With the launch of yet another Windows OS, motherboard manufacturers the world over are testing the archives of motherboards to ensure compatibility with it. Gigabyte is the latest motherboard manufacturer to certify that a large range of latest generation motherboards are Windows 10 ready.
Gigabyte built their motherboards on great components, meaning that some users may still be using older technology; this is why Gigabyte has gone the extra mile to ensure compatibility all the way back to H61 chipset.
The most popular versions, such as Intel X99, Z97 and Z87 are widely covered, along with AMD 990FX, 990X and 970 chipsets. However, some users who are using AMD 800 chipset or Intel’s Z77 may not be covered fully. For a full list of support motherboards, please visit this website set-up by Gigabyte.
Windows 10 brings back the start menu that so many old school users missed with the introduction of Windows 8/ 8.1 and left many stranded back on Windows 7 because of this. Along with that reintroduction, Windows 10 also brings forward DirectX12 support, which is a huge reason why many users will be upgrading.
One note that Gigabyte did add is some minor issues which are easily overcome:
“Note: Some advanced Windows 10 features require optimized specifications such as a touch screen monitor, a UEFI BIOS, and an SSD that may not be available in every legacy and entry-level system.”
Today we are examining our second memory kit from GeIL after looking at their lovely EVO POTENZA kit. The DRAGON RAM series is where the kit we’re looking at today comes from and from the above picture it is quite easy to see how the DRAGON theme is working. This is the first time I’ve seen RAM without a heatspreader come with a patterned design, as you can see the pattern is sprayed onto the PCB and the memory chips are secured on top. The DRAGON RAM series offers more moderate speeds compared to the EVO POTENZA and is a bit more budget orientated but still comes with some good looks. The other standout feature is the addition of red LEDs on the module which we will show you on the next page. Looks aside this is a fairly basic CL11 1600MHz kit formed of two 4GB DIMMs, the product is backed by a lifetime warranty so you know you’re getting good quality too.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging flaunts the DRAGON theme which isn’t surprising as I know the DRAGON theme has been popular on a lot of hardware, one of the main reasons MSI have stuck to it so adamantly on their motherboards.
As you might expect the packaging is fairly simple, the RAM comes in a clear plastic container with a caution notice that warns you to correctly configure the SPD and voltage settings of your RAM before you use it. As it supports XMP it is recommended you just enabled your XMP profile from within the motherboard BIOS if your motherboard supports this.
A Closer Look
The modules themselves are a tad strange. We have a full matte-black PCB but all the memory chips and the main pattern is only present on one side of the module. Let’s see how they look in some motherboards next.
GeIL, or Golden Emperor International Limited, are certainly not a new player in the technology industry even if many people in the “West” have not heard of them. GeIL Memory are veterans of the DRAM industry having made memory products since 1993. GeIL as a broader company also make power supplies under the Thortech Power brand and they make peripherals under the EpicGear brand. Today we are looking at GeIL’s EVO POTENZA memory kit described as a product for “hardcore gamers”. More specifically we have the 16GB 2400MHz kit from GeIL which boasts a lifetime warranty, a beautiful white and black design and full native Intel Z77/Z87/Z97 support with XMP profiles. You can of course use the RAM with other platforms but with such a high frequency those platforms are recommended most.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is fairly simple and it can afford to be since this is just memory. The rugged design of the product is the main method of targeting this at gamers.
Included is merely the memory kit with a read me notice on how to configure the SPD and Voltage options. Most people should just enable XMP once you enter the BIOS.
A Closer Look
The modules themselves are fantastic looking pieces. They come with matte black PCBs and slightly raised up white heat spreaders. The black and white contrast is a fantastic look. The heat spreader is made from a textured metal finish, the overall height of the product is 48mm/4.8cm.
Intel was working hard to encourage motherboard makers to push users into upgrading to Z97, which features the latest Intel Series 9 chipsets. This meant that to use the new Devil Canyon CPU’s from Intel, you had to upgrade your motherboard, until now.
Most of us thought that the new chips would require an upgrade, but ASUS have their own ideas. ASUS has taken Intel down a few pegs by adding support for Devil’s Canyon CPUs on its Z87 motherboards!
“Most, if not all of their Z87 boards have received a BIOS update allowing the use of Intel’s devil canyon processors. This is also backed up on their Cpu support lists”. said a post on the XtremeSystems forums.
This is obviously a very good thing for consumers, and it’s good to see ASUS giving us the option of an update, not a forced upgrade, especially when high-end motherboard that you own in Z87 format and a new Z97 board could end up costing you hundred of dollars.
Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information.
EVGA has just revealed their lineup of new motherboards that are hitting the market along side the launch of Intel’s Haswell refresh. The new boards are pretty much what you would have expected from EVGA, and they’re actually very similar to their EVGA Z87 Classified and EVGA Z87 Stinger, but of course they’ve now been bumped up to support the latest Z97 chipset.
The EVGA Z97 Stinger Mini-ITX features a 10-layer PCB, supports to DDR3 2666MHz DIMMs, four SATA 6Gbps ports, 1 x PCI-e x16 and 5.1 Creative Core 3D audio.
The EVGA Z97 FTW features an ATX form factor, 4 x PCI-e x16 slots, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, four DDR3 DIMM slots, 1 x M.2 connector, dual bios and voltage read points, but no Creative Audio chip like the mini-ITX model.
The flagship of the range is the EVGA Z97 Classified, featuring four DDR3 DIMM slots, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, five PCI-e x16 slots, dual Intel network controllers, one mPCIe slot, Creative Core3d Audio, triple BIOS and support for LucidLogix Virtu MVP 2.
The range starts at $199 for the Stinger right up to $379 for the Classified, not cheap, but they do look pretty awesome, so we look forward to seeing how they perform in the coming weeks and month.
Thank you DigitalStorm for providing us with this information.
In the early stages of last year, Intel released one of the biggest products of 2013 into the market place and no – it was not Haswell. What I am referring to here is the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC as it is more commonly known. Part of what makes this product so special is its ultra compact design, but on top of that, the system that’s tucked inside has a little more to offer over what one would expect from a system of its size. When we took a look at the first generation NUC and also Gigabyte’s own first generation Brix, the results that we got back showed the performance to be somewhat average, leaving them at the entry-level end of the scale. Consequently, these systems are ideal for basic home office use, but if you want a little more grunt from your system then sadly these early units just won’t cut the mustard.
Since those reviews went live, we have seen a number of Brix branded systems come out of the Gigabyte factories and towards the end of last year we caught wind that there was something special on the way which could potentially remodel the entry-level image that the first generation systems have given us. The question is though, can we really get desktop performance out of a unit this small? Granted this new creation is twice as tall as the first generation Brix, but are we getting substantially more performance as well? Bring forward the Brix Pro GB-BXi7-4770R.
When we take a look at the spec list that the Brix Pro has on offer, the biggest difference that we have to note is the step up to Intel’s high performance i7 Haswell CPU. Obviously we shouldn’t be expecting a 4770k to be residing in a system of these dimensions, however the 4770R that we do have is actually not a million miles off what its bigger brother has to offer. With a TDP of 65w and a core clock speed of 3.2GHz boosting up to 3.9GHz, there is certainly a lot of poke beneath the covers so we have got the spirit of a 4770k, although overclocking is not present and the power envelope has been reduced to save on the power consumption.
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770R @ 3.9GHz
Cooler: Copper heatsink with blower fan
RAM: Support for up to 16GB 1333 /1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM
Storage: mSATA slot plus SATA header for 7.0/9.5mm 2.5″ drives
Naturally it is a little hard to test a barebones system as it is so we need to add in a couple of key components before we can put everything through its paces. Over the specifications listed above, a 240GB Intel 525 series mSATA SSD and a 1TB WD Red 2.5″ HDD have been added for storage along with 8GB of Kingston’s 1600MHz ValueRAM.
In addition to the i7 processor, the other key component that the Brix Pro has to offer is Intel’s latest Iris Pro 5200 series graphics. Now at this point I can imagine that a few of you out there are shrugging your shoulders at the thought of Intel graphics, but Iris Pro is nothing like the HD4000 series graphics that we find onboard a 4770k for example. Simply put Intel have stepped up their game with Iris and reworked the way in which their graphics core works to offer up much more power and performance. In simple terms this means that there is the potential for gaming at an average level of detail and this is there for the reason why the Brix Pro has been featured recently as part of the Steam Box era.
Whilst I do state that gaming is a potential application for the Brix Pro, the more modest graphics performance that Iris has to offer is not going to make the Brix Pro the perfect alternative for your full-fat pixel pushing gaming rig – it is just a more tame alternative. Where the Brix Pro is also suited is with the prosumer user group, where image editing and design work requires the more powerful Intel processors and where applications such as Adobe Photoshop relish when surrounded by the higher specified components. By the time we take the price of the bare system and add on the extra components that we have used here (not including operating system) we are looking at a ball park purchase price of around £880 in the UK or around $1080 in the US.
Like the Brix Pro, the packaging is condensed right down with almost no space going to waste. Tucked neatly inside the box, Gigabyte include a full driver set and setup guide, regional power adaptor, VESA bracket and screws for mounting the system to the back of a monitor and finally a small rubber bung to close off the SPDIF output on the front of the system.
The mini-ITX trend continues to gain ground in the desktop market as enthusiasts look to make cooler, sexier and more compact systems. To an extent the shift towards more compact form factors and designs is the desktop market’s response to the increasing pressure from popular mobile form factors like the tablet and the ultrabook. However, while that may be true to an extent, mini-ITX just makes sense for a number of a reasons. If you’re only going to use a single graphics card, a pair of memory modules and a handful of SATA devices then why bother with ATX or even micro-ATX. That is especially relevant these days when mini-ITX boards have absolutely everything you could need, and then a little more.
That’s exactly what we have on offer today as we’re taking a look at MSI’s Z87I Gaming AC motherboard. This is MSI’s first mini-ITX “Gaming Series” branded motherboard and it has all the hallmarks of a gaming-orientated motherboard – a Killer NiC, high quality audio components and a boat-load of connectivity options. However, it also has all the hallmarks of a solid enthusiast/overclocking motherboard as we’ve come to expect from most company’s “Gaming” product lines. Despite its size there’s full support for overclocking Haswell K series CPUs, a 6 phase VRM, support for up to 3000MHz+ RAM, MSI’s OC Genie 4 and a fully decked out UEFI BIOS with lot’s of overclocking and tweaking options.
The specifications, shown below, resemble a lot of other Z87 mini-ITX motherboards on the market. The reason for that similarity across the vendors is there’s only so much you can fit onto such a small PCB and given the Z87 chipset is already feature rich there’s little room to customise. However, MSI have done some things quite differently – namely the mini-PCIe bluetooth and 802.11 AC WiFi card which gives you a lot more flexibility to make a portable LAN gaming rig – you don’t need to be tied down to an Ethernet connection, though for most gamers Ethernet is still probably the preferred option.
I’m not going to bombard you with the entire set of MSI marketing, because that’s not really useful to anyone. However, I have picked out some of the key parts that I think will interest buyers the most. First is the Killer Networking chip, or Killer NIC. The basis for this is the Qualcomm Atheros E2205 Killer Gaming chip. In theory it should accelerate your gaming (UDP, or sometimes TCP) related traffic over other conventional forms of traffic (HTTP for example). Of course how effective the Killer NIC will be is going to be very dependent on the quality of your network infrastructure and broadband service.
Next up is MSI’s “Audio Boost” package which is essentially the Realtek ALC1150 codec with some extra add-ons such as gold plated audio jacks, EMI shielding of the codec, a headphone amplifier and higher quality audio capacitors. While all the extras make for nice marketing material the reality is that the quality of the audio is determined by the codec, however, the ALC1150 codec is solid so expect great audio. The headphone amplifier should also be useful to Gamers who use headsets.
MSI have also implemented their “Gaming Device Port” which is essentially USB 2.0 ports with up to 1000Hz polling rates, though most USB ports can do this anyway. There’s also extra gold plating for all the USB and PS/2 ports.
MSI’s Military Class 4 component package is also present which includes the usual suspects – SFCs, Dark Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and so on.
As I’ve mentioned already this motherboard has an integrated 802.11 AC WiFi card and a Bluetooth module. However, there’s another nifty featured worth mentioning which is that the module has full support for Intel’s WiDi (Wireless Display) technology. You will need a WiDi ready display to use it but it’s something nice to have and gives you even more portability.
Avexir may not be the biggest name in the world of performance desktop memory but they have certainly been gaining in popularity and reputation over the past year, and rightly so. Today we are taking a look at a variety of DDR3 modules from Avexir that form part of their new Blitz Series 1.1. Instead of just sending us a traditional kit Avexir have sent us one module from each of the different designs they offer in the Blitz Series 1.1. Avexir offer the following styles:
MPower (Styled for MSI MPower motherboards)
Gaming Dragon (Styled for MSI Gaming Series motherboards)
OC Formula (Styled for ASRock OC Formula motherboards)
L337 Gold (Styled for ECS L337 Gaming Gold motherboards)
L337 Red (Styled for ECS L337 Gaming Red motherboards)
Ultra Durable Orange (Styled for Gigabyte Ultra Durable Orange motherboards)
Ultra Durable Green (Styled for Gigabyte G1 Killer Series motherboards)
We received all of the styles except the Gaming Dragon one, as presumably this wasn’t ready at the time we received these kits. Avexir also offer a wide variety of SKUs in the Blitz Series 1.1, they are as follows:
We received the 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory modules with 9-9-9-24 (CL9) timings and a 1.5 voltage. The Avexir Blitz Series 1.1 RAM came nicely packaged inside this luxury black presentation box.
The packaging lists the key features of the Avexir Blitz Series 1.1. As we can see Avexir is targeting both overclockers and gamers with the Blitz Series 1.1. Key features include:
With AMD fizzling out in the high end desktop market segment, people are increasingly choosing the Intel LGA 1150 platform for high end gaming systems. Not surprisingly motherboard vendors have responded to the popularity of LGA 1150, in particular Z87, and we are seeing a highly competitive market. Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI and ASRock are all constantly trying to undercut each other buy offering better quality motherboards at lower prices. Gigabyte’s latest attempt to pull away from the competition is the new G1 Sniper Z87 motherboard costing just $170/£115. Considering past G1 Sniper motherboards, like the G1 Sniper 5 Z87 and G1 Sniper M5 Z87, cost $400 and $200 respectively Gigabyte have really made some significant cost savings with the G1 Sniper Z87 motherboard. Yet looking at the G1 Sniper Z87 it is hard to see where those savings have been made because we still have a whole array of high end options including dual PCIe 3.0 X16 lanes, six SATA III ports, an 8 phase CPU VRM, high quality audio, Killer E2200 networking and a dual UEFI BIOS. The G1 Sniper Z87 looks like an option that will be hard to match at its price point. Below you can see some key specifications:
There’s no doubting what Gigabyte think is the best feature of their G1 Sniper Z87 is – the audio. Gigabyte are using Creative’s Sound Core3D Quad Core audio processor enhanced with a full suite of SBX Pro Studio software. There’s also Studio-Class audio components across the entire PCB separated motherboard section including Nichicon MUSE ES series Bi-Polarised audio capacitors, a frotn headphone amplifier IC, upgradeable operational amplifiers, gain switches and gold plated audio jacks. All of these things combined give you a level of audio quality and flexibility that no other motherboard vendor can offer.
Next on Gigabyte’s key feature list is the Killer E2200 networking chip provided in-tandem with Qualcomm’s Atheros Gigabit Ethernet Controller. Gigabyte claim that this network controller boasts automatic detection and prioritisation of game traffic and allows for up to 50% faster gaming traffic (via UDP prioritisation/acceleration and reduced latency).
The final notable weapon in Gigabyte’s arsenal is overclocking. With onboard power, reset and clear CMOS buttons, a dual BIOS, advanced overclocking software, an 8 phase CPU VRM and room for 2 way SLI/CFX the G1 Sniper Z87 has just about everything a performance enthusiast could need. Whether you want to overclock yourself, or just use automated overclocking software provided by Gigabyte, then either way you’ll end up with extra performance.
So we’ve covered the features and specifications but let’s see how this motherboard copes in testing!
Intel’s Z87 chipset may be aimed at high end consumers and power users but the reality is the majority of people who use the Z87 chipset don’t need as much connectivity as is offered by most of the really high end motherboards. In fact a substantial portion of Z87 users will only have a single graphics card, a couple of storage devices and maybe 4-5 USB devices at the most. That’s where today’s product steps in – the ASRock Z87M Extreme4 motherboard. This motherboard comes in the micro-ATX form factor with a more basic, but still sufficient, array of connectivity. SATA and USB connectivity has been dropped to the bare minimum provided by the Z87 chipset and the PCIe connectivity is optimised for consumers with only a few PCIe devices. Of course it has a competitive price to match this reduction in connectivity and for most consumers the Z87M Extreme4 will still have more than enough connectivity to meet all their needs. High speed memory support, high quality audio, an 8 phase CPU VRM and a UEFI BIOS give this entry-level Z87 motherboard all the high end features most consumers want. Below you can see those specifications more in-depth:
ASRock is offering consumers a broader range of functionality than you’d get from your bog-standard motherboard. ASRock’s new “Home Cloud” feature makes use of the advanced Intel Gigabit LAN to offer you remote desktop support from anywhere with internet access. With ASRock’s Home Cloud you can access all your files, emails, documents or just keep an eye on your PC if someone else is using it.
ASRock are also flaunting their advanced sound implementation of Realtek’s ALC1150 codec which includes 7.1 channel HD audio, a 115 dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier, a Texas Instruments 5532 premium headset amplifier, an EMI shield and PCB isolation shielding.
As with most motherboard vendors ASRock offer (and market) many more features than I could possibly cover in this review so if you want to check out the full range then be sure to do so right here.
Intel’s Xeon E3-1230Lv3 CPU has been a hotly anticipated processor for a wide variety of target audiences – home users, office users, small business users and enterprise users. Today we’ve got an opportunity to put Intel’s enterprise Xeon E3-1230Lv3 CPU to the test in a professional home user or “prosumer” type of environment, by pairing it up with SuperMicro’s server-grade C7Z87-OCE motherboard. The Intel Xeon E3-1230Lv3 is an important CPU because it offers four cores, eight threads, a 1.8GHz base frequency, a 2.8GHz Turbo frequency and 8MB of cache all for a tiny TDP of just 25W. Below you can see some of those key specifications in more detail:
At $250 its tray price is roughly comparable to the Core i5 4670K which sells for $242. Though we’ve only got an Intel Core i7 4770K which sells for $339 to compare it to, a Core i5 4670K would be ideal but both processors are quite similar in performance anyway. That said, the Xeon E3-1230Lv3 certainly looks like an impressive part for the money and we want to find out exactly how well it performs! We will first walk you through our choice of motherboard and tell you why we made such a choice, then we will get onto some benchmarks followed by detailed power/temperature figures before letting you know our final thoughts on this processor.
EVGA launches the long-awaited Z87 Classified motherboard. Its been quite a while since Intel announced the Z87 chipset and Haswell platform; since then EVGA has been working on their flagship motherboard. The Classified products always hold a special position in the EVGA’s product stack and overall market; the Z87 Classified is no different. Its designed to be the best in the market for those who cannot afford to compromise on anything. Major highlights of the Z87 Classified include a fresh design, beefy VRM and 4-way GPU configuration support.
The Z87 Classified holds a LGA1150 socket at its heart with support for all the latest Haswell CPUs along with the usual four memory slots with support for up to 32GB of 2666+ MHz DDR3 memory. It is also designed on an 8-layer EATX PCB. Lookinga t the expansion slots, the motherboard comes with five PCIe x16 slots, one PCIe x1 slot and one mPCIe/mSATA slot. It supports multi-GPUs in x16/x16, x8/x8/x8 and x8/x8/x8/x8 configurations. In terms of storage connectivity options it comes with 8 SATA III and 6 USB 3.0 ports. It has an Intel network controller along with Creative Sound Core3D Quad-Core audio processor for 6-channel HD audio output.
EVGA’s Z87 Classified motherboard has a solid 8-phase VRM for CPU along with two 8-pin EPS connectors which can provide up to 600W of power. And then it has onboard power, reset and clear CMOS buttons along with voltage readout points and PCIe disable switches. It also comes with onboard CPU temperature monitor and POSCAP capacitors. On the software side of things, it comes with brand new UEFI BIOS with triple BIOS switch. It also supports EVGA’s renowned E-LEET X Tuning utility.
The motherboard is available at a price of $399 and according to EVGA officials, they’ve limited quantity of this motherboard. Anyone interested in this motherboard should consider investing in one, and quick!
Thank you Chip Loco for providing us with this information Images courtesy of
ASUS has been at the forefront of the high performance mini-ITX revolution since it became popularised by small form factor mini-ITX cases like Bitfenix’s Prodigy. Today we have one of those innovative mini-ITX solutions of which ASUS now have numerous for the Intel Haswell LGA 1150 socket. ASUS’ mini-ITX solutions include the Maximus VI Impact for Z87, the Q87T for Q87, the H81I-PLUS for H81, the H87I-PLUS for H87, the Z87I-DELUXE for Z87 and the Z87I-PRO for Z87 which we have with us today. In terms of the product segmentation both the Z87I-DELUXE and Maximus VI Impact are “better” motherboards than the Z87I-PRO that we have, but the Z87I-PRO is a more cost effective solution.
You’d think that smaller size means less features but it certainly does not as ASUS have done a great job to cram in as much as possible to the Z87I-PRO. Other than the inevitable loss of 2 DIMM lanes and all PCI connectivity except the main PCIe X16 lane ASUS have managed to preserve pretty much everything. You’ve got the full 6 SATA III ports from the Z87 PCH, 8 USB 3.0 ports and 6 USB 2.0 ports. They’ve even managed to cram in a 12 phase VRM with a vertically placed VRM daughter-board at the top. Below you can see more detailed specifications:
Like with many other high-end Z87 motherboards the Z87I-PRO retains all the high-end features you’ve come to expect such as:
ASUS WiFi GO! which provides a wireless antenna through the rear I/O and supports hotspot functionality
ASUS UEFI BIOS with EZ Mode
ASUS Fan Xpert 2 for comprehensive fan controls of up to four fan headers (impressive for a mini-ITX motherboard)
ASUS USB 3.0 Boost with UASP protocol support
ASUS 5X Protection (Digi+ VRM, Overcurrent protection, ESD Guards, 5K-hr Solid Caps and a Stainless Steel Back I/O)
ASUS EZ DIY (USB BIOS Flashback, MemOK!, Q-Shield, Q-Cable and Q-LED)
ASUS Windows 8 features (ASUS Boot Setting and Probe II Sense)
ASUS AI Suite 3, DTS Connect, DTS UltraPC II, EPU, USB Charge+ and BIOS Maintenance
4K Ultra HD support, 3 full HD display support, multi-monitor support and Intel Collage Display (all via the onboard graphics ports with Intel HD Graphics)
Of course if I were to go into any more detail(s) on the above features I’d sound like an ASUS marketing representative, so I will stop here. However, if you do want to read more details on any of the aforementioned features you can do so here. We will of course pick up on some (but not all) of the motherboard’s features as we move through this review, so let’s get on with that now!
ASUS released a very extensive range of Z87 motherboards for Intel’s new Haswell platform. To date we’ve already reviewed their Z87 Sabertooth and Z87-C motherboards and today we’ve got something new from their Republic of Gamers series. The ASUS Maximus Formula VI takes a very different stance to the Z87 Sabertooth, with the primary focus being on offering gamers a stylish yet high performance solution. The Maximus VI Formula is as much about the core ASUS principles of reliability, solid overclocking and added functionality as it is about Gamer aesthetics and features. ASUS have put a lot of effort into the “thermal armour-style” shroud which mainly serves aesthetic purposes and they’ve also gone to town on the main heatsink design with a similarly rugged looking aesthetic that combines the worlds of water and air cooling. Other stand out points from a design aspect include the new Supreme FX audio implementation which ASUS claims offers superior audio for gamers, and the extensive connectivity which means virtually every uncovered space on the motherboard is occupied by something important that Gamers can put to good use. For a more in depth overview of all that connectivity you can check the full specifications below:
Some of the stand-out features of the Maximus 6 Formula that readers may be interested in include the new “CrossChill” hybrid thermal design for the VRM heatsink around the CPU. This allows you to water cool your CPU VRM to lower temperatures, by as much as 23 degrees ASUS claim, or of course (as most users will do) you can just leave it as it is and it will run just fine with air cooling.
ASUS are also singing the praises of their audio implementation claiming that the following combination of audio components make it an audio solution ideal for gamers:
Premium ELNA audio capacitors
SupremeFX shielding and an EMI cover
A differential circuit design with operational amplifiers
WIMA film capacitors
120dB Digital to Analogue converter (Cirrus Logic CS4398)
The final main point I want to cover in a bit more detail is the rather striking thermal armour. The ROG armour, ASUS claim, is designed to serve three main purposes. Firstly, it blocks the heat from graphics cards reaching the motherboard by effectively shielding it. Secondly, it adds a unique aesthetic with ASUS says DIYers can customise (presumably by painting). Thirdly, it provides structural rigidity (read: prevents PCB bending) and cooling (via thermal pads) to the rear of the motherboard.
There are a few more “features” that I will briefly list, but I won’t go on to explain them all at the risk of losing your attention. Let’s face it most motherboard vendors know how to make literally everything into a unique feature and ASUS are certainly no exception.
Despite Z87 being present on the market now since June it is still Intel’s newest consumer desktop platform and offers consumers a lot of cutting edge functionality. Today we have a rather fine looking motherboard that adds to the extensive array of Z87 motherboards available on the market. ASRock’s Z87 Extreme 6 is shooting to be a high end motherboard but at the same time offers a competitive pricing that is more typical of a mid-range Z87 motherboard. ASRock’s Z87 Extreme 6 sits in the ASRock mid-to-high end Z87 segment and offers up a load of high end features like a 12 phase CPU VRM, support for 2 Way SLI or 3 Way CFX, ten SATA III ports, Realtek ALC1150 audio and dual Intel LAN with teaming support. Below you can see a more in depth assessment of the Z87 Extreme 6’s core specifications:
ASRock isn’t just shooting for the enthusiast segment as it offers broader functionality like ASRock’s new “Home Cloud” feature that makes use of the advanced Intel LAN to offer you remote desktop support from anywhere with internet access. With ASRock’s Home Cloud you can access all your files, emails, documents or just keep an eye on your PC if someone else is using it.
ASRock are also pushing their advanced sound implementation of Realtek’s ALC1150 codec which includes 7.1 channel HD audio, a 115 dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier, a Texas Instruments 5532 premium headset amplifier, an EMI shield and PCB isolation shielding.
A final thing I feel is worth a mention is ASRock’s HDMI-in port, yes in not out (they do also have a HDMI out next to it). This allows you to connect other devices to your monitor or even record/capture the HDMI output of other devices.
If you want to check out the full range of features then be sure to check the ASRock product page here.
Today GIGABYTE has launched a new G1.Sniper Z87 model for the lower budget machine but still with overclocking support and SLI/Crossfire.
When the Z87 series has been released, very few models were aiming at gamers for the low-end. GIGABYTE for example has the G1.Sniper 5, a high end ($400 / €300 / £250) motherboard supporting removable OP-AMP technology and four-way graphics card support. For users wanting smaller systems, there is the G1.Sniper M5 which is a $205 / €153/ £129 micro-ATX alternative, or for non-overclockers there is the B85 model.
GIGABYTE’s Z87 gaming range is focused on audio, therefore we can see a Creative Sound Core3D audio codec paired with Nichicon Pro Audio Caps, an upgradable OP-AMP system, separation of digital and analog audio signals on the PCB to reduce crosstalk and interference, gold plated audio connectors and a specific USB DAC-UP port on the rear IO designed to provide a clean, low-noise power to any USB DAC.
Another feature is a direct gain switch in the audio, allowing users of high impedance headphones to choose between 2.5x and 6x amplification through the OP-AMP. To keep costs down, the motherboard uses the PCH for all SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0 ports, but the system does come with a Killer E2200 NIC to add to the gaming flavor.
The exact price has not yet been revealed, yet rumors tell of a price range around $170 / €127 / £106 , so we will just have to wait and see.
Gigabyte’s range of Z87 motherboards have already been a big hit with system builders. In particular two motherboards from that series that we checked out – Z87X-UD3H and Z87X-UD4H which we reviewed here and here – have been very popular. Gigabyte’s series of Z87 motherboards have struck a real chord with those who care about aesthetics but Gigabyte’s motherboards have also impressed with their drive towards higher audio quality and very aggressive pricing.
Today we have a motherboard from Gigabyte that falls slightly below the Z87X-UD3H but still retains that same styling and a relatively high-end feature set for a Z87 motherboard. The raw specifications of this Gigabyte Z87X-D3HP motherboard we have here aren’t that dissimilar from the MSI Z87-G43 motherboard we reviewed recently except this motherboard has a much stronger focus on aesthetics and better connectivity. For a mid-range Z87 motherboard the Z87-D3HP has everything a single GPU system builder could need thanks to Gigabyte’s decision to add abundant connectivity – PCI, extra USB 3.0, Intel (not Realtek) Gigabit Ethernet and 8 channel audio. As with all Z87 motherboards you get the natively provided six SATA III ports and PCIe 3.0 X16 link. Other PCIe connectivity is provided via the Z87 chipset such as a PCIe 2.0 X16 (x4 electrical) slot and a pair of PCIe 1X slots. Below you can see a detailed specification summary:
Since the launch of Haswell LGA 1150 processors and the Z87 Intel chipset back in June we’ve seen a tonne of motherboards come through eTeknix for review. In fact, we’ve still got quite a few more to come and today we take a look at another motherboard, this time from MSI. On the test bench today we have the MSI Z87-G43 motherboard which is designed to be one of MSI’s most entry level motherboards sitting above only the Z87-G41 PC Mate.
The MSI Z87-G43 is as simple as you will find for an ATX Z87 motherboard and at its core is a philosophy of offering you the most bang for your buck – no frills attached. Despite that budget-minded orientation the motherboard certainly doesn’t skimp out on the core features you’d expect from a motherboard that is still relatively high end. MSI equip military class components, deploy a UEFI Click BIOS and provide you with some innovative software.
Of course straight away you’ll be interested to know the pricing as this is one of the most crucial aspects of this motherboard. At most retailers you will find the MSI Z87-G43 is the cheapest motherboard on offering costing around £90-95 and $120-130. The only motherboard I could find that was cheaper was the Z87-G41 PC Mate mentioned earlier. MSI is targeting budget minded enthusiasts, gamers and system integrators with this motherboard. This motherboard is for people who want the benefits of abundant SATA III, good overclocking potential and abundant PCIe connectivity, but don’t need all the networking & audio extras or the fancy motherboard buttons and switches of more expensive motherboards. So let’s see what the MSI Z87-G43 has to offer.
The ASUS Sabertooth/TUF series of motherboards is well known throughout the computer hardware industry as being one of the most rugged motherboard designs available. ASUS put the Z87 Sabertooth that we have here today through hell and back before the motherboard is delivered to end users. Of course the motherboard has to survive this endurance test before it makes it to consumers and the fact we’ve received this one here today with its certificate of reliability tells us it has passed the strict testing procedures. The ASUS Sabertooth Z87 is a feature packed motherboard but it isn’t your average enthusiast class motherboard. Unlike most motherboards which are often targeted at budget users, gamers and overclockers the ASUS Sabertooth Z87 is aimed at at different niche – those concerned with stability, reliability and durability.
The biggest selling points and features about the ASUS Sabertooth Z87 are to do with stability, reliability and durability. They include ASUS’ newly designed TUF Thermal Armor, the TUF Thermal Radar, TUF Fortifier, Dust Defenender and TUF Engine Power Design using military-spec components. Of course it also has other ASUS mainstay features such as their UEFI BIOS, OC Tuner, USB 3.0 Boost, TurboV Core and so on. Being an Intel Z87 motherboard you’ve also got the full benefits of the Z87 chipset including native SATA III support, native USB 3.0 support and the LGA 1150 socket which includes Haswell CPU support and PCI Express Generation 3.0 support. The Z87 Sabertooth balances a combination of abundant features and high performance with the Sabertooth/TUF philosophy of stability reliability and durability. Before we proceed don’t forget to check the full specifications below for a recap of what the Sabertooth Z87 from ASUS has to offer:
Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 standard is set to be implemented on a pair of Gigabyte motherboards in the near future. Legit Reviews spotted the Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 TH (above) and the Z87X-UD7 TH (below) motherboards at IDF 2013. Both motherboards implemented the newest version of Thunderbolt which is Thunderbolt 2.0 that has 20 gbps of bandwidth compared to 10 gbps of bandwidth on the first generation. Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 will be backwards compatible with the first generation.
The two motherboards to get these new Thunderbolt ports are both existing current Gigabyte motherboards for the LGA 1150 Z87 platform. Both motherboards get a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports which are capable of daisy chaining multiple monitors and have integrated DisplayPort 1.2 video outputs that can be used simultaneously with a Thunderbolt storage device. Thunderbolt 2 is physically identical but adds channel aggregation to combine the previously two separate 10 gbps channels in Thunderbolt 1.
ASUS have just unveiled a brand new Z87 motherboard. The Z87-Deluxe/Quad motherboard is apparently the world’s first motherboard to be certified with Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 technology. The ASUS Z87-Deluxe Quad motherboard is ram packed with connectivity options. The device supports the Thunderbolt 2 standard capable of up to 20Gb/s and up to six devices per port, with 12 in total from the two Thunderbolt 2 ports this motherboard offers.
Impressively with two Thunderbolt ports supporting Display Port 1.2 and an onboard 4K ready HDMI port the ASUS Z87-Deluxe Quad is capable of running three 4K UHD displays all at once. This motherboard is really aimed the content professionals where connectivity and functionality matter. The device comes bundled with ASUS’ NFC USB 3.0 device that we detailed yesterday as well ASUS’ 802.11 AC WiFi and antennae.
This motherboard will be priced at a premium over the ASUS Z87-Deluxe and Z87-Deluxe Dual motherboards but naturally you’d expect this given the extensive connectivity options. This is certainly one of the most impressive connectivity-orientated motherboards on the market right now available to consumers. We can’t help but feel it targets a very niche market but if you are part of that market then this motherboard looks like a great option.
ASUS have just unveiled their latest mini-ITX creation and yes this time we’ve got a mini-ITX motherboard that is part of the Republic of Gamers series. This is a motherboard that is absolutely ram-packed with exclusive features. One of the first is a special audio daughter-board discrete sound card, dubbed the “SupremeFX Impact” sound card, which uses a totally custom design to not take up any of your PCIe ports. ASUS comments on the audio that:
The exclusive dual-differential circuit design splits the audio chip’s analog signal into opposing phases that are combined by four operational amplifiers (op-amps) to produce a single, stronger and cleaner output, while premium ELNA audio capacitors smooth high and low-frequency signals to deliver warmer sounds.Maximus VI Impact also features Perfect Voice technology that uses active noise cancellation on the microphone input to keep VoIP chat clear in noisy environments, and Music PnP technology that allows external sound sources to play through PC speakers when the PC is shut down. Together with exclusive SupremeFX Shielding that reduces audio distortion from electromagnetic interference, lossless 115dB output and the ability to drive high-impedance headphones (up to 600ohms), Maximus VI Impact takes mini-ITX audio to new heights.
The motherboard also uses highly rated components to ensure optimal system stability as well as the ability to push your Haswell processor to its maximum.
ROG engineers designed Maximus VI Impact for demanding gamers who want the convenience of mini-ITX size without sacrificing overclocking and compatibility features. Based on ROG Extreme Engine DIGI+ III technology, Impact Power is compact voltage-regulator module (VRM) with 60A BlackWing chokes and 10K black metallic capacitors that gives precise digital power management for complete overclocking control that’s on a par with ROG full-size ATX motherboards.
Additionally the motherboard is packed with connectivity include 802.11 AC WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and an M.2 slot for high performance SSDs. Being an ROG motherboard it features features to assit gamers such as ASUS’ Sonic Radar which maps audio on an OSD and ROG GameFirst II internet prioritisation software that optimises ping and minimises lag over your Intel Gigabit LAN port. The motherboard also bundles a copy of ROG RAMDISK and SSD Secure Erase.
Finally we have an abundance of diagnostic features to help you overclock your system and get up and running without any problems:
Built-in diagnostic and troubleshooting features on the I/O backplate make it easier for PC enthusiasts to test different overclocking configurations with ROG Maximus VI Impact. The Q-Code display shows two-digit codes for rapid identification of POST errors, while pressing the DirectKey button enters the UEFI button immediately. Maximus VI Impact also features a MemOK! button on the motherboard that automatically loads failsafe memory settings when overly aggressing timing prevents the PC from booting.
Pricing is around £185-205 in the UK and €190-€210 in Europe. American pricing will probably be in the region of $230 but I have not seen any U.S listings yet. Availability will come in the next week or so but in the UK and Europe you can already buy these right now.
ASUS has just announced its latest motherboard accessory to help synchronise your electronic life. ASUS revealed the NFC Express NFC reciever with a 2 port USB 3.0 hub designed for desktop PCs. The device allows you to interact with Windows 8 using NFC tags but also transfer files and photos via NFC. This is because the above NFC Express box has an integrated NFC sensor. The device will only work with NFC ready ASUS 8 Series (Haswell) motherboards.The device connects to the PC via two USB 3.0 ports but allows you to continue using these with hub functionality.
The NFC Express accessory ships with the Z87-Deluxe/Dual motherboard but can also be purchased separately.
“This device connects to your PC with its two USB 3.0 ports and allows password-free Windows 8 login, automatic data syncing, and again, Remote Desktop connectivity – which we’re especially interested in seeing due to the relative lack of dedicated services as such in the Android world aside services like SplashTop.” Stated ASUS
Everyone who has followed the launch of Z87 and Intel’s new Haswell platform will have seen the new ASUS motherboards that come with a Gold/Mustard Yellow colour scheme, such as the ASUS Z87-C motherboard we recently reviewed. Avexir is now launching a special series of RAM kits specifically for users looking to match up their system’s components.
The Avexir Gold Series includes a pair of 4GB RAM modules running at 2133MHz with CL9 latencies. These will support Intel’s XMP profiling and have timings 9-11-10-27. These RAM modules are designed to support both Intel and AMD systems but we can see they will pair up best with ASUS’ Z87 motherboards for Intel’s Haswell.
Each module comes with a specially designed Gold/Mustard Yellow heat spreader and a fully black PCB. Along the top there is an LED light bar which operates when the system is powered up.
The LEDs are Gold/Yellow and have a strobe lighting effect. Avexir is backing these modules with a lifetime warranty. You can buy the Avexir Gold Series memory modules from Caseking and Overclockers UK.
ADATA have just launched a brand new series of gaming RAM from its XPG series. Their new XPG V2 3100 modules run at a staggeringly high 3100MHz and are designed to take advantage of the new Intel Z87 Haswell LGA 1150 platform. The new ADATA kits are strictly QVL certified meaning you will have to refer to the Qualified Vendor List to check if your system will have compatibility. Although of course with memory running so high your CPU may not even be capable of such a frequency altogether.
ADATA are offering up a couple of colours, Gold and Grey/Black both using black PCBs which is always a nice touch. They come with ADATA’s XPG styled heatsink allowing them to be overclocked further if your system has any headroom to do so. Pricing and availability is still TBA.
Supports Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profiles) version 1.3
Supports dual channel mode
Complies with JEDEC standards.
Uses high-quality 8-layer printed circuit boards and aluminum heat sink, effectively reducing the memory module temperature
Adopts Thermal Conductive Technology (TCT) thermal technology for heat dispersal
Supports Intel Core processors and the latest fourth-generation Z87 platform
Model: XPG V2 DDR3 3100
Timing: DDR3 1333 CL9-9-9-24 at 1.5V & DDR3 3100 CL12-14-14-36 at 1.65V (XMP Profile 1)
Density: 8GB (4GB x 2)
Frequency (Peak transfer rate): 3100MHz (24,800MB/sec)
It has been quite a long time coming but finally ASUS has released its Maximus VI Formula Z87 motherboard for Intel’s new Z87 Haswell platform. At first glance the Maximus VI Formula is a radical overhaul of the typical ROG design with a hybrid thermal armour implementation. The “CrossChill” hybrid air and water cooling features allows end users to pick between water or air cooling for their system. You can see the water cooling ports on the motherboard heatsink, for G quarter inch fittings, to help cool the VRM and MOSFETs while the the wraparound ROG armour helps keep it cool. The ABS plastic helps prevent other components from touching and interfering with the motherboard while the rear of the motherboard has thermal pads for improved cooling and a frame for better rigidity.
Furthermore ASUS are really pushing a higher level of audio quality with their SupremeFX Formula onboard audio implementation that has a dedicated 600 Ohm headphone amplifier. Additionally there are ELNA audio capacitors, WIMA film capacitors, high-fidelity op-amps and a Cirrus logic CS4398 DAC with a 120dB sound to noise ratio. ASUS also provide a dual band 802.11ac WiFi networking card.
The CPU is powered by the Extreme Engine DIGi+ III technology and as well high quality components like NexFET MOSFETs, 60A BlackWing chokes and Japanese 10K black metallic capacitors.
Digitimes reports that Intel’s new C2 stepping 8 Series (Z87/Z85/H87/H81/B85) Haswell motherboards will be available from September to consumers. The issue with the current C1 stepping is a design flaw with the USB 3.0 host controllers that caused connected USB devices through the USB 3.0 ports to improperly restart on resume from sleep state such as S3 suspend to RAM. This means users have to uplug and refit USB devices, a significant hassle if you are running USB storage devices via your USB 3.0 ports.
The issue came to light back in March, and we brought you the news, but it was too late to fix since it needed a hardware fix and motherboard vendors had already begun finalising the first wave of LGA 1150 motherboards. While the error is a minor one for some people it has been off-putting but you will only have to wait until September to pick up C2 revisions of the current Intel 8 Series motherboards. Of course users are advised to check with their retailer first if they are looking for a C2 revision as C1 revision stock are likely to remain in the retail channel until the end of the year.