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.
An eclipse occurs when one celestial body obscures another. When MSI stuck its X58 motherboard with that moniker, we wondered just what it wanted to hide. Our guess is it’s the fact that the board supports ATI’s CrossFire X. Despite the Eclipse’s support for CrossFire X, MSI chose to change the name of the board at the last minute from simply Eclipse to Eclipse SLI. Regardless, the Eclipse SLI is jam-packed with features that would make any geek weep, including cross-platform GPU support, Core i7, six-slot DDR3, and onboard soft X-Fi audio.
Today, hard drive manufacturer Seagate and chip manufacturer AMD unveil the first tech demo of Serial ATA Revision 3.0, which boasts transfer rates of up to six gigabits per second, twice the speed of the current SATA spec. The specification, which was announced by the Serial ATA International Organization last August, will appear in hardware starting later this year.
SATA 6Gb/s comes several years before Seagate estimates it will be needed for standard hard drives, but, as we reported last year, several current-gen SSDs are already bumping against the 3Gb/s limit of the current spec.
Maker’s Mark is of course the name of a fine Kentucky bourbon whiskey, but the phrase also applies to the stamp that skilled artisans apply to their creations. When you’ve finished building your custom PC, we’d encourage you to stamp it with your own maker’s mark; after all, the one-of-a-kind creation you’ll have wrought will have nothing in common with the mass-produced rigs that mainstream manufacturers churn out by the millions.
That’s one of the most exciting aspects of our hobby. Automobile buffs can tune and customize their factory-built cars and trucks, but computer geeks like us get to build something new and unique almost entirely from whole cloth. And it’s so easy that you have to wonder why anyone would buy a preassembled PC in the first place.
Thanks to the relatively open architecture that IBM stumbled into oh so many years ago (and has likely regretted ever since), we can rebuild and retune our creations again and again, boosting their performance and postponing their obsolescence. We do hit a wall every now and again. Intel’s new Core i7 CPU is a good example. Because the new processor features an onboard memory controller—a first for Intel, although AMD’s procs have had the technology for years—the company had to design a new socket architecture to accommodate the additional pins. That blocks the upgrade path for anyone using an LGA775 motherboard.
Intel has AMD on the run in the CPU front, but AMD is poking Nvidia in the behind in the graphics processor market. The result: ever more powerful, ever less expensive videocards. The two companies have shipped so many new parts that we expect things will stabilize over the next quarter or so, so now’s the time to find a great deal whether you’re building a new rig or retrofitting an old one. And if you’ve never experienced the joy and pride of building your own PC, click through to read our in-depth, hands-on guide.
Stop the presses! (Ok, maybe not). We wanted to let you know that Best of the Best, our comprehensive list of our favorite PC hardware components, has just been updated and overhauled with new categories and parts that you’ll need to consider for your next PC build or upgrade.
In addition to three new processor categories (Extreme, $500, and $250), we’ve listed our pick for the top Core i7 motherboard. The budget through high-end GPU lineup as also been refreshed, and we now make two hard drive recommendations based on performance and capacity.
Most seasoned enthusiasts have at least one fond memory of an Abit motherboard that overclocked like nobody's business, a trait which propelled the company into legendary status. But just as Abit had risen to the top, the company fell even quicker following questionable management decisions, and the Abit brand name was sold to Universal Scientific Industrial (USI) two years ago. Abit's presence has never been the same, and after December 31st, it will no longer exist, says TweakTown.
News and review site TweakTown appears to have intimate knowledge that USI will shut down Abit after next week. The decision follows failed expectations of USI for Abit's business, which reportedly sold between two to three million motherboards last year. This year, sales are even lower.
Old school enthusiasts hoping for a last minute stay of execution may want to keep crossing their fingers. According to Abit's website, the company's "US branch will be shutdown during the Christmas holidays, [and] normal operation will resume on Jan. 5, 2009."
We know what you’re thinking, what more could a motherboard vendor put on the PCB that would convince anyone to part with $400? Asus thinks its latest Rampage II Extreme board in the Republic of Gamer’s series will do it.
This X58-based Core i7 board features support both Tri-SLI and CrossFire X, six DDR3 DIMM slots, EAX 4.0 software support, an audio card riser, heat pipes, LCD poster displays and a joystick and probe ports to connect your multi-tester.
What the hell do you need a joystick on a mobo for? Using the provided small single-line LCD display, you can toggle voltages, overclocking profiles or clock speeds. Want even more insane features? The board features probe ports to connect a multi-meter to the motherboard to read direct voltages for the RAM, southbridge, PCI-E, CPU, QPI and CPU PLL’s.
One feature the board doesn’t have that we expected was support for Nvidia’s nForce 200 chip. Instead of the Nvidia hardware, Asus has SLI certification for up to three-way SLI in a x16/x8/x8 configuration. There’s no word as to whether Asus plans to offer a board with an nForce 200 part in it yet.
If you don’t just like Gigabit ports—you love them— Gigabyte’s GA-EP45-DQ6 is the motherboard for you. This mobo has four Gigabit ports that can be teamed together for one seriously fat-ass network connection.
Elsewhere, the board is typical Gigabyte; it includes surface-mounted buttons and the most clearly marked USB and FireWire ports we’ve ever seen. So if you nuke your USB drive because you plugged the USB connector into a FireWire header, it’s your own fault, brother.
We admit it, sexy chipsets such as Nvidia’s nForce 790i SLI Ultra and Intel’s X48 get all the ink, but in reality, most of the world runs on plain-vanilla chipsets such as Intel’s new P45. And the truth is, you don’t necessarily give up performance or features when you choose a middle-of-the-road board; in fact, the affordable MSI Platinum has just about everything you’d want in a motherboard.
And thus, the grand story of the Dream Machine 2008 comes to its final edition. And do we have a reveal for you! We're going to show you the ultra-secret case that encloses the mighty guts of our speedy Skulltrail machine. We're also giving you a first-look at the not-quite-as-secret videocards powering the graphics of this hefty rig. Before it catches ablaze, we'll also show you the cooling setup and what we used to rock out whilst checking the cooler for leaks.
That's right. Today, you're getting the case, the graphics, the cooling and the sound--an epic conclusion to the most powerful rig we've ever built. If you're just joining us, you'll want to check out the beginning of the story as well as the second edition of the Dream Machine saga, where we officially showed off this machine's spankin'-fast processors.
But enough small-talk. Click that little "read more" link and prepare thyself for greatness.