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Today we take a look on two of mini-ITX cases which easily can be used to build performance gaming system. The first, Corsair Obsidian 250D has fully compatible with the usual "desktop" components and offers wide opportunities for expansion. The second, SilverStone Sugo SG05 has a smaller size but it still has sufficient functionality.

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Investing in the top range motherboard should afford a few privileges. It should come with extra features, extra components in the box, and where possible the manufacturer should put time and effort into better performance. The ASUS Z97-Deluxe (NFC & WLC) tips the scales at $400, but comes with Thunderbolt 2, an NFC connection system, a Wireless Charging system, dual SATA Express, dual Ethernet ports, 2T2R 802.11ac WiFi, M.2. support and a total of 10 SATA/USB 3.0 ports.

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For the first of our Z97 reviews, GIGABYTE sent us its mid-range Z97X-UD5H. This model is designed for the casual enthusiast interested in the higher end of the feature set but not so far in overclocking nor gaming. GIGABYTE has a new color scheme for its channel range, and is aiming for a reasonable $190 price point.

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One of the purposes of Intel’s Avoton CPUs is cold storage. ASRock produced the C2750D4I for that need – a mini-ITX motherboard with a 25W eight core CPU, support for 64GB of DRAM, external server management and twelve SATA ports. In order to achieve twelve SATA ports, ASRock has equipped the motherboard with additional Marvell controllers. SilverstoneTek has built the DS380 case around this idea. Despite the high price tag for the motherboard($398), there seems to be a buzz around this setup, so ASRock provided one of its C2750D4I 1U servers for review. SilverstoneTek is also in on the action, asking for our opinion of its DS380 case which we will include in this review.

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As mentioned in our recent FM2+ coverage, innovation on AMD platforms has somewhat stagnated. The performance from Team Blue means that they get the initial attempts at something awesome from the motherboard manufacturers, and the AMD side of the equation only gets something if the extra R&D cost is minimal. This is what makes an AMD build into a power-play in terms of price/performance rather than feature set. Unless AMD makes a future performance platform, we might never see the likes of the ROG series' OC features on an AMD motherboard again.

ASUS has brought over some hardware component choice and software optimizations from their Intel lines. For the A88X-Pro we get a digital power delivery implementation, followed by Dual Intelligent Processors IV (DIP4) for power saving and turbo implementations. Features like USB BIOS Flashback, MemOK, DirectKey and enhanced audio also copy over.

The main issue with Kaveri from our motherboard reviews so far is the inability for a system to remain stable at stock frequencies while under certain prosumer workloads (video editing, 3D mapping). The A88X-Pro has some extra money spent on the power delivery and heatsink orientation, using R68 chokes and connecting the CPU area with the chipset for extra temperature dissipation.

Unfortunately the forced reboot issue we have seen on other A88X motherboards appeared on the A88X-Pro during our Photoscan benchmark, solved only by an extra fan being placed over the power delivery. I relayed this information back to ASUS, with the benchmark itself, and they have been unable to perform this error that I can consistently show. ASUS has suggested that my review CPU from AMD is from an initial batch of A10-7850K which may have higher-than-retail leakage issues. We are currently investigating this further.

Putting this to one side (as we have done in other reviews), the A88X-Pro is designed to be at the pinnacle of FM2+ motherboard implementations. The performance is better than most of the other FM2+ motherboards we have tested. Alongside the features brought over from the enthusiast platforms mentioned above, we also get a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, five fan headers, a two-digit debug readout, two eSATA 6 Gbps ports, six USB 3.0 ports, a quartet of IGP video outputs and support for up to 64GB of DRAM (when those 16GB modules are released).

Performance wise, the ASUS A88X-Pro seems to do something a little differently than the other A88X motherboards we have tested – turbo modes seem to last longer and have a direct effect on benchmarks. As a result the A88X-Pro hits the top notes when paired with the A10-7850K in almost all our tests when compared to other A88X reviews. The audio solution also gets some of the best combination Dynamic Range and Noise results out of any previous motherboard tested.

ASUS’ new graphical BIOS from Z87 is used, implementing features such as Last Modified and My Favorites. The software stack revolves around AI Suite 3 with the Dual Intelligent Processors 4 option flanked with USB 3.0 boost, USB BIOS Flashbook, quick charging options, fan controls and power saving modes.

Compared to the $63 MSI motherboard we tested previously at AnandTech, the ASUS comes in at almost double price with good performance numbers, extra features (DIP4, four DIMM slots, Realtek ALC1150) and a more robust BIOS and software package. Whether the A88X-Pro is worth double is more up to the reader, but ASUS is aiming the motherboard at the high end.

One of AMD’s primary feature points for the AM1 Kabini platform was the introduction of low-cost motherboards. The promotional material provided gave a suggested AM1 combined price of $60. Now after release the cheapest APUs are $31 for a dual core and $35 for a quad core. This should mean motherboards from $29 and up. Today we take a brief preview of nine motherboards currently on sale, which start at $33.

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<p><span style="font-size: small;">While the desktop PC industry has been reported as shrinking these last few quarters, the dichotomy rests in a drive towards the smaller form factors while the large under-the-desk systems market remains steady. This would suggest a split between mini-ITX and ATX users, leaving micro-ATX platforms stranded in the middle. Is there still room in the market for this form factor? Today we review MSI&rsquo;s take on FM2+ and micro-ATX with the A88XM-E35.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;"><a href="http://www.anandtech.com/show/7914/msi-a88xme35-review" target="_blank">Read more...</a></span></p>
During my stint as a researcher at university, the systems under our desks that we used for simulation and writing up reports were all oriented to stability and performance. This meant dual Xeons, large amounts of ECC memory and a motherboard to match. While I had no use for additional connectors beyond USB ports, these sorts of products have to be able to use SAS and RAID in storage, enough network management and be validated for multiple usage scenarios. GIGABYTE is pushing the GA-6PSXV3 as a cheaper variant of the GA-6PSXV2 with different connectors but the focus is on virtualization with a workstation. This points to our dual Intel 82574L NICs, 6 SATA ports, Mini-SAS (for four SATA 3 Gbps ports), support for SLI/Crossfire, a TPM header, a serial port and an ASpeed AST2300 2D management controller which we have seen on GIGABYTE Server motherboards in the past.

One of the motherboard features that GIGABYTE likes to promote is its support for 1866 MHz with a full set of 8 DIMMs on E5 26xx v2 CPUs. As we have noted in our consumer product line memory scaling articles (such as this one on Ivy Bridge), moving beyond 1600 MHz helps get out of a potential performance black hole. Unfortunately we are still bounded by JEDEC specifications at 1866 (so CAS 12/13), but our previous testing points to frequency being more important if the value MHz/CAS is around the same.
For readers who are more used to X79 consumer line products, this C604 based GA-6PXSV3 motherboard might look a bit empty (only two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots), but ultimately the workstation/server side of this platform is on maintenance and longevity. Surprisingly for a socket 2011 motherboard we get two USB 3.0 headers on board and no USB 3.0 on the back panel.

There was one flaw in testing I came across that GIGABYTE has not been able to reproduce. With the gaming benchmarks when using dual GPUs, the Sleeping Dogs benchmarks failed to complete, resetting the system after a couple of seconds of running. For two weeks we went back and forth, however GIGABYTE could not recreate the issue. The error was similar to that of a memory failure on the GPU, and this happened using several GPUs on this motherboard. These GPUs were fine on the same PSU and a different motherboard. This suggests that my motherboard at least had problems supplying power to the PCIe slots when two power hungry devices are present.

For performance we tested the GA-6PXSV3 with two E5 26xx v2 Xeons and a Core i7-4960X. The results of the Xeons were published in a review of those Xeons, and the i7-4960X results will be the focus of this review for comparison against other socket 2011 products. On the whole, we expect consumer products to perform slightly better in our benchmarks than the server parts for two main reasons. On server parts we usually are limited in DRAM speed which decreases performance (unable to set values or no direct XMP support), but also consumer products tend to be more aggressive on CPU Turbo Boost responsiveness whereas server motherboards are more lax. The GIGABYTE GA-6PSXV3 is no different in this regard – the X79 product in our comparison does have a noticeable quantitative advantage in our benchmark tests, but it does not have external management, SAS support, dual Intel NICs or RDIMM ECC support. That is ultimately what you are paying for at the end of the day.

The board doesn’t looks like any other MicroATX mainboard. But in spite of non-typical interior Gryphon Z87 works as most ASUS products. It’s real ASUS mainboard with usual for this manufacturer set of features and peculiarities.

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<div><span style="font-size: small;">The AMD Kaveri launch was a bit of a m&ecirc;l&eacute;e &ndash; two weeks to test a dozen processors in our new benchmarking suite, both in terms of CPU and IGP performance, with the big write up at the end. At the time I used the FM2A88X Extreme6+ motherboard, and in order to avoid complications I put on some rock solid air cooling and it sailed through the process. When I removed the extra cooling, a heat-related issue started to occur. I noticed the VRM heatsink getting hot, and as a result the system was reducing frequencies after extended workloads. After checking everything in the software side was OK, I got an infrared thermometer to probe some of the components. When the VRM heatsink showed 88C after 5 minutes of encoding work, and 97C after an hour, I had found the culprit of the issue. 88C is a rather high temperature, despite these components are usually rated to 105C. Since I finished testing the motherboard, ASRock has launched several new BIOSes, which I tested after consulting ASRock. The final result was that the system till reached 80C after 10-15 minutes of hard CPU work (normal work rather than a power virus) and 92C after 25+ minutes.</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: small;"><br /> </span></div> <div><span style="font-size: small;">This might be seen a stern start to a motherboard review, especially one that has won awards elsewhere and performed well in our high-end air cooled testing. The FM2A88X Extreme6+ is a full sized ATX motherboard using the A88X chipset, supplanted with an 8+2 power phase design. From the chipset we have eight SATA 6 Gbps ports (7 regular + 1 eSATA), 6 USB 3.0 ports, an x8/x8 + x4 PCIe layout and support for up to 64GB DRAM from four memory slots. ASRock's website states that this motherboard can be part of a system that supports 4096x2400 at 60 Hz via DP 1.2. &nbsp;Other video outputs are present as well (VGA, DVI-D and HDMI).</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: small;"><br /> </span></div> <div> <div><span style="font-size: small;">ASRock&rsquo;s additions to the base chipset include support up to DDR3-2600 on the memory, a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec (rated at 115dB SNR) with a TI NE5532 headset amplifier, a Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 network interface, six fan headers, power/reset buttons, a two digit debug, an ASMedia ASM1042 for two additional USB 3.0 ports and the ASRock BIOS/Software ecosystem that is ever improving.</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: small;"><br /> </span></div> <div><span style="font-size: small;">In our performance testing, the motherboard and CPU combination trades blows with another FM2+ motherboard we are currently testing, winning in a few CPU and gaming tests. The system scores under 10 seconds for a Windows 7 POST time, although the DPC Latency is matching that of our Intel 8-series results oddly enough.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: small;">ASRock is often very aggressive on pricing, and the FM2A88X Extreme6+ comes in at $105, near other motherboards from ASUS, GIGABYTE and MSI. ASRock is continually building an ecosystem around the BIOS utilization and software functionality in order to make their products more desirable, though additional cooling on this model might be recommended.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://anandtech.com/show/7865/asrock-fm2a88x-extreme6-review" target="_blank">Read more...</a></div> </div>
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