MSI Unveils Turbo U.2 Adapter Card

MSI has unveiled a new U.2 host card for use with SATA-Express SSDs such as the 2.5-inch Intel 750 that can deliver up to 2400MB/s transfer speeds. While we have seen such adapters bundled with a few selected top motherboards before, MSI’s stands out a bit.

The SATA-Express connector stands a bit out in this world where all technology keeps getting smaller and smaller. It’s quite a large one. This is where the U.2 connector comes in, as it’s basically a cabled version of the M.2. It allows the same great bandwidth up to 32 GB/s on a PCIe x4 connection.

MSI added a little twist to their version that I don’t think that we have seen before. They added what they call the U.2 redriver and it is a kind of amplifier that helps maintain the best transfer signal strength possible, and thereby the best possible transfer speeds.

MSI also made sure that the U.2 Host adapter supports PCIe RAID, allowing you to use two of these on motherboards that support it. In return, you can RAID your brand new NVMe SSDs for impressive speeds up to 3500MB/s read and 2000MB/s write.

MSI will without a doubt bundle this adapter with some of their flagship motherboards, but the packaging also suggests that it will be sold as separate add-on.


  • Supports U.2 interface SSD with NVMe driver
  • U.2 redriver: The signal amplifier for better performance
  • The best compatibility: Compatible for all M.2 slot in PCI-E mode
  • Maximum Bandwidth: PCI-E 3.0 x4 (up to 32 Gb/s)
  • Input Interface: M.2 (Key M)
  • Output Interface: U.2 Host Connector up to 32 Gb/s
  • Compatible OS: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10
  • Compatible for M.2 2280 slot

ASUS Shows off Maximus VIII Extreme Motherboard

ASUS has shown off their newest consumer flagship motherboard ahead of the official launch, the ROG Maximus VIII Extreme motherboard. The new Maximus VIII Extreme is naturally built for Skylake and the LGA 1151 socket and comes with Intel’s Z170 chipset. The ROG colour scheme has been changed from the old black and red into the new orange, silver and black theme that we’ve already seen on the ROG Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum graphics card.

The new ROG Maximus VIII Extreme motherboard should provide everything an enthusiast wants. You get four PCIe Gen 3 x16 slots where three are wired to the CPU and the last is wired to the PCH. The ATX sized motherboard comes with the usual four memory slots and requires almost normal power connectivity. You’ll need a 24-pin ATX, an 8-pin, and a 4-pin EPS connector to hook up this beauty.

The motherboard doesn’t lack anything in the area of storage or connectivity. Besides the eight SATA3 ports, you also get an SFF-8639 U.2 connector for NVMe drives with up to 32Gbps, an M.2 32Gbps slot, and two SATA-Express 16Gbps connectors. Onboard is also Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 ac WLAN, and Bluetooth 4.0 for you to connect to the world with.

One shouldn’t forget the onboard sound either, as it isn’t a low-budget one on this board. ASUS added the SupremeFX audio solution that comes with a front-panel unit for easy access and connectivity.

Thank You TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

OCZ Shows off Their Storage Drives at Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – A company like OCZ can’t be missed and we did of course stop by their booth to check out the latest storage drives out of their house.

The Trion 100 series is a new and value oriented series for entry-level users, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice performance. The Trion 100 series will be available in capacities ranging from 120GB to 960GB and a performance up to 550MB/s on sequential performance and 91K IOPS on random operations. T

Those performance figures come from read operations, but it’s equally impressive on the write performance where it steal breaks the 500MB/s barrier. The drive comes backed by OCZ’s amazing ShieldPlus warranty and is built around Toshiba’s proprietary Alishan controller and A19 TLC NAND flash.

OCZ also brought along their Radeon R7 branded SSD, one that we’ve already reviewed and that scored great. The drive comes with great endurance ratings and is built around the Barefoot 3 M00 controller that I personally am a big fan of.

On the other side of things we have the enterprise-class storage – drives for people that don’t want anything but the best for their critical systems.

There is no doubt that NVMe is the new king in the market and OCZ has ready with the OCZ Z-Drive 6000 series that takes full advantage of the relative new interface.

OCZ is running live demonstrations to show just how great these drives are. One can say a lot, but OCZ also shows how it’s done.

Reaching 345K IOPS on 4K random read performance with 8 workers isn’t something that we see often and that is quite impressive.

OCZ’s Z-Drive 6300 series is built around the NVM Express 1.1b Gen 3. x4 PCI Express connection and comes as both HHHL add-in card and 2.5-inch form factor with SATA Express interface.

Features include Power Loss protection, endurance ratings for 3 full drive writes per day for 5 years and capacities up to 6.4TB. Performance can go all the way up to 2900MB/s at sequential operations and 700K IOPS at random operations.

The XD-JX series is an M.2 sized NVMe based storage drive that boasts almost the same specs as the Z-Drive 6300. We see an endurance rating of 2 DWPD over a 5-year period, 1600MB/s and 300K IOPS performance at just 12W. Capacity is equally impressive with modules that go all the way up to 960GB.

We shouldn’t forget the Intrepid 3000 series either, a standard SATA 3 based 2.5-inch drive designed for Enterprise Applications. The drive is built around the latest generation Toshiba eMLC NAND flash and comes in sizes all the way up to 2TB. Impressive capacity and performance thanks to the use of eMLC NAND.

Last but not least is the Saber 1000 series. This is another drive that is utilizing the OCZ Barefoot 3 controller and the latest Toshiba MLC NAND. The drive features Power Failure management Plus as well as great performance and capacities for Hyperscale Data Centers and other situations where high-IOPS are needed.


BIOSTAR Tease Gaming Z170X4 Motherboard for Computex

Computex is just around the corner and the excitement is rising everywhere. We know that we’ll see a lot of new products ranging from blazing fast NVMe storage drives to motherboards built around Intel’s newest platform.

BIOSTAR is ready with a full lineup of motherboards with the new Intel 100 chipsets, Z170, H170 and B150 with support for Intel’s 6th generation Core processors.

The new press release talks most about current generation products such as the Nvidia GTX 900 series and Intel Z79 motherboards, but included was the above low-resolution image picturing one of the new motherboards.

The image might be low resolution, but we can still glance some information from it. The chipset/southbridge is exposed in the shot, showing us the actual chip that otherwise is hidden below a heatsink. We can also spot what looks to be three SATA Express connectors and three M.2 connectors for your storage. Two legacy SATA3 ports are supported within the SATA Express connector, so that part is covered as well.

The networking is powered by a KillerNic 2200 and the audio card is separated from the rest of the motherboard to prevent interference. The BIOSTAR Gaming Z170x4 motherboard comes with three PCIe x16 and three PCIe x1 slots for your expansion cards.

ASRock Announces the X99M-Killer USB 3.1 Socket LGA2011v3 Motherboard

ASRock has just announced its latest socket LGA2011v3 motherboard addition, the X99M-Killer USB 3.1, tailored specifically for Intel’s Core i7 Haswell-E processors. It comes in a micro-ATX form factor, featuring two 10 Gb/s USB 3.1 ports and a nice feature set.

The motherboard is said to have a 24-pin ATX, 8-pin EPS and an optional 4-pin Molex for powering it and all the components coupled to it. The X99M-Killer also has a 12-phase VRM for the CPU, having it wired to the four DDR4 DIMM slots in quad-channel support.

In terms of expansion slots, the motherboard comes with two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 and one PCI-Express 2.0 x16 (x4 electrical). Storage connectivity is provided via the 10 SATA-Express 10 Gb/s ports, one eSata 6 Gb/s and one Ultra M.2.

The X99M-Killer comes with the ASRock Purity Sound 2 onboard audio solution featuring a 115 dBA SNR Codec, audio-grade capacitors, a headphones amplifier and ground-layer isolation. Internet connectivity is provided via two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one driven by the Killer E2205 and one by the Intel i218-V controllers.

Aside from the two USB 3.1 prots, there are also six USB 3.0 connectors available (four in the rear and two by header) and two USB 2.0 ports, designed to connect a user’s keyboard and mouse. The motherboard also features a dual-BIOS with manual switching between two physical EEPROMs.

ASRock did not offer any details on the X99M-Killer USB 3.1 motherboard in terms of pricing or availability just yet.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

ASUS Announce TUF Sabertooth X99 at CeBIT

ASUS’ TuF team has taken the Intel X99 motherboard and created an awesome looking and feature rich motherboard with the Sabertooth X99. The new motherboard looks great and comes with great features such as the second generation Thermal Radar, Thermal Armor, and fortified backplate.

USB 3.1 ports have obviously been added, but ASUS also added protective covers for all ports to protecting them while not being used. Also added is an exclusive and all-new technology that displays live system information on your smartphones and tablets, without even switching on the PC. Plug in your Android smartphone via the dedicated USB port on the rear IO. It can remotely turn on, restart, clear CMOS, view voltages and live system clock speeds.

All ports are protected from overvoltage, including USB sockets and audio connectors. Like the previous Sabertooth boards, this one is also built with the best of the best components such as Alloy Chokes with greater surface area, low RDSon MOSFETs, and TUF 10K Ti Caps.

USB 3.1 isn’t the only highlight on this motherboard, it also comes with support for all NVM Express options, including new 2.5-inch SSDs. There’s also plenty of storage options with 2 SATA Express and lots of SATA connections on this motherboard that’s backed by a 5-year warranty.

The X99 chipset has plenty of PCI lanes at disposal, so SLI and crossfire options should run great on this board. It also features M.2 sockets, Intel Gigabit LAN, Realtek ALC1150 8-channel audio and much more.

Thanks to ASUS for providing us with this information

BIOSTAR Announces the GAMING Z97X and Z97W Motherboards

BIOSTAR has announced their latest flagship socket LGA1150 motherboard, the GAMING Z97X. The Z97X is designed with gamers in mind and is built with a high amount of connectivity and a little bit of overclocking rather than just being focused on the best overclocking potential.

The brown-gold and black colour scheme along with the plastic shroud at the rear give the board a unique appearance. The CPU gets its power from a 12-phase VRM and the board has three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 and three PCI-Express 2.0 x1 expansion slots wired to the PCH.

Storage connectivity includes SATA-Express, six SATA 6 Gb/s, and an M.2 (PCIe 2.0 x2) connector. The board also offers two supercharged USB 3.1 (10 Gb/s) ports, in addition to six normal USB 3.0 ports, and a number of USB 2.0 ports. As mentioned, this board is focused on connectivity and further has two gigabit Ethernet interfaces that sadly won’t allow for bridging as one is driven by an Intel controller and the other by a Qualcomm Killer E2200; those are still two great choices to have.

The onboard audio features a 110 dBA SNR CODEC, a 600Ω headphones amp, and ground-layer isolation and comes bundled with a 5.25-inch front-panel head-unit BIOSTAR calls the Gaming Commander. It doesn’t just provide front-panel audio outputs and control, but also diagnostic LEDs and temperature indicator.

The GAMING Z97W was released at the same time and is a slightly slimmed down version without the third PCIe x16 slot and with a 10-phase CPU VRM.

 Thanks to TechPowerU  for providing us with this information

WD Is Preparing World Fastest 4TB Hybrid Drive

Las Vegas is a busy place this time of year with the CES event. But there also are a lot of smaller events in the city surrounding CES and one of them is the Storage Visions Conference. Western Digital is presenting their new 4TB Hybrid Drive that utilises the SATA Express PCI-e interface to make the world’s fastest hybrid drive and bring down the costs per GB.

The demonstrated models are using 64GB SSD cache sizes, but WD said that the final models will be made available with up to 128GB cache. Having such a cache increases the data access rate for hot data significantly and improves the overall performance. The WD SATA Express 4 TB drive with 64 GB cache achieved a PCMark8 benchmark score of 4459 and these drives perform close to 10Gbit/s in striped RAID setups.

“WD is committed to working with the industry to push the boundaries of what you might expect from a traditional hard drive,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president, Storage Technology, WD. “By moving to PCI Express, the industry marries the world’s most popular storage bus with the world’s most popular computer bus. This union provides a solid growth path to innovate new capability, while preserving the ability to plug legacy SATA drives into new SATA Express based computers.”

I can not wait for these prototype drives to become a reality, bringing down the overall costs for fast storage – for everyone.

Thanks to WD for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of WD

MSI Z97S SLI PLUS (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

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

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

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

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MSI X99S MPower Motherboard Gets Pictured

If the MSI X99S XPower AC motherboard is a little too expensive and feature packed for your liking then MSI will also be offering another OC series board that is a few notches down. THE X99S MPower motherboard is an ATX X99 based motherboard with a 12 phase digital power PWM design. High quality audio using MSI’s Audio Boost components and the Realtek ALC1150 codec is present as well as abundant storage connectivity: 8 SATA III ports, one SATA Express port and an M.2 port. Being an OC series board there a variety of switches to play around with such as base clock switches, an OC Engine button and a diagnostic LED for troubleshooting.

WCCFTech claim a price of under $400 for the board which uses MSI’s yellow and black colour scheme. The fairly modest range of connectivity and features (by the standard of MSI’s other X99 boards) leaves some scope for them to release an MPower Max model in the future, although MSI would have to be careful to differentiate that from the feature packed X99S XPower AC.

Be sure to check out some of the other MSI X99 motherboards that have been shown off in the past few days:

Source: WCCFTech

Image courtesy of PC-Watch

MSI X99S Gaming 7 And X99S SLI Plus Motherboards Spotted

The run-up to the launch of Intel’s X99 Haswell-E platform continues and this time it is more MSI motherboards on the menu for a bit of pre-NDA showing off. We’ve already seen the MSI X99S XPOWER AC and the MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC but now it is time for two more X99 boards from MSI. Up first and pictured above is the MSI X99S SLI Plus motherboard. Like the SLI Plus boards on the Z97 platform this board will be more wallet friendly than the XPower and high-end Gaming series boards. It features an 8 phase PWM power delivery system with MSI’s Military Class IV component set. 8 DDR4 slots give you adequate memory capabilities while 10 SATA III 6Gbps ports and a SATA express port give you bucket loads of storage option, there’s even an M.2 port on there. As the name suggests SLI and Crossfire are supported, the board is optimised for dual GPU operation in terms of its spacing. The all-black colour scheme is a nice break from the monotonous red & black we seem to see on just about every board.

Talking about monotonous red and black and MSI have actually done a good job to keep their red and black design looking fairly distinct from the likes of ASUS, ASRock and Gigabyte. Being a Gaming series board we find the usual combo of high quality ALC1150 based audio on an isolated PCB with a Killer E2200 NIC for the LAN. The Gaming 7 x99 board ditches the WiFi AC solution present on the gaming 9 which should help keep the cost down. That aside the X99S Gaming 7 is very similar to the X99S SLI Plus except with a few extra gaming features and the Gaming Series styling. Pricing and availability is still to be announced.

Source: WCCFTech

Images courtesy of MSI

ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus VII Formula Series Revealed

The new ASUS RoG Maximus VII Formula and Maximus VII Formula/Watch_Dogs motherboard series has been revealed. Featuring the new Intel Z97 chipset the boards are based around the latest 4th and 5th generation Intel Core processors. That includes Haswell, Haswell Refresh, Haswell Refresh K-Series and Broadwell.

The Maximus VII Formula series supports dual-channel up to DDR 3300+ (OC) memory, and quad-GPU SLI and 3-way CrossFireX for gaming rigs with multiple graphics cards. The new motherboard series also includes two SATA Express and ten SATA 3.0 connectors, as well as eight USB 3.0 and six USB 2.0 ports – connectivity is certainly not going to be an issues here!

All the premium bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from the ASUS RoG series are here, as well as a few new additions. Hybrid cooling thanks to the CrossChill copper, high-end audio performance from the SupremeFX hardware, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, GameFirst II, LANGuard, Extreme Engine DIGI+ III, TrueVolt 5V, ROG Armor, as well as a multitude of ultra high quality components.

The standard VII Formula will come with the motherboard and usual accessories, while the Watch_Dogs bundle will also see a copy of Ubisofts latest title bundled along with it.

More details on release date and price are expected follow soon. Just keep in mind that this is a flagship board, so expect an eye-watering price tag to match its expectedly high-end performance.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TechPowerUp.

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

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5 (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

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

Consumer SSD Prices To Tumble As Vendors Engage In Price War

There’s good news for consumers out there as industry experts Digitimes report that consumer SSD prices are to continue their drastic fall as competition is heating up. Major suppliers Micron Technology (who produce Crucial branded products), Intel, Kingston Technology, SanDisk and Samsung are all gearing up for a price battle. Micron has reduced its sales of NAND chips to other companies in order to boost supply and sales of its own Crucial brand. Micron hopes to double its quarter on quarter shipments of SSDs. Micron’s big push will be spearheaded by their newest affordable release – the Crucial MX100 series as well as the recent M550 series.

Kingston are also making a big push with their SSD shipments now reaching a hefty 600,000 per month, competing with SanDisk and Samsung for the number one spot. It is also expected that Intel’s 9 Series chipset motherboards will open up another market for SSD vendors as they can now push into both M.2 and SATA Express based SSD products which is a new and rapidly growing market. SanDisk has recently become the #2 vendor in the consumer SSD space with a 16% share in 2013 as well as an aggressive rise in sales for SanDisk in the enterprise market which they hope will generate them $1 billion in sales by 2016. SanDisk’s enterprise portfolio is being spearheaded by products like the X210 Business class SSD.

Source: Digitimes

Image courtesy of Crucial

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

We’ve covered an absolute ton of Intel Z97 based motherboards since the chipset launched back on June 11th, a couple of weeks ago, but in that time we’ve yet to see an offering from ASRock. Today, and over the coming weeks, we will be rectifying that by having a look at a lot more motherboards from ASRock’s Z97 series. Up first we have their Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard which is part of their Fatal1ty gaming motherboard product series. Interestingly this motherboard will compete with MSI’s Gaming 7 and Gigabyte’s Gaming 7 in that hugely competitive sub-£140/$190 price point and it actually comes in a fair amount cheaper than the competition at just £125/$160. ASRock are equipping all their usual features with this motherboard such as their Purity Sound audio implementation, their Fatal1ty USB gaming port, their Super Alloy power components and a Killer E2200 gaming NIC. This motherboard has fairly similar specifications and features to other motherboards at this price point although this board does have the advantage of offering SATA Express and M.2 whereas a lot of the gaming motherboards at this price point offer only M.2. Full specifications of this motherboard can be seen directly below:

Packaging and Accessories

The packaging lets the Fatal1ty branding take centre stage while offering an overwhelming number of logos on the front that denote features, brands, software and so on.

On the back we can see these explained in more detail with the usual motherboard marketing page we’ve come to expect from all motherboard brands.

Included in terms of documentation is a a couple of user guides for the board and its software, an explanatory brochure for the ASRock Cloud feature, a driver DVD and case badge and a 3 month premium license to XSplit Broadcaster (note this is not the same as the XSplit Gamecaster Premium license a rival vendor includes with their products).

Other accessories included are four SATA cables, a colour coded rear I/O, 2-way SLI bridge, SATA power cable for the HDD saver feature and a screw for the M.2 SSD port.

Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 7 (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel’s first Haswell Refresh CPUs have just been recently released, Intel’s Devil’s Canyon (unlocked K series Haswell Refresh) CPUs are expected in just a month or two and rumours going around suggest that Intel’s Broadwell CPUs could even be released this year too – from an enthusiast perspective there has never been a better time to upgrade your motherboard to the latest chipset on the block – Z97. Today we are taking a closer look at our third Z97 motherboard courtesy of Gigabyte, more specifically it is their Z97X-Gaming 7 motherboard which is their top of the range Gaming Series motherboard, although they will have other more premium boards from their Ultra Durable and OC ranges but those aren’t targeted specifically at gamers. For anyone used to the Gigabyte G1 Gaming series of motherboards you may be surprised by two obvious aesthetic changes. The first is the colour scheme has shifted from green and black to red and black. The second is that that G1 Series Bullets and Skulls have been replaced by the “Gigabyte Eye” typically seen on their VGA series products. For some this may be a great move by Gigabyte, moving towards the more desired and traditional “gaming” red and black colours, but for others it might be a bit frustrating to see ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI all offering red and black as the primary colour scheme on their gaming motherboards. What might be even more worrying is that MSI and Gigabyte both have Z97 gaming motherboard models dubbed “Gaming 7”, which will no doubt serve to confuse consumers.

In terms of the feature set we have the usual emphasis on high quality audio and networking which is pretty much the mainstay of the gaming motherboard scene. Additional features include multi-GPU support and the new storage connectivity supported by Intel’s Z97 chipset. All the detailed specifications can be seen in the table below:

Packaging and Accessories

The packaging features Gigabyte’s Eye as the show piece, the box looks very similar to what we might expect if we were unboxing a high end Gigabyte graphics card.

The back introduces some of the key features in more detail, you can see all the details here at the product page.

Included with the motherboard is some documentation and a driver/utility DVD.

The accessories include a black and labelled rear I/O, a couple of Gigabyte stickers, 3 SATA III cables and an SLI cable.


ASUS Z97 Motherboard Launch Coverage


The official Intel Z97 chipset launch day is finally here but it’s hardly been a surprising arrival. There have been leaks left, right and centre so most of today’s revelations probably won’t come as a surprise to most of our readers. However, this article (as the title suggests) is about the ASUS Z97 launch. ASUS went to great lengths in April to communicate with the global media about what is actually new with their Z97 motherboards. Making people aware of the “new” is important because as some of you may know, the new Haswell Refresh CPUs are not yet ready, we don’t have DDR4 support and the Z97 chipset doesn’t really bring anything new. In fact the Z97 chipset still has 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, six SATA III and six USB 3.0 ports just like Z87. Don’t let that fool you though, Z97 does bring some new features to the table even if many of these features will be vendor specific. A couple of the more important features that Z97 is pushing are storage related – SATA Express support and PCIe M.2 support. Most vendors will vigorously taking advantage of these and ASUS are certainly no exception.

Today we will be taking an in-depth look at all the Z97 motherboards ASUS are launching today across their three main areas: the Channel Series, the TUF Series and the ROG Series. In this article we will be going through the new features specific to each series before taking a look at each of the motherboards individually. ASUS have certainly pulled out all the stops with Z97 and we can tell that a lot has been learnt from the Z87 generation. Without any further ado let’s proceed to take a look through the ASUS Z97 lineup! Please do skip past any motherboard ranges that are not of interest to you, by the end of it we hope to have given you a good idea of why you might want to upgrade to a (ASUS) Z97 based motherboard.

Intel Will Demo “SSD Overclocking” At IDF 2013

According to a report by X-Bit Labs it could soon be possible to overclock your SSD. Apparently Intel will reveal such a technology at their IDF 2013 event. Of course you do not “overclock” the SSD per-sé but instead you overclock its controller. An SSD controller, from most SSD vendors, is merely an ARM processor which controls data rates and data flow as well as instruction sets like TRIM. At IDF 2013 Intel will reveal the Xtreme Tuning Utility (XTU) that will allow users to overclock Intel branded SSDs.

Options to overclock SSDs were discovered in Intel’s XTU unified software package. What the XTU would allow Intel SSD users to do include:

  • Change the frequency of the SSD controller
  • Alter the NAND Flash bus-speed

Of course in most cases an SSD is limited not by itself but by the SATA III 6Gbps interface. Overclocking the current generation of SSDs hardly makes sense but when the new SATA Express standard is rolled out we could see demand for this kind of SSD overclocking. SATA Express will support 8Gbps and 16Gbps transfer rates. It goes without saying that overclocking current-generation SSDs will cause stability issues on some SSDs.

Intel’s IDF 2013 event takes place in San Francisco, California, from September 10th to September 12th at the Moscone Convention Center. More details about SSD overclocking will be revealed then

Image courtesy of Intel

Intel 14nm “Skylake” Will Support DDR4, PCIe 4.0 and SATA “Express”

According to a report by the German website PCGamesHardware, we will see Intel’s 14nm SkyLake platform revolutionise the PC market. The new Intel platform, based on a second incarnation of the 14nm process, will bring DDR4 memory support, PCI Express Generation 4.0 support and SATA Express support.

Intel’s Skylake will introduce their 9th generation of integrated graphics processors in addition to support for the latest DDR4 memory which we are just starting to see arrive in certain industrial segments. Intel’s Skylake certainly won’t be the first to bring DDR4 as Haswell-E in mid-late 2014 will also bring quad channel DDR4 support. Skylake itself is the redesign of the 14nm process, aka of Broadwell. Broadwell in itself is a tick of the Haswell architecture – that is a reduced transistor size of the same Haswell architecture while Skylake is a tock of Broadwell which is an entire architecture design overhaul.

Furthermore, Skylake brings PCIe 4.0 support (which we recently detailed here) and both AMD and Nvidia should have PCIe 4.0 compatible graphics card ready for the launch of Skylake. Finally Skylake adds support for “SATA Express” which is a new SATA standard offering 16 Gb/s – that’s up from the 6 Gb/s currently on offer with SATA III. Best estimates suggest we will see Skylake in late 2015 or early/mid 2016.

Image courtesy of 

Intel May Feature SATA Express Interface In Their Intel 9-Series Chipset

In just 2 months from now, Intel would be launching their 4th Generation Core series ‘Haswell’ processor family followed by 8-Series ‘Lynx Point’ motherboard chips.

The 8 Series Lynx Point Chipset will be providing SATA III bandwidth on all 6 SATA ports. If looking at things with Intel’s current generation of motherboard chipsets, the 7th series chips can only support a combination of 2x SATA III ports.

But according to the roadmap VR-Zone Chinese edition provide, it seems that Intel is preparing 2 new chipset in the 9th Series lineup most likely to be introduced with ‘Broadwell’: Z97 to target enthusiasts and H97 made primarily for mainstream end-users.

The 9 Series maybe the first class of motherboard to feature SATA Express. There’s no clear information yet, but it seems that SATA Express is currently being drafted by the SATA I-O and classified under ‘SATA Rev 3.2’. SATA Express is a SATA link layer over the chipset’s PCIe channels, but it does maintain backward compatibility with existing and older SATA standards, but with reduced performance speed in comparison with this standard.

If this is true and if Intel does implement this on the 9 Series motherboards, SATA Express could provide 1000 MB/s of bandwidth throughput per direction for hard drives.

Via: Techpowerup!