Saturday, February 25, 2012

GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 Motherboard

The G1.Assassin 2 motherboard is designed with one purpose; to equip you with the most potent technology available today including the very latest Intel® X79 enthusiast processor platform, ruthless multiple discrete graphics card support and dedicated onboard audio and network processing that will take your 3D gaming experience to entirely new heights.
The G1.Assassin 2 is the newest member of the GIGABYTE G1-Killer series of gaming motherboards which have been designed from the ground up to provide the edge in a close 3D gaming contest. Precision is the watch word in all areas of the motherboard’s design, with as much attention to detail paid to the motherboards aesthetic qualities as to its technical prowess.

Super Sight

3-way CrossFireX™ and 3-way SLI™ Support
The GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 is equipped to help extreme gamers see the enemy from distance, regardless of how bloody the battlefield, offering the utmost graphics flexibility and upgradeability with multiple GPU support, that includes three PCI Express slots for both AMD CrossFire™ X and Nvidia SLI™ technologies in 3-way discrete card configurations. The GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 motherboard delivers maximum FPS (frames per second), allowing gamers to see more clearly, aim faster, and move more quickly.

PCI Express Gen. 3 Support

The GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 is fully configured to provide gamers with the latest Gen.3 PCI Express technology, delivering maximum data bandwidth for forthcoming discrete graphics cards.
* PCIe Gen. 3 is dependent on CPU and expansion card compatibility.
Super Shield

GIGABYTE Signature 'Locked and Loaded' Heatpipe Design

The GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 features a redesigned distinctive signature heatpipe design that identifies all GIGABYTE G1-Killer series motherboards. You'll soon find that it is as deadly to heat as it looks.
By effectively spreading the heat from the critical areas of the motherboard such as the CPU VRM zone and quickly dissipating it, the GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 motherboard remains cool, even when the battle heats up. Modeled after common firearms issued to soldiers deployed to a warzone, including pistol and machine gun, the Locked and Loaded heatpipe design utilizes a unique fluting technology similar to a machine gun barrel fluting, which allows for maximum heat dispersion.

5 Smart Fan Connectors
To further help eliminate heat in the field of war, five Smart Fan pin headers which allow for precise cooling fan control, have been strategically placed around the board. Each fan can take advantage of its own thermal sensor and can also be controlled by via GIGABYTE's EasyTune 6 utility as well as within the UEFI BIOS.
Super Hearing

Onboard Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Digital Audio Processor (20K2)
It's important to be able to hear where your enemy is located before you see him, and it also means you'll be able exploit a crucial edge in today's virtual realistic audio environments. That is why GIGABYTE has rigged the G1.Assassin 2 motherboard with the industry's most advanced audio solutions to give you the highest caliber audio experience. The G1.Assassin 2 motherboard, as a member of the GIGABYTE G1-Killer series, is one of the world's only gaming motherboards to feature Creative's top-of-the-line Soundblaster Digital Audio Processor (20K2) onboard with X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity® and EAX® Advanced HD™ 5.0 technologies, allowing you to experience sound in your gaming world exactly as you would in real life.

Built-in Front Audio Headphone Amplifier
Specially designed for gamers, the GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 motherboard utilizes a high capacity amplifier which is able to drive 150Ω loads, allowing gamers to enjoy a fuller range of dynamic, crisp sound when using high quality professional headphones.

Nichicon High-end Audio Capacitors
The G1.Assassin 2 motherboard utilizes the highest quality Nichicon MUSE ES series and MW series Bi-Polarized audio capacitors at each channel layout. These professional audio capacitors deliver the highest quality sound resolution and sound expansion to create the most realistic sound effects for professional gamers.

EMI and Power Interference Shielding

100% copper shielding around the audio components improves EMI shielding and protects against other power interference, providing the highest quality sound resolution for a distortion-free audio listening experience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Samsung Chromebook Series 5 Review

While not as minimalist as Google's pilot-program Cr-48 (which was done up in all black), the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 also takes a less-is-more approach. The plastic lid is done in solid Arctic White (it's also available in Titan Silver), with a chrome Samsung logo and the colorful Google Chrome insignia. The rest of the system is a matte black. It's elegant, but we wish it had the soft-touch rubber of the Cr-48. The corners of the Series 5 are also more rounded than the Cr-48, which is a design touch we also like.

Measuring 8.6 x 11.6 x 0.8 inches, the Series 5 easily slid into our shoulder bag. We really appreciated its light 3.2-pound weight after having to stand on a subway train for an hour and a half.

Keyboard and Clickpad
Like the Cr-48, the Series 5 has a chiclet keyboard, not unlike one you'd find on a MacBook, but with a few key differences. Instead of function keys, the top row has a set of keys specifically designed for web browsing. To the right of the Esc key are Forward, Back, Refresh, Full screen, and Window swap buttons, as well as display brightness and volume controls. To further enhance the web surfing experience, Samsung has eliminated Caps Lock and replaced it with a web search key.

Typing on the Series 5 is comfortable, and its large flat keys felt good under our fingertips. During the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we reached our normal speed of 50 words per minute. 

The 3.8 x 2.6-inch smudge-proof clickpad on the Series 5 offers a lot of real estate, perfect for multitouch gestures. Two-finger scrolling and drag and drop were fast and responsive, However, we had to swipe repeatedly to move the cursor where we wanted it.
Boot Up
Click to enlargeOwing to its lightweight operating system and high-speed Solid State Drive, Samsung trumpets a boot time of less than 10 seconds and instant resume from sleep as one of the Chromebook's biggest selling points. On our tests, the Series 5 booted up in 14 seconds; it took 8 seconds to reach the login screen, and another 6 seconds to load the browser. For the record, that's on a par with the MacBook Air (15 seconds) and about 10 seconds faster than the Samsung Series 9.

Resuming from sleep took about 1 second, even with several tabs open. That's faster than both the Series 9 (4 seconds) and the MacBook Air (3 seconds).
Click to enlargeShooting for start speed rather than processing power, the Chromebook is powered by a 1.66-GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 16GB SSD hard drive, and integrated graphics. As a result, the notebook boots up in a zippy 14 seconds, but can't handle more than a few tasks at a time. A streaming 720p video began skipping and buffering after we opened seven tabs, a Gchat window, and started playing an MP3. By comparison, the AMD-Fusion powered ASUS Eee PC 1215B was able to stream video in 1080p with Firefox open to seven tabs, Chrome opened with eight tabs, and an MP3 playing at the same time.

With nothing else running, the Series 5's Intel integrated GPU can stream 720p video at a decent rate, but don't expect to play any graphically demanding games. The Series 5 scored a dismal frame rate of 4 frames per second (fps) on WebGL Aquarium, and that was with the test at its lowest setting, (one fish, no background or sunlight). The 1215B made the Series 5 look like a fish out of water, scoring 35 fps with one fish at maximum setting. Even with 1,000 fish at maximum setting, the 1215B managed 15 fps.
3G Connectivity
Our configuration of the Series 5 came with built-in EV-DO Rev. A from Verizon Wireless. Using, the Series 5 had an average download speed of 1.1 Mbps and an average upload rate of 0.69 Mbps. Surfing the web was reasonably quick, too: loaded in 2.5 seconds, loaded in 6.3 seconds, and The New York Times loaded in 2.7 seconds. We could also stream video smoothly using 3G. However, 1080p trailers were choppy, regardless of the connection.

With the Series 5, Verizon Wireless offers 100MB of free monthly data for two years. For those who need a larger plan, a 1GB monthly data plan costs $20, 3GB costs $35, and 5GB costs $50, all without a contract. Verizon also offers a one-day $10 unlimited option. We were able to check our data consumption by clicking on the wireless icon in the top nav bar. After a day of heavy use (which entailed a lot of streaming video), we were down to 50MB.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Intel Core i7-3820 Processor Review

Intel Core i7-3820 Processor Review - Quad-Core Sandy Bridge-E under $300
A New Chip for a New Year
When Intel launched the Sandy Bridge-E platform in November, there were three processors listed on the specification sheet.  The Core i7-3960X is the flagship, 6-core processor with the ~$1000 price tag, the Core i7-3930K still had 6-cores but a much lower cost and similar clock speeds and the Core i7-3820 was the only quad-core option and was listed for a Q1 release.  We reviewed the Core i7-3930K in December and found that it offered nearly the same performance as the more expensive unit at about half the price. 

Today we are getting a preview of the Core i7-3820 that will be released likely in early February and will come with a much more reasonable price tag of $285 to fill out the LGA2011 socket.  The question that we must ask then is can the quad-core Core i7-3820 compete against the currently available quad-core Sandy Bridge parts that fit in the widely available LGA1155 socket?  We not only have to consider performance but also the features of each platform as well as the total cost. 
Same Feature Set, New Die
While most of the features of the Core i7-3820 are going to be identical to those of the previous SNB-E processors we have seen, there are some important differences with this chip.  Let's see what is familiar first.  The Core i7-3820 is based on the Sandy Bridge-E design that works on the LGA2011 socket and the X79 chipset and motherboards currently on the market.  It includes a quad-channel memory controller and 40 lanes of PCI Express that are actually capable of PCIe 3.0 speeds.  HyperThreading is still enabled so you are getting the benefit of being able to run twice as many threads as you have cores. 

There are some very important changes on this CPU as well though starting with a quad-core design.  This directly pits this Sandy Bridge-E part against the currently existing Sandy Bridge processors running on the Z68/P67 chipset and LGA1155 socket.  Also, the L3 cache on the Core i7-3820 is at 10MB, 5MB less than the Core i7-3960X and 2MB less than the Core i7-3930K.  We are basically talking about a processor that bridges the gap between the original SNB and newer SNB-E parts and it creates some interesting battles and comparisons. 
Continue reading our review of the Core i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E CPU!!!
Interestingly, this quad-core SNB-E part is not simply a chip with more cores disabled but instead is a completely new die built on the same 32nm process.  While the Core i7-3960X and i7-3930K have a transistor count of 2.27 billion and a die size of about 435 mm2, the Core i7-3820 is based around 1.27 billion transistors and a 294 mm2 die - a significant reduction. 
AT $285, the Core i7-3820 actually undercuts both the Core i7-2600K and the Core i7-2700K while offering more cache, higher base and turbo clock speeds as well as twice as many memory channels.  The downside is that your X79 motherboard is going to cost more - base X79 options start around $220 while you can get Z68 motherboards for just over $100, $150 for an "enthusiast-class" option. 
Original Sandy Bridge on the left, new Sandy Bridge-E on the right
Another interesting difference with the Core i7-3820 and the other three CPUs listed above is that it is NOT a fully unlocked processor.  Like other Turbo Boost enabled processors in Intel's Sandy Bridge processors the i7-3820 can be set to a multiplier that is four steps higher than the top Turbo frequency.  So, out of the box, the quad-core SNB-E part will be able to run at 4.3 GHz (single core active), 400 MHz higher than the 3.9 GHz top default Turbo frequency.  There are ways to get higher than this with the 3820 that we'll cover in our overclocking page a bit later. 
Our testing configuration for this testing was identical to that used in the previous Sandy Bridge-E review. 
Highest clock speed with all cores in use
Highest clock speed with a single core in use
Intel Core i7-3820 (Sandy Bridge-E)
Intel DX79SI X79 Motherboard
Intel water cooler
4 x 2GB DDR-1866 Corsair Vengeance (running at DDR3-1333)
Intel X25-M G2 160 GB SSD
GeForce GTX 285 Graphics card
PC Power and Cooling 1200 watt PSU
Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
What are the key comparisons do we want to watch out for? 
Core i7-3930K vs Core i7-3820 - In the battle of the $285 and the $555 Sandy Bridge-E processors, we know who should win, but is it by enough to warrant the price difference?
Core i7-2600K vs Core i7-3820 - Does the updated architecture of Sandy Bridge-E make any performance differences thanks to the larger cache, additional memory channels and slightly higher clock speeds?  This will help us decide if users on a moderate budget would be better off with LGA2011 or LGA1155 platforms.
Core i7-3820 vs AMD FX-8150 - Okay, let's give the Bulldozer architecture yet another try here especially considering that they are so similarly priced!