Shuttle released a new system that once again proves that a powerful system doesn’t need to be large in physical dimensions. The new SH110R4 is the newest family member in the XPC Cube series of 13-liter barebone PCs and it comes with everything available you’ll need, from a Skylake LGA 1151 socket over two M.2 expansion slots to an integrated heat pipe system for CPU cooling.
The Shuttle SH110R4 is built around the Intel H110 chipset and supports dual-channel DDR4 memory with a speed of up to 2133 MHz. You can equip it with a total of 32GB through its two memory slots, but the specifications don’t reveal whether it’s full-sized DIMMs or SO-DIMMs. My bet would be on the last, SO-DIMMs. With the use of a Skylake-based Core, Celeron, or Pentium processor, you also gain 4K video capabilities through the processor-integrated GPU and the onboard HDMI and DisplayPort. A D-Sub VGA port was also added for backwards compatibility.
Besides the graphics connections, you also find all other relevant external connectors. There are four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet network powered by an Intel i219LM controller, and a 5.1-channel HD audio system powered by a Realtek ALC662 chip.
The Shuttle XPC Cube series are basically mITX systems with a clever cooling solution and users can upgrade the motherboard to pretty much any mITX board they wish at any point. But the included one is pretty good as it is and comes with two M.2 slots, one M.2 2280/2260/2242 Type M slot for high-speed SSDs and one M.2 2230 Type A/E slot for devices like WiFi cards. There’s also a PCIe x16 and a PCIe x1 slot for additional expansion cards such as graphics cards, raid controller, monitor cards, sound cards, etc.
The really cool feature is the Shuttle’s I.C.E 2 cooling engine that utilizes heat-pipe tech to keep the SH110R4 cool. It uses convection cooling to dissipate heat away from and around the CPU. The I.C.E.2 copper tubes, coated in nickel for enhanced tube hardness and rust-proof protection, are filled with distilled water to effectively channel heat and provide highly efficient processor and chassis cooling.
It also comes with a built-in PSU which can deliver 300W and is 80Plus Bronze certified. Overall, you get a small and stable system with great features and a suggested retail price of £172.00.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BIOSTAR might not be the most recognizable motherboard brand in western markets but their pedigree for creating reliable products is worthy of praise. When compared to MSI, Gigabyte and ASUS, the company struggles to entice consumers with unique aesthetic designs. Furthermore, the BIOS and software package has been sorely lacking and in dire need of change. Thankfully, BIOSTAR have acknowledged these criticisms and decided to forge a brand new range based upon a racing theme to please petrolheads with an avid interest in enthusiast hardware. Each RACING motherboard sports a chequered flag PCB and stylish LED illumination while introducing a new BIOS layout. Clearly, this is a major departure from BIOSTAR’s previous products which evoked a fairly mundane appearance.
The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 is based on the mATX form factor and supports up to 64GB DDR4 with a maximum speed of 2133MHz. Intel’s H170 chipset blocks multiplier overclocking which means you have to resort to your processor’s default turbo frequency. Of course, there’s been some controversy surrounding BCLK overclocking on H170 and B150 motherboards to unofficially achieve boosts fairly close to traditional multiplier overclocking. Sadly, Intel has voiced their displeasure regarding this phenomenon and pressurized manufacturers to disable BCLK overclocking via a BIOS update. As a result, we have to rely on stock figures to determine the motherboard’s performance. Previously, I’ve seen some astounding results when it comes to storage with BIOSTAR products, and I’m interested to see if this trend continues.
Packing and Accessories
Here we can see the absolutely stunning packaging which contains a carbon fibre inspired cover and vibrant text. This coincides with the RACING focus and feels quite reminiscent of a luxury sports car’s interior.
On the opposite side, there’s a detailed diagram showing the motherboard’s layout and explanation of its unique selling features. Once again, this is presented a superb manner and makes you inquisitive about the product’s specification.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard includes a user’s manual, Vivid LED DJ instructions guide, SATA cables, driver disk, and I/O shield.
Since the release of Intel’s Z170 chipset, MSI has unveiled a fantastic, feature-rich motherboard range which caters to contrasting user demands. For example, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is an excellent choice for consumers wanting a stylish black colour scheme and great reliability at an affordable price point. In contrast to this, the MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM Edition‘s gorgeous aesthetic design makes it one of the most innovative LGA1151 motherboards on the market. Of course, the iconic dragon styling on many MSI products have become a popular choice among the core gaming demographic. This red and black theme compliments mainstream hardware and retails at very competitive prices across various performance tiers.
The MSI Z170A GAMING M5 is a mid-range motherboard sporting an attractive design and impressive specification. More specifically, the product is capable of housing two PCI-E M.2 storage devices and has support for USB 3.1 Gen2 connectivity. Not only that, the motherboard includes a one year premium XSplit license and Nahimic audio enhancements. As you might expect, many of MSI’s leading technologies are incorporated such as DDR4 Boost, Game Boost and much more. Given this particular model’s astonishing software suite and military class components, I expect to see it rival higher priced offerings rather well. Could this be the best value Z170 motherboard thus far for high-end users? Let’s find out!
Packing and Accessories
MSI always does a phenomenal job when it comes to packaging design and the Z170 GAMING M5 is no different. The bold colours and stunning product snapshot contrasts extremely well. This is one of the most eye-catching motherboard boxes I’ve seen and showcases the motherboard’s beautiful appearance.
On the opposite side, there’s a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s key selling points such as support for 3-way crossfire, 2-way SLI and Audio Boost 3.0. This is presented in a slick manner and doesn’t alienate the end-user with technical jargon.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a user’s guide, driver’s disk, metal case badge, I/O shield, SLI bridge, registration details, basic installation guide and four SATA cables. Please note, the press sample I received was previously used by another media so there’s only 3 SATA cables displayed in the photograph. Rest assured, the retail version will include four and be packaged without the need for an elastic band.
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.
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 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.
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
Warranty: Three Year (24 Month Collect and Return plus 12 Month labour) Mainland UK and Ireland Only
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.
Intel’s current iteration of enthusiast processors offering impressive overclocking headroom incurs a fairly hefty premium compared to the previous generation especially if you’re opting for the i7-6700K. Unfortunately, the retail version of this CPU sporting a 3 year warranty still teeters around the £300 mark, and falls into a similar budget to the 6-core 5820K. The real savings when selecting the Z170 chipset revolve around cheaper motherboards which usually cater towards the gaming demographic with LED illumination, unusual colour schemes and a comprehensive software suite. It’s astonishing to see the kind of performance and bundled list of features on products under £100. At this price, there’s fierce competition and some manufacturers have struggled to outline the value of H170/B150 alternatives due to the narrow difference to affordable Z170 options.
The latest motherboard from Gigabyte targets the mainstream audience utilizing a single discrete graphics card, and overclocked Skylake processor. While it does technically support Crossfire, the lack of x8/x8 functionality might be a deal breaker for users wanting the absolute maximum bandwidth. There’s also no support for SLI setups either which may be a contentious issue. To be honest, I don’t see this as a huge problem because the motherboard retails for approximately £95 and dual card configurations are fairly niche in today’s market. Despite the very low price, Gigabyte has still implemented 32Gb/s M.2 storage, a great audio solution and USB 3.1. From the outset, it seems Gigabyte managed to achieve this excellent specification on a budget by removing SLI support. I’m interested to see the stock performance numbers though compared to high-end solutions and determine the motherboard’s credentials. Could this be the best value gaming Z170 motherboard ever released? Let’s find out!
Packing and Accessories
The Z170-Gaming K3 is packaged in a visually appealing box showcasing the attractive dual tone PCB design. This draws you into the product and evokes a sense of excitement prior to the unboxing process.
On the rear, there’s a huge description regarding the motherboard’s high-speed connectivity, premium audio hardware and networking with traffic prioritization for gaming purposes. This is presented in an easy to understand manner, and the clear pictures do a great job of relaying technical information without bamboozling the end-user.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with an I/O shield, user’s guide, G Connector, case badge and SATA cables opting for a very stylish metallic look. This is the first time I’ve seen a color of this ilk but I have to admit it’s a nice touch and looks fantastic. The G Connector is really useful when connecting those fiddly front panel connectors and improves the user-experience when building a new system. Other additions include a rather fetching door hanger, drivers disk, and World of Warships content code.
The majority of consumer motherboards supporting Intel’s latest architecture utilizes the Z170 chipset. This makes business sense due to the large number of enthusiasts purchasing DDR4 memory speeds in excess of 2133MHz and engaging in overclocking. For the more budget-conscience user, the H170 and B150 chipsets provide great performance with some limitations. As previously mentioned, the main drawbacks revolve around the lack of overclocking and maximum memory support for DDR4-2133. In recent months, there has been some furore surrounding BCLK overclocking which allowed the end-user to overclock on a H170 or B150 motherboard. Unfortunately, Intel has quashed this idea on new products and tried to force consumers to use a new BIOS to disable this functionality.
Intel’s B150 chipset is primarily designed for business customers so it seems a little strange to see gaming features on B150 motherboards. Honestly, I mostly see these products being purchased by consumers with a limited budget opting for a locked multiplier CPU and cheap memory. The latest B150 motherboard to be announced is the MSI B150M Gaming Pro. As its name suggests, the motherboard adopts the mATX format and suitable for a compact build. The B150M Gaming Pro features two DIMM slots, and supports a maximum capacity of 32GB. This should be more than enough to power an affordable gaming rig, or business PC. As you can see from the header image, the motherboard contains a single PCI-E x16 slot, and 6 SATA 3 ports. There’s also 6 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the rear and 2 on the front via an internal header.
On another note, the motherboard supports MSI’s DDR4 Boost technology, LAN Protect, Game Boost and utilizes their Military Class 4 components. The Click BIOS 5 makes navigation remarkably simple, and there’s overvoltage protection to maintain maximum stability. In terms of audio, the product has a Realtek ALC887 codec and Audio Boost. The package is bundled with MSI’s DS B1 Interceptor gaming mouse sporting a 1600 DPI, gold connector, LED illumination and removable weights!
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.
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.
SuperMicro is one of the most respected names in the server industry and synonymous with unparalleled reliability. Whether you’re after a rackmount, blade server system or workstation motherboard, there’s nothing on the market which manages to enthuse such a sense of rock solid stability. Recently, the company has taken their server roots and impeccable reputation into enthusiast consumer motherboards. This allows them to retain the server framework while offering more ostentatious motherboard designs. Additionally, SuperMicro’s highly refined production line results in a low RMA rate and each product evokes such a premium feel. While their previous attempts have been a little rough around the edges, it’s clear to see the rapid progress in terms of motherboard layout and visual exuberance. Typically, motherboard manufacturers opt for the gaming themed red and black colour scheme because it caters towards the core demographic and maximize sales.
However, they have adopted a very different approach and launched the SuperMicro C7Z170-OCE, which utilizes a very striking green colour scheme. Not only that, the motherboard incorporates an impressive array of overclocking buttons to make manual tweaks without entering the BIOS. There’s also a high-quality speaker, and LED post readout to help with system diagnostics. The C7Z170-OCE’s electrical circuitry is designed with extreme overclocking in mind and able to push any Skylake CPU to its absolute limit. Yes, that means BCLK overclocking is possible even on a locked multiplier CPU. Although, given the Z170 chipset, this wouldn’t be a sensible choice.
Another key selling point is the embedded PLX PEX8747 chip capable of supporting 3-way SLI in a x16/x8/x8 configuration. If you require a 2-way setup, then the motherboard can easily accommodate this via a x16/x0/x16. Other notable features include a Realtek ALC1150 audio solution with dedicated PCB isolation, USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity, ample supply of fan headers and much more! As you can see, the motherboard sports an incredible specification and I expect it to perform superbly across CPU intensive tasks. In the past, I’ve experienced a few issues with our DDR4-2666MHz bench memory kit on SuperMicro products, so it will be interesting to see if compatibility has improved on this latest model.
Packaging and Accessories
The motherboard comes in SuperMicro’s iconic box design which looks fantastic and creates a sense of luxury.
On the rear, there’s a detailed description of SuperMicro’s philosophy to bring server quality to the gaming market. Furthermore, this section outlines the key specification in an easy-to-understand manner.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard is packaged with a driver disk, I/O shield, M.2 screws and a quick reference guide. Unlike the majority of other vendors, the SuperMicro guide is fairly brief and provides a technical rundown of the motherboard layout. While I find the included diagram quite useful, some users might prefer a more comprehensive set of instructions to help with troubleshooting. For example, the user’s guide directs you to URL to find the meaning of each BIOS debug code instead of printing them. This is important because when the system fails to post, you cannot access the online documentation. Although, I guess it’s easy enough to check on a phone or tablet for the meaning of each error code.
There’s also six SATA connectors in a red finish. Ideally, I’d like to see three of these with a right-angled end, and the red colour doesn’t really match the motherboard’s theme. Perhaps, swapping the red for green, or a jet black tone would enhance the overall level of synergy.
BIOSTAR’s new racing series adopts a really intriguing chequered-flag PCB design and looks fantastic! In the past, I’ve been fairly critical of their consumer motherboards due to the fairly outdated appearance. Thankfully, the company has significantly improved in this area and I’m sure it will help them to become more successful in western markets. The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 is based on Intel’s H170 chipset and supports Skylake processors. Please note, the H170 chipset cannot in theory support overclocking or DDR4 DIMMs beyond 2133MHz. On the other hand, unofficial BCLK overclocking might be possible even with a locked multiplier providing the BIOS provides this functionality.
The motherboard also features a 32Gb/s M.2 slot for high-speed drives and SATA Express. Another highlight is the VIVID LED DJ and 5050 LED FUN which allows the user to customize lighting embedded on the PCB and heatsinks. As you might expect, there’s a high-end audio solution and decided section of the PCB to eliminate EMI. In terms of discrete expansion options, you can use two AMD GPUs in crossfire, although I’d strongly recommend using a single GPU solution on any H170 product. Furthermore, there’s two PCI-E x1 slots to add a sound card, or similar device. BIOSTAR opted for a 7-phase power delivery which is very impressive given the lack of overclocking on H170. As a result, the motherboard should remain perfectly stable and exhibit a great lifespan.
On the rear I/O, there are PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, DVI-D, two HDMI, four USB 3.0, RJ45, two USB 2.0 and 8 channel audio. The motherboard has a recommended retail price of $94.40. In the coming weeks, we should be receiving a sample and will compare the motherboard to similar H170 alternatives, B150 products and the higher-end Z170 options. So far, I’m really impressed with the aesthetic design, and BIOSTAR are renowned for using premium components.
Many enthusiasts on older CPUs like the i7-2600K patiently waited for Skylake’s launch to upgrade their hardware. Unfortunately, Intel’s latest platform experienced supply problems in certain territories which led to eye watering prices on the flagship i7-6700K. In the UK, retailers were charging £100 extra compared to the i7-4790K which prevented many users from upgrading. Not only that, the i7-6700K actually costs more than a 6-core 5820K on the professional X99 architecture. Thankfully, Scan Computers has launched a superb bundle which might just be the package you’ve been waiting for. It includes an Intel i7-6700K, ASUS Maximus VIII Hero, Corsair H110i GT 280mm liquid cooling solution, 16GB Dual Channel Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz CL15 memory and ASUS Strix Glide mouse mat.
This makes it remarkably easy to overclock the CPU and you should manage within the 4.6-4.8GHz range. Please remember this does vary on the silicon lottery, but the H110i GT is an extreme grade cooler and backed by a 5 year warranty. Other important aspects to take into consideration is the motherboard’s superb SupremeFX audio, ROG software, gorgeous design and high-end components. As you can see, the package is designed for the extreme user who wants the ultimate in performance without moving to an X99 system.
In terms of pricing, the complete package costs £647.00 including next day delivery which is pretty good given the high-end hardware on offer. The only thing to be wary of is the 280mm radiator size, as older cases will struggle to support it. If you’re interested in purchasing the bundle, please navigate to this page. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the latest Skylake pricing and improvements compared to the previous generation. Do you feel the i7-6700K is still wildly overpriced? On my own personal rig, I decided to go down the X99 route instead based entirely on the poor value proposition of Intel’s top-end consumer chip.
CES 2016: SuperMicro is one of the most respected names in the server industry and produces motherboards with unparalleled reliability. Recently, the company expanded their focus and decided to enter the gaming market. Their latest product, the C7Z170-OCE adopts a green and black colour scheme and looks quite usual given the majority of gaming-themed motherboards rarely use this theme. As its name suggests, the motherboard is based on Intel’s LGA1151 chipset and supports 6th generation processors. Furthermore, the C7Z170-OCE accomodates up to 64GB DDR4 memory with an overclocked frequency up to 3300MHz.
On another note, the motherboard contains a PLX chip which makes it a fantastic choice for 2 or 3-way SLI configurations. Other notable additions include a 32Gb/s M.2 port, Realtek ALC 1150 audio codec with isolated PCB design and dual LAN. More specifically, you can choose between the Intel® i219V and Intel® I210-AT. As a result, either of these connections should provide superb bandwidth without having to deal with higher CPU utilizations which you often see from Killer chips like the E2400.
SuperMicro have also incorporated a number of advanced overclocking features to get the maximum potential of your CPU. This ranges from voltage monitoring, a 5-phase voltage switch regulator with auto-sense from 0.8375V-1.60V and other key system areas to analyse. In terms of the motherboard layout, there is a total of five 4-pin CPU headers with PWM control and status monitoring.
Overall, the C7Z170-OCE looks stunning and appears to be a significant step forward in creating a gaming motherboard which does something completely different to the competition. In the next few weeks, we should have a review arriving at eTeknix headquarters, and I cannot wait to see how it performs.
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.
A new Intel CPU is just around the corner and we get more and more pictures of the upcoming motherboards to go along with it. This time it is Gigabyte’s Gaming 3 motherboard with a World of Tanks theme that poses for the camera.
The new Gigabyte Gaming 3 motherboard is aimed at the sweet spot between performance, features, and price. It supports 2-way SLI and CrossFireX graphic setups and offers a 7-phase CPU VRM. The four DDR4 memory slots support up to 64GB dual-channel memory and the two PCI-Express x16 slots will run at 8x when both are populated. You get one more PCIe x16 slot that is wired as a x4 and also three x1 PCIe slots.
There are plenty of storage options with two 32Gbit/s M.2 slots that can take 42, 60, and 80 M.2 modules, three SATA-Express 16 Gbps, and six SATA 6 Gbps ports. Externally you can connect two USB 3.1 devices, four USB 3.0 and four more via headers as well as numerous USB 2.0 ports.
The audio is provided by an 115 dBA SNR CODEC with ground-layer isolation and EMI shielding, OPAMP tuned for gaming and music, and audio grade capacitors. The network connectivity is covered by a Killer E2200 chip while it also provides D-Sub, DVI, and HDMI outputs for iGPU usage.
More details are sure to emerge soon and we’ll make sure to keep you updated.
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