Shuttle released a new system that once again proves that a powerful system doesn’t need to be large in physical dimensions. The new SH110R4 is the newest family member in the XPC Cube series of 13-liter barebone PCs and it comes with everything available you’ll need, from a Skylake LGA 1151 socket over two M.2 expansion slots to an integrated heat pipe system for CPU cooling.
The Shuttle SH110R4 is built around the Intel H110 chipset and supports dual-channel DDR4 memory with a speed of up to 2133 MHz. You can equip it with a total of 32GB through its two memory slots, but the specifications don’t reveal whether it’s full-sized DIMMs or SO-DIMMs. My bet would be on the last, SO-DIMMs. With the use of a Skylake-based Core, Celeron, or Pentium processor, you also gain 4K video capabilities through the processor-integrated GPU and the onboard HDMI and DisplayPort. A D-Sub VGA port was also added for backwards compatibility.
Besides the graphics connections, you also find all other relevant external connectors. There are four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet network powered by an Intel i219LM controller, and a 5.1-channel HD audio system powered by a Realtek ALC662 chip.
The Shuttle XPC Cube series are basically mITX systems with a clever cooling solution and users can upgrade the motherboard to pretty much any mITX board they wish at any point. But the included one is pretty good as it is and comes with two M.2 slots, one M.2 2280/2260/2242 Type M slot for high-speed SSDs and one M.2 2230 Type A/E slot for devices like WiFi cards. There’s also a PCIe x16 and a PCIe x1 slot for additional expansion cards such as graphics cards, raid controller, monitor cards, sound cards, etc.
The really cool feature is the Shuttle’s I.C.E 2 cooling engine that utilizes heat-pipe tech to keep the SH110R4 cool. It uses convection cooling to dissipate heat away from and around the CPU. The I.C.E.2 copper tubes, coated in nickel for enhanced tube hardness and rust-proof protection, are filled with distilled water to effectively channel heat and provide highly efficient processor and chassis cooling.
It also comes with a built-in PSU which can deliver 300W and is 80Plus Bronze certified. Overall, you get a small and stable system with great features and a suggested retail price of £172.00.
FreshTech Solutions is one of the leading system integrators in the UK and forged an impressive reputation for their huge range of pre-configured PCs. Whether you’re on a tight budget looking to try out PC gaming for the first time, or a content creator seeking the absolute best performance, there’s something to suit your requirements. Each PC is backed by generous warranty period and it’s even possible to purchase additional cover for further peace-of-mind. For example, on systems costing £1000 and above, you can increase the warranty length from 3 years to 5 years for £25. If you’re opting for a cheaper rig under the £1000 mark, then it’s possible to select three years cover for £25 and five years support at a cost of £50. This level of flexibility allows you to protect your investment for a period which you expect to use the system for.
When selecting a custom PC, the number of configurations and pricing variation means it’s extraordinarily difficult for novices to judge which model to go for. It’s not always a sensible approach to spend more if you’re unlikely to reap the benefits. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of custom PCs from FreshTech Solutions that we are happy to recommend at various price points. Hopefully, our readers will find this useful and those without technical knowledge can make an informed decision about which unit suits their usage scenario.
1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour)
The first machine we’re taking a look at targets consumers on a very tight budget who want to enter into the Intel ecosystem. While you could compile a cheaper build using an AMD CPU and AM3+ motherboard, it doesn’t offer much headroom in the future if you suddenly demand additional horsepower. The majority of games are GPU bound but there’s some examples including ARMA III and more recently, Black Desert Online which rely heavily on a system’s CPU performance. This particular build features a large enough capacity boot SSD to install the operating system and enjoy a snappier feel in Windows.
Also, the GTX 950 2GB graphics card is a great choice for 1080P gaming providing you turn down a few settings. On another note, the lack of overclocking isn’t an issue at this price and won’t impact on the user experience during graphically intensive games. Ideally, I’d recommend paying extra for the next tier, but this is a great choice for beginners moving away from consoles for the very first time.
1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )
The next system which retails for £699.00 offers overclocking functionality due to the unlocked K processor and Z170 chipset. Furthermore, the Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 contains an illuminated LED strip on the PCB to create a more ostentatious appearance. This higher end model includes the GTX 960 2GB GPU to maintain improved frame-rates at higher settings. It’s a significant boost over the GTX 950 and worth considering given the constant influx of modern titles requiring additional graphical grunt. Of course, it’ s still a budget option and pales in comparison to higher end graphics cards, but it should provide an enjoyable user-experience with a 1920×1080 display. Also, the boot SSD’s higher capacity allows you to store your favourites games and benefit from faster load times.
1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )
The next tier’s system costs £899.99 and has a number of key improvements including a secondary mechanical hard disk, 16GB RAM and GTX 970 graphics card. When discussing the previous systems it’s important to remember that I’d recommend adding a mechanical drive to store large sums of data. This allows you to easily install various games while ensuring the boot SSD doesn’t fill up rather quickly. Thankfully, this doesn’t increase the asking price by an exponential amount. On another note, the 16GB memory is useful when working with video, photo editing and other complex workloads. It’s not really necessary in games just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if 16GB becomes the standard in the next few years.
NVIDIA’s GTX 970 offers absolutely stunning performance even with a 2560×1440 monitor and can exceed 60 frames-per-second in various titles including the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. It’s unquestionably one of the best price to performance GPUs on the market and a suitable choice for a powerful gaming system.
3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )
Moving towards the higher end market is a system which retails for £1049.00. This model contains a higher wattage power supply and Corsair water cooling unit to attain better temperatures. Furthermore, FreshTech Solutions guarantees the system will reach 4.6GHz and tests each overclock extremely carefully. This will be incredibly useful to consumers who feel apprehensive about overclocking their CPU and haven’t got any experience in this field. They really shouldn’t be concerned because the process is ridiculous simple. However, whenever anything goes awry, it’s important to have an excellent level of after-care support.
3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )
The £1599.00 system swaps out the i5 6600K for Intel’s enthusiast flagship i7-6700K on the LGA1151 chipset. Once again, FreshTech Solutions guarantees an impressive minimum overclock to reach significant gains compared to stock values. Also, the 500GB SSD is a great addition which allows you to install various applications without constantly checking on the remaining capacity. The system is housed in the highly regard Fractal Design R5 chassis which creates a more premium feel. Clearly, the main improvement revolves around the GTX 980Ti and is a major step up when compared to the GTX 970.
Even though the GPU isn’t capable of running games at maximum details on a 4K display, it’s able to really reach high figures on a 2560×1440 or 3440×1440 monitor. If you want to improve the performance even further, it’s possible to add a second GTX 980Ti due to the power supply’s 750 watts rating. The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard supports USB 3.1, SATA Express, multi-GPU configurations and opts for a superb audio solution. Once combined, this offers an absolutely staggering user-experience.
3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )
Up to this point, we’ve focussed on the consumer LGA1151 chipset which offers great value for typical desktop tasks. Unfortunately, the platform only supports up to a 4-core 8-thread CPU. This severely limits the computational power during multi-threaded workloads. As a result, many professionals opt for 2011-v3 powered systems because they can leverage extra performance using 6-core or even 8-core processors. The next system totalling £1938.00 utilises a hex core processor with 40 PCI-E lanes and a 2TB hard disk.
Not only that, the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe boot drive is capable of an astounding maximum read of 2500MB/s and maximum write reaching 1500MB/s. This allows games to load faster and helps to process huge 4K video projects in a more efficient manner. Of course, this elite-grade PC opts for the best possible hardware including the GTX 980Ti and Gigabyte X99-SLI motherboard. This means you can have a powerful workstation and play demanding games in your leisure time.
If you’d like us to review any of the systems mentioned above, please let us know in the comments section below.
Last year, Apple surprised the world with their new MacBook, their thinnest laptop yet. In a first, the slim device only had one USB Type-C port and featured a fanless Intel Broadwell Core M CPU with a Retina display. Today, Apple has updated their MacBook as they’ve previously announced. The new laptop features upgraded internals throughout, with the headline being the new Skylake Core-M CPUs.
The new Skylake Core m3-6Y30, the Core m5-6Y54 and the Core m7-6Y75 all keep the same base clock as their Broadwell counterparts but the m3 sees a 100Mhz drop in boost, the m5 100Mhz increase and the m7 200Mhz increase. Combined with the architecture improvements, CPU performance should improve but not by much. The iGPU get upgraded to an HD 515 which uses the new Gen9 architecture and a 50Mhz boost for the m7. This should lead to a nice boost to graphics performance.
Other changes are the use of LPDDR3 1866 up from 1600. The battery also gets a bump up by 1.7 Wh to 41.4 Wh, gaining an extra hour of battery life. Storage also reported is improved with a new PCIe SSD but no word yet on specifics. Finally, we get a new Rose Gold, aka Pink, colour option for those that want it. Pricing remains the same as the current lineup.
ECS has recently introduced a new mini-ITX motherboard based on Intel’s H110 Express chipset. This LGA1151 motherboard is named H110I-C4P, and it was designed to be fully compatible with Intel’s 6th generation Core, Pentium and Celeron processors. As far as power is concerned, the board uses a mix of 24-pin ATX and 4-pin CPU power connectors, while the CPU conditioning is taken care of by a 4-phase VRM. Two DDR4 DIMM slots support up to 32 GB of dual-channel DDR4-2133 memory, which should definitely be more than enough for the average user. Clearly, this is not a top-tier motherboard aimed at professionals, but it can still be good enough for basic gaming if you’re not too picky.
When it comes to expansion slots, we’re looking at one PCI-Express 3.0 x16 and an M.2 2242 slot with a bandwidth of 20 Gb/s. It looks like storage connectivity is based on four SATA 6 Gb/s connectors while the display connectivity is ensured by one DisplayPort and one HDMI port. Other highlights include gigabit Ethernet, a 6-channel HD audio solution and four USB 3.0 ports. Given how light it is on features, we shouldn’t expect this ECS motherboard to cost more than $80, in which case it could definitely become appealing to budget-conscious users.
Cyberpower is one of most respected system integrators worldwide and quickly gained a superb reputation for their commitment to impeccable customer service. The company’s vast buying power means consumers can choose from a massive range of components and construct a system which suits their individual requirements. This level of flexibility is astounding and ensures the end-user receives a product with the best possible specification. Upgrades are listed using high-resolution images and include a brief outline of the pricing variation when selecting various parts. Of course, there are pre-configured options with a default configuration to help simplify the buying process. Cyberpower’s slick website manages to catch your imagination and become fascinated by the company’s custom PC range.
The latest PC to arrive for review purposes is the Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro sporting an Intel i5-6660K processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM and XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB. Cyberpower has utilised the Corsair H55 all-in-one CPU cooler to achieve a hefty 4.5GHz overclock. In terms of storage, there’s a high-performance 240GB SSD and 1TB mechanical disk. The Corsair VS 650W is a non-modular 80 plus white power supply with enough wattage to easily cope with demanding applications. This impressive specification is housed in the extremely unusual Corsair 600C chassis. Priced at £999, I’m fascinated to see the performance numbers in relation to other products under the £1000 mark.
Name: Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro
Case: Corsair 600C
Motherboard: MSI Z170A SLI Plus
Processor: Intel Core-i5 6600K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
Processor Cooler: Corsair H55
System Memory: Corsair 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4 LPX 2400MHZ
Main Boot Drive: Corsair Neutron XT 240GB
Additional Storage Drive(s): Western Digital 1TB 7200RPM
Graphics card: XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB
Power Supply: Corsair VS 650W
Optical Drive: N/A
OS: Windows 10 Home
Warranty: 3 Year Labour, 2 Year Parts, 1 Month Collect and Return plus Life-Time Technical Support
Packing and Accessories
The system arrives in a humongous outer box which offers exceptional protection during transit. More specifically, the thick cardboard adds rigidity and prevents the system from encountering cosmetic imperfections. On another note, the fragile notice instructs the courier to adopt a careful approach when handling the package.
Once opened, the main chassis box is held in place with supporting foam inserts and the accessories box. As a result, the unit shouldn’t move around in a brash manner.
Prior to turning on the system, a precautionary label is used to cover the power supply and inform the user to remove any internal packaging.
Here we can the huge array of protective inserts which cushions the key components from any sudden impact during delivery. These are absolutely essential additions to ensure the system arrives safely and without any cables being misaligned. Honestly, I’d prefer Cyberpower to use a foam pack instead because of the harder material and more secure positioning.
The system is bundled with a handy troubleshooting guide, component documentation, driver’s disk, PCI brackets where the GPU has been installed, power cord and SLI bridge. Unfortunately, the troubleshooting guide was placed underneath the chassis box which led to some hefty creases.
Intel has revealed its plans to release updated versions of Celeron and Pentium CPUs during its most recent developer forum in China. Apparently, the new chips are codenamed Apollo Bay, and they are based on the company’s 14-nanometer Goldmont architecture, which is the official successor of the Airmont architecture used to create previous Celeron and Pentium models. As we’ve come to expect from a new generation of Intel chips, the updated versions will offer better overall performance as well as improved efficiency, which means that they could ensure a longer battery life for portable devices.
Those of you who are interested in Intel’s Core series will be glad to know that it is also expected to receive an update in 2016’s second half. Even though the company originally planned to move over to a 10-nanometer chip named Cannonlake this year, this generation was actually delayed to 2017 in order to make room for a third 14-nanometer product family. This officially marked the end of Intel’s tick-tock cycle, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise considering how difficult it has become to manufacture smaller processes. Even though they’re not exactly ideal for gaming, Intel’s Pentium and Celeron CPUs are more than capable of handling simple day-to-day tasks, and since they basically sip on power, they represent ideal solutions for low-power laptops or office PCs.
Gladiator Computers is the name given to Aria’s custom PC division and provides consumers with a wide range of options to suit various budgets. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with Aria, they’re one of the leading PC hardware stores and have an excellent reputation among customers. Currently, the company’s TrustPilot rating is scored at nine out of ten which evokes a sense of confidence when investing in a pre-configured PC. Of course, you can customize each model and select between various cases, memory configurations, CPU coolers and lots more! As a result, it’s incredibly easy to make savings on various components if you’re not overly concerned about colour coordination. On the other hand, consumers who demand a visually appealing system can add LED lighting or other extravagant extras.
Today, we’re taking a detailed look at the BATTALION 800 featuring an Intel i5-6500 processor, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz memory, Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 motherboard, 120GB Samsung 850 Evo boot drive and the Zotac GTX 970 Gaming Edition graphics card. Furthermore, Gladiator Computers have employed a very reputable air cooler to find a great balance between thermal dissipation and noise output. There’s also a quality non-modular power supply with an efficiency rating of 80+ White. I’m interested to see how this will impact on cable management especially given the budget chassis in the basic bundle. Priced at £889.99, the system is targeted towards mainstream consumers utilizing a single 1920×1080 display. Let’s see how it performs compared to other machines sporting a similar specification.
Power Supply: Corsair VS550 550 Watt 80+ White Rated ATX
Optical Drive: 24x LiteOn Internal DVD-RW Drive
Warranty: 4 Year Standard Warranty (2 Month Collect/Returns, 1 Year Parts, 4 Year Labour)
Packing and Accessories
The system is dispatched in an extremely large outer box which offers superb protection against damage during delivery. On the top, fragile tape has been used to instruct the courier about the item’s delicate nature. This should reduce the possibility of the delivery driver throwing the package around. I do think there needs to be side handles because the box’s large surface area is difficult to lift from an angle.
Inside the package is a huge collection of packing peanuts to prevent the chassis box from moving around. While these inserts can be irritating if they manage to scatter all over the floor, this is a small price to pay for the superb level of protection.
The chassis box utilizes thick cardboard which feels pretty sturdy and provides an additional layer of cushioning.
Despite the case’s budget focus, there’s been a great deal of attention paid to the packaging including durable foam supports. The top cover also ensures that there’s very little chance of cosmetic damage occurring during the unboxing processing.
Gladiator Computers have positioned a sticker over the power supply’s AC connector to prevent you from booting up the system with the foam pack still installed.
The foam insert is absolutely essential because it prevents each component from becoming dislodged. Furthermore the cushioning should allow fan headers and other cables to remain in their optimal position. When it comes to packaging, foam packs are possibly the most important safety aspect and it’s great to see them used in this custom configuration.
In terms of accessories, the system is bundled with a thank you note, installation guide, driver/software disks, a funky door hanger and loads of documentation.
Other notable mentions include a power adapter, retail component packaging, CPU cover (required for warranty purposes), front bay cover where the optical drive is positioned, tasty Haribo sweets, various adapters and an assortment of fittings.
BIOSTAR might not be the most recognizable motherboard brand in western markets but their pedigree for creating reliable products is worthy of praise. When compared to MSI, Gigabyte and ASUS, the company struggles to entice consumers with unique aesthetic designs. Furthermore, the BIOS and software package has been sorely lacking and in dire need of change. Thankfully, BIOSTAR have acknowledged these criticisms and decided to forge a brand new range based upon a racing theme to please petrolheads with an avid interest in enthusiast hardware. Each RACING motherboard sports a chequered flag PCB and stylish LED illumination while introducing a new BIOS layout. Clearly, this is a major departure from BIOSTAR’s previous products which evoked a fairly mundane appearance.
The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 is based on the mATX form factor and supports up to 64GB DDR4 with a maximum speed of 2133MHz. Intel’s H170 chipset blocks multiplier overclocking which means you have to resort to your processor’s default turbo frequency. Of course, there’s been some controversy surrounding BCLK overclocking on H170 and B150 motherboards to unofficially achieve boosts fairly close to traditional multiplier overclocking. Sadly, Intel has voiced their displeasure regarding this phenomenon and pressurized manufacturers to disable BCLK overclocking via a BIOS update. As a result, we have to rely on stock figures to determine the motherboard’s performance. Previously, I’ve seen some astounding results when it comes to storage with BIOSTAR products, and I’m interested to see if this trend continues.
Packing and Accessories
Here we can see the absolutely stunning packaging which contains a carbon fibre inspired cover and vibrant text. This coincides with the RACING focus and feels quite reminiscent of a luxury sports car’s interior.
On the opposite side, there’s a detailed diagram showing the motherboard’s layout and explanation of its unique selling features. Once again, this is presented a superb manner and makes you inquisitive about the product’s specification.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard includes a user’s manual, Vivid LED DJ instructions guide, SATA cables, driver disk, and I/O shield.
Giada is no stranger to the compact systems, but the new i80 takes it to a whole new level with power in a compact chassis. The tiny i80 mini-PC is built on Intel’s NUC concept that packs plenty of power in a compact form factor and coupled with a fashionable appearance, as they call it. The i80 is using the latest Skylake-U processors and support dual 4K UHD resolution that makes it perfect for office work.
The Giada i80 features both HDMI and Mini-DisplayPort connectors for your monitors and they are powered by an Intel Graphics 520 GPU unit. There are two different models with different CPU, but other than that the two models are the same. One uses an Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 2.5GHz and 2.8GHz boost while the other uses the smaller i3-6100U processor with 2..3GHz and no Turbo Boost 2.0.
You are able to install up to 16GB DDR3L-1600 MHz in these units via the two SO-DIMM slots which should be plenty for most work situations. The two slots also allow for dual-channel memory usage that gives a clear benefit over units that only feature one slot.
There are plenty of connection and control options. Starting on the front, there are two USB 3.0 ports next to a 3.5mm audio jack and an IR receiver.
The connections continue on the rear where we find the previously mentioned Mini-DisplayPort that supports 4K 60Hz resolutions and the HDMI port that allows 4K resolutions with 24Hz. There are two more USB 3.0 ports on the rear where you also find an RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet connector and a TF card reader.
On the inside, you will find an integrated Realtek ALC662 audio codec that powers the two-in-on jack on the front. The Ethernet is powered by Intel’s i219LM controller.
You can expand the function with a full-length Mini-PCIe card that supports mSATA2, a half-length Mini-PCIe Wi-Fi or BT module, and install one mSATA3 drive as well as one 2.5-inch SATA3 drive with a maximum height of 7.5mm. That is quite a bit of expansion options for such a tiny system. speaking of tiny, the system only measures 116.6 x 111 x 47.1 mm
The larger i80-B5000 model comes with a suggested retail price of $380, but the price for the smaller i80-B3000 model wasn’t revealed at this time. Further details can also be found on the official product page.
Since the release of Intel’s Z170 chipset, MSI has unveiled a fantastic, feature-rich motherboard range which caters to contrasting user demands. For example, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is an excellent choice for consumers wanting a stylish black colour scheme and great reliability at an affordable price point. In contrast to this, the MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM Edition‘s gorgeous aesthetic design makes it one of the most innovative LGA1151 motherboards on the market. Of course, the iconic dragon styling on many MSI products have become a popular choice among the core gaming demographic. This red and black theme compliments mainstream hardware and retails at very competitive prices across various performance tiers.
The MSI Z170A GAMING M5 is a mid-range motherboard sporting an attractive design and impressive specification. More specifically, the product is capable of housing two PCI-E M.2 storage devices and has support for USB 3.1 Gen2 connectivity. Not only that, the motherboard includes a one year premium XSplit license and Nahimic audio enhancements. As you might expect, many of MSI’s leading technologies are incorporated such as DDR4 Boost, Game Boost and much more. Given this particular model’s astonishing software suite and military class components, I expect to see it rival higher priced offerings rather well. Could this be the best value Z170 motherboard thus far for high-end users? Let’s find out!
Packing and Accessories
MSI always does a phenomenal job when it comes to packaging design and the Z170 GAMING M5 is no different. The bold colours and stunning product snapshot contrasts extremely well. This is one of the most eye-catching motherboard boxes I’ve seen and showcases the motherboard’s beautiful appearance.
On the opposite side, there’s a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s key selling points such as support for 3-way crossfire, 2-way SLI and Audio Boost 3.0. This is presented in a slick manner and doesn’t alienate the end-user with technical jargon.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a user’s guide, driver’s disk, metal case badge, I/O shield, SLI bridge, registration details, basic installation guide and four SATA cables. Please note, the press sample I received was previously used by another media so there’s only 3 SATA cables displayed in the photograph. Rest assured, the retail version will include four and be packaged without the need for an elastic band.
ASUS have compiled a comprehensive Z170 motherboard range which caters to different sections of the consumer market. For example, the GAMING PRO line-up offers superb functionality and impeccable stability at an affordable price point. ROG products evoke a more premium feel and includes a stunning software suite for power users. The Sabertooth brand revolves around a stringent testing procedure to ensure each motherboard exhibits unprecedented reliability. The extreme thermal testing and deployment of TUF components prioritizes long-term durability. As a result, it’s a great option for consumers who demand a very high-end motherboard and have no intentions of upgrading in the near future.
Typically, motherboards opt for a red and black colour scheme because it’s the most popular option among the core gaming audience. Some time ago, ASUS unleashed the limited edition Z97 Sabertooth Mark S which utilizes an innovative white PCB and military camouflage. It’s quite rare to see motherboard sporting a white theme and while there is some competition from the MSI Krait series, ASUS is the only manufacturer to offer a pure white PCB.
The Sabertooth Z170 S is the spiritual successor to the Z97 Sabertooth Mark S and features a very unusual design philosophy. When adopting such a wacky colour scheme, it’s bound to have a polarizing reception and I’m fascinated to hear feedback on ASUS’ aesthetic choices. Looking beyond the visual aspects, I’m expecting to see some very impressive numbers given the premium electronics and DIGI+ Power Control.
Packing and Accessories
The motherboard’s box is characterized by a white finish and contains camouflage highlights. This provides a great insight into the product’s unconventional styling and creates a web of intrigue. On the front, information regarding the 5 year warranty is displayed in a clear manner.
Moving onto the opposite side, there’s a detailed description of the product’s thermal radar monitoring made possible by the TUF ICe processor. On another note, the packaging outlines the rear I/O connectivity and basic motherboard layout.
Included in the package is a user’s guide, M.2 screws, driver’s disk, case badge, certificate of reliability, stickers and a gorgeous white I/O shield. As someone who loves the technical details of motherboards, it’s fantastic to read the reliability assessment document. Here, you can browse information regarding a huge array of tests such as moisture resistance, thermal shock, solder bath, salt spray and more!
There’s also four SATA cables, a Q Connector, CPU installation tool, back I/O dust cover and SLI bridge. The Q Connector is a really handy tool which eliminates the frustration factor when attaching front panel headers. Furthermore, the CPU installation tool is designed to minimize the contact time and pressure between your fingers and the CPU. While it’s not necessary for veteran builders, it could prevent beginners from causing damage during the build process.
Overclockers UK is one of the leading stockists of PC hardware and their engineering team produces an impressive range of custom rigs to suit contrasting tastes. Whether you’re looking for a silent air-cooled build, or extreme overclocked PC with premium water cooling parts, there’s something designed for your specific requirements. Often, whenever a new game is released which sells remarkably well, consumers like to pay homage with a system based around its theme. This can be a challenge especially if the game in question doesn’t have a distinctive colour scheme. The Division is an open world third-person shooter set in a bleak vision of New York City ravaged by a smallpox pandemic. This intriguing setting and captivating multiplayer confrontations have proved to be incredibly popular! As a result, The Division became Ubisoft’s fastest selling game on record and attracted a very passionate community.
This success story has given Overclockers UK inspiration for their latest gaming PC entitled the Titan Dark Zone. The system opts for orange braided PSU extension cables and vibrant LED lighting which creates a stunning aesthetic design. Combining the orange tones with black jet black components is quite unusual and a reference to The Division’s box art. Therefore, the Titan Dark Zone is a dream come true for fans of this particular title and features a very potent specification capable of powering VR devices without any concessions. The Intel i7-6700K is professionally overclocked to 4.5GHz using the Alpenfohn Broken 2 cooler. As a result, I expect to see an impeccable performance to noise ratio which surpasses many closed-loop-coolers. On another note, the 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory, factory overclocked GTX 980Ti and Samsung 250GB boot drive should be able to provide a sensational gaming experience even on high-resolution monitors. Rather surprising, Overclockers UK have decided to use a non-modular power supply which complicates cables management. On the other hand, the PSU has received a great deal of critical acclaim and showcases the careful decision-making process when designing a system’s specification.
Name: Overclockers UK Titan Dark Zone
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX
Motherboard: MSI Z170A-SLI Plus
Processor: Intel Core i7-6700K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
Processor Cooler: Alpenfohn Broken 2
System Memory: Team Group Elite 16GB (8x2GB) 2400MHz CL16 RAM
Warranty: Three Year (24 Month Collect and Return plus 12 Month labour) Mainland UK and Ireland Only
Packing and Accessories
The system arrived in an extremely large box which cannot fit on my photography backdrop. This is the reason why I’ve taken a snapshot in the hallway to emphasize the package’s mammoth size. Overclockers UK always adopt such an attentive approach to packaging and employ durable materials which enhances the level of protection substantially. It’s evidently clear that the company has considered the strain delicate PCs go under during transit and taken every necessary step to dramatically reduce the probability of damage occurring.
Once the top cover has been removed, we can see an ample supply of durable cardboard inserts which holds the system firmly in position.
The Titan Dark Zone is placed in the original chassis box and secured with strong tape. Honestly, I’d be extremely surprised if you received the system with even cosmetic imperfections considering multiple layers were used for protective purposes.
There’s additional support inside the chassis box via two strong polystyrene blocks.
The system’s internal components are surrounded by three Instapak foam pieces. These are essential additions which protect the CPU mounting and prevent the graphics card from applying too much pressure on the PCI-E slot during delivery.
In terms of accessories, OCUK included a Welcome Pack and Windows 10 Home OEM DVD containing the product code. The Welcome Pack outlines the system’s specification, and warranty terms in an easy to understand manner. Personally, I love the overall presentation and solder joints design on the front cover.
Adopted in the troubled days of 2006 and Netburst, ‘Tick-Tock’ has served Intel well, pushing the processor firm ever forwards. Though it has served Intel well in the past, recent years have shown that the strategy has become untenable. It comes as no surprise now, that Intel has revealed the successor to ‘Tick Tock’, PAO, or better known as ‘Process-Architecture-Optimization’.
Unlike ‘Tick-Tock’, ‘Process-Architecture-Optimization’ carries a much more unwieldy title but it is the natural evolutionary step. While the old way was to introduce a new process on the Tick year followed by a new architecture in the Tock year, PAO builds on the same idea. Under PAO, the first year is a new process node, which is based on a known architecture. This will then be followed the next year by a new architecture and finally, in the third year, Intel will optimize both the process and architecture for the final release on that process.
The perfect example is this upcoming generation where we saw Broadwell on the new 14nm node in 2014. That was followed the next year with the new Skylake architecture in 2015 and then Kaby Lake, which is an optimized Skylake architecture still on 14nm will drop this year. The delays and costs Intel faced with 14nm and 10nm simply precluded them moving onto a new node in the 2 years ‘Tick Tock’ requires.
Moving to a 3-year cadence makes much more sense as Intel has already been slipping into a 2.5 year ‘Tick Tock’ cycle since the launch of Haswell/Haswell-Refresh. By changing it to 3 years, Intel is just accepting the reality that moving to newer process nodes is just going to be harder and longer. PAO is the new normal as Moore’s law is dead and there is nothing anyone can do about until we move past silicon.
Traditionally if you wanted to play video games on a PC you needed a full case PC with all the components within the case taking up space. In recent years, the craze of small gaming rigs has seen gaming laptops catch up with the level of power they offer for your daily gaming needs. This week though a new competitor may be on the market with Intel’s new Skull Canyon NUC preparing to take on gamers needs.
Typically when dealing with NUC’s (Next Unit of Computing. A term used to define mini-PC’s), you were offered limited power in exchange for a pocket PC but the Skull Canyon NUC seems to break this by offering an i7-6770HQ.
The difference between this and a traditional i7 or i5 is that for most units they would contain 24 execution units for the graphics. The i7-6770HQ offers you a whole new level with 72 execution units. The Skull Canyon will also support Razer Core, Razers latest creation that will allow for external graphics card set ups.
Supporting thunderbolt 3.0, USB3.1 and even HDMI 2.0, you could enjoy streaming 4k content with ease before switching over to your games.
In regards to price, you should be able to find one on the market as soon as May for $650 (£450 approximately) but you will need to provide the RAM, SSD and operating system but with the overall price for a system on a 16GB and 256GB SSD set up coming in under $1,000, miniature PC’s could soon be showing up at gaming tournaments.
Technology changes, that is an inevitable fact. As we produce more and more powerful designs and techniques we create new pieces of hardware and sometimes this causes trouble for those who aren’t quite ready to move on. Microsoft announced previously that those wanting to use the latest in Intel’s processors, the Skylake series, they would need to use Windows 10. It would appear they’ve changed their tone and are now looking to offer support for Windows 7 and 8.1 for the new processors.
The technical reasons provided was that offering support for the older operating systems would be too much given that the new system would be optimised for windows 10. Some people considered this as a push though for businesses to stop using the older operating systems and instead use Windows 10 if they wanted to get new equipment.
Microsoft has now recanted on that and will offer support for the older operating systems, offering companies the chance to upgrade to windows 10 at their own pace if they use Skylake devices. To help this the security updates for the older operating systems will also be addressed to PC’s running Skylake systems till January 14th, 2020 for Windows 7 users and January 10th 2023 for Windows 8.1 users.
Are you happy to hear about this? Are you looking at Skylake processors but would prefer to keep an older OS for the time being? You can see Microsofts tech blog outlining all the changes here.
ASUS already got a lot of praise for their tiny Mini PCs and they’ve just announced two new systems in the series. The two new systems are called the VivoMini VM65N and the VivoMiniVM65 and they are impressive, compact, 2-liter systems that still pack quite a punch. The systems are built with Intel Skylake i3 or i5 CPUs and come with discrete Nvidia 900M series graphics card to deliver a smooth 4K visual experience and casual gaming. Don’t misunderstand this, it isn’t for gaming in 4K, naturally.
The new system can be equipped with up to 16GB DDR4 memory to be the backbone for the either an i5-6200U CPU in the VM65N and a VM65 uses an i3-6100U CPU. It also only the N model that features the Nvidia GeForce 930M graphics card with 1GB DDR3 memory while the VM65 relies on the Intel HD Graphics 520 iGPU. Both come with ASUS SonicMaster-enhanced audio to make them an ideal choice for a daily computing platform or home entertainment hub.
The tiny 2-liter systems only support one 3.5-inch drive, but you can also mount two 2.5-inch drives via Vivo DualBay adapter, effectively turning them into one as far as the system is concerned. You can get the VM665 series with either a 3.5-inch 500GB or 1TB 7200rpm HDD, 2.5-inch 500GB or 1TB 5400rpm HDD, or 2.5-inch 128GB or 256G SSD out of the box.
The VM65N comes with two USB 3.1 ports that the smaller model doesn’t have, but other than that the connections are the same. You get four USB 3.0 ports, one RJ45 LAN port, HDMI and DisplayPort with UHD 4K support, a card reader, and audio connections.
The price naturally variates based on model and the drives you want it to come with and not all models will be launched in all regions or at the same time. In the United Kingdom the VM65N will launch with a single SKU VM65N-G018Z model that features an i5-6200U CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GT930M 1GB GPU, Win 10 64bit OS, Intel Dual Band 802.11ac WiFi+ BT, and with a Wireless Keyboard & Mouse included. This system will then set you back £549.99.
Intel recently released their Greenlow based Skylake series Xeon CPUs and it’s a pleasure to take a look at the first enterprise-grade motherboard built for these processors today. I have Supermicro’s X11SAE motherboard on the test bench which is a standard ATX-sized single CPU board, but one with all the trimmings.
“Supermicro’s new X11 UP workstations, long-life embedded systems and motherboards integrate the latest technologies such as USB 3.1 and M.2 as well as step up performance, density and efficiency to provide a new generation of Green Computing solutions,” said Charles Liang, President and CEO of Supermicro. “Indeed, with Supermicro’s first-to-market integration, advanced engineering and architecture expertise, we deliver the widest range of Skylake-S platforms available to the industry, enabling our customers with exactly the best competitive advantage on the market.”
Supermicro’s X11SAE doesn’t just support the new Greenlow Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 family CPUs, you can also use 6th Gen Core i7, i5, i3, Pentium, and Celeron series processors. The brain behind the motherboard is the new C236 chipset which comes with a lot of enhancements over the predecessors and Supermicro generally added the newest technologies to this motherboard. Additionally, the motherboard supports up to 64GB DDR4 2133MHz ECC UDIMMs in its 4 sockets. While this motherboard does support ECC and non-ECC modules, it doesn’t support RDIMMS, so make sure you get the right ones.
There are plenty of storage features on this motherboard with the eight native SATA3 6 Gbps ports provided directly by the chipset. The ports support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 for that extra spice in your storage setup and the motherboard also has two SuperDOM ports with built-in power. You’ll also find a next-gen PCIe M.2 slot beside the default SATA3 ports, allowing you to get that extra speed. The M.2 slot doesn’t support AHCI modules, but 2242, 2260, and 2280 PCIe modules will run at a great speed thanks to the x4 slot.
Further expansion can be added through the two PCI-E 3.0 x16 and three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots. The Supermicro X11SAE also features two legacy 5V PCI 32-bit slots for use with older hardware despite the upgrade to the newest platform.
Externally the X11SAE has two Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 LAN ports where one is powered by an Intel i210-AT and the other is powered by an Intel i219LM chip. There’s also a DVI, a DisplayPort, and an HDMI out for use when processors with iGPU are inserted into the motherboard. Further, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.1 ports on the rear IO area. The USB 3.1 ports sport the increased bandwidth and power which allows it to run with up to 10Gbps.
Internally you can connect an additionally four USB 3.0 and size USB 2.0 ports. The motherboard also features two COM port headers, an ALC 888S 7.1 HD Audio chip, a TPM 1.2 header, and much more.
A workstation motherboard also needs a good set of monitoring abilities. You can connect up to five PWM fans with status monitor for speed control, on/off settings, and tachometer. The temperature monitoring includes the CPU and chassis environment as well as CPU thermal trip support and I2C temperature sensing logic and Thermal Monitor 2 (TM2) support.
As a Supermicro motherboard, we also have the benefits of their SuperDoctor 5 software that monitors system health of hardware and operating system services from the target nodes in real-time and provides alerts to administrators on the availability of systems in data centers.
The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers product page and can as such be subject to changes in future revisions of the product.
Single socket H4 (LGA 1151) supports: Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 v5, Intel 6th Gen. Core i7/i5/i3 series, Intel Celeron and Intel Pentium
Intel C236 chipset
Up to 64GB Unbuffered ECC/non-ECC, UDIMM DDR4 2133MHz; 4x DIMM slots
2 PCI-E 3.0 x16 (run at 16/NA or 8/8), 3 PCI-E 3.0 x1 (in x4), and 2 5V PCI 32-bit slots
Single GbE LAN with Intel i210-AT, Single GbE LAN with Intel i219LM
6x USB 3.0 (2 rear + 4 via header), 8x USB 2.0 (2 rear + 6 via headers), 2x USB 3.1 (10Gbps, rear)
Packaging and Accessories
The Supermicro X11SAE comes in a neutral package and that’s all that’s needed for a board like this. It isn’t one you’ll find on a shelve in the local store while browsing around, it’s one your order because you know it’s the one you want. There’s still a sticker on the side that will tell you what’s inside and what the base specifications are.
The rear of the box explains a little bit about the series of motherboards which this one is part off. You get basic information about the series as well as a quick view of optimized chassis and systems.
Inside the box we find four SATA3 cables and the IO shield next to the motherboard itself.
The majority of consumer motherboards supporting Intel’s latest architecture utilizes the Z170 chipset. This makes business sense due to the large number of enthusiasts purchasing DDR4 memory speeds in excess of 2133MHz and engaging in overclocking. For the more budget-conscience user, the H170 and B150 chipsets provide great performance with some limitations. As previously mentioned, the main drawbacks revolve around the lack of overclocking and maximum memory support for DDR4-2133. In recent months, there has been some furore surrounding BCLK overclocking which allowed the end-user to overclock on a H170 or B150 motherboard. Unfortunately, Intel has quashed this idea on new products and tried to force consumers to use a new BIOS to disable this functionality.
Intel’s B150 chipset is primarily designed for business customers so it seems a little strange to see gaming features on B150 motherboards. Honestly, I mostly see these products being purchased by consumers with a limited budget opting for a locked multiplier CPU and cheap memory. The latest B150 motherboard to be announced is the MSI B150M Gaming Pro. As its name suggests, the motherboard adopts the mATX format and suitable for a compact build. The B150M Gaming Pro features two DIMM slots, and supports a maximum capacity of 32GB. This should be more than enough to power an affordable gaming rig, or business PC. As you can see from the header image, the motherboard contains a single PCI-E x16 slot, and 6 SATA 3 ports. There’s also 6 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the rear and 2 on the front via an internal header.
On another note, the motherboard supports MSI’s DDR4 Boost technology, LAN Protect, Game Boost and utilizes their Military Class 4 components. The Click BIOS 5 makes navigation remarkably simple, and there’s overvoltage protection to maintain maximum stability. In terms of audio, the product has a Realtek ALC887 codec and Audio Boost. The package is bundled with MSI’s DS B1 Interceptor gaming mouse sporting a 1600 DPI, gold connector, LED illumination and removable weights!
Small form factor computers are the future in many directions, but going too small also limits the options considerably. Shuttle has been in the Mini-PC business for a long time and they’ve found a good balance between upgradability and size with their XPC cubes. The newest family member to the Shuttle XPC series is the SZ170R8 which already gives away half of its specifications in the name: The system is a Skylake-based one with a Z170 chipset inside the new R8 chassis.
The XPS R8 chassis is only a third of the size that a traditional tower PC occupies and it still comes with plenty of space for your hardware. You can install up to four 3.5-inch hard disk drives or eight 2.5-inch drives with optional PHD3 adapter brackets.
The system features two expansion slots that allow you to install graphics cards and other adapters with a length up to 267mm. That coupled with the use of 6th generation Intel Core processors and support for up to 64GB DDR4 memory will give you a great base for almost any task.
You can install Skylake LGA1151 processors with a TDP up to 95W and use the built-in GPU units that support 4k/Ultra HD video playback, the system is well equipped for it with two DisplayPort and one HDMI port. There are plenty of USB connection, the network connection is handled by an Intel i219LM controller, and the audio by a Realtek ALC892 7.1 HD audio solution.
The SZ170R8 is equipped with Shuttle’s I.C.E 2 heat pipe technology and comes with an 80 Plus Silver certified 500W power supply to maintain long-term and high stability operation for various professional applications.
Next generation expansion modules can be installed too with the support for one M.2 and one half-size mini PCI-E expansion slots. So whether you want to install a super fast M.2 2280 SSD or a Wi-Fi module, the system is ready.
Aria is one of the leading technology retailers in the UK and stocks a huge range of components from luxury 21:9 3440×1440 monitors to extremely affordable pre-assembled gaming PCs. Their custom PC range falls under the GLADIATOR brand and aims to provide an enthralling gaming experience while offering superb customer satisfaction. Clearly, any system is a considered purchase, and it’s vital to have your initial investment backed by a comprehensive warranty. Thankfully, Gladiator supports their builds with a 4-year labour and 1-year parts guarantee. This level of service is often a key selling point for consumers without any hardware experience and feel overwhelmed by the almost endless combination of component choices.
Today, we’re taking a look at the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE which targets a very reasonable price of £749.99. I’d describe this as a mid-range system and caters to someone with expectations of a fluid framerate at 1920×1080. Around the £800 mark, it’s essential to prioritize the graphics card and make concessions on the CPU without it becoming a bottleneck. This is because the majority of modern game engines are GPU bound, and the benefits from enhanced CPU performance is fairly minimal in comparison. NVIDIA’s GTX 970 is currently the most popular graphics card among Steam users, and for good reasons. For example, the GPU offers a fantastic price to performance ratio and remains exceptionally cool under extreme load. As a result, I’m pleased to see this particular graphics card in the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE and expect it to perform superbly on a 1080P display.
Processor: Intel i5-6400 2.70GHz Quad Core Skylake CPU
Processor Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 Evo
System Memory: 8GB DDR4 3000MHz – Corsair Vengeance LPX
Main Boot Drive: 1TB Seagate Barracuda SATA III Hard Drive
Additional Storage Drive(s): N/A
Graphics card: ASUS STRIX NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB GDDR5
Power Supply: Thermaltake TR2 Challenger 600W 80+ Certified
Optical Drive: 24x LiteOn DVD Re-Writer
OS: Not Included
Warranty: 4 Years Labour, 1 Year Parts
Packing and Accessories
The system is delivered in a humongous outer box which offers outstanding protection against accidental damage. On the top, some durable fragile tape is used to instruct the courier to adopt a gentle approach when handling the item. One slight area for improvement revolves around the lack of side handles. This makes it quite difficult to lift especially in tight spaces.
Once opened, there’s an ample supply of packing peanuts to cushion the chassis box and prevent it from moving around during shipment. I was thoroughly impressed with the quantity of packaging materials, as it emphasizes the company’s attentive approach.
Here we can see the main chassis box containing a plastic cover and two thick polystyrene supports. As a result, the chance of cosmetic damage occurring is exponentially reduced.
The secure foam insert surrounds key components and keeps them firmly in position. I cannot emphasize enough how important these foam packs are because without them it’s possible for cables to become dislodged. Furthermore, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that a heavy GPU could droop and snap during transit. Thankfully, the foam pack holds up it upright and adds a great deal of structural support.
In terms of accessories, the system comes with the original packaging and documentation for each component. There’s also driver disks, a setup leaflet, attractive lanyard and UK power cable. The setup leaflet is fantastic and instructs beginners to remove the supportive foam before connecting the power cord.
That’s not all though because the package includes a CPU installation tool, spare parts, and screws to connect an M.2 SSD.
MSI has rapidly established itself as one of the most reputable motherboard manufacturers and constantly strives to enhance the user experience through an intuitive BIOS interface and marvellous reliability. Additionally, the company offers a huge range of products to suit various colour schemes and often creates extremely-unique designs as demonstrated by the gorgeous, Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM motherboard. Some time ago, MSI released the Z170A GAMING PRO which adopted a fantastic red and black theme to please the core gaming demographic. Although, it’s difficult to stand out when using this colour scheme because manufacturers tend to fixate on a safe, popular design. That’s not to say there’s anything particular wrong with utilizing these colours, but I’d prefer to see more vendors breaking the mould through truly unusual aesthetic choices.
Since the Z170A GAMING PRO’s release, MSI has listened intently to user feedback and decided to construct a brand new model entitled, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON. At first glance, the only difference appears to be the new carbon fibre skin. However, this isn’t the case because MSI has made a raft of changes to enhance the motherboard’s connectivity. More specifically, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON features two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one being type-A while the other is type-C. Furthermore, the redundant PCI slot has been dropped in favour of a fourth PCI-E x1 slot. Thankfully, the 180-degree angle SATA ports have been removed and replaced with a more suitable arrangement using right-angled connectors. Finally, the USB 3.1 Gen 1 layout features two on the rear and four via an internal header while USB 2.0 options now contain a total of 8 ports through a front four rear four setup.
With a recommended retail price of £119.99, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is destined to compete alongside the ASUS Z170 PRO GAMING. As a result, it will be fascinating to see how the different products compare and I expect the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON to remain very competitive in synthetic testing.
Packaging and Accessories
The motherboard comes is a visually appealing box which outlines the RGB functionality, and gaming focus. I particularly like the neon design from the background vehicle which corresponds with the sort of lighting embedded onto the motherboard’s PCB.
The rear portion is packed full of information regarding the motherboard’s layout, impressive software package and premium-grade hardware. This is presented in a really clean, and concise manner with statistics to help quantify the importance of each unique feature.
In terms of accessories, there’s a detailed user’s guide, product registration card, cable labels, CPU installation guide and driver disk. It’s great to see the inclusion of cable labels because they help with diagnostics if you have multiple drives in a RAID configuration and struggle to determine which is the boot device.
Here we can see the bundled I/O shield, SLI bridge and SATA cables. The I/O shield’s red lettering and MSI dragon logo evokes a luxury feel and emphasizes the motherboard’s target audience.
When Intel first launched Skylake, one of the first changes we noticed was the uncoupling of the BCLK from other system clocks. Not surprisingly, this led to speculation that overclocking non-K chips using the BCLK would become possible. This eventually happened and many motherboard vendors started advertising the ability to OC non-K CPUs on their Z170 motherboards, allow chips like the i3 to be overclocked. Unfortunately, it looks like Intel is unhappy with this and is forcing motherboard vendors to issue a new BIOS update to remove the ability to overclock non-K chips.
Ever since Sandy Bridge, Intel has tied the BLCK with other clocks like the PCIe and DMI, limiting the ability to overclock as the other buses wouldn’t be able to hit higher speeds. This meant overclocks generally hovered about 3-5Mhz, minuscule compared to the 50% overclocks achieved using the FSB or even with Westmere. In order to access the ability to overclock, Intel made users purchase more expensive K-series CPUs which often had certain features disabled and enforced the use of pricier Z/Q series motherboards.
When Skylake came out with overclocking and heavy advertising support from motherboard vendors, many had hoped that Intel was changing its policies. It appears that motherboard vendors acted on their own though as they have quietly taken down any mention of Skylake overclocking on non-K chips. This is unfortunate for those who bought the Z170 motherboard with the promise of overclocking as they will not be unable to and their resell value has gone down.
For those who want to circumvent the new BIOS, older BIOS version with OC-enabled still exist for now. However, upgrading to the new BIOS may be irreversible so motherboards shipping from the factory now are probably locked down. New BIOS revisions may also feature bug fixes so there is also that to consider. Furthermore, if Intel wanted to, it could ask Microsoft to issue a Windows update to change the microcode of the CPU to disable overclocking. Given that the automatic nature of Windows 10 updates, that may be reason enough to hold off upgrading.
Two renowned overclockers have pushed Intel’s Core i7-6700K CPU to its absolute limit, breaking the world record in the process. The German pair, Der8auer and Dancop, overclocked the retail Skylake processor to hit 7007.85MHz, using an ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Gene motherboard and 2x4GB G.Skill DDR4 RAM, TechFrag reports.
The validated data, submitted to CPU-Z, shows that the Germans raised the multiplier to 69x, using a base clock frequency of 101.56MHz, while the overclocking was achieved using only one of the CPU’s four cores enabled and an uncore frequency of 2438MHz.
The overclocking yielded 4.8GHz using air cooling, but, when they implemented -190oC cooling, managed to raise speeds up to 7007.85MHz.
The overclocking is a new world record, breaking the previous score of 6998.88MHz achieved by Chi-Kui Lam.
CPU Name: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6700K CPU @ 4.00GHz
BIOSTAR expands its broad portfolio of motherboards with the new H110MD PRO. The BIOSTAR H110MD PRO supports the latest 6th-generation Intel Core processors and uses the H110 chipset. Memory wise you’ll find support for older DDR3 standard on the H1110MD rather than the newer DDR4 standard.
The new series of motherboards is designed for the budget minded system builder that still wants some great features while not blowing the whole budget on just the motherboard. It features BIOSTAR’s Tough Power Enhanced power design for improved stability and AudioArt capacitors guaranteeing a whole different listening experience versus similar motherboards.
The Audio Art Capacitors are high-end Japanese Nichicon audio capacitors that bring audio to life and make a lot of difference in your experience. Behind the Tough Power Enhanced feature is a high-endurance power design that allows the BIOSTAR PRO series motherboards to endure high-current with consistent full energy output without additional energy loss.
The H110MD PRO also features the Iron Heart as BIOSTAR calls it. The Iron Heart is a reinforced CPU backplate found on these PRO-series motherboards and help prevent bending and stress caused by heavy CPU coolers. This protects the motherboard from potential damage as well as the double feature of adding further cooling to the CPU and VRM area. Next to these three features, the H110MD also features BIOSTAR’s 6+ experience that includes Speed+, Audio+, Video+, Durable+, Protection+ and DIY+.
Specifications wise the board is relatively simple and that was to be expected. That doesn’t mean that the board can’t be very useful. As mentioned previously, the H110MD comes with an LGA 1151 socket for the latest Intel 6th generation CPUs while using a 5-phase power design and the H110 chipset. The board is entirely built with solid capacitors which should increase the overall life expectancy. Next to a Skylake CPU, you can add up to 16GB DDR3L-1600 memory in the two DIMM slots. Expansion wise you won’t find a lot, but the basics are covered with one PCI-e 3.0 x16 and two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, a Gigabit Ethernet connection powered by a Realtek chip, and four SATA3 ports.
The new BIOSTAR H110MD Pro motherboard has an MSRP of $54.99 and is expected to be available shortly. A simple board with solid features at a decent price, looks like it’s all a match.
SuperMicro is one of the most respected names in the server industry and synonymous with unparalleled reliability. Whether you’re after a rackmount, blade server system or workstation motherboard, there’s nothing on the market which manages to enthuse such a sense of rock solid stability. Recently, the company has taken their server roots and impeccable reputation into enthusiast consumer motherboards. This allows them to retain the server framework while offering more ostentatious motherboard designs. Additionally, SuperMicro’s highly refined production line results in a low RMA rate and each product evokes such a premium feel. While their previous attempts have been a little rough around the edges, it’s clear to see the rapid progress in terms of motherboard layout and visual exuberance. Typically, motherboard manufacturers opt for the gaming themed red and black colour scheme because it caters towards the core demographic and maximize sales.
However, they have adopted a very different approach and launched the SuperMicro C7Z170-OCE, which utilizes a very striking green colour scheme. Not only that, the motherboard incorporates an impressive array of overclocking buttons to make manual tweaks without entering the BIOS. There’s also a high-quality speaker, and LED post readout to help with system diagnostics. The C7Z170-OCE’s electrical circuitry is designed with extreme overclocking in mind and able to push any Skylake CPU to its absolute limit. Yes, that means BCLK overclocking is possible even on a locked multiplier CPU. Although, given the Z170 chipset, this wouldn’t be a sensible choice.
Another key selling point is the embedded PLX PEX8747 chip capable of supporting 3-way SLI in a x16/x8/x8 configuration. If you require a 2-way setup, then the motherboard can easily accommodate this via a x16/x0/x16. Other notable features include a Realtek ALC1150 audio solution with dedicated PCB isolation, USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity, ample supply of fan headers and much more! As you can see, the motherboard sports an incredible specification and I expect it to perform superbly across CPU intensive tasks. In the past, I’ve experienced a few issues with our DDR4-2666MHz bench memory kit on SuperMicro products, so it will be interesting to see if compatibility has improved on this latest model.
Packaging and Accessories
The motherboard comes in SuperMicro’s iconic box design which looks fantastic and creates a sense of luxury.
On the rear, there’s a detailed description of SuperMicro’s philosophy to bring server quality to the gaming market. Furthermore, this section outlines the key specification in an easy-to-understand manner.
In terms of accessories, the motherboard is packaged with a driver disk, I/O shield, M.2 screws and a quick reference guide. Unlike the majority of other vendors, the SuperMicro guide is fairly brief and provides a technical rundown of the motherboard layout. While I find the included diagram quite useful, some users might prefer a more comprehensive set of instructions to help with troubleshooting. For example, the user’s guide directs you to URL to find the meaning of each BIOS debug code instead of printing them. This is important because when the system fails to post, you cannot access the online documentation. Although, I guess it’s easy enough to check on a phone or tablet for the meaning of each error code.
There’s also six SATA connectors in a red finish. Ideally, I’d like to see three of these with a right-angled end, and the red colour doesn’t really match the motherboard’s theme. Perhaps, swapping the red for green, or a jet black tone would enhance the overall level of synergy.
BIOSTAR’s new racing series adopts a really intriguing chequered-flag PCB design and looks fantastic! In the past, I’ve been fairly critical of their consumer motherboards due to the fairly outdated appearance. Thankfully, the company has significantly improved in this area and I’m sure it will help them to become more successful in western markets. The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 is based on Intel’s H170 chipset and supports Skylake processors. Please note, the H170 chipset cannot in theory support overclocking or DDR4 DIMMs beyond 2133MHz. On the other hand, unofficial BCLK overclocking might be possible even with a locked multiplier providing the BIOS provides this functionality.
The motherboard also features a 32Gb/s M.2 slot for high-speed drives and SATA Express. Another highlight is the VIVID LED DJ and 5050 LED FUN which allows the user to customize lighting embedded on the PCB and heatsinks. As you might expect, there’s a high-end audio solution and decided section of the PCB to eliminate EMI. In terms of discrete expansion options, you can use two AMD GPUs in crossfire, although I’d strongly recommend using a single GPU solution on any H170 product. Furthermore, there’s two PCI-E x1 slots to add a sound card, or similar device. BIOSTAR opted for a 7-phase power delivery which is very impressive given the lack of overclocking on H170. As a result, the motherboard should remain perfectly stable and exhibit a great lifespan.
On the rear I/O, there are PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, DVI-D, two HDMI, four USB 3.0, RJ45, two USB 2.0 and 8 channel audio. The motherboard has a recommended retail price of $94.40. In the coming weeks, we should be receiving a sample and will compare the motherboard to similar H170 alternatives, B150 products and the higher-end Z170 options. So far, I’m really impressed with the aesthetic design, and BIOSTAR are renowned for using premium components.
Intel’s Skylake architecture has received a number of negative headlines regarding its high cost compared to the previous generation, flexing with high pressure coolers and most recently, stability issues during heavy workloads. The stability bug predominately revolves around demanding software like Prime95 and caused systems to hang on a regular basis. Thankfully, motherboard vendors including ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI and now ASRock have quickly identified the problem and launched BIOS fixes. Here is the original statement from Intel:
“Intel has identified an issue that potentially affects the 6th Gen Intel® Core family of products. This issue only occurs under certain complex workload conditions, like those that may be encountered when running applications like Prime95. In those cases, the processor may hang or cause unpredictable system behavior. Intel has identified and released a fix and is working with external business partners to get the fix deployed through BIOS.”
As you can see, Prime95 is now completely stable across every ASRock 100-series motherboard, and all you have to do is apply the latest BIOS update. It’s great to see manufacturers release bug fixes so quickly especially when the issue impacts on system stability. Clearly, it’s only a minority of people who use complex workloads such as Prime95. On the other hand, I’d theorize that most Z170 customers overclock their CPU and require stress testing programs to gauge if a certain frequency/voltage combination is stable.
Personally, I’d recommend using AIDA64’s stress test because it appears to have fewer issues with Skylake CPUs. Although, it’s safe enough to run OCCT or Prime95, especially after the BIOS update. It seems Skylake has disappointed users and prices definitely need to come down to respectable levels. In the UK, an i7-6700K can cost upwards of £350, which almost defies belief!
Have you upgraded to Skylake or moved to the X99 platform instead?