ASRock Introduces Memory Overclocking for Non-Z Skylake Motherboards

ASRock motherboards usually feature a twist of some sort, setting them apart from the rest. They had the overclocking feature for CPUs on the H87 and B85 non-Z motherboards and recently they added the memory overclocking easter egg to their Z170 Skylake motherboards that allow automatic overclocking of select memory modules. Now they are going one step further and have cracked the RAM overclocking limitations on the non-Z Skylake boards B150, H170, and H110.

The ASRock DDR4 OC feature appears in the UEFI BIOS when the user has installed certain memory modules such as those from Kingston or Samsung. This otherwise hidden feature allows you to overclock the memory frequency from 2133MHz to a max of 2800MHz – providing a 30% boost in clock speed. Intel normally doesn’t feature memory overclocking on anything but the top Z-line motherboards, but ASRock cracked this limitation and the feature is now also available on select ASRock H170, B150, and H110 motherboards. Test show that DDR4 Non-Z overclocking can deliver a 5% memory performance boost measure with SiSoftware Sandra memory benchmark on an ASRock B150 chipset motherboard.

So with a hidden feature like this, how would you know when it is enabled or not. Well, the BIOS boot screen will not show a plain white ASRock icon anymore but instead one that has a coloured light effect added, making it easy to recognize.

Non-Z OC support:

  • H170 Motherboards: H170M Pro4, H170M Pro4S, H170 Combo, H170A-X1/3.1, H170A-X1
  • B150M Motherboards: B150M Pro4S, B150 Combo, B150M Combo-G, B150A-X1, B150M-HDS, B150M-HDV
  • H110 Motherboards: H110M-HDV, H110M-HDS, H110M-I, H110M-DGS

ASRock’s Z170 Motherboards Feature DDR4 OC With Select Modules

It isn’t always that all features in software are revealed right away and that is also what seems to have happened with ASRock’s latest Z170 BIOS. It had a hidden feature that only was revealed when certain memory modules were inserted and that is an automatic overclocking of these memory modules. Now that feature in itself isn’t new and it’s something that has been on several motherboards that I have owned, but it’s a nice one.

The feature has now been officially revealed, but not only that, it was also revealed in a very funny way. In the spirit of Halloween, ASRock made a funny video demonstrating it where you’ll meet Darth Vader as well as a Minion and more.

The automatic memory overclocking feature could get as much as 31% higher clock rates out of the memory modules used, if they are compatible. For now this seems to be limited mostly to Kingston and Samsung memory modules. One of the examples mentioned is that it can take Kingston 2133MHz modules and overclock them up to 2800MHz.

 

The above is kind off the boring news, now to the fun part: the video. I really don’t want to spoil it for you, as it should be experienced yourself. It is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds long and in my opinion it is well worth the time.

ASRock states that all Z170 motherboards will have this “hidden feature”, however at the end of the day it is still largely dependent upon the memory modules you install, which might or might not trigger DDR4 OC. It also requires you to upgrade to the latest UEFI BIOS available at the time of writing.

Gigabyte GA-X99-SOC Champion Sub-Zero Overclocking Review

Introduction


The GA-X99-SOC Champion is Gigabyte’s overclocking-centric motherboard for the X99 chipset and is the choice of many professional overclockers and benchmarkers around the world. The board has an OC Socket much like the one that Asus’s Rampage V Extreme had when it came out, that allowed for high uncore/cache overclocks. This board with the OC Socket will allow you to achieve much higher uncore/cache speeds than you would get with a “normal” board. This feature will allow the user to really be able to gain some traction with their benchmarks and memory bandwidth. I found in testing that this will make a huge difference in your results, as we all should know, that will be the result of higher uncore/cache. The board handles sub-zero overclocking amazingly and it should, because it was built for it. If you are wanting to put your 2011-v3 CPU under extreme cooling, then this definitely looks like the board to get.

Here we see the GA-X99-SOC Champion without the heat-sink in all its glory, the color scheme or orange and black is retained of the now classic SOC line. The board is built from the ground up for overclocking and has so many features that we will see that accommodates this for the user. The board requires an additional 4 pin (half an 8 pin) in addition to an 8 pin for power along with the standard 24pin.

Onboard buttons for power, reset, and clearing CMOS as well as a POST LED display help you quickly manipulate and diagnose issues. There is a bank of voltage read points for watching your board voltages with a multi-meter as well as toggle switches for the dual-bios feature that will make sure that you are still good to go in case you mess one up. There is also a slow mode switch on there that is useful when running close to the edge since the newer CPU-Z editions have a tendency to crash the system, with a flip of the switch you go down to the lowest frequency available and will be able to take your screenshots without issue.

Here we have the switch that activates the OC Socket. In the bios it will open up a new set of voltages for the user to tune the cache/uncore with after the switch is moved to the 2nd position. Next to it are three additional voltage read points.

One thing that is a great addition to overclocking boards is the inclusion of the PS2 mouse and keyboard ports. It really simplifies things and will also reduce the load on the CPU over USB based options while you are overclocking.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Kitguru for providing us with this information.

New Utility lets you Unlock Disabled Compute Engines on AMD GPUs

A new utility has emerged, entitled, “CUINFO” on Overclock.net which outlines how many compute units are enabled on Fiji, Hawaii and Tonga GPUs. The tool is designed to provide information on your card’s capabilities and offer the ability to unlock specific disabled compute units. However, many CUs are hardware locked and cannot be enabled using this software. According to VideoCardz, if the hardware message resembles the text below, you cannot perform a manual unlock or overriding might cause some kind of component failure:

Adapters detected: 1
Card #1 PCI ID: 1002:7300 – 174B:E329
DevID [7300] Rev [CB] (0), memory config: 0x00000000 (unused)
Fiji-class chip with 16 compute units per Shader Engine
SE1 hw/sw: 00030000 / 00000000 […………..xx]
SE2 hw/sw: 02400000 / 00000000 [……x..x……]
SE3 hw/sw: 90000000 / 00000000 [x..x…………]
SE4 hw/sw: 00090000 / 00000000 […………x..x]
56 of 64 CUs are active. HW locks: 8 (R/W) / SW locks: 0 (R/W).
8 CU’s are disabled by HW lock, override is possible at your own risk.

The developer of this tweak, who goes by the name of TX12, said:

“In general, you can try to unlock some cores ONLY if you have at least one of the two rightmost columns filled with ‘x’-es.”

“On this example map, rightmost column (#1) is filled with ‘x’-es only, but second (#2) is not.”

“If none of the two rightmost columns is filled with ‘x’, you’re most probably out of luck and shouldn’t try this unlock method.”

“Or just try all the roms to catch some luck (not recommended).”

TX12 explained the entire process in a lengthy forum post and is available here. Interestingly, he created a script which creates three unique ROMs, and one of these called ALL will instigate the entirety of Fuji’s cores. Although, this hasn’t been achieved as of yet.

Preliminary benchmarks indicate a clear increase in graphical horsepower after applying the tool.

Please note that this doesn’t mean your card will be compatible and you should proceed with caution.

Thank you Video Cardz for providing us with this information.

More LGA 1151 Motherboards Pictured – GIGABYTE Z170-SOC Force Revealed

After we’ve seen some MSI, ASRock, and BIOSTAR Z170 motherboards, we now have some pictures from Gigabyte. This time, we have the  GIGABYTE Z170-SOC Force based on Intel’s upcoming LGA 1151. As part of the OC or overclocking lineup, the familiar orange theme is back along with a number of overclocking specific features. Along with the usual voltage measurement modules, we have a host of OC control buttons, a 24-phase VRM, 24-pin ATX, 8-pin EPS, 4-pin ATX, and 6-pin PCIe power connectors and a VRM heatsink that is all ready for liquid cooling.

For more normal features, the board support two USB 3.1 ports, of which one is shared with a type-C port. Regular USB 3.0 gets a total of 8 ports (4 of which are by header) along with a number of USB 2.0/1.1 ports, of which two are near the SATA ports. A total of 3 M.2 slots, 3 SATA-Express 16Gb/s and 8 SATA 6Gb/s connectors are there for your storage needs. For even faster connectivity, there are 4 PCIE x16 slots (x16/NC/NC/x4 or x8/NC/x8/x4 or x8/x4/x4/x4) and three PCI-Express 3.0 x1 are provided. DDR4 and shielded audio PCB section also make an appearance.

Overall, while being an OC focused board, the SOC Force still carries the connectivity of most high-end gaming boards. If there is any glaring issue, it’s that the orange looks a bit faded and washed-out, though that might just be the lighting/camera. With the removal of FIVR for Skylake, the motherboard returns to the forefront of CPU overclocking, meaning those wanting to hit 5.2Ghz or even 6.5Ghz would do well to invest in a good board.

Thank you ZoLKoRn for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of ZoLKoRn

HBM Can be Overclocked Thanks to a Glitch?

With the recent launch of the brand new AMD R9 Fury X graphics card, it brought forward a new architecture in the form of Fiji XT and a brand new memory technology, High-Bandwidth Memory. During the reviews and briefings, it was made evident that HBM will not support overclocking due to the technology being so immature compared to GDDR5. If you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, here is our coverage of the lack of overclocking capability.

The overclocking features were locked in all third-party software and even in AMD’s own Catalyst Control Centre it was locked; however a review has found a small glitch after a routine of system restarts. uk.hardware.info apparently managed to yield a 20% overclock, going from 500MHz to 600MHz, along with this a core clock was boosted to 1145. As we can see from the results below in Fire Strike, the card managed to achieve a score of 16,963

As we can see from the results below in Fire Strike, the card managed to achieve a score of 16,963, compared to our overclocked Fire Strike (core 1139MHz) score of 16771, this is an extra gain of 198; however the CPU has also been overclocked in this instance too.

Generally VRAM overclocking yields very little gain, so was this stunt to prove it can be done rather than the quest for performance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you to WCCFTech for providing us with this information.

An update from AMD has now confirmed that even though GPU-Z is showing an increase in memory speed, the frequency never actually changed as the memory frequency is configured at hardware level and no software is able to alter this.

Corsair Displays Dominator Platinum Overclocking Capabilities at Computex

 

Computex 2015 – Corsair didn’t just have power supplies with them to Computex, they also brought along a test bench to showcase their DDR4 memory and what it is capable of achieving.

On display was Corsair’s Dominator Platinum DDR4 memory kits with a specified JEDEC speed of 2133MHz. But Corsair doesn’t stick to standards and applied their know-how onto the modules for maximum performance.

The system is running with an Intel Haswell-E CPU on a Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion motherboard and corsair clocked the DDR4 memory modules close to 4GHz: 3808.4GHz.

This speed was achieved with just air cooling on the modules.

 

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

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


X99, the best of the best when it comes to general consumer chipsets. Released back in August 2014, this has quickly taken the technology world by storm; offering some of the best performance only before seen in workstation systems.

Today at eTeknix, we have the newest addition to the Gaming 5 line-up, the X99-Gaming-5P. “What’s the difference compared to the original X99-Gaming-5 motherboard?” I hear you all saying in your mind; well that’s a tough one. On first impressions, it just seems Gigabyte took the original Gaming 5 motherboard and extended it into the large E-ATX width and added some fancy lights. On a deeper look into the comparison, it seems that the Gaming-5P is more aimed towards the overclockers and higher-end enthusiasts, offering support of up to 128GB RAM capacity and speeds of up to 3333MHz, that’s a massive increase over the standard 64GB and 2800MHz. Along with the RAM tweaks, Gigabyte has also added a CPU switch on the side of the motherboard, there are other additions; which I will go into later.

Key Features

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

  • Support for APP Center
    • Available applications in APP Center may differ by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also differ depending on motherboard specifications.
    • @BIOS
    • Ambient LED
    • EasyTune
    • EZ Setup
    • Fast Boot
    • Game Controller
    • Cloud Station
    • ON/OFF Charge
    • Smart TimeLock
    • Smart Recovery 2
    • System Information Viewer
    • USB Blocker
    • V-Tuner Š
  • Support for Q-Flash Š
  • Support for Smart Switch Š
  • Support for Xpress Install

For more information on these functions, please visit the Gigabyte X99-Gaming-5P product page.

Packaging and Accessories

Following true Gigabyte style, they use very similar boxing styles to most of their motherboard range now, very solid plastic box, black colouring with the series colour highlights (G1 Gaming red for this model).

Inside we see an absolute treasure trove of accessories, 6x SATA cables, 1x split power cable, 1x LED I/O shield, 1x single x-fire bridge, 1x single SLI bridge, 1x dual SLI bridge, 1x tri SLI bridge, 1x quad SLI bridge and the usual manuals and driver disk.

New Nvidia Drivers Disable GTX 900M GPU Overclocking

Some Nvidia users weren’t happy with the recent 3.5GB RAM debacle and now it looks like Nvidia has angered the next part of their userbase.

The current GeForce GTX 900M Mobile GPU series had been overclockable up until now, something a lot of users enjoyed – but that ability was just a bug from the looks of it.

That ‘bug’ has been fixed in the latest driver package and set overclocks are returned to default. Third party overclocking tools don’t work anymore either.

Angry users immediately went on to Nvidia’s support forums to report this bug, only to get the reply that it was intended as a fix.

The reason for the disabling of this function is logical, risk of damage is a lot higher on notebooks that are specific designed to accommodate a specific maximum amount of heat – but users want the ability even if it would mean voiding their warranty.

Thanks to MyDrivers for providing us with this information

Winner of the GIGABYTE CATZILLA OC Contest Breaks Another World Record

Motherboard a graphics card manufacturer, GIGABYTE, has announced the winner of the GIGABYTE CATZILLA OC Contest, hosted by HWBOT.org. The manufacturer invited the overclocking community to push their hardware to the limit and run the CATZILLA benchmark skin on their GIGABYTE 9 Series motherboard. Also, the manufacturer has placed $1000 in cash and two GIGABYTE Z97 up for grabs for the two lucky winners.

The contest ran in two stages it seems, having the first stage be a 720p GPU overclock while using air/water cooling, and the other using LN2 cooling. It seems that the air/water stage was won by WebTourist, having scored 36832 marks with his GeForce GTX 780 Ti overclocked at 1555/2075MHz. He has also received his $500 cut from the prize money and the GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H.

The second stage winner, using LN2 cooling, is said to be DANCOP, having scored 43121 marks with his GeForce GTX 780 Ti at 1975/2100MHz. The other half of the prize money, namely $500, went to him in this case, along with a GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC FORCE LN2.

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

Z97 and Z97M Anniversary Motherboards Announced by ASRock

ASRock has announced its Anniversary Edition of motherboards, the Z97 and Z97M, following the Pentium 20th Anniversary Edition G3258. One of the key features of the aforementioned motherboards is the “Pentium Anniversary Edition” technology, making overclocking easier for users.

The manufacturer is said to have specifically designed the motherboard with overclocking and Intel’s Pentium 20th Anniversary Edition G3258 CPU in mind, being able to access the Pentium Anniversary Boost by hitting “P” when turning the PC on. From there, the feature is said to help the user automatically overclock the CPU from 3.2 GHz to a maximum of 4.2 GHz.

In addition to the overall overclocking feature, ASRock’s Z97 and Z97M Anniversary Edition motherboards are said to provide even more kick out of the Pentium Anniversary Edition G3258 CPU. A clock speed of 4.5 GHz can be easily achieved, having a performance boost of 40%. However, users can also go for the 4.8 GHz limit, where an additional 50% performance boost should be noticeable.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F1MIVXTBgw[/youtube]

Other features present on the motherboards consist of “Super Alloy” technology for the Z97 in order to provide more stability and reliability, along with Intel’s Gigabit LAN and ELNA Audio Caps. The Z97M is said to come with ELNA Audio Caps as well, along with various video outputs, such as D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI, supporting a Triple Monitor configuration.

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

Two New World Records Broken With The ASRock Z97 OC Formula

It seems that ASRock’s latest motherboard, the ASRock Z97 OC Formula, was designed to break one world record after another. John Lam, a professional overclocker from HKEPC OC, has apparently used the motherboard and achieved what has been previously dubbed as ‘impossible’.

John has used the ASRock Z97 OC Formula along with the Intel Core i7-4770K CPU and overclocked the processor to an astonishing 7181.23 MHz, thus ranking as the world’s number #1 at HWBOT.org. However, John apparently was not satisfied with the world record. Having the same motherboard and processor combination, he also managed to achieve another world record, scoring 1601 marks in Intel XTU, giving a new definition of CPU overclocking.

People might be wondering how this was possible. The answer seems to lie in the motherboard itself, having it be designed and tuned by legendary overclocker Nick Shih. This is why the ASRock Z97 OC Formula comes with “Super Alloy Technology”, which includes XXL Aluminium Alloy heatsink for fast heat dissipation, Premium Alloy Choke used to largely lower working temperature, Dual-Stack MOSFET contributing to a more efficient CPU Vcore power and NexFET MOSFET, providing DRAM power more efficiently and resistance against electrostatic discharge of up to 15 KV.

Besides the Super Alloy Technology, the ASRock Z97 OC Formula also contains 4 Phase Memory Power design, Multiple FIlter Cap, Hi-Density Power Connectors, 12 Phase CPU Power design, 8 Layer PCB, four 2oz copper, and the list just goes on and on. In addition to the latter, the BIOS also features Jumbo V technology, allowing overclockers to select the most optimal settings for extreme overclocking.


Summing it all up, ASRock has just proved that the company has a beast amongst motherboards, specially designed by overclockers and dedicated to overclockers and overclocking. Therefore, if anyone would like to test his or her overclocking skills to the limit and does not know what motherboard to use, the ASRock Z97 OC Formula could be the answer.

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

Galaxy Launches 6 GB Variant of its GeForce GTX 780 Hall Of Fame Edition Graphics Card

Galaxy has just launched another NVIDIA variant of GeForce GTX 780 Hall of Fame graphics card, bearing the GF-GTX780-E6GHD/SOC model name, featuring the company’s white PCB signature and performance-oriented cooling solution.

In terms of specifications, the card comes with 6 GB if memory, having the rest be similar to the original Galaxy GeForce GTX 780 HOF Edition released in July last year. The 6 GB variant also comes with a big factory overclock, having the core GPU clocked at 1019 MHz compared to the original variant clocked at 863 MHz and its boost speed capped at 1071 MHz compared to 928 MHz from its predecessor.

The GDDR5 memory apparent has been left untouched, having it clocked at 6008 MHz as the original Galaxy GeForce GTX 780 HOF. Other aspects of the 6 GB GTX 780 HOF variant include the 28 nm GK110 silicon architecture, offering 2,304 CUDA cores, 192 TMUs, 48 ROPs and a 384-bit memory interface. The graphics card also features a 10-phase VRM, drawing power from two 8-pin PCIe power connectors.

The graphics card is said to feature a dual-BIOS configuration as well, having the toggle switch located near the I/O bracket. The card offers four display outputs, having two dual-link DVI, one HDMI and one Display Port configuration, while its cooling solution features a Hybrid Vapor Chamber which directs heat to a large aluminium fin-stack heatsink with the help of four nickel-palter copper heat pipes. The heatsink is then ventilated by a pair of 90mm fans, having the base-plate with heatsink fins cooling the VRM and memory.

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

Sapphire Reveals First Ever Factory Overclocked R9 295X2

As if the Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card wasn’t powerful enough, the team at Sapphire tech have gone and given it a power boost, making the first ever factory overclocked R9 295X2 graphics card on the market. The R9 295X2 OC from Sapphire doesn’t break away from the reference design set by AMD, but the clock speeds have been tweaked from the reference of 1018MHz to a much nicer 1030 MHz, while the reference 5.00 GHz memory speed has been tweaked up to 5.20 GHz.

Literally everything else on the card is stock, as AMD aren’t letting people tinker with the design just yet, not unless you do it yourself via aftermarket parts of course. It’s not the biggest overclock ever, but Sapphire are obviously confident enough that they can provide you with a card that will run at this higher speed, while doing it yourself may prove that your card doesn’t overclock as well as the one they sold you.

The company hasn’t revealed pricing just yet, but I wouldn’t expect it to cost too much more than the difference, which is already a damn expensive bit of hardware, so an extra $50 (just my guess) is hardly a deal breaker…

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of TechPowerUp.

US Market To Start Receiving The MSI Radeon R7 260 1GD5 OC Graphics Card

MSI officially announced the release of its mid-grange Radeon R7 260 1GD5 OC video card to the public. The new GPU is a very budget friendly entry into the 4K gaming space, and is equipped with AMD TrueAudio technology for an immersive sound experience like any other.

The R7 260 1GD5 OC video card features a large 100mm fan that provides excellent cooling while keeping the sound levels at a minimum even when gaming. The heat exchange is assisted by dual heat pipes and an over sized heat sink that helps keep frame-rates up. Additionally, the GPU features MSI’s exclusive Afterburner technology which supports core voltage adjustment technology and can be overclocked by up to 32.4% using the popular Afterburner overclocking utility.

The core frequency can even reach up to 1.35GHz with just air-cooling. Enthusiasts can also use the Afterburner APP on their Android / iOS handheld devices to monitor and overclock their video cards. A price has not yet been revealed for the MSI Radeon R7 260 1GD5 OC, however we should expect to see a slight increase in price, since it is an OC edition, compared to the Radeon R7 260 1GD5 which retails for around $135.

Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of MSI

Powercolor Reveals Its Radeon R9 290X PCS+ Grahics Card

Powercolor has unveiled their Radeon R9 290X PCS+, featuring a triple fan cooling system. This is not the first 290X featuring an aftermarket cooling solution, the first being the R9 290X LCS having the EK waterblock cooling system, but it was a reference board.

The Powercolor R9 290X PCS+ is a dual-slot card with three fans, pushing air towards the central heatsink made up of two aluminum fin array blocks sitting on the Core, Memory and Power areas. The aluminum blocks are interconnected with six 8mm heatpipes which dissipate heat from the core and push it out of the card with the air supplied. From the size, the card certainly looks slightly taller than the stock solution and has a nice matte black color theme which was highly appreciated on the ASUS’s new Radeon R9 290X with people naming it the Batman card.

It features the flagship Hawaii XT chip with 2816 Stream processors, 64 ROPs and 176 TMUs. It comes with a 4 GB GDDR5 memory buffer operating along a 512-bit bus interface. Power is provided through 8+6 Pin connectors which is the same as the reference variant since the card is still using AMD reference PCB for the Hawaii GPU. Clock frequencies haven’t been mentioned but a factory overclock from PowerColor at around 1040 MHz for core and 5200/5400 MHz memory clock should be expected. Display outputs include Dual-Link DVI, HDMI and a single full length Display port.

The Powercolor Radeon R9 290X PCS+ is said to be available starting next month, though the price is expected to be above $550 / €400 / £335.

Thank you WCCF and Video Cardz for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of Video Cardz

Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 280X Vapor-X OC 3GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


AMD’s new series of graphics cards, the RX 2XX series, is split up into the R9 Enthusiast class and the R7 mainstream class. Both segmentations feature impressive levels of value for money and top end performance at each price point but today we are looking at one of the higher end models. We have with us the Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 280X Vapor-X OC Graphics card in this review but we’ve also reviewed the AMD R7 260X and AMD R9 270X for today’s launch. While this is a Sapphire branded card we are using this as an opportunity to to also look at AMD’s Radeon R9 280X as AMD were not able to provide us with a reference design. The reference design of course is identical to Sapphire’s model other than the cooler is different and Sapphire have added a mild factory overclock taking the clock speed up from 1GHz to 1.07GHz, and the memory from 6GHz to 6.2GHz.

The Radeon R9 280X card we received from Sapphire and AMD is simply an OEM graphics card so it comes with nothing other than the card which is pictured above. Below you can see a GPU-Z screenshot of the new AMD graphics card which reveals those overclocks I mentioned earlier. A couple of other things to point out are that this card supports Direct X 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and AMD’s new “Mantle” technology.

Looking at the AMD R9 280X more broadly it should have the following specifications:

Of course for those who don’t know, the AMD Radeon R9 280X is based on an optimised version of the AMD HD 7970 GPU. It features increased clock speeds and uses a more refined 28nm process as well as a redesigned cooling solution for the reference cards. The main advantage is that AMD is shipping the new R9 280X with a price of $299 compared to the HD 7970 which when it first shipped had an MSRP of $549. With the R9 280X, AMD hopes to take on Nvidia by offering a card that is faster than the GTX 760 and on par with the GTX 770 but costs $299 instead of the $249 of the GTX 760 or $399 of the GTX 770. Of course Nvidia will undoubtedly respond with price cuts but as things stand the R9 280X is seeking to be the GTX 770 killer by offering equivalent performance for a staggering $100 less. Let us proceed with this review and see if the R9 280X delivers.

Overclock Your Brain With the Foc.us Gaming Headset

 

Feeling tired and a bit sluggish? Or simply looking to boost your productivity? Well the future has a lot to offer. tDCS has been about for over 100 years but recently started floating around on the radar after Sally Adee wrote an article on tDCS for New Scientist, Apparently DARPA have been using the technology to reduce the training time of snipers by targeting the area of the brain associated with object recognition.

tDCS stands for transcranial direct current stimulation and is the process of delivering a constant low level current to a specific area of the brain via small electrodes this increases the plasticity of the brain and in turn makes your synapses fire faster giving you reported “incredible focus and mental clarity”.

Wearing the Foc.us headset

Sounds like science fiction huh? Well this year sees a massive leap forward in the technology with Foc.us Labs releasing a commercialy available product in the Foc.us headset allowing anyone with around £150 the ability to have a go.

Marketed as a gaming headset with the tagline “Faster Processor, Faster Graphics, Faster Brain! the Foc.us unit aims to cross boundries between the world of science fiction and reality. It comes complete with the headset, case, sponges (for contact points) and a micro USB cable, it even has a snazzy app available for iOS devices to control the current and duration of each session.

While this technology becoming accessible may pave the way for a brighter future it also raises a whole host of ethical queries. Will it be classed as cheating to use tDCS in exams for instance or on the pro gaming circuit? More importantly is it ethically correct to enhance our minds to what can only be described as superhuman?

Have your say below.

AMD A10-6800K “Richland” Sets New World Record @ 8.2GHz

A Finnish overclockers who goes by the name of “The Stilt” has bagged him self a new world record for highest CPU overclock, no easy task given the clock speeds involved and that the benchmark for this becomes harder with every attempt.

Using the AMD A10-6800K and a huge amount of liquid nitrogen, The Stilt was able to blast 2.008 volts through the chip via the Asus F2A85-V Pro motherboard.

The first run scored him a taste 8000.48MHz with a bus clock of 126.99MHz, but that wasn’t the end for this run and he employed a so-called x87 fix which helped boost performance in SuperPi. On the second run he got the chip to 8203.01MHz using a bus clock speeds of 130.21MHz and a multiplier of 63.

 

Thank you PCGH for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of PCGH.

Gigabyte Z87X-OC (Z87) Motherboard Review

Gigabyte have a large stack of motherboards launching for Z87, and at the top of that stack is the overclocking based motherboards including the Z87X-FORCE and the Z87X-OC which have some fundamental differences. The Force is aimed at pro overclockers who will constantly be pushing hardware to its limits while using extreme cooling methods including LN2.

The Z87X-OC that we have today, while it can do that, is aimed at multiple markets, allowing average users the facility to use it while pro overclockers can dabble at the same time, and vice versa. With that in mind, as it is an overclocking based motherboard, we find it utilises that funky orange colour scheme that made their X58OC and Z77X-UP7 boards famous.

Starting things off, we will be taking a look at what’s on offer inside the box, before moving onto the design and features of the board. Once that’s out of the way, we can take a look at the BIOS and what extra features overclockers get the chance to work with, before we unleash our own overclocking skill to see how far we can push things. Once we have our maximum stable overclock, we will have the chance to see how performance compares against stock results on this board among other Z87 based products. So lets get straight into it, shall we?

The box has an extreme style to it, which has changed for the whole Z87 range. Inside we find the typical user guides including multi-lingual guidebook, driver installation CD, rear I/O panel shield plate, single CrossFire and SLI bridges, casebadge sticker, four SATA data cables (2 right-angled), and V-check cable. Also inside is something quite new, which is the OC brace which assists with supporting your graphics cards when benchmarking as most pro-overclockers use a test bench or simply the box that the board comes in.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5 (Z87) Motherboard Review

Micro-ATX motherboards and all things on the smaller form factor have been a big highlight in the past year or so, with Mini-ITX taking the market by storm and manufacturers somehow managing to cram all of the much needed, and wanted components into this much smaller sized boards. Fast forward to the present day and we see the same thing happening all over again with Z87 and Gigabyte, as they have managed to produce a board based around the new chipset, branded under the G1-Killer branding, much like we saw with the Z77 M3 board which we loved by the way.

For those out there wanting 4-way SLI and a full ATX form factor, Gigabyte have a board just for you; the G1.Sniper 5, but for those wanting a much smaller footprint, they have graced us with the G1.Sniper M5. This particular board is set to pack all of the grunt that its big brother incorporates, without any of the drawbacks, and that can be said for improved audio, overclockability, design and overall key features. Of course it doesn’t have the ability for quad SLI, but that’s why they have its big brother sharing the limelight to cater for that market.

As we work out way through the large stack of Z87 motherboards that we have here, we wanted to make sure that this board was one of the first, because if it’s anything like the Z77 G1.Sniper M3 was, then it’s going to be a complete animal and may give you a few shocks on the way, as small doesn’t necessarily mean underpowered of lacking features, in fact, quite the opposite.

Before we check out the performance though, we need to make our way through the packaging and accessories before we take a look at the board itself and all of its features including its shiny new BIOS that has been implemented. Once this is out of the way, we can get down to the nitty gritty and see how it performs at stock speeds as well as pushing it as far as we can under our testbed conditions, and then of course to see how it performs once it’s been pushed to its limits, so lets not delay and get straight into it.

The packaging is part of a new design that Gigabyte have implemented across the range with a sneak peek view of the cooling around the CPU socket. Inside we find the usual user guides, driver CD and casebage sticker, as well as a SLI bridge, 4 SATA data cables and rear I/O panel shield plate. An added extra as defined on the box is the Gigabyte OP-AMP upgrade kit which consists of an OP-AMP chip and removal tool as shown in the picture below.

Moving onto the board we have a Micro-ATX form factor board consisting of a black PCB and green components spanning across the slots and coolers. The design is similar to what we’ve seen on G1.Sniper boards in the past and G1-Killer branding is featured across the board. From a first glance, you can see that a lot of key features are included on the board, even though it uses a small form factor.

The CPU socket includes two passive heatsinks which are joined via a heatpipe. Black caps are used to provide stability and durability to the processor and its power comes from a single 8-pin ATX power connector, just tucked away at the top of the board. The green on the Gigabyte/Ultra Durable branded cooling isn’t too over the top and works really well with the black PCB that Gigabyte have used.

More G1-Killer branding is on the low-profile cooling solution that covers the Intel Z87 chipset and once again features a subtle green banding to coincide with the theme of the board.

Heading up the board we find four DIMM slots that support 32GB of DDR3 ranging from speeds all the way up to 2400MHZ + for those wishing to overclock. Also nearby is the ATX 24-pin power connector, USB 3.0 header and some overclocking functions. These include a debug LED, voltage measuring points, BIOS switches, reset and power buttons and a reset CMOS button for overclockers and troubleshooting alike.

Taking a look at the expansion slots, we’ve got a single PCI-Express x1 slot and three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots which will run at x8/x8 while the third slot runs at x4 speeds independently. Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX is supported but only 2-way on each of these technologies.

On the edge of the board we find a total of six SATA ports all running at SATA 6Gb/s speeds thanks to the Intel Z87 Express chipset as standard with no need for any addon chip from ASMedia or Marvell.

At the opposite end of the board is a feature very much related to gamers and audiophiles with a glimpse at the Sound Core 3D audio, encompassed in a gold shielding to stop interference as well as having an EMI-like shield around the audio components. The removable OP-AMP can also be seen and Gigabyte are selling upgrade kits separately depending on your listening styles and habits.

Looking across the bottom of the board we have the usual suspects with a variety of system fan headers, two USB 2.0 headers and the typical front panel connectors for LEDs and switches on your chassis. Nothing out of the ordinary and not a great deal going on, but for a Micro-ATX board, what did you expect?

In typical eTeknix fashion, we finish things off with the rear I/O and can see two USB 2.0 connectors with a PS2 mouse/keyboard combo port just below it. Next to this is a DVI, two HDMI and a DisplayPort output with four USB 3.0 ports just next to it. Above this is a Gigabit LAN port that uses the Intel controller from the chipset. Audio wise we find an optical SPDIF with five gold connector audio jacks, which of course all use the Creative Sound Core 3D audio that we just spoke about.

Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H (Z87) Motherboard Review

After speaking to Gigabyte recently about the upcoming boards for Haswell and Z87, they kept telling me that the UD4H was a big focus for them, and I can see why, as it incorporates a brand new colour scheme that has never been tried by them before, and as you can see; it’s red and it’s sexy.

The UD4H is a mid-range board that incorporates a lot of key features that you’d expect including SLI/CrossFire, strong power delivery to the CPU socket and much more, but what is a board with strong features, if it doesn’t look the part? This is a question that Gigabyte asked themselves and decided to go with a radical new design and while a lot of consumers will be quick to judge that they’ve copied the Asus ROG or MSI Gaming series boards, we can say from first-hand, it looks nothing like them and is actually quite subtle, in a “slap you round the face” kind of way, and that’s a good thing, as it allows the board to appeal to many different markets.

For those wanting a mid-range board with strong features and great potential, we think that the UD4H could be a real contender, and there is only one way to find out, so follow us as we delve into this review.

As usual, we will be taking a look at the box and any added accessories that come bundled with the UD4H before we take a look at the board and its funky new style from a close-up view. Once this is out of the way, we can focus directly on the performance of the board with our Haswell i7 4770k at the heart of it, and of course we will be seeing how far we can push the system by overclocking, and then testing at those speeds too, so lets get straight into it, shall we?

The box has had a bit of a revamp, much like the rest of the Z87 range from Gigabyte with some bold red colouring, giving us a first glimpse at the new red colour scheme that the boards cooling incorporates. Inside we have a user’s manual, multilingual guide, driver installation CD, casebage sticker and rear I/O panel shield plate. Also bundled in are four SATA cables (2 right-angled) and a singular SLI bridge.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 (Z87) Motherboard Review

Over the years we’ve seen more and more products aimed at gamers and Gigabyte have harnessed this very well, as they cater for gamers in more ways than one. This stems from their VGA range, to their peripherals, gaming notebooks and of course gaming related motherboards.

Their motherboards aimed at gamers have for the past few years been branded under the G1-Killer series and have to say the least been very successful. I have to be honest as well, due to me having a bit of a soft spot for the complete range due to its amazing colour scheme and key gaming features, which generally includes improved audio, multi-GPU support and improved networking capabilities.

With the launch of the Z87 chipset and Haswell 4th generation processors, we find some new models being added to this range, which leads us to the G1.Sniper 5 board that we have with us today, but does it offer up anything new with thanks to the new Z87 chipset? That’s what we are here to find out today, and with a huge box presenting the board, we can only assume that it comes with a mammoth amount of accessories.

Opening up the box, we are greeted with a bucket load of accessories ranging from the relevant manuals and guides for the motherboard as well as a guide to the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module, which of course comes supplied with its detachable antenna. Also included is a removable OP-AMP chip and removal tool, SLI and CrossFire bridges of which we have single, tri SLI and quad SLI. Front panel USB 3.0 bracket, case badge sticker, rear I/O panel shield plate and driver CD’s are also included to finish the bundle off.

The rear of the box gives us a first view of the board and its key features which includes improved audio, networking and components when it comes to components. They have also upgraded the cooling on the board but we will look into this into some more detail as the review goes on.

Taking our first look at the board, we have to comment that Gigabyte have definitely brought sexy back, as we find a black PCB with green colour scheme, which simply oozes quality and will certainly appeal to a lot of consumers, whether they are gamers or not. The full ATX form factor houses a ton of features which we will discuss step by step as we take a closer look at the vital components of the board.

Around the CPU socket there is a large set of heatsinks surrounding it with 1/4″ barbs for those wishing to watercool to assist temperatures around the Phases and Mosfets. For those not wishing to dabble in this area, you can simply use it straight out of the box as it comes supplied with a small active fan solutions which provides sufficient cooling where needed, especially when overclocking.

The fan is situated next to the single 8-pin ATX power connector and sits flush with the rest of the cooling setup, allowing it to be out of the way and non-obtrusive.

From other boards that we’ve looked at, it’s nice to see another heatsink just below the CPU socket which helps to keep the PLX chip nice and cool when utilising quad SLI through the four PCI-Express lanes.

The larger heatsink on the board houses the Intel Z87 Express chipset and features the G1-Killer branding with skull that the range has been made famous for. This has a small lighting effect beneath it which you can see the connector plugged in which provides power to it. Of course, naturally this lights up green.

We have four DIMM slots supporting dual channel memory, up to 32GB of DDR3  with overclocked speeds supporting 2400MHZ + Nearby we find the ATX 24-pin power connector, USB 3.0 header and plenty of features for hardcore overclockers including reset and power switches, clear CMOS button, fan headers, debug LED, voltage check points and switches for the different BIOS editions.

For a gamer, the expansion slots is going to be a big highlight and Gigabyte have thought about this quite a lot and have come up with a simple, effective solution which comprises of three PCI-Express x1 slots and four PCI-Express x16 slots. Nothing more, nothing less and this is thanks to the PLX chip that we spoke about earlier, allowing the board to run x16/x16/x8/x8 by giving it some extra juice when using quad SLI. Within gaming, extra bandwidth is key and this board certainly isn’t lacking any.

SATA is another key area for this board as it includes a whopping 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports, of which six are black and four are grey. The six black ports are running off of the Intel Z87 chipset, while the remaining four grey ports use the Marvell controller of which the chip sits just behind. You will also notice the SATA power connector just to the right which provides extra power, not to the SATA ports but to the PCI-Express expansion lanes and allows for the cable to be neat and tidy when connecting to this port. It is worth noting that you will only need to plug this in when utilising quad SLI or possibly tri-SLI if you’re having stability issues.

Gigabyte have put a massive onus onto the sound capabilities of this board by implementing Sound Core3D. You will also notice a distinct line around the audio components which acts as an audio noise guard or EMI shield to stop interference with the sound from other areas of the board. The Sound Core3D includes gold plated shielding to also stop any disruption to the audio and next to this is the upgradable OP-AMP chip allowing the user to cater for their own personal listening style and improving sound quality through the audio amplifier.

The two audio chips that come supplies (one in board and one with accessories) you can chop and change them as often as you like depending on the task at hand, whether you are listening to music or gaming, there is a solution for you. For those with different listening styles, Gigabyte have three different upgrade kits, so you won’t find better from any other onboard audio.

Moving to the front panel headers and various connectors, we find a bunch of system fan headers, two USB 2.0 connectors, our second USB 3.0 connector and the usual LED and front panel switches that your chassis would connect to.

Finally we finish up our look of the board with the rear I/O and from left to right we find two USB 2.0 ports, a PS2 mouse/keyboard combo port, a coaxial audio out connector, six USB 3.0 ports (blue), two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort output connector. Ethernet wise, we find an Intel GbE LAN port and a Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 controller LAN port and in regards to audio, there are five auxiliary audio jacks an an optical SPDIF port, all of which are run through the Creative Sound Core 3D controller chip and it is worth noted that all of the audio jacks have gold contacts for the best possible connectivity.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 OC WindForce 3x 2GB Graphics Card Review

With the release of the GTX 770 and the recent launch of the GTX 780, NVIDIA made on fundamental change to their cards over the GTX 690 and Titan. This change is one that may seem simple, but it is one that has a major role in the graphics market and for each of NVIDIA’s partners. This change is the grant to change the PCB layout and most importantly the cooling on the cards. When the GTX Titan was released, NVIDIA put a halt on any non reference designs and in effect the only alteration partners could make was to put a sticker with their name on the card.

The is not the case with the 700 series however, whilst the GTX 770 and GTX 780 used the exact same cooler as seen on Titan, manufacturers are now allowed to deviate from the reference design and put their own mark on their cards to set them apart from the competition. In Gigabyte’s case, the cooler of choice is WindForce and for a number of years now this has been at the forefront of their marketing campaigns.

With the release of the 770, Gigabyte are keen to show off the latest revision of their well known cooler, which now features a metal housing rather than the older plastic design. On top of this, Gigabyte have given the GK104 core the overclock treatment to take the 770 to the next level and let it stretch its legs a bit more.

When it comes to looking at this card, there is little more than the card in a box to look at as this is a review sample, meaning that Gigabyte have omitted the usual gubbins and accessories that we would normally see as part of a graphics card bundle.

ADATA XPG DDR3 2133MHz 16GB Memory Kit Review

Like we’ve seen with a number of memory manufacturers, ADATA isn’t a brand that immediately springs to mind when it comes down to performance kits, but little do some know XPG is ADATA’s performance division and they have memory and SSDs ready to fight the performance battles. When we look at the kit, it doesn’t scream out performance with outrageous heat sink designs or pack designs, but more goes with the trend of clean and simple, hopefully letting the figures do the talking.

The red heat spreader design with metal embossing on the surface is becoming more and more common and with red generally the colour of choice for users and manufacturers alike when it comes to performance gaming systems, its a good decision to make.


Test system:

  • Asus Maximus V Formula
  • Intel Core i7 3770k
  • AMD Radeon HD 7970
  • Antec Kuhler 920
  • Corsahir HX1050W
  • Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
  • Lian Li T60
  • AOC E2795VH

Clocked at 2133MHz at stock, this particular kit comes with stock timings of 10-11-11-30 with a command rate of 2T and an operating voltage that ranges from 1.2V up to 1.65V. We’ve seen many times before that kits that come with a stock higher clock don’t necessarily overclock in the same ratio that other kits of lower speeds do, but always keeping an open mind, ready to get a surprise lets have a look at how this 16GB kit does.

After CPU-Z had confirmed our settings had been applied, we fired up AIDA64 to check the stock performance of the memory on our Z77 motherboard.

Stock performance on this 2x8GB kit is not bad at all, especially given the timings of 10-11-11-30, resulting in a read speed of 20355MB/s, write of 18517MB/s and copy of 22212MB/s at 37.6ns.

With the memory controller opened up, we found that the kit easily moved to the 2200MHz diveder, although at stock timings we couldn’t move on through dividers alone. Moving over to the base clock, we were able to squeeze a little extra out resulting in a memory timing of 2220MHz at stock timings.

As expected, we can see the kits bandwidth has gone up and this is especially noticeable on the write speeds. Overall we have achieved a gain of 3253MB/s bringing the read speed to 23588MB/s, 4632MB/s extra on the write and 4274MB/s extra on the copy speeds. The kits latency also has dropped by a good margin down to 34.1ns.

We know that typically kits over 2133Mhz stock don’t tend to overclock that much further in scale of lower rated kits. This is reflected by the overclock we go when allowing the motherboard to take hold of the timings itself.  After trying to raise the base clock with the memory divider at 2200MHz and only achieving 102MHz we decided to return the divider to 2133MHz and try from there to see if the kit would go any higher.

After a little bit of increasing and testing bit by bit, we ended up with a BLCK of 107.5MHz which in turn gave us a memory frequency of 2286MHz overall at a timing of 11-13-13-35.

With the memory at a higher frequency we did find that unlike before, the gains in speed were not as significant with only marginal differences to be had, mostly due to the slower timings that have to be enforced on the ICs to keep the kit stable overall.

Kits that don’t shout performance typically have something under their covers that give a surprise when we get them on to the test benches and push them a little further and yet again we have not been disappointed. Raising the memory multiplier on the motherboard unleashed a whole heap of speed that had a noticeable impact on the test bench as a whole – especially when loading windows.

Having such a a gain in bandwidth may seem like only a set of numbers for some, but when it comes to certain tasks such as image editing in Photoshop or rendering a video, the bandwidth that these kits can give has a substantial impact on the speed and fluidity of work overall. What makes this kit even more appealing is that it doesn’t have an attention seeking set of heat spreaders, leaving a compact build that has refined looks and price to go with it that is well placed in respect.

I get asked a lot as to how much memory is right for X application, and one the most part 8GB is generally the answer, when gaming for example. When it comes to more intensive tasks such as the aforementioned Photoshop, then more is better and given that the pricing on memory has turned in favour of larger kits, making the price point even more lucrative. On the most part 4x4GB kits are still the best way to go, but when we also take into consideration that compact powerhouse systems are become popular once again, we find systems utilising mini-ITX boards which only have two DIMM slots on them. This means that a 4x4GB kit is out of question and kits like the one we’ve looked at today are right there and perfect for the job.

Bottom line, if you’re in the market for a fast, high capacity dual-channel memory kit, then consider getting this, giving it a light overclock to unleash the hidden extra performance and you’re on to a winner.