Consumer Motherboards (19)
Entry Level and mid range products
One of the things that makes a board stand out from the crowd, beside features and price, is how well it performs. Even with a massive feature set a board is not going to do well if the performance is not there. With the Z97-I Asus is trying to push the same level of features that you would find in a larger board, but will they be able to get the same level of performance? That is what we are looking to find out today. So without much in the way of ceremony, let’s get into why you are here and see what the Z97-I is hiding inside its small frame. You can also check out our coverage of the design and features of the Z97I Plus.
As Intel moves more and more core components to their CPU we are seeing an interesting shift in motherboard design. The manufacturers are all realizing that the performance difference between them are narrowing. The days of seeing a massive difference in benchmark scores are almost gone. However, instead of just pushing out a bunch of cookie cutter boards some motherboard makers are looking for new ways to differentiate their boards. Asus is one of these makers and we will be taking a look at a board that has more than a few departures from the normal motherboard design philosophy. This is the Asus Z97-A. So without too much more delay, let’s dive in and see what Asus has given us.
After spending some time working with the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H and all of the features that are packed into this board we are ready to cover the performance and user experience side of this motherboard. For those of you that might have missed it you can catch our Design and Feature coverage here. For the rest of you let’s dive in and see how well this board performs and if it is noteworthy for its price point and place in the market. First up, Gigabyte’s 3D BIOS and some overclocking fun…
So now that we have covered all of the features and design choices for the P8Z77-V we are about to dive into the performance of this board. So far if what we have seen on paper adds up we should see some very good performance. After all Asus has been working on tuning their Z77 boards for a while and with the new trace layout we are seeing we might actually get to see some of that pop-up in every day performance. So without waiting too long let’s just get to it.
As we continue our coverage of both Ivy Bridge and the Z77 Express chipset we now head over to Gigabyte. Gigabyte is a company that has worked very hard for the position they have in the market. They were originally a manufacturer who concentrated on compatibility and stability rather than working on pushing the envelope in terms of speed and performance. However that was a long time ago. Now they are definitely working to get the most out of each product. We have watch them develop their line up since the P55 days and know that they are more than capable of putting out a motherboard (and other products) that can satisfy your performance needs. So with that in mind let’s take a look at what Gigabyte has built into the GA-Z77X-UD3H in terms of design choices and features.
At almost the opposite end of the spectrum from the Asus Maximus V Gene (in terms of target market) we find the Asus P8Z77-M Pro motherboard. The P8Z77-M Pro is also a micro ATX board and despite being aimed at the lower end of the consumer market it shares some of the same features that the Gene has. You still get Asus’ Digi+ power controls and FanXpert+ along with Asus’ commitment to solid design and component selection. We have talked about most of these items in Part I of our review. Now we are going to focus on the performance you can expect when you pick up the P8Z77-M Pro along with Intel’s new Ivy Bridge CPU.
Although the Intel Z77 Express chipset has been available for a while now we chose to wait until the official launch of Ivy Bridge to begin our reviews. After all the Z77 with Panther Point was designed to get the best performance when tied with Ivy Bridge so why not show that off first. To kick off our coverage of the Z77 we deiced to try out Intel’s reference design in the DZ77GA-70K. This performance desktop board from Intel is a great starting point and will give us the feel of how Intel meant things to work. So let’s get to it shall we?
After taking a look at a couple of Asus’ MicroATX Z77 boards we are moving up in size to the standard ATX products. Asus has been (as we have told you) working on integrating the same feature set you find in their ROG boards down into their mainstream and even channel boards. This move is also helping them to restructure the feature set at each level and offer the right features to the right market segment. We started off with the gateway product into the ROG line (the Maximus V Gene) and then dropped to the other end of the spectrum with the P8Z77-M Pro. Now we are going to check out the lower end of the mid-range motherboards in the P8Z77-V. This board is a step up from the P8Z77-M Pro in both size and the features that it brings to the table. Let’s take a look shall we?
As we showed you recently we do not just have a single Z77 board from Asus in the lab, but a pretty good range of them. We have a lineup that covers the entry level, the mainstream and even the ROG line (although not the upper end there yet). We have already shown you what you can expect from the Micro ATX Maximus V Gene in terms of features and design so now we want to continue that thread and take a look at another Micro ATX board at the other end of the food chain; the Asus P8Z77-M Pro. So let’s take a few minutes to check out what Asus has in store for you here.
The fourth X79 board we have in the lab is from MSI in the form of the X79A-GD65(8D). This board features the third generation of their Military Class of hardware as well as what MSI calls true Gen 3 PCIe The X79A-GD65(8D) has a price tag under $300 which makes these represents the lowest priced board we have tested so far. Now the question is; does the X79A-GD65(8D) have the same level of quality and performance as its more expensive peers, or will we find out that the old maxim “you get what you pay for” is true. We will take a look at both the performance and the design choices behind the X79A-GD65 and let you know. We will kick things off with the design and features.
Gigabyte A55M-DS2 Performance Review FeaturedWritten by Sean Kalinich
Although AMD’s future is far from certain we do know that they have been pushing towards lower power and lower cost devices. We have seen these in the form of their new APUs and their A75 and A55 chipsets. We have already tested the performance of the A75, now we are ready to take a look at the performance of one of the A55 based motherboards; the Gigabyte A55M-DS2. We have taken a look at the design choices and features so far and have come away with a bit of confusion as to where this product actually fits into the market. Now that we have put the board through our performance tests, let’s see if we can find out exactly where in the market the A66M-DS2 belong and if it is worth your time and money.
AMD’s Llano is not a new product; it is one that has been out on the market for long enough that all of the major hype and press has already been written. We recently wrapped up our long term testing of an AMD A6-3650 combined with a Gigabyte A75 motherboard. We were rather impressed with the performance that we saw, even if the numbers did not match up to the overall feel. Now we are taking a look at the same CPU, but taking a step down the ladder to the A55 chipset. This time the victim is the A55M-DS2 motherboard. You are losing a few items with this shift like USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 and a PCIe slot, but we wonder if that will really impact performance. So let’s take a look at the design and the features that you can expect to get when you pick up one of these.
With all of the excitement surround a CPU launch from both AMD and then Intel some of the smaller products have been overlooked. These are parts like the A75 chipset and the Llano CPU. We have had one of these up on the test bench for a while now. Mostly to run the performance tests and see where this hardware falls in terms of real performance, but also to try it out and see just what it is like to use. After all this is a platform that AMD was putting a good deal of stock in for future sales and market share. We wanted to see what it would be like to actually use one. We have already taken a look at the design philosophy and features So without any further preamble we bring you the second half of our Gigabyte A75-UD4H motherboard review.
AMD has been throwing the term Fusion around since the early days of the AM2 CPU. We heard rumors of AMD “fusing” the GPU and the CPU together, integrating the MCP (media control processor) into the CPU and a bunch of other stuff. Each of these rumors was dismissed by AMD one at a time. AMD continued to state that Fusion was not a single thing but a platform (of course the media was not going to let that happen). It was only last year when we finally found out what AMD was talking about. It was a CPU with and APU (auxiliary processing unit) that is there to assist in complex tasks that the core CPU was not able to deal with. Interestingly enough this was not a new idea but was actually a return to some of AMD’s roots. AMD began their CPU debut with the purchase of a company called Nexgen. Nexgen CPU did not include a math co-processor (at least the original ones). If you wanted one you could buy one and attach it as an… you guessed it APU. Well many years have passed since that time and we are sure the APU is a little more than a simple math co-processor. Fortunately for you, we have an AMD A6 3650 and a Gigabyte A75-UD4H motherboard to play with. So let’s take a look at this new motherboard from Gigabyte and while we are at it the AMD Llano A6 3650 CPU…
After a look into the design and features of the Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H we are now diving into how well it performs. Unlike the MSI Z68A-GD80 we do not have any indications that we will run out of PCIe lanes, however we are still a little concerned about how well the Z68X will perform when we drop in the HD5870. We are also more than a little curious to see how the touchBIOS will work on the real world. So, let’s dive in and get to testing the Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H.
The Z68 has been touted as “cougar point done right” and many other things. I have been asked if the Z68 is going to replace the X58 and many other things beside that ever since it came onto the scene. We have taken a theoretical and design look at one Z68 and now we are going to take a look at another. This one is from Gigabyte; the Z68X-UD3H-B3 (we are getting back to the long names again). This board has a more than its share of selling points. It features the new TouchBIOS (also called Hybrid EFI), the usual compliment USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and of course SLI and crossfire. But there is more to the Z68X-UD3H than just this. We also see that it comes complete with the new VirtuGPU technology from Lucid Driver MOSFETs, and much more. So let’s see what we can find digging into the design and features before we get to the performance numbers in part II.
With all the news about the Z68 and P6x chipsets these days is seems that many people feel the X58 is done. Well that is not the case; many manufacturers still see this as a viable top end platform for Intel and are making some great boards for this market space. The nice thing about this is that they are not just making the high-performance/dollar products but are still working on quality boards for every price level. One of these is the Gigabyte X58-USB3. It is a mid-range board that leaves out SATA 3.0 but still keeps many of the other features you would expect from an X58 board (SLI, Crossfire, etc). Gigabyte has made sure they add in USB 3.0 for you while keeping everything around $180. Let’s take a look and see if it is worth that price.
Welcome to 2011 and the re-birth of DecryptedTech.com. It has been a few months since I have written anything for this site; but then again there has been a lot going on. Instead or rehashing the dram and details let’s just dive right back in and kick things off with a review. For our return to the “living” we thought we would take a look at something fairly new. For years now Intel has ruled the low power CPU market (at least in the x86 space). Sure Via has had the Nano and AMD has had their version (the name of which escapes me), but for the most part if you wanted low power and you wanted x86 you were getting an Atom. Well things might be turning around as we find a new system offering from AMD. This is the Fusion CPU that we have all heard some much about (and some of us have been waiting for). The Fusion is an idea that puts a CPU in combination with a GPU much like the new Sandy Bridge CPUs but at the entry level. AMD refers to the whole package as an APU (accelerated processing unit). As we said these combine the power of a CPU and a GPU to get the best of both worlds. One of the first boards to hit the market from this family is the Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3. This features the AMD E-350 APU. The E-250 is a Dual Core CPU running at 1.8GHz. It also features 80 Radeon Cores that run at 492MHz. This APU consumes only 18 Watts of power and still has room to support DX11. In all not a bad place to start for a new HTPC motherboard; so let’s dive in and see what else you get in our first preview of 2011.
Gigabyte (as we have told you) is working on remaking their image. They want to be known as a company that builds components for the enthusiast. They are, and have been, working very hard to reach this goal. Their Ultra Durable series of boards have received numerous awards and accolades from review sites and from people who have bought these boards. We have been fortunate enough to review a couple of these and have given you our thoughts on the GA-890FXA-UD7 and are working on a revised impression of the GA-P55A-UD7 as well. For now we are going to move from the big to the small. This is the H55N-UBS3 a Mini-ITX board that features the Intel H55 Express chipset, USB 3.0 and a few Gigabyte special features. Follow along as we dive into this $104.99 board and see if size does not matter.