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Big news out of Intel today. They are looking to end their desktop motherboard business over the next 3 years. Intel will continue to provide chipsets for third-party manufacturers, but will no longer be producing desktop motherboards. This announcement isn't too surprising, though it was a bit unexpected.
The Intel staff will go to different projects, such as developing the NUC boards and reference boards. Reference boards are often the basis of many third-party designs. Intel plans to stop developing desktop motherboards after the Haswell launch, though all Intel boards will still carry a full warranty and will continue to be supported by Intel.
The socketed CPU design will continue to be available past Broadwell in 2014, though the cadence of release is said to be slower than what we are currently used to. Third-party motherboards should continue to be the high-quality specimens that most of us have come to love.
Gigabyte making new low-profile mini-ITX boards at CES 2013, pictures of the 4K dual-Thunderbolt display
CES 2013 - Gigabyte is producing two new low-profile mini-ITX boards that are used in All-In-One (AIO) systems. These boards have lower clearance requirements than a normal board and utilize SO-DIMM like a laptop. The back I/O panel is also around half-height and Gigabyte has two identical boards, with the only difference being the chipset.
One board features the B75 and the other features the H77. Both boards are identical in looks, layout, everything, except for this small detail. Gigabyte says they are one of the few, if not the only, company making boards based upon the B75 chipset.
In other Gigabyte news, we reported earlier that Gigabyte is virtually the only motherboard maker putting two Thunderbolt ports onto motherboards. They are showcasing the benefits of this by driving four monitors to make up a 4K resolution output device. We managed to see their display in person and grab an image of it in action:
Gigabyte show off dual Thunderbolt motherboard, bust out 4K resolution to four standard displays without a sweat
CES 2013 - This is something a little different, but we've heard about it last year and now there's finally some proper teasing from Gigabyte regarding their new dual Thunderbolt motherboards. The boards use just Intel HD4000 graphics which comes baked into any third-generation Intel Core processor features.
With just any third-gen Core i5 or Core i7 CPU and a Gigabyte dual Thunderbolt motherboard, you can take advantage of the new 4K Collage Graphics driver to push out the Ultra HD 4K resolution video stream across four normal displays. Two Thunderbolt ports can be used to split to two displays per Thunderbolt port, giving you four-display support and reaching a combined resolution of 3840x2400.
This might not sound like a lot, but offering 4K resolution support from a motherboard without a dedicated GPU is a pretty darn good feature. The new graphics driver should be available from Gigabyte's website toward the end of the month.
Quite the juicy rumor for the weekend, where SemiAccurate are reporting that they've heard that ASUS have made an offer to acquire ASRock's motherboard division. If this were to happen, we're looking at ASUS becoming bigger than they already are, and making a bigger threat for the number two in the market, Gigabyte.
ASRock sit at number three, so a combination of number one and three's forces would be quite significant for the market. If it were to happen, we're be looking at ASUS and Gigabyte, followed by the smaller players like MSI, ECS which don't see anywhere near the same numbers as ASUS, Gigabyte or ASRock, and then there's a few much smaller players, too.
If the deal does go through, there will be downstream effects to many of the other companies and suppliers to these companies - so it would cause quite the stir. But, with Intel talking about making motherboards pretty much redundant, could we see this as a preemptive move from ASUS to take more control of the already tight market?
Normally a DigiTimes report is preceded with the words "RumorTT", but this seems more serious, and more real than most of DigiTimes' reports as it makes a lot of sense. Intel is preparing the launch of their next-generation Haswell-based processors for sometime in 2013, and they'll baked into tablets, notebooks, ultrabooks, desktops, and servers - nearly every segment of the market.
But, Haswell is designed by Intel to integrate functions such as power phase control - something overclockers use, into the CPU itself. This is of course worrying motherboard makers, as the overclocking market is a big thing right now, and a lot of players have boards designed purely for overclocking in mind. We're talking of nearly all big players - Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI, ASRock. This won't spell the end of their businesses, but it will most likely see a change in direction of how we see them sell their boards, and what features will set them apart from the others.
Intel won't push these changes into Haswell straight away, but will instead bake more chipset functions into the CPU over time. Right now, we're seeing motherboard players changing gears and pushing USB-based features, Thunderbolt, BIOS firmware features, and more in order to not feel stale, or similar to similarly priced motherboards from competitors.
Are the days of feature-laden motherboards coming to an end?
ASRock's Z77 OC Formula has been used with an Intel Core i7 3770K and the help of legendary overclocker Nick Shih, which has reached an insane 7.136GHz. This has given ASRock the number one spot on HWBOT, as well as setting a new overclocking world record. The man himself had the following to say about the achievement:
Hitting number one on HWBOT makes my day, but scoring number one with the motherboard I designed is like the wildest dream come true! Thanks to everyone who helped make my dream, ASRock Z77 OC Formula, into reality!
ASRock's Z77 OC Formula is ASRock's first motherboard designed for overclocking, featuring three Formula kits. These three kits are the Power Kit, which delivers "smooth and stable current with Digi Power, DSM, PAC, MFC and the 12+4 power phase design". Next up we have the Cooling Kit, which provides some great cooling, sporting the Twin-Power Cooling Heatsink, 8-layer PCB design with 4 sets of 2oz copper inner layers and GELID Solution GC-Extreme Thermal Compound. Finally, we have the Connector Kit, which includes Hi-Density Power Connectors and 15μ Gold Fingers.
Gigabyte did promise some amazing things with their latest motherboard, the Z77X-UP7 and now they're being delivered. OC genius HiCookie has pushed a Core i7 3770K to 7.112GHz!
Yes, you read that right, over 7GHz on this Z77X-UP7 board. There's even a video to prove it, above. The overclock was achieved using some LN2, but we know that an overclock this high wouldn't be possible without the use of that type of exotic cooling.
What do you think of this news? 7.112GHz is an impressive thing to see, and considering the board is pretty fresh out of Gigabyte's oven, we should expect more things out of the Z77X-UP7 in the near future!
Earlier on today we were invited to the GIGABYTE headquarters here in Taipei where we were told we would see the Taiwanese motherboard maker and its in-house professional overclocker HiCookie try to set a new world record for the Intel Core i7 3770K processor.
Overclocking was done on the upcoming GA-Z77X-UP7 motherboard that is due to be released this coming Monday - GIGABYTE at the time of writing were not prepared to comment on pricing as it is yet to be 100% confirmed. However, you can expect the price to be fairly high as this is a board designed for overclockers and it has plenty of top notch features to help overclockers around the world set new performance records. In the video above I mentioned that the Z77X-UP7 is much like a Formula One car in its design theory. Every little tweak has been included and high-end components such as 32 CPU phases are included to help set said new records.
Besides the massive amount of power phases and its all-digital power system, GIGABYTE has included some new handy switches this time around. There are two switches at the southern end of the motherboard. One is to control which BIOS is used (master or backup) since this board like all other GIGABYTE boards support Dual BIOS. The second switch disables the Dual BIOS function as sometimes overclockers get into a kind of loop issue that has the motherboard looping between both BIOSes to figure out which one to use...
Earlier on today we visited the ASRock headquarters here in Taipei where we caught up with Chris Lee and Nick Shih who introduced to their latest motherboard, the ASRock Z77 OC Formula.
Nick Shih joined ASRock some seven months ago and joined the Taiwanese motherboard maker team with his past professional overclocking experience to help the company create a new motherboard that is designed purely for overclocking and enthusiasts and it has performance written all over it. He worked closely with ASRock engineers to create what they vision to be the best OC motherboard in the world.
In the above video Chris and Nick do a good job of telling us about the motherboard and why it's good for overclocking. Features such as premium chokes and caps that can handle various impedance frequencies are used along with a new digital PWM and more. Heck, ASRock even throw in a tube of GEIL thermal paste which is a first as far as I know and another feature I personally liked was the see-through PCB that shows each layer of the eight layer copper PCB.
Another feature which is sure to come in handy is the PCI Express on/off switch. It allows you to turn on or off all three of the x16 PCIe slots and that helps by reducing power consumption if two or more video cards are not needed or if you want to diagnose problems or just increase system stability while enter the wild world of LN2 overclocking...
ASRock makes quality motherboards that are often priced with budget boards. The latest edition to the ASRock lineup has been exclusively designed by Nick Shih, a leading overclocker. The board is designed for the high-end enthusiast market, and is "full to the brim with features" and is sure to perform beautifully.
"My vision for the OC Formula Brand is to allow overclockers to smash the overclocking limits effortlessly." said Nick Shih, OC Mater of ASRock. "Z77 OC Formula is just the one you've always expected. I live for challenges and welcome OC rockers to take my OC crown!"
James Lee, V.P. of ASRock Sales and Marketing:
ASRock OC Formula was born for rewriting the overclocking numbers! Z77 OC Formula is the first baby from ASRock OC segment. We've thrown in everything essential, ensuring users to build up an unbeatable rig.
The motherboard comes with some unique features:
- Formula Power Kit
- Formula Cooling Kit
- Formula Connector Kit
- NEW UEFI GEARS
- NickShih's OC Profile