Two years ago Gigabyte announced their G1.Kille series of motherboards with an interesting event featuring camouflage and tons of military imagery. The concept behind it was that the G1.Killer was meant to be a series of “super-soldiers” for gaming. Each of the products would be tailored after an imaginary persona: The Assassin, The Sniper and the Scout. These would have super sight, hearing, speed, and shield all to assist you in your gaming dominance. We have taken a look at some of these for the X79 lineup and now have one from the Z77 chipset line; the G1.Sniper M3. This $180 board from Gigabyte features a full audio card built into the motherboard, SLI, and a Micro ATX form factor. So let’s take a look at what Gigabyte has stuffed into this little package.
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.
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.
With the big push for everything in the cloud we have been focusing on ways to consumers and businesses to bring their data back into their own control. One of the least expensive methods for this is through the use of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. These are devices that have a minimum of two drive bays and allow for you to set up RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) Volume for performance and/or redundancy. Today in the Lab we have a five-bay NAS device from Thecus. This is an Atom based system with support for up to 15TB of RAW space and 3GB of memory. So let’s take a look at the Thecus N5550 and see what this $600 (empty) NAS has to offer as we dig deep into its design, build and features.
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.
ThermalTake has launched some bold designs (and some rather gaudy ones too). Some of these have been successful while others have received ridicule from the online community and gamers (even coining the phrase “Friends don’t let Friends use ThermalTake” at one point. However, over the last few years they have moved forward with their products and are now putting out some solid work. One of the products that I have been very interested in is the Level 10 series. This new case line-up is less like a PC enclosure and more like a piece of art. Of course the original Level 10 enclosure will also set you back around $750. This price tag puts it out of the reach of most gamers and also off of our RADAR for now. Instead we are going to take a look at the much more reasonably priced Level 10 GT. This uniquely designed PC case comes in two colors (black and white) and will run you $255 and $290 respectively. As we have grown bored of shooting cases in our lab we also decided to move our initial coverage to a different location. With that said, let’s take a look at the Thermaltake Level 10 GT (VN10006W2N) Snow Edition shot on location in Bahia Honda State Park, Florida. Snow at the beach anyone?
When I first got into the IT game the storage needs of even large companies could be maintained in less space than what typically fits on a CD-ROM. In fact all of the applications that we used in the shop fit onto 20 3.25-inch 720KB floppy disks! Now you would be hard pressed to store one or two Word documents on even one of those floppies. Fortunately as our storage requirements have grown so have the devices we keep all that data on. For most home users simply dropping in a 1 or 2 Terabyte hard drive will be enough, but for businesses, prosumers and enthusiasts might need a bit more. For this there are products that can be attached to a normal home or office network that offer extra storage (and many other functions) to meet these needs. Synology is a maker of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices. The idea of the NAS is not new, nor is it a business only product. There have been multiple consumer level NAS devices. The one we have in from Synology is a little outside the normal home environment. This is the Disk Station 1512+ it is a 5-Bay, Dual-Lan, Network Storage device that has some great hardware and software features in store of anyone picking this product up. We will be taking a look at the hardware used inside, the build and some of the basic features in this part of our coverage. So let’s get started.
You can check out the performance half of this review here
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?
There was a time when the only type of keyboard you could buy was one with mechanical switches. This was pretty much it for the old AT days of computing. This style of keyboard later extended into the first ATX boards which featured PS/2 connectors (and later USB). This style of keyboard was later replaced by the smaller digital input (also known as capacitive and which was actually designed in the 1970s). These were nothing more than a sponge pad that would press a contact into two trace contacts on a PCB. As these were cheaper to make and boasted the same reliability as the older mechanical switches (which mean one switch per key) it soon became the standard and the older mechanical switch went away… That is until the gaming community resurrected it. Now we have a new generation of keyboards based on the old one-switch-per-key style of manufacturing. We have taken three of these for a stroll around the lab and now have a fourth to tell you about. This is the CM Storm Trigger Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Let’s see if it can stand up to the rest of the pack.
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.