Building a new PC is all about choices and tradeoffs. Picking between AMD and Intel is usually the first choice you have to make, but it certainly isn’t the most complicated. Instead, that honour goes to the motherboard, with each board maker typically offering at least half a dozen different models based on a single chipset. We've done a lot of the homework for you to save you some time, money, and/or regret. Here's what we believe is the very best out there.
In overclocking circles it was recently noted that BCLK (base clock) overclocking might become a possibility in Skylake processors, but it would be up to motherboard manufacturers to circumvent Intel's restrictions. Last night Asrock contacted us with an updated BIOS that enabled this. We jumped at the opportunity and have already tested and benched a Core i3-6100 Skylake CPU with a 1GHz overclock (4.7GHz) on air cooling.
Launched alongside new Skylake processors are accompanying motherboards using the Intel Z170 chipset that go from $100 right up to $500. Having that said, most capable Z170 motherboards can be had for around $200 to $250 and today we'll be looking at six options in this bracket.
The Asrock Beebox N3000 measures 0.6L and boasts a mere 4 watt TDP. This incredibly low power rating has allowed Asrock to create a tiny HTPC that is completely fanless draws less than 10 watts under typical usage. The company is heavily promoting the fact that its latest mini PC can support triple-monitors using three video outputs simultaneously.
Asrock doesn't mind taking chances with design and proof of this is the X99E-ITX/ac, the first and only Mini-ITX X99 motherboard to support an Intel Extreme-series chipset. Though we were skeptical at first, it delivers the performance of a full-sized EATX X99 board in a 170mm x 170mm package that manages to carry enthusiast trappings from Wi-Fi & Bluetooth to SATA Express & M.2 connectivity.
In our budget CPU roundup earlier this year, AMD's Kabini Athlon 5350 squared off against Intel's Bay Trail-D Celeron J1900, showing itself to be better at gaming and encoding workloads. The new Asrock Q2900-ITX ships with a Pentium J2900 on a Mini-ITX board for $104 and is aimed straight against the same AMD offering.
Codenamed 'Wildcat Point', the Z97 chipset brings support for future Broadwell CPUs, along with SATA Express and the M.2 socket. With over 90 designs available right now, picking the right one can be a difficult decision. Hoping to narrow the search down, we have taken seven popular boards and compared them in every way possible.
It's been a few years since we published an enthusiastic review of Asrock's pricey yet powerful Vision 3D HTPC. The company has since kept our attention with annual updates, now on its fourth generation, the Vision HT 420D has received a proper upgrade to Intel's Haswell architecture as well as other improvements that contribute to the system's respectable list of features, making it one of the most impressive HTPCs to date.
Asrock's new Z87 Extreme11/ac may very well be the most extreme motherboard we've handled. It touts four-way GPU support, over 20(!) SATA ports, premium onboard audio, dual gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and -- unsurprisingly -- the largest price tag in its class. So, how exactly does a company justify $540 for a motherboard?
Even if the Asrock M8's style is not your thing, there's less room to argue that this is a unique gaming PC barebones kit and that was enough to earn our attention. We've been impressed with the looks of previous Asrock products -- including its mini PCs -- but the M8 is a clear step up having been designed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA, the driving force behind Thermaltake's Level 10 chassis, a case as overpriced as it is iconic.
For years now we've had the ability to take a compact Micro ATX motherboard along with a high-end GPU and squeeze them into a custom case not much bigger than a shoe box.
We are putting today's top small form factor hardware together in hopes of building an enthusiast-worthy gaming system that you can easily transport, use as a a small workstation or fit comfortably along your living room equipment for HTPC purposes.
The idea behind the Thin Mini-ITX form factor, besides the obvious which is to create seriously compact computers, is also to allow for DIY all-in-ones (think of little PCs you can attach to the back of your monitor). Having that said, we don't fully intend to go the all-in-one route in this article, but are aiming to build a powerful Thin Mini-ITX system that can be used in the office or at home as a media PC.
This is what our finished system should look like: extremely compact, powerful, and near silent operation, as in no-moving-parts silent. For less than $700 including a 256GB SSD, we believe you'll love what the final product will look like.
Motherboard makers are adjusting outlooks to reflect weaker-than-expected demand for the second half of 2012, according to DigiTimes. Unnamed industry sources said that unit shipments in the latter half of this year will fall below the figures recorded during the first half, despite...
Although Intel's die shrink of Sandy Bridge isn't due until next week (Monday, rumors say), the company has long shipped Ivy Bridge's accompanying chipsets. It might seem odd to jump the gun on "next-gen" motherboards, but 7-series platforms are backwards compatible with Sandy Bridge processors, so users have actually been able to buy a Z77 motherboard and use it for a few weeks without Ivy Bridge.
After surveying Panther Point's spec sheet, we're itching to get a little more hands-on. Fortunately, we have four new Z77 motherboards in the shop and begging for attention, including the Asrock Z77 Extreme6, ECS Z77H2-AX, Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H-WB and Intel DZ77GA-70K.
Those wanting to build the ultimate performance system will naturally turn to Intel’s new LGA2011 platform which recently made its debut with the Sandy Bridge-E processors. Further, the platform is expected to support enthusiast-level Ivy Bridge processors that are slated for release by the end of 2012, adding to the platform's longevity.
More than ever we expect motherboard manufacturers deliver the goods with their X79 offerings as the platform will only be attractive to the most demanding of PC enthusiasts and gamers building heavily packed machines -- you know, those who will be paying ~$300 for a motherboard on top of a very expensive processor.
Today we're looking at a new breed of Mini-ITX motherboards from Asrock called the Z68M-ITX/HT and A75M-ITX. The former is an Intel Z68 board that supports Intel's second-generation Core processors, while the latter utilizes AMD A75's chipset to support Socket FM1 processors, namely the new Fusion A-series desktop APUs.
To spice things up we've selected Intel and AMD's $140 CPU offerings. In other words, this review will also serve as a comparison for the Core i3-2120 and AMD A8-3850.