EATX is bullshit wannabe half-specification, not a real form factor. At least, not the way it’s being treated right now. It doesn’t mean anything. The name “EATX” implies a standard, but it’s not a standard, it’s a free-for-all. That’s not even getting into EE-ATX, or Enhanced Extended Advanced Technology eXtended, which is actually a name. Things would be a lot easier for everyone if motherboard manufacturers stuck to the dimensions of SSI-EEB without trying to wedge custom form factors in between, or correctly referred to 12”x10.5” boards as SSI-CEB, but that’d require actually trying to follow a spec. Then case manufacturers would have no reason to write “EATX (up to 11 inches)” in every single spec sheet for normal-sized mid towers, and customers would know at a glance exactly what they were getting. We’ve had a hell of a time lately trying to find cases that fit our “E-ATX” motherboards, which range in size from “basically ATX” to “doesn’t fit in any case that says it supports E-ATX, but is still called E-ATX.” We took that frustration and dug into the matter.

Other than technical discussion, we’ll also get the fun of unrolling the acronyms used everywhere in the industry, and talking about how stupid form factors like XL-ATX have three different sizes despite having one name, or how E-ATX has been split into “True E-ATX” and “Full Size E-ATX,” which also don’t mean anything to anyone.

Our recap of hardware news for the past week follows-up on plans to RIP somebody -- but we're not sure who that should be just yet -- in a Folding @ Home points-chasing competition. To a similar tune, Folding @ Home has now surpassed the top 7 supercomputers in compute power totaled, something that NVIDIA, F@H, and the PCMR sub-reddit all drove together. Other positive news has Razer turning production lines toward N95 mask production for Coronavirus/COVID-19 use in hospitals and elsewhere. Bad news includes hits to the economic side of computer hardware, with motherboard sales falling 30-50%.

We’ve covered a variety of sales this Black Friday, including a wide range of components like best monitor sales, best GPU and CPU sales, and an overall deal roundup. We’ve also written some guides that build upon a year of testing data, including our best CPUs of 2019, best cases of 2019, and best GPUs of 2019 round-ups.

Today, we’ll be focusing on the best motherboard discounts presently available on both Newegg and Amazon for both AMD and Intel. Remember, this isn’t a “best motherboard roundup,” but rather a best motherboard sales listing. You can reference our best Z390 boards video for Intel’s top-performing boards or our best motherboards for Ryzen 3000, and we have another of those on the way tonight. Every sale we list here is a motherboard that’s at least decent or recommended and that actually has a real discount, not just the fake markdowns that we see all the time. Some of these have individual reviews/analysis videos we’ve done that will be linked with them.

AMD’s X570 chipset marks the arrival of some technology that was first deployed on Epyc, although that was done through the CPU as there isn’t a traditional chipset. With the shift to PCIe 4, X570 motherboards have grown more complex than X370 and X470, furthered by difficulties cooling the higher power consumption of X570. All of these changes mean that it’s time to compare the differences between X370, X470, and X570 motherboard chipsets, hopefully helping newcomers to Ryzen understand the changes.

The persistence of AMD’s AM4 socket, still slated for life through 2020, means that new CPUs are compatible with older chipsets (provided the motherboard makers update BIOS for detection). It also means that older CPUs (like the reduced price R5 2600X) are compatible with new motherboards, if you for some reason ended up with that combination. The only real downside, aside from potential cost of the latter option, is that new CPUs on old motherboards will mean no PCIe Gen4 support. AMD is disabling it in AGESA at launch, and unless a motherboard manufacturers finds the binary switch to flip in AGESA, it’ll be off for good. Realistically, this isn’t all that relevant: Most users will never touch the bandwidth of Gen4 for this round of products (in the future, maybe), and so the loss of running a new CPU on an old motherboard may be outweighed by the cost savings of keeping an already known-good board, provided the VRM is sufficient.

Computex 2019 is next week -- a few days from now, technically -- and hardware news has been alight with PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 discussion for Intel platforms, Huawei's ban from the US, DDR4 overclocking close to 6GHz, and more. Intel's biggest news is certainly the PCIe 5 and DDR 5 discussion, which will be our leading story for today's news.

Written show notes are below the video embed.

Intel’s TDP has long been questioned, but this particular generation put the 95W TDP under fire as users noticed media outlets measuring power consumption at well over 100W on most boards. It isn’t uncommon to see the 9900K at 150W or more in some AVX workloads, like Blender, thus far-and-away exceeding the 95W number. Aside from TDP being an imperfect specification for power, there’s also a lot that isn’t understood about it – including by motherboard manufacturers, apparently. All manufacturers are exceeding Intel guidance for the Turbo boosting duration in some way, which is causing the uncharacteristically high power consumption that produces unfairly advantaged performance results. The other end of this is that the 9900K looks much hotter in some tests.

We previously deep-dived on MCE (Multi-Core Enhancement) practices with the 8700K, revealing the performance variance that can occur when motherboard makers “cheat” results by boosting CPUs out of spec. MCE has become less of a problem with Z390 – namely because it is now disabled by default on all boards we’ve tested – but boosted BCLKs are the new issue.

If you think Cinebench is a reliable benchmark, we’ve got a histogram of all of our test results for the Intel i9-9900K at presumably stock settings:

1 z390 motherboard differences cinebench histogram

(Yes, the scale starts at non-0 -- given a range of results of 1976 to 2300, we had to zoom-in on the axis for a better histogram view)

The scale is shrunken and non-0 as the results are so tightly clustered, but you can still see that we’re ranging from 1970 cb marks to 2300 cb marks, which is a massive range. That’s the difference between a heavily overclocked R7 2700 and an overclocked 7900X, except this is all on a single CPU. The only difference is that we used 5 different motherboards for these tests, along with a mix of auto, XMP, and MCE settings. The discussion today focuses on when it is considered “cheating” to modify CPU settings via BIOS without the user’s awareness of those changes. The most common change is to the base clock, where BIOS might report a value of 100.00, but actually produce a value of 100.8 or 100.9 on the CPU. This functionally pre-overclocks it, but does so in a way that is hard for most users to ever notice.

Hardware news this week has been largely overrun with major movers: Micron and Intel are set to end their partnership on 3D XPoint, PC sales have grown for the first time in 6 years, Z370 BIOS updates indicate an 8-core CPU on the horizon, AMD Ryzen CPUs could be targeting more than 8C in 2019, Western Digital is shutting down a major hard drive plant, and more.

As always, our show notes for the episode are below, with sources and links to all stories. We've also got a video for those who prefer the visual medium:

We visited EVGA’s suite for a look at the new OC Robot and built-in BIOS stress testing update for the X299 Dark motherboards. For the new X299 Micro 2 motherboard, we also learned the following of the VRM spec:

  • VCCIN : IR35201(Controller1 - 5PH double to 10PH) + IR3556 x10
  • VSA+VCCIO : IR35204(Controller2 - 1+1PH) + IR3556 (1+1)
  • VSM+VPP_C01 : IR35204(Controller3 - 1+1PH) + TDA88240 (1+1)
  • VSM+VPP_C23 : IR35204(Controller4 - 1+1PH) + TDA88240 (1+1)

With B350, B360, Z370, Z390, X370, and Z490, we think it’s time to revisit an old topic answering what a chipset is. This is primarily to establish a point of why we need clarity on what each of these provides – there are a lot of chipsets with similar names, different socket types, and similar features. We’re here to define a chipset today in TLDR fashion, with a later piece to explain the actual chipset differences.

As for what a chipset actually is, this calls back to a GN article from 2012 – though we can do a better job now. The modern chipset is a glorified I/O controller, and can be thought of as the spinal cord of the computer, while the CPU is the disembodied brain. Intel calls its chipset a PCH, or Platform Controller Hub, while AMD just goes with the generic and appropriate term “chipset.” The chipset is the center of I/O for the rest of the motherboard, assigning I/O lanes to devices like SATA, gigabit ethernet, and USB ports.

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