ASUS Sabertooth Z170 S (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction

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

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

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

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

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

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

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

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

MSI is Now Offering Cashback on Selected Motherboards

Consumers have a staggering array of options when considering a new motherboard and it can be quite tricky to narrow down the choices. MSI produces a stunning range which targets various price points and user demands. Whether you’re looking for a flagship X99 server-grade product, or affordable H170 gaming motherboard, there’s something to suit everyone’s budget. The company has recently launched a promotion which allows you to receive cashback on the following motherboards:

X99A GODLIKE GAMING – £40.00
X99A GAMING 9 ACK – £40.00
X99A GAMING 7 – £30.00
C236A WORKSTATION – £30.00
Z170A GAMING M9 ACK – £30.00
Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION – £30.00
B150A GAMING PRO – £22.00
H170A GAMING PRO – £22.00
C236M WORKSTATION – £22.00
Z170A GAMING M7 – £22.00
Z170A GAMING M5 – £22.00
Z170A-G45 GAMING – £22.00
Z170A GAMING PRO – £22.00
Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON – £22.00
Z170A KRAIT GAMING 3X – £22.00
Z170I GAMING PRO AC – £22.00
Z170A TOMAHAWK AC – £15.00
Z170A TOMAHAWK – £15.00
Z170A SLI PLUS – £15.00
Z170M MORTAR – £15.00
H170M-A PRO – £15.00
H170I PRO AC – £15.00
B150M NIGHT ELF – £15.00
B150M MORTAR – £15.00
B150I GAMING PRO AC – £15.00
B150I GAMING PRO – £15.00

Please note the cashback offer is only available residents of the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Spain and Turkey. Furthermore, you need to have a valid proof of purchase from participating retailers. If you’re eligible, the claim process is really simple and shouldn’t take too long to complete. The promotion ends on the 18th April 2016, and all claims must be filled 30 days after the purchase date. Although, you can’t leave it longer than 60 days to complete.

To register your product and instigate a claim please visit this page. Cashback offers are always a great incentive and reduces the price of a product you’re considering by a decent amount. Perhaps, this is enough of a saving and an encouragement to upgrade to a higher-end model. Please remember the promotion is for a limited time so it’s important to register your claim as soon as possible. Personally, I feel the Z170A Pro Carbon is a bargain even without the cashback offer.

GIGABYTE Announces the Z170 March OC Madness Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shuttle Announces SZ170R8 Skylake-Based Mini-PC

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.

 

MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


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

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

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

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

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

Intel Shuts Down Non-K Skylake Overclocking

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

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

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

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

Scan Computers Unveils Awesome Skylake Bundle!

Many enthusiasts on older CPUs like the i7-2600K patiently waited for Skylake’s launch to upgrade their hardware. Unfortunately, Intel’s latest platform experienced supply problems in certain territories which led to eye watering prices on the flagship i7-6700K. In the UK, retailers were charging £100 extra compared to the i7-4790K which prevented many users from upgrading. Not only that, the i7-6700K actually costs more than a 6-core 5820K on the professional X99 architecture. Thankfully, Scan Computers has launched a superb bundle which might just be the package you’ve been waiting for. It includes an Intel i7-6700K, ASUS Maximus VIII Hero, Corsair H110i GT 280mm liquid cooling solution, 16GB Dual Channel Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz CL15 memory and ASUS Strix Glide mouse mat.

This makes it remarkably easy to overclock the CPU and you should manage within the 4.6-4.8GHz range. Please remember this does vary on the silicon lottery, but the H110i GT is an extreme grade cooler and backed by a 5 year warranty. Other important aspects to take into consideration is the motherboard’s superb SupremeFX audio, ROG software, gorgeous design and high-end components. As you can see, the package is designed for the extreme user who wants the ultimate in performance without moving to an X99 system.

In terms of pricing, the complete package costs £647.00 including next day delivery which is pretty good given the high-end hardware on offer. The only thing to be wary of is the 280mm radiator size, as older cases will struggle to support it. If you’re interested in purchasing the bundle, please navigate to this page. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the latest Skylake pricing and improvements compared to the previous generation. Do you feel the i7-6700K is still wildly overpriced? On my own personal rig, I decided to go down the X99 route instead based entirely on the poor value proposition of Intel’s top-end consumer chip.

MSI Launches X99 And Z170 Carbon Edition Motherboards @ CES 2016

CES 2016: MSI’s X99A GODLIKE GAMING motherboard is instantly recognizable with a feature list that almost defies belief. It’s certainly one of the best motherboards ever designed in terms of visual effects, build quality and overclocking prowess. While it’s an expensive proposition, there isn’t any other product like it on the market! However, not everyone enjoyed the lavish colour scheme, and wanted those amazing features in a more neutral package. Thankfully, MSI has delivered with the X99A GODLIKE GAMING CARBON. This black finish works beautifully with white builds and looks so sophisticated. Additionally, MSI has improved on the Mystic Light to add a sense of visual flair to the carbon layer.

The Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON follows a similar pattern, and is a revised version of the Z170A PRO GAMING. As you can see, the motherboard looks astonishing and is a real show piece. Nothing has been altered in the core specification (which is a good thing), and I’m really pleased with how the accents on the heatsink contrast with the PCB’s colour.

Do you prefer the stealth black look or traditional red and black gaming theme?

SuperMicro Announces C7Z170-OCE Gaming Motherboard @ CES 2016

CES 2016: SuperMicro is one of the most respected names in the server industry and produces motherboards with unparalleled reliability. Recently, the company expanded their focus and decided to enter the gaming market. Their latest product, the C7Z170-OCE adopts a green and black colour scheme and looks quite usual given the majority of gaming-themed motherboards rarely use this theme. As its name suggests, the motherboard is based on Intel’s LGA1151 chipset and supports 6th generation processors. Furthermore, the C7Z170-OCE accomodates up to 64GB DDR4 memory with an overclocked frequency up to 3300MHz.

On another note, the motherboard contains a PLX chip which makes it a fantastic choice for 2 or 3-way SLI configurations. Other notable additions include a 32Gb/s M.2 port, Realtek ALC 1150 audio codec with isolated PCB design and dual LAN. More specifically, you can choose between the Intel® i219V and Intel® I210-AT. As a result, either of these connections should provide superb bandwidth without having to deal with higher CPU utilizations which you often see from Killer chips like the E2400.

SuperMicro have also incorporated a number of advanced overclocking features to get the maximum potential of your CPU. This ranges from voltage monitoring, a 5-phase voltage switch regulator with auto-sense from 0.8375V-1.60V and other key system areas to analyse.  In terms of the motherboard layout, there is a total of five 4-pin CPU headers with PWM control and status monitoring.

Overall, the C7Z170-OCE looks stunning and appears to be a significant step forward in creating a gaming motherboard which does something completely different to the competition. In the next few weeks, we should have a review arriving at eTeknix headquarters, and I cannot wait to see how it performs.

BIOSTAR Introduces Racing Series Motherboards

We’ve mostly seen BIOSTAR motherboards in the HiFi series lately with their characteristic piano styled heatsinks, but BIOSTAR’s next generation of motherboards come with a new theme: Racing. The first motherboards in the new BIOSTAR Racing series are the Z170GT7, H170GT3, and B150GT5 where the names already reveal the chipsets used: Z170, H170, and B150 respectively.

BIOSTAR is mostly known as a budget manufacturer, but they use some high-quality components as these new motherboards also prove. They come with Super Durable Ferrite chokes for high-quality power delivery to vital components, Super Durable Solid Caps for longer-lasting performance, and DUAL BIOS that guarantees resilient motherboard operation if the BIOS should fail. All three come with Intel LAN and the storage options include the new and faster SATA-Express and PCI-e M.2 slots for use with the newest storage drives on the market.

Just because these boards don’t come in the HiFi series, doesn’t mean that the Racing series doesn’t have good audio components and they also come with BIOSTAR’s signature HI-FI audio experience. The motherboards feature an I/O Armor to give the system a better look and also comes with customizable LED effects. You expand your chassis and increase the lighting abilities thanks to the onboard 5050-header for LED strips and then control it via the included VIVID LED DJ.

Besides what I’ve already mentioned, you get a new 100 series motherboard with the features that this brings along, such as plenty of USB connections from 2.0 to 3.1, Intel i217 LAN, plenty of storage connectivity, and four DDR4 DIMM slots along with BIOSTAR’s BIO-Remote 2 and online BIOS update functions that both are extremely useful.

The new BIOSTAR Racing Series is built on what they call the BIOSTAR 6+ Experience and it is composed out of six main features: Speed+, Audio+, Video+, Durable+, Protection+ and DIY+. All things that matter.

BIOSTAR didn’t reveal any pricing at this time but expect them to be cheaper than the average board in the same categories. Sadly there weren’t more photos provided and the official product pages haven’t launched yet, but I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more on these board during CES 2016.

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

Introduction


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

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

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

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

A Closer Look

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

Asus Maximus VIII Extreme Overclocking Review

Introduction


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction


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

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

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

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

A Closer Look

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

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

G.Skill Boosts DDR4 8GB Module Speed up to 4133MHz


G.Skill is synonymous with extreme memory speeds and a common choice for professional overclockers looking to break bandwidth records. Their latest product range is based on massive DDR4 frequencies which range between 3600MHz to a staggering 4133MHz. Please note, this refers to 8GB DIMMs in a number of different configurations. Here is a complete rundown of the high-bandwidth TridentZ modules:

To achieve the maximum frequencies, G.Skill utilizes premium Samsung ICs and validated the 4133MHz kit with an i7-6700K. Here are the results which show the memory is perfectly stable and reaches the full bandwidth:

The elite-tier of DDR4 memory is incredible and a huge boost from the fastest DDR3 kits available. Furthermore, DDR4 is becoming more affordable, and replaced DDR3 on the mainstream Z170 platform. As a result, DDR4 is no longer consigned to the expensive X99 professional chipset. The huge bandwidth on G.Skill’s TridentZ modules now applies to 8GB DIMMs instead of the original 4GB SKUs which were quite limiting. Sadly, we don’t have a a suggested retail price at this time but this information should be revealed quite soon.

Clearly, the TridentZ memory is designed for extreme overclocking, but it’s always impressive to see the operating frequency on premium modules. On another note, the TridentZ DIMMs adopt a fantastic heatsink design which accompanies a red and black gaming build superbly.

ASRock Introduces Fatal1ty Z170 Professional Series Gaming i7 Motherboard

ASRock introduces their newest motherboard as the “highest performance gaming motherboard available” and it surely is packed full of great features. The ASRock-Fatal1ty Z170 Professional Series Gaming i7 is built with Intel’s latest chipset, the Z170, and supports the 6th generation Intel Core processors as well as the fastest DDR4 modules around. It has 12 power phases, three native graphic output options, and four PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots for triple CrossFireX or Quad SLI setups.

The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming i7 doesn’t lack any sort of connectivity. It is equipped with Dual gigabit Intel LAN, three Ultra M.2 slots, ten SATA3, and three SATA Express ports. There are plenty of USB connectors with a total of up to eight USB 2.0, eight USB 3.0, and two USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports. Naturally, it also features a Fatal1ty mouse port with extra low latency. The audio is covered by a 7.1 Channel HD Audio codec (Realtek ALC1150) that supports Purity Sound 3 & DTS Connect.

Both the PCI Express slots and the memory slots have gold-plated connectors for optimal connection and the caps are Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps, creating a stable platform for your gaming experiences. The external base clock generator provides a wider range of frequencies and a more precise clock that helps overclockers with more control over their system. All in all, this motherboard has it all.

MSI Launches Z170A SLI Plus Motherboard

MSI are one of the hottest names in the PC component market, having created some of the best graphics cards and motherboards of recent years, they’re a very popular choice for system builders. Their Pro series of motherboard get its final addition today, with the release of the all-black Z170A SLI PLUS, a board that takes many of the features we’ve seen in the stunning X99A SLI PLUS motherboard, but just a little more up to date.

“Offering an enhanced experience and the best in productivity and reliability the Z170A SLI PLUS motherboard has been configured to satisfy even the most demanding user.” – MSI

Equipped with USB 3.1 Type-C, Audio Boost, SLI and CrossFire support, Steel Armor PCI-E slots, Military Class 4 components, DDR4 Boost, Turbo M.2, Click BIOS 5 and more, there’s no doubt that this is a feature packed board that will appeal to many.

There’s no official spec sheet just yet, but given MSI’s track record, I have high expectations for this board. Prices in the UK are expected to be around £109 and retailers should have stock any time now, so keep a look out for them if you want to get one of the first batch.

Would you put the Z170A SLI PLUS motherboard into your next system build?

BIOSTAR Releases Combo DDR3 & DDR4 Z170 Motherboard

 

Skylake has quickly become the go-to platform for builders since its launch, but for some there’s the issue with memory, or rather an issue of the users wanting to upgrade their memory. DDR4 is upon us and while the current costs of DDR4 are about the same as DDR3, some users don’t wish to upgrade that part yet. BIOSTAR’s latest motherboard release is for just those people as it is one of them that support both DDR3 and DDR4 memory.

The new motherboard is the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z170Z5 and as the name suggests, it’s based on the Z170 chipset and comes with BIOSTAR’s enhanced audio features. You can use either dual-channel DDR3L 1333/1600MHz memory or dual channel DDR4 1866/2133MHz memory, but not both at the same time. It does however allow for a more seamless upgrade off individual parts along your upgrade way.

The motherboard is ATX sized and provides both modern and legacy connection types in a somewhat weird combination for these days. There are only two PCI-E x16 3.0 slots where one runs at x16 speed and one at x4 speed. There is also a single PCI-E x1 3.0 slot. The somewhat weird thing is the inclusion of three legacy PCI slots.

As the Hi-Fi branding and the heatsink layout suggests, this motherboard’s main features are the audio specific ones. The Hi-Fi Z170Z5 features Blu-Ray audio and built-in amplifier. The audio components use an independent power delivery system for significant reduction in electronic noise and good sound quality. BIOSTAR also included their SmartSpeedLAN software that’s essentially a QoS that prioritizes the traffic you want. Charge Booster allows you to charge mobile devices faster and you can remote control the system via BIO-Remote2 for Android and Apple devices, and much more.

 

BIOSTAR didn’t reveal a price at this time, but the Hi-Fi Z170Z5 should be available very soon and then we’ll find out. It should however be one of the cheaper boards judging from the feature list and available connections.

Thunderbolt 3 Coming to Gigabyte Z170 Motherboards via a BIOS Update

Thunderbolt 3 is capable of 40Gbps via a USB Type-C connector and able to power dual 4K displays or a single 5K monitor at 60Hz. This astonishing amount of bandwidth is integrated into Intel’s Alpine Ridge USB 3.1 controller on the H170 and Z170 chipset. As a result, any motherboard passing Intel’s certification can theoretically access the enhanced speed. Although, it is in the hands of manufacturers to offer a software update to utilize this added functionality.

Gigabyte is providing a firmware update for the GA-Z170X-Gaming G1, GA-Z170X-Gaming GT, and GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 to offer the enhanced speeds. As a result, Gigabyte’s supported range is becoming quite comprehensive. It’s impressive to see such a quick reaction to the potential of Thunderbolt 3.0 and giving early adopters improved functionality. Whether any affordable consumer displays support Thunderbolt 3 is another topic for discussion. However, the interface could become essential in the future when displays surpass the 4K resolution.

Thunderbolt 3 contains 100w of charging power which might prove to be more useful for the average consumer. Whatever the case, I’m pleased to see motherboard partners offering firmware updates and adding more value to each z170 motherboard. Sadly, the 1151 CPUs are quite expensive at the moment which is limiting the amount of people upgrading from older sockets.

ASUS Unveils Maximus VIII Extreme Z170 Motherboard

ASUS has officially revealed their top-of-the-range socket 1151 motherboard which retails for $499.99. The Maximus VIII Extreme adopts the Extended ATX form factor and supports Intel’s latest Skylake architecture. As you might expect, the motherboard contains a wealth of advanced overclocking features and utilizes ASUS’ Extreme Engine DIGI+ voltage-regulator module (VRM). This regulation allows for stable power delivery when tweaking and finding the optimal frequency of a particular CPU.

The motherboard also supports DDR4 memory speeds in excess of 3866MHz with all four DIMM slots populated. Additionally, ASUS’ Pro Clock Technology allows you to use overclocked base clocks in excess of 400MHz. This works alongside ROG’s TurboV Processing Unit giving the user full control to find every last inch of performance.

This flagship motherboard is fitted with ROG’s Supreme FX audio which contains an SS ES9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with Hyperstream technology, ultra-low-jitter clock and premium Nichicon capacitors. The audio section also features a headphone amplifier which detects the ohm rating and adjusts the optimal volume range.

In terms of connectivity, the motherboard utilizes Thunderbolt 3, U.2, M.2, SATA Express and USB 3.1 as well as 4 PCI Express Gen 3 slots. On the rear IO, there is a BIOS update switch, CMOS reset, integrated WiFi, PS/2 port, USB 3.1 Type-C and more! 

Finally, the package comes with a wide array of accessories such as the Q-connector and OC Panel II. This particular device is used to display voltages, temperatures and communicate with a variety of PWM and full-speed fans. Other notable features include Subzero Sense, VGA Hotwire, Slow Mode and a Pause switch.

What’s the maximum you would pay for a motherboard?

ECS Z170-Claymore (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


It’s a relief to be able to talk about this, I first caught a very brief glimpse of this motherboard at Cebit 2015 as a bare unit without heat sinks; it was nice to have a quick look considering the final products were displayed at Computex in July. Since then we have had the official launch of Skylake and the Z170 chipset and over the last few weeks, we have had some time to come to grips with what Z170 has to offer. We’ve seen motherboards which took a classic colour scheme in a new direction, multiple M.2 ports and some basic units that surprised in the performance department.

In the test bench today, we have the EliteGroupd (ECS) Z170-Claymore. One of the older brands that seemed to have taken a step back from the mainstream consumer motherboards ranges like MSI, Gigabyte and ASUS, but has probably one of the richest histories and wealth of knowledge to produce some of the best motherboards we have the chance of testing. Like in a previous article, the ECS Z97i-Drone was not only one of the strongest ITX motherboards, but also one of the overall best Z97 motherboards we have tested.

This isn’t the most flashy motherboard we’ve seen, but what it lacks in looks it’s set to make up in performance thanks to the nearly 30 years experience that ECS has put behind this. Let’s find out if that’s enough to take the win in todays review.

Specification

Special Features

Most motherboard manufacturers tend to throw in so many extra features, that most users will likely never have the chance to use most of them or even want to use them. ECS is slightly different, it offers the bare essentials and by doing this it keeps the overall cost down or the additional monetary value has been put into fine-tuning the motherboard itself. With this motherboard, ECS include four key utilities with some slightly confusing names:

  • eBlu – Easy BIOS information and updating
  • eDLU – Easy Driver information and updating
  • eSF – Smart fan control
  • EZ Charger

Packing and Accessories

I opened the delivery package and almost needed sunglasses to see. The almost glossy gold colour scheme reflected the light well but also gives off a high-end premium feel.


The back of the box offers a quick overlook of the motherboard and ports. Along with this, the key features such as the high-speed USB, M.2 and SATA Express ports and the brand new Realtek DRAGON LAN option.

The accessories available aren’t as much as some of the more mainstream options, but it offers you exactly what you need with no frills. There are the usual user manual and driver disc, a colour coded IO shield, 4x SATA cables, 2x M.2 screws and risers.

ASUS Announces Z170 ROG Maximus VIII Impact ITX Motherboard

ASUS has officially unveiled the Republic of Gamers, Maximus VIII Impact which supports Intel’s latest Skylake architecture and ultra-fast DDR4 memory. This incredibly compact ITX-design doesn’t skimp on features and utilizes a full-scale voltage regulator module. This allows for a reliable power delivery and headroom to achieve high frequency overclocks. The motherboard also integrates 5-Way Optimization auto-tuning and Pro Clock technology to reach the very limits of your CPU and DDR4 Memory speed capabilities.

There is also a bundled fan extension card to enhance the system’s cooling and maintain low temperatures across the main components. On another note, the SupremeFX impact III chipset contains illuminated audio jacks, supreme audio quality, and shielding. Additionally, the Sonic SenseAmp automatically detects the impedance of your headphones and adjusts the ohms rating up to 6000!

 

In terms of connectivity, the motherboard embeds a single HDMI port, 802.11ac Wi-Fi with all-new MU-MUMO, built-in so you don’t waste any USB ports, USB 3.1 Gen. 2 Type-A and reversible Type-C connections for up to twice the speed of USB 3.0, and the built-in U.2 connector delivers transfer speeds of up to 32Gbit/s. There is a wide array of special features such as an easy BIOS update switch and CMOS reset button. On the rear, an LED post-readout is positioned to help with fault checking.

We can also see the single PCI-e x16 gen 3.0 slot, attractive heatsink design and 4 SATA ports. From a visual standpoint, the board is absolutely breathtaking and we expect to bring you a review in the coming weeks.

What size motherboard are you currently using?

Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information.

Win a Chillblast Fusion Mantis Skylake Gaming PC

Want to win this fantastic gaming PC worth £779? Of course you do! The Fusion Mantis would make a great first PC, or even an upgrade to your current one and all you have to do to enter is follow the simple steps below.

One lucky winner is going to feel like Christmas has come early this year, just check out the specs below and fill out the entry form for your chance to win this spectacular prize!

  • NZXT Source 340 Mid Tower Case
  • Intel Core i5 6600K Processor overclocked to up to 4.4GHz
  • Corsair H55 Liquid Cooler
  • Gigabyte Z170XP-SLI Motherboard
  • GeForce GTX 960 2GB Graphics Card
  • 8GB 2133MHZ DDR4 Memory
  • 1000GB Seagate SSHD Hybrid Drive
  • Corsair CX600 PSU
  • Onboard High Definition Audio
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit

“The Mantis adds to our line-up of monster gaming PCs with serious bite. Slick and deadly inside NZXT’s new Source 340 mid tower case in either black or white, the Mantis is armed with Nvidia’s brand new GTX 960 2GB graphics card to deliver stunning gaming performance. An i5 6600K processor overclocked up to a whopping 4.4Ghz, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a Gigabyte Z170XP-SLI motherboard all combine to ensure the Mantis is always a powerful step ahead of the competition. A Corsair H55 liquid cooler keeps everything running at optimum temperatures and an intelligent Seagate 1TB SSHD hybrid means you’re not going to run out of places to put your steam library any time soon.

This system comes fully installed with Windows 10 Home 64bit as standard, and includes NVIDIA GeForce Experience that optimizes games for your PC, right out of the box, with one-click drivers and settings!” – Chillblast

Win a Chillblast Fusion Mantis Skylake Gaming PC

Patriot Unveils Viper 4 3600MHz DDR4 Memory

Patriot has announced the ultra-fast Viper 4 dual channel DDR4 memory kit featuring a 3600MHz frequency designed for the latest Intel Skylake platform. This marks Patriot’s fastest ever memory product since the release of another dual channel 3400MHz kit back in September. In terms of timings, the memory utilizes 17-18-18-36 with a voltage rating of 1.35V.

Les Henry, VP of Engineering at Patriot said about the product launch:

“Our Viper 4 Line continues to reach new heights with our latest launch of the new 3600MHz kit paired with the new Intel® Skylake Platform.”

“We will continue to prescreen each IC prior to building the modules to ensure stability and provide unsurpassed performance to our customers.”

Additionally, the memory is compatible with XMP 2.0 for quick configuration with manual overclocking options for the more experienced end-user. Furthermore, peace-of-mind is offered via a lifetime warranty and each module is hand-tested to ensure widespread system compatibility. The Patriot Viper 4 3600MHz kit will be available worldwide today from leading retailers with a starting price of $169.99 in North America. The cost in European nations could vary due to currency conversion sales plus tax. Ideally, a UK price of around £125.99 would make for a very affordable but lightning fast memory kit.

We hope to provide you with an in-depth review very soon!

Have you transitioned to DDR4 yet?

Intel to Enable SGX on Latest Batch of Skylake CPUs

Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGX) originally arrived on the Haswell architecture and provides an instructions set which allows programs to offset private memory subsets for data purposes. On launch, the first batch of Skylake CPUs had this feature disabled for some unknown reason. Thankfully, the latest batch and all future Skylake samples contains SGX by default according to a Product Change Notification.

The CPUs in question are the Xeon E3-1200 v5, Core i5, and Core i7 variants with a different S-Spec code to determine each chip’s batch revision. The SGX enabled CPUs should become available on October 26th and doesn’t require any mechanical changes or re-certification. While this isn’t going to be a major concern for consumers, it’s interesting to see SGX being disabled on launch. Please note, only the S-Spec code will change and the naming scheme will remain the same.

Skylake prices have soared since the launch date and even surpassed the 5820K at certain retailers. Hopefully, as the supply chain improves, prices will decrease and the architecture could become a good upgrade path for those on older Intel chips.

What CPU are you currently using in your setup?

Thank you The Tech Report for providing us with this information.

SuperMicro C7Z170-SQ (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


SuperMicro isn’t that much of a household name in today’s market, you get swamped by all of the advertisements from Gigabyte, ASUS and similar. But turn back the calendar and everyone and their friend at least knew the name. Focusing primarily on the server and business market, SuperMicro doesn’t really cross the consumer line on a large-scale, but when it does we get server quality and performance at a much user-friendly level.

If you take a look back through the years of motherboard design, SuperMicro was quite late to adopt any special colour schemes or unique heat sink designs, the first notable design change being the C7Z87-OCE, which took the classic green PCB and changed to blue, wow! With the introduction of Z97, SuperMicro then started to spend a little bit more time and resources on the looks with the C7Z97-OCE.

Today in the testbench, we have the SuperMicro C7Z170-SQ. This is the current gaming option from the company and it doesn’t actually look too bad. The key red touches and subtle heat sink design leans more towards a gaming feel. Let’s find out if the company has been successful in the consumer venture this time in our testing.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

Why does it feel that this box has come straight from the 1980’s, with the cut corners and laser effect font.


The back of the box features a fair amount of text describing what SuperMicro can bring to the Z170 chipset and consumers. There is a small specification list and feature images, but something that has really caught my eye is the old style Intel Core logos. I’m sure Intel spend a lot of money on this branding, so hopefully future consumer products will feature the newer style.

You can tell that SuperMicro are focused on performance and quality rather than the ‘shiny’ things. Inside the box is a standard IO shield, extra long (server style) SATA cables and an in-depth product leaflet and driver disc.

MSI Z170 XPOWER is Now in Stock From Major UK Retailers

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

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

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

Kingston Announces HyperX Savage DDR4 Memory up to 3000MHz

With the release of Intel’s new Skylake platform, more and more people are in the need for DDR4 memory instead of the older generation of DDR3 modules. Sure, there are a few boards that support DDR3, but why go for something lesser when you don’t have to. Kingston’s enthusiast department HyperX has released their newest DDR4 modules that are designed to work with Skylake on the Z170 and 100 series chipsets as well as the a little older X99 chipset.

The new modules from Kingston’s HyperX division are called Savage and come with speeds of up to 3000MHz. The built-in XMP profiles are optimized for both Intel’s Core i7 and Core i5 CPUs and allow for the easy setup that we’ve come to rely on. The new Savage modules are available as single modules up to 8GB and kits up to 64GB, which is the downside here. More and more people are looking to go beyond the natural limitation you deal with when limited to a maximum of 8GB per module, but I’m sure that bigger version already are in the works.

“We are excited to present this new high speed, yet power efficient memory for those gamers and enthusiasts looking to maximize system performance,” said Lawrence Yang, business manager, HyperX. “HyperX Savage DDR4 offers consumers standout performance, and with its asymmetrical die-cast aluminum, low-profile heat spreader and matching black PCB a standout look to upgrade any system.”

As mentioned the modules go up to 8GB capacity each, but there is also a 4GB version available. The frequencies available range from 2133MHz to 3000MHz, allowing you to choose what you need and prevent you from spending a lot of money on something you might not even need. The CAS Latency is rated between 12 and 15 and the modules are backed by Kingston’s known lifetime warranty.

HyperX Savage DDR4 Features and Specifications:

  • Capacities: 4GB-8GB (single), 8GB-64GB (kits)
  • Frequency: 2133MHz, 2400MHz, 2666MHz, 2800MHz and 3000MHz
  • CAS Latency: 12-15
  • Voltage: 1.2V or 1.35V
  • Operating Temperature: 0°C to 85°C
  • Storage Temperature: -55°C to 100°C
  • Dimensions: 133.35mm x 34.57mm
  • Compatible with: X99, Z170, H110, H170 and B150
  • Reliable: 100% tested
  • Guaranteed: Lifetime warranty