This week's hardware news recap covers an Intel document leaked to GN, detailing H370, B360, & other launches, alongside coverage of the Zen+ & Zen 2 launches, AIB partner Vega cards, and memory kit releases. The last bit of coverage shows the new 4500 & 4600MHz memory kits that have primarily emerged from Corsair, though other vendors are following suit with new memory kit launches. GSkill, for instance, is pushing more "Ryzen-ready" memory kits in the RGB line, focusing mostly on the 3200MHz speeds that were largely shipped to reviewers. GeIL is working on RGB memory kits that synchronize with ASUS Aura RGB lighting effects for motherboards and video cards.

As for video card news, we confirmed with MSI that the company presently has limited or no plans for Vega partner model cards. Gigabyte plans to make cards, but the launch date is tenuous -- as is ASUS' launch date, at this point, as both vendors are working out final issues in manufacturing. We'd wager that it's primarily to do with supply availability, though VBIOS + driver challenges also exist.

AMD’s Ryzen platform is on its march to the launch window – likely February of 2017 – and will be pushing non-stop information until its time of delivery. For today, we’re looking at the CPU and chipset architectures in greater depth, following-up on yesterday’s motherboard reveal.

First, let’s clear-up nomenclature confusion: “Zen” is still the AMD next generation CPU architecture name. “Ryzen” is the family of CPUs, comparable to Intel’s “Core” family in some loose ways. Each Ryzen CPU will exist on the Zen architecture, and each Ryzen CPU will have its own individual alphanumeric identifier (just like always).

It’s not yet time to pen a full, in-depth comparison between Intel’s forthcoming Kaby Lake chipsets, including Z270, H270, and whatever may become of the lower-end H- and B- lines. There’s still data we’re waiting on, and won’t have access to for a little while yet. Still, some preliminary Z270 & H270 chipset specs have been reported by Benchlife, including information on PCI-e lane count and HSIO lanes. This coverage follows the same format as our Z170 vs. H170, H110, B150, & Q150 differences article.

If the early information is to be believed, the Kaby Lake-ready platform primarily focuses its efforts on largely minor improvements, like additional HSIO lanes to support a burgeoning PCI-e-enabled SSD market. Z270 will move from Z170’s 26 HSIO (High-Speed I/O) lanes to 30 HSIO lanes, providing an additional 4 lanes for M.2 and PCI-e AICs (add-in cards). H270, meanwhile, will move from H170’s 22 lanes up to parity with the Z-series platform, also hosting 30 HSIO lanes. The additional lanes fall into the category of “general purpose” PCI-e lanes, resulting in the following configuration:

The AMD Gen 7 APUs and AM4 platform have officially begun shipment in some OEM systems this weekend, primarily through OEMs at physical retail locations. AMD's launch includes entry-level and mainstream AM4 chipsets, promising the high-end Zen chipset (990FX equivalent) at a later date. AM4 platform shipment begins with the B350, A320, and X/B/A300 chipsets in accompaniment with the A12-9800 and down.

Let's run through the new Gen7 APU finalized specs first, then talk AM4 chipset specs. Note that the new AM4 motherboards are making major moves to unify the FM and AM platforms under AMD's banner, so Zen's FX line equivalent and the Gen7 APUs will both function on the same motherboard. The below table (following the embedded video) provides the specs for the A12-9800, X4 950, and other relevant chips:

In a recent story circulating the web, rumors of AMD's (confirmed) deference to AS Media for its Zen chipset design have pointed toward USB3.1 transmission speed degradation issues. The reports indicated a slow-down of USB3.1 speeds as ports are distanced from the chipset, resolvable by motherboard manufacturers with a separate controller for USB3.1. The reports have not presented numbers for the alleged speed degradation; we do not have a clear picture of how heavily – if at all – this rumor impacts USB device speed.

Should USB3.1 transfer speeds truly be impacted this greatly by circuit distance, motherboard manufacturers can opt for inclusion of aftermarket ICs that resolve the issue at increased BOM. There is also still some time prior to mass production and shipping – motherboard manufacturers and AS Media may find a remedy to this reported choke-point by then.

A chipset acts as the computer's brainstem; it connects everything, serving as a central hub for communications and I/O management across the motherboard and its attached devices. Intel chipset selection for gaming machines is often simplified into a just selecting the newest Z-series chipset (Z170, in this case), which isn't always necessary. Rather than buying features that go unused, we suggest reading through our below specs comparison of Z170, H170, H110, and B150, then picking the best chipset for the job.

This chipset comparison looks at the differences between Intel's new 100-series chipsets for Skylake (Z170, H170, H110, B150, Q170, and Q150). We'll talk about the best Intel chipset for a new motherboard or CPU, looking at different use cases for each.

Starting with the specs to clear everything up, we'll initiate with consumer-focused Z- and H-series chipsets.

Intel's Skylake Core i7-6700K CPU has officially been reviewed in gaming capacity. With the launch, we indicated that Intel would be rolling-out the Z170 chipset as a replacement to the current Z97 motherboard brainstem. A few major changes have been instituted in Z170 – some more visible to the consumer than others – and we've detailed most of them below. Motherboards already exist with Z170, like this MSI Krait board.

This chipset comparison between Z170 and Z97 aims to detail the differences between Intel's Haswell motherboard platform and its Skylake successor. Note that the chipsets are coupled with different CPU architectures and, as such, are not interchangeable outside of their supported processor lists. Z170 is joined by the hip with LGA1151 socket types.

Intel's Haswell-E and X99 platform have been in development for a while now, and after several months of cloudy release schedules, it looks like Intel is sticking to the original 3Q14 timeline. X99 will be the world's first consumer-ready platform to support DDR4 memory and eliminate traditional channeled architecture, making it appealing for enthusiasts and development rigs. Haswell-E will be the first line of CPUs on the platform, continuing the last-gen -E suffix for extreme-series CPUs.

haswell-e4

With A fair amount of the new Z97 motherboards being shown already, fans of Intel's X99 enthusiast chipset may feel a bit cheated being left with nothing interesting to look at. As of Computex 2014, that's finally changed. ASrock recently showed their latest X99 board to press at Taipei's electronics and hardware tradeshow.

asrock-extreme-x99ASRock Extreme6 (Left) & Extreme4 (Right) X99 motherboards. Image source: VR-Zone.

Z97 motherboards have been floating around for a little while now -- here's our round-up of them -- but we haven't had a chance to actually look at the Z97 chipset as a product. Z97's immediate accompanying CPU is the Devil's Canyon chip that was announced at GDC, but will later host the 5th Gen Broadwell CPUs. Devil's Canyon is due out shortly, though another Haswell Refresh (i5-4690, others) was recently posted that has seen minimal interest thus far; Broadwell is due out in 4Q14 or later and features a die-shrink to 14nm fab process.

sata-expressThis is a SATA Express connector -- effectively dual SATA ports with additional power/ground.

Thus far, we know of Intel's Z97 and H97 chipsets and have heard no news of an "H91" or "B95" equivalent from last generation. For this Intel Broadwell 9-series chipset comparison, we'll look strictly at Z97 vs. H97 for gaming and overclocking purposes; the goal of this guide is to help PC builders determine which chipset will perform best for their objectives while remaining price-scaled.

I wrote a similar chipset comparison for AMD FM2/FM2+ chipsets last week.

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