MSI is in a tight race with ASRock to become the third largest motherboard maker behind heavyweights Asus and Gigabyte. ASRock took a slight lead in 2013, but looking ahead, MSI is expected to leapfrog into the No. 3 spot with 8 million motherboard shipments. Either way, system builders will have plenty of MSI motherboards to sift through in 2014, several of which we had a chance to glimpse at CES.
Things you need to know to become a PC hardware expert
Knowledge is power, and when it comes to PCs that’s especially true, because only by knowing how your components’ specs actually affect performance can you get the maximum power you need for the type of computing you do—and avoid being seduced by features that sound impressive on the box but won’t do squat to improve your experience. Knowing your stuff has other benefits, too. An in-depth understanding of what makes all your parts tick enables you to better troubleshoot problems, upgrade in ways that make sense, and converse with other nerds in your own secret language. Turn the page to begin your crash course in PC spec-speak.
Note: This article was originally featured in the August 2013 issue of the magazine.
Motherboard shopping used to be like buying a Model T—you could buy any color you wanted as long it was black. Today, we have a serious Nerd World problem in the dizzying array of motherboard choices, with Asus offering no less than 10 Z87 boards just in its “standard” line, at prices that range from ultra-budget to luxury.
Note: This review was originally featured in the October 2013 issue of the magazine.
Just before the holiday weekend in November, MSI posted to its Facebook account a teaser shot showing off a pair of mini ITX gaming products. One was a graphics card and the other a motherboard, but beyond what you could make out in the picture, mum was the word from MSI at the time. Well, MSI is now ready to reveal the full monty. Those of you who guessed the graphics card was a mini ITXGeForce GTX 760, you're awarded 760 geek cred points.
MSI is using Facebook correctly. While Facebook feeds have a tendency to be cluttered with pictures of food and political rants, MSI posted a photo of two unreleased mini ITX gaming products. One is a mini ITX motherboard and the other is a pint-sized graphics card. Both sport a red and black color scheme along with MSI's familiar dragon logo, plus some clues to the feature-sets.
So here it is, black sheep, your shot at going against the grain and becoming a modern day miner while the rest of your family pursues careers in the field of medicine, law, science, or whatever else they're doing. ASRock has your back with a pair of motherboards designed specifically with Bitcoin mining in mind. Each board supports half a dozen graphics cards, allowing you to mine for virtual currency like a madman, if that's your thing.
Fancy yourself a digital packrat? If oodles of storage options float your boat, you're going to love what ASRock has done with its new Z87 Extreme11/ac motherboard. This slice of silicon is, according to ASRock, "the most high-end Z87 motherboard on the face of the earth!" It's certainly one of the most storage friendly with 22 SATA3 ports, including 6 SATA3 ports by way of Intel's Z87 chipset, and another 16 SAS-3 12.0GB/s ports from the added LSI SAS 3008 controller plus 3X24R Expander.
Buy a board or system today, add Thunderbolt support later
Intel is obviously geeked about its Thunderbolt interface, the question is, are you? Thunderbolt has made some strides since it was first introduced -- it's present on all Apple Mac systems, there are over 100 Thunderbolt devices available, and the first Thunderbolt 2 systems were unveiled last month -- but it's not as widely available as, say, USB. To further promote the interface, Intel came up with the idea of enabling PC makers to offer Thunderbolt upgradeable motherboards within desktops and workstation systems.
Heading into the weekend, Gigabyte announced the launch of its latest gaming motherboard, the G1.Sniper Z87. Gigabyte made the announcement at Blizzcon 2013, one of the biggest U.S. gaming events of the year. It's a fitting place to unveil the G1.Sniper Z87, which combines aggressive looks with high-end hardware like an AMP-UP audio feature and Killer E2200 networking.
Looking to build a bad ass system around Intel's Ivy Bridge-E architecture? You may want to consider the Rampage IV Black Edition motherboard from Asus. The Rampage IV Black Edition is based on Intel's X79 Express chipset and comes loaded with features aimed at gamers and overclockers alike, and from the pictures we've seen, it looks pretty sweet to boot. It's also a pricey piece of silicon at $500, though Asus softens the blow somewhat by including a free copy of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.