hero (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


The Z170 chipset and Skylake CPU’s have been around for just over a week now and we have seen pretty much everything that each manufacturer has to offer. We now know that the huge connectivity options presented by the Z170 chipset that some manufacturers have included not one, but two, sometimes even three M.2 slots and multiple USB 3.0 ports. Along with those, you also have USB 3.1 Type A and Type C as standard on the vast majority of the Z170 series boards.

Today on the test bench, we take our first look at an ASUS Republic of Gamers (RoG) motherboard in the form of the Maximus VIII Hero (M8H). If you’ve heard anything about the RoG range, you’ll know that it is the go-to motherboard range if you want the highest performance, best quality components, more accessories than you could ever use and some of the best looks available.

Specifications

The M8H follows a similar process to the RoG ranges of old with huge amount of features, but things have changed slightly, ASUS has decided to almost ditch the red colour scheme; I’ll let that sink in. So instead of the red theme, ASUS has gone for a simply stunning grey with subtle red detailing. I think this is a step in the right direction because of every manufacturer jumping on the red scheme recently.

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.

RoG Key Features

  • Extreme Engine Digi+
  • OC Zone
  • RoG RAMDisk
  • RoG RAMCache
  • RoG Overwolf
  • KeyBot II
  • UEFI BIOS

Key Features

  • Dual Intelligent Processors 5
  • ASUS Exclusive Features
    • AI Suite 3
    • USB 3.1 Boost
    • AI Charger+
    • Push Notice
    • Disk Unlocker
    • Pc Cleaner
    • HyStream
    • Media Streamer
    • Mobo Connect
  • EZ DIY
    • USB BIOS Flashback
    • Crashfree BIOS 3
    • EZ Flash 3
    • Mem OK!
  • Q-Design
    • Q-Code
    • Q-Sheild
    • Q-Connector
    • Q-LED
    • Q-Slot
    • Q-DIMM

Packaging

The M8H is a key asset to the RoG series, the box itself is almost a direct replica of older RoG boxes with the changes to the features along the bottom and the name.

The back of the box has a small diagram of the board and the key features in detail.

Inside the box is a huge amount of accessories, including driver disk, install manual, door hanger, cable labels, case sticker and fan stickers.

Along with those are 6x SATA 6 Gb/s cables, 2 way SLI bridge, I/O shield, M.2 riser and screw, front panel connector riser and CPU locator.

Intel Core i7-6700K ‘Skylake’ Almost Reaches Magical 7.0GHz

Chi-Kui Lam has set a world overclocking record for the i7-6700K, which came tantalizing close to the 7.0GHz mark and achieved a stable maximum figure of 6998.88MHz. As a professional overclocker, he managed this feat by increasing the core voltage from 1.2v to 1.888v using liquid nitrogen. Staggeringly, this was a core increase of 74.97 percent compared to the stock frequency with a multiplier of x 70.

Lam opted for the overclocking-focussed AsRock Z170 OC Formula which features a 17-phase voltage regulation and high-end capacitors designed for extreme benchmarking. Other equipment included a 1300W Power Supply and G.Skill Ripjaws 4 DDR4 memory. While the recorded frequency is very impressive, Lam had to disable 3 cores to maintain stability within the allotted temperature threshold. As a result, don’t expect to get anywhere near this with normal cooling apparatus with all cores enabled.

Skylake hasn’t been well-received by consumers and many feel the pricing is too close to the X99-based, 6-core 5820K. Perhaps the Skylake pricing will reduce over time but that would be a very optimistic prediction. Although, at least overclocks running up to 4.7 GHz are possible on enthusiast hardware without breaking the bank. I’ll be interested to see if the 7 GHZ barrier is broken on Skylake and how it benches compared to last generation CPUs.

Thank you Kitguru for providing us with this information.

Intel Skylake De-Lidded and It Surprised Us

It was only a matter of time before someone de-lidded one of the new Intel Skylake processors and just that has been done now with a new Core i7-6700K quad-core processor, and it holds a few surprises. The actual silicon inside the chip was unexpectedly small and even smaller than that of the i7-5775C which uses the same 14nm process. The reason why it can be smaller is the slimmer iGPU that only has 24 execution units, half of the 5775C, as well as lack of the external 128MB SRAM cache for the iGPU.

The second surprise to be found was the slimmer substrate used on the i7-6700K processor over the predecessor i7-4770K. The new Skylake is only 0.8mm thick compared to the 1.1mm on the previous, but Intel made up for the height difference with a thicker integrated heat spreader and thereby making sure that older CPU coolers still will be compatible with the new CPUs.

The third surprise sadly isn’t much of a surprise at all and that is in regards to the TIM used. Intel used a rather viscous silver-based TIM between the die and the IHS and it isn’t the optimal choice as tests by PC Watch shows.

They swapped out the original TIM with Prolimatech PK-3 and Cool Laboratory Liquid Pro instead and found some impressive temperature drops, both at stock speed and when overclocked to 4.6GHz. That is a real disappointment, especially when you consider the premium price you pay for intel CPUs and it is very uncool in my book and it is something they need to improve upon in the house of Intel.

Thank You TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

Acer’s Latest Predator Desktop Features an i7-6700K and Whopping 64GB RAM

Acer has unveiled the Predator G6-710 pre-built PC which utilizes Intel’s 1151 socket and a Core i7-6700K processor. The CPU is manually overclocked via a liquid cooling solution and should allow for a core clock around 4.5GHz using 1.35V. However, no concrete details have been provided about the pre-overclocked speed or cooling apparatus used. Although, it’s probably going to be a 240mm or 280mm Corsair AIO.

Bizarrely, Acer have opted for a ridiculously overkill 64GB of DDR4 RAM which is a complete waste of money, considering 16GB is more than enough to run modern games. Furthermore, the GPU is a GTX 980 with 4GB VRAM instead of the 980Ti which offers a significant boot in frame rates. This shows a lack of care when selecting components for the gaming market.

The chassis design adopts Acer’s “belligerent armour” and uses an aggressive, gaming-centric look.  Personally, I think the case is quite ugly but aesthetic preferences are always subjective. From the image, we can see 2 USB 3.0 ports, microphone/headphone jacks, and an SD card reader. On the other hand, the Predator logo is quite striking without being overpowering. Overall, I’m not very impressed with the case design, specification or ghastly visual choices. Currently, the Predator G6-710 is without a price point but this should be confirmed very soon.

Thank you Digital Trends for providing us with this information.

ASRock Z170 Extreme 7+ (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Z170 and Skylake are here, finally! The true successor to Haswell and Haswell Refresh and the first 100% successful 14nm process. Broadwell works, but due to limitations and problems, it was an extremely late release and didn’t really wow us. Skylake is set to change that by bringing back true overclocking with a fully unlocked BLCK to really allow users to fine tune an overclock thanks to the 1MHz increments. Along with this, Z170 also brings huge connectivity through 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes and 10 USB 3.0 lanes; although some manufacturers may not utilise the full amount of lanes.

ASRock is a big player in the motherboard market, producing the renowned Extreme series across both Intel and AMD CPU’s. The Extreme series offers top quality components with great style and functionality. In recent years, the series has taken multiple different colour schemes from blue and white, black and silver and now the best (in my opinion), black and copper. Along with that, the simply huge arrowhead style heat sink covers are gone and replaced with a much more subtle design.

Today we have the top of the line Z170 Extreme 7+, although I would expect an Extreme 9 in the near future. Featuring all of the key features that ASRock motherboards have incorporated for many years such as Ultra M.2 and Purity Sound. Thanks to the new Z170 chipset, ASRock has gone above and beyond with the connectivity. Typically you see one M.2 port, however, ASRock added an extra two. This might not seem amazing, but when you consider the ultra fast Intel NVME SSD drives, adding three in RAID 0 would make for an incredibly fast storage solution; let’s find out how well it performs in today’s review.

Key Features

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

  • USB 3.1
  • USB Type-C
  • Turbo M.2
  • Purity Sound 3
  • NVIDIA SLI
  • AMD Crossfire
  • Dual Intel LAN
  • USB 3.1 Front Panel
  • Digi Power
  • Super Alloy
    • XXL Aluminium allow heatsink
    • Premium 60A Power Choke
    • Dual stack MOSFET
    • 12k Platinum capactiors
    • Premium memory alloy choke

Packaging and Accessories

The box is very similar to the rest of the Extreme range; a strong outer case with a carry handle.

On this particular box, it puts a main focus on the Super Alloy features of the motherboard.

Inside the box is a conservative amount of accessories, driver disk, manual, I/O shield, rigid SLI bridge and 4x SATA 6Gb/s cables.

Along with those, ASRock is also bundling in an additional USB front panel connection interface, but not traditional USB 2.0 or even 3.0, but USB 3.1 in Type A and Type C formats. The cables below are what are needed to enable the fastest possible data transfers and plug into the SATA Express ports on the motherboard.

When you look at the front cover, it is relatively plain. Personally I would have mounted two PCBs on top of each other to give 2x of each port or even temperature monitoring LED’s.

There is so much room behind the panel, maybe you could use it for cable sorting?

Overclockers UK Offer a X99 System for Less than a Top-End Skylake i7 Setup

Intel launched their Skylake platform yesterday and we had you covered with both the two new processor reviews as well as a bunch of new Z170 motherboards. But not everyone is convinced that it might be the best way to go, as we still have the option to go down the X99 based route. Overclockers UK agree with this and for a limited time they are offering an X99 based system with a six-core Intel i7-5820K CPU for £50 less than an equivalent top-of-the-line i7-6700K  Skylake system costs.

And there are quite a few benefits on the X99 based system with an i7-5820K processor. The processor is a little slower with 4.2GHz versus 4.4GHz, but that doesn’t really make a lot of difference. What does make a difference is the X99’s ability to support quad-channel memory and it has more PCI-Express lanes. The Skylake CPU still only has 16 lanes and that’s just not enough for a proper tricked-out high-end system. Skylake does have the ability to clock higher, but the X99 still performs better in most areas and when you are rendering physics, using Photoshop, or similar creative work, then “X99 smashes Skylake out of the water”.

The two systems in question from Overclockers UK are the Titan Riptide X99 based Gaming PC for £1140.97 and the Titan Bayonet Skylake Gaming PC for £1192.99 when specced with equivalent parts including 16GB 2400MHz memory, 2TB 7200RPM Hard Drive and a Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card.

ASUS Z170-A (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Mark today in the Intel history calendar, if you are keeping one, because Skylake, Z170 and mainstream DDR4 are here. We’ve been keeping tight-lipped about this for a few weeks and we can finally show off what we have been working on. You already know almost all of the details regarding the Skylake processors being launched today; the i5-6600K and i7-6700K, but what about Z170? Well, we know it supports DDR4 and features the new 1151 socket, but something that really shines through for this chipset is the absolutely huge connectivity incorporated. Motherboard manufacturers now have up to 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes and up to 10 USB 3.0 ports to play with.

Now some of you may be thinking that you can’t fit 20 PCIe lanes onto a single standard motherboard and you would be correct, to a certain extent. In recent years, M.2 (or mini PCIe) has really taken the expansion world by storm and with Z170, you can start to see M.2 ports crop up in multiples depending on the motherboard. In theory, you could have 3, 4 5 or even more M.2 ports on a single motherboard. What’s more, these ports accept RAID and you can see some truly insane figures if used with U.2 devices such as the Intel NVME 750 SSD.

When you come to think of motherboards, only one name sticks in your mind; ASUS. Topping the manufacturer sales last year, it’s easy to image how it came to be thanks to the huge range of motherboards suiting a wide variety of users and implementing high-quality components. The motherboard range is exceptionally large, from basic desktop units, right up to professional workstations such as the Deluxe range and gaming series in the form of Republic of Gamers (RoG). The motherboard we have in today is the Z170-A which has been based off the X99-A motherboard. This particular board is aimed at the low-mid range segment of the market, but don’t let that fool you. With a simply huge array of connectivity and newly introduced DDR4 support, this could be a very powerful option. Let’s find out how it performs in today’s review.

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.

  • OC Design
  • 5-Way Optimisation
    • DIGI+ VRM
    • TPU
    • EPU
    • Fan Xpert 3
    • Turbo App
  • UEFI BIOS
  • PC Cleaner
  • Remote Go!
  • Media Streamer
  • HyStream
  • Q-Design
    • Q-LED
    • Q-Slot
    • Q-DIMM
    • Q-Connector
  • EZ DIY
    • USB BIOS Flashback Card
    • UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
  • AI Suite 3
  • LAN Guard
  • Ai Charger+
  • MemOK!
  • EZ XMP
  • USB 3.1 Boost
  • Precision Tweaker 2
  • Overclocking Protection

This board was built with eSports in mind and included the following to give the best possible experience:

  • Turbo LAN
  • Crystal Sound 3
  • Turbo App

Packaging and Accessories

The box is very similar to the previous A range of motherboards with the striking white IO cover and heatsink..

The back of the box details many of the features on this motherboard, but we’ll take a closer look at each of those in a moment.

Inside the box, you will find quite a few accessories; Z170 feature manual, motherboard manual, driver disk, and other leaflets regarding the Z170, 6x SATA 6Gb/s cables, I/O shield, SLI bridge and front panel header extension.

ASUS has designed a great solution for the Z170 range. This new CPU holder enables the user to handle the CPU as minimal as possible. This holder aid the prevention of bent pins and can be left on when the socket latch is secured.

Insert the CPU by whatever your usual handling means; I found it easiest to push the CPU by the centre until it latched.

Simply place it onto the CPU socket, there is only one way you can do this.

And finally close the socket. You may hear some slight creaking of plastic, that is to be expected on some installations.

Intel Core i7-6700K & i5-6600K “Skylake” Processors Review

Introduction


Skylake is finally here, after months of speculation that all leads up to a single date in the calendar. Based on the first truly successful 14nm process after the very difficult launch of Broadwell a few weeks ago. Today sees the launch of two of the Intel Skylake SKU’s; the i7-6700K and the i5-6600K and this review will focus on both CPUs. This is a completely redesigned CPU focusing on the gamers, overclockers and enthusiasts alike and embedded in this message was the fact that Intel are dedicated to traditional sockets; no soldered on chips for the future of the mainstream consumer range for Intel. When Broadwell was released and the rumours started swirling around Skylake, everyone was jumping for joy with full BLCK overclocking; we can finally and officially confirm that there is a full BLCK overclocking range in increments of 1MHz instead of being limited to the strap of 100/125/166 of previous designs.

With those new chips, also brings a brand new chipset and socket. Z170 is amazingly complicated and feature-packed, with up to 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes compared to just 8 on Z97, up to 10 USB 3.0 ports and almost all motherboard manufacturers will be introducing USB 3.1 Type A and Type C as standard. Not only that but the CPU can automatically switch between DDR4 and DDR3L support although it is to be noted that the CPU cannot do this at the same time so don’t expect any motherboards with 2 DIMMS of each. Take note of the ‘L’, as Skylake CPU’s cannot accept DRAM with a voltage of more than 1.35v natively; I guess under overclocking situations you could try it, but system instability will most likely occur. The socket in question has been redesigned and this brought the introduction of a single additional pin; that means you cannot upgrade your CPU or motherboard now and the other later. This may seem like a money making idea on Intel’s behalf, but when you think of the nitty gritty, Z97 doesn’t offer as much connectivity or overclocking capabilities as Z170 does; so putting a new socket on an old board would neglect the user of the full potential they could harness.

Year on year Intel promise up to 10% more performance compared to the last generation processor; it is the same this time around. To put things into perspective, a 1-year-old PC would hold an i7-4790K, 2-year-old would be an i7-4770K and 3-year-old would be an i7-3770K. For those of you holding out with your i5-2500K, you would probably be considering Skylake as your next upgrade.

Devils Canyon brought 4GHz to the masses and Skylake looks to build on that with the i7-6700K starting at 4GHz and reaching up to 4.2GHz and the i5-6600K starting at 3.5GHz and boosting up to 3.9GHz. Both come with a TDP of a mere 91W and start at an MSRP of $243, or approximately £190 in the UK.

PC Specialist Azure (LGA 1151) Gaming PC Review

Introduction


PC Specialist has an illustrious reputation for creating some of the most reliable and thought-provoking builds in the custom PC industry. Their latest creation, code-named Azure, is based on Intel’s brand new Z170 chipset and includes the flagship, i7-6700K Skylake processor (review here). While the CPU has a stock clock of 4.0GHz, there is ample headroom for a hefty overclock with assistance from the Corsair 240mm liquid-cooling solution. PC Specialist opted for the Asus Z170-A motherboard (review here) which offers excellent voltage regulation, dynamic fan control and an intuitive BIOS interface. Only the best components are used throughout, such as NVIDIA’s top-tier GTX 980Ti graphics card and Kingston’s HyperX Predator 3000MHz DDR4 memory.

In terms of storage, the Azure is bundled with a 480GB SSD boot drive and 2TB mechanical for data storage purposes. The PC is powered by an 850W Corsair RM power supply and neatly presented in the Corsair 780T case. Previously, we reviewed the X99-based Vortex 440 which performed superbly and exceeded our expectations. Therefore, I’m hoping the Azure will be cool, quiet and leading the benchmark figures whilst retailing at a respectable £1499 price point.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The chassis arrived in a gargantuan box and contains precautionary labels to prevent the courier from adopting a haphazard approach. I was genuinely surprised with the box’s size which provides superb protection during transit. The packaging itself also utilizes a thick grade of cardboard and encompasses the case to withstand any sudden impact.

Once opened, the case is revealed and cushioned by a cloth cover to stop accidental scratches from occurring. If the case was packaged without any padding, the chassis could rub against the box and become damaged. This is especially true with delicate windowed side panels.

From another angle, we can see the flexible foam supports which add a great deal of rigidity and keeps the case perfectly aligned. I have to commend PC Specialist for using some of the strongest foam inserts I’ve ever seen. For example, I intentionally bent the inserts to see if they would snap under pressure, but they withstood this rigorous testing procedure rather well.

The accessories are bundled in a lovely Welcome Pack which evokes a professional feel from the presentation alone.

Included in the Welcome Pack is a setup guide, component documentation, driver disks, extra SSD mounts, power cables, and much more! Everything is separated into segments which makes it easier to find specific parts.

The accessories can be easily stored away in the original packaging and has enough room to house future purchases such as a DisplayPort cable. While the box is too large to fit in a small drawer, it does prevent you from losing any accessories and keeps everything in a neat package.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

MSI Z170A GAMING M7 (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


The Intel Z170 chipset has landed, and with it comes the launch of the Intel Skylake processors in the form of the i5-6600K and i7-6700K. The Z170 chipset has been upgraded in almost every way. The RAM has been changed from DDR3(L) to DDR4, which brings with it exceptionally high speeds and transfer rates compared to DDR3. Along with this, the chipset can handle up to 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes (up to 8Gb/s) compared to the mere 8 PCIe 2.0 (up to 5Gb/s) of Z97 and up to 10x USB 3.0 ports compared to 6x on Z97. It seems that the start of workstation connectivity and expansion has finally trickled its way down to the mainstream consumer level.

MSI is one of the big players in today’s motherboard market, producing such motherboards like the amazing X99A GODLIKE and the striking Krait series that we’ve reviewed in the past. The feather in the cap is the Gaming range, stretching from laptops, graphics card and motherboards, all the way down to SLI bridges. MSI produce multiple motherboards with each Gaming series motherboard launch and no matter what version you choose; you know you’ll be using some of the best quality components and experiencing one of the best gaming sensations possible.

With the Z170 launch, there are three Gaming motherboards; the M5, M7 and M9 ACK. The Gaming M7 is, as you would expect, the middle of the Gaming M range. Now the M doesn’t mean MSI or microATX, it actually means Master; which leaves the impression that these are going to be the best of the best when it comes to the Z170 range of gaming motherboards. Thanks to the previous release of the X99A GODLIKE motherboard, some of its features have been adopted onto this board; such as the metal strengthening brackets covering the PCIe lanes and the metal I/O cover. As detailed earlier, the Z170 platform has the use of many more PCIe lanes, so this motherboard has not one, but two M.2 sockets which can utilise RAID 0 thanks to the extra PCI-Express functionality.

Let’s get straight in and see what else this motherboard has to offer and if the extra features and functionality actually offer up extra performance in the real world.

Key Features

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

  • Command Center
  • Live Update 6
  • Fast Boot
  • Super Charger
  • ECO Center
  • M-Cloud
  • Ramdisk
  • Killer Networking
  • Nahimic Audio
  • Xsplit Gamecaster V2
  • Intel Extreme Tuning
  • SteelSeries Engine 3

Key Enthusiast GAMING Features:

  • AUDIO BOOST 3
  • GAME BOOST
  • GAMING LAN
  • GAMING APP
  • Optimised Thermal Design
  • Nahimic
  • XSplit

MSI Exclusive Features:

  • CLICK BIOS 5
  • BIOS FLASHBACK+
  • MILITARY CLASS 5
  • COMMAND CENTER
  • RAM DISK
  • LIVE UPDATE 6
  • M-CLOUD
  • ECO Center
  • USB Redrivers
  • CPU-Z MSI Dragon Version

Packaging and Accessories

The box features a brand new design, focusing on the motherboard and the red gaming design.

The back of the box is full of key details about the board and its features.

Inside the box , you’ll find the usual assortment of Gaming accessories, installation guide, cable labels, case badge, driver disk and manual.

There are also 4x SATA 6Gb/s cables, 1x SLI bridge, 2x header extensions and 1x Gaming I/O shield.

ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Today is the day that the Z170 chipset and Skylake overclocking processors are here and we can finally show off these great products. The Z170 platform has taken a somewhat minor upgrade to the untrained eye, but to those who know what to look for will notice many subtle changes. Probably the most notable is the addition of DDR4 memory and obviously the socket change to 1151 over 1150. Beyond that, you also have very subtle connectivity upgrades such as the possibility of up to 10 USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 Type A and Type C as standard and up to 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes; yes 20! What this means to the end user is the possibility of having multiple M.2 ports being featured onto a single motherboard and much more.

ASUS are currently one of the largest motherboard companies in the world, just outselling the closest competitor by a few hundred thousand units. With motherboards ranging from the budget pleasers all of the way up to the renowned Republic of Gamers variants; there is a bit of ASUS for everyone. This includes the brand new Pro Gaming motherboard that we’re looking at today.

Something that ASUS has done with the Pro Gaming motherboard is to take key features from the RoG series and incorporate them onto a motherboard at a reduced price. One of the key features is the RoG Extension header, which enables the ability to utilise the RoG Front base; a dual bay monitoring and overclocking piece of hardware. With RoG features at a cut price, would the performance be lower or are we looking at another GTX 980Ti vs Titan X scenario? Let’s take a look at the benchmarks and put all of the puzzle pieces together.

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.

  • Gamer’s Guardian II
    • DIGI+ VRM
    • DRAM Overcurrent Protection
    • ESD Guards On VGA, LAN, Audio, KBMS and USB 3.0/ 2.0
    • Highly Durable Components
  • Dual Intelligent Processors 5
    • 5 Way Optimisation:
      • TPU
      • EPU
      • DIGI+ VRM
      • Fan Xpert 3
      • Turbo App
  • RAMCache
  • Media Streamer
  • EZ DIY
  • Push Notice
  • UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
    • O.C. Tuner
    • CrashFree BIOS 3
    • EZ Flash 3
  • Q-Design
    • Q-Shield
    • Q-DIMM
    • Q-LED
    • Q-Slot
  • AI Suite 3
  • Disk Unlocker
  • AI Charger+
  • ASUS CPU-Z

Packaging and Accessories

As the Pro Gaming motherboard series is new to Z170, the box styling had to recreated. The feature image is a snippet of the World of Warships game which has a premium account bundled with this motherboard. The styling is very ROG-esq thanks to the ROG heritage and features incorporated within this motherboard.

The back of the box has a small diagram of the board and the key features in detail.

Inside the box is a conservative amount of accessories, driver disk, manual, and cable labels

Along with those are 4x SATA 6Gb/s cables, SLI bridge, I/O shield and an additional M.2 screw and riser.

ASUS has designed a great solution for the Z170 range. This new CPU holder enables the user to handle the CPU as minimal as possible. This holder aids the prevention of bent pins and can be left on when the socket latch is secured.

Insert the CPU by whatever your usual handling means; I found it easiest to push the CPU by the centre until it latched.

Simply place it onto the CPU socket, there is only one way you can do this.

And finally close the socket. You may hear some slight creaking of plastic, that is to be expected on some installations.

Intel Skylake i7 6700K and i5 6600K Boxart Pictured

While the Windows 10 box art from Microsoft was pretty bland, Intel sure is spicing things up with their new Skylake packaging. In a series of leaked images, we are treated to the new box art of the i7 6700K and i5 6600K and boy do they hearken back to the old days. The last time I recall seeing a similar design was back with the original Pentium series up until Pentium IV.

Intel looks to have taken a liking to the old blur of the Pentiums, with the blurred lines likely trying to invoke a sense of speed. the i7 takes on a warmer red/purple/orange hue while the i5 sticks with plain old green/blue. At that point though, the similarities end, with Skylake coming with the now standard stickers for LGA 1151 and the one showing all the specifications. The manufacturing location is listed as Malaysia, which reminds us of the fact that Intel has closed down their Costa Rica packaging facility.

From the box window, we can see that the steppings are SR2BR and SR2BV for the 6700K and 6600K respectively. The product code is BX80662I76700K for the i7  and batch # is L519B744. Clock speeds are also what previous reports and images have shown, at 4.0Ghz nad 3.5Ghz respectively. Both ship with support for DDR4 and DDR3L as well as integrating intel’s HD 530 graphics. With actual retail chips and boxes being leaked, there is little doubt that Skylake should launch within the week.

Images courtesy of reddit

Intel i7 6700K ES Skylake Pictured and Tested Again

While Intel may have some of the best CPUs around, they still can’t keep people from leaking information. Today we bring a series of tests done on an i7 6700K Engineering Sample which is compared to the i7 4790K, i7 5820K, and Xeon E3 1231 v3. The test platform appears to be a Gigabyte LGA1151 Z170 motherboard with DDR4 given the presence of a Turbo B-Clock module.

In synthetics, we see the 6700K pulling just ahead of he i7 4790K, besting it in 3DMark 11 and 3DMark Firestrike, though falling behind in Fritz. In single threaded tests like Photoshop CC and WinRAR 4.2, the 6700K and 4790K managed to place ahead of the 5820K though the 6700K score the same as the 4790K in WinRAR. As we’ve seen before, Skylake places just better in Cinebench R15.

In dGPU gaming, the i7 6700K manages to pull ahead of the other chips in every game tested. Generally, Haswell seems to hold its own pretty well, only losing by a few frames in GTA V, Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 4 and Metro 2033. A weird anomaly did appear in Project CARS, with the 6700K managing to push well past both the 4790K and 5820K. It will be interesting to see if the same results play out on release day and what are the exact reasons it does so well in that game.

Overall, the benchmarks show that Skylake will be very much an incremental upgrade on the CPU side of things. In some ways, the additional chipset PCIE lanes and other platform changes like the removal of the FIVR, improved iGPU and DDR4 are more interesting. Unless one needs to be on the bleeding edge of CPU power, there will be little need to upgrade for those on Sandy Bridge and later. You can find more of our Skylake coverage and other leaked benchmarks here.

Thank you PConline for providing us with this information

Intel Faces Severe Supply Issues for Skylake Launch

Despite a much-anticipated launch for Skylake within the next two weeks, Intel looks to be in trouble on the supply side. According to multiple sources, supply for the i7 6700K and i5 6600K is severely limited and the initial stock is not expected to last long. Several unnamed Taiwanese firms also have had issues in supplying reviewers with Skylake chips to pair with their launch motherboard reviews.

Marketing director Anton Nilsson for Swedish retailer Webhallen had this to say on the supply situation:

We have a small number of processors and motherboards coming. They confirmed deliveries will not be enough for a whole week, rather a few days. Unfortunately, it also seems that those of our PC series most interesting motherboard is further delayed about a month.

So basically, even though Intel is only launching two chips at first, supply might as well be so limited, Intel may have well delayed the launch by a month. The fact that Intel is only launching two chips first also suggests that Intel knew this going in and was already trying to mitigate the issue. It’s important to note that while Intel may have low supply relative to demand, it doesn’t mean they aren’t producing a ton of chips, just that it’s not able to satisfy demand.

Of all the recent process nodes, 14nm has given Intel the most trouble, causing desktop Broadwell to be delayed by nearly a year and even then, the chips were vaporware for quite a while after launch. If Skylake continues this trend despite 14nm production already being ramped up for more than a year, yields must have been really bad when Intel first started it. With delays for 10nm also being built into Intel’s roadmap, we can only hope that Skylake will be worth the wait.

Thank you Sweclockers for providing us with this information 

Intel Skylake i7 6700K Performance Leaked Again Along with Discrete GPU 3DMark

Given the sheer amount of leaks coming out, Intel’s Skylake should be just around the corner. Today, we have more i7 6700K benchmarks to share, this time compared on an MSI board vs an i7 4790K. While the MSI board is not one those fancy schmancy ones leaked earlier, the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro does bundle a number of newer features like Turbo M.2, Lan Protect, Game Boost and of course LGA 1151 and DDR4.

Starting right off the bat, both chips are stock clocked so the i7 6700K 5.2Ghz and later 6.3Ghz overclocks don’t apply. Despite a small 200mhz speed advantage at full boost, the i7 6700K manages to pull ahead in most tasks, albeit slightly at about 3% faster overall. Taking the clock speed into account, that gives an IPC boost of about 8%, which is about par given the jump from Ivy Bridge to Haswell. When driving a dGPU. Skylake stretches its lead a bit more, posting a 6% improvement that means an IPC gain of 11% once you consider the clock speed deficit.

There were a few anomalies with WinRAR posting mixed results, with the 6700K pulling ahead in multi-thread but dropped behind in single-thread. This also holds true for 3DMark Firestrike Ultra, with mixed scores there as well. While these issues could be caused by unfinished drivers, the more likely cause is run to run variation. It’s also important to note that motherboards do play a role in performance, but that is something hard to quantify across generations. Overall, the tests do point out to yet another standard release for Intel with a decent but still minor boost in IPC, with real world overclocking remaining the big unknown. Stay tuned for more coverage as we near the August launch.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information 

Images courtesy of WCCFTech

Skylake i7-6700K Reaches 5.2 GHz on Air

Intel’s latest range of enthusiast-grade processors are set to launch in a few weeks and Chinese site, HKEPC have published their preliminary testing results. Despite using an early BIOS version on the new Z170 chipset, their sample managed to reach a stable increase of 1200MHz over stock and performed at 5.2GHz. Even more impressive is this was achieved through a fairly modest air cooling setup with 1.35v applied to the vcore. This would be virtually impossible on the Z87 or Z97 chipset which requires an extremely beefy cooler given the huge temperature increases as you apply more volts. Ideally, to achieve over 4.8GHz, you need a 240mm watercooling unit as a starting point to tame the temperatures under extreme load. Even then, many CPUs hit a point of no return and voltage alternations have too much impact on the operating temperature.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the core reaches 5.2GHz with a multiplier of x52. However, we do not know the exact temperatures whilst using benchmarking software to stress the chip. It is said to be within operating parameters, but I would obviously like to see the exact figures. We also have to analyze these results with a logical perspective. It’s possible this could be a dream golden-chip and reflects 1% of the manufactured range. CPUs are bound by the silicon lottery meaning the most reliable results come from an average across user testing.

Nevertheless, the results from HKEPC are promising and suggests the new mainstream flagship should offer a significant boost in overclocking headroom. In the past, the differences have been very iterative and focused on power reduction. Perhaps Intel wants to aggressively sell their new chipset design through large clock boosts over the last generation. Personally, I remain cautiously optimistic.