MSI Releases Fix For Skylake Bug Causing Instability

Intel’s Skylake architecture has received a barrage of negative publicity after reports suggested the CPUs could bend under the weight of high pressure coolers and now, a bug was discovered during intensive workloads which causes the system to freeze. The root cause of this is hyperthreading and the use of CPUsupportsFMA3. Intel responded to the claims with an official statement which reads:

“Intel has identified an issue that potentially affects the 6th Gen Intel® Core family of products.  This issue only occurs under certain complex workload conditions, like those that may be encountered when running applications like Prime95.  In those cases, the processor may hang or cause unpredictable system behavior.  Intel has identified and released a fix and is working with external business partners to get the fix deployed through BIOS.”

Thankfully, MSI has released a very swift BIOS update to eradicate the issue although this only covers the Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM and Z170A GAMING M7 so far. However, the rest of MSI’s Skylake line-up will receive a fix pretty soon and be avaliable via MSI’s website. Please note, if you desperately need to apply the latest BIOS now for either the Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM and Z170A GAMING M7, navigate to this page.

Clearly, Intel’s latest release hasn’t gone as smoothly as the company expected, and issues have arisen which could deter consumers from upgrading. Despite this, it’s great to see such a fast response to any technical problems and helps to reassure users that Skylake is a worthwhile investment. Customer service is key in the technology industry, and once again MSI is displaying their commitment to providing the best communication possible. It will be interesting to see if any other technical problems arise from Skylake, but it’s important to remember that the freezing bug only really comes into play during extreme stress workloads.

Gigabyte Announces New Motherboards @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Intel’s Xeon CPUs have a reputation for being extremely expensive and designed for the most demanding professional workloads. However, since the release of Skylake, Intel has outlined their plans to bring the Xeon name back to affordable consumer-grade motherboards. In theory, consumers can purchase the E3 1230 v5 CPU which offers the same core/thread count and L3 cache compared to the i7-6700. The only real downsize is a slight 0.2GHz turbo deficit, 20W higher TDP and lack of onboard graphics. Although this isn’t an issue as most high end users will be using a discrete GPU.

After speaking at length with Gigabyte about this, it seems they feel the consumer Xeon range provides great value, and could become a popular choice. However, I’m pretty sceptical as marketing the Xeon name as an affordable proposition will be a difficult task.  During CES, Gigabyte unveiled the X170 Gaming 3 WS, X170-Gaming 7 WS, X170-Extreme ECC, X150-Plus WS and X150M Plus WM.

As you can see the motherboards adopt a stylish camo design which looks phenomenal and should suit various colour schemes. Rather surprisingly, the majority of these do not have ECC support although this might be revised in time for the official release. These C232/C236 workstation products aren’t as barren as you might expect and include gaming features like an isolated audio PCB section, USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity, 32Gb/s M.2 support 115dB SNR, DualBIOS and more!

This is only a brief overview of the range, and we should be taking a more in-depth look when the motherboards arrive for review purposes.

MSI Reveals H110 PRO Series Motherboards

So far we have mostly been hearing about the Z170 based motherboards for Intel’s 6th generation Core processors, but that isn’t the only platform available for Skylake. There are also the H170, B150, and H110 chipsets available and MSI just revealed their trio based on the H110 chipset.

The three new motherboards are the H110M PRO-VVH, H110M PRO-VD, and H110M PRO-D. The new micro ATX sized motherboards are available in both DDR4 or DDR3 low voltage DRAM solutions and they naturally come with Windows 10 WHQL certification.

MSI also added the unique DDR4 Boost technology that is designed with optimized traces and fully isolated memory circuitry. This design ensures the memory signals stay pure for optimal performance and stability. MSI M-Cloud is another included feature that provides a convenient and secure way of saving personal files in the cloud without complicated settings.

The motherboards are built with Military Class 4 components that ensure stability under extreme conditions as well as ECO Power that improves the efficiency. EZ Debug LED, overvoltage protection, and VGA Armor are also part of the deal and so is the Audio Boost for great sound quality.

With a budget solution like these, over the more extreme enthusiast models in the Z170 series, many people will opt to run them on the iGPU instead of adding a dedicated graphics card. The new PRO series supports both legacy monitors here via DVI and D-Sub, but also crisp clear 4K UHD with HDMI and DP connectors.

Gigabyte Confirm Support for Windows 10

With the launch of yet another Windows OS, motherboard manufacturers the world over are testing the archives of motherboards to ensure compatibility with it. Gigabyte is the latest motherboard manufacturer to certify that a large range of latest generation motherboards are Windows 10 ready.

Gigabyte built their motherboards on great components, meaning that some users may still be using older technology; this is why Gigabyte has gone the extra mile to ensure compatibility all the way back to H61 chipset.

The most popular versions, such as Intel X99, Z97 and Z87 are widely covered, along with AMD 990FX, 990X and 970 chipsets. However, some users who are using AMD 800 chipset or Intel’s Z77 may not be covered fully. For a full list of support motherboards, please visit this website set-up by Gigabyte.

Windows 10 brings back the start menu that so many old school users missed with the introduction of Windows 8/ 8.1 and left many stranded back on Windows 7 because of this. Along with that reintroduction, Windows 10 also brings forward DirectX12 support, which is a huge reason why many users will be upgrading.

One note that Gigabyte did add is some minor issues which are easily overcome:

“Note: Some advanced Windows 10 features require optimized specifications such as a touch screen monitor, a UEFI BIOS, and an SSD that may not be available in every legacy and entry-level system.”

Are you apprehensive about installing this new OS because of compatibility? Post a new thread in our forums and we can do our best to help.

MSI Z170 GAMING M Motherboards Spotted

With Intel’s Skylake launch coming up in the near future, motherboard manufacturers are starting to leak out little snippets of information to drum up interest in their own product lines before the release so consumers are more inclined to pre-order what they see. The most recent MSI with pictures of the upcoming GAMING M series motherboards. This time, the ‘M’ does not mean the form factor is microATX, but to lend itself as part of the branding for MSI; ‘M’ for “Master”. The three motherboards spotted today are the Z170A GAMING M5, Z170A GAMING M7 and Z170A GAMING M9 ACK.

The new series of motherboards will be split into three tiers; Enthusiast for best FPS in games, Performance for those who don’t mind playing at 1080p on MMO games such as League of Legends and Arsenal for those who only game on the off-chance on games that aren’t the most graphically intensive.

The three motherboards feature new heatsink designs from previous GAMING ranges and these make more sense in the ‘progression’ of upgrades, with the M5 having minimal armour, M7 featuring adequate armour and M9 being all out ballistic with a rear armour-plate and a hybrid water cooling MOSFET design.

The new boards feature OC Genie, but in a more tuning friendly format. Previously it was a single button that chose the best ‘settings’ for the CPU installed. Now the new Game Boost ‘knob’ has multiple settings for you to choose for both Intel i5 and i7 CPU’s that are capable of overclocking; and yes, it goes up to 11.

This is something slightly different, TWIN M.2 ports on a single motherboard. Not only are they M.2 ports, they are MSI TURBO M.2 ports, with the ability to reach speeds of up to 64Gb/s by enabling RAID0 between two installed M.2 SSD’s.

ASRock VIP Event @ Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – On the second day of Computex, we were invited to attend a VIP conference to gain more detailed information on the booth showcased on the main floor.

Once we arrived, it was a typical affair, projector and screen with a few rows of chairs and a tantalising layout of product to our right. We were allowed to grab a few pictures before taking a seat, which primarily featured the new 100 series motherboards, ASRocks new Beebox NUC and a random TV/ monitor; which will be used in a demonstration later. Along with all of these, ASRock has a large standing banner suggesting that they have a new brand; ASRock Gaming. This will now categorise some of the motherboards under this new brand; much like previous Fatal1ty motherboards within the ‘Killer’ or ‘Professional’ branding.

The motherboard line-up featured some old classics from the Fatal1ty and Extreme Range with the new chipset and features such as USB 3.1 and USB type-C. Although they are not displayed here, ASRock also offers other 100 series motherboards based on the B150 and H170 chipsets. With the new 100 series, only the Z170’s will feature DDR4 compatibility while the rest will remain with DDR3.

  

      

We look forward to the release of the 100 series motherboards and supported processors and we aim to review them as soon as possible after launch. We will keep you updated with any news and events from the rest of Computex 2015.

MSI Gives a Taste of its Skylake Motherboards @ Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – MSi is one of the biggest names when it comes to enthusiast motherboards. By offer some of the best components in the world and performance to match; it makes a formidable force and a great option to build a computer on.

Today we get to take a quick look at the new range of Skylake motherboards, including the Z170, B150 and H170 chipsets. As we know, the Z170 chipset is the only one to currently feature DDR4 memory channels, but this could change in the future if more people decide to move onto DDR4. What we see today is the more budget-friendly models, but we should see some of the high range models appear either towards the end of Computex or at a closer date to the release of the Skylake processors.

There are currently 2 misprints on the spec sheets, on the H170M Pro-VDH and B150M Pro-VDH; it state 2x DIMM’s, but they quite clearly have 4x DIMM’s. We will keep you updated with any news and events from the rest of Computex 2015.

ASRock RACK @ Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – ASRock are one of the largest motherboard companies in the world right now so it would make sense for it to branch out into other markets such as business and servers.

Even though this isn’t your typical enthusiast grade technology, the technology shown here will most likely filter down into the consumer market in the near future. Take the X99 ITX motherboard, for example, people said it couldn’t be done and it was made; then it was made better with the introduction of 4 DIMM slots.

Today we see an impressive range of motherboards including the X99 ITX motherboard and a server rack.

We look forward to bringing you more news and event updates from Computex 2015 as it happens.

ECS Unveil Skylake Motherboards @ Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – ECS offered a more in-depth look at what the company had to offer in terms of enthusiast grade motherboards after the event yesterday. These include the forceful brand names of Claymore and Blade series motherboards.

These will support the newest Skylake processors and DDR4 RAM, but what has been kept in the quiet is Realteks’s new DRAGON ethernet. I assume this is a gaming ethernet connection to directly rival the Killer ethernet series. The motherboards are in an unfinished state so we can take a look at all of the features without heatsinks getting in the way. Expansion connectivity is impressive, both featuring the new USB 3.1 and M.2 ports which we have come to love as a feature on enthusiast motherboards lately.

Along with these two new motherboards, they have also presented the current Z97 Machine and Drone motherboards. We’ve recently had the Z97I-Drone in for review and it was an impressive motherboard.

We look forward to the release of Intel Skylake processors so we can fully test these new Z170 motherboards. We will keep you updated with any news and events from the rest of Computex 2015.

ECS Showcase Durathon Series Motherboards @ Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – After the press event yesterday, ECS has invited us down to take a closer look at some of its motherboard. We took a keen interest in the ‘Durathon 2’ range. These will offer the highest quality components to ensure lasting performance and longevity.

They boast some pretty impressive specifications, DDR4 on the Intel 170 chipset and DDR3 on the rest, ample of storage connections, high-quality audio, and fast ethernet connections. Due to the colour themes and lack of distinctive heatsinks, I would assume that these will be primarily targeted at the OEM manufacturers rather than enthusiast market.

We look forward to seeing more from ECS in the future and we will keep you updated with any news or events from the rest of Computex 2015.

ASRock X99 Extreme6 (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction and Closer Look


During Intel’s X99 launch in early September one motherboard vendor was noticeably absent from the scene – ASRock. While we’re not sure as to the exact reason for ASRock’s delayed entry, they are now out in full force with an extensive top-to-bottom X99 product stack. Their range of products for Intel’s High-End Desktop (HEDT) platform span the usual three product segmentations: the OC, Fatal1ty and Extreme series. Whichever ASRock motherboard series consumers choose they will be greeted with a very high-end system due to the nature of Intel ‘s X99 chipset and Haswell-E processors. However, each series has been tailored for a specific type of user. The OC series, themed black and yellow, targets the performance junkie and enthusiastic overclocker with beefed up power phases and handy overclocking tools and buttons. The Fatal1ty series, themed black and red, targets gamers with improved quality audio hardware and Killer networking. The Extreme series, themed black and blue, is umbrella group within which today’s motherboard rests. The Extreme series doesn’t target any particular type of user: it is ASRock’s solid all-round motherboard. Consumers struggling to grapple with what that means in practice should equate the ASRock Extreme series to ASUS’s Channel series, Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable series and MSI’s Classic series. On the test bench today is ASRock’s X99 Extreme6 which sits above the X99 Extreme3, X99 Extreme4 and X99M Extreme4 but below the X99 Extreme6/ac, X99 WS and X99 Extreme11.

At first glance the X99 Extreme6 offers a very broad feature set that doesn’t stand out for anything specific, which is what you’d expect for the all-round Extreme series. ASRock provide no additional SATA III 6Gbps ports above the ten already integrated into the Intel X99 chipset, they’ve also decided to side-step the inclusion of a SATA Express port, instead opting for an enhanced “Ultra” M.2 port with 32 Gbps capabilities: 320% more than the default 10 Gbps M.2 port. Two areas where the X99 Extreme6 shines are in power componentry and networking. The ASRock Extreme6 features 12K rated capacitors, a 12 phase design and 60 amp rated power chokes, which are of a solid alloy design. On the networking side dual Gigabit LAN is provided by Intel and Qualcomm controllers with optional AC WiFi made available with the X99 Extreme6/ac for those users who desire it. Users who choose the non-AC model will be left with an unpopulated mini PCIe slot that is capable of supporting a wide variety of wireless networking combo cards.

Packaging and Accessories

The ASRock X99 Extreme6 is certified for up to 3-Way SLI so inside the box you will find 2 and 3-way SLI bridges. Other accessories include four SATA 6Gbps cables, two screws (one for securing mPCIe cards and the other for securing M.2 devices), a variety of documentation, a driver & utility DVD, ASRock case sticker and a SATA power adapter for using ASRock’s HDD Saver technology.

A Closer Look

The blue and black colour scheme ASRock use on their Exreme series is a refreshing break from the red and black repetition that is becoming so common. Once upon a time blue was the in-fashion colour scheme used by ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI, for those of you who can remember as far back as Z77. Now, MSI and ASRock are the only vendors equipping Blue.

Moving down to the bottom of the motherboard we find, from left to right, front panel audio, a TPM header, a Thunderbolt header, a COM port, a clear CMOS jumper, a BIOS switch, dual USB 2.0 headers, two system fan headers, a power button, a reset button and the front panel connectors.

Along the right side of the motherboard we find a USB 2.o port, 24 pin power connector, a pair of USB 3.0 headers and a fan header.

Down by the PCH heatsink there’s a block of 10 SATA III 6Gbps ports and a debug LED.

The CPU socket area reveals an impressive 12 phase VRM for enhanced overclocking potential.

The PCIe configuration supports three-way on 40 lane CPUs and two-way on the 28 lane i7 5820K. An “Ultra” M.2 port and mini PCIe slot are provided for extra connectivity options. Helpfully there’s also supplementary molex power and double slot spacing for multi-GPU configs.

ASRock implement the shielded Realtek ALC1150 audio codec onto an isolated PCB with advanced audio capacitors, this forms their Purity Sound 2 package.

At the top of the motherboard we see a nickel plated heatpipe adjoining the two CPU VRM heatsinks. An 8 pin EPS tucks in behind the primary VRM heatsink along with a pair of CPU fan headers, one 3 pin and another 4.

The rear I/O offers a nice balance of connectivity: dual LAN, six USB 3.0 ports, eSATA, two USB 2.0 ports, a keyboard/mouse combo, six audio ports (5 analogue, 1 optical) and a clear CMOS button.

 

On the under-side we find easily serviceable screws which ensure that the heatsinks can easily be removed for water cooling.

Gigabyte X99 Gaming G1 WiFi (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction and Closer Look


A trend that is observable with higher end “gaming” motherboards is that they tend to be geared primarily towards performance junkies, overclockers and all-round enthusiasts, rather than just pure gamers. Gaming motherboards based on Intel’s X99 chipset are a perfect example of this because the reality is that most gamers would get a better deal by opting for a Z97 motherboard and a Core i7 4790K. As a result a gaming X99 motherboard appeals to a specific type of gamer who has the need for a large amount of CPU horsepower and memory to assist with things like video editing, rendering and streaming. Today we have Gigabyte’s G1 Gaming WiFi motherboard which takes Gigabyte’s “gaming” feature-set of upgraded quality audio and Killer networking and pairs that up with the performance of the X99 platform and various tools for overclockers such as voltage read-off points and onboard buttons. There’s also a shed-load of connectivity such as dual-LAN, AC WiFi, SATA Express, M.2 and more USB ports than you can shake a stick at. In basic terms, the Gaming G1 WiFi is Gigabyte’s flagship motherboard for the X99 Gaming series, but the reality is that any Gigabyte X99 motherboard is going to be “high-end enough” for you to be contented.

Packaging and Accessories

The Gigabyte X99 Gaming G1 WiFi comes in a very large box so we should probably expect to find a ton of things inside.

Accessories galore! In the accessory package Gigabyte provide enough SLI bridges for 2, 3 and 4-way as well as a 2-way CrossFire bridge. There’s six braided SATA cables, a PCIe ribbon power adapter, a WiFi antenna, labelled rear I/O shield and all of the usual documentation and drivers.

A Closer Look

The X99 G1 Gaming WiFi has strikingly similar aesthetics to the X99 Gaming 5 we reviewed a few months ago. A rather over-sized chipset heatsink draws your attention to the red and black colour scheme of the board, which puts the green audio capacitors rather out of place. The main difference between this board and the so called “lower end” X99 models is that the heatsink array is more extensive and offers more heat pipes.

Along the right hand edge of the motherboard we find various buttons (Power, Reset, Clear CMOS, Direct to BIOS) and a couple of BIOS switches for selecting which BIOS you want to use. Voltage read-off points also exist if that’s your thing but we think these are only here because the X99 G1 Gaming WiFi uses a similar PCB to the Gigabyte X99 SOC Force. The included debug LED should come in handy, especially if you’re running multi-GPU configurations.

Near the chipset heatsink we find ten SATA ports, a SATA Express and a SATA power for providing additional power to the motherboard, useful, again, when running multi-GPU configurations.

At the top of the motherboard we can see the various interconnected heatpipes and heatsinks as well as the 8 pin EPS for CPU power. Note there’s no extra 4 pin here which might actually come in useful when overclocking the power-hungry 8 core i7 5960X.

Along the bottom of the board is an abundance of USB 2 and 3 headers, the front panel I/O, the audio I/O, and a system fan header.

The audio area has ground-layer isolation with red LED lighting that clearly shows the PCB separation. A Creative SoundCore 3D chip provides the primary audio codec and is teamed up with a Texas Instruments Operational Amplifier and audio-grade capacitors.

The rear I/O provides eight USB 3.0 ports (one of which is white as that’s the dedicated USB flashback port), two USB 2.0 ports (yellow) and a PS/2 combo. Dual Gigabit LAN is provided, one Intel and one Killer, depending on your preference, and the outputs for the WiFi antenna. The five analogue audio ports are jazzed up with some gold plating to improve contact with your headphones or speakers. The strip of buttons, from top to bottom, includes a CPU OC button, Fast Boot button and Clear CMOS button.

PCIe connectivity is the strength of the X99 platform and with dual spacing between each 16X lane you can easily run a quad-GPU configuration if you have use for it. Two M.2 ports provide support for integrated WiFi and an additional high-speed storage option.

The CPU socket is powered by an 8 phase VRM: perhaps proof that all motherboard vendors have now acknowledged that the quality  of the VRM matters more than quantity of phases used?

From the bottom we can see some additional cooling/stabilisation is provided underneath the primary CPU VRM heatsink. All heatsinks are easily removable with phillips head screwdrivers for those who want to remove them to fit waterblocks.

ASUS Crossblade Ranger (FM2+) Motherboard Review

Introduction and Closer Look


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

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

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

Closer Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5 (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s Z97 platform is a perfect basis for a mini-ITX system build as it features enough performance to please even the most demanding user while still being power efficient enough to be tamed by small form factor cases and modest cooling solutions. Due to those reasons it isn’t surprising to see Intel’s LGA 1150 platform dominate the mini-ITX landscape. Creating a mini-ITX motherboard from AMD’s AM3+ or Intel’s LGA 2011 platforms is unfeasible from a number of perspectives including heat and for LGA 2011, the size of the socket and number of memory lanes required. We have seen other mini-ITX motherboards emerge for low power platforms like Intel’s Bay Trail, AMD’s Kabini and AMD’s FM2+ APU platform but relatively speaking all three of these platforms cannot rival Intel’s LGA 1150 in terms of raw performance. In short, Intel’s mainstream LGA 1150 platform offers the best balance of features, performance, pricing and power efficiency for the mini-ITX form factor.

On the subject of mini-ITX today we are reviewing Gigabyte’s Z97N-Gaming 5 motherboard to see if it can match the high standards set by other motherboard vendors such as MSI with their Z87I Gaming AC or ASUS with their Z97I-PLUS. Gigabyte’s Z97N-Gaming 5 is part of Gigabyte’s gaming product stack meaning we see the usual audio and networking customisations found across the entire Gigabyte Gaming 9 series. The heart of this “Gaming” status is derived from a combination of Killer networking and advanced audio quality based on Realtek’s flagship ALC1150 codec. Those two things aside the customisation options for mini-ITX motherboards are limited for obvious reasons: space. The new storage form factors for Z97, M.2 and SATA Express, both get ditched due to space constraints. Gigabyte haven’t tried to reverse mount an M.2 port on the bottom of the board like ASUS managed to do with the Z97I-PLUS. Impressively Gigabyte have still managed to use all six SATA ports, offer a heatpipe cooling solution and a pair of fan headers for the CPU socket. The space on the Z97N Gaming 5 is used well, a point of congratulations goes to the decision to ditch the TPM header which ASUS and MSI both put on their mini-ITX boards for reasons unknown to the logical thinker: what gamer needs a TPM device?

Packaging and Accessories

The accessory bundle and packaging for the Z97N- Gaming 5 is as small as the board. With the typical documentation and DVD we get a rear I/O, some stickers and a WiFi antennae.

MSI Z97S SLI PLUS (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Something that becomes apparently obvious with the motherboards I review on a regular basis is that most of them have too many features for the average user. That’s too many in the sense that most of them would go unused but mainly it is too many in that it adds unnecessary cost. Let’s face it none of us would say no to extra features if we didn’t have to pay for them, even if they remained unused.

In the Z97 space, MSI appear to have come up with a solution to that problem with their Z97S SLI PLUS motherboard. Sure it isn’t the prettiest motherboard available sporting the Z97 chipset, neither is it the most feature rich but what it does have going for it is a well struck-up balance of pricing and features. For around £100 in the UK, or $135 in the USA, the MSI Z97S SLI PLUS offers you a feature rich platform which includes SATA III, SATA Express, M.2, USB 3.0, SLI and CrossFire support, a UEFI BIOS, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, a decent amount of fan connectivity and solid audio. The colour scheme does seem a little confusing with a combination of a brown PCB and blue/black heatsinks, so this is definitely aimed at being a motherboard for people without side panel windows.

Packaging and Accessories

MSI have pitched the board in a strange way. Despite clearly gearing this board towards SLI users the box draws upon the stability, reliability and protection mechanisms rather than things like the PCIe configurations.

On the back we find MSI pushing their components and protection mechanisms such as circuit protection, EMI protection and ESD protection.

The accessory bundle includes some documentation, a utility DVD, a labelled rear I/O plate, a SLI bridge and four SATA cables. That’s quite a lot for a seemingly budget board.

Gigabyte X99 UD4 (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


A short while ago we took Gigabyte’s X99 Gaming 5 motherboard to our test bench for a review. As the name suggests that particular motherboard was targeted at Gamers with its feature set and styling. Today we have with us a motherboard targeted at a broader X99 user-base than Gamers. The Gigabyte X99 UD4 is Gigabyte’s most affordable X99 offering but still retains all of the high performance features of the X99 platform.

At a fundamental level this board is very similar to the X99 Gaming 5 except the styling uses a different colour scheme, the audio has fewer features and uses a different codec and the Gigabit LAN is now Intel instead of Killer. Overclocking capabilities and features are similar – both boards feature high quality 6 phase designs with International Rectifier PWM controls and there are no onboard buttons or any read-off points. Overclocking buttons and features are reserved for higher end SKUs like the X99 SOC-FORCE.

This board still boasts support for up to 8 DDR4 modules, 4-Way GPU configurations, up to 10 SATA III devices or 8 SATA III devices and a SATA Express device and there’s even dual M.2 ports for more storage and optional WiFi/Bluetooth combo cards. The Gigabyte X99 UD4 will undoubtedly be a popular motherboard for Gigabyte just like how their X79-UD5 model was in the last generation. Let’s now take a detailed look at this motherboard’s specifications:

Packaging and Accessories

The X99 UD4 comes in one of the smallest boxes I’ve seen for an X99 motherboard. The branding is Gigabyte’s mainstream “Ultra Durable” series, remember Gigabyte’s other two SKUs are the Gaming line and the Overclocking line.

Around the back we find a really in-depth motherboard analysis focusing on features, performance and the quality of the components used in this board’s construction.

Accessories are modest for an X99 platform board. As Nvidia SLI certification requires there’s a range of 2, 3 and 4 Way SLI bridges and also a 2-Way AMD CrossFire bridge. Remember AMD’s newest GPU SKUs do not require bridges anymore as the XDMA “bridge-less” feature was implemented. Four braided SATA cables, a rear I/O and a power adapter cable make up the rest of the accessories.

Moving onto the mundane inclusions and we find some basic documentation and a driver/utility disc.

MSI X99S XPOWER AC (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Every major motherboard brand has a particular flagship board that targets overclocking on Intel’s new HEDT X99 platform. Gigabyte have their X99 SOC-FORCE, ASUS have the Rampage V Extreme and ASRock have the X99 OC Formula. Today we are looking at MSI’s flagship OC board, the X99S XPOWER AC. Despite being an “overclocking” board the X99 XPOWER AC gets endowed with a lot more consumer-friendly features than you might expect. The AC in its name denotes the fact this board ships with an 802.11 AC WiFi module and antennae. MSI have also equipped their AudioBoost audio package, a shed-load of USB 3.0 connectivity, dual Intel Gigabit NICs and of course a stylish design. However, overclocking features make up the DNA of this board. MSI calls the overclocking features “OC Essentials” and they are mainly buttons, check points and LEDs. There are also less visible things like CPU overcurrent protection built into the board and even a USB flash drive for saving BIOS OC profiles.

Packaging and Accessories

The MSI X99S XPower AC has a huge box which isn’t surprising given its E-ATX form factor and rich accessory package.

Around the rear of the box we find a lot of information about the product but we’d like to point you to the official product page for a more comprehensive overview.

Let’s get stuck into what’s included with the MSI X99S XPOWER AC because trust me – there’s a lot! Up first we have utility DVDs and documentation.

Next we have a poster, some stickers, a door hanger and more documentation.

Next we find some OC features such as a modified backplate designed for LN2 pots and a delid die-guard for anyone brave enough to delid a Haswell-E CPU. Remember Haswell-E CPUs have the “lids” soldered onto the die so removing them is near impossible if you’re not highly experience. It isn’t like with Haswell & Z97 (or Ivy Bridge and Z87) where removing them is super-easy and all that’s required is a flat razor.

The accessories keep coming: MSI provide a USB flash drive with the drivers & utilities on (hallelujah!), a labelled rear I/O , V Checkpoint cables, front panel connectors  and various SLI bridges.

MSI also provide 7 SATA cables, a molex to dual SATA adapter and a eSATA bracket if you want eSATA at the rear of your system.

To round off the accessories we find the WiFi antennae and MSI’s OC Fan Stand which allows you to mount a fan at the edge of the motherboard to blow air onto the CPU/DRAM area.

ASUS Rampage V Extreme (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


The Rampage line of ASUS motherboards are famed for their class-leading performance and prestigious reputation. With every new CPU on Intel’s High-End Desktop (HEDT) Platform we’ve seen new ASUS Rampage motherboards. The first Rampage arrived with LGA 775 and the X48 chipset, we saw the second iteration Rampage II come with socket LGA 1366, the X58 chipset and Bloomfield CPUs. The Rampage III arrived with the same socket and chipset but with the new 32nm Gulftown CPUs that introduced 6 cores for the first time. Intel continued the 32nm and 6 core trend when ASUS brought out the Rampage IV Extreme for X79 and Sandy Bridge-E CPUs. With Ivy Bridge-E ASUS refreshed the Rampage IV Extreme with a Black Edition variant that used the same socket and chipset as the original board it improved on. Now we’ve got Intel’s Haswell-E 8 cores and ASUS have brought the Rampage motherboard into its fifth iteration – and it’s more bada$$ than ever before.

The ASUS Rampage V Extreme is the complete package for the Intel LGA 2011-3 X99 platform. It supports all the bells and whistles….. and then ASUS added a gong and foghorn just for good measure. The R5E draws its inspiration from its predecessor and continues to target a broad user-base with features suitable for extreme overclockers, gamers, workstation users and elitist PC users. ASUS haven’t just settled for the X99 chipset, they decided to keep on adding more and keep on improving. Of note for this board is the ASUS OC Socket which adds extra pins to allow for additional voltage controls with Intel Haswell-E CPUs, ASUS claims better DRAM and CPU overclocking than on rival motherboards. We could go through all the new features of the ASUS Rampage V Extreme but there’s just so much, we refer you over to our ASUS X99 launch article which explains in-depth all the new features of the ASUS Rampage V Extreme and other ASUS X99 motherboards.

Packaging and Accessories

An ASUS Rampage V Extreme motherboard wouldn’t be complete without a lavish package. Straight away you notice just how big the Rampage V Extreme is, there must be a ton inside the box!

Flipping the box over gives us a detailed break-down of features, specifications and other technical details of which more can be found at the ASUS Rampage V Extreme product page.

Normally we wouldn’t bother showing you all the different parts of a product’s packaging but with the R5E there’s an exception to be made, it comes beautifully presented and ASUS certainly know how to make their buyers feel special.

You get a tonne of accessories with the R5E so let’s work our way through them. Firstly, you get a variety of documentation, a driver utility DVD, a door hanger and some stickers for managing your internal components.

Next we find an alternate backplate for LN2 pot mounting, the rear I/O shield which is padded, a 2 way Crossfire bridge and 2/3/4 way SLI bridge.

ASUS include 10 SATA cables, a variety of temperature probes, Q-Connectors for the front panel connectors and a WiFi Antennae for the dual band 2.4/5GHz WiFi.

The final piece of the accessory pack is the OC panel, this allows you to easily overclock and tweak your motherboard.

ASUS also give you the option to mount it into a provided 5.25 inch bay and access it from the front of your case, a USB cable is also provided for interfacing between the OC panel and the system.

Crucial 32GB 2133MHz Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Kit Review

Introduction


With the launch of Intel’s X99 platform last week came the first consumer availability of DDR4 memory, the successor to the current mainstream DDR3 product stack. Today we can reveal our first DDR4 memory kit review kicking things off with Crucial’s DDR4-2133 32GB kit. It may not be fancy in its styling but it comes with Crucial’s usual competitive pricing and makes an interesting analysis given that it is the entry level DDR4 speed of 2133MHz, remember the baseline for DDR3 when it was released was 1066MHz. To test Crucial’s kit we’ve opted for the ASUS Rampage V Extreme motherboard which is the current world record motherboard for memory overclocking, furthermore the “ASUS OC Socket” feature this board has allows for higher memory overclocks with less volts than rival boards.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The packaging is simple and straight to the point – inside the easy to open box we find four plain-Jane Crucial DDR4 modules.

A Closer Look

The modules aren’t going to win any beauty contests, but it isn’t all about looks you know!

Here’s a closer look at the memory ICs, Micron are the producer as Crucial is a Micron brand. The IC number is Micron D9RGQ which is on the ASUS Rampage V Extreme QVL (Qualified Vendor List) for guaranteed compatibility and stability.

Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5 (LGA 2011-3) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s new “Haswell-E” high-end desktop platform recently launched with the Core i7 5960X 8 core CPU leading the way – be sure to check our review of that right here. To accompany Intel’s new Haswell-E CPUs we have a brand new platform based on the X99 Express chipset and DDR4 memory. Today we are reviewing our first motherboard based on X99 Express and it is actually the same motherboard we used in our Core i7 5960X – the Gigabyte G1 Gaming 5 X99 motherboard. To put it through its paces we are using Intel’s flagship Core i7 5960X and a hefty 32GB of Crucial DDR4 2133MHz memory which is fresh off the Micron production line. Gigabyte’s newest X99 series of boards draw a lot of their inspiration from the recent Z97 releases: they use the same colour schemes, they offer similar audio and networking combos and they are orientated towards the same market segments, albeit at a higher premium. The Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5 has impressive specifications, largely due to the fact the X99 chipset offers so much. Gigabyte have opted for the “gamer” orientation with this board by equipping the usual Killer networking and high quality audio package, we also have the almost-cliché red & black colour scheme which has proved so popular.

Packaging and Accessories

The X99 Gaming 5 slots into the G1 Gaming series and is the entry level X99 Gaming board from Gigabyte.

Despite the “entry level” status the feature set is staggering: having a basic X99 based motherboard isn’t really possible. As the rear of the box exemplifies Gigabyte are targeting performance, audio, networking and looks with this board.

The accessory pack is one of the more basic ones we’ve seen for an X99 board but is still extensive. There are a couple of manuals, a driver & utility CD and some stickers.

For inside the system we find a rear I/O, 2-Way, 3-Way and 4-Way SLI bridges of different lengths, a CrossFire bridge, some PCIe power adapters and 6 braided SATA 6Gbps cables.

ASUS X99 Motherboard Launch Coverage

Introduction & The Boards


The run-up to the launch of Intel’s new X99 chipset has been very similar to that of Z97 in that nothing has been kept a secret. Everything about the new chipset, the new CPUs and the different motherboards vendors will produce has been exposed to the press in recent weeks. However, ASUS have been one of the vendors who have done a fairly good job at keeping a lid on things: leaks from the ASUS camp have been few and far between. Yet launch day is finally here so we can share all about the new ASUS X99 motherboards. We were invited to attend an ASUS X99 technical seminar in London where ASUS revealed their X99 line-up which consisted of four motherboards. These four motherboards will be the initial offerings from ASUS at launch but we may see other models launch a little later down the line. On show were three ASUS X99 motherboards that will be part of their Channel Series and a solitary motherboard from the Republic of Gamers series – the hotly anticipated Rampage V Extreme. Interestingly, the release of the ASUS Rampage V Extreme motherboard means we will probably not see an Extreme SKU on the Z97 chipset but that’s a story for later on, first let’s dive into each of the motherboards shown off by ASUS and then take a look at some of the new features ASUS are bringing to the market with their X99 motherboards.

ASUS X99-A

As is always the case with ASUS motherboards of recent generations the “A” moniker denotes the entry level variant. It is possible that we may see better (and worse) motherboards released by ASUS in the future but generally speaking the A model is the baseline for what we should expect of ASUS X99. As you can see this baseline motherboard is still high-end – let’s face it there’s no way an X99 platform couldn’t be. The ASUS X99-A comes with the new ASUS OC Socket, support for up to 64GB of DDR4 memory and it adds the ASUS 5-Way optimisation technology that we saw introduced with Z97. We will discuss in more depth shortly what the ASUS OC Socket and 5-Way Optimisation entail, but there is a lot more to it than just marketing speak.

ASUS X99-DELUXE

Next up in the channel series is the DELUXE model. This is the flagship ASUS motherboard for consumer-targeted connectivity. The noteworthy features include triple band 802.11 AC WiFi and Hyper M.2 which is a standard of M.2 that provides 32 Gbps instead of the usual 10 Gbps. ASUS have also added a unique fan accessory daughterboard which allows you to connect and control additional fans and you can control these with all the features of the latest ASUS Fan Xpert 3 utility, we’ll detail this more a bit later.

ASUS X99-E WS

The ASUS X99-E WS motherboard is the main Workstation board to launch and this quite obviously brings with it an overall feature-set and range of connectivity that is higher than the DELUXE model. As we’ve seen in the past this will be matched by the price, but the target market for this kind of product is prosumers and working professionals so the premium is assumed as justified. The headline feature of the X99-E WS is that it supports 4 Way SLI and CrossFire and has abundant connectivity including M.2, SATA Express and Thunderbolt 2. ASUS have also kitted out the power delivery with their highest end components such as 12K rated capacitors which enhances the stability and reliability of the platform: a crucial consideration for a workstation where time is money, avoiding downtime is vital.

ASUS Rampage V Extreme

The star of the show is still arguably the Rampage V Extreme, or as ASUS like to describe it: “the one to rule them all”. The Rampage V Extreme builds on the success of the Rampage IV Extreme as well as the modifications to it we saw with the Rampage IV Extreme Black Edition. Aside from the obvious upgrades to DDR4, X99 and Haswell-E CPUs there’s also upgrades to the audio, which is now the SupremeFX 2014 implementation, and we see the return of the OC Panel add-on to control overclocking and other hardware-level features. Many of the features to the ASUS R5E are actually inherited from the ASUS Z97 ROG boards such as the KeyBot, Sonic SoundStage and so on. For those who are interested in more details about the SupremeFX 2014 audio package ASUS tell us that it is roughly equivalent to the ASUS Xonar D1 sound card although it actually performs quite a bit better than the Xonar D1.

Exclusive: Gigabyte GA-X99-UD5 WiFi Motherboard Revealed

Click for enlarged version.

We have managed to get our hands on an exclusive picture of Gigabyte’s upcoming GA-X99-UD5 WiFi motherboard, pictured above. This motherboard will be part of Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable line for X99 meaning it has the black and orange colour scheme with some silver & grey accenting. Strangely the Gigabyte X99-UD5 WiFi is virtually identical to the flagship Ultra Durable motherboard the X99-UD7 WiFi. We’ve already had a look at that board and the similarities are striking. From further studying we have been able to confirm that there are a few noticeable differences between the two:

  • Gigabyte’s UD5 WiFi sports a FastBoot and OC button which the UD7 WiFi does not have
  • Gigabyte’s UD5 WiFi lacks a USB DAC port on the rear I/O which the UD7 WiFi has
  • Gigabyte’s UD5 WiFi loses a connecting heat pipe between the top heatsink and the PCH heatsink which the UD7 WiFi has

Those four things aside we can say that for all intents and purposes the two boards are more or less identical. This isn’t a bad thing because it means you can get a UD7-quality motherboard for the price of a UD5. However, it does pose a few problems for consumers when it comes to differentiating between the two.

Some of the features about Gigabyte’s X99-UD5 that can be seen from the board include:

  • 4 Way SLI and CrossFire support, bandwidth will vary by CPUs as we know the Core i7 5820K has 28 PCIe lanes compared to the 40 PCIe lanes on the Core i7 5930K and 5960X
  • Dual M.2 connectors which appear to be stacked vertically
  • 802.11 AC WiFI which is dual band and likely includes Bluetooth
  • 10 SATA III ports of which four are shared with dual SATA Express ports
  • Two banks of Quad Channel DDR4 memory support
  • Isolated audio with custom audio grade capacitors, likely Realtek ALC1150 codec powered
  • Overclocking buttons and debug LEDs

The X99-UD5 WiFi looks set to be a cracking motherboard, offering almost all the features of a flagship but without the flagship price.

Source: eTeknix

MSI Z97 MPOWER MAX AC (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


When it comes to premium motherboards bursting at the seams with features MSI’s MPower and XPower motherboards are certainly well recognised. Although tailored specifically for overclocking, and themed to join the ranks of other MSI Lightning hardware, the M and XPower motherboards still offer all the high-end features we’d expect from a good motherboard. Today we have a motherboard with us that epitomises that from MSI, the Z97 MPower Max AC. Not only is it geared towards overclockers with its advanced BIOS, voltage read-off points, assortment of onboard tweaking buttons and even integrated liquid cooling but it is also geared towards the power user with Gigabit Intel LAN, AC WiFi, Bluetooth, M.2, SATA III, high quality audio and a shed-load of USB connectivity. There isn’t really a lot else to say about the Z97 MPower Max AC other than it has just about everything you could possibly want in a motherboard, and better still it certainly won’t make your wallet cry with a very reasonable price of £170 or $260. The full specifications are as follows:

Packaging and Accessories

The packaging proudly displays the yellow and black colour scheme of MSI’s Lightning series, you can also see that AC WiFi takes pride of place: this is a feature MSI are really pushing so we are excited to test it.

The back details all the features and specifications, find more details on those here at the product page.

The accessory pack is absolutely jammed packed. For documentation we get an overclocking guide, quick installation guide, software guide, user manual, some driver and utility CDs and a MSI LN2 themed door-hanger.

You also get front panel MConnectors, stickers to label your cables with, voltage checkpoint cables, the WiFi AC module, a rear I/O and a screw and user manual for the WiFi module.

You also get 8 SATA cables, that’s a SATA cable for every port – something vendors rarely do, you get the WiFi antennae, an SLI bridge, an eSATA rear I/O bracket and a molex to dual SATA power adapter.

ASUS Z97 Gryphon Armor Edition (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


The ASUS TUF line is always one of the more exciting product ranges to come out of the ASUS consumer motherboard platform, albeit a very niche form of excitement (well I find it exciting anyway…). I took a look at my first ASUS TUF series motherboard last year when ASUS kindly sent over their Z87 Sabertooth board. My general thoughts were that the board was a very good piece of kit although the monitoring, reliability and stability aspects of it seemed to be quite niche, aimed at a specific form of power user. I don’t really expect that to change given that the TUF series is still about giving you military grade reliability and stability but I am hoping there will be lots of new features on offer with the new Z97 TUF series. Today we are looking at the ASUS Z97 Gryphon motherboard which is the micro-ATX version of the TUF line. More specifically we have the ARMOR EDITION equipped with the ASUS thermal armor but ASUS do offer a version without for users who find it garish or unnecessary. The full specifications of the motherboard are fairly basic given that there’s no M.2, no SATA express, no WiFi and so on. However, for a micro-ATX motherboard it still has all the key features a desktop user would expect such as Gigabit LAN, dual PCIe 16X lanes, SATA III ports and decent spec audio.

Packaging and Accessories

The flagship feature of the ASUS TUF series is that 5 year warranty, that really is the selling point for all the reliability and stability features.

The back breaks down the key features of the motherboard, most are related to reliability and stability aspects such as reducing dust and heat.

Included is an extensive bunch of documentation including details on how to install all the extra accessories.

The “standard” accessories include a rear I/O shield, four SATA cables, SLI bridge and some Q connectors for the front panel I/O.

The “TUF” accessories include a small fan for the rear I/O (part of the Dust De-Fan feature), thermal sensor probes and a variety of slot covers for things like the unused rear I/O ports and so on. These are to prevent dust build up.

You also get dust covers for the PCIe lanes, the RAM slots and some miscellaenous screws and fittings for attaching things. The included guide explains all if you get overwhelmed by the mass of accessories.

Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H-BK (LGA 1150) “Black Edition” Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Gigabyte have given their Ultra Durable series a bit of a revamp for Z97 offering their boards up in Black Edition flavours. Whilst the implications of the Black Edition are fairly obviously, it is an overwhelmingly black-coloured motherboard, it also implies a new standard of durability. Gigabyte test all Black Edition series motherboards for an impressive 168 hours using server grade durability tests to ensure high reliability and stability. As if that wasn’t enough Gigabyte also go to town on offering a hefty 5 year warranty and use some of the highest quality components including their “DuraBlack” solid capacitors and their dual layer copper PCB. However, the Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H-BK isn’t just about reliability, this motherboard has bucket loads of features too. Among them this motherboard has dual Gigabit LAN, one provided by Intel and the other by Killer, it has extra SATA III ports, extra USB 3.0 ports, SATA Express and M.2, support for 3-Way CrossFire, a dual UEFI BIOS, high quality ALC1150 Realtek audio, voltage measurement points, onboard buttons and a hefty 12 phase CPU VRM. On paper the Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H-BK is a fantastic high-end board so let’s get on with our review and see how it shapes up in testing.

Packaging and Accessories

In keeping with the Black Edition naming the motherboard comes in a fully black box. Upon opening it you’re greeted with a pull-down flap with more feature marketing material.


On the back there’s a fully labelled pictured of the motherboard as well as a specifications list and some more details on all the features.

Gigabyte include a certificate of stability and reliability to let you know that your board has been through Gigabyte’s testing procedures that enable them to certify the motherboard as “Ultra Durable” and part of the “Black Edition” series.

Included with the motherboard is an in-depth user manual, multilingual installation guidebook, driver and utility CD and a case badge/sticker for your system if you wish to show off your Gigabyte motherboard.

Accessories include a nice matte black, padded and labelled rear I/O shield. There’s also four braided SATA III cables (braided SATA cables…I know right?!) and an SLI bridge.

Gigabyte and ASUSTek To Ship Over 6 Million Motherboards In Q3

2014 looks set to be a successful year for ASUS and Gigabyte according to industry sources. In the second quarter of this year Gigabyte and ASUS are expected to have shipped around 5.1 to 5.2 million of their own motherboards, by the third quarter that is set to rise to staggering six million units. The reason? Well apparently new demand is being driven by the PC DIY market after Intel’s new 9 Series chipset release and Devil’s Canyon Core i7 4790K processor. Devil’s Canyon and Z97 may be popular but the real star of the show is Intel’s Pentium G3258 “Anniversary Edition” unlocked and overclockable dual core processor. This processor is reported to already be driving significant demand for cheaper Intel motherboards based on the H97, H87, B85 and H81 chipsets. Motherboard vendors are optimistic that the G3258 will allow the markets to digest older inventories of H87, B85 and H81 motherboards so they can make way for newer Intel 9 series motherboards. Most motherboard vendors will reportedly achieve a 10-20% sequential growth in shipments in Q3 compared to Q2.

Source: Digitimes

Image #1 courtesy of Modlabs.net, image #2 courtesy of Intel

Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5 (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


While mini-ITX is the “fashionable” small form factor of choice for most compact system builders, the micro-ATX form factor is still popular as it offers a better compromise between size, features and cost. Unlike mini-ITX motherboards micro-ATX motherboards require less R&D, encounter less technical challenges and are much cheaper to execute as a result. Enter Gigabyte’s latest Intel 9 Series based motherboard, the GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5. At just $130 this motherboard offers a great balance between size, performance and features – at least on paper. Today we will be putting this micro-ATX offering from Gigabyte through its paces to see how it shapes up in practice. As a Gaming series motherboard it comes with the usual beefed up audio implementation and Killer networking as well as support for multiple GPUs meaning it has most things a gamer could want in a motherboard. Being an Intel 9 Series motherboard there’s also support for the new storage options like M.2 and SATA Express. Below you can find detailed specifications on exactly what this motherboard offers:

Packaging and Accessories

As we’ve seen with Gigabyte’s latest Intel 9 Series motherboards the Gigabyte “eye” makes an appearance. Typically we only saw this on VGA products in the past.

The back details the features of the motherboard, much of the focus is on the audio implementation.

Once the box is opened up we get a little flap on the inside which details those key Gaming series features more.

Included is a variety of documentation, driver & utility DVD and case sticker.

Four SATA III cables, a black labelled and colour coded rear I/O and a SLI bridge make up the accessories.