Watch out, Atom CPUs and AMD APUs, there's a new contender vying for the attention of small box HTPC enthusiasts: Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor. Wait, what? Isn't that a mobile processor? Theoretically, but that hasn't stopped Kontron from creating the world's first mini-ITX Tegra 3 processor, complete with an itty bitty footprint and an equally itty bitty 7W power requirement.
FINDING A GOOD motherboard is easy. Finding a good microATX motherboard, however, can be more of a chore. That’s because motherboard vendors have almost always associated microATX with budget needs. In addition to losing a couple of expansion slots and some PCB board space, you almost always lose features such as SLI, CrossFire, RAID , premium audio, and other add-ons to help push the price down.
That’s not the case with Asus’s new Rampage IV Gene. Made for premium LGA2011 chips, the Rampage IV Gene caters to builders who want performance but in a microATX form factor. As a Republic of Gamers board, it’s no surprise that the Rampage IV Gene emphasizes features and functionality. RoG boards are Asus’s cream of the crop.
That’s not to say the Rampage IV Gene has all the features of the company’s Rampage IV Extreme board. While the Extreme is truly tweaked for, well, extreme overclockers, the Rampage IV Gene seems better suited to building a compact gaming rig with the intent of normal overclocking, not setting records using liquid-helium.
When you're talking the Z77 chipset, one thing springs to mind first and foremost: Ivy Bridge. Intel's upcoming CPU isn't the only newcomer to the game, though, as Z77 is the first Intel desktop chipset to support the company's high-speed Thunderbolt interface -- assuming a Thunderbolt controller is on the mobo, of course. Most of Asus' Z77/H77 'boards have lacked an integrated controller, but it looks like Thunderbolt compatibility is coming thanks to an upcoming expansion card.
"Finally, now the meat of the systems are starting to come out," Maximum PC reader I Jedi exhaled in the comments of our earlier article about the new Biostar TZ77XE4 Motherboard. If he only knew how right he was: since the Biostar news went live, a bevy of companies have announced new 7-series-supporting mobos of their own, including ASRock, MSI and Gigabyte.
Pushing your PC to its limits has obvious inherent dangers; overclocking your CPU can definitely bust your rig if you push it too far. That being said, reasonable overclocking doesn’t actually carry too much risk – normally. Right before Christmas, one overclocker’s Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 mobo crashed, then burned (literally) in the midst of a lightweight stress test. After he posted the video on YouTube, Gigabyte looked into the problem, and apparently, it wasn’t a case of crap luck. Yesterday, Gigabyte’s Chinese branch announced the faulty CPU VRM is a widespread issue and recalled all GA-X79-UD3, GA-X79-UD5, GA-X79-UD7 and G1.Assassin 2 mobos. US users, meanwhile, get a critical BIOS update.
Want a little bit more Autobot in your PC’s life? While everybody was busy making a big deal out of Habro’s trademark lawsuit against the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime – ourselves included – another manufacturer quietly showed off some Transformer-related PC hardware of its own, and these components look like they may actually be licensed! Late last week, ASRock plopped concept pics of Optimus Prime- and Bumblebee-branded X79 mobos up on its Facebook page.
Here’s a product announcement that should come as a surprise to, well, no one. Ever since ASRock inked a deal with John “Fatal1ty” Wendel, the company’s been putting out Fatal1ty-branded mobos designed especially for PC gamers. There’s just one problem: the sole “Professional” board in the line is built for P67, not the top-of-the-line LGA 2011 socket. Don’t worry, Sandy Bridge-E/Fatal1ty lovers, you aren’t getting left in the cold; in fact, ASRock is apparently preparing to ship a Fatal1ty-branded X79 board sometime soon.
The Maximum PC ethos can be summed up in two words: MORE POWER! (Harder, better, faster, stronger would work, too, but that’s twice as many words – not exactly better.) MSI, it seems, heard our Tim Taylor-like grunting from afar. The company just released a modified version of its X79A-GD45 motherboard (which was only released a month ago, mind you) that includes twice the DIMM slots of the original. That means the X79A-GD45 (8D) includes a total of 8 DDR3 DIMM slots and can support up to a whopping 128GB of quad-channel RAM – because 64GB just isn’t enough.
Want to make the jump to LGA2011 and Sandy Bridge-E but don’t quite need all the bells and whistles of the DX79SI? Intel might just have the alternative motherboard for you. The company’s new DX79TO mobo is basically a stripped-down version of its bigger DX79SI brother with fewer bells and whistles. The question is, are the enthusiast-type buyers who are already making the jump to Intel’s latest and greatest chips willing to dump features for a modest price discount?
Sometimes, Maximum PCs can be minimum PCs. Bigger isn’t always better. Gigabyte is giving love to the little guys with their new mini-ITX HTPC motherboard, gracefully named the A75N-USB3. As you may have guessed from the name, it’s based around AMD’s A75 Fusion chipset and packs in four speedy USB 3.0 ports, but that’s not all.