Motherboards

We have another premium Z170-based motherboard on the test bench today, by way of MSI. The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 ACK motherboard is the company’s top end gaming board for use with Intel 6th Generation Skylake-based Core series processors. The MSI Z170A Gaming M9 is packed with a host of premium features aimed at improving and enhancing your experience. Like most gaming enthusiast boards, this one also commands top dollar, but still manages to ring in $100 shy of the wallet-busting ASUS Z170 ROG Maximus VIII we previously reviewed. Some of the more notable features on this motherboard include a built-in... Read more...
We’ve already had a taste of what ASUS and Gigabyte have to offer in the way of Z87 motherboards, and now it’s time to give MSI’s lineup a spin. MSI’s offering of Z87 motherboards has essentially three tiers: the “POWER” series (which includes four XPOWER and MPOWER boards), a trio of gaming boards, and five mainstream boards. The company sent us a motherboard from each area to put through their paces. The Z87 chipset goes hand-in-hand with Intel’s 4th-generation Haswell processors, and we outfitted the three MSI boards--the tiny Z87I, the Z87-G45 Gamer,... Read more...
The MSI XPower series of motherboards is clearly designed to curry favor with overclocking enthusiasts and the high-end gamers Asus has targeted with its Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand. The XPower packs full support for all the latest buzzwords and capabilities, but MSI is also claiming to offer certain unique features that other manufacturers can't match currently. We're always interested in new innovations and ideas when it comes to motherboard design; let's take a look at the oomph behind MSI's Big Bang.  MSI Big Bang XPower The XPower is as much a love letter to enthusiasts as it is a... Read more...
The latest socket AM3 compatible Phenom II processors have been available for several weeks now and they had proven in our initial coverage to be excellent chips, a notable improvement over their predecessors in several respects, including overclocking and in their support for higher clocked DDR3 memory. Thanks to the Phenom II's ability to use both DDR2 and DDR3 memory types, they can be used in existing AM2+ boards, which is an excellent solution for many current AMD users. The AMD 790GX chipset offers an excellent low cost DDR2 solution for Phenom II owners but currently... Read more...
A few months back, Intel released the P45 Chipset -- at the time it was considered to be their mainstream offering, playing second fiddle to the X48 Express.  With official support of a 1333MHz FSB, PCI-E 2.0, ATI CrossFire, and support for both DDR2 and DDR3 memory, there's a lot of roads to go down with the construction of one of these boards, and MSI went down all of them.  MSI fleshed out a complete top-to-bottom assortment of  boards, which means that they have a P45 motherboard that suits just about every potential buyer's... Read more...
DDR3 is the future of desktop PC memory in the near term, no question about it.  Nonetheless, the transition to the next level of memory technology will be a gradual one, much like we saw when we advanced from DDR to DDR2.  With higher latencies and higher price tags, the argument for migrating to DDR3 in its current state isn't a strong one, but as the technology matures, that argument will become increasingly strong as the benefits and costs of DDR3 become more tangilble and affordable.One issue facing system builders today is how to approach a new build if they... Read more...
In mid-Q4 2007, AMD released their 790FX, 790X and 770 chipsets, the final pieces required to complete their Spider platform.  As the backbone of the new platform, the 700 series chipsets were designed with new feature sets to take full advantage of the Phenom processor's capabilities.  With up to 42 PCI Express lanes, support for four-way graphics, and lower power consumption then previous chipsets, AMD delivered a competitive new chipset to back their new CPUs and graphics cards.In November, we took a detailed look at the Spider platform coupled with a Phenom... Read more...
Not too far back, there was a time when it was inconceivable that a motherboard had anything other than a green or mustard colored PCB that had a few sockets for the CPU and DIMMs, maybe a hard drive connector or two, and a floppy drive connection.  Keyboards and mice were typically PS/2 based, although a COM port sufficed for those still attached to their serial mice, and the list of input/output options were quite few.  The late 90's brought about the rise of the Universal Serial Bus, a new standard for interfacing with devices intended to retire legacy serial and parallel... Read more...
Just around this time three years ago, Intel launched their 925X and 915 motherboard platforms, bringing to market a new microprocessor socket, support for DDR2 memory, and support for PCI Express. Although the chipsets were decent performers and had good features, Intel was criticized for forcing the adoption of these new technologies when the market wasn’t really demanding it. At that time, Intel’s NetBurst processors trailed AMD’s and the company caught a lot of criticism from motherboard partners, OEM computer manufacturers, and press alike.... Read more...
  Nvidia's SLI technology launched in mid-2004, and was designed to provide high-performance rendering power for gamers. Because the technology was brand new, and the fastest thing on the market, SLI configurations demanded exorbitant price premiums over single card configurations, despite first generation issues like software compatibility, driver problems, and hardware issues. Setting up a "budget" SLI system was simply out of the question at first, as SLI-enabled graphics cards were only available at the high end of the price range, as were SLI-enabled motherboards. Now that... Read more...
ATI's chipset division, talented as they are, seem to have always played second fiddle to rival nVidia. Both nVidia and ATI started originally producing chipsets in 2001/2002 for low-end markets, using their experience in producing graphics processors as leverage to produce chipsets with integrated graphics abilities. Over time, both nVidia and ATI have become more experienced producing chipsets, eventually dropping the integrated graphics elements from their high-end products and targeting the enthusiast / gamer markets, who purchase more expensive add-in graphics cards. While ATI has produced... Read more...
  It's a shame, really. After nearly one year on the market, Socket-939 Athlon64 motherboards are finally getting to a point where we've always wished they would be. Feature packed, refined, tweakable, and quiet. Why is this a shame? Well, as AMD is transitioning to their new Socket-AM2 interface, interest in Socket-939 platforms will undoubtedly dwindle away. However, there is a huge install base of Socket-939 users on the market already, and new Socket-939 processor sales will likely continue throughout 2006. So, while Socket-AM2 may be getting all the press lately, it's still... Read more...
There is a current trend in PC hardware to have two of everything.  Whether it's two (or more) drives in a RAID configuration, dual-core CPUs, dual-channel memory, or adding an additional video card to increase frame rates; it's apparent that doubling-up is here to stay.  Up until recently, running two video cards simultaneously meant one thing: NVIDIA cards running on NVIDIA motherboards.  It was a logical step for the graphics leader to support only their own chipsets, as it brought more prestige to the platform.  More prestige, and of course, more profits through more sales... Read more...
As Intel's Alderwood and Grantsdale chipsets have brought a whole new platform of technology to the P4, OEMs are now in full swing, bringing their own flavors to the mix.  With support for Intel's new LGA775 processors, DDR and DDR2 and PCI-Express, the playing field has certainly changed.  Granted, while upgrading will require a larger investment, the results can be worth it in the end, especially if you are migrating from a generation or two behind this current Intel architecture. Recently, we've seen a number of offerings come to market based on the 915G/P chipset.  While each... Read more...
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