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Monday | June 14, 2021
Next Generation Intel Preview – Featuring Asus and Gigabyte

Next Generation Intel Preview – Featuring Asus and Gigabyte

Next Generation Intel Preview – Featuring Asus and Gigabyte

Next Generation Intel Preview – Featuring Asus and Gigabyte

Today Intel officially begin the run-up to the launch of their next generation platform by allowing the chance to look at some of the boards which will support the new shininess. So today we have taken two boards, one from ASUS and another from Gigabyte which are designed to appeal to enthusiasts/modders and gamers.

Asus Maximus VII Hero

ASUS previewASUS preview

We start our preview today with the latest version of the Asus Maximus Hero and it is worth noting right away that Asus are changing their product stack adding in the Ranger below the Hero. The box/branding remains the same though, which is no bad thing and bundled with the Hero we get a selection of documentation, door knocker, SATA cables, stickers, SLI bridge, header plugs and stylish padded I/O shield.

ASUS previewASUS preview
ASUS previewASUS preview

So what’s new and stand out about this board? Well the Maximus VII Hero supports upcoming Intel CPUs on socket 1150 and is the first board to support dual colour PCB. In this case Red and Black. We also get little touches such as black nickel CPU socket cover. Looking just below that socket we also find a new feature, the M.2 connector. This allows us to install M.2 based SSDs (PCie 2x spec – 10GB/s) of 60-80mm in length, expanding storage options.

Continuing down the PCB the Hero features a slot layout of PCIe 1x, PCIe 16x, 1x, 8x, 1x and 4x. The first red slot is 16x 3.0 spec, with the second being 8x and to the left are the audio components. Branded SupremeFX we get shielding, ELNA audio capacitors, “Sonic Sense” AMP and support for features like Sonic Studio, Soundstage (ASUS software) and DTSConnect. The stand out feature there is the Sonic SenseAMP which detects the impedance of our headphones and sets the audio hardware for the best experience. Also worthy of note is the Sonic SoundStage button below the bottom PCIe slot which takes advantage of an analog IC which takes the additional resource requirement away from our CPU to apply profiles which are designed for different game genre. How do we know what is activated? The debug LED on the board tells us.

Along the bottom of the PCB ASUS include a clear CMOS button, connector for the already available ROG External device (tuning/monitoring) and then heading round to the right this board has eight SATA 6GB/s connectors.

ASUS previewASUS preview

As us standard for modern boards we have combination of 8pin and 24-pin power connectors and surrounding the latter we have USB 3.0 header, power and reset buttons and the ASUS MemOK button which works to provide compatibility in situations with problematic memory. Also in this area are voltage read points and the KeyBot button which enables the KeyBot microprocessor, a component which takes standard keyboards and allows us to enable macro/smart functionality.

Turning round to the back panel we start with the PS/2 connector and 2x USB 3.0. Next up are optical audio, HDMI, DVI, VGA, 4x USB 2.0 and gold plated 3.5mm audio ports. The USB ports are all 5V spec for maximised stability and also in this area are is our Intel (I218-V) GB LAN port. ASUS have chosen this network controller due to its high Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) throughput. ASUS add LANGuard to this which utilises advanced signal coupling and premium capacitors. These work with the surge protected and electrostatically guarded components to protect our motherboard. Finally for the LAN Asus add a software panel on top which allows us to monitor/optimise our network, for example prioritising gaming packets (or media, streaming, etc).

Anything else? We have DRAM Over-Current protection on the four slots and memory compatibility on the Hero is 4x slots, dual channel of 32GB DDR3 in speeds up to 3200MHz. Our heatsinks have thermal pads and backplates, Extreme Engine DIGI+ 3 makes an appearance which expands the older revision to include CPU Vcore (8phase), VCCSA (3-phase for CPU integrated mem controller), VDIMM (2+2Phase) and 60A Gold Treated coating Choke.

So that brings us to a few final “software” notes where ASUS provide their own RAMDisk software (in addition to the standard Windows control panel we are used to) and their BIOS has been revised to offer faster setup and easier options (including favourites and enhanced fan control). For example EZ Tuning Wizard (easy Overclocking) and step by step RAID building.

Gigabyte Ultra Durable Black Edition – ZX Gaming G1 WiFi-BK

Gigabyte previewGigabyte preview
Gigabyte preview

Gigabyte are going through a little bit of a rebrand with their new series of boards, adding the gaming tag and enhancing the Ultra Durable brand to Black Edition. What do we get with this board, some really nice items… obviously all the standard things are here like stickers, documentation and software discs but added to that we get all the SLI (up to 4-way) and CrossFire connectors we might need, a USB 3.0 bracket and high quality padded I/O shield. Added to that are some rather nice braided SATA cables and a PCIe based Wi-Fi card (AC spec with Bluetooth 4.0) which features the excellent Intel AC-7260 adapter with WiDi (Wireless Display) compatibility.

What does Black Edition mean to us? It means that the board has gone through 168 hour durability testing (7 days) before shipment to guarantee quality. These tests include Litecoin mining and the Gigabyte facility can test 3000 boards at a time. Black Edition also means 5-year warranty and as well as providing a signed certificate of validation photos will be taken during the testing which allow users to see how their board holds up.


Gigabyte preview

Looking around the black PCB we see that it uses socket 1150 with support for upcoming Intel CPUs and this socket has 15µ gold plated pins (standard is 5µ). Gigabyte have built in a CPU fan/pump header which is designed for full speed operation on watercoolers and backed it with a 2nd header for dual fan cooling. Then we have power circuitry heatsinks which feature G1/4 threaded fittings.

Gigabyte Dual BIOS makes an appearance on this board allowing us to recover from any issues such as overclocking too far and 100% digital controllers are present for CPU and memory power delivery. Mixed with the 10000 hour certified solid state capacitors (DuraBlack, manufactured by Nippon Chemi-con) and onboard Debug LED and power/reset buttons (inc CMOS) we get a suite of features which offer stability, recoverability and performance options.

Gigabyte previewGigabyte preview

Down on the bottom left corner of the board we find our PCIe slots which run through 16x, 1x, 16x, 1x, 16x, 1x and 16x. Two of the 16x slots are PCIe 3.0 full spec, two are PCIe 3.0 8x. Then, as with their last generation boards, Gigabyte add enhanced audio features to this generation. The enhanced audio features start with the Creative Sound Core 3D audio processor and its gold plated shielding (and software suite) then continues with swappable OP-AMP (with gain boost). LED trace lighting is again present and Gigabyte opt for MUSE ES acoustic capacitors (Nichicon bi-polarized).

Looking further round the board Gigabyte opt for 10 SATA 6GB/s ports on this product and add to that a SATA Express port for next gen storage requirements (10GB/s).

Gigabyte previewGigabyte preview

Moving up the PCB we find the first of our power connectors (SATA and 24-pin) which combine with the 8-pin connector in the top left corner. Around the DIMM area (4x slots, Dual Channel, 32GB) we find onboard power/reset, debug LED and a USB 3.0 header along with voltage read points.

Then turning round to the back panel we find PS/2, 2x USB 2.0, 6x USB 3.0 and optical audio. The 3.5mm audio ports along with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort are all gold plated and then we have two LAN options. One is Intel based and one is Killer E2200 with access to a tuning suite in Windows. Gigabyte also add an additional feature for audio enthusiasts in this area, USB DAC-UP which offers noise free power delivery over USB to an external Digital-to-Analog convertor.

What else is worth noting? In addition to the latest mouse/keyboard GUI BIOS Gigabyte support Chromium OS (including from USB drives) and we get the latest edition of App Centre. App Centre allows us to use Gigabytes software tools to tweak, maintain and monitor our board including remote access to our system (Home Cloud), control from our mobile device (Remote /Remote OC) and even some little additions like auto-lock of our system when it detects our phone has gone out of range. Game Controller adds sniper mode and keyboard/mouse response time tuning along with macro functions and Smart Switch brings back the classic Start menu experience to Windows 8/8.1.

Gigabyte preview

So that is our first detailed look at the features offered by the next gen Intel based boards. The two featured here will be covered again (performance) at the expiry of Intel’s NDA which we are adhering to today… even if others are not. So check back soon for that.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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