Super Talent Technology announces its newest and third mSATA SSD, the new JS2 solid state drive designed for industrial and embedded applications. The mSATA drives might not be the fastest on the block, but they have the big advantage of a tiny form factor and wide compatibility. There aren’t many compact or embedded systems that don’t come with at least one mSATA slot.
The mSATA SJ2 is an updated version of the SJ1 solid state drive and it provides fast speeds of up to 480 MB/sec reads and 160 MB/sec writes with access times down to 0.2ms. The drives are available with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacity so you can pick just the right one for your system, why get more space than the system needs. The drives are based on the Mini PCIe and architecture and utilize the SATA-III interface. From the provided image it looks to use a SandForce SF-2141 SSD Controller and Micron NAND packages.
Thanks to SuperTalent for providing us with this information
Team Group has just launched its next generation form factor high-speed TM4PS4/TM8PS4 M.2 SSDs, which are said to provide a great solution for mobile computing due to their data saving performance, ultra compact size and lightweight.
The TM4PS4/TM8PS4 SSDs come with the next generation SATA III R3.0 6Gb/s transmission interface, which is also backward compatible with the R2.0 interface. The SSDs also come in two sizes, 22 x 42 mm and 22 x 80 mm, being suitable for most compact portable devices.
In terms of performance, the TM4PS4 SSD is said to have a read speed of up to 550 MB/s (ATTO), 520 MB/s (Crystal Disk Mark) and write speed of up to 150 MB/s (both), while also coming with 70K IOPS for the 128GB SDD and 40K IOPS for the 256GB SSD. In contrast, the TM8PS4 SSD comes with up to 560 MB/s (ATTO), 530 MB/s (Crystal Disk Mark) read speeds and up to 300 MB/s (both) write speeds, having a 73K IOPS for the 128GB version and 70K IOPS for the 256GB version.
Both the TM4PS4 and TM8PS4 have a 0.3W power consumption in idle, while providing an almost identical 1.1W and 1.2W respectively consumption while reading operations. Due to the double amount of write speed, the power consumed by the TM8PS4 jumps to 2.9 W, while the TM4PS4 stays at a 1.9 W mark.
Team Group has fitted both the M.2 SSDs with advanced garbage collection technology, wear levelling TRIM command and DevSleep mode. With a MTBF of 1.5 million hours and a 3-year limited warranty, the TM4PS4/TM8PS4 M.2 SSDs prove to be a good storage solution for any PC or laptop device.
Thank you Guru3D for providing us with this information
Intel’s Z97 platform is a perfect basis for a mini-ITX system build as it features enough performance to please even the most demanding user while still being power efficient enough to be tamed by small form factor cases and modest cooling solutions. Due to those reasons it isn’t surprising to see Intel’s LGA 1150 platform dominate the mini-ITX landscape. Creating a mini-ITX motherboard from AMD’s AM3+ or Intel’s LGA 2011 platforms is unfeasible from a number of perspectives including heat and for LGA 2011, the size of the socket and number of memory lanes required. We have seen other mini-ITX motherboards emerge for low power platforms like Intel’s Bay Trail, AMD’s Kabini and AMD’s FM2+ APU platform but relatively speaking all three of these platforms cannot rival Intel’s LGA 1150 in terms of raw performance. In short, Intel’s mainstream LGA 1150 platform offers the best balance of features, performance, pricing and power efficiency for the mini-ITX form factor.
On the subject of mini-ITX today we are reviewing Gigabyte’s Z97N-Gaming 5 motherboard to see if it can match the high standards set by other motherboard vendors such as MSI with their Z87I Gaming AC or ASUS with their Z97I-PLUS. Gigabyte’s Z97N-Gaming 5 is part of Gigabyte’s gaming product stack meaning we see the usual audio and networking customisations found across the entire Gigabyte Gaming 9 series. The heart of this “Gaming” status is derived from a combination of Killer networking and advanced audio quality based on Realtek’s flagship ALC1150 codec. Those two things aside the customisation options for mini-ITX motherboards are limited for obvious reasons: space. The new storage form factors for Z97, M.2 and SATA Express, both get ditched due to space constraints. Gigabyte haven’t tried to reverse mount an M.2 port on the bottom of the board like ASUS managed to do with the Z97I-PLUS. Impressively Gigabyte have still managed to use all six SATA ports, offer a heatpipe cooling solution and a pair of fan headers for the CPU socket. The space on the Z97N Gaming 5 is used well, a point of congratulations goes to the decision to ditch the TPM header which ASUS and MSI both put on their mini-ITX boards for reasons unknown to the logical thinker: what gamer needs a TPM device?
Packaging and Accessories
The accessory bundle and packaging for the Z97N- Gaming 5 is as small as the board. With the typical documentation and DVD we get a rear I/O, some stickers and a WiFi antennae.
Intel’s Z97 platform feels like it has been here forever; since its official launch in early May 2014 we’ve ploughed through a sizeable 13 Z97 motherboard reviews here at eTeknix. Yet in the grand-scheme of things that 5 months is barely any time at all:the average PC user will tend to abide to a 2-3 year upgrade cycle meaning they’ll sit through about three new Intel platform launches before choosing to upgrade. With that said Z97 is still as relevant to the PC user today as it was 5 months ago even if Z97 has lost some of its “latest & greatest” status with the recent launch of X99. Today we are examining Z97 motherboard number 14 courtesy of Gigabyte: we have their Z97X-Gaming 5 motherboard in for review.
There is nothing particularly exciting or innovative going on with the Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 5 if I’m being totally honest. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as the old saying goes. We have a very familiar red & black colour scheme which predictably gives this motherboard its “Gaming” denotation. Being a gaming board we also find this motherboard adheres to the usual high quality audio and networking package which makes use of Realtek’s latest and greatest ALC 1150 codec and Qualcomm’s Killer E2201 networking chip. The fact that the Z97X Gaming 5 is based on Intel’s Z97 chipset means we also get all of the new desktop storage interfaces: M.2 and SATA Express, in addition to the tried and trusted SATA III. I won’t pretend you can’t get these specifications anywhere else: ASRock and MSI offer very similar motherboards with virtually identical hardware configurations. The real question is: why should you choose Gigabyte? The simple answer is because of the value for money proposition and the fact Gigabyte do offer some unique features of their own such as their patented dualBIOS and Amp-Up audio package: but we’ll get onto all this later on in the review.
Packaging and Accessories
The Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 5 is a budget board in the wider Z97 market, it starts at £105/$145, so we aren’t surprised to see a modest accessory bundle. Included is the usual documentation, a utility DVD, four SATA cables, a case sticker and an I/O shield which didn’t come with our review sample. An I/O shield does come with the standard retail version and is identical to the I/O shield used with the Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 7 for those who are interested.
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.
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!
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.
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:
ASRock have unveiled their latest X99 creation which will provide support for upcoming Intel Haswell-E Extreme Edition processors and DDR4 memory. The X99X Killer motherboard is part of ASRock’s gaming-orientated Fatal1ty series of motherboards. Like most X99 motherboards it offers support for 8 DDR4 slots for a maximum of 128GB of RAM, three PCI Express X16 slots and a whopping 10 SATA III ports – meaning they are all 6 Gbps. ASRock are also using their Ultra M.2 port which basically makes use of a PCIe Gen 3 X4 slot that can offer up to 32 Gbps – much more than the normal 10 Gbps designated for M.2. Of course there are not any M.2 drives that can currently saturate beyond 10Gbps but in the future that may change.
Being a Gaming-focused motherboard the usual audio and networking package is a priority. ASRock have equipped dual Gigabit ports: one makes use of an Intel NIC (probably the I217V) and the other makes use of a Killer E2200 NIC. The audio is provided by ASRock’s 7.1 Channel Purity Sound 2 package with PCB separation, EMI shielding and high quality audio capacitors, the codec used is most likely to be ALC 1150 from Realtek. To top the gaming features off around the back ASRock provide two of its Fatal1ty USB ports which are intended to enhance the responsive of gaming peripherals like mice and keyboards. The X99X Killer should be made available when X99 and Haswell-E launch later this month.
The ASUS TUF line is always one of the more exciting product ranges to come out of the ASUS consumer motherboard platform, albeit a very niche form of excitement (well I find it exciting anyway…). I took a look at my first ASUS TUF series motherboard last year when ASUS kindly sent over their Z87 Sabertooth board. My general thoughts were that the board was a very good piece of kit although the monitoring, reliability and stability aspects of it seemed to be quite niche, aimed at a specific form of power user. I don’t really expect that to change given that the TUF series is still about giving you military grade reliability and stability but I am hoping there will be lots of new features on offer with the new Z97 TUF series. Today we are looking at the ASUS Z97 Gryphon motherboard which is the micro-ATX version of the TUF line. More specifically we have the ARMOR EDITION equipped with the ASUS thermal armor but ASUS do offer a version without for users who find it garish or unnecessary. The full specifications of the motherboard are fairly basic given that there’s no M.2, no SATA express, no WiFi and so on. However, for a micro-ATX motherboard it still has all the key features a desktop user would expect such as Gigabit LAN, dual PCIe 16X lanes, SATA III ports and decent spec audio.
Packaging and Accessories
The flagship feature of the ASUS TUF series is that 5 year warranty, that really is the selling point for all the reliability and stability features.
The back breaks down the key features of the motherboard, most are related to reliability and stability aspects such as reducing dust and heat.
Included is an extensive bunch of documentation including details on how to install all the extra accessories.
The “standard” accessories include a rear I/O shield, four SATA cables, SLI bridge and some Q connectors for the front panel I/O.
The “TUF” accessories include a small fan for the rear I/O (part of the Dust De-Fan feature), thermal sensor probes and a variety of slot covers for things like the unused rear I/O ports and so on. These are to prevent dust build up.
You also get dust covers for the PCIe lanes, the RAM slots and some miscellaenous screws and fittings for attaching things. The included guide explains all if you get overwhelmed by the mass of accessories.
Samsung look set to continue their growing popularity in the SSD market with the launch of a new SSD series: the 850 Pro series. The 850 Pro SSDs make use of a new 3D V-NAND technology which they claim pushes SATA III SSD performance to its very limits offering 550MB/s read and 520MB/s write as well as 100K random read IOPS and 90K random write IOPS. Samsung claims their new 3D V-NAND (vertical NAND) overcomes the traditional density barrier in NAND chips by moving to a vertical cell structure instead of the traditional planar structure. This apparently brings speed, endurance and energy efficiency benefits to the SSD. Samsung will offer the 850 Pro series in 128, 256, 512 and 1TB storage capacities. Pricing is yet to be revealed but giving Samsung’s history expect the drives to be very competitive and popular among enthusiasts and professional users.
“With the new 850 PRO V-NAND SSD, Samsung is introducing the next major evolution of SSD technology, taking the lead in delivering high-density SSDs with outstanding endurance, performance and energy efficiency,” said Unsoo Kim, senior vice president of branded product marketing team at Samsung Electronics. “We are fully committed to establishing an innovative computing environment by providing customers with leading-edge V-NAND SSDs with unrivaled performance.”
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.
Biostar aren’t a brand of products we review that often as their main presence is within the Asian market, however, every now and then we do get a motherboard from them which they are targeting towards the Western market. Today is one of those rare days as we are looking at Biostar’s primary Z97 offering, the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE. This motherboard is Biostar’s attempt at making a well spec’d motherboard for a very affordable price, as they are well-known for doing. The motherboard comes with an impressive 10 phase VRM, dual Gigabit LAN (a massive rarity at this price point), a range of PCI express connectivity, M.2 and high quality audio. The specifications are certainly nothing to scoff at when you consider the MSRP of just $125 – this makes it only a fraction more expensive than cheaper H97 9 series motherboards. The styling of the motherboard may certainly be an “acquired taste”, however, the motherboard on the whole seems like an extremely feature packed and great value for money option. I have seen a lot of people discuss this motherboard as a “workstation” board, presumably because the “Z97WE” bares striking resemblance to the ASUS “Z97WS” which stands for workstation. However, from what I can tell this is not a workstation motherboard – this is an entry level Z97 motherboard aimed at a broad user which no particular preferences towards anything (aka it is not a gaming, overclocking or workstation motherboard but rather an “all-rounder”).
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging shows us Biostar are really pushing the audio side of things. This is of course something we will examine on our audio tests. The dual GbE is another one of the more unique features and certainly this will attract a lot of people especially as both ethernet controllers are physically identical and thus support teaming.
The rear details more of the features about the motherboard including the unique audio features. More details on all the features can be found at the product page here.
Included with the Hi-Fi Z97WE is a user manual, driver and utility DVD and an audio usage guideline brochure.
The accessory pack is fairly basic with a rear I/O and four SATA cables.
There are plenty of affordable Z97 motherboards on offer, in the UK they start from about £70-80 while in North America they can be had from about $110. However, these entry level Z97 motherboards tend to be fairly basic in their feature set, styling and specifications. If you’re looking for a gaming motherboard at that price point you simply won’t be able to afford one. The reason is that the Z97 chipset costs motherboard vendors quite a lot. However, H97 is a cheaper chipset so motherboard vendors can make a much higher quality H97 motherboard for the same price as an entry level Z97 motherboard because they have lower chipset costs so can afford to allocate more funds to other aspects of the board like buying better power components, better networking components, better audio components and so on. As a result gamers at the really budget price points are better off buying gaming motherboards that aren’t of the “flagship” Intel chipset. We saw this logic applied last year when ASRock released their Fatal1ty B85 motherboardfor a a diminuitive £70~ and yet it contained all the “gaming features” of significantly more expensive motherboards such as a Killer NIC, high quality audio, XSplit gaming software and that typical gamer styling. Today we have something very similar to that based on the Intel H97 chipset, the Fatal1ty H97 Performance motherboard. This motherboard takes advantage of the cheaper H97 chipset to offer up a gaming motherboard at the very attractive price of $100, or about £75. If anything this board is quite a step up over the B85 Fatal1ty board from last generation coming with more CPU VRM phases, an improved audio design, Intel Gigabit LAN and more SATA III ports, all while being at a very similar price.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is nothing out of the ordinary for an ASRock Fatal1ty product, this board is very clearly positioned as a gaming product from the moment you look at the box.
The back details the key features of this motherboard, some of them seem a bit dubious to call “gaming features” such as Orbweb.Me cloud software or Super Alloy power components. I think ASRock would benefit more from focusing on things like the Intel networking and high quality audio as this is definitely something Gamers will find more alluring.
Included is a user guide, software user guide, ASRock Cloud setup guide, a driver/utility DVD and XSplit Broadcaster 3 month premium certificate.
The accessory pack is very basic: a plain unlabelled I/O shield and a pair of SATA cables. At this price point this is really to be expected.
There may be a lot of people like myself who have missed the “NAS bandwagon” and have made do with other fragmented storage solutions up until now: multiple storage drives on different devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones) with the gap being bridged between those multiple devices through space restricted cloud storage (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive) or portable storage (flash drives, external hard drives, SD cards). However, there has to be an easier way to unify all your storage needs – and that’s what today is all about. Like many of our readers I am a technology enthusiast – I like to get hands on with things and do it myself rather than just buying pre-built solutions that often hold a significant price premium. Therefore, what better way than to get involved with the NAS (Network Attached Storage) craze than to build your own! Your own centralised cloud storage, fileserver, storage server, media centre or whatever else you want to do with it – how cool is that? And despite what people may tell you, or even what your own preconceptions are, building a NAS has never been easier. There’s a wealth of affordable hardware out there and more importantly an abundance of free software to help you configure your own NAS setup.
The aim of this guide is quite a simple one – to take you through my personal experiences with building a 6-Bay capable NAS within a strict budget of $220 using FreeNAS. Why $220? Well I wanted to build a 2 disk NAS box capable of streaming media and storing all of my files for the lowest cost possible, but I also want the scope to be able upgrade to 4-6 drives in the future. A quick search on somewhere like Newegg will show you that 4-Bay diskless NAS systems start from $300 and range all the way up to $700, so I wanted to better those NAS systems and do it at a lower cost. I am only a home user (like most of you will be) so I really do not need loads of advanced enterprise features and technologies – I just need a reasonably fast NAS server capable of meeting my storage and media needs. Enter today’s build which I believe meets all of those criteria at a hair under $220. This build was an interesting one as we independently chose all the parts for our NAS guide that we wanted to use and then went to the companies to see if they were interested in sponsoring our build guide. A few weeks of planning later and here we are – so a huge thank you goes out to AMD, ASRock, Kingston Technology, SilverStone Technology and Western Digital for providing the parts to our NAS build guide. At just $220 this diskless NAS has the potential to scale up to six hard drives and offers a variety of RAID configurations as well as support for on-chip transcoding. So without any further ado let’s introduce all the details of our $220 NAS system, we will start by analysing the parts we chose: how much they cost and why we chose them.
During the launch of Z87 motherboards ASUS surprised a lot of people when they announced their “Hero” SKU of the Republic of Gamers line of motherboards. When the Hero was released it was an extremely popular motherboard simply because it brought an ASUS ROG motherboard into the reaches of most peoples’ budgets. A surprising move because ROG motherboards have traditionally been extremely expensive products that target a fairly niche market. It is unlikely that ASUS ROG would have made this move last generation without the price pressure of rival brands such as Gigabyte, with their G1 Sniper Z87, MSI, with their Z87-G45 Gaming and ASRock, with their Z87 Fatal1ty Killer. All of these competing products have driven the price of gaming motherboards down to the point where gaming motherboards are no longer exclusive or expensive products, but accessible to the fairly mainstream PC user and mainstream budget. Now ASUS have added the Ranger to sit just below the Hero for the Z97 platform which is another smart move given that Gigabyte and MSI have become even more aggressive with the pricing of their Gaming Series motherboards which start at just £100/$140. The main benefit of the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger is that it carries a 10-15% lower price premium (depending on the region and retailer) than the ASUS Maximus VII Hero but drops fairly little in terms of features or specifications. From our discussions with ASUS they have clarified that the main differences between the Hero and the Ranger are that the Hero has:
Better power componentry (such as 4 more PWM drivers and 60A ferrite chokes) to provide more efficient power delivery and better overclocking potential
Two more SATA III ports via an ASMedia controller for additional storage options
A heat pipe joining the two CPU VRM heatsinks to provide more effective cooling and longevity
Additional onboard lighting to provide more striking aesthetics
A dual colour PCB design which includes red PCB accents around the heatsinks, audio codec and across parts of the motherboard
A slightly better bundle which includes a few extra SATA III cables
Of course, while those extras on the Maximus VII Hero are nice and will be useful to a lot of people, they are not essential for the more value-minded user so the Ranger offers a way for users to save a bit of money by opting out of those extra features. That said the Maximus VII Hero and the Ranger both still have a place in the market but it is important to distinguish the differences between the two. We anticipate a fair amount of confusion about the differences between the two models, and we expect consumers interested in the Ranger will be interested in the Hero (and vice versa). Hopefully this has cleared up some of the differences so let us now move onto to taking a look at the specifications of the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger:
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is the usual high quality we’ve come to expect from ASUS ROG. Once you open up the product you are greeted with a couple of glossy “marketing” sheets on an additional internal box. The basic jist of those can be seen on the product page.
The back details the specifics and features of the motherboard, of course you can find those in full on the product page.
The accessories include an ASUS ROG door hangar, user guide and some cable labels.
ASUS ROG also provide four SATA III ready cables, a black labelled rear I/O and front panel Q Connectors.
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.
With AMD fizzling out in the high end desktop market segment, people are increasingly choosing the Intel LGA 1150 platform for high end gaming systems. Not surprisingly motherboard vendors have responded to the popularity of LGA 1150, in particular Z87, and we are seeing a highly competitive market. Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI and ASRock are all constantly trying to undercut each other buy offering better quality motherboards at lower prices. Gigabyte’s latest attempt to pull away from the competition is the new G1 Sniper Z87 motherboard costing just $170/£115. Considering past G1 Sniper motherboards, like the G1 Sniper 5 Z87 and G1 Sniper M5 Z87, cost $400 and $200 respectively Gigabyte have really made some significant cost savings with the G1 Sniper Z87 motherboard. Yet looking at the G1 Sniper Z87 it is hard to see where those savings have been made because we still have a whole array of high end options including dual PCIe 3.0 X16 lanes, six SATA III ports, an 8 phase CPU VRM, high quality audio, Killer E2200 networking and a dual UEFI BIOS. The G1 Sniper Z87 looks like an option that will be hard to match at its price point. Below you can see some key specifications:
There’s no doubting what Gigabyte think is the best feature of their G1 Sniper Z87 is – the audio. Gigabyte are using Creative’s Sound Core3D Quad Core audio processor enhanced with a full suite of SBX Pro Studio software. There’s also Studio-Class audio components across the entire PCB separated motherboard section including Nichicon MUSE ES series Bi-Polarised audio capacitors, a frotn headphone amplifier IC, upgradeable operational amplifiers, gain switches and gold plated audio jacks. All of these things combined give you a level of audio quality and flexibility that no other motherboard vendor can offer.
Next on Gigabyte’s key feature list is the Killer E2200 networking chip provided in-tandem with Qualcomm’s Atheros Gigabit Ethernet Controller. Gigabyte claim that this network controller boasts automatic detection and prioritisation of game traffic and allows for up to 50% faster gaming traffic (via UDP prioritisation/acceleration and reduced latency).
The final notable weapon in Gigabyte’s arsenal is overclocking. With onboard power, reset and clear CMOS buttons, a dual BIOS, advanced overclocking software, an 8 phase CPU VRM and room for 2 way SLI/CFX the G1 Sniper Z87 has just about everything a performance enthusiast could need. Whether you want to overclock yourself, or just use automated overclocking software provided by Gigabyte, then either way you’ll end up with extra performance.
So we’ve covered the features and specifications but let’s see how this motherboard copes in testing!
When it comes to a gaming motherboard for the LGA 1150 socket a B85 motherboard might not be the first motherboard or chipset that comes into your mind. However, given the fact a lot of motherboard vendors are choosing to build attractively priced gaming motherboards based on the B85 chipset, and some motherboard vendors are even outing BIOSes that allow you to overclock K series CPUs on B85 motherboards – B85 motherboards start to look like sensible options for Gamers. Today we have one of those motherboards from ASRock – their Fatal1ty B85 Killer gaming motherboard. This motherboard offers all the premium high end features a gamer would expect like high quality audio enhanced by the ASRock Purity Sound audio package, a Killer E2200 NIC to enhance online gaming performance and networking as well as support for Non-Z overclocking of K series CPUs – aka the Core i5 4670K or Core i7 4770K.
The reason B85 motherboards are used by many vendors for gaming motherboards is due to the fact that Intel charges substantially less for the B85 chipset than it does for the Z87 chipset, I am not sure of the exact figures, but this is because the Z87 chipset is aimed at a more premium user and has more connectivity as a result. By using the cheaper B85 chipset instead of Z87 vendors can offer up more affordable Haswell gaming motherboards. With regards to the overclocking features on B85 motherboards ASRock tell us that using their latest BIOS and any K series CPU you can overclock by enabling the overclocking feature in their UEFI BIOS. If you have a “non-K” Haswell CPU (e.g you DO NOT have a Core i5 4670K or Core i7 4770K) you will NOT be able to overclock on this B85 motherboard. Just to clarify (or potentially make you even more confused) this B85 overclocking is called “non-Z overclocking” by ASRock or in effect its overclocking not on the Z87 chipset.
There’s nothing textbook about what makes a gaming motherboard. However, there are a few mainstays that always seem to pop up – networking, audio and performance. Addressing networking ASRock have opted for a Killer E2200 Gaming Series NIC to give you super-fast internet and low-latency. Part of the main boost to be had from the Killer E2200 Gigabit NIC is the boost in UDP performance by as much as 5X over other typical network adapters. Of course fast internet is a must but having the hardware to make the most of that is equally as important.
Next up ASRock have gone all out on the audio kitting the Fatal1ty B85 Killer motherboard with their Purity Sound enhanced ALC 1150 codec. The ASRock Purity Sound implementation has Realtek’s ALC1150 codec at its core with EMI shielding, a headset amplifier, differential amplifier and an isolated PCB to further shield it all.
Importantly the Purity Sound package results in improved bass performance, essentially for any thumping action game like Battlefield 4.
While ASRock have already gone above and beyond in terms of performance on a B85 chipset – by enabling overclocking – they’ve also sought to tweak the performance of your gaming peripherals. ASRock’s “Key Master” allows you to increase or decrease the speed of your mouse when in Sniper mode making it easier to get those crucial shots. They’ve also added the Fatal1ty mouse port allowing for a increased guaranteed polling rate of 125-1000Hz on your gaming mouse.
Combining all those features together gives ASRock’s Gaming Armor package, be sure to check out more of the motherboard’s features at the official product page here.
OCZ Technology Group, Inc., a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems, today introduced its next-generation Intrepid 3000 Series of enterprise-class SATA III-based SSDs delivering the industry’s best sustained performance and consistent I/O responses. As the series supports storage capacities up to 800GB, Intrepid 3 represents OCZ’s highest performing and largest capacity enterprise SATA SSDs to date. Leveraging the Everest 2 Platform, a combination of the Marvell 88SS9187 controller with OCZ’s proprietary firmware, the new series features advanced flash management and endurance capabilities that extend NAND flash life and enhance drive reliability, all supported by a 5-year warranty.
OCZ describes the new Intrepid 3000 as “Incredibly fast”, having an “unrivaled” performance for both large block sequential operations, as well as small block random operations thanks to the steady state condition by which the drive is writing. It includes 520 MB/s for sequential reads (128K blocks), 470 MB/s for sequential writes (128K blocks), 91,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS) for random reads (4K blocks) and 40,000 IOPS for random writes (4K blocks). In comparison to OCZ’s previous SATA III enterprise drives, the Intrepid 3000 Series delivers five times faster sustained performance for 4K write operations and two times faster sustained performance for 4K read operations.
The proprietary Intrepid 3000 Series firmware is also said to be optimized to achieve consistent I/O responses and continues to perform at top speed regardless of whether data is in a compressed or uncompressed format, where OCZ’s new advanced flash management efficiently manages all of the housekeeping routines such as garbage collection, enabling the SSD to keep up with incoming read and write requests.
The OCZ Intrepid 3000 series comes in two variations, the Intrepid 3600 and Intrepid 3800. The first drive utilizes reliable and cost-effective Multi Level Cell (MLC) NAND media while the second model features high endurance enterprise MLC (eMLC) NAND media. For read-intensive applications, such as online archiving, media streaming and web browsing, the Intrepid 3600 MLC Series is the best alternative and guarantees one complete drive write per day for 5 years, while for write-intensive or mixed workload applications such as OnLine Transaction Processing (OLTP), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), email servers and analytics, OCZ’s Intrepid 3800 Series provides the best option and guarantees five complete writes per day for 5 years.
“Our new Intrepid 3000 Series leverages in-house firmware with an impressive enterprise feature-set to enable customers with unprecedented performance, data management, endurance and reliability, and cost flexibility resulting in an optimal storage environment,” said Daryl Lang, SVP of Product Management for OCZ Technology. “Delivering exceptional SSD responsiveness in even the most demanding and compute-intensive applications, the Intrepid 3000 Series achieves unsurpassed performance under any workload, regardless of data type and I/O pattern for the complete spectrum of applications including online archiving, media streaming and web browsing OLTP, VDI, email and analytics.”
The Intrepid 3000 Series features an advanced suite of endurance and reliability tools designed to extend NAND flash memory life while providing the enterprise-class endurance, reliability and data integrity required by today’s data center managers.
Strong multi-level BCH error correction coding (ECC) that effectively corrects errors up to 85 bits per 2Kb of data while significantly reducing the uncorrectable bit error rate (UBER)
End-to-end data path protection that performs data integrity checks at every juncture where data is transmitted, received, processed and stored ensuring that corrupted data is detected and not propagated
In-flight data protection that prevents data loss in the event of a sudden power failure guaranteeing that the in-progress write operations complete and data is properly stored in SSD flash
Internal SSD RAID redundancy provides additional safeguards to supplement traditional ECC algorithms, and further reduce uncorrectable bit error rates
Lower write amplification by concatenating multiple write requests from the host while minimizing wasteful copy back operations of unaffected data sectors
256-bit AES encryption compliance for data security (encrypting data in large 256-bit key sizes)
Additional flash management techniques such as dynamic and static wear-leveling, background garbage collection, TRIM support and system/storage monitoring via Self-Monitoring Analysis & Reporting Technology (SMART).
Both the new Intrepid 3600 and the Intrepid 3800 models are available in 100GB, 200GB, 400GB and 800GB usable storage capacity models and are ideally suited for mega data centers and makers of storage appliances where optimum performance backed by high endurance and reliability are critical. The Intrepid 3000 Series models will be available through OCZ’s global channel of authorized enterprise solution resellers in the first quarter of 2014.
Thank you OCZ for providing us with this information Images courtesy of OCZ
Intel’s Z87 chipset may be aimed at high end consumers and power users but the reality is the majority of people who use the Z87 chipset don’t need as much connectivity as is offered by most of the really high end motherboards. In fact a substantial portion of Z87 users will only have a single graphics card, a couple of storage devices and maybe 4-5 USB devices at the most. That’s where today’s product steps in – the ASRock Z87M Extreme4 motherboard. This motherboard comes in the micro-ATX form factor with a more basic, but still sufficient, array of connectivity. SATA and USB connectivity has been dropped to the bare minimum provided by the Z87 chipset and the PCIe connectivity is optimised for consumers with only a few PCIe devices. Of course it has a competitive price to match this reduction in connectivity and for most consumers the Z87M Extreme4 will still have more than enough connectivity to meet all their needs. High speed memory support, high quality audio, an 8 phase CPU VRM and a UEFI BIOS give this entry-level Z87 motherboard all the high end features most consumers want. Below you can see those specifications more in-depth:
ASRock is offering consumers a broader range of functionality than you’d get from your bog-standard motherboard. ASRock’s new “Home Cloud” feature makes use of the advanced Intel Gigabit LAN to offer you remote desktop support from anywhere with internet access. With ASRock’s Home Cloud you can access all your files, emails, documents or just keep an eye on your PC if someone else is using it.
ASRock are also flaunting their advanced sound implementation of Realtek’s ALC1150 codec which includes 7.1 channel HD audio, a 115 dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier, a Texas Instruments 5532 premium headset amplifier, an EMI shield and PCB isolation shielding.
As with most motherboard vendors ASRock offer (and market) many more features than I could possibly cover in this review so if you want to check out the full range then be sure to do so right here.
EVGA launches the long-awaited Z87 Classified motherboard. Its been quite a while since Intel announced the Z87 chipset and Haswell platform; since then EVGA has been working on their flagship motherboard. The Classified products always hold a special position in the EVGA’s product stack and overall market; the Z87 Classified is no different. Its designed to be the best in the market for those who cannot afford to compromise on anything. Major highlights of the Z87 Classified include a fresh design, beefy VRM and 4-way GPU configuration support.
The Z87 Classified holds a LGA1150 socket at its heart with support for all the latest Haswell CPUs along with the usual four memory slots with support for up to 32GB of 2666+ MHz DDR3 memory. It is also designed on an 8-layer EATX PCB. Lookinga t the expansion slots, the motherboard comes with five PCIe x16 slots, one PCIe x1 slot and one mPCIe/mSATA slot. It supports multi-GPUs in x16/x16, x8/x8/x8 and x8/x8/x8/x8 configurations. In terms of storage connectivity options it comes with 8 SATA III and 6 USB 3.0 ports. It has an Intel network controller along with Creative Sound Core3D Quad-Core audio processor for 6-channel HD audio output.
EVGA’s Z87 Classified motherboard has a solid 8-phase VRM for CPU along with two 8-pin EPS connectors which can provide up to 600W of power. And then it has onboard power, reset and clear CMOS buttons along with voltage readout points and PCIe disable switches. It also comes with onboard CPU temperature monitor and POSCAP capacitors. On the software side of things, it comes with brand new UEFI BIOS with triple BIOS switch. It also supports EVGA’s renowned E-LEET X Tuning utility.
The motherboard is available at a price of $399 and according to EVGA officials, they’ve limited quantity of this motherboard. Anyone interested in this motherboard should consider investing in one, and quick!
Thank you Chip Loco for providing us with this information Images courtesy of
Despite Z87 being present on the market now since June it is still Intel’s newest consumer desktop platform and offers consumers a lot of cutting edge functionality. Today we have a rather fine looking motherboard that adds to the extensive array of Z87 motherboards available on the market. ASRock’s Z87 Extreme 6 is shooting to be a high end motherboard but at the same time offers a competitive pricing that is more typical of a mid-range Z87 motherboard. ASRock’s Z87 Extreme 6 sits in the ASRock mid-to-high end Z87 segment and offers up a load of high end features like a 12 phase CPU VRM, support for 2 Way SLI or 3 Way CFX, ten SATA III ports, Realtek ALC1150 audio and dual Intel LAN with teaming support. Below you can see a more in depth assessment of the Z87 Extreme 6’s core specifications:
ASRock isn’t just shooting for the enthusiast segment as it offers broader functionality like ASRock’s new “Home Cloud” feature that makes use of the advanced Intel LAN to offer you remote desktop support from anywhere with internet access. With ASRock’s Home Cloud you can access all your files, emails, documents or just keep an eye on your PC if someone else is using it.
ASRock are also pushing their advanced sound implementation of Realtek’s ALC1150 codec which includes 7.1 channel HD audio, a 115 dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier, a Texas Instruments 5532 premium headset amplifier, an EMI shield and PCB isolation shielding.
A final thing I feel is worth a mention is ASRock’s HDMI-in port, yes in not out (they do also have a HDMI out next to it). This allows you to connect other devices to your monitor or even record/capture the HDMI output of other devices.
If you want to check out the full range of features then be sure to check the ASRock product page here.
Hitachi started shipping the first drive to feature a helium filling, a concept it first unveiled back in 2012 as a means to boost capacity by around 40 per cent compared to traditional mechanical drives. The helium filling was possible by shrinking the gap between platters and fit seven platters into an admittedly chunky 3.5″ form-factor. With traditional air-filled high-capacity drives having only five which translates to a 40% boost in storage space.
The Ultrastar He6 has 6TB of storage into a single 3.5″ drive with a choice of SATA-III or SAS connectivity. As with the company’s prototypes, this impressive capacity comes from seven individual platters, although the drive itself is 50g lighter than the air-filled five-platter 4TB Ultrastar 7K4000 at 640g. The platters spin at 7,200rpm, are backed by 64MB of cache memory, and are designed for application loads of under 550TB a year.
According to HGST, the helium filling leads to a 23 per cent drop in idle power and 49 per cent improvement in watts-per-terabyte compared to traditional five-platter drives. The company also plans to use the HelioSeal technology in its future heat-assisted magnetic recording, or HAMR for short, drives to further boost capacities.
Finally, no news was released in terms of pricing, but given the new technology, it is expected to be a significant price range, well over existing 4TB models.
Thank you Bit-Tech for providing us with this information
Gigabyte’s range of Z87 motherboards have already been a big hit with system builders. In particular two motherboards from that series that we checked out – Z87X-UD3H and Z87X-UD4H which we reviewed here and here – have been very popular. Gigabyte’s series of Z87 motherboards have struck a real chord with those who care about aesthetics but Gigabyte’s motherboards have also impressed with their drive towards higher audio quality and very aggressive pricing.
Today we have a motherboard from Gigabyte that falls slightly below the Z87X-UD3H but still retains that same styling and a relatively high-end feature set for a Z87 motherboard. The raw specifications of this Gigabyte Z87X-D3HP motherboard we have here aren’t that dissimilar from the MSI Z87-G43 motherboard we reviewed recently except this motherboard has a much stronger focus on aesthetics and better connectivity. For a mid-range Z87 motherboard the Z87-D3HP has everything a single GPU system builder could need thanks to Gigabyte’s decision to add abundant connectivity – PCI, extra USB 3.0, Intel (not Realtek) Gigabit Ethernet and 8 channel audio. As with all Z87 motherboards you get the natively provided six SATA III ports and PCIe 3.0 X16 link. Other PCIe connectivity is provided via the Z87 chipset such as a PCIe 2.0 X16 (x4 electrical) slot and a pair of PCIe 1X slots. Below you can see a detailed specification summary:
Legit Reviews have managed to get a hands-on with Gigabyte’s G1.Assassin 3 at the Intel Developer Forum 2013 event. This new X79 chipset LGA 2011 socket motherboard is revamped for Ivy Bridge-E and is built on the ATX form factor. The motherboard uses a 9 phase CPU VRM with PowIRstage driver-MOSFETs by International Rectifier. The CPU socket is wired to 8 DIMM slots supporting two pairs of quad channel RAM – up to 64GB is supported. In terms of PCI Express connectivity their are four PCIe 3.0 x16 lanes and a pair of PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes provided by the X79 PCH.
On the storage side the motherboard provides four SATA III ports and four SATA II ports. Network connectivity is provided by a pair of Gigabit ethernet ports (one Intel driven) and an add-in WLAN 802.11AC WiFi card which also combines Bluetooth 4.0. Audio is provided by a Creative Sound Core3D controller which has a high SNR DAC and quality OP-AMP circuity with user replacement amps (Gigabyte’s AMP-UP feature). In terms of USB ports there are six USB 3.0 ports provided and a bunch of USB 2.0 ports. Heatsink designs weren’t finalised so the board looks a bit bare but the final design should be made public when the motherboard launches in the near future.
The TechReport has revealed ASUS’ brand new X79 motherboard the ASUS X79 Deluxe. This motherboard was launched alongside the Intel Ivy Bridge-E launch and uses the same LGA 2011 socket and X79 chipset. It will support the Ivy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge-E processors right out of the box as it comes shipped with an updated BIOS.
The motherboard uses ASUS latest styling of a black motherboard with gold heatsinks. It uses an ATX form factor, has a 10 phase CPU VRM, 8 DIMM slots, four PCIe 3.0 X16 slots and two PCIe 2.0 X1 slots.
Storage connectivity includes eight SATA III ports, four SATA III ports and two eSATA III ports. There are six rear USB 3.0 ports and two via the header. ASUS also provides a WiFi Go module providing 802.11 ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. There are two Gigabit ethernet ports on the motherboard along with 8 channel HD audio, a variety of USB 2.0 ports and all the other ASUS features like EPU, TPU II and so on. The motherboard will retail for $349.99 and you can find a full review of it right here.
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