Maximum PC - From the Magazine http://www.maximumpc.com/articles/72/feed en Rig of the Month: Parvum Warfare http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_parvum_warfare_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/bc6f145e_f1a1f2t_1.jpeg" alt="Parvum Warfare" title="Parvum Warfare" width="250" height="167" style="float: right;" />It's battle-ready and beautiful at the same time</span></h3> <p><a href="https://m.facebook.com/jameswalt1computerart?ref=bookmark" target="_blank">James Walter</a> is back with yet another stellar PC for this month's <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank"><strong>Rig of the Month</strong></a>. It's a lot like his last build, <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_parvum_titanfall_2014" target="_blank">Parvum Titanfall</a>, but that's not a bad thing. James's obvious attention to detail makes a triumphant return in a case that's based on the design of the offical Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Xbox One controller.&nbsp;</p> <p>Just like last time, James worked with <a href="http://www.parvumsystems.com/" target="_blank">Parvum Systems</a> to create a one-off rig that's both professional and exceptional. <a href="http://www.overclock.net/t/1508863/sponsored-parvum-warfare" target="_blank">Parvum Warfare</a> combines a custom, acrylic case with an absolutely faithful application of design elements common to the Xbox One and the Advanced Warfare-themed controller.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/hVLOeqbwEew?rel=0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>James admires and assembles the custom-made case.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Inside the glorious mITX exterior is an Intel 4790k, an EVGA Z97 Stinger motherboard, 16GB of GSkill memory, an Nvidia Titan Black, a 500GB Samsung EVO SSD, and a Corsair RM650 power supply. Throw in the watercooling components from Swiftech, Darkside, and Bitspower, and Parvum Warfare is ready for battle.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/l2uB53AQk5M?rel=0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>James's reveal videos always ooze quality.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Have a case mod of your own that you would like to submit to our monthly feature? Make sure to read the rules/tips&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;and email us at&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="mailto:mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;with your submissions.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_parvum_warfare_2014#comments call of duty: advanced warfare James Walter Parvum Warfare Rig of the Month rig of the month From the Magazine Features Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:27:37 +0000 Ben Kim 29137 at http://www.maximumpc.com The DirectX Evolution http://www.maximumpc.com/directx_evolution_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/header_0.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">They said it was dead. They said it would never return. They were wrong. DirectX 12 is coming, and Nvidia thinks it could be something rather special.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Microsoft’s all-encompassing, Windows-based graphics API has come under serious attack over the last few years. Since DirectX 11 was released in 2009, very little has changed for the MS API, yet OpenGL has seen huge improvements and swelling industry support. We’ve also seen AMD go back to the drawing board and use its position inside the Xbox One to push for a new API specifically for its own graphics card architecture.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">With Valve urging game developers and hardware manufacturers to put their support behind Linux/SteamOS and its use of the OpenGL API, and AMD claiming huge performance gains from its Mantle API, many people were predicting the end of DirectX. With a lack of statements to the contrary from Microsoft, it was thought DirectX 11.2 may have been the final splutter of a dying software abstraction.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">How foolish those doomweavers sound now. Just before the Games Developer Conference this March, a Twitter account popped up with the @DirectX12 handle, teasing: “</span>Rumors<span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> of our demise have been greatly exaggerated… #DirectX12 is coming to GDC.” The tweet linked through to an official-looking webpage, with a big DirectX 12 image above both Xbox and Windows logos.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Sure enough, GDC came and, like a geeky version of Live Aid, folk from Microsoft, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia got together on stage to talk about how the new iteration of DirectX was going to save mankind, and its love for PC gaming, by creating a software union of Xbox console and your gaming rig.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;">Just after GDC, I sat down with Nvidia’s Ashu Rege, VP of game content and technology, and his right-hand man, Yury Uralsky, to&nbsp;find out where the new version of DirectX came from, how it’s been put together, and what it means for the future of PC gaming. These guys provide the link between games developers and the hardware Nvidia has engineered, and are in a unique position to comment on what it looks like from both sides of the relationship.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">So, what is DirectX in&nbsp;the first place? Essentially, it’s a conglomeration of&nbsp;different application programming interfaces (APIs) aimed at dealing with all kinds of multimedia fun in Microsoft operating systems. When we’re talking about DirectX in relation to gaming, what we’re generally referring to are the specific versions of Direct3D. That’s the part of the package that includes hardware acceleration, enabling us to throw&nbsp;3D objects around a 3D environment while using the best bits of our 3D graphics cards. 3D!</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">DirectX was first introduced with the birth of Windows 95 to provide a platform for game developers to create rich multimedia content for the new operating system at a time when most of them were dyed-in-the-wool MS-DOS programmers. In the beginning it was a bit of a&nbsp;rush job, trying to encourage developers to start programming for the new OS rather than DOS. Unfortunately, DirectX often introduced more performance overheads than DOS, which itself allowed devs to get total access to&nbsp;the specific hardware.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">The battle between providing a&nbsp;solution that works across the broadest range of hardware and reducing the resulting overheads has been part of DirectX’s DNA from its inception.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“The reason there’s a lot of interest in low-level APIs is partly historical,” explains Ashu Rege. “Back in the day, when people were programming hardware, you were accessing it directly.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">DirectX isn’t the only graphics API. OpenGL was there first, and later on we also had Glide—another proprietary API specifically designed for the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics 3D cards. But the exclusive nature of Glide, the broadening scope of DirectX and&nbsp;OpenGL, plus some terrible business decisions meant it didn’t last long past its ’90s heyday, and most of its best assets now belong to Nvidia. We also have Mantle, another proprietary API specifically designed for the AMD Graphics Core Next 3D cards. One can only speculate what’s going to happen to that, but we hope for AMD’s sake it doesn’t ape Glide too closely.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Graphics APIs have been evolving for years,” says Ashu. “The&nbsp;main ideas are the same, though. You want to provide some abstraction to allow you to get to&nbsp;the hardware without having to&nbsp;worry about the hardware changing.” This is the key to creating an all-encompassing API such as DirectX and its Direct3D component. You need to make sure that when a game is coded using the tools for an API, it’s still compatible when new hardware rolls around. But the API itself will continue to evolve as well, introducing new features, and so you also need to ensure that the API can be extended to offer developers continued access to the new options.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">This is why we’ve reached a stage&nbsp;where the Direct3D API is so&nbsp;far abstracted from the actual hardware it supports—it’s trying to&nbsp;cover a very broad spectrum of&nbsp;both hardware and software features. “As the hardware got more complex, the API started getting further away from the hardware because you had the ability to support many different vendors and many more features that you wanted to expose,” explains Ashu.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="text-decoration: none;"><img src="/files/u187432/forza_5.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><span style="text-decoration: none;"><strong>Currently, Xbox One exclusive Forza 5 is the only DX12 title around.</strong><br /></span></span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Abstract thoughts </span></h2> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">One of the targets for DirectX 12 is&nbsp;to cut down on that high level of&nbsp;abstraction. “Now we’ve gotten a&nbsp;little too far away from the hardware,” Ashu says, “and we are&nbsp;going back to accessing the hardware more efficiently and at the lower level without losing all the good features of the API. The goal is to reduce the overhead—which is the single biggest thing—where the driver often adds extra overhead and CPU cycles are used up in the driver rather than in the application. It’s also to give developers more control, especially for engine guys,&nbsp;like Epic, Crytek, or whoever; there’s more access.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">This is something Microsoft itself was at pains to point out when it announced that the new API was on its way. “It provides a lower level of hardware abstraction than ever before,” wrote Matt Sandy on the DirectX Developer Blog, “allowing games to significantly improve multithread scaling and CPU utilization. In addition, games will benefit from reduced GPU overhead via features such as descriptor tables and concise pipeline state objects.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">This lower level of hardware abstraction is the current buzz-phrase around graphics APIs. It’s&nbsp;the way game developers have&nbsp;been working with the fixed-platform consoles for years,&nbsp;and&nbsp;has allowed them to squeeze&nbsp;unprecedented levels of&nbsp;performance out of the aging last-gen games boxes—just take a look at what Rockstar managed to pull out of the Xbox 360’s pocket-calculator hardware with the vast <em>Grand Theft Auto V</em>. Developers have tighter control of how their&nbsp;code works on the console hardware, whereas DirectX has put more and more layers between the devs and the PC. In short, DirectX has become bloated and all that fat&nbsp;is making our lightning-fast hardware wheezy and slow.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“You don’t want things sitting between you and the hardware, taking away precious CPU cycles and wasting performance,” Raja Koduri, corporate vice president of visual computing at AMD, told me at&nbsp;CES in January. “How do we get rid of the API overhead so we can get many, many more objects, many, many more draw calls, to take games to the next level?”</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;<img src="/files/u187432/developers.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><strong>It's all smiles now, but just you wait til they get off stage...</strong><br /></span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Core values</span></h2> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">AMD’s solution to this problem is&nbsp;Mantle. The company has been trying to achieve this low level of&nbsp;software abstraction with its proprietary API for its Graphics Core Next hardware, and now it’s the key goal for DirectX 12. Though it’s going to be a lot tougher trying to implement a closer tie to the varied cross-vendor hardware that Direct3D has to support.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">The key to achieving all of this is improved efficiency. Bringing the API closer to the metal makes for more efficient use of the hardware available. “Overhead comes from a&nbsp;bunch of API calls and you have a certain amount of CPU cycle time that goes into translating those API calls into a hardware abstraction,” explains Ashu.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“The focus this time around is on reducing CPU overhead as much as&nbsp;possible and improving API efficiency in general,” adds Yury Yuralsky. The improvements can be characterised as radical. There are very significant gains in runtime efficiency and driver efficiency.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">It’s become a familiar refrain with recent API talk: The CPU is holding us all back. The current version of Direct3D introduces a ton of CPU overhead, mostly because GPU technology has improved more rapidly than processor tech.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“The GPU has outstripped the CPU,” explains Ashu, “both in terms of floating-point computation and in terms of bandwidth. That creates an unbalanced situation where the CPU can become the bottleneck because it cannot feed the GPU fast enough.”</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><img src="/files/u187432/support_by_vendor.jpg" width="620" height="330" /><br /></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Another part of the problem is a&nbsp;lack of proper multi-core scaling within the DirectX API. Just sorting out single-core CPU efficiency isn’t enough to bring Direct3D kicking and screaming into our multi-core present. “Older APIs—like DirectX 9—were pretty poor at the utilization of multiple cores. Back when DX9&nbsp;was designed, most people had&nbsp;single-core CPUs,” says Ashu. Deferred context support was introduced with DirectX 11 to push multi-core CPU performance, but it&nbsp;didn’t quite go far enough.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“The goal of deferred context support [in DirectX 11] was to simplify the transition of existing code paths, which were primarily single-core oriented, onto multi-core,” continues Yury. “So, efficiency was not the topmost priority. This&nbsp;is being completely fixed with DirectX 12. With the DX12 deferred-context API, it’s now focused specifically on performance.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">So, just like Mantle before it, DirectX 12 is focusing on trying to&nbsp;make more efficient use of all the&nbsp;component parts of our PCs’ hardware. Being able to spread the&nbsp;workload on the CPU across all&nbsp;of its available cores means it can keep up with the demands of the&nbsp;GPU and ensure there is no bottleneck forming between the two. Microsoft has demonstrated the gains it expects to get using an early implementation of DirectX 12 running on 3DMark.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“3DMark on Direct3D 11 uses multi-threading extensively,” wrote&nbsp;Matt Sandy on the DirectX Developer Blog. “However, due to a combination of runtime and driver overhead, there is significant idle time on each core. After porting the benchmark to use Direct3D 12, we see two major improvements—a 50&nbsp;percent improvement in CPU utilization, and better distribution of work among threads.”</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><img src="/files/u187432/graph.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><strong>On the left is multicore utilization in DirectX 11. The four threads on the right are optimized by DirectX 12.</strong><br /></span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">DX12 hardware is here</span></h2> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">This is great news for games coded with the DirectX 12 API. It should mean that modern game engines use the full power of our hardware, but there’s still the problem of encouraging devs to make the move to a brand-new API. Again, though, Microsoft has been thinking long and hard. We’re sure the wounds from the botched introduction of DirectX 10 and its restriction to the Vista OS millstone are felt throughout Redmond, and it must be keen to avoid such problems in future.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">One of the best ways to garner developer support is to make sure there is a large installed user base ready to go for DirectX 12 games, and thanks to support for existing graphics hardware, there will be. All of Nvidia’s current DirectX 11 GPUs—that’s Fermi-, Kepler-, and Maxwell-based cards—will be compatible with DirectX 12. On the AMD side, only the Graphics Core Next cards will be able to support the new Microsoft API (some 40 per cent of its DX11 cards). The vast majority of&nbsp;us won’t need a new graphics card to take advantage of all the platform-efficiency improvements promised for the new API. That’s great news, and ought to help adoption of DX12 development.</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u187432/space.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><strong>Are the API wars over? With Star Citizen supporting Mantle, DirectX, and OpenGL, we’re not so sure.</strong></span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Another factor that will help enormously is the involvement of consoles in this venture. Microsoft has announced that DirectX 12 won’t just be a PC API—it will also be the graphics API that powers its phones, tablets, and the Xbox One games console. We’re not just talking about using a similar software layer, either.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“Fundamentally, the API is the same,” explains Yury. “Microsoft explicitly stated [that] DirectX 12 is&nbsp;going to be the API for the console as well as the PC and other Windows platforms. The reason it’s cool from a developer’s perspective is that they can target a huge install base while coding to an API, which is also ported to console.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“This was not the case when DirectX 11 was launched, because all&nbsp;the consoles were basically DX9-class, so you essentially had a bifurcated development process,” says Ashu. “This is a pretty big deal&nbsp;because if you talk to game developers you just have to ask them a simple question: ‘How many&nbsp;actual console devkits do you&nbsp;have in your studio, and how many of your people are regularly programming in them?’ Usually, that number is in single digits. The actual amount of time they spend coding is&nbsp;mostly on the PC. Having this transferability now makes their lives easier, because the PC can be treated as a bigger, better version of the console and you just have to scale it down.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">And, like the hardware, the DirectX 12 software is already in the hands of the developers. At GDC, the Xbox One exclusive <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Forza 5</em> was shown running directly on PC hardware using DirectX 12. It took developer Turn 10 just two or three months to shift the code from the current Direct3D 11.x renderer on&nbsp;the Xbox One to the new PC Direct3D 12 API. “Microsoft has a group [who are] the top developers in the world,” says Ashu. “We’ve given all of them our driver, and a lot&nbsp;of them are already working on DirectX 12 stuff. All the key guys have DX12 access as well as our driver and our hardware.” Microsoft is anticipating that we’ll start to see DirectX 12 games hitting the stores in the autumn of next year, which means those games have to be in development right now.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Compatible hardware is already available and the software is already in the hands of the games developers. If DX12 will run on DirectX 11 hardware, is there any reason why it wouldn’t work on DirectX 11-compatible software? “We’ll defer to Microsoft on this one,” says Ashu sheepishly. “Is there any technological reason? There are challenges, there’s no question, but I think it’s quite doable.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">So, will we see DirectX 12 running on Windows 7 PCs? What are the chances of Microsoft limiting DirectX 12 gaming access to gamers only using newer versions of Windows? “Everybody’s aware of that situation,” says Ashu. “The truth is Microsoft went through it themselves, they went through it with Vista and DirectX 10. I think the right way to think is to be optimistic because you hope that we’ve all learned from the past.”</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><img src="/files/u187432/dx_12.jpg" width="620" height="290" /></span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"><strong>This was the first we knew of the links between Xbox and PC via DirectX 12. But which OS will get the new API?</strong><br /></span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">And what of AMD’s Mantle API? With only a year until DirectX 12 is&nbsp;unleashed in gaming form, and with development of compatible titles going ahead right now, from an Nvidia point of view, it must seem that the writing is on the wall for AMD’s proprietary software layer.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">“I personally think that the API wars are over,” says Ashu. “There’s DirectX and there’s OpenGL. They’re well-established; a lot of companies have invested a lot of capital and man-hours to bring them to their current level. Now, it’s&nbsp;just a question of are you on Windows PC or Xbox one? Then you’ve got DirectX. If you’re on Linux, SteamOS, or Android—or iOS for that matter—you’re on OpenGL. We support both equally.”</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">SIDEBAR #1</span></strong></h2> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;">Three pillars of performance</span></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;"><img src="/files/u187432/3_pillars.jpg" width="620" height="350" /><br /></span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">Microsoft has picked three key areas in&nbsp;which the new DirectX 12 API differs significantly from those that have gone before it. The first of these is pipeline state objects; the second is command lists and bundles; and the third is descriptor heaps and tables. That’s serious developer talk there, but we’ll attempt to simplify things a bit.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">DirectX 12’s pipeline state objects (PSOs) take the flexibility of the DX11 pipeline, where different states can be changed individually at&nbsp;any time, and simplifies it. In DX11, this complete flexibility means the driver is unable&nbsp;to resolve different elements until they&nbsp;have been finalized at draw time, which consequently adds extra overhead and reduces the number of draw calls per frame.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">DX12 unifies a lot of the pipeline states (pixel shader state, rasteriser state, and so on) into PSOs. These objects are finalized when they’re created, which reduces the overhead and maximizes draw calls, but are still mutable, with less of an impact at draw time.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">The command lists of DirectX 12 essentially make it easier for different CPU threads to assign work concurrently to the GPU. In D3D11, all the operations are submitted in a long stream of commands in a serial manner for the GPU to execute one after another. D3D12’s command lists contain all the relevant information, such as what texture is needed and what PSO to use, and so are completely self-contained. They can therefore be assigned to the GPU in a thread-free manner.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">The third of these pillars is the descriptor heap. Direct3D 11 had become inefficient in the&nbsp;way it handled resources. This made it very&nbsp;convenient to use, with a high level of abstraction from the hardware, but it also meant a lot of hardware capabilities went underused. When a game engine wanted to use different resources, it had to go through similar processes from scratch. Direct3D 12 uses descriptor heaps and tables to store different resource usage in easily accessible areas. This makes it more efficient to reuse resources in different ways without redrawing everything.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">&nbsp;</span></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><strong style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">SIDEBAR #2</span></strong></h2> <h2 class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;">What’s AMD doing with Mantle?</span></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold;"><img src="/files/u187432/space_2.jpg" /><br /></span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">One of the strangest things about the DirectX 12 announcement was the question of why AMD spent so much time and money putting together a proprietary API that is likely to have an incredibly short shelf life. With Nvidia claiming that it’s been working with Microsoft on&nbsp;DX12 for four years, you’d have to assume that AMD had also been there from the get-go.</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">It’s quite possible that DirectX 12 wasn’t always the ultra-efficient low-level API it’s now being touted as. AMD’s decision to go it alone with&nbsp;Mantle, and the performance gains that it has demonstrated by using a software layer that’s closer to the metal, could well have convinced Microsoft that this was the way to go with a new iteration of DirectX. That seemed to be what AMD’s Neal Robison was intimating at&nbsp;CES in January. “Will this make Microsoft make more changes and enhance DirectX? I don’t know,” he said. “I hope so. You could look at working together with Microsoft to make enhancements to DirectX.”</span></p> <p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;">AMD’s Raja Koduri admitted in January that such low-level API enhancements were vital to PC gaming. “Mantle, or Mantle-like technologies, are definitely necessary. You’ve seen the amount of overhead there is in the current PC APIs—it’s just eating up a whole bunch of CPU cycles for no good reason.”</span></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --></p><p><span style="mso-ansi-language: EN-GB;"> It wouldn't be the first time a hardware manufacturer created something off its own back, for its own hardware, that Microsoft subsequently dropped into DirectX. In fact, Intel's own DX11.1 extention, PixelSync, which was introduced at GDC last year, is being directly ported into DirectX 12 to support order-independent transparency, helping make smoke and other transparent materials more realistic. AMD's efforts to make its next generation of GPUs work well with a low-level graphics API can only mean good things for them when it comes to moving over to DirectX 12. All is definitely not lost.<br /></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/directx_evolution_2014#comments DirectX Forza 5 From the Magazine Fri, 14 Nov 2014 02:18:11 +0000 Dave James, Marco Chiapetta 28909 at http://www.maximumpc.com Z97 Comes Ashore! http://www.maximumpc.com/z97_comes__2014 <!--paging_filter--><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/header.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">We can still remember the hand wringing motherboard makers had before Z87 launched about the two-to-three-year dead space between chipset launches, during which time they would have nothing to tickle consumers’ fancies. Well, guess what? They were wrong. Here we are, less than a year after Z87 launched, seeing its replacement: Z97.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Besides next-gen I/O options, Z97 motherboards are the only ones guaranteed to work with Intel’s upcoming CPUs. So in the spirit of spending, we’ve rounded up four solid mid-range motherboard contenders to see which is worthy of going into your shiny new PC.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Z97 is here, is it right for you?</h2> <h3 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">That’s actually a rhetorical question, because the answer is yes</h3> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">First up, let’s temper your expectations. Oftentimes people get giddy and think of rocket jet packs, self-cooking chicken pot pies, or a new Enterprise with three warp nacelles when they hear the phrase “next generation.” Z97 ain’t that. Nope. Not by a long shot. In fact, Z97 is so similar to the Z87 that launched just 11 months before it that it even shares the same code name: Lynx Point. So if you’re expecting 50 lanes of PCIe 4.0, USB 3.1, and maybe a free Haswell thrown in for kicks, you’re not getting that with Z97.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span>In fact, what you know of Z87 you already know of Z97: It supports Intel LGA1150 CPUs, dual-channel RAM, and has six native SATA 6Gb/s ports. In the actual new column is support for the M.2 storage spec and SATA Express. Both move flash-based memory to their own interfaces rather than being saddled down with those plebian mechanical hard drives. Both SATA Express and M.2 increase the theoretical bandwidth to about 1,000MB/s. That’s a healthy step up from SATA’s 600MB/s, and more importantly, it allows flash-based storage to step up the pace. Developed primarily as a hard-drive interface, SATA just doesn’t move fast enough for flash or next-generation memory, so the two will part ways, which is a good thing.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span>For the most part, the rest of the changes in Z97 are pretty inconsequential, although features such as using a PCIe-based device to cache a hard drive is new. We can see you yawning already, but know this: The Z97 is the only choice today for someone building an LGA1150 system who cares about future upgrades. That’s because Z97 boards will officially support Intel’s upcoming Devil’s Canyon chip and the socketed Broadwell K CPU due early<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>next year. While there’s a chance most of today’s quality Z87 boards will support the Devil’s Canyon CPU (although not guaranteed) the 14nm Broadwell K CPU required power changes at the board level.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span><img src="/files/u187432/chip_processor.jpg" width="300" height="339" style="float: left;" />So, while you think Intel may be pulling another clock-blocking trick by preventing you from inserting Broadwell into your shiny three-month-old Z87 board, company officials have sworn on a stack of technical manuals that it is truly a technology limitation, not a marketing decision.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span>What that means is anyone considering building a new PC with the chances of adding any of the upcoming CPUs should opt for Z97.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span>Besides that, for most consumers, the main appeal of Z97 will be in the next-generation storage interfaces, although of the two, M.2 is already a known quantity and has been tacked into existing boards. We reviewed M.2 SSDs months ago, and have already seen devices with M.2 ports, so, meh. SATA Express, however, is the one everyone has their eye on to see if it brings any improvements.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span>What we can say now is that we don’t know. During our review, we were unable to obtain any actual SATA Express storage devices. Asus did include its conceptual Hyper Express drive, which combines two ADATA MSATA drives in RAID 0 with a SATA Express port on the end. The end result is something that should offer SATA Express speeds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the Hyper Express to work with the competing motherboards that have SATA Express ports. That makes it difficult to gauge the value of SATA Express at the moment.<span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count:1">&nbsp;</span>Still, that doesn’t mean we think you should shrug your shoulders at Z97. At this point, there’s simply no reason to build on Z87 unless you got a rocking deal on the board. We don’t think you should rush out to “upgrade” your perfectly functional Z87 board to Z97 board, either.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Asus Maximus VII Hero</h2> <h3>A Republic of Gamers mobo without the big bill</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/asus_hero.png" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="text-align: left;"><strong>In the motherboard world, the Maximus VII Hero sports some of the best mobo software out there</strong>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">In Asus’s lineup, the Republic of Gamer faction carries the lineage of premium motherboard. And for the most part, Asus doesn’t disappoint with the ROG: Maximus VII Hero. The company<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>has been on a roll with its exceptionally polished and smooth UEFI, which has left competitors scrambling to catch up. Though others have stepped up their game, Asus’s UEFI is still the clear leader.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p><p>Our only problem though, is the complexity Asus’s offering has today. There’s simply so many switches, modes, and flip-out doodads that you can easily become overwhelmed. On the hardware front, Asus configured the Hero with three sets of x16 slots. The board itself supports only SLI or CrossFireX across two of the slots. The MSI and Gigabyte reviewed below let you run three-way CrossFireX. On the storage front, there are six SATA 6Gb/s slots using the Intel PCH, plus another SATA 6Gb/s pair using an Asmedia controller. Asus, interestingly, has chosen to give you an M.2 but no SATA Express. Why? The company feels implementing both on a board is a compromise. Because the Z97 chipset has so few PCIe lanes in the southbridge, you can’t run M.2 and SATA Express simultaneously. Even as configured, the Hero cuts off the stubbier PCIe slots when M.2 is enabled.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">The Hero also trailed slightly behind the three other boards here. All of our testing is done at stock speeds with default UEFI settings and we use the same components in all of the boards, as well as double-checking component configurations, so it’s a head-scratcher as to why the ROG lagged a bit. We honestly think it’s likely the result of Asus not pushing the CPU as hard as its competitors—which is odd, as it’s usually the one over the line.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p><p>That makes our verdict split. While the board has ladled on goodness such as Sonic Radar II (basically an audio cheater mode), separated audio paths, and a massive amount of options, the slight performance delta and rough edges on some of the software suite had us torn. We really like this board, especially as it’s almost affordable at $230 (for a ROG board, anyway), but those few rough edges can’t help but mar the overall score.</p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/hero_score.jpg" width="620" height="375" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H</h2> <h3 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">It’s what’s inside that counts</h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/gigabyte.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 11.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">The GA-Z97X-UD5H is probably the best-balanced board of the bunch.</span></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Gigabyte’s GA-Z97X-UDH5H doesn’t have the flashy heatsinks nor gamer red color scheme, but it’s an eminently serviceable, fast motherboard that offers pretty much the best balance of features of the mobos here.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>In the important column for storage fetishists, the UD5H offers both an M.2 and SATA Express port. We tested the M.2 performance of the UD5H with the Plextor M6e SSD that we reviewed in the June 2014 issue slotted into the M.2, and it was spot on. We also tried testing SATA Express using the Asus experimental HyperExpress drive but had no luck. In other words, the jury is still out on SATA Express, but at least M.2 gets it done.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>In amenities, the board gets a retro feel with Gigabyte’s decision to offer two PCI slots. One we can see, but <span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><em style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal"><span style="background-image: none; background-repeat: repeat; background-attachment: scroll; background-position: 0% 0%; background-clip: border-box; background-origin: padding-box; background-size: auto auto;">two</span></em></span> PCI slots in the year 2014? Hello, 2008. There are still three x16 physical slots—two of which can be run in SLI or even three-way CrossFireX mode. Anyone who plans to pack this board full of hardware and exotic storage options should be aware that what ports are hot and what slots are on will depend very much on what is occupied. Because Z97 is so poor on PCIe lanes, motherboard makers have had to resort to robbing from Steve to pay Bill. For example, plugging in an M.2 will shut off SATA Ports 4 and 5. It’s not just the UD5H, either. The Hero halves the PCIe bandwidth to the bottom slot when an M.2 is installed.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Gigabyte has made great strides forward with its bundled apps, too. They’re easier on the eye, fairly straightforward, and full-featured. That’s saying a lot, as just two generations ago, the company’s apps looked like they were stolen from Radio Shack. Gigabyte also continued to buff its UEFI interface, which is better but has a bit of a Jekyll-Hyde-and-Larry mode. There’s a new simplified interface, a second performance-tweak interface, and finally, a throwback “classic” mode, too.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">Performance of the board was quite good. The UD5H was dead even with the MSI entry and definitely ahead of both Asus boards. That’s a surprise result, as Asus usually has the edge in performance on new launches by pushing the CPUs clocks slightly higher than its competitors.</p> <p><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Perhaps the icing on the cake, besides getting to choose either SATA Express or M.2, is that the board is also $40 cheaper than the ROG.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/gigabyte_score.jpg" width="620" height="375" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="text-align: left;"> <hr /></h2> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="text-align: left;">MSI Z97 Gaming 7</h2> <h3 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="text-align: left;">Red means gaming</h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/msi.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 11.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">The Z97 Gaming 7 packs in features at a reasonable price.</span></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p><p><span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;"><span style="background-image: none; background-repeat: repeat; background-attachment: scroll; background-position: 0% 0%; background-clip: border-box; background-origin: padding-box; background-size: auto auto;">Psst</span></em>.</span> Want to know a secret of the motherboard industry? It’s all about the colors. Consumers have become so confused by the array of motherboards that makers have had sort them by color to help consumers un-kink their minds.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>MSI, frankly, has the color thing sorted out. Yellow is for extreme overclockers, blue is for normal computers, and red, well, red is for gaming.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Like the Gigabyte UD5H, for a mid-range motherboard, it offers a nice balance of features that will appeal to overclockers and gamers. There’s rails to directly read voltage off the motherboard, a nifty POST LED that kicks over to indicate CPU temps once the system is posted, and well, if Gigabyte and Asus have separated ground planes to increase audio fidelity—so does MSI. MSI even one-ups them by adding an audio power circuit that lets you run power straight from your PSU to the motherboard’s audio. In theory, this eliminates noise that would otherwise have to pass through the planes of the motherboard.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>MSI has also stepped up its app and UEFI game, too. It’s not in the class of Asus, but it works well enough. It’s not quite as centralized as Gigabyte’s or Asus’s, but it’s skinned for modern times.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>In storage, MSI skips SATA Express and includes an M.2 slot. The slot supports both SATA and PCIe and when in use, you’ll lose two of your SATA ports so RTFM if you’re having problems getting drives to come up when using an M.2.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>The MSI board did well in performance. It was on par with the Gigabyte UD5H, with both just edging the Asus offerings in several categories. For motherboard reviews, we prefer to judge new boards by how well they auto-overclock, as most newbs are going to reach for the auto button first. In that respect, the Gaming 7 was rather meh. The only option to overclock is for a user to power off and click the OC Genie button. The automatic-overclock OC Genie gave us was a full-time 4GHz. Yeah, that’s technically an overclock but it’s pretty conservative for a 4770K part, which typically turbos up to 3.9GHz. We will say that at least the speed step worked.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Overall, we think the Gaming 7 is a nicely presented, nicely outfitted board for a mid-range offering. Frankly, even if the Gigabyte has more flexibility than the Gaming 7 with its M.2 and SATA Express, we know that when buyers are in the store and presented with the plainer-looking UD5H and the red-and-black Gaming 7—both at the same price—most will actually opt for the red-and-black.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/msi_score.jpg" width="620" height="375" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mk I</h2> <h3 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">A tough, conservative mobo that’s not for everyone.</h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/asus_sabretooth.png" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 11.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: Calibri; mso-fareast-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;">The Sabertooth comes with a pair of fans to push air through the “armor” when used with liquid cooling.</span></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">What’s more important with a motherboard: 10K Titanium capacitors, alloy chokes with a special beveled top to increase surface area, or military-grade MOSFETS and five-year warranty?<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>None of the above. It’s all about how it looks. Let’s be shallow and admit that we like blinking lights and LED readouts, or in the case of the Sabertooth Z97 Mk I, a cool-ass stealthy blacked-out armor that covers the front and the back. The best part of the Sabertooth Z97 Mk I is that it actually gives you all the fancy features we listed earlier plus the “armored” look we’re actually quite fond of. It’s even functional. When running liquid cooling, there are sliding vents and fans that let you actively cool just the power circuits on the motherboard.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Initially, we thought Asus’s pitch on the Mk I was just marketing fluff, but it’s apparently not. The board isn’t intended just to appear as a tough mobo to run in harsher climates, it actually walks the walk, too. For example, of the four boards here, it’s the only one to follow Intel’s guidelines on maximum clocks on the Core i7-4770K under a multi-threaded load. The Mk 1 keeps the cores at 3.7GHz, while the other three boards boost the cores up to 3.9GHz. Asus says it does this because that’s what Intel’s spec calls for, following it to the letter. Basically, the board is truly aimed at a different crowd. Not pure gamers, not pure overclockers, but reliability-and-durability, umm, enthusiasts.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>In performance, that leaves the Mk 1 a little slower than the others on CPU-sensitive apps. The board features a SATA Express port that we were actually able to test with Asus’s simulated SATA Express device. It’s basically two ADATA mSATA SSDs in RAID 0 in a shell with a SATA Express port. In performance, we were hoping to see it eclipse what we’ve seen out of M.2, but it didn’t. The best we got out of it was a 653MB/s sequential read and 350MB/s write. The M.2 Plextor M6e saw sequential reads of 744MB/s and writes of 580MB/s so, well, yawn. Again, we’ll have to wait for authentic SATA Express devices before we render our final judgment on it.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>You should also know that while there are nice touches such as additional thermal probes and slot covers and the most fan headers in this roundup, there are no surface-mounted controls, no post LED, and it doesn’t even auto-overclock worth a damn, so you’re giving up a lot of features for the “tough” features of the board. If you’re into it,<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>more power to you, but most probably would rather save the $70 and go with the Gigabyte or MSI board. Still, we’re going to admit up front that we actually really liked this board despite the meh verdict we gave it. It’s just that most people are probably best served by one of the three other boards here.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/sabretooth_score.jpg" width="620" height="375" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p style="text-align: left;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">&nbsp;</p> <h2 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Benchmarks</h2> <h3 class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst">Balance and performance trump colors<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></h3> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Performance on modern motherboards has become a fairly boring category. With so much functionality packed into the actual CPU cores, we typically don’t see much of a difference. That’s not always true though, as a badly optimized UEFI or a mistake in design can hit performance, so we still run the boards through tests to see if they’re up to snuff. We install the same CPU, same SSD, and same GPU, as well the same drivers, with clean OS installs in each of the reviewed boards. We also go through and carefully check each subsystem to make sure each component is configured the same.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>Our benchmarks are also selected to be more about system-level testing, such as memory bandwidth and SSD performance, and more general-use, such as PC Mark 8. We also try to coax any differences out of the boards by testing them with a few games run at lower resolutions and Valve’s older Particle physics test.<span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle"><span style="mso-tab-count: 1;">&nbsp;</span>In this roundup, though the margin was fairly small, we would give the nod in performance to the Gigabyte and MSI Z97 boards. There’s clearly a pattern, though small, of the boards being “faster.” What makes them faster? It’s generally how aggressive the mobo maker is at pushing the CPU. Since the chips are unlocked, the board makers can decide to simply ignore Intel’s guidelines and clocks, and run the chips harder than recommended. Does it hurt anyone? Not really. Intel’s guidelines are pretty conservative and these parts have a lot of headroom, so we think a stock “overclock” is kosher. This puts the Gigabyte and MSI boards ahead at “stock” speeds. The Sabertooth Z97 Mk 1’s conservative nature, however, saw its lower turbo clocks put it behind the others by a larger margin. If that’s a turn-off, you could simply open up the UEFI and increase the multiplier a few notches. You certainly can’t do it automatically. We tried the board’s wizard-based auto-overclock and it failed miserably to obtain any overclock at all. We’re not sure why the feature is even there. The MSI’s auto-overclock is also pretty miserable.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>This really leaves the Gigabyte Z97X UD5H as the overall winner by a notch. Despite the lovely utilities packed onto the Hero that should be lauded, the GA-Z97X-UD5H is the winner here.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/benchmarks_0.jpg" width="620" height="450" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle" style="text-indent:.5in"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/z97_comes__2014#comments Asus Maximus VII Hero Asus Sabretooth Z97 Mk 1 Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H MSI 797 Gaming 7 From the Magazine Fri, 14 Nov 2014 01:21:00 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28908 at http://www.maximumpc.com Doctor: Cooling Colors, Movin' On Up & Where's My SSD? http://www.maximumpc.com/doctor_cooling_colors_movin_wheres_my_ssd_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h2><img src="/files/u187432/hp.jpg" width="250" height="171" style="float: right;" /><img />WiFi slow lane</h2> <p>I just bought an HP 210 GG1 laptop and the connection speed was bad.&nbsp; I was pleasantly shocked when the support tech replaced my Intel Wi-Fi drivers and suddenly we were able to move at the speed of light through the Internet.&nbsp; Why would replacing drivers less than six-months old make such a huge difference in the Intel dual-band N-7260 performance?</p> <p style="text-align: left;">—Art Hudson</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>The Doctor responds: </strong>It’s hard to say specifically what was causing your issues Art, but when we hit Google to see if others were having problems with that wireless adapter, we did indeed find a thread on Intel’s forums where a representative said they are “working on these issues,” and he was speaking of the N-7260 wireless card. In your case, it sounds like Intel fixed them eventually, so that’s good news. The key take-away, though, is that updated drivers can make all the difference in the world, even if the driver you’re using is just six months old. That’s a lifetime in the GPU world, but certainly shouldn’t make that much difference for a wireless adapter. However, it’s important to note that 802.11ac is now coming online, and we imagine wireless adapter manufacturers like Intel and Broadcomm as well as router companies will be issuing new firmware and drivers semi-regularly in order to coax maximum performance out of the new wireless standard, so always keep your drivers up to date. If you are too busy to check them manually, just download the free program Slim Drivers (<a href="https://www.slimwareutilities.com/" target="_blank">www.slimwareutilities.com</a>) and let it do the checking.</p> <h2 style="text-align: left;">Integrated Blues</h2> <p style="text-align: left;">I built a computer two years ago, but it won’t play new games like Titanfall. I have an Asus Maximus IV Gene motherboard, two Corsair Force SSDs striped in RAID 0, 8GB of DDR3/1866, and a 3.5GHz Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.2GHz on Windows 7 Home Premium. I have been using the onboard graphics but it’s not working for these games. I need to know what video card you would suggest for the least amount of money. I have had the best results in the past with Nvidia cards and was thinking of a GeForce GTX 780 Ti card but I live 100 miles away from any decent electronics store so I want to get it right the first time.</p> <p style="text-align: right;">—Kim Wofford</p> <p style="text-align: right;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/titanfall.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>The Doctor responds: </strong>That’s one sweet system you have there Kim, and you are doing it an injustice by running onboard or integrated graphics. The graphics chip that is included on all motherboards is for running games like Farmville or Peggle, not Titanfall, and don’t even think about a gnarly shooter like Metro 2033 or Battlefield 4. Your suggestion of the GTX 780 Ti is certainly excellent if you have that kind of cash, as that’s a $700 GPU. You can save $200 by going with a GTX 780, which is about 10 to 15 percent slower, but still fast enough for 2560x1600 gaming on 20-inch monitor with every detail set to maximum. If you’re using a 1920x1080 panel, a GPU like the GTX 780 Ti is a little overkill, but will deliver more than 100fps in most games, and last you a very, very long time, so it’s not a bad upgrade as long as money isn’t an issue. One other thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need at least a 600W PSU with two six-pin PCIe connectors to power the GPU. Also, since you have an Asus Gene microATX motherboard we’re assuming you are running a smaller case, so make sure whatever case you have can handle an 11-inch GPU.</p> <h2>SSD disappearing act</h2> <p style="text-align: left;">I am having a wee problem with a Samsung PM830 SSD I bought on eBay. I followed all of Maximum PC's directions for installing the SSD, yet when I run Samsung Magician, it says, "No Samsung SSD could be found."&nbsp; So, I’m unable to update firmware. Can you help me figure this out?&nbsp; I’m running a Gigabyte MA785GM-US2H Rev 3.3 board with latest bios F12f (beta), AMD Phenom X2 CPU, and 4GB of RAM. The Samsung Data Migration tool worked perfectly, and the BIOS is set for AHCI.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: right;">—Andrew Curzo</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>The Doctor responds: </strong>You may be out of luck, Andrew. Samsung’s Magician software only supports retail versions of its drives. Drives sold to OEMs or PC makers are not supported. From what the Doc can tell, the PM830 is the OEM version of the Samsung 830 drive (the predecessor to the 840 drive), so Magician won’t work on it.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u187432/drivers.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">For what it’s worth, the reason the software doesn’t see it and won’t let you update the firmware is because whatever company sold that SSD originally put its own firmware on the drive and some other customizations unique to the manufacturer. If you really want to be able to update the firmware on a Samsung SSD, you will need to buy a retail drive.<br />Also, don’t feel too bad about this, as OEM manufacturers typically wield very strict control over what drivers and firmware are installed on any piece of hardware that leaves the shop. They do this to cut down on support calls, and to be able to work with software and firmware they are familiar with instead of rogue updates from parts unknown. Our advice to you is to just use the drive as-is, as we are not aware of any show-stopping problems with the Samsung 830 that would require a firmware update. <strong><br /></strong></p> <h2>Upgrading to an SSD</h2> <p style="text-align: left;">I just completed a new build about four months ago, and I am now perplexed about adding an SSD to my system. The system I built is Intel-based with an Asus Z87 motherboard, Intel Core i7-4770K processor, and a Western Digital Black 3TB hard drive running Windows 7. When I built this system, I was on a strict budget, so it made sense to opt for storage capacity rather than the at-the-time, high-dollar SSDs. Now that prices have come down, I’m interested in installing an SSD. My question is whether there is a way I can install or move the OS onto the new SSD and remove it from the original C: drive, the WD 3TB, or do I have to start from scratch again?</p> <p style="text-align: right;">—Gary Lark</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong><img src="/files/u187432/menu.jpg" width="310" height="403" style="float: right;" />The Doctor responds: </strong>There is a way to move your OS to the new SSD and there’s a way to remove it from the original drive, Gary, and there’s also a way to start from scratch, so it’s up to you how you want to proceed. Most retail SSDs include drive-cloning software, so you can just attach the SSD and it will let you clone your boot drive to the SSD, no problem. The only question is, will your boot drive’s OS installation fit onto the SSD? There’s no way to just move your OS to the drive using cloning software, as it copies the entire partition, so that’s a question you must consider. If your OS will fit on the SSD, clone away. However, there’s a problem with this approach in that you really don’t want all your data (games, music, movies, documents) on the SSD, because it will fill up way too fast. Sure, you can move those folders to your 3TB drive manually, but as you can tell, things begin to get complicated when you are moving folders and OSes back and forth. Therefore, to keep it simple and to ensure maximum performance from your SSD, we recommend just reinstalling your OS to the SSD (it will only take about ten minutes), then just change the links to Documents, Videos, Pictures, and Music in Windows to the respective folders on the 3TB drive. You can do this by right-clicking the folders and changing the Save Location. You can also move over the files from your desktop folder or anything else you have on the bigger drive. Once you are positive you have all the files you need and are up and running, you can nuke your old Windows install on the 3TB drive from orbit.</p> <h2>Pink problems</h2> <p style="text-align: left;">I am running a Core i5-3570K on an ASUS P8Z77-V LK LGA 1155 mobo with a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670, Corsair H100i cooler, and OCZ 750W PSU all packed into a Corsair Obsidian 650D case.&nbsp; My issue is with the Corsair H100i cooler. When it was new, the logo on the cooling unit glowed blue, but after a few months it turned a bright pink. Everything seems to be working properly, fans running, etc., but the CPU seems to be running warm.&nbsp; I emailed Corsair support several times and after waiting a month they sent me a RMA form with no explanation.&nbsp; I don't want to return the unit if I don't have to. I just want to know if the color change is normal.&nbsp; Does the Doc know?&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: right;">—John Ilasenko</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>The Doctor responds: </strong>Congratulations, John, the pink glow means you’re pregnant! <br />Actually, the Doc has run a Corsair H100i in the Lab in the past and didn’t experience this problem, but there are some things to keep in mind. First, on the H100i you can change the color of the logo on the waterblock by installing and tweaking the Corsair Link software. It can be changed, for example, based on the chips temperature.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u187432/corsair.jpg" width="620" height="350" /><br /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">You also need to attach the included USB cable to a header on the motherboard. Therefore, the first step would be to install the software and see if you can change it to green. It’s possible the fan speeds on the unit are running at lower temps, which could be raising the temperature of the chip and trigger the change to pink. The good news is that if you install the Corsair Link software, you can also tweak the fan and pump speeds to your liking as well.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Submit your questions to <a target="_blank">doctor@maximumpc.com</a>.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/doctor_cooling_colors_movin_wheres_my_ssd_2014#comments ask the doctor corsair hp ssd titanfall From the Magazine Tue, 11 Nov 2014 06:55:44 +0000 Maximum PC 28884 at http://www.maximumpc.com Head 2 Head: Two EVGA 780 Ti Cards Vs. One Radeon R9 295X2 http://www.maximumpc.com/head_head_two_evga_780_ti_cards_vs_one_radeon_r9_295x2_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/1.jpg" width="300" height="169" style="float: right;" />Getting two graphics processing units (GPUs) on one video card is a time-honored tradition for enthusiast rigs. With this generation, AMD has gone with an integrated closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC) to keep its two R9 290X GPUs from getting crispy. Nvidia’s dual-GPU card has yet to make an entrance, but two 780 Ti’s linked together with SLI have roughly the same performance and price. If you’re prepared to spend about $1,500, these two options are natural competitors.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal">Round 1: Installation</h2> <p class="MsoNormal">Like the Asus Ares II before it, this 295X2 uses a CLC with a 120mm radiator and a 120mm fan. The most sensible installation point for the rad happens to be where a case’s rear exhaust fan usually goes. So the exhaust fan has to be moved to the top. But if you’re also using a CLC for something else in your system, that might not be an option. The 295X2 is also about 12.5 inches long, so it may be too long to even fit in your case. The 780 Ti’s, meanwhile, are relatively compact at 10.5 inches, and they have no rads to wrangle. If you’re using a small form-factor case like the Corsair 250D or the Bitfenix Colossus Mini, though, a 295X2 is your only real choice at this price.</p> <h4 class="MsoNormal">Winner: 295X2</h4> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal">Round 2: Performance</h2> <p class="MsoNormal">While both competitors are gorgeously engineered, beauty is only skin deep, so let's get right to the numbers. Out of the box, EVGA’s two cards are assisted by a core clock speed of a little over 1GHz, which is an impressive 125MHz above the stock version. And we see the results of that borne out across the board. The advantage may be slight at times, but it’s consistent. Then again, the AMD card has plenty of headroom for its own overclocking. The 295X2’s liquid cooling allows it to run much cooler (and quieter) than a stock R9 290X. And you can bet that anyone dropping $1,500 on this beast is going to give OC’ing a whirl. And sure enough, we were able to bring it in line with EVGA’s cards. We tried tweaking the 780 Ti’s as well, but their factory OC was already pretty aggressive, and we weren’t able to get it substantially higher.</p> <h4 class="MsoNormal">Winner: Tie</h4> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal">Round 3: Noise and Heat</h2> <p class="MsoNormal">Like the Ares II before it, the 295X2’s CLC is beefy enough that the unit never gets above a mild hum, even when overclocked and looping benchmarks. Meanwhile, you can definitely tell when the 780 Ti,s go to work. With a tower case, the two cards are also stacked on top of each other, so the upper card sucks heat blowing off the lower card. This heat puts a firm ceiling on the pair’s ability to reach a stable overclock; their clock speeds need to match, and the top card becomes the weakest link in the chain. These EVGA cards also use a partial shroud, so a lot of heat is blown into the case. But anyone spending this kind of money is prepared for that, so the 295X’s full shroud is not a big advantage. The 295X2’s whisper-quiet operation gives it a slight edge, though.</p> <h4 class="MsoNormal">Winner: 295X2</h4> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal">Round 4: Software</h2> <p class="MsoNormal">High-octane gear needs good software to take full advantage of it. Both AMD’s and Nvidia’s packages have fine-grained performance settings, monitor calibration, and a comprehensive listing of your system hardware (helpful for troubleshooting, or sometimes just bragging rights). Nvidia’s “GeForce Experience” software has ShadowPlay, which is some of the best hardware-accelerated video capturing that we’ve seen outside of broadcast-caliber programs that cost thousands of dollars and require training to even use properly. But GFE is free and streamlined for everyday use. Nvidia also tests a boatload of games and gives you one-click optimizations for all of them. AMD’s “Gaming Evolved” software uses crowd sourcing to determine optimal settings, which can be just as good. AMD also has an interesting reward points system, stat tracking, and social media integration. Both companies are obviously working hard to win you over, but we have to give the edge to Nvidia for its low-overhead real-time video encoder.</p> <h4 class="MsoNormal">Winner: EVGA 780 Ti’s</h4> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <h2 class="MsoNormal">Round 5: Customer Support</h2> <p class="MsoNormal">When you spend this kind of cheddar on your rig, you want to make sure that potential problems down the road will be taken care of without excessive costs or wasted time. EVGA’s package is arguably the best in the business. For warranty support, you create an account on their site and transmit an image of your receipt. From there on, its serial number, place of purchase and even time of sale will always be a few clicks away. You’ll be notified of free bundled games that you may qualify for, and EVGA streamlines the request process. They also have a “Step-Up” program where you can upgrade to a new card of theirs within 90 days of purchasing the original, and you pay only the difference. AMD’s partners such as Asus and Sapphire have some high-quality performance tweaking software, but EVGA’s overall package is impressive.</p> <h4 class="MsoNormal">Winner: EVGA 780 Ti’s</h4> <h2 class="MsoNormal">Double Your Money, Double Your Fun?<span style="font-size: 12.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 11.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;"><img src="/files/u187432/2.jpg" width="300" height="169" style="float: right;" /></span></h2> <p></p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--> <p class="MsoNormal">With Head 2 Head, we try to get two products that are as comparable as possible. But as this issue went to press, Nvidia did not have a dual-GPU card that it could deliver to us. The Titan Z had been announced, but its future appeared murky. That would make the 295X2 a winner by default, but two cards with one GPU is still a worthy and popular comparison.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">We also had decide whether to use a stock 780 Ti or one customized by a vendor. Why would you bother with the stock unit? Well, that version has a “full shroud” around the card, so it ejects its hot exhaust out the back of the case. (That’s even how the 295X2 is designed.) Most proprietary versions have a partial shroud. You get a larger number of potentially bigger fans, which keeps the chips cooler. A stock 780 Ti will climb quickly to 82 degrees Celsius, at which point the card is designed to not let the chip get any hotter. This means the fan can get pretty loud. Proprietary cooling like EVGA's "ACX" design uses larger fans, and more of them, to lower the noise profile, but it still gets up to a dull roar.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Should you care, though? If you’re gaming with headphones, arguably not. If you’re using a nice speaker system and playing a loud shooter, arguably not. But at $1,500 or so, we’d argue that you have a reasonable expectation of low distraction, and the enthusiast experience isn’t always full of explosions and gunfire. We also feel an obligation to account for a variety of users, some of whom are more sensitive to system noise than others.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">There was one thing about these tests that we couldn’t readily account for, and that was the 780 Ti’s performance at Ultra HD screen resolutions. It’s taken as common knowledge among enthusiasts that you need a large amount of video RAM to play games at 3840x2160 pixels. But across our benchmarking phase, the difference wasn't as great as we expected. We suspect that some testers may be maintaining 4x multi-sample anti-aliasing, or more. But this method of reducing jagged edges on-screen just isn’t needed when your pixel density is this high, so the extra 1GB of VRAM on the 295X2 isn’t a clear advantage.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Lastly, Nvidia has a reputation for providing multi-GPU support for specific games faster than AMD does. And we noticed that <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/batman_arkham_origins_review_2014" target="_blank">Batman: Arkham Origins</a> didn’t appear to recognize the 295X2’s second GPU when using the 14.4 beta drivers. And performance still wasn’t up to snuff with the final 14.4 drivers. This is also an Nvidia-backed game, though, so AMD might not have had access to it until after release. Nvidia had some obstacles of its own with the AMD-backed <span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/search/tomb%20raider" target="_blank">Tomb Raider</a> reboot</span>, so there’s some give-and-take of unclear origin.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u187432/benchmarks.jpg" width="620" height="335" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/head_head_two_evga_780_ti_cards_vs_one_radeon_r9_295x2_2014#comments 780 ti evga Head 2 Head radeon From the Magazine Tue, 11 Nov 2014 06:26:50 +0000 Tom McNamara 28883 at http://www.maximumpc.com Fast Forward: Windows 8 Workarounds http://www.maximumpc.com/windows_8_workarounds_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;"><img src="/files/u187432/windows_8.jpg" width="325" height="183" style="float: right;" />My forced switch to Windows 8.1 broke some vital software that worked perfectly on Windows XP. Luckily, I’ve found workarounds—and they might save your software, too.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">Often, Windows 8.1 simply refuses to run an old installer. In other cases, the installer seems to work, but the installed application won’t run. To make Windows 8.1 more cooperative, you’ll need your old system and some persistence.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">The first victim I rescued was an old version of Adobe Photoshop. The installer balked, so I bypassed it by copying all the installed files from my XP system to my new system. Then I opened the Properties window for the Photoshop executable file, chose the Compatibility tab, and selected “Windows XP Service Pack 2.”</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">Photoshop still failed to launch but named a DLL file it couldn’t find. I located the DLL in the Windows folder of my XP system and copied it to my new system. To avoid possible conflicts, I put the DLL in the Photoshop folder, not the Windows folder. Usually, programs look for their DLLs locally before searching elsewhere.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">When Photoshop failed to open again, another error message named a different missing DLL. As before, this one was in the Windows folder of my XP system. After I copied it and made another try, Photoshop said it couldn’t find <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">yet another</em> DLL. So I found and copied that one. After six iterations of this process, Photoshop finally launched. Now it runs fine, except it needs administrator-level permission before it opens, probably because it’s not officially logged in the Windows registry.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: .0001pt;"><span style="font-size: 12.0pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">I’ve used the same solution to salvage other vital programs that Windows 8.1 rejects. Sometimes it doesn’t work when I copy the software to Program Files, so I created a desktop folder called Programs for those cases. Persistence pays off!</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/windows_8_workarounds_2014#comments microsoft pc windows 8 From the Magazine Tue, 11 Nov 2014 05:35:34 +0000 Tom Halfhill 28881 at http://www.maximumpc.com Editor's Note: Motherboard Memories http://www.maximumpc.com/motherboard_memories_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> <o:TargetScreenSize>1024x768</o:TargetScreenSize> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst"><img src="/files/u187432/motherboard.jpg" width="300" height="252" style="float: right;" />I can still remember the first ATX motherboard I bought in the 1990s. I had acquired a blazing-fast 166MHz Pentium MMX part (I had just missed out on the top-end 200MHz Pentium MMX by a few minutes) and needed a mobo to go with it.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">Being a complete newb, I went to the Local Computer Store and purchased an Intel motherboard based on that new technology that was going to change the world: Universal Serial Bus. I knew USB was the thing to have, and the cool blue box said “USB support.” Little did I know what “USB support” meant. The board I in my sweaty hands apparently had the capability, but apparently there was no reason to include the actual ports in the package. Yes, USB support technically, but it had solder points where you would normally find the port stack.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">The newb in me figured that was<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>how USB was implemented. I assumed the deal was that at some point the consumer would buy an upgrade kit, and then solder it on to add the capability. That isn’t how it happened because we know that even back in the 1990s, motherboard vendors didn’t expect you to solder add-on features to your motherboard. Instead, what I probably got was some odd-duck OEM board that the PC maker decided to save $3 on by not including the USB ports. And why bother, <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span>since the newfangled technology didn’t really go anywhere for another two years. Even worse, even though the board had no ports, the I/O Shield was punched out for the two USB ports it should have had. That meant for the next few years, every time I worked on my PC, that empty spot would mock my newbness for making a terrible motherboard choice.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">You could be damned sure my next motherboard purchase got much more intensive research. That board was a good pick, too. I selected the famous Asus P2B using Intel’s warhorse of a chipset: the 440BX. That P2B would carry me through multiple CPU (I started out with the cheaper 66MHz FSB 266MHz Pentium II <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span>part) and GPU upgrades and housed my dual Voodoo2 boards for years. And yes, it had USB ports.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">I bring this up because with the arrival of Intel Z97 chipset, it’s again “safe” to buy an LGA1150 motherboard. Even better, today’s motherboards are far more feature-packed than they ever were in the 1990s, and cheaper to boot. I remember paying about $260 for that first USB-less board, and close to that for my P2B. Neither of those boards had Ethernet nor integrated audio, much less the capability or performance of today’s motherboards.</p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpMiddle">You still have to make your hard choices between SATA Express or M.2 port, and how many PCIe slots you want, but at least you can buy knowing that today’s motherboards are a world apart from what enthusiasts had access to just a decade or so ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/motherboard_memories_2014#comments asus atx motherboards pentium From the Magazine Tue, 11 Nov 2014 05:19:05 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28880 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Keyboard http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/best_keyboard_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>UPDATE: We've added six more keyboards to our best keyboard roundup</h3> <p>If you’re a gamer, you can probably identify a few points in time when you realized something important about your control setup that made you better at the game. When you discovered that putting your left hand on WASD gives you more options than putting it on the arrow keys, for instance, or when you realized that your crappy optical mouse was actually holding you back in shooters. These kinds of peripheral epiphanies don’t happen every day, but it might be just about time for you to have a new one. It might be time for you to realize that your keyboard is holding you back.</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/keyboard_opener13195_small_1.jpg" alt="best keyboard" title="best keyboard" width="620" height="480" /></h3> <p>We’re giving you some credit here—we’re not talking about making the upgrade from a $6 keyboard you got at the grocery store. No, we’re talking about making the upgrade from a gaming keyboard to an amazing gaming keyboard. Going from entry level or midrange to top-of-the-line.</p> <p>We looked around and picked out some of the <strong>best keyboards</strong> we could find. To compare them, we put them through our usual battery of real-world testing, including gaming and typing, and compared their features and overall feel. Because these keyboards come attached to some pretty heavy price tags, we made sure to give them extra scrutiny. We know that minor inconveniences that might fly on a cheap keyboard become a lot more galling when you’ve paid $150 for the privilege of suffering them, and our verdicts reflect this.</p> <p>Ready to make the upgrade to serious typing hardware? Then let’s go!</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">CMStorm Mech</h4> <p><strong>CMStorm looks to get a handle on the high-end mechanical keyboard market<br /></strong></p> <p>The CMStorm Mech is, first of all, a great-looking keyboard. Most of the top of the keyboard is wrapped in a subtly etched aluminum plate, and the board’s geometric, asymmetrical silhouette is more imaginative than most. The aluminum plate can be removed for easy cleaning, which is a nice feature, but the seven hex screws that make removal possible mar the Mech’s otherwise-excellent aesthetics.</p> <p>Despite the Mech’s metal-clad looks, it’s not the sturdiest keyboard in this roundup. The back side of the board, and particularly the wrist rest, are made of hollow plastic that sometimes flexes and creaks under pressure. It also features a large handle on one side, and a detachable USB cable. These would be handy features for someone who takes their keyboard on the road frequently, but it’s not otherwise an especially portable keyboard. It would be nice if the handle were removable or retractable, because it adds an extra two or three inches to the Mech’s already substantial width.</p> <p>The software support is simple and easy to use. It allows you to customize the five dedicated macro keys, or to rebind any other key on the board, and includes a flexible macro editor.</p> <p>Actual typing and gaming performance is top-notch and virtually identical to the other mechanical gaming keyboards on the market. Fans of any variety of Cherry MX switch will be able to find a Mech that’s right for them—CMStorm offers the keyboard with Red, Blue, or Brown switches.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13204_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13204_small.jpg" alt="The Mech is a big mechanical keyboard, but isn't quite as sturdy as it looks." title="CMStorm Mech" width="620" height="425" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Mech is a big mechanical keyboard, but isn't quite as sturdy as it looks.</strong></p> <p>In all, the Mech is a solid gaming keyboard, but doesn’t quite live up to its top-of-the-line $160 price tag.</p> <p><strong>CMStorm Mech</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$160,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cmstorm.com/ " target="_blank">www.cmstorm.com</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Mad Catz STRIKE 3</h4> <p><strong>Is a less-extravagant Strike a better deal?</strong></p> <p>The Strike 3 is the least expensive in Mad Catz’s line of high-end gaming keyboards, but it’s by no means a piece of budget hardware. If the $100 price tag doesn’t convince you of that, seeing the Strike 3 in person will.</p> <p>It’s designed to look like the higher-end Strike boards, which can be split into two parts and rearranged, but this one doesn’t actually come apart. Build quality is good overall, with a removable wrist-rest and a pair of USB passthroughs. The board comes in glossy black, red, and white, and features customizable backlighting.</p> <p>The Strike 3 isn’t mechanical, which weakens the credibility of this $100 keyboard, but Mad Catz hasn’t ignored key quality altogether. The dome switches on the Strike 3 are some of the best we’ve felt, with a crisp actuation that feels almost, but not quite, as good as a mechanical model. They definitely feel better than any of the other non-mechanical boards we tested for this roundup.</p> <p>The Strike 3 features five dedicated macro keys on the right side of the board, and seven macro buttons at the top-left. The left-side buttons, unfortunately, are pretty abysmal. They’re tiny, far away from the home row, and strangely wiggly in their sockets—we found it virtually impossible to hit a particular one without looking.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13217_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13217_small.jpg" alt="The seam down the middle of the Strike 3 is just for show—this keyboard's only one piece." title="Mad Catz STRIKE 3" width="620" height="461" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The seam down the middle of the Strike 3 is just for show—this keyboard's only one piece.</strong></p> <p>The Strike 3 is a good keyboard, but we would generally recommend a mechanical board if you’re looking to spend this much. If you personally prefer non-mechanical switches, however, this would be an excellent choice.</p> <p><strong>Mad Catz Strike 3</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100, <a title="mad catz" href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Click the next page for more keyboard reviews.</h4> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;"> <hr />SteelSeries Apex</h4> <p><strong>All the keys you could want, and then some</strong></p> <p>Sometimes, more is more. That seems to be the guiding principle behind the SteelSeries Apex keyboard, which comes with about as many keys as we’ve ever seen on a gaming keyboard. In addition to the standard full QWERTY layout with number pad, the Apex includes 10 macro keys and four layer keys down the left side, 12 more macro keys above the function row, and six dedicated media buttons along the right side. Even the arrow pad gets two extra diagonal keys. SteelSeries doesn’t advertise the Apex as an MMO keyboard specifically, but it’s hard to imagine what other application could make use of this abundance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13209_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13209_small_1.jpg" alt="You can prop the Apex up in the back by replacing two of it's rubber feet." title="SteelSeries Apex" width="620" height="448" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can prop the Apex up in the back by replacing two of it's rubber feet.</strong></p> <p>Despite its absurd inventory of keys, the Apex doesn’t feel cluttered at all, and in fact looks quite nice. With its built-in wrist rest the board is pretty enormous, but the low-profile keys and customizable sectioned backlighting keep it looking sleek. The build quality is good, though not quite as hardy as SteelSeries’s mechanical keyboards. The Apex includes a pair of USB passthroughs, and allows for some angle customization with a pair of swappable rear feet.</p> <p>Our only real issue with the Apex is that it doesn’t use mechanical keys, and even compared to other dome-switch keyboards in this roundup, like the Strike 3, the Apex’s keys feel distinctly mushy. If it had better key performance, it would be a strong contender for best keyboard in this price range. As it is, we’d recommend it highly to those who prioritize lots of macro keys and great design over maximum key responsiveness.</p> <p><strong>SteelSeries Apex</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100,&nbsp;<a href="http://steelseries.com/ " target="_blank">www.steelseries.com</a></strong></p> <h3>What We Look for in a Keyboard</h3> <p>When we review a keyboard, we look at it on three levels. The first and most important level is basic user experience—how the board feels when you use it. This includes factors like key quality and responsiveness, layout, and build quality. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the way you use your keyboard comes down to those standard QWERTY keys, so we’ll take a great-feeling keyboard over a flimsy one with a zillion features any day. We would also consider a keyboard without enough anti-ghosting/rollover for gaming usage to have failed on this basic level.</p> <p>Second, we examine the board on the level of practical, value-adding features. These are what make a gaming keyboard different from a more standard keyboard, and include things like macro keys, profiles, USB/audio passthroughs, the ability to rebind any key, and media controls. Of course, there’s no standard rule for what’s “practical” and what’s not, and we take into consideration that, for instance, the first five macro keys add a lot more value to the keyboard than macro keys number 15-20. This is also the level where we consider the keyboard’s software support.</p> <p>Finally, we look at the keyboard’s less-essential features, and what they bring to the table. Here you’ll see us talk about things like backlighting, interchangeable keycaps, and paint jobs. These are frequently surface features, designed more for showing off to other gamers than for your own use.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/81173948_copy_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/81173948_copy_small.jpg" width="620" height="412" /></a></p> <p>All of this isn’t to say that we think keyboards should be boring, just that it’s important they have their priorities straight. Awesome backlighting can be a great addition to a gaming keyboard, but boards with tons of bells and whistles built into a crappy or just mediocre foundation are distressingly common.</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Roccat Ryos Mk Pro</h4> <p><strong>This flashy keyboard is more than just looks</strong></p> <p>Build quality on the Ryos MK Pro is outstanding. It’s all plastic, as far as we can see, but is incredibly weighty and rugged-feeling. The surface is treated with a glossy dot-matrix pattern that gives the Ryos a high-class look without leaving it as vulnerable to fingerprints as a pure-gloss keyboard. Like the last Roccat keyboard we tested, the Ryos has a non-removable integrated wrist rest. It’s comfortable (particularly with the back of the board elevated on sturdy-feeling supports), but makes the keyboard take up an absolutely massive amount of desk space.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13210_smalll_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13210_smalll.jpg" alt="LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently." title="Roccat Ryos Mk Pro" width="620" height="451" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently.</strong></p> <p>The software support for the Ryos is fine, though not outstanding. The interface is a little cluttered and at times unresponsive, but it gets the job done, allowing you to customize lighting, macros, and key binding for each profile.</p> <p>A lot of keyboards have backlighting these days, but this is the first one we’ve tested that has completely independent lights behind every key. The color can’t be changed, but you can choose which keys should light up and which shouldn’t for each profile. Better still, the Ryos MK Pro comes with a few special lighting effects, which can cause pressed keys to briefly light up, or even to send out a ripple of light across the whole keyboard. It’s simultaneously the most superfluous and most fun new feature we’ve seen in a keyboard in years.</p> <p>It’s hard to say that the Ryos Mk Pro completely justifies the $170 asking price—that’s quite a bit more money than other very good mechanical keyboards—but it at least comes close.</p> <p><strong>Roccat Ryos MK Pro</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.roccat.org/ " target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Click the next page to read about the Gigabyte K7 review and more.</h4> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;"> <hr />Gigabyte Force K7</h4> <p><strong>A budget-friendly board that’s light on features</strong></p> <p>With a $50 MSRP, the Force K7 targets the budget-minded consumer, but still hovers comfortably above the bottom of the barrel. Any keyboard involves compromises, but with the K7, there just might be too many.</p> <p>The K7 advertises “extreme short actuation distance” for its keys, which are built on laptop-style scissor switches. Keyboard feel is a matter of personal preference, of course, but for gaming we’ve never been very fond of scissor switches, which offer almost no tactile feedback. The key layout on the K7 is standard, though it uses the half-width backspace key and double-decker enter key configuration that’s less commonly seen in gaming keyboards and makes touch typing a bit more difficult.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13214_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13214_small.jpg" alt="LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently." title="Gigabyte Force K7" width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Force K7 has a low profile, with laptop-style scissor-switch keys.</strong></p> <p>Build quality on the K7 is generally good—it’s sturdy and feels heavy on the desk. Our review unit did, however, come with an extra 0 key instead of the hyphen key, which raises some questions about quality assurance.</p> <p>If anything, the K7 is notable for its lack of gaming-specific features. It has no macro keys, no profiles, no ability to rebind keys, no USB passthroughs—none of the things that identify a keyboard as made especially for gaming. The only extra features the board does include are underwhelming three-color backlighting and a pair of thumbwheels, which can only be used to control volume and backlight intensity.</p> <p>There are no glaring problems with the K7, but without a clear performance advantage, there’s nothing to recommend this board over one of the low-end Logitech or Microsoft keyboards, which are similarly priced and offer a better set of features.</p> <p><strong>Gigabyte Force K7</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$50,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/ " target="_blank">www.gigabyte.us</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Corsair Raptor K50</h4> <p><strong>The Cadillac of non-mechanical keyboards</strong></p> <p>The Corsair Raptor K50 is a beautifully designed board, borrowing the floating-keys design of the more expensive Vengeance boards, with just a hint of brushed aluminum along the top edge. The look is rounded out with high-quality customizable key lighting that shines through the keycaps, without leaking out around the edges of the keys. Build quality is second-to-none, and as usual, the raised-key design makes it easy to keep crumbs from accumulating under the keycaps.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The K50 is nicely feature-packed, with a USB passthrough, media keys, a large metal volume wheel, and, oh yeah, like a million macro keys. Well, 18, anyway, all in one huge bank at the left, along with dedicated buttons for switching between three macro layers and recording them on the fly. That number might be bordering on the too-many-to-actually-use zone, but some gamers might find a use for them all, and on-the-fly recording is a feature we wish more boards had. The software for the K50 works well, and onboard storage allows you to use your profiles on any computer.&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13212_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13212_small.jpg" alt="If you're the kind of gamer who needs an unhealthy number of macro keys, the Raptor K50 is for you." title="Corsair Raptor K50" width="620" height="413" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If you're the kind of gamer who needs an unhealthy number of macro keys, the Raptor K50 is for you.<br /></strong></p> <p>We like the K50 a lot, but—at the risk of sounding like a broken record—for most users we wouldn’t recommend a non-mechanical $100 board. Our recommendation at this price range would be to get a mechanical board with slightly fewer features, or to jump up an extra $30 and get a similarly feature-packed mechanical board, such as Corsair’s own Vengeance K70 or K90.</p> <p><strong>Corsair Raptor K50</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.corsair.com/ " target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <p>Click the next page to read about some of the older mechanical keyboards we've reviewed such as the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate and more.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Razer Deathstalker Ultimate</h4> <p><strong>Fun to look at, less fun to use</strong></p> <p>The Razer Deathstalker is really a thing to behold. The gaming keyboard is thin, sleek, and nicely designed with tri-color glowing keys, but nothing draws your attention like the “Switchblade” user interface, borrowed from the <a title="razer blade" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/razer_blade_review2012" target="_blank">Razer Blade</a> gaming laptop.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227183_small_3.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227183_small_2.jpg" alt="Instead of a number pad, the Deathstalker Ultimate features a touchscreen, along with 10 contextual keys." title="Razer Deathstalker Ultimate" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Instead of a number pad, the Deathstalker Ultimate features a touchscreen, along with 10 contextual keys.</strong></p> <p>The Switchblade UI consists of a responsive multitouch 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen and 10 context-sensitive dynamic keys. The screen can act as a trackpad, or can play host to a number of applications including a web browser, Twitter client, YouTube viewer, and plenty of others, such as game-specific apps for a handful of popular titles. Additionally, the keyboard has plenty of on-the-fly macro keys, and the software suite that manages it is polished and very powerful. In other words, the Razer Deathstalker is clearly the most sophisticated gaming keyboard around. The question is, do the Deathstalker’s technical flourishes justify its massive $250 price tag.</p> <p>At that kind of price, we expect every element of a keyboard to be top-notch; unfortunately, that’s not the case with the <a title="deathstalker" href="http://www.razerzone.com/deathstalker" target="_blank">Razer Deathstalker</a>. The problem is the keyboard itself, which uses widely spaced chiclet-style keys, familiar to anyone who’s used a MacBook or most Ultrabooks. They look nice, but it’s not clear why a large, high-end gaming keyboard would opt to use them over mechanical switches or even rubber-dome membrane keys. The chiclet keys simply don’t feel very good to use—they float around inside their tracks and have miniscule travel when pressed. They’re not awful, but we’d expect a lot better from a $250 keyboard.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Razer Deathstalker Ultimate</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Juicy Fruit<br /></span> <p>Super-cool Switchblade UI; good software support.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Chiclets<br /></span> <p>Key quality is subpar for typing and game play; very expensive.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$150, <a href="http://www.razerzone.com " target="_blank">www.razerzone.com</a></strong></p> <h4>S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</h4> <p><strong>Plenty of novel features, but look at that price</strong></p> <p>Probably the most interesting thing about the <a title="strike 7" href="http://www.cyborggaming.com/strike7/" target="_blank">S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</a> is that it’s modular and customizable. When you first take it out of the box, the keyboard is in seven pieces, which can be screwed together in a number of different configurations. One of the pieces is a large touchscreen, which can be affixed to either the left or right side of the keyboard, as can an extra bank of macro keys and the adjustable “active palm rest,” which features a thumb wheel and button. The two halves of the keyboard can be used separately, though both must be connected to the touchscreen, and the kit comes with a set of 16 replacement key caps, so you can make sure your S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 doesn’t look like anyone else’s.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227_small.jpg" alt="The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is modular, and can be assembled in several different configurations." title="Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 7" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is modular, and can be assembled in several different configurations.</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, you probably won’t meet anyone else with a S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, unless you regularly attend LAN parties down at the yacht club. At $300, this is the most expensive keyboard we can remember reviewing, and some of the features just don’t rise to the level of expectations set by the price. The touchscreen, for instance, is resistive and not nearly as responsive as the screen on the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate. And like the Deathstalker, the S.T.R.I.K.E. opts for non-mechanical keys. Though the dome-style membrane keys are better than the Deathstalker’s chiclet keys, we firmly believe that a keyboard that costs three times as much as most of its competition ought to have the best keys available.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3AbwJON7ECk" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Home Run<br /></span> <p>The most customizable keyboard around; tons of room for macros on keyboard and touchscreen.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Strike Out<br /></span> <p>Super pricey; non-mechanical keyboard feels so-so; touchscreen responsiveness is lacking.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$300, <a href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Logitech G710+</h4> <p><strong>Logitech brings it back to basics</strong></p> <p>Logitech has finally decided that the recent trend toward mechanical gaming keyboards isn’t a passing fad, and has thrown its own hat into the ring with the G710+. At $150, the <a title="logitech g710+" href="http://gaming.logitech.com/en-us/product/g710plus-mechanical-gaming-keyboard" target="_blank">G710+</a> is one of the company’s most expensive boards, but it forgoes the LCD screens and raft of macro buttons usually found on Logitech’s highest-end products. Instead, the G710+ is a relatively straightforward keyboard built around a sturdy base of mechanical keys.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227187_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227187_small_0.jpg" alt="The backlight for the Logitech G710+’s arrow and WASD keys is separate from the rest of the board, so you can make them glow brighter than their surroundings." title="Logitech G710+" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The backlight for the Logitech G710+’s arrow&nbsp; and WASD keys is separate from the rest of the board, so you can make them glow brighter than their surroundings.</strong></p> <p>The G710+ uses MX Cherry Brown switches, which are a sort of compromise between the hyper-sensitive Reds and the tactile (and loud) Blues. They’re a nice middle-ground switch, excellent for both gaming and typing, though not completely ideal for either. Logitech has augmented the Cherry Browns with noise-dampening rings inside each key, for a quieter gaming session. The keys are mounted into a heavy board, with a clean black-and-gray aesthetic with orange accents. When connected via USB, the G710+’s laser-etched keycaps glow white—you can’t change the color, but the brightness is adjustable. In a nice, novel feature, the brightness of the WASD and arrow keys can be adjusted independently, to make them stand out more.</p> <p>Beyond the mechanical keys, the G710+ doesn’t have a lot of flashy features—just a set of macro keys (programmable on-the-fly), some media controls, and a standard-issue software suite with pre-made macro profiles for most modern games. It comes with a removable wrist rest, and includes a single USB pass-through. In all, it’s a nice, well-constructed keyboard, though its feature set is just a tiny bit smaller than some similarly priced mechanical boards from other brands.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Logitech G710+</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">O.G.<br /></span> <p>Excellent typing and gaming feel; dual-zone lighting;noise-dampened keys.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Oh No<br /></span> <p>On the pricier side; few pass-throughs.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$150, <a href="http://www.logitech.com " target="_blank">www.logitech.com</a></strong></p> <h3>The Art of Cherrypicking</h3> <p>If you’re the pattern-recognizing sort, you may notice that every mechanical keyboard in this roundup uses Cherry MX switches for their key mechanisms. That’s because virtually all mechanical gaming keyboards today use some variety of Cherry MX switch, such as Brown or Blue. The names indicate both the actual color of the switch (pry a keycap up and you’ll be able to tell by sight which switch is underneath), and the switch’s mechanical characteristics, in terms of tactility and resistance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/k60_d_install_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/k60_d_install_small.jpg" width="620" height="403" /></a></p> <p>A switch that is highly tactile has a noticeable “bump” that you overcome as you press it down, and tends to make a click noise as it passes that bump. A switch with high resistance requires more force to depress. Here are the four most common varieties of Cherry MX switch:</p> <p>Red: A non-tactile switch with low resistance. The pressing action is smooth, with no bump, and because of its low resistance it is very responsive. Good for action gamers.</p> <p>Black: A non-tactile switch, like the Red, with higher resistance.</p> <p>Blue: A highly tactile switch, with a dramatic (and loud) click. Considered the best switch for typing, but they can be slightly harder to double-tap quickly for gaming.</p> <p>Brown: A middle-ground switch, with a light tactile click and medium resistance. Functions well for both typing and gaming.</p> <p>Click <a title="mechanical keyboard guide" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/mechanical_keyboard_guide_2013" target="_blank">here</a> to read our in-depth mechanical keyboard guide.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Corsair Vengeance K90</h4> <p><strong>All the macro keys money can buy</strong></p> <p>The <a title="K90" href="http://www.corsair.com/gaming-peripherals/gaming-keyboards/vengeance-k90-performance-mmo-mechanical-gaming-keyboard.html" target="_blank">Corsair Vengeance K90</a> launched early last year alongside the Vengeance K60. It is, at heart, an expanded version of that board, fitted with a vast bank of customizable macro keys at the far left, and a detachable rubberized wrist rest. The extra functionality is mostly aimed at MMO players, who may have need for the truly staggering number of macro keys—18 keys, arranged into three banks of six, with three profile buttons for a total of 54 programmable actions. We’re a bit skeptical about the utility of so many macro buttons, as it becomes difficult to remember which key does what, and to hit them without looking, as the button count increases. Still, you should be able to imagine whether you’d be able to put the buttons to good use or not.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227181_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227181_0.jpg" alt="With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical." title="Corsair Vengeance K90" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical.</strong></p> <p>Beyond those extra keys, the K90 features the strong points of the K60, including a rugged all-aluminum body and responsive Cherry MX Red switches. The fantastic-looking low-profile aluminum design is even snazzier in the K90, thanks to blue backlighting that shines through the laser-etched keycaps. One of the strangest and worst features of the K90 is that it uses membrane-style switches for a small subset of the keys on the board (the 18 macro keys, the function keys, as well as the block above the arrow keys), which feel noticeably worse than the mechanical keys that make up the rest of the board. Especially for keys that are meant to be used in the heat of the moment, the transition to non-mechanical keys is very jarring.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Corsair Vengeance K90</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Macro<br /></span> <p>Tons of macro keys; nice build quality and design; mechanical.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Micro<br /></span> <p>Not all keys are mechanical; giant block of macro keys is difficult to use efficiently.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$130, <a href="http://www.corsair.com " target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard</h4> <p><strong>A solid board, low on features</strong></p> <p>Sometimes it’s nice when a company comes along and boils down a product category to just the features that are important. With the <a title="rk-9100" href="http://www.rosewill.com/products/2320/ProductDetail_Overview.htm" target="_blank">RK-9100</a>, Rosewill does just that, offering a solid mechanical gaming keyboard with few flourishes.</p> <p>The RK-9100 is a compact design with no wrist rest and a minimal lip around the outside of the board. It’s heavy, and feels quite sturdy. It uses mechanical keys—once again, Cherry MX switches, though with the RK-9100 you have a choice of the typing-friendly Blue switches, or the in-between Browns. We tend to prefer the Browns as a nice compromise between gaming and typing, which makes it a bit frustrating that the Brown-switch version of the RK-9100 retails for $130, $20 more than the Blue version.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227185_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227185_small.jpg" alt="The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use." title="Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard" width="620" height="321" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use.</strong></p> <p>The keyboard has a nice blue backlight, except for the scroll-, num-, and caps-lock keys, which glow green while active. It’s a good idea, but for some reason the green light is incredibly bright, and angled to shine right into your eyes while active. It’s distracting, and unfortunately can’t be turned off—we wouldn’t be surprised if most RK-9100 owners end up fixing the problem with electrical tape. That’s the only significant problem we noticed while using Rosewill’s keyboard, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that $130 is a bit too much to ask for this board. The Logitech G710+ features the same MX Brown switches, and with street a price that’s currently only about $10 more than RK-9100, includes significantly more features that set it apart as a gaming keyboard.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Rose water<br /></span> <p>No-nonsense design; selection of different Cherry MX switches.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Hose water<br /></span> <p>No macro keys; no software support.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$130, <a href="http://www.rosewill.com " target="_blank">www.rosewill.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Roccat Isku</h4> <p><strong>Membrane plank makes strong impression</strong></p> <p>If you’re not ready to make the jump to a mechanical keyboard, and aren’t interested in touchscreens or scalp massagers or whatever other luxury features are going into the $200-plus planks, your money will go a lot farther. Specifically, it’ll go all the way to the <a title="roccat" href="http://www.roccat.org/Products/Gaming-Keyboards/ROCCAT-Isku/" target="_blank">Roccat Isku</a>, a handsome and feature-rich keyboard from German newcomer Roccat.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227184_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227184_small.jpg" alt="The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist rest and bezel." title="Roccat Isku" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist rest and bezel.</strong></p> <p>The Isku is wide and flat, with an oversized wrist rest and a wide bezel all around the board, taking up plenty of desk real estate. It’s got a grippy textured-plastic frame and recessed contoured keys that make the whole thing seem flatter and lower to the desk than normal. The dome keys are good (as far as they go) with a fairly crisp and responsive activation.</p> <p>Where the Isku really shines is in its expansive set of features. It has eight macro buttons (including three “thumbster” keys under the spacebar), with on-the-fly recording, and profile switching. It gets further mileage out of the bindable keys and macros with an “EasyShift” button where the caps-lock key would normally be, which temporarily switches the functions of all right-hand-accessible keys while held down. There’s a lot to customize, and the included software suite is intuitive and up to the task.</p> <p>Also, the Isku is part of the “Roccat Talk” ecosystem, which allows button presses on the keyboard to affect the behavior of a Roccat gaming mouse, and vice versa. At this price, we’d strongly recommend buying a mechanical board, but if you can’t or don’t want to, the Isku is an excellent choice.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Roccat Isku</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Rose water<br /></span> <p>No-nonsense design; selection of different Cherry MX switches.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Hose water<br /></span> <p>No macro keys; no software support.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$90, <a href="http://www.roccat.org" target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h3>A Keyboard for Clean Freaks</h3> <p>One of the keyboards we received while preparing this roundup was the <a title="logitech washable keyboard" href="http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/washable-keyboard-k310" target="_blank">Logitech Washable Keyboard K310</a>. Somehow it didn’t seem quite fair to pit the $40 K310 against the likes of the Razer Deathstalker in a straight head-to-head, but we couldn’t resist the chance to see if this washable keyboard really works.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboard_before_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboard_before_small.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>The K310 has a standard full-size layout with flat, thick plastic keys. Despite the very plastic-y construction and non-standard keys, the keyboard actually feels pretty decent to use.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dirtykeyboard_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dirtykeyboard_small_0.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>We don’t actually have a standard testing procedure worked out for washable keyboards, so we improvised. We took a quick trip to the corner store for a bag of Cheetohs—bane of all keyboards. We then used a mortar and pestle to mash them into a fine, delicious powder, and applied it liberally to the keyboard (and surrounding table).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/washingkeyboard_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/washingkeyboard_small.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>We were originally going to stick the K310 in the dishwasher, but a label on its back specifically warns against doing so. Instead, we gave it a thorough hand-washing in the sink.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/clean_keyboard_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/clean_keyboard_small.jpg" width="620" height="347" /></a></p> <p>What’s the verdict? The keyboard looks like new, and works just fine. Not bad!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/best_keyboard_2013#comments March 2013 2013 best keyboard Hardware Hardware Logitech G710+ maximum pc Razer Deathstalker Ultimate reviews strike 7 Keyboards Reviews Features Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:44:05 +0000 Alex Castle 25598 at http://www.maximumpc.com Column: The Story Among Us http://www.maximumpc.com/column_story_among_us_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154082/lukeclemcrossing_final.jpg" alt="walking dead" title="walking dead" width="250" height="140" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>How the golden age of TV is affecting gaming&nbsp;</h3> <p>It took me a while to warm to <a title="walking dead telltale" href="https://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead/" target="_blank">Telltale Games’s The Walking Dead</a>, an entire game series built around two of my least-favorite mechanics: quick-time events and dialog trees. Yippee. Pass the digital Ambien.</p> <p>What eventually brought me around, and prepared me for an even better use of the system in <a title="the wolf among us" href="http://www.telltalegames.com/thewolfamongus/" target="_blank">The Wolf Among Us</a>, was a change in thinking. A lot us make pleasing noises about narrative and character elements in gaming, but the truth is that gameplay comes first. The telos (purpose, or end) of a game is the play. The narrative is what gives the play resonance and depth, and forms the binding element, but the key thing is what you do.</p> <p>Telltale’s latest work inverts that, finding a way to place the narrative first, while making the gameplay merely a driving element.</p> <p>All of the screen-scanning, gathering, talking, and fighting work are just fine, as long as they stay out of the way. Make it more complex, and the narrative stalls. Place it in a game with poor writing and no cinematic sensibility, and the gameplay is merely laughable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/wolf_among_us.jpg" title="wolf among us" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Serial, episodic games are a welcome addition to videogame storytelling.</strong></p> <p>But place it at the service of storytelling skill that is equal to the best we’re seeing on television these days, and it works like a dream.</p> <p>Television is the most appropriate analog, particularly as it’s grown more sophisticated in the post-Sopranos, post-Lost, Breaking Bad era. Television’s embrace of serial storytelling—lavish plotlines, deep characters, and serious world-building spread out over dozens of hours—is giving the medium new heft.</p> <p>The Wolf Among Us nails this sweet spot, creating a noir mystery light on action and heavy on character, atmosphere, and story, then ending with that most tantalizing tease: “Next time on….”</p> <p>We’re seeing the flowering of something great here: a game you return to once a month or once a week for a new two-hour installment. As TV matures in its mastery of this serial format, so will games, and at some point, the two will merge into new forms of mainstream entertainment.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/column_story_among_us_2014#comments 2013 column Holiday issues 2013 maximum pc the walking dead the wolf among us tv Game Theory Columns Features Fri, 04 Apr 2014 17:18:01 +0000 Thomas McDonald 27439 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build A Budget Haswell PC http://www.maximumpc.com/build_cheap_haswell_PC_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We all know AMD makes damned-fine budget parts, but can Intel compete? This month, we build a $650 Core i5 Haswell rig to find out how it stacks up</h3> <p>It seems like whenever we build a high-end system it’s powered by an Intel CPU, and budget systems always run AMD parts. This month, we’re flipping the script and building a budget-oriented Intel system to see how it compares to AMD’s offerings, and to give people a glimpse of what a $650 Intel rig can throw down. For comparison’s sake, we recently built budget rigs using AMD’s new <a title="richland apu" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/richland_review2013" target="_blank">Richland APU</a> (October 2013) as well as one with a $120 Vishera FX-6300 CPU (“<a title="cheap PC" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/cheap_desktop_computers_2013" target="_blank">Battle of the Budget Builds</a>,” June 2013), and found that both chips serve their niche quite well. For this Intel build, we knew we’d go with <a title="haswell" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/haswell_review_2013" target="_blank">Haswell</a>, and wanted to run a Core i3 CPU, which typically comes with two cores and Hyper-Threading (HT), but those haven’t been released yet. <em><strong>Note:</strong> This article was originally featured in our December 2013 issue of the magazine.</em> So, the next-best CPU we could get was the Core i5-4430— a quad-core CPU without HT for $180. That's a third of our budget on the CPU, which forced us to be frugal elsewhere. We also took this opportunity to try out a new microATX case from Cooler Master that retails for $50, which we felt was perfect for a budget build.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_13.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_12.jpg" width="620" height="720" /></a></p> <h3>Gathering Intel</h3> <p>Since we’re working on a tight budget, we planned this system to be relatively bare-bones, thus allowing us to build inside the smallish Cooler Master N200 microATX chassis. This is a chassis that’s smaller than a traditional mid-tower, but larger than a traditional small-form-factor case, with plenty of room for cables and extra-long GPUs. The foundation for our build would be a motherboard from Gigabyte, the GA-B85-D3H (not to be confused with the HD3). It has a fat heatsink on the parts that usually get pretty hot, so we figured the board would be relatively stable. Other than that, it is a budget B85 board, with four SATA 6Gb/s ports, Realtek integrated sound, one PCI Express 3.0 slot, and four RAM slots that can handle up to 32GB clocked at 1,600MHz. It also features Gigabyte's DualBIOS feature, so the motherboard can use the backup BIOS if the primary one fails to boot. The Core i5-4430 isn’t overclockable, so we won’t be messing with any of that. Although the Core i5-4430 is about $30 more expensive than the A10-6800K that we tried in the AMD budget build, that CPU also wore a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo cooler, which comes out to… about $30. So it's the same difference in the end, though CPU and integrated graphics performance will differ.</p> <p>Other than that, we're trying to keep the rest of the system similar to the Richland build, to create a level playing field, so you'll see the same 60GB SSD, Corsair power supply, 1TB hard drive, Windows 8, and an optical drive.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master N200</td> <td> <p><strong>$50</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Corsair CX500</td> <td><strong>$50</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-B85-D3H </td> <td><strong>$85</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i5-4430</td> <td><strong>$180 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Intel stock cooler </td> <td><strong>N/A (bundled)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Intel HD 4600</td> <td><strong>N/A (integrated)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LP</td> <td><strong>$60 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>60GB Mushkin Chronos MKNSSDCR60GB-7 </td> <td><strong>$65 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>HDD</strong></td> <td>1TB Seagate Barracuda</td> <td><strong>$68 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Samsung SH-S223</td> <td><strong>$15 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$90 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$663</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1. Stating Your Case</h4> <p>The N200 case is about 7.5 inches wide, so cable management quickly becomes an issue as soon as you begin inserting parts. As we began building, the first area of trouble we ran into was with the hard drive cage on the bottom of the chassis, which holds two 3.5-inch drives and one SSD. If we were to use the standard screw holes for the hard drive, it would have given us very little clearance to connect the SATA and power cables on the other side. So we moved the HDD forward by one hole, which gave us some extra space in the back, making it easier to store unused power supply cables out of sight. It’s a shame the hard drive cage doesn’t have rails, as installing drives is a PITA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_14.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Getting Cagey</h4> <p>In order to install hard drives into the included cage, you need to attach screws to both sides of it, but there’s no way to access the cage's left side with it inside the system, so you have to remove it altogether first. To do that you need to remove two screws that secure it to the motherboard tray, then flip the case on its side to access four more screws underneath the case (pictured). With those removed, you can pull out the cage and access the holes on its left side.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_12.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_11.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>There are also four built-in SSD installation points—one on top of the lower HDD cage, two on the mobo tray, and one beneath the upper 3.5-inch drive bay—but we used an adapter bracket to install our lone SSD in the 3.5-inch cage. Call us old-fashioned, but we felt it offered the cleanest wiring options. The upper 3.5-inch drive bay also holds a single drive, so despite the N200 being "only" an mATX case, you have plenty of options when it comes to storage.</p> <h4>3. Intercepting Cables</h4> <p>A modular power supply probably would have been easier to use in such a small case, but we used the same PSU from our Richland build, so we had no choice but to find room for all the cables. The side panels each have a bulge to them, but they’re not deep enough to squeeze a 24-pin power cable behind the motherboard tray. There’s also no cutout for the 8-pin power cable, so we had to route it over the motherboard like in the old days. Since there's no window on this case, we didn't feel too pressured to make the inside look pretty, but we did break out the twist ties in a few places.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_14.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Click the next page to continue.&nbsp;</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>4. Laser Visions</h4> <p>Optical drives are still the easiest way to install Windows, so we’ll continue to use them until we’re pulling an OS from the cloud. Plus, some motherboards don't play nice when you try to boot from a USB stick, especially if it's a USB 3.0 device. To install an optical drive with this case, you need to remove the front bezel via a hidden handle at the bottom that pulls outward. Once it comes off, you squeeze two tabs on the drive bay cover to remove it. You can see from the photo that the entire front of the case is just one big mesh grill. It holds two 120mm fans, or a 240mm radiator on the inside of the chassis. Though we didn’t install a closed-loop cooler this time, it certainly can be done, but it makes for a very crowded interior. Once you put the front bezel back in place, smack it in each corner nice and hard.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_12.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <h4>5. Error Codes</h4> <p>We use a variety of monitors around the Lab, and during this build we happened to spot an unused 30-inch Dell with a resolution of 2560x1600 looking at us longingly. We thought it would be fun to test the system at that resolution, so we hooked it up only to find that we'd made a small oversight. The DVI connection on the back of this particular motherboard does not support dual-link DVI, it's single-link only. To distinguish the ports visually, DL has more pins in it—24 as opposed to single-link's 18. You need dual-link to get a 60Hz refresh rate at resolutions above 1080p. DisplayPort accomplishes this objective as well, but this board did not have that connector either, leaving us stranded on 1080p island. D’oh! For what it’s worth, you can get a motherboard in this price range with dual-link DVI, such as the MSI H87-G43, but that board has one fewer fan header than this Gigabyte board! Those fan headers come in handy, too, because this case has three fan mounts unused right out of the box, on the top, side, and front. The top even accepts 140mm fans, and the case comes with anti-vibration grommets.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_14.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>6. Loose Ends</h4> <p>Once we had mostly finished our build, we had to find space in the chassis to stash all of our cables, which is tricky in a case this size. Even cables that are in use need to have their middle parts tucked away. By moving our hard drive forward a bit in its drive cage, we were able to free up space behind it, into which we stuffed a lot of cables. We also took advantage of the small gap between the drive cage and the front of the case. Ideally, we would have spread these cables out behind the motherboard tray, but the side panels only bulge a few millimeters, and it didn't seem worth it to squeeze the cables that much just to clean things up, especially&nbsp; when there’s no case window.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_12.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_11.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>One slick feature of this chassis is that the internal 120mm intake fan can be moved to the outside of the case, where it sits behind the front bezel. This is handy if you’re trying to set up a push-pull configuration on a radiator mounted inside the front of the case, though you’d need to remove the hard drive cage to accommodate such a setup.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/last_one_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/last_one_small.jpg" title="Gut Shot" width="620" height="420" /></a></p> <h3>Back to the Haswell</h3> <p>Building systems in these small cases always poses challenges, but it wasn’t too bad this time around. It was a bit time-consuming to install the SSD and HDD, since the drive cage had to be removed, but the rest of the build was fairly painless. Once it was up and running, we were surprised by how quiet it was, despite the front of the case being nothing but mesh. You'd think some noise would leak through there, but the system was just about silent, even under full load. In fact, one time it ran for a minute or so without the CPU fan even spinning (the fan cable got caught in the blades, before we secured it with a twist tie). The case fan cables are also about 18 inches long, so they'll reach all the way from one end of the N200 to the other.</p> <p>In terms of general desktop performance, we already had a good idea of what to expect since we had already tested Intel's Haswell CPU. In testing, the Core i5-4430 was able to encode videos and render hi-res panorama photos much faster than a comparably priced AMD CPU. Even when we overclocked the AMD 6800K to 4.7GHz, it couldn't keep up with a Core i5-4430 running at 3GHz.</p> <p>The same can't be said for its gaming performance, though, as AMD clearly takes the crown from Intel. In general, Haswell’s HD 4600 graphics are around 40 percent slower than the AMD 6800K's graphics. Then again, the Core i5-4430's non-GPU performance outclasses either AMD chip.</p> <p>In the end, going Intel or AMD at this price range really comes down to what your needs are. You can get an FX-6300 for about $120 right now and add a Radeon HD 7770 for about $75 (at least after a mail-in rebate). So, for gaming on a budget, AMD provides the best value. If you're editing HD videos and hi-res photos, though, Intel wins by a comfortable margin.</p> <p>All in all, the Intel system put up a heck of a fight against the AMD builds, at least in the computing realm; not so much in gaming. The system was fast enough for basic needs though, and if we had used a motherboard with DisplayPort and/or DL-DVI, we could call this build an all-around success.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,710</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,135<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>1,947</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,685<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">9.0</td> <td>11.65<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark11 Performance</td> <td>1,668</td> <td>1237<strong> (-26%)<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stalker: Call of Pripyat (fps)</td> <td>8.3</td> <td>8<strong> (-33%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>Our Richland system was a quad-core 4.1GHz A10-6800K at 4.7GHz, 8GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, on a Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-D3H motherboard. It ran Radeon 8670D integrated graphics, a Mushkin Chronos SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.</em></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_cheap_haswell_PC_2014#comments 2013 affordable budget cheap computer haswell Intel CPU maximum pc December 2013 Systems Features Mon, 31 Mar 2014 23:24:44 +0000 Tom McNamara 27181 at http://www.maximumpc.com