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Computex: Motherboard overload

We’ve written about a fair few of the new motherboards on display at Computex, but we haven’t even touched upon some of the smaller board makers, nor have we covered all of the products from the bigger guys. Take a deep breath and follow KitGuru down the rabbit hole for an overdose of motherboards.

Let’s start with the odd one out, Wibtek which is a Chinese motherboard maker. The company was showing off its Hacker Z77-P and Hacker Z75 motherboards. The company has come up with a rather unusual heatsink design and both boards feature a half-size mini PCI Express slot for a Wi-Fi card or something similar. The Hacker Z77-P has no less than six SATA 6Gbps ports and support for up to 10 USB 3.0 ports. Both boards also have a rear mounted push-to-overclock button. By the look of these boards, the Chinese board makers are aiming at markets outside of China, but they still have a long way to go before they’ve established any kind of a brand name outside of China.

Next up we have ECS that beyond its bling-bling gold coated motherboards were showing off the Z77H2-A5X Deluxe, its first motherboard to feature Thunderbolt. ECS is using the single port DSL3310 Cactus Ridge controller, the same chip used by Asus and MSI. Other than that, this isn’t much of a Deluxe product, although it does feature an mSATA port. ECS has come up with a very odd slot layout for the board as well, which is far from what we’d call ideal. Moving on the company was also showing off a new AMD A85X based motherboard, the A85F2-A Deluxe and the, although once again without any special features that makes it much of a deluxe product.

Biostar had a range of new boards in its Hi-Fi series with both Intel and AMD chipsets. The most interesting feature here has really nothing to do with the boards themselves, although Biostar did have a full range of AMD A85X based FM2 boards on display. Instead the selling point of these boards is the audio part, as although Biostar is still using Realtek audio chips, they’ve added a headphone amp as well as Hi-Fi grade resistors and capacitors, with the higher-end models sporting more advanced configurations. In terms of audio quality we did notice a significant improvement, but we’re not sure it’s enough to convince us to get one of these boards.

The other feature that goes hand in hand with the new audio part is what Biostar calls MCC or Multi Channel Calibration. Biostar supplies a small microphone with the boards in the Hi-Fi series that will calibrate your surround sound speakers automagically through some software to give you the best listening experience. This is something you normally have to pay someone to come and do for you using some fancy equipment, but we’ve also seen a few high-end amplifiers that offer this feature.

Sapphire showed of some really interesting mini-ITX boards, the Pure Platinum Z77i and the Pure Mini E2-1800. As the names give away, the Pure Platinum Z77i is an Intel Z77 based motherboard, whereas the Pure Mini E2-1800 is an AMD Brazos 2.0 board. The Pure Platinum Z77i has pretty much everything you’d expect from a high-end mini-ITX board today, a full set of display connectors, USB 3.0, Bluetooth and even a mini PCI Express/mSATA combo slot for Wi-Fi cards or mSATA SSDs. The Pure Mini E2-1800 lacks a DisplayPort connector, but gains an eSATA port, five – compared to four – internal SATA ports and has a pair of SO-DIMM memory slots, as well as a mini PCI Express slot and even a POST80 debug LED. These are some of the better mini-ITX boards we’ve seen to date, especially the Pure Mini E2-1800 which stands out from the crowd by offering a few unusual features for a Brazos board.

MSI also had a new mini-ITX board in the shape of its A85IA-E53, which is based on AMD’s A85X chipset and as such supports AMD’s upcoming socket FM2 processors. The board is a bit cramped due to AMD’s CPU cooler mounts taking up a fair bit of space, but MSI has at least added features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth dongles to the board. What we’re not so keen on is the fact that you only get a D-sub and HDMI port, while there’s a large empty space at the rear I/O and we think MSI could’ve used the space a bit better here. Also on display was the A85XA-H65 which should be MSI’s high-end FM2 board and it supports CrossFireX and SLI support, but is otherwise fairly unremarkable.

We also missed one of Gigabyte’s boards earlier, the upcoming Z77X-UP5 TH which is yet another Thunderbolt equipped board. This model will slot in above the Z77X-UD5H and most likely replace it over time. It should also prove be a on overclocking friendly board and as you can see from the pictures, Gigabyte has overhauled the heatsinks on this model too. The only thing we know Gigabyte will be criticized for on this board is for the lack of a secondary Ethernet port, but otherwise nothing much is missing and Gigabyte is of course using its new PowIRstage’s here too for the power regulation circuitry.

Finally we have Asus and admittedly we didn’t spot a couple of things like its 40-phase motherboard and the AMD AM3+ boards with the TB_Header, but the company simply had too many products on display at its booth. What we did spot though was three new AMD A85X based boards, one full-size ATX board called the F2A85-V which offers CrossFireX support, as well as the mATX F2A85-M and F2A85-M LE, both of which surprisingly also supports CrossFireX, although you’d need a case with at least five expansion slots if you want to use cards with dual slot coolers.

What we didn’t miss at Asus’ booth was the crazy Zeus board which isn’t even remotely near a working board and it’ll most likely never be made, but it did nonetheless draw a lot of attention. The board features a pair on board GPU’s rumoured to be a couple of mobile AMD parts. The board is based on the X79 chipset and the on board GPUs have allowed Asus to integrate Thunderbolt support, but judging by the location of the connectors – which as far as we’re aware, have to be mounted at PCB level – this is clearly not a feature that works. The board also has built in Wi-Fi, no less than 10 rear USB 3.0 ports, 10 internal SATA ports, a full size DisplayPort and an HDMI port among its feature count. There are no expansion slots though, but at the bottom of the board there are no less than four power connectors for the GPUs. We highly doubt there would be any demand for a product like this, but it’s the second time around Asus has put GPUs on a motherboard.

This was a mere taste of all the boards on display at the show and we know we missed a few. Jetway seems to be pulling out of the consumer motherboard market, as the company had nothing new to display at the show. We also missed a couple of the smaller Chinese board makers like Giada and Hong Kong based J&W, although admittedly we’re not even sure if they were at the show. We also missed Chaintech that has teamed up with Chinese Colorful to make a return to the motherboard market space.

Kitguru says: One thing is very clear, the desktop PC is far from dead and the post PC era is just something being thrown around to make tablets look attractive.

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