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.
Have you ever seen a peacock spread its feathers for all to see as it struts casually and confidently with its head held high? That's ASRock, the spunky company spun-off by Asus a decade ago and owned by Asus subsidiary Pegatron Corporation, which gleefully claims it's the first motherboard manufacturer in the world to pass Windows 8 hardware certification.
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.
If someone sent out invitations to Intel's Thunderbolt party, consider MSI as having received one, hence the release of the company's Z77A-GD80 mainboard that was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Built around Intel's Z77 chipset with support for 22nm (Ivy Bridge) processors, the Z77A-GD80 is one of a handful of Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards making their debut today.
Asus on Monday announced the launch of its P8Z77-V Premium motherboard, the flagship slice of silicon in the P8Z77 Series and, as it happens to be the case, the first Intel certified mainboard to boast a Thunderbolt interface, the company claims. Remember Thunderbolt? It's the previously much hyped high-speed interface from Intel that was supposed to give USB 3.0 a run for its money, though Intel claimed from Day 1 that the two technologies were meant to co-exist and not necessarily compete with each other.
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.
If Intel's Ivy Bridge ultimately crumbles, it won't be for lack of vendor support. While the tech world waits for Intel to launch its 3rd generation Core processor family, motherboard makers and system integrators are busy pushing out upgraded platforms that support the upcoming CPUs, everything from big and bad notebooks to little motherboards like Zotac's new Z77-ITX Wi-Fi and H77-ITX Wi-Fi, a pair of Intel 7-series mini ITX boards intended for anyone who wants to pack big performance into a small footprint.
The floodgates have been opened and motherboards built around Intel's brand spanking new Z77 Express chipset continue to pour into the market place. One of the newest to wash up is the Maximus V Gene, a Republic of Gamers (ROG) board from Asus. Like all Z77 boards, the Maximus V Gene is an LGA 1155 motherboard, but it's also one of the first to flaunt next-gen features in a micro-ATX form factor.
Biostar's chefs just finished baking a new batch of high end motherboards for Intel's Z77 chipset, one of which includes the company's flagship TZ77XE4 model. The TZ77XE4 plays nice with both 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) and 2nd generation (Sandy Bridge) processors in a socket 1155 package (don't try plunking your Sandy Bridge-E processor into one of these boards, they require a socket 2011 motherboard).
The last motherboard announcement from EVGA came in November of last year when the company unveiled its X79 lineup. It's been relatively quiet since then, until now. Figuring four months was enough of a hiatus, EVGA is now letting the world know about its brand spanking new Classified SR-X, an ambitious slice of silicon designed to set a "new standard for what is considered an enthusiast motherboard," starting with dual-CPU support.