One look at the Big Bang-XPower’s row of six x16 physical PCI-E slots tells you the board is special. PCI? Feh, who the hell needs that in 2010?
MSI has now also adopted the one-clip DIMM slots that let you easily remove RAM without having to pull out the GPU first. The board also includes a somewhat nifty wired remote to monitor system vitals and perform an overclock. Unfortunately, we found the OC Dashboard a bit buggy. While trying to crank up the bclock using the small device, we had to manually refresh the display in order to see the correct frequency.
Want to know how insane the enthusiast motherboard bracket has become? Gigabyte’s X58A-UD7 seems pedestrian next to the other two contenders here. Sure, it has a rakish, liquid-cooling-ready heat pipe to keep the north bridge chilled out, but frankly, without that Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2 in place, the board is damn near boring next to its contemporaries. Where’s the dual 8-pin supplemental CPU power connectors? Or Bluetooth remote-control capability, wired remote overclocking tool, or audio riser card?
This generation of gaming consoles is all about minor hardware revisions. The Sony PS3 has already slimmed down and dropped a few hundred dollars from its price, but now it looks like the Xbox 360 may be up next. A leaked pic of what purports to be a new motherboard for the console was posted to a Chinese forum. The board is significantly smaller which hopefully means a more svelte console.
The board looks much smaller than the current version, and appears to have a CPU/GPU combo chip. There’s also an extra SATA port present. We’re apt to believe the authenticity of this board seeing as Microsoft is currently hiring a Motherboard Design Engineer to “implement and verify the motherboard and other various sub-system boards that make up the XBOX 360 product line.”
We don’t know if this hardware revision will come with a price cut, but don’t bet on it. The Xbox managed to beat out the Wii in monthly sales for the first time last month. The PS3 had no choice but to drop in price to be competitive. Would a smaller, cooler console with a few extra goodies get you to drop some cash for a new 360?
In a world where you can get a pretty decent $99.99 motherboard, a lot of consumers don’t understand why you would pay one-and-a-half times more for a board using the same chipset.
That’s because those same consumers don’t seem to understand the attitude and atmosphere you get with a high-end motherboard. It’s about the flair, and the Asus Maximus III Formula offers that in spades.
While some of the flair is extraneous, such as the garish case sticker, some can be truly handy. A set of stickers lets you label your SATA cables, for example. And then there’s the flair that we’ve come to expect of Asus: the ever-useful Q-connector for front-panel connections and the no-snag I/O shield and snag-free RAM slots we first saw on the P7P55D Deluxe. Audio is upgraded over baseline boards with the SupremeFX X-Fi module. The module and drivers give you X-Fi algorithms and the codecs are moved off the noisy motherboard. Since RAM configuration can affect system reliability, the board also includes a handy BIOS-based MemPerfect utility to validate your RAM settings.
Asus takes remote-control monitoring and overclocking to the next level with the MIIIF, too. You can now connect a laptop directly to the motherboard to monitor voltages, temperature, and fans; read POST codes; and even overclock the board. It’s neat, but we wish Asus would build in logging and graphing capabilities, as well.
We know how it is. You really want a sweet Intel Core i7 PC, but it has to be small. No, small is the wrong word; it has to be tiny. The new Congatec Conga-BM57 small form factor motherboard may be just the thing. Measuring a mere 95 x 125 mm you’d expect this board to be running an Atom or maybe even an ARM CPU. In fact, it runs a Core i7-620M clocked at 2.66GHz, and has 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
The board has integrated graphics with Intel Flexible Display Interface (FDI) allowing two simultaneous outputs via HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, or SVDO. The architecture can support up to 5 PCI Express lanes, 8 USB ports, 3 SATA, one EIDE, and a gigabit Ethernet port.
It is certainly impressive considering the form factor. Congatec isn’t quite sure what the BM57 will be used for as of yet, but threw out gaming devices and medical imagery as options. We've got our fingers crossed for an HTPC.
In motherboards—as in life—it’s the little things that bring the greatest pleasure.
Take the new Core i5/i7 LGA1156 board, the Asus P7P55D Deluxe. Enthusiasts are used to the flashy heatsinks and tons of ports and slots, but small touches like Asus’s innovative RAM slots will make you take notice. Instead of using the typical latch connectors that can snag the GPU, Asus has designed a system that requires only one side of the RAM to be latched in.
But adding unexpected conveniences is Asus’s M.O. of late. The board also features snag-free I/O shields, a quick-connect for front-panel connectors, and ExpressGate—the somewhat handy pre-OS boot environment. Besides adding such extras, Asus said it spent an inordinate amount of time making sure the board overclocks like a champ. There are multiple ways to overclock: using the Turbo V function, AI Suite, and the OC Tuner in the BIOS. If that’s not enough, the company even includes three ominous switches to let you override BIOS limits on RAM, memory controller, and CPU voltage. Even more interesting is the Turbo V remote. This wired remote lets you power up or down and select from three overclocking profiles or crank up the Bclock in real time.
If you thought Intel’s new budget Nehalem meant rock-bottom, feature-stripped motherboards to match, think again.
Gigabyte’s GA-P55-UD6 jams just about every feature you could think of into the new LGA1156 platform. There are the de rigueur updated power-saving utilities and the dual BIOS, which can save your bacon should your BIOS get corrupted.
And then there’s a whole kitchen sink of new features, such as the ability to secure the system using the onboard TPM module and then have it unlock when the computer detects your Bluetooth phone nearby. The same Bluetooth phone can also be used to put the system in standby or hibernate if you walk away, to save power.
Two other features are probably a bit more useful: As part of the board’s Smart Six apps, the BIOS QuickBoot feature allows you to set the BIOS to initialize much faster if no hardware has been changed. With the feature turned on, we saw the system go from a 30-second POST-to-OS load to 15 seconds. That’s pretty spectacular. The OS QuickBoot promises faster boots, too, but as far as we can tell, it’s simply a different way to invoke Vista’s Hybrid Sleep mode.
With some of the first USB 3.0 and SATA 6 devices already released, the first capable motherboards are now available for purchase. Asus and Gigabyte were both known to be working on new boards earlier this summer and both companies are now shipping their latest models.
Asus is shipping two boards, one with a P55 chipset, and the other with an X58. Due to the single lane bandwidth bottleneck of the P55 chipset, Asus uses a bridge chip (PLX8613) and four PCIe lanes so the board can run in SLI and Crossfire modes. Gigabyte is shipping seven different boards in the P55A series. Gigabyte opted to avoid the bridge chip so dual-card modes will not be enabled in the board.
These motherboards are shipping despite delayed chipset releases from Intel supporting the latest interfaces. Manufacturers do not expect to have new Intel chipsets with USB 3.0 support until 2011.
Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) posted mixed results for the first half of 2009. On one hand, the Taiwanese motherboard maker posted consolidated revenues of NT$36.72 billion ($1.12 billion in U.S. currency), down 7 percent on the year. On the other hand, net profits grew 88 percent.
The company's notebook shipments remained flat at 1.6 million units in the first half of 2009, whereas the motherboard business tumbled to the tune of 22.06 percent on year to just 8.4 million units, ECS said.
Despite the shipments setbacks, ECS will maintain its goal for 2009 to ship 21 million motherboards, 4 million notebooks (half of them netbooks), and 1.5 million videocards, DigiTimes reports.
ECS recently debuted new motherbord, videocard, and multimedia solutions at this year's Computex, which will not be affected by this financial report.
To run Asus’s $400 Rampage II Extreme board you’d have to be either extreme or the world’s biggest poseur. How extreme would you have to be? You’d have to be the type of person who boils liquid helium atop his CPU to keep it cool. And because you can’t waste time overclocking from within the OS, you’d want to reach your hands into the guts of your case and use the board’s PCB-mounted controls that let you check and change voltage, fan speeds, and temps on a tiny one-line LCD external display.
In fact, you’d be so damn hardcore, you wouldn’t even fully trust those voltage readings from the board. Instead, you’d want to hook your Fluke meter directly to the available ports on the board to check the voltage of the CPU, the PCI Express lanes, and the north bridge directly. That’s how badass you’d be.