ECS has recently introduced a new mini-ITX motherboard based on Intel’s H110 Express chipset. This LGA1151 motherboard is named H110I-C4P, and it was designed to be fully compatible with Intel’s 6th generation Core, Pentium and Celeron processors. As far as power is concerned, the board uses a mix of 24-pin ATX and 4-pin CPU power connectors, while the CPU conditioning is taken care of by a 4-phase VRM. Two DDR4 DIMM slots support up to 32 GB of dual-channel DDR4-2133 memory, which should definitely be more than enough for the average user. Clearly, this is not a top-tier motherboard aimed at professionals, but it can still be good enough for basic gaming if you’re not too picky.
When it comes to expansion slots, we’re looking at one PCI-Express 3.0 x16 and an M.2 2242 slot with a bandwidth of 20 Gb/s. It looks like storage connectivity is based on four SATA 6 Gb/s connectors while the display connectivity is ensured by one DisplayPort and one HDMI port. Other highlights include gigabit Ethernet, a 6-channel HD audio solution and four USB 3.0 ports. Given how light it is on features, we shouldn’t expect this ECS motherboard to cost more than $80, in which case it could definitely become appealing to budget-conscious users.
Today’s motherboard review lands right in the middle of everything. Not because it’s all over the place, but because it has a lot of usage scenarios and support for pretty much any setup. You could use ASRock’s E5V5 WS motherboard in a gaming system as well as in a server setup as both of those setups are fully supported, but its real area of operation is to act as the base for a powerful workstation.
The ASRock E5V5 WS uses an LGA 1151 socket and the board is compatible with both E3-1200 v5 processors such as the one I’ll be using later on in this review, but it also supports normal 6th Generation Intel Core processors – so basically the entire Skylake and Skylake-S line-up. As backbone behind the CPU that you end up using is the Intel C232 chipset that is perfectly tuned for workstation environments and a motherboard like this. Memory wise you can use normal DDR4 DIMMs as well as ECC UDIMM memory modules with a speed of up to 2133 MHz in the four DIMM slots with 15μ gold contacts for a total of up to 64GB RAM.
The gold contacts in the memory slots aren’t the only quality feature in this motherboard. The E3V5 WS motherboard is part of ASRock’s Super Alloy series and comes with premium 50A power chokes and is made of a high-density glass fabric PCB. It also features ASRock’s full spike protection that protects from sudden surges, lightning, and electrostatic discharges (ESD).
The network connection isn’t controlled by the average low-performance controller either and we find an Intel PHY i219LM controller on this motherboard. The Gigabit Ethernet controller supports Wake-On-LAN, supports 802.3az energy efficient ethernet and PXE. The Ethernet controller is one of the parts that is protected by the Full Spike Protection. The second part with protection is the USB. The ASRock E35 WS features two USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel and you can connect another four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports via headers. All of these are protected by the ASRock Full Spike Protection. The audio is also protected by this and we find a 7.1 channel HD Audio controller, the Realtek ALC892. It features Blu-ray audio support and uses ELNA solid audio capacitors. Last but not least, you also find legacy PS2 connectors for both your mouse and keyboard.
Internally we find good expansion options too. Since we are dealing with an Intel-based motherboard, we also get IRST for RAID setups across the six SATA3 6 Gb/s connectors. Supported modes include the normal RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 modes.
There are two PCIe Gen3 x16 slots that support both Nvidia Quadro and AMD FirePro workstation graphics cards as well as consumer graphics cards. There is also full support for the use of AMD’s CrossfireX technology for multiple graphics card usage. As I mentioned earlier, you can make a great workstation with this motherboard. There are three more PCIe Gen3 x1 slots available for further expansion and neither of them will be blocked by the use of two-slot graphics cards. Even with a CrossfireX setup, you’ll still have access to the three x1 slots.
Quality hardware and components are just one side of the story, we also need a good BIOS and proper software to have the best experinece. The E3V5 WS comes with both of those features too. The UEFI BIOS has the easy EZ mode dashboard besides the advanced setup pages, which contains multiple readings of the system’s current status. You can check the most crucial information of your system, such as CPU speed, DRAM frequency, SATA information, fan speed, etc.
Even better, you can reach the tech support purely from the systems BIOS, as long as the system has an internet connection. You can also install LAN drivers onto your windows installation directly from the BIOS.
The ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard) technology allows you to establish an internet curfew or restrict internet access at specified times for your kids. Stay in control of their surfing times without yelling. This probably isn’t the most used function in a workstation system, but it could be used to shut down any connection attempts outside of office hours. Another useful feature is the USB Key function that can replace the password question when you log into windows. Do it by plugging a USB drive in instead.
The well-known ASRock XFast RAM and XFast LAN are also built into this motherboard. The XFast RAM feature allows you to fully utilize the memory space that otherwise can’t be accessed in 32-bit systems, among others. XFast LAN is a quality of service protocol that prioritizes the important traffic so you don’t have to wait for loading times. ASRock Live Update and APP Shop also help to make the maintenance easier.
The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers product page and can as such be subject to changes in future revisions of the product.
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.
Intel has resigned the higher core count processors for the professional X99 platform and doesn’t look like changing this business strategy in the near future. As a result, users with hefty requirements might need a 6-core or even an 8-core CPU for complex rendering work, or perhaps huge video editing workloads. The current flagship is the Intel Core i7-5960X which utilizes 8-cores and 16-threads. Apparently this behemoth will be replaced sometime this year with a 10-core, 20-thread 6950X processor. The new range codenamed Broadwell-E is going to be an alluring prospect for extreme users wanting the absolute best performance. Theoretically, these CPUs should work on 2011v3 motherboards providing the manufacturer offers a suitable BIOS
Today, MSI revealed that they have already taken this into consideration and released BIOS updates for their entire X99 range. Here you can see the list of supported models:
X99S MPOWER (E7885IMS.M80)
X99A SLI Krait Edition (E7885IMS.N50)
X99S SLI Krait Edition (E7885IMS.N50)
X99A RAIDER (E7885IMS.P20)
X99A RAIDER (E7885IMS.P20)
X99A GAMING 7 (E7885IMS.HC0)
X99S GAMING 7 (E7885IMS.HC0)
X99A SLI PLUS (E7885IMS.1A0)
X99S SLI PLUS (E7885IMS.1A0)
X99A MPOWER (E7885IMS.M80)
X99A GODLIKE GAMING (E7883IMS.130)
X99A GODLIKE GAMING CARBON (E7883IMS.210)
X99A GAMING 9 ACK (E7882IMS.320)
X99S GAMING 9 ACK (E7882IMS.260)
X99S GAMING 9 AC (E7882IMS.190)
X99A XPOWER AC (E7881IMS.A30)
X99S XPOWER AC (E7881IMS.190)
This is great news for existing owners of X99 MSI motherboards who intend to upgrade to a Broadwell-E CPU upon release. I have to commend MSI for updating the BIOS way in advance (perhaps), to ensure everything is fully operational when you purchase a Broadwell-E processor. If you have any intentions of upgrading, simply navigate to the specific model number’s support page and download the latest BIOS version. Other manufacturers should follow suit very soon but it’s great to see MSI taking such a proactive approach.
ASRock has revealed a nice-looking micro-ATX variant of its flagship socket LGA1151 motherboard, namely the Z170M OC Formula, which features some rather impressive overclocking features. The first thing you might notice when you have a look at this product for the first time is that it offers just two DDR4 DIMM slots even though its form factor could have supported another pair. That’s because ASRock has decided to utilize the PCB real-estate on more reliable electrical components. The motherboard draws power from a mix of 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS connectors, and it makes use of a 14-phase VRM in order to condition that power for the CPU.
The 10-layer PCB used for the Z170M OC Formula greatly reduces overall electrical interference, which is always a big plus. Since it was designed with overclocking in mind, this product features onboard clock fine-tuning buttons as well as DirectKey auto-overclocking controls and a system that allows manual switching between two redundant firmware EEPROM chips. Other highlights include a HyperBClk Feature, which ensures finer control over the base clock. When it comes to expansion slots and storage, the motherboard comes with two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, one 32 Gb/s M.2 slot and eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports that create two 16 Gb/s SATA-Express connectors. A pair of USB 3.1 ports and eight USB 3.0 ports are also a part of the package, not to mention the Intel gigabit Ethernet interface and the Purity Audio 3 solution.
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.
Consumers have a staggering array of options when considering a new motherboard and it can be quite tricky to narrow down the choices. MSI produces a stunning range which targets various price points and user demands. Whether you’re looking for a flagship X99 server-grade product, or affordable H170 gaming motherboard, there’s something to suit everyone’s budget. The company has recently launched a promotion which allows you to receive cashback on the following motherboards:
X99A GODLIKE GAMING – £40.00
X99A GAMING 9 ACK – £40.00
X99A GAMING 7 – £30.00
C236A WORKSTATION – £30.00
Z170A GAMING M9 ACK – £30.00
Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION – £30.00
B150A GAMING PRO – £22.00
H170A GAMING PRO – £22.00
C236M WORKSTATION – £22.00
Z170A GAMING M7 – £22.00
Z170A GAMING M5 – £22.00
Z170A-G45 GAMING – £22.00
Z170A GAMING PRO – £22.00
Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON – £22.00
Z170A KRAIT GAMING 3X – £22.00
Z170I GAMING PRO AC – £22.00
Z170A TOMAHAWK AC – £15.00
Z170A TOMAHAWK – £15.00
Z170A SLI PLUS – £15.00
Z170M MORTAR – £15.00
H170M-A PRO – £15.00
H170I PRO AC – £15.00
B150M NIGHT ELF – £15.00
B150M MORTAR – £15.00
B150I GAMING PRO AC – £15.00
B150I GAMING PRO – £15.00
Please note the cashback offer is only available residents of the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Spain and Turkey. Furthermore, you need to have a valid proof of purchase from participating retailers. If you’re eligible, the claim process is really simple and shouldn’t take too long to complete. The promotion ends on the 18th April 2016, and all claims must be filled 30 days after the purchase date. Although, you can’t leave it longer than 60 days to complete.
To register your product and instigate a claim please visit this page. Cashback offers are always a great incentive and reduces the price of a product you’re considering by a decent amount. Perhaps, this is enough of a saving and an encouragement to upgrade to a higher-end model. Please remember the promotion is for a limited time so it’s important to register your claim as soon as possible. Personally, I feel the Z170A Pro Carbon is a bargain even without the cashback offer.
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.
Intel recently released their Greenlow based Skylake series Xeon CPUs and it’s a pleasure to take a look at the first enterprise-grade motherboard built for these processors today. I have Supermicro’s X11SAE motherboard on the test bench which is a standard ATX-sized single CPU board, but one with all the trimmings.
“Supermicro’s new X11 UP workstations, long-life embedded systems and motherboards integrate the latest technologies such as USB 3.1 and M.2 as well as step up performance, density and efficiency to provide a new generation of Green Computing solutions,” said Charles Liang, President and CEO of Supermicro. “Indeed, with Supermicro’s first-to-market integration, advanced engineering and architecture expertise, we deliver the widest range of Skylake-S platforms available to the industry, enabling our customers with exactly the best competitive advantage on the market.”
Supermicro’s X11SAE doesn’t just support the new Greenlow Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 family CPUs, you can also use 6th Gen Core i7, i5, i3, Pentium, and Celeron series processors. The brain behind the motherboard is the new C236 chipset which comes with a lot of enhancements over the predecessors and Supermicro generally added the newest technologies to this motherboard. Additionally, the motherboard supports up to 64GB DDR4 2133MHz ECC UDIMMs in its 4 sockets. While this motherboard does support ECC and non-ECC modules, it doesn’t support RDIMMS, so make sure you get the right ones.
There are plenty of storage features on this motherboard with the eight native SATA3 6 Gbps ports provided directly by the chipset. The ports support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 for that extra spice in your storage setup and the motherboard also has two SuperDOM ports with built-in power. You’ll also find a next-gen PCIe M.2 slot beside the default SATA3 ports, allowing you to get that extra speed. The M.2 slot doesn’t support AHCI modules, but 2242, 2260, and 2280 PCIe modules will run at a great speed thanks to the x4 slot.
Further expansion can be added through the two PCI-E 3.0 x16 and three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots. The Supermicro X11SAE also features two legacy 5V PCI 32-bit slots for use with older hardware despite the upgrade to the newest platform.
Externally the X11SAE has two Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 LAN ports where one is powered by an Intel i210-AT and the other is powered by an Intel i219LM chip. There’s also a DVI, a DisplayPort, and an HDMI out for use when processors with iGPU are inserted into the motherboard. Further, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.1 ports on the rear IO area. The USB 3.1 ports sport the increased bandwidth and power which allows it to run with up to 10Gbps.
Internally you can connect an additionally four USB 3.0 and size USB 2.0 ports. The motherboard also features two COM port headers, an ALC 888S 7.1 HD Audio chip, a TPM 1.2 header, and much more.
A workstation motherboard also needs a good set of monitoring abilities. You can connect up to five PWM fans with status monitor for speed control, on/off settings, and tachometer. The temperature monitoring includes the CPU and chassis environment as well as CPU thermal trip support and I2C temperature sensing logic and Thermal Monitor 2 (TM2) support.
As a Supermicro motherboard, we also have the benefits of their SuperDoctor 5 software that monitors system health of hardware and operating system services from the target nodes in real-time and provides alerts to administrators on the availability of systems in data centers.
The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers product page and can as such be subject to changes in future revisions of the product.
Single socket H4 (LGA 1151) supports: Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 v5, Intel 6th Gen. Core i7/i5/i3 series, Intel Celeron and Intel Pentium
Intel C236 chipset
Up to 64GB Unbuffered ECC/non-ECC, UDIMM DDR4 2133MHz; 4x DIMM slots
2 PCI-E 3.0 x16 (run at 16/NA or 8/8), 3 PCI-E 3.0 x1 (in x4), and 2 5V PCI 32-bit slots
Single GbE LAN with Intel i210-AT, Single GbE LAN with Intel i219LM
6x USB 3.0 (2 rear + 4 via header), 8x USB 2.0 (2 rear + 6 via headers), 2x USB 3.1 (10Gbps, rear)
Packaging and Accessories
The Supermicro X11SAE comes in a neutral package and that’s all that’s needed for a board like this. It isn’t one you’ll find on a shelve in the local store while browsing around, it’s one your order because you know it’s the one you want. There’s still a sticker on the side that will tell you what’s inside and what the base specifications are.
The rear of the box explains a little bit about the series of motherboards which this one is part off. You get basic information about the series as well as a quick view of optimized chassis and systems.
Inside the box we find four SATA3 cables and the IO shield next to the motherboard itself.
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!
AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture is predicted to offer a very competitive alternative to enthusiast Intel CPUs and could instigate a pricing war. This is great news for the consumer, as Intel currently dominates the higher-end CPU market, and is in need of some strong competition. That’s not to say the current AMD offerings aren’t a suitable choice, but they struggle to match Intel’s performance across the board. This is expected though given AMD’s current ageing sockets with both AM3+ and FM2+. Even though most hardware aficionados are waiting for AMD’s new CPUs which bring DDR4 support and a new socket, it doesn’t mean the older products are suddenly worthless. Perhaps, you want to build a HTPC or on a tight budget. It is quite strange to see new FM2+ motherboards being released in 2016, but at least it provides a better selection of features for those with a FM2+ based processor.
Gigabyte’s latest foray into the FM2+ scene is based on AMD’s A88X chipset and designed as a mid-range motherboard. The F2A88X-D3HP features the standard 24-pin ATX, 8-pin EPS, and includes a 6-phase VRM design. Additionally, there’s a single PCI-E 3.0 X16 expansion slot, one PCI-E 2.0 x16 (electrical x4), two legacy PCI to house older cards and three PCI-E 2.0 x1. The motherboard also supports up to 64GB of dual channel DDR3-2400 memory, and incorporates eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports.
Gigabyte integrated a total of two USB 3.1 ports, with one adopting the Type-A connector and the other uses Type-C. There’s another four USB 3.0 ports (two on the rear, and two more via internal headers). In terms of display options, you can choose from HDMI 1.4a, dual-link DVI, and D-Sub. As you might expect, the motherboard has 8-channel HD audio with an isolated section of the PCB and electrolytic capacitors. When it comes to networking, there is a Gigabit RJ45 port, and the motherboard utilizes Gigabyte dual UEFI BIOS technology.
Since the official reveal of Intel’s latest mainstream LGA1151 platform, we’ve analysed the performance numbers of various Z170 motherboards and even taken an analytical look at the non-overclocking H170 offerings. However, there’s another chipset available to consumers even though it’s primarily marketed towards business users. More specifically, the B150 chipset includes Intel’s Small Business Advantage software package to manage a small network of PCs using fairly rudimentary desktop applications. As a result, it seems quite a bizarre choice to release a B150 motherboard which adopts a lavish visual design, although it might be suitable for business clients wanting to play games during their downtime.
In a similar vein to the H170 chipset, there are some technical limitations when opting for the more budget friendly options. For example, B150 motherboards support a maximum of 18 HSIO lanes (in addition to 16 PCI-E from the CPU) compared to 26 on Z170. Additionally, overclocking is disabled even with an unlocked multiplier CPU, the PCI-E lanes are reduced from 20 to 8, and there’s a small dip in USB 3.0 ports down from 14 to 12. Despite these cutbacks, there’s still more than enough connectivity, and features to please a large quantity of consumers. The ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA is a fascinating motherboard because it brings many of the high-end components from the Z170 range and comes with an excellent array of gaming focussed software. This means, it’s possibly the most ostentatious and impressive B150 motherboard I’ve encountered thus far, and I expect to see some impressive performance numbers in our typical benchmark procedure.
Packing and Accessories
The motherboard is packaged in an attractive box which outlines the RGB sections and high-speed M.2 support. Additionally, there’s a promotional 15-day code to access a premium account in the free-to-play title, War of Warships.
On the rear, there’s a basic overview of the board layout, a technical synopsis and details about the AURA RGB lighting system. Furthermore, ASUS also provides information on the Digi+ VRM, USB 3.1 connectivity, premium audio hardware and gaming software.
In terms of accessories, the B150 PRO GAMING/AURA includes a user’s guide, cable labels, zip ties to help with cable management and drivers disk.
As you might expect, the motherboard comes with an I/O shield, SATA cables and M.2 fixing screws.
With the release of AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture upon us, it seems motherboard manufacturers are attempting to maximize sales from the current AM3+ and FM2+ platforms before it’s been replaced. To enthusiasts opting for the best possible hardware solutions, this isn’t going to interest them, but there’s still some usage scenarios where the low-cost options make sense. For example, you could use this motherboard in a HTPC or create a home-made NAS. The ASRock A88M-ITXac adopts the compact ITX form-factor and based on AMD’s A88X chipset supporting FM2+ APUs and CPUs. Furthermore, the socket is wired to two DDR3 slots housing up to 32GB of dual channel DDR3-2400 memory. There’s also a single x16 PCI-E graphics slot, to insert a high-end discrete GPU.
On another note, the motherboard contains six SATA 6Gb/s ports, an M.2 port on the reverse side of the PCB, and 802.11ac WLAN capable of speeds up to 433 Mbps. ASRock have also implemented Bluetooth 4.0 functionality and gigabit Ethernet. In terms of connectivity, there’s a HDMI 1.4a port, dual link DVI, D-Sub, four USB 3.0 ports and 6-channel audio solution. Another intriguing feature revolves around the ability to use a discrete Radeon graphics card in combination with an APU. This enhances the gaming performance and utilizes every aspect of your hardware setup.
Even though the FM2+ socket is rather outdated, I still believe there’s some merit to purchasing the platform especially if you’re building a small form factor media PC. The A88M-ITXac offers a great deal of features in a neat package. Although, there’s no information yet regarding pricing or availability. Hopefully, this should be unveiled very soon especially when you consider Zen is just around the corner.
Do you think there’s still a need for AM3+ or FM2+ motherboards? I personally wouldn’t purchase one, but at least consumers have that extra option for a low-cost build.
BIOSTAR expands its broad portfolio of motherboards with the new H110MD PRO. The BIOSTAR H110MD PRO supports the latest 6th-generation Intel Core processors and uses the H110 chipset. Memory wise you’ll find support for older DDR3 standard on the H1110MD rather than the newer DDR4 standard.
The new series of motherboards is designed for the budget minded system builder that still wants some great features while not blowing the whole budget on just the motherboard. It features BIOSTAR’s Tough Power Enhanced power design for improved stability and AudioArt capacitors guaranteeing a whole different listening experience versus similar motherboards.
The Audio Art Capacitors are high-end Japanese Nichicon audio capacitors that bring audio to life and make a lot of difference in your experience. Behind the Tough Power Enhanced feature is a high-endurance power design that allows the BIOSTAR PRO series motherboards to endure high-current with consistent full energy output without additional energy loss.
The H110MD PRO also features the Iron Heart as BIOSTAR calls it. The Iron Heart is a reinforced CPU backplate found on these PRO-series motherboards and help prevent bending and stress caused by heavy CPU coolers. This protects the motherboard from potential damage as well as the double feature of adding further cooling to the CPU and VRM area. Next to these three features, the H110MD also features BIOSTAR’s 6+ experience that includes Speed+, Audio+, Video+, Durable+, Protection+ and DIY+.
Specifications wise the board is relatively simple and that was to be expected. That doesn’t mean that the board can’t be very useful. As mentioned previously, the H110MD comes with an LGA 1151 socket for the latest Intel 6th generation CPUs while using a 5-phase power design and the H110 chipset. The board is entirely built with solid capacitors which should increase the overall life expectancy. Next to a Skylake CPU, you can add up to 16GB DDR3L-1600 memory in the two DIMM slots. Expansion wise you won’t find a lot, but the basics are covered with one PCI-e 3.0 x16 and two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, a Gigabit Ethernet connection powered by a Realtek chip, and four SATA3 ports.
The new BIOSTAR H110MD Pro motherboard has an MSRP of $54.99 and is expected to be available shortly. A simple board with solid features at a decent price, looks like it’s all a match.
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.
AMD’s upcoming Zen CPU architecture requires a brand new socket, and predicted to feature a 40% IPC improvement compared to Excavator. As a result, it’s probably the most anticipated release in the processor market for some time and could potentially make AMD competitive again. This is so important to start a pricing war, as Intel has an oligopoly on the enthusiast CPU sector across various pricing tiers. Unbelievably, AMD first launched AM3+ CPUs way back in October 2010 which illustrates how old the current AM3+ socket is. Despite this, motherboard manufacturers have recently launched a few gaming themed AM3+ models to maximize sales before the arrival of Zen. Although, unless your AM3+ motherboard has suddenly died, it’s a frugal tactic to wait for Zen’s official release.
The latest addition by MSI is entitled, the 970A-G43 Plus and based on AMD’s 970 + SB950 chipset. Furthermore, the motherboard supports AM3+ processors with a TDP up to 125W, and draws power via the traditional 24-pin and 8-pin EPS connectors. The CPU is powered by a 4+1 phase VRM, which might come as a surprise given the use of 8+2 on certain AM3+ motherboards. On the other hand, this shouldn’t be a major issue given the budget $100 price point. As you might expect, the 970A-G43 Plus is capable of housing up to 32GB DDR3 2133MHz memory.
In terms of the overall layout, there is a single PCI-Express 2.0 featuring a reinforcement brace. This is designed to reduce GPU sag when using heavy graphics cards with a mammoth custom cooler. There’s also one PCI-Express 2.0 x16 (electrical x4), two PCI-Express x1, and two traditional PCI slots. When it comes to storage, the motherboard includes six SATA 6 Gb/s ports, two USB 3.1 ports and two USB 3.0 ports (front panel). The audio solution utilizes the Realtek ALC892 chipset outputting 8-channels. MSI decided to opt for a Realtek gigabit Ethernet controller and UEFI firmware.
Do you think there is a need for new AM3+ motherboards in 2016?
BIOSTAR has just announced its brand new Pro Series FM2+ lineup of motherboards designed specifically for AMD FM2+ processors. These new motherboards are aimed at those of you who are looking to build cheap and relatively powerful PCs based on AMD’s FM2+ socket CPUs. What makes them stand out among other similar offerings is the fact that they feature an enhanced power design that ensures increased durability and stability. Moreover, they are equipped with reinforced metal CPU retention backplates, and with improved audio solutions based on high-quality capacitors from Japanese manufacturer Nichicon. The Iron Heart Protect CPU backplate definitely deserves a closer look, as it prevents bending caused by heavy CPU coolers thus ensuring that the board does not suffer any circuit damage. The plate also draws away heat from the CPU and VRM areas, which is always a big plus.
The models included in the new lineup are the A70MD PRO, A70MG PRO and A68MD PRO, all of which support DDR3 RAM of up to 2600 MHz (OC). Other highlights include 5-phase VRMs, USB 3.0 connectors and BIOSTAR-specific features such as BIO-Relife, BIO-Flasher and BIO-Watch. Clearly, these are not the most feature-rich BIOSTAR motherboards out there, but considering the fact that they are aimed at more budget-friendly users, they’ll definitely get the job done without issues.
It came as quite a surprise when GIGABYTE first mentioned their new AMD socket AM3+ based motherboards about a month ago and quite a few people were shocked by this news. But there can be a lot of benefits in these two new AM3+ based GIGABYTE motherboards, benefits that some people might not have considered.
The most likely scenario for these new motherboards is probably one where the old motherboard has died or generally just starts to bug around. It is time for a replacement despite that the user might originally have intended to wait for one of the new CPU architectures such as Intel’s upcoming Extreme series or AMD’s own Zen-based series. You could buy an up to six years old motherboard and gain nothing, or you could get one of GIGABYTE’s new ones and get a lot of benefits from modern technology and advancements that have been made since the AM3+ socket was introduced in 2009.
The two new motherboards are the GA-990FX-Gaming and GA-970-Gaming that both got the GIGABYTE G1 Gaming treatment. They come with an M.2 connectors that can transfer with up to 10Gb/s on the 970-based board and 20Gb/s on the 990FX-based.
Both can utilize NVMe and SATA drives, but you naturally you won’t reap the full benefits of an NVMe drive with 10Gb/s speeds. It would still be great and the board is able to use these modern drives with the result being a much faster systems and one that takes less CPU usage than an equivalent SATA version.
GIGABYTE also added USB 3.1 and USB Type-C connectors to these motherboards, allowing you to use the newest peripherals too. This again allows you to move forward with all other aspects of your system while you wait for one of the new hot platforms to be released.
The bigger of the two boards comes with three PCI-Express x16 slots and the smaller only has two, but both support dual-graphics solutions and you can add up to 32GB DDR3 memory to both. Another nice touch on the PCI-Express slots is the use of the exclusive ultra durable metal shielding that will give the slots more durability.
Being boards in the G1 Gaming series, these boards also come with great network and audio solutions. The Audio is taken care of by an 115dBB SNR HD Audio system with built-in rear audio amplifier and high-quality audio capacitors as well as the Audio Noise Guard with Ambient LED Trace Path Lighting to prevent interference. The network connection is provided by a KillerNIC E2200 network controller.
GIGABYTE didn’t reveal any pricing or availability, but considering that they are launched now they should be available soon and the pricing should be close to the predecessors.
GIGABYTE launched a complete new series of High-End Desktop (HEDT) motherboards with the new X170 and X150 series motherboards that are based on Intel’s C236 and C232 chipsets and with support for Intel’s Xeon E3-1200 v5 processors as well as ECC memory. Besides the Xeon compatibility, you can also use 6th generation Core, Pentium, and Celeron processors in these new boards.
The Xeon CPUs come with quite a bit more power than the ordinary desktop CPUs and they are perfect for photographers, designers, and video editors where the software can take a real advantage of the underlying architecture. GIGABYTE is so sure of these products that Henry Kao, the Vice President of GIGABYTE’s motherboard business commented it as “the best HEDT experience” [sic]. The new Intel generation brings some great improvements. Not only are the new Skylake based Xeon’s built on the 14nm technology, the new C230 series chipsets bring along support for faster, better, and more memory. The boards support up to 64GB DDR4 memory with 2133MHz compared to the max of 32GB at 1866MHz on the previous generation. There are also the added bonuses of improved manageability, increased I/O bandwidth, and enhanced processor graphics to name a few.
In the new GIGABYTE series are boards with ECC support and some without, depending on what you need. The X170-Extreme ECC, X150-PRO ECC, and X150M-PRO ECC boards all support it and it can be a useful feature as it can eliminate small data discrepancies and prevent data corruption to ensure reliability for critical applications while also helping to reduce system crashes. Another thing that can help your productivity a lot is how GIGABYTE designed the motherboard. The first PCIe lane on these motherboards is a direct x16 Gen.3 lane to the processor that offers 128Gb/s unrestricted bandwidth to your graphics card.
The new boards also come with all other modern features such as USB 3.1, M.2, and PCI-Express connections. U.2 drives can also be used through an M.2 adapter to give you the fastest possible storage solutions available. On the flagship X170-Extreme ECC motherboard, you’ll also find the Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet Controller which is classified as the world’s most advanced networking detection and prioritization technology for consumer and enthusiast users. The adapter delivers industry-leading latency performance, offering more powerful network control, improved latency, reduced jitter and virtually eliminates video freezes so users can play, watch and stream games all at the same time. At least on the paper.
At the time of writing, not all product pages have gone online yet, so we can’t provide details on all of the boards. The X170-Extreme ECC and X150-PRO ECC are still missing. The X150-Plus WS, X150M-Plus WS, and X150M-PRO ECC are online and you can find the highlights for those below.
Supports the Intel® Xeon® E3-1200 v5 processor and 6th Gen. Intel® Core i3/ Pentium®/ Celeron® Processor
Dual Channel DDR4, 4 DIMMs
2-Way Graphics with Premium PCIe Lane
PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 Connector with up to 32Gb/s Data Transfer (PCIe & SATA SSD support)
SATA Express Connector for up to 16Gb/s Data Transfer
8-channel HD Audio with High-Quality Audio Capacitors
Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
Intel® GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
APP Center Including EasyTune and Cloud Station Utilities
Intel launched the very impressive Intel Xeon D-1500 System on Chip (SoC) last year and now GIGABYTE is ready with four new server boards based on this tiny wonder chip. The Xeon D-1500 family is a series aimed at low power and high-density server applications and it great at that as we’ve seen in our review section.
While I said that there are four new motherboards in this line-up, that’s both true and false at the same time. A better way to say it would probably be that there are two new motherboards that each come in two versions. The difference between the two versions is the SoC that has been used. Two of the motherboards use an Intel Xeon D-1521 processor while the other two use the faster Intel Xeon D-1541 processors. The motherboards are identical on all the other parts than the SoC.
The MB10-DS4 and MB10-DS3 server motherboards come with four cores/eight threads and eight cores/sixteen threads respectively from the SoC and are equally well packed on connectivity. Despite the small mITX form factor, these motherboards still pack dual 10GbE SFP+ LAN ports as well as dual 1GbE LAN ports for optimal connectivity. There’s also a dedicated IPMI 2.0 remote management port with iKVM support. With four DIMM slots, these motherboards can take up to 128GB ECC DDR4 memory and run it at 2133MHz.
Being server motherboards, these come with a rear IO ID button as well as a power button and LEDs for quick diagnostics. There’s also a D-Sub VGA port and two USB 3.0 ports. You can connect two more USB 3.0 ports via the onboard header, but we don’t find any USB 2.0 at all. There are six SATA ports for your drives and you also get a single PCI Express x16 Gen3 slot on the motherboard. The integrated display option is powered by the well-known Aspeed AST2400.
We find the same setup as on the above motherboards when we look at the MB10-DS1 and MB10-DS0 server motherboards, except for one difference. These motherboards don’t have the two 10GbE LAN ports that the above two come with. The faster network connection is something that will increase the price slightly per system which in return quickly runs up when a lot of systems have to be deployed. If you don’t need it, then don’t pay for it and get the versions without. It’s great to see so many options for what’s basically one motherboard with a few changes each time.
CES 2016: MSI’s X99A GODLIKE GAMING motherboard is instantly recognizable with a feature list that almost defies belief. It’s certainly one of the best motherboards ever designed in terms of visual effects, build quality and overclocking prowess. While it’s an expensive proposition, there isn’t any other product like it on the market! However, not everyone enjoyed the lavish colour scheme, and wanted those amazing features in a more neutral package. Thankfully, MSI has delivered with the X99A GODLIKE GAMING CARBON. This black finish works beautifully with white builds and looks so sophisticated. Additionally, MSI has improved on the Mystic Light to add a sense of visual flair to the carbon layer.
The Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON follows a similar pattern, and is a revised version of the Z170A PRO GAMING. As you can see, the motherboard looks astonishing and is a real show piece. Nothing has been altered in the core specification (which is a good thing), and I’m really pleased with how the accents on the heatsink contrast with the PCB’s colour.
Do you prefer the stealth black look or traditional red and black gaming theme?
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.
We’ve mostly seen BIOSTAR motherboards in the HiFi series lately with their characteristic piano styled heatsinks, but BIOSTAR’s next generation of motherboards come with a new theme: Racing. The first motherboards in the new BIOSTAR Racing series are the Z170GT7, H170GT3, and B150GT5 where the names already reveal the chipsets used: Z170, H170, and B150 respectively.
BIOSTAR is mostly known as a budget manufacturer, but they use some high-quality components as these new motherboards also prove. They come with Super Durable Ferrite chokes for high-quality power delivery to vital components, Super Durable Solid Caps for longer-lasting performance, and DUAL BIOS that guarantees resilient motherboard operation if the BIOS should fail. All three come with Intel LAN and the storage options include the new and faster SATA-Express and PCI-e M.2 slots for use with the newest storage drives on the market.
Just because these boards don’t come in the HiFi series, doesn’t mean that the Racing series doesn’t have good audio components and they also come with BIOSTAR’s signature HI-FI audio experience. The motherboards feature an I/O Armor to give the system a better look and also comes with customizable LED effects. You expand your chassis and increase the lighting abilities thanks to the onboard 5050-header for LED strips and then control it via the included VIVID LED DJ.
Besides what I’ve already mentioned, you get a new 100 series motherboard with the features that this brings along, such as plenty of USB connections from 2.0 to 3.1, Intel i217 LAN, plenty of storage connectivity, and four DDR4 DIMM slots along with BIOSTAR’s BIO-Remote 2 and online BIOS update functions that both are extremely useful.
The new BIOSTAR Racing Series is built on what they call the BIOSTAR 6+ Experience and it is composed out of six main features: Speed+, Audio+, Video+, Durable+, Protection+ and DIY+. All things that matter.
BIOSTAR didn’t reveal any pricing at this time but expect them to be cheaper than the average board in the same categories. Sadly there weren’t more photos provided and the official product pages haven’t launched yet, but I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more on these board during CES 2016.
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.
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.
SuperMicro might not be the most recognizable name among enthusiasts with the likes of MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte and other household brands being the logical choice for consumers. However, their pedigree is unparalleled when it comes to stability and creating the best server solutions available today. As a result, I’m always overjoyed to test any SuperMicro motherboard and see this level of expertise move into other markets. Slowly but surely, SuperMicro appears to be targeting the gaming audience and releasing visually appealing products with an impressive range of features.
Approximately two months ago, we reviewed the SuperMicro C7Z170-SQ and felt it offered excellent overclocking functionality for extreme usage scenarios. In contrast to this, today’s review sample is built on the H170 chipset which theoretically disables any chance of frequency boosts. However, recent evidence shows that BCLK overclocking can be attained on non-K series CPUs and H170 motherboards via a BIOS update. The C7H170-M has been proven to allow for BCLK adjustments and huge overclocking headroom using high-end cooling apparatus. Clearly, we’re not going to change our testing CPU to keep the results fair. Although, I’m fascinated to see the maximum frequency on a H170 motherboard and see how close it gets to traditional multiplier overclocks.
Packing and Accessories
The SuperMicro C7H170-M comes in a gorgeous box which evokes a sense of luxury. Its design is simplistic while being extremely unusual and looks stylish. I’m incredibly fond of bold cut-out for the lettering which makes this particular product stand out.
On the rear, there is a detailed overview about the motherboard and its core specification.
The package is quite barebones and comes with a layout diagram, I/O shield, driver disk, M.2 screws and server-style SATA cables. Please note, the included technical sheet also helps with the rudimentary installation procedure. Although, it’s much less detailed than other vendors. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t pose a major problem, and I don’t expect the type of customer purchasing a SuperMicro product to have limited experience in system building.
AMD’s new line of CPUs and APUs are hotly awaited amongst hardware enthusiasts and long-time fans of the company. These new chips, set to make use of AMD’s upcoming AM4 socket have been the subject of a number of leaks, the latest of which saw a number of AM4 products being spotted on a leak from Zauba’s shipping database. The leak included mention of multiple components, with both an AM4 quad-core CPU, quad-core GPU and also an AM4 motherboard.
The leak shows that the components had been shipped to AMD’s testing facility in India, and WCCFtech believe that they belong to the Bristol Ridge family of APUs. As can be seen, 3 different batches of deliveries were made in late October and early November. Included in these were a batch of AM4 APU prototypes and a further batch of AM4 CPU prototypes, both with a TDP of 65W. The later of the shippings included an AM4 motherboard with the FOC acronym, MYRTLE codename and mentioned DDR4 support. FOC stands for Full Operational Capacity, meaning it is likely that the AM4 motherboard specifications are complete.
When you start to aggregate the data on AMD’s leaks, it starts to paint a picture of just when the chips could be released. A leaked BIOS microcode update three months ago showed the addition of functionality for AMD’s new AM4 chips. And WCCFTech notes that the last leak on a chip sent for testing, the mobile chip Carrizo, saw the chips being released just 4 months later.
This all could mean that AMD’s new shot at the gaming CPU crown could be on the way soon, both with its high-end Summit Ridge chips, and more budget all-in-one Bristol Ridge and Stoney Ridge APU chips. The question of whether AMD will be able to oust Intel from their position at the top, which has seemed secure for many years now, and return to the days of the Athlon remains to be seen.