MSI Z170A GAMING M5 (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction

Since the release of Intel’s Z170 chipset, MSI has unveiled a fantastic, feature-rich motherboard range which caters to contrasting user demands. For example, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is an excellent choice for consumers wanting a stylish black colour scheme and great reliability at an affordable price point. In contrast to this, the MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM Edition‘s gorgeous aesthetic design makes it one of the most innovative LGA1151 motherboards on the market. Of course, the iconic dragon styling on many MSI products have become a popular choice among the core gaming demographic. This red and black theme compliments mainstream hardware and retails at very competitive prices across various performance tiers.

The MSI Z170A GAMING M5 is a mid-range motherboard sporting an attractive design and impressive specification. More specifically, the product is capable of housing two PCI-E M.2 storage devices and has support for USB 3.1 Gen2 connectivity. Not only that, the motherboard includes a one year premium XSplit license and Nahimic audio enhancements. As you might expect, many of MSI’s leading technologies are incorporated such as DDR4 Boost, Game Boost and much more. Given this particular model’s astonishing software suite and military class components, I expect to see it rival higher priced offerings rather well. Could this be the best value Z170 motherboard thus far for high-end users? Let’s find out!

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

MSI always does a phenomenal job when it comes to packaging design and the Z170 GAMING M5 is no different. The bold colours and stunning product snapshot contrasts extremely well. This is one of the most eye-catching motherboard boxes I’ve seen and showcases the motherboard’s beautiful appearance.

On the opposite side, there’s a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s key selling points such as support for 3-way crossfire, 2-way SLI and Audio Boost 3.0. This is presented in a slick manner and doesn’t alienate the end-user with technical jargon.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a user’s guide, driver’s disk, metal case badge, I/O shield, SLI bridge, registration details, basic installation guide and four SATA cables. Please note, the press sample I received was previously used by another media so there’s only 3 SATA cables displayed in the photograph. Rest assured, the retail version will include four and be packaged without the need for an elastic band.

ASUS Sabertooth Z170 S (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction

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

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

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

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

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

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

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

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

Overclockers UK Titan Dark Zone Gaming PC Review

Introduction


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

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

Specifications

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

Packing and Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPU-Z


GPU-Z

Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black Graphics Card Review

Introduction


Closed-loop liquid coolers have become extremely popular in the CPU market due to the cleaner build, and greater space around the CPU socket compared to traditional air cooling hardware. This means you can install an all in one liquid cooler without having to make concessions in terms of memory compatibility or worry too much about your motherboard’s PCI-E arrangement. As you might expect, all in one liquid coolers have progressively moved into the GPU sector to offer improved overclocking headroom and a lower noise output. There are some interesting parallels between CPU and GPU all in one liquid cooling though which needs to be addressed.

Firstly, many air coolers like the Noctua NH-D15 can outperform Asetek units, while being much quieter. It’s a similar picture with graphics cards because proficient air cooling setups including the Gigabyte Windforce X3 and Sapphire Tri-X provide a superb noise to performance ratio. Liquid cooled graphics cards have a price premium and involve a more complicated installation process. It’s important to remember that Maxwell is a very mature and efficient architecture which allows vendors to enable a 0dB idle fan mode. Despite my own qualms about closed-loop liquid cooling, it’s fantastic to see products which cater to a different target market. There’s clearly a demand for pre-assembled liquid cooled graphics cards, and their appeal is bound to grow in the next few years.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black which utilizes a very powerful hybrid cooling solution. The GPU incorporates a traditional fan which only switches on during heavy load, in addition to a 120mm fan/radiator combination. The Arctic Cooling radiator fan is constantly on but has a very low RPM curve to maintain silent running. This impeccable hardware allows for an impressive core clock of 1203MHz and default boost reaching 1304MHz. The memory has also been increased to 7280MHz. As you can see from the chart below, this isn’t the greatest configuration we’ve encountered from the factory, but it’s exceedingly fast and should be a top performer. It will be fascinating to contrast this graphics card with the marvellous Inno3D GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS which opts for a hefty air cooling design.

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The Inno3D GTX 980 Ti iChill Black comes in a huge box to properly house the closed loop cooler’s tubing and protect against leaks during shipping. Honestly, the picture doesn’t provide an accurate depiction of the packaging’s size. I have to commend Inno3D because they have taken the precautionary steps to reduce the possibility of damage occurring and utilized strong foam inserts as cushioning materials. The box itself features an attractive render of the GPU, and outlines its specification.

On the rear portion, there’s a brief synopsis of NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture. I’m a bit surprised to see the back doesn’t contain any information about the liquid cooling solution and the acoustical benefits compared to NVIDIA’s reference cooler.

In terms of accessories, the graphics card is bundled with mounting screws, 6-pin PCI-E to molex adapter, case badge, DVI-D to VGA adapter and installation guide. There’s also a driver’s disk which you should disregard, a copy of 3DMark, and other documentation. This is a great selection of items and provides everything you need to get started! The mouse mat is surprisingly high-quality and relatively thick.

GIGABYTE Announces the Z170 March OC Madness Competition

Gigabyte is one of the largest motherboard manufacturers in the world and they are no strangers to the overclocking scene either. Many records have already been set using their brand of motherboards and now it can be your chance to set the next as Gigabyte announced the March OC Madness competition for the overclocking community and hosted by HWBOT.org

Whether you are a beginner in the area of one of the world leading overclockers, there is fun to be had, records to be set, and prizes to be won in this competition. The fun is starting on March the 12th and will run until April the 10th where people are encouraged to push their Gigabyte Z170 motherboards and 6th generation Intel processors to the limit.

There are two category main categories to enter, each with three stages to complete. Category one is for Enthusiast, Rookie, and Novice overclockers while the second category is for Elite and Extreme overclockers who take hardware to the next level with sub-zero cooling equipment.

The category one stages consist of XTU, HWBOT x265 1080p, and SPI 32M while the second category mixes it up a little bit with XTU, Maxxmem Read Bandwidth, and Geekbench Single Core stages.

So what can you win? Well, there are a number of cash and hardware prizes for the winners this time. The winner for each category will be awarded a $500 USD cash prize. In addition, participants that submit a score in all stages of their respective categories are eligible to enter a lucky draw for one of three GA-Z170X-Gaming 3 motherboards as the grand prize.

Should want to enter the fun, then you can check out the full details on the official contest page where you also can follow the rest of the overclockers during the event. So, shoot for high scores this March and maybe you’ll walk away with some cash or a new motherboard.

Mushkin Redline DDR4 3000MHz 16GB (4x4GB) Quad Channel Memory Kit Review

Introduction


The Mushkin Redline series is engineered to provide magnificent reliability and low latency while utilizing impressive memory speeds well beyond the DDR4 standard. Each Mushkin kit undergoes a rigorous testing procedure to reduce the possibility of hardware failure and backed by a generous lifetime warranty. This gives the purchaser peace-of-mind and ensures their investment is protected. On another note, Mushkin use high-quality ICs to maximize performance by finding the perfect balance between frequency and latency.

Today we’re taking a detailed look at a 3000MHz 16GB quad channel kit which adopts Mushkin’s FrostByte heatsink design and features timings of 15-15-15-35. The memory’s impressive memory speed to latency ratio should result in exceptional numbers, and I expect to see it compare favourably against rival offerings.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The modules come in a stylish cardboard box which enhances the level of protection compared to traditional blister packs. Additionally, the small cut out allows you to see the memory in all its glory and increases your excitement during the unboxing process. It’s always great to see something a little unusual with memory packaging because the majority of kits take a fairly mundane approach to box design.

On the rear section, there’s a brief synopsis about the product’s reliability, and Mushkin’s commitment to providing excellent customer service.

A Closer Look

The memory’s primary colour is difficult to pinpoint as the red finish tends to lighten at certain angles. It’s really a cross between a dark red and pink, but once the modules are exposed to low-medium light conditions, they look like a typical red design. This unusual shading effect works superbly and makes the modules have a sense of character. I also really like the silver accent and subtle Mushkin branding which adds a sophisticated feel.

On another note, the distinctive shape on the heatspreaders stands out without detracting from the understated construction. Sadly, the green PCB doesn’t help matters and I’d much prefer to see a black PCB instead. Granted, this isn’t a major problem when the modules are installed, but it might irk some users wanting the perfect colour scheme, or using hefty LED illumination. Overall, the aesthetic design is excellent and should cater towards the mainstream gaming market rather nicely.

Mushkin Blackline Ridgeback DDR4 2400MHz 16GB Memory Kit Review

Introduction


The latest memory kit to arrive for review purposes is part of Muskin’s Blackline Ridgeback range. The sample we received opts for a 16GB capacity, 2400MHz speed and timings of 15-15-15-35. This is achieved with a very respectable voltage rating of 1.2V and showcases the modules’ efficiency. Mushkin is a pioneering memory manufacturer formed in 1994 and continues to release new DIMMs sporting unique designs at a very competitive price point. Unlike their competitors, Mushkin assembles and hand tests each memory kit in the USA while strictly monitoring their production line.

This results in exceptional reliability and minimizes the potential for customer returns. The company also selects low latency modules to find a suitable balance between raw frequency and operating latency. On another note, every Mushkin memory kit is backed with a lifetime warranty and approachable customer service team. Given their reputation in the industry, I expect the memory kit to perform admirably at stock values and have some good overclocking headroom. Let’s see how it compares to other dual channel alternatives!

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The product comes in a traditional blister pack, and adopts the slogan, “Gamers take notice, rivals take notes.” I quite like the background design which looks rather striking and adds a dash of colour.

On the rear, there’s a very detailed installation guide containing extremely clear diagrams. Inserting the modules into position is a very simple process, but it’s always good to include instructions for newcomers without any previous system building experience.

A Closer Look

The DIMMs convey a professional look via the neutral colour scheme and should suit a wide range of system builds. Additionally, the angled heat spreaders provide a distinctive appearance without straying too far from the sophisticated, understated design. I’m also really keen on the silver accents, which adds some visual flair. Sadly, the green PCB spoils the black theme somewhat and ruins the overall level of synergy. Although once the modules are installed, you shouldn’t notice the green PCB from a distance. Thankfully, there are some SKUs which already have the same heat spreader design and black PCB to complement it perfectly. Overall, Mushkin has done a commendable job in the product’s aesthetics and ensured it appeals to the core gaming demographic.

MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


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

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

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

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

Intel Shuts Down Non-K Skylake Overclocking

When Intel first launched Skylake, one of the first changes we noticed was the uncoupling of the BCLK from other system clocks. Not surprisingly, this led to speculation that overclocking non-K chips using the BCLK would become possible. This eventually happened and many motherboard vendors started advertising the ability to OC non-K CPUs on their Z170 motherboards, allow chips like the i3 to be overclocked. Unfortunately, it looks like Intel is unhappy with this and is forcing motherboard vendors to issue a new BIOS update to remove the ability to overclock non-K chips.

Ever since Sandy Bridge, Intel has tied the BLCK with other clocks like the PCIe and DMI, limiting the ability to overclock as the other buses wouldn’t be able to hit higher speeds. This meant overclocks generally hovered about 3-5Mhz, minuscule compared to the 50% overclocks achieved using the FSB or even with Westmere. In order to access the ability to overclock, Intel made users purchase more expensive K-series CPUs which often had certain features disabled and enforced the use of pricier Z/Q series motherboards.

When Skylake came out with overclocking and heavy advertising support from motherboard vendors, many had hoped that Intel was changing its policies. It appears that motherboard vendors acted on their own though as they have quietly taken down any mention of Skylake overclocking on non-K chips. This is unfortunate for those who bought the Z170 motherboard with the promise of overclocking as they will not be unable to and their resell value has gone down.

For those who want to circumvent the new BIOS, older BIOS version with OC-enabled still exist for now. However, upgrading to the new BIOS may be irreversible so motherboards shipping from the factory now are probably locked down. New BIOS revisions may also feature bug fixes so there is also that to consider. Furthermore, if Intel wanted to, it could ask Microsoft to issue a Windows update to change the microcode of the CPU to disable overclocking. Given that the automatic nature of Windows 10 updates, that may be reason enough to hold off upgrading.

Overclockers Crank World-Record Speeds out of Skylake Core i7-6700K

Two renowned overclockers have pushed Intel’s Core i7-6700K CPU to its absolute limit, breaking the world record in the process. The German pair, Der8auer and Dancop, overclocked the retail Skylake processor to hit 7007.85MHz, using an ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Gene motherboard and 2x4GB G.Skill DDR4 RAM, TechFrag reports.

The validated data, submitted to CPU-Z, shows that the Germans raised the multiplier to 69x, using a base clock frequency of 101.56MHz, while the overclocking was achieved using only one of the CPU’s four cores enabled and an uncore frequency of 2438MHz.

The overclocking yielded 4.8GHz using air cooling, but, when they implemented -190oC cooling, managed to raise speeds up to 7007.85MHz.

The overclocking is a new world record, breaking the previous score of 6998.88MHz achieved by Chi-Kui Lam.

Processor (CPU)

CPU Name: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6700K CPU @ 4.00GHz

Threading: 1 CPU – 1 Core – 1 Thread

Frequency: 7007.85 MHz (69 * 101.56 MHz) – Uncore: 2437.5 MHz

Multiplier: Current: 69 / Min: 8 / Max: 50

Architecture: Skylake / R0-Step (14 nm)

Cpuid / Ext.: 6.E.3 / 6.5E

IA Extensions: MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4.2, EM64T, VT-x, AES, AVX, AVX2, FMA3, TSX

Caches: L1D : 32 KB / L2 : 256 KB / L3 : 8192 KB

Caches Assoc.: L1D : 8-way / L2 : 4-way / L3 : 16-way

Microcode: Rev. 0x0000023

TDP / Vcore: 95 Watts / 2.064 Volts

Type: Retail (Original Frequency : 4000 MHz)

SuperMicro C7Z170-OCE (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction



SuperMicro is one of the most respected names in the server industry and synonymous with unparalleled reliability. Whether you’re after a rackmount, blade server system or workstation motherboard, there’s nothing on the market which manages to enthuse such a sense of rock solid stability. Recently, the company has taken their server roots and impeccable reputation into enthusiast consumer motherboards. This allows them to retain the server framework while offering more ostentatious motherboard designs. Additionally, SuperMicro’s highly refined production line results in a low RMA rate and each product evokes such a premium feel. While their previous attempts have been a little rough around the edges, it’s clear to see the rapid progress in terms of motherboard layout and visual exuberance. Typically, motherboard manufacturers opt for the gaming themed red and black colour scheme because it caters towards the core demographic and maximize sales.

However, they have adopted a very different approach and launched the SuperMicro C7Z170-OCE, which utilizes a very striking green colour scheme. Not only that, the motherboard incorporates an impressive array of overclocking buttons to make manual tweaks without entering the BIOS. There’s also a high-quality speaker, and LED post readout to help with system diagnostics. The C7Z170-OCE’s electrical circuitry is designed with extreme overclocking in mind and able to push any Skylake CPU to its absolute limit. Yes, that means BCLK overclocking is possible even on a locked multiplier CPU. Although, given the Z170 chipset, this wouldn’t be a sensible choice.

Another key selling point is the embedded PLX PEX8747 chip capable of supporting 3-way SLI in a x16/x8/x8 configuration. If you require a 2-way setup, then the motherboard can easily accommodate this via a x16/x0/x16. Other notable features include a Realtek ALC1150 audio solution with dedicated PCB isolation, USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity, ample supply of fan headers and much more! As you can see, the motherboard sports an incredible specification and I expect it to perform superbly across CPU intensive tasks. In the past, I’ve experienced a few issues with our DDR4-2666MHz bench memory kit on SuperMicro products, so it will be interesting to see if compatibility has improved on this latest model.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The motherboard comes in SuperMicro’s iconic box design which looks fantastic and creates a sense of luxury.

On the rear, there’s a detailed description of SuperMicro’s philosophy to bring server quality to the gaming market. Furthermore, this section outlines the key specification in an easy-to-understand manner.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard is packaged with a driver disk, I/O shield, M.2 screws and a quick reference guide. Unlike the majority of other vendors, the SuperMicro guide is fairly brief and provides a technical rundown of the motherboard layout. While I find the included diagram quite useful, some users might prefer a more comprehensive set of instructions to help with troubleshooting. For example, the user’s guide directs you to URL to find the meaning of each BIOS debug code instead of printing them. This is important because when the system fails to post, you cannot access the online documentation. Although, I guess it’s easy enough to check on a phone or tablet for the meaning of each error code.

There’s also six SATA connectors in a red finish. Ideally, I’d like to see three of these with a right-angled end, and the red colour doesn’t really match the motherboard’s theme. Perhaps, swapping the red for green, or a jet black tone would enhance the overall level of synergy.

Inno3D GeForce GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS Graphics Card Review

Introduction


NVIDIA’s GTX 980Ti has proved to be a very popular choice among hardware enthusiasts requiring extreme performance at demanding resolutions. Whether you’re opting for a 21:9 3440×1440 60Hz panel, 4K display or high refresh rate 1440P monitor, there’s very few single card configurations on the market capable of dealing with advanced AA, complex tessellation and other visually taxing effects while driving a large number of pixels. Technically, the Titan X is NVIDIA’s flagship product and its 12GB frame buffer initially appears like an enticing proposition. However, the price to performance ratio is quite poor especially when you consider the 980Ti is based on the same GM200 silicone and only exhibits a few cost saving measures. Most notably, the video memory is reduced from 12GB to 6GB and the shader units have been slightly scaled back from 3072 to 2816.

Barring a few exceptions, the majority of Titan X models utilize a reference design which results in reduced overclocking headroom and higher temperatures. In contrast to this, custom cooled GTX 980Ti SKUs feature very impressive factory overclocks and enable users to access a higher power limit percentage when tackling manual core and memory boosts. As a result, it’s not uncommon for 980Ti GPUs to outperform the Titan X in certain scenarios despite costing £300-400 less. This means it is the perfect choice for the higher end demographic and also provides an improved price to performance ratio.

Today we’re looking at one of the fastest GTX 980 Ti models on the market incorporating a pre-overclocked core of 1216MHz and boost reaching 1317MHz. Additionally, the memory is set at 7280MHz compared to 7010MHz on the reference design. Given the impeccable 3-fan cooling solution, and impressive factory overclock, I expect the graphics card to perform superbly and pull away from the reference 980Ti by a noticeable margin.

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The Inno3D 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS is packaged in a hefty box which does an excellent job of protecting the GPU, and bundled accessories. On another note, the box adopts a really striking design which emphasizes the extreme level of performance on offer.

The opposite side includes a brief synopsis of the GPU’s capabilities and outlines the modern features incorporated into this particular model such as High Dynamic Range (HDR).

In terms of accessories, the product comes with interchangeable cover plates, an installation guide, 3DMark digital code, power supply guidelines, driver disk, and the usual array of adapters. Please note, the 3DMark code is not pictured to prevent the serial from being used.

Another highlight is the extremely high quality elongated mouse pad. I love extended mouse pads because they allow you to neatly position your keyboard and mouse while opting for a clean, sophisticated appearance. Despite being a free addition, the mouse pad is remarkably thick and should last a long time without becoming too frayed.

ASUS Integrates ROG BIOS Functionality Into Claymore Mechanical Keyboard

ASUS’ Claymore mechanical keyboard was originally demoed during Computex last year and showed a great deal of promise. Since then, the company has been working extremely hard to separate the Claymore from other mechanical keyboards currently dominating the peripherals market. One major change is the option to remove the number pad section and position it on the left hand side. This adds a large array of macro keys or you can even disregard it entirely and create a TKL layout. Of course, this isn’t an exclusive feature and other keyboards in the past have adopted a similar design. The more interesting development revolves around dedicated BIOS function keys and provides the end-user with various commands providing they are using an ROG ASUS motherboard.

According to Tom’s Hardware, ASUS has implemented a BIOS key which boots directly into the UEFI without having to frantically time the correct key presses. It’s even possible to adjust CPU and RAM overclocking settings from the keyboard. Another neat feature is the ability to cycle between XMP profiles and configure system fan RPM values. In addition to the enhanced BIOS functionality, there’s the usual array of RGB colour customization and dramatic lighting effects. I’m also quite fond of the keyboard’s style which makes it look unique. It seems every major manufacturer has moved into the peripherals market and released a high-end mechanical keyboard. It will be interesting to see what kind of switches the ASUS Claymore comes with. Ideally, I’d love to see more gaming keyboards with switches designed for typists such as Cherry MX Blues.

The Claymore is scheduled for release in Q2 this year and more official information regarding its price, and specification should be unveiled shortly. It’s always going to be difficult to compete with Corsair, but the BIOS features might just be enough to shift units in impressive numbers. When the product is finally released, we should have an in-depth review detailing the feel, build quality and unique selling points.

Which is your favourite mechanical switch type?

Overclocking World Records Set @ Gigabyte CES 2016 Booth

CES 2016: Overclocking via liquid nitrogen can appear like a very daunting process requiring vast amounts of technical knowledge and first-hand experience. While this is certainly true to reach the top scores, there’s always an entry into this area via demonstration videos and helpful tutorials. During CES 2016, Professional overclockers Hicookie and Boris_sdk streamed their world record attempts and provided a great insight into the process. If you’re interested in seeing the footage, it’s available via the Twitch Archive.

The duo successfully overclocked a Core i3 6100 to just over 6.2GHz using BCLK adjustments on a Gigabyte Z170X-SOC Force LN2. This resulted in 4 new global records in Wprime 32M (6.224sec), Wprime 1024M (3min 19.24sec), HWBOT Prime (5442.34 pps) and GPUPI for CPU 1B (8min 34sec 889m).

Overclockers UK Launches Incredible Value “8Pack Approved” Bundle

Ian “8Pack” Parry is one of the most respected overclockers in the world and renowned for setting various world records! Not only that, he employs his many years of experience and specialized expertise to help retailer, Overclockers UK produce extreme grade bundles as well as pre-configured dream systems. After focusing on the elite tier market, 8Pack has decided to cater towards the mainstream customer while only recommending hardware he would feel comfortable using.

The 8Pack Approved Gaming bundle includes an Intel Core i5-6400, 8GB (2x4GB) HyperX Fury 2666MHz DDR4 memory (upgradable to 16GB), ASUS Z170-E motherboard, Alpenföhn Brocken 2 CPU Cooler and 1g Thermal Grizzly which allows for multiple applications. This basic package retails for £329.95 and includes free next day shipping via DPD. By default, the CPU is capable of reaching 4.4GHz despite having a locked multiplier. This is because you can attain substantial speed increases using BCLK adjustments. If this seems like a daunting experience, then there’s nothing to worry about as 8Pack has outlined the recommended settings to easily reach the 4.4GHz figure. Furthermore, if you encounter any problems, he’s usually on hand to help out!

While the bundled air cooler is perfectly acceptable, some users might prefer a more visually pleasing alternative. For an extra £40.94, you can acquire the OcUK TechLabs 120mm All-In-One Watercooler which comes with a Silverstone FQ121 fan in black. This is one of the best water cooling fans on the market and maintains quiet operation. Overall, this is a fantastic bundle for users on a budget and incorporates possibly the best technical support available to consumers.

It’s also great to see a number of options in terms of memory capacity and cooler preference. Since the revelations about Skylake’s CPU strap, there’s no real reason to opt for an unlocked multiplier unless you want to simplify the overclocking process. However, in this case, the hard work has already been done by 8Pack with the hardware testing and recommended profiles.

Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 2400MHz 16GB (2x8GB) Dual Channel Memory Kit Review

Introduction


The overwhelming majority of gaming builds revolve around a red and black colour scheme which makes it relatively difficult for hardware manufacturers to produce other colours in large numbers. Any niche section of the market isn’t prioritized as companies attempt to maximize sales and cater to the mainstream customer. On the other hand, white components have become more popular in recent years and look absolutely stunning. For example, the ASUS Sabertooth Mark S compliments the Avexir Sabranco memory in a beautiful way. Sadly, it’s pretty rare to see memory kits with a white PCB especially on the DDR4 platform.

One of the more affordable DDR4 memory kits comes from Crucial and even implements a gorgeous white PCB! Crucial’s LT branding is slightly confusing as the DIMMs utilize an identical specification to the standard Sport range. The only difference is the revised heatspreader design. This particular memory kit operates at 2400MHz, and requires 1.2V. Additionally, the timings are fairly tight for DDR4 at 16-16-16-39 but this is to be expected compared to higher frequency alternatives.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The memory kit comes in a traditional blister pack and outlines the key specification. I also found it quite easy to remove the modules without applying too much force.

A Closer Look

Here we can see the aesthetically pleasing heatspreaders which adopt a low profile design to enhance compatibility with large air coolers. More specifically, the modules measure 40mm in height and you shouldn’t experience any clearance issues. From a visual standpoint, the white PCB, central Ballistix logo and retro-inspired decal looks phenomenal. Additionally, the edges feature a textured finish which enhances the memory’s unique appearance. I’m also quite fond of the stylish cutouts which are easily visible once the DIMMs have been installed.

SuperMicro C7H170-M (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


SuperMicro might not be the most recognizable name among enthusiasts with the likes of MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte and other household brands being the logical choice for consumers. However, their pedigree is unparalleled when it comes to stability and creating the best server solutions available today. As a result, I’m always overjoyed to test any SuperMicro motherboard and see this level of expertise move into other markets. Slowly but surely, SuperMicro appears to be targeting the gaming audience and releasing visually appealing products with an impressive range of features.

Approximately two months ago, we reviewed the SuperMicro C7Z170-SQ and felt it offered excellent overclocking functionality for extreme usage scenarios. In contrast to this, today’s review sample is built on the H170 chipset which theoretically disables any chance of frequency boosts. However, recent evidence shows that BCLK overclocking can be attained on non-K series CPUs and H170 motherboards via a BIOS update. The C7H170-M has been proven to allow for BCLK adjustments and huge overclocking headroom using high-end cooling apparatus. Clearly, we’re not going to change our testing CPU to keep the results fair. Although, I’m fascinated to see the maximum frequency on a H170 motherboard and see how close it gets to traditional multiplier overclocks.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The SuperMicro C7H170-M comes in a gorgeous box which evokes a sense of luxury. Its design is simplistic while being extremely unusual and looks stylish. I’m incredibly fond of bold cut-out for the lettering which makes this particular product stand out.

On the rear, there is a detailed overview about the motherboard and its core specification.

The package is quite barebones and comes with a layout diagram, I/O shield, driver disk, M.2 screws and server-style SATA cables. Please note, the included technical sheet also helps with the rudimentary installation procedure. Although, it’s much less detailed than other vendors. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t pose a major problem, and I don’t expect the type of customer purchasing a SuperMicro product to have limited experience in system building.

MSI Z170 Motherboards Receive BIOS Update to Support Non-K Overclocking

Intel’s business strategy for some time has been to only offer an unlocked multiplier on higher end CPUs. While this makes the overclocking process extremely simple, it encourages the enthusiast user to spend more money to access any manual frequency boosts. However, professional overclocker Dhenzjhen managed to attain 4.6GHz on a locked multiplier Intel Core i3 6320. Not only that, this was achieved on the Supermicro H170 motherboard. This is remarkable because Intel’s H170 chipset theoretically doesn’t allow for any overclocking headroom whatsoever even with an K-series CPU. So how does this work?

The motherboard in question features a BIOS which allows for BCLK adjustments. Unlike the previous generation, BCLK isn’t linked to the PCI-E bus and any changes only impacts on the CPU, graphics and memory. There’s also a greater degree of accuracy when changing the CPU strap, and you no longer have to rely on 100MHZ, 125MHz and 167MHz. Without giving too much away, our review of the motherboard in question will be published soon and let’s just say the results are fascinating.

Now that this has been replicated by some vendors, it’s possible to enable identical functionality on other motherboards. Today, MSI announced their entire Z170 range will now support non-K series BCLK overclocking with a BIOS update. Here is a complete list of supported MSI Z170 models as of 18th of December:

Please note, the process does have some limitations. For example, you cannot overclock via this method and use the CPU’s iGPU. However, this isn’t a major problem as overclocking aficionados usually have a dedicated graphics card. On another note, the CPU’s EIST, C-states and Turbo Boost will all be disabled. Clearly, this isn’t recommended by Intel and they might refuse any warranty if you cause damage to the CPU. Although the likelihood of this happening, or Intel finding out is almost zero. Nevertheless, MSI rightfully included a disclaimer which reads:

“Overclocking Intel non-K CPUs is not officially supported by Intel and the BIOS versions created by MSI unlocking this option are all beta versions. Intel may choose to disable this option at any time. At no point MSI can be taken responsible for disabling overclocking for non-K CPUs.”

No-one currently knows how Intel will react, and I’m fairly sure they aren’t best pleased with this discovery. Despite this it’s a great development for consumers wanting to maximize their money when purchasing a CPU.

Please visit this page to access your motherboards BIOS update.

Asus Maximus VIII Extreme Overclocking Review

Introduction


The Maximus VIII Extreme is the new top of the line socket 1151 board from Asus that just begs to be paired with a 6600K or 6700K for some overclocking goodness. The board was built for overclocking from the ground up and it should be fairly capable in extreme overclocking too. We are going to put it through its paces and see just how fun and powerful this board can be when pushing 6700Ks to the extreme, but first, let’s take a look at the features that will help us achieve the overclocks we desire.

Now we see the Maximus VIII Extreme without the heat-sink in all its black on black glory, the color scheme really looks beautiful. The board is built from the ground up for overclocking and has really gone a bit overboard with the features. The board will take dual 8-pin connectors for power along with the standard 24pin.

Onboard buttons for power, reset, safe boot, MemOK, and a POST led display. There are toggles for disabling DIMM channels as well as toggles for LN2 mode and Slow Mode for extreme overclocking. There are also voltage read points for various different board voltages.

Here we have the dual BIOS chips that are thankfully socketed instead of soldered. Why is that important you may wonder well it is much easier to replace one of these socketed chips by yourself than having to send the whole board into the company for RMA.

The inclusion of the combo PS2 mouse and keyboard is always a welcome sight as it simplifies things and will also reduce the load on the CPU over USB based options while you are overclocking.

For the CPU, the board is using an 8-phase fully digital VRM controlled by ASP1405 (IR based). Mosfets are Infineon BSG0812 (dual N-MOSFET with high + low side in the same package) capable of delivering 50A each. As for the iGPU, it is the same components again, but scaled down to a 4-phase design. DRAM has a dual-phase design with the digital ASP1103 controller.

Dinos22 Achieves Impressive New X99 OC World Record

Extreme overclocking is something that is reserved for just a few, but those who can and do this are highly passioned and most certainly very good at what they do. Records are being set and records are being broken all the time, but today a new world record was set for the X99 category as Dinos22, or Dino for ease, achieved an impressive 6000 MHz clock speed.

The new record was set by a GIGABYTE X99-SOC Champion board that once again proved as the best overclocking mother around as Dino took his Intel Core i7 5960X Haswell-E CPU to this impressive 6GHz speed. This was obviously achieved by using liquid nitrogen (LN2) and the CPU was running at -5 degrees Celcius during load.

Click for Large version

Dino is now ranked first out of 603 in the WR, ranked first for the for the Intel i7-5970X CPU, and also ranked first for global eight-core CPUs, once again nailing down the fact that he’s a world-class overclocker.

Dino himself had this to say about the new record: “Country Cup bench with Australia OC team (TeamAU and HWBOT OC team). GIGABYTE X99 SOC Champ is back in da house.”

G.Skill TridentZ 3200MHz DDR4 16GB Memory Kit Review

Introduction


G.Skill is one of the most respected memory vendors in the technology industry and synonymous for selecting premium ICs to set world records. For example, back in August, Chi-Kui Lam overclocked G.Skill’s Ripjaws 4 memory made from Samsung ICs to attain an astonishing world record of 4795.8MHz. Additionally, the data from HWBOT in August shows 7 Skylake world records were set on Ripjaws 4 memory kits. This exemplifies the overclocking potential of G.Skill modules and strict binning process. In most scenarios, consumers simply enable Intel’s Extreme Memory Profile and avoid manual overclocks to maximize compatibility. Additionally, in gaming tasks, the difference between 2400MHz and higher frequencies is minimal. Nevertheless, if the price difference between 2400MHz and 3000MHz+ is small, there’s no reason not to pay the extra for higher bandwidth modules out of the box.

The G.Skill TridentZ series is available in a number of configurations from 2800MHz all the way up to 4000MHz. As you can see, this is an extraordinarily high specification and designed for consumers wanting the ultimate in memory speeds. Today, we’re taking a look at the 3200MHz kit which utilizes 1.35v, and 16-18-18 timings. It’s quite important to note that G.Skill have conducted thorough testing on Intel’s Z170 platform to check compatibility and stability with XMP. Unfortunately, our testing procedure revolves around X99, and every other DDR4 memory review has been conducted via the professional platform. Theoretically, we could have reviewed this particular memory kit on a Z170 motherboard but there wouldn’t be any fair comparison to previous reviews and too many variables. This is why the X99 test bench is still being used for DDR4 reviews.

Despite this lengthy clarification, I expect the TridentZ kit to perform superbly given G.Skill’s heritage and commitment to providing the fastest memory on the planet!

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The memory kit comes in a visually appealing box which creates a sense of luxury and outlines the product’s magnificent aesthetic design.

On the opposite side, there is a brief synopsis about the TridentZ series and G.Skill’s lifetime support service.

A Closer Look

Here we can see the gorgeous memory in all its glory and I honestly believe this is some of the best-looking RAM I’ve ever seen. The metallic silver finish, and dynamic edges contrast in a beautiful manner. Furthermore, the G.Skill and TridentZ logos are positioned perfectly and it enhances the aesthetic design without being too overbearing. Additionally, the red strip on the top looks fantastic and really stands out compared to the silver heat spreader and white lettering. On another note, the black PCB accentuates the memory’s sharp, sophisticated tone.

Even more astounding, G.Skill utilized a dark brushed metallic finish on the reverse side to proficiently suit red and black gaming motherboards. From this angle, it’s evidently clear how much time has been taken designing the memory which makes each module look very expensive.

ASUS Republic of Gamers Announces Maximus VIII Hero Alpha

ASUS got a lot of praise for their latest Skylake-based Hero motherboard and now there is an even better version of it called the Maximus VIII Hero Alpha. The new motherboard brings improved storage and network options as well as a new RGB strip header.

The new ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Hero Alpha features dual 32Gbps U.2 and M.2 ports for the new blazing fast NVMe drives as well as the support for up to three PCIe RAID devices. The external storage options also got an upgrade with an Intel USB 3.1 controller and both Type-A and Type-C ports. Next to the Intel i219-V Gigabit LAN connection, the Hero Alpha also features 2×2 (2T2R) 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) wireless capabilities.

This is also the world’s first motherboard with integrated RGB headers compatible with standard 12V RGB LED strips for instant custom illumination and you’ll find two of these on the Hero Alpha.

Maximus VIII Hero Alpha also includes a great audio solution with SupremeFX 2015 and Sonic Studio II, just as you’ll find all the other great ASUS ROG features. The board features impressive memory overclocking to over 3800MHz and it allows overclocked base clock frequencies of 400MHz and more.

The new ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Hero Alpha will be available around the end of November in the United Kingdom for a suggested end-user price of £235. That is not a low price, but you do get an impressive gaming and overclocking motherboard with a unique onboard LED strip feature.

Latest Sapphire TriXX Unlocks AMD Fury Voltage Control!

The AMD Fury cards have certainly been an interesting chapter for AMD this year, offering some unique innovations that are certain to change the future of the graphics cards market. What’s been holding these cards back, however, is their overclocking potential and slowly but surely, that trend is changing.

The latest release of Sapphire Trixx (v5.2.1.) has just been released, and that’s great news for Fury owners, as it unlocked the AMD Fury Voltage Control. This is a vital component in fine tuning overclocks and as reddit user Buildzoid says, these cards should be able to handle a bit of punishment. Of course, as with any overclocking and voltage tweaking, proceed with caution, especially on hardware so new and relatively untested in terms of overclocking.

“Ok here’s some basic data so you don’t blow up your cards. Max out the power slider. Even if the VRM for Vcore hits 125C you can shove 500W through it. Also it will throttle the card if it gets too hot. The IR 3567B running the default BIOS won’t let you blow the VRM. +100mV is safe across the board. +200mv is safe if you keep the core bellow 60C I would not expect clock scaling going past 150/175mV depending on you card. Yeah that’s basically the least “safe” looking overclocking advice you will ever read however the fact is that the Fury/Fury X PCBs are ridiculously over built.” – Buildzoid

 

Here’s what Sapphire had to say about the new software, which doesn’t only bring the voltage feature, but also some other cool features for a wide range of AMD cards.

SAPPHIRE TriXX Utility
Rev up the performance of your AMD Radeon or FURY based graphics card with the latest new-look version of SAPPHIRE TriXX. Change settings for the best performance of any compatible graphics card in different applications or games and save up to four sets and easily switch between them.

Enthusiasts can adjust fan speeds, core voltages and clock speeds to tune up performance to the max in your favourite games by overclocking, and save those settings for the next time you play the game. Safe recovery means you will never get stuck in settings you can’t change!

Not gaming today? Then save another set of changes with low fan speeds to run super quiet while you are watching a video – or revert to default settings for general purpose computing. Whatever you want to do – TriXX makes it easy.

TriXX not only monitors basic parameters such as fan speed and GPU temperature but also GPU load, voltages and memory performance. TriXX can also create a log file for future analysis, and you can save the current VGA BIOS.

Check back for updates – TriXX is regularly updated to provide support for new releases of graphics cards and GPU families as well as enhancements to the tool.

New features

New look and interface
Now supports over-volting on Radeon R300 series
Now supports HBM memory overclock on FURY cards
Now supports over-volt on FURY cards
Minimise TriXX to task bar

Main Features

Overclock your AMD RADEON or FURY based graphics card
GPU Core Clock
GPU Voltage
Video Card Memory Clock
Save your Favourite Settings with up to 4 Profiles.
Adjust your Graphic Card’s Fan Settings with Automatic, Fixed or Custom Fan Speeds
Information Tab with all you need to know about your Graphic Card including GPU, Interface, Memory, Driver Version, BIOS Version, Clocks, Shaders and more…
Multi-GPU support (CrossFireX)
Windows Sidebar Gadget option

If you’re ready to rock and get the most out of your AMD hardware, head on over to the official Sapphire site to download Trixx.

MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


MSI is an established player in the gaming laptop scene and produces a huge range of products to suit various usage scenarios. Whether you’re prioritizing portability or simply require raw horsepower, MSI has a laptop to suit your specific needs. The company’s quintessential styling and robust construction beautifully balances performance with unique features and includes a comprehensive software package. This magical combination has proved to be incredibly popular among the gaming audience. Previously, we reviewed the budget-orientated MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro which performed remarkably well in 3D benchmarks despite its relatively affordable price point.

While the gaming prowess of laptops around the £1000 mark are good, some users have higher demands to reach 60 frames-per-second at extreme graphical presets. The type of laptop which caters to this demographic is the GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro and comes in a number of top-tier configurations. The review unit we’re looking at today features an Intel i7-6820HK, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM, GTX 980M and 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD boot drive. Furthermore, the system opts for a 17.3″ 1920×1080 display, 9-cell battery, and 1TB data drive. As you can see, this is a stunning specification and more than capable of competing with high-powered desktops. On another note, the pioneering MXM graphics module offers an upgrade path for the future and makes the investment seem more worthwhile. Overall, I expect the system to shine in gaming tests at extreme graphical settings.

Specifications

  • Name: MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro
  • Case: Brushed Aluminum Laptop Chassis
  • Processor: 6th Gen. Intel Core Skylake i7-6820HK @ 3.6GHz
  • System Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Toshiba 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): HGST 1TB 7200RPM  
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 980M 8GB GDDR5
  • Battery: 9 Cell Li-Polymer
  • Optical DriveBlu-ray Writer
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n/ac Killer Double Shot Pro AC
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • Display: 17.3″ 1920 x 1080 FHD Anti Glare Wide View Angle with NVIDIA G-SYNC
  • Weight: 3.78Kg (With Battery)
  • Dimensions: 428(W) x 294(D) x 48(H)mm
  • Warranty: 2-Year Collect and Return (1 year global)
  • Price: £1962.20 as configured delivered.

Packing and Accessories

Given the laptop’s hefty construction, MSI decided to employ a thick cardboard box to adequately protect the sample during transit and reduce the impact of any small knocks.

The inner packaging adopts MSI’s iconic gaming dragon logo and outlines the system’s key specification.

Once opened, we can see the laptop’s accessories are divided into segments which makes the unboxing process a more pleasant experience. Furthermore, MSI opted for a durable plastic cover, and luxurious protective cloth which reduces the likelihood of damage occurring during shipping.

In terms of accessories, the laptop is bundled with a soft cleaning cloth, documentation, driver disk and power supply. The felt cloth feels beautiful in the hand and evokes a sense of luxury. While the power supply is on the larger side, this is expected given the laptop’s immense specification.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

der8auer Delid Die Mate Coming Soon to Caseking

Today der8auer unveiled his newest device for overclocking, the Delid Die Guard. The device makes removing the lids of CPUs so easy that even my mother could do it. The preferred method of the past has been the vice method for removing lids and unfortunately with the new Skylake CPUs the PCB is so thin people are destroying their expensive CPUs attempting the method.

Because of this, it has become common practice to use a razorblade to remove the lid, though that has its own dangers to users and the CPU. der8auer is a pro overclocker himself and even has mangled a CPU from delidding, so he decided to make a tool that will simplify the process.

The tool is two blocks that clamp together with 6 screws with a CPU placed inside. The compatible CPUs are Skylake, Ivy Bridge, Haswell and Devils Canyon though Broadwell may also work, but he had nothing to test with. After the two parts are clamped together with the CPU inside, turn the screw on the back and it pushes the lid off and you are done. A device that takes headaches and fear of killing a chip out of delidding? Yes Please!


The standard way for delidding Skylake right now involves using a razorblade and can be very dangerous to your fingers and the fragile PCB of the CPU. This is the first 6700K that I delidded and it was pretty anxiety-inducing for sure.

A picture gallery of the Delid Die Mate

 

 

 

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.

MSI Z170 XPOWER is Now in Stock From Major UK Retailers

MSI’s traditional colour scheme for the overclocking range has been yellow and black for some time. However, the company’s research shows that very few people opted for this theme and resulted in lower than expected sales. Furthermore, it’s quite difficult to find components which match the striking yellow colour scheme. For example, the only RAM which comes to mind is Avexir Core series and Crucial Ballistix Tactical. Subsequently, MSI decided to alter the latest Z170 XPOWER motherboard to a stunning silver PCB with black highlights.

The Z170 XPOWER faced a substantial delay to retail channels but is finally in stock at Overclockers UK, SCAN and Dabs. Additional stock will arrive next week to other retailers such as Amazon, eBuyer, Novatech and more! The Z170 XPOWER is a phenomenal motherboard featuring a 16-phase digital voltage regulator module, supreme titanium chokes and a raft of other high-end features. I’m particularity fond of the OC dashboard which allows you to make BLCK changes through manual buttons.

In terms of pricing, the Z170 XPOWER retails for £229.99 and features a 3-year warranty. This is a substantial investment but offers incredibly high-end overclocking functionality and utilizes one of the best looking motherboard PCB’s on the market.