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ASRock Z97 Extreme6 LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
  • Owned For: 1 day to 1 week

Pros: ASRock has three color-coded tier’s of Z97 Chipset Intel motherboards. This one (Extreme6) is at the top end of the blue series.

The tree tiers are: the OC board series (yellow) -- aimed at serious overclockers. The regular EXTREME series (blue) -- often with some sort of cutting-edge innovation. The FATALITY series (red) – designed for gaming.

Intel’s Z97 chipset is a slight upgrade to the Z87 and H87 chipset series - primarily addressing storage interface technology. (the Z means it supports overclocking of unlocked processors, H does not). The biggest chipset upgrade is the support of M.2 (with two lanes). In addition, there is an upgraded version of Intel’s (SRT) which handles hybrid drives better; and there is SATAe support.

The main innovative feature of this motherboard is the Ultra M.2 port. It offers PCIe 3.0 x4 bandwidth directly from the CPU. You should be able to get 4 GB per second storage bandwidth if you have a native PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD that can handle it. That should be more than 3 GB per second read/write (accounting for the overhead.) There is also a regular M.2 x2 slot provided by the Z97 chipset that is connected to the PCIe 2.0 lanes - just like on some other Z97 motherboards. See Other Thoughts if none of this makes sense.

ASRock has a history of pushing motherboard innovations and pushing hardware limits. Overclock world records are frequently achieved with ASRock boards. The board looks nice, is well laid out, has some extra space for a bigger cooler if your ram sticks aren’t overly high. It uses all long-life 12K caps, and has a 3 year warranty. There are two LAN ports (Intel & Realtek). There are two removable BIOS chips, a BIOS selection switch, two digit debug, and on-board power & reset push-buttons. There is an interesting feature with an included cable called HDD Saver. This lets you hook up two SATA devices and control those devices’ power in the OS. The back panel has a ClearCMOS button. The Purity Sound 2 audio subsystem uses a separate PCB. The board came with 4 SATA cables.

The BIOS has a Full HD UEFI mode. There is an easy, automatic overclock option using settings from ASRock based on their own testing. It is possible to disable onboard controllers to speed post times. The BIOS can be updated directly from the BIOS. You can choose which temp sensor is used to control fan power and adjust the various fan powers as needed.

Customer support was responsive.

The sturdy packaging protected the board even though the shipping box was rather crumpled.

Cons: Implementing the Ultra M.2 port runs up against the limits of the number of PCIe 3.0 lanes available direct to the CPU. So, if you use the Ultra M.2 port, your two PCIe graphics slots will be 8x and 4x instead of 8x and 8x. This may prevent you from using NVIDIA SLI since it requires two 8x slots. Crossfire will work fine. I couldn’t test this properly because I don’t have an M.2 x4 SSD. Don’t think anyone does yet. The only one I’ve ever seen on newegg (Samsung XP941) has been listed as out of stock every time I looked.

Other Thoughts: To fully understand the pluses, minuses, and innovation of this board, you need to know the basic features of the Haswell CPU/GPU plus Z97 Chipset. The CPU connects directly with 4 things: 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, DDR3 RAM, up to triple display support, and the Z97 Chipset. The Z97 Chipset connects to 18 I/O lanes of which up to 8 can be PCI Express 2.0 lanes, up to 6 can be USB 3.0 ports, and up to 6 can be SATA 6G (this does not add up to 18 because two lanes can choose to be either USB3 or PCIe and two lanes can choose to be either SATA or PCIe). In addition, Z97 connects to: Intel Integrated MAC, the Firmware, Intel Rapid Storage Technology,and Intel High Definition Audio.

Historically, the main bottleneck in PC performance has been moving data in and out of disk storage. With SSD’s we’ve progressed past parallel ports, IDE, 3GB SATA, and 6GB SATA -- to using what was traditionally the graphics pipeline: the PCI bus.

The Z97 chipset supports the M.2 connector (formerly known as the Next Generation Form Factor) SSD’s by using two of the available 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes. Many of the new Z97 boards support this. ASRock blows this out of the water by adding something they call an Ultra M.2 port.

The Ultra M.2 port uses 4 of the 16 PCI3 3.0 lanes that go directly to the CPU. That leaves an 8x slot and a 4x slot for PCIe 3.0 graphics. The downside is if you use that Ultra M.2 slot you won’t be able to SLI (but CrossFire is OK with no noticeable degradation). If this M.2 thing catches on, and it probably will, it would be nice for Intel to increase the direct-to-CPU lanes in upcoming processors.

ASRock provides other additional ports not directly supported by the Z97 Chipset by using hubs and controllers. For instance, there are 10 USB 3.0 ports: four from the chipset, two from a ASM1042e controller, and four from an ASM1074 hub. There is a PCIe Gen 2.0 switch that splits one upstream port into: two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots and four SATA 6 ports.

The only issue I have with this board is that its main defining characteristic is to take advantage of a technology for which hardware is not yet commonly available. Yet, you still get 10 USB 3.0 ports, 10 SATA ports, dual NICs, and enhanced audio for a really, really good price (on top of the two M.2 slots) from a quality company that is always on the cutting edge.

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Seagate ST4000VX000 4TB 5900 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

5 out of 5 eggs Latest Biggest Best AV from Seagate 05/27/2014

This review is from: Seagate ST4000VX000 4TB 5900 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Surveillance Hard Drive

Pros: Seagate produced the first AV drive, the first 4TB AV drive, and is now on its seventh generation of AV drives. There is a difference between AV and regular desktop drives. Desktop drives read more that they write, have long periods of inactivity, and have data integrity as the highest priority. A desktop drive will pause to do error recovery and re-read data to do this. Desktop drives of this size are commonly rated to only read/write < 55 TB per year. AV drives used in surveillance/video can spend most of their power-on time writing continuously. For example, 4 x 1080p streams for a year is about 200 TB. Bit level integrity is not as important in these drives. In an AV application it is better to have a segment of incorrect data delivered in a stream (a few bad pixels) than to have a long delay before recording starts (loss of multiple video frames).

Seagate has two 4TB models in the AV category. This one - the “Surveillance” model- is ST4000VX000. They also make the “Video” model ST4000VM000. Both are based on a 1TB per platter, 8 head design. The VM spins at 5900 RPM. I think the VX also does 5900 RPM but there is some conflicting info on the internet – see Con section. The “Video” model is tuned for use in a personal video recording box as a single drive – think consumer DVR. The “Surveillance” model is intended for video surveillance either as a single drive or as a member of an array of up to 16 drives. Depending on what compression is used, one of these drives should hold well over 400 hours of HD content.

The surveillance drive supports the ATA streaming command set which is where the AV magic happens. Commands exist to optimize buffer management depending on number of video streams. Commands also let the software/appliance developer set limits for streaming read/write command completion times. The marketing hand-out on this drive mentions another feature called “Idle 3 Power Setting”. It is not entirely clear what this is. I suspect that in reality it is just regular idle mode (heads tracking, spindle up to speed, buffer enabled).

This drive plays well in simple surveillance DVRs as well as NVRs. In a DVR, the input comes from video capture card(s) where analog video is encoded and processed on the DVR. In this setting, as many as 32 cameras can work with a single drive. In the NVR (network video recorder) arena, IP cameras are used to feed a NAS-type device often with RAID-ed disks.

Specs say it handles 180MB/s sustained data flow and say it’s compatible with up to 16 co-mounted drives. It is more suitable for use in a storage array that the older SV35 series because it has Rotational Vibration sensors like many enterprise data drives do. It has a 3 year warranty (not 1 year like it says on newegg) and a 1M-hr MTBF.

Cons: Not a problem with the drive, but do your homework on what you need before buying. Although directly available to consumers, I expect most folks will be getting this drive bundled in as a security solution from an intermediary because not everyone can put together a surveillance VMS system from scratch. Seagate marketing specifically mentions: Dahua Technology, March Networks, Hikvision, EverFocus, NUUO, and QNAP.

Also, not a problem with the drive, but there is some lack of clarity on the marketing/spec front. Item one (marketing piece): “Idle 3 Power setting allows immediate recording when motion sensing is detected in a camera.” There is no mention of “Idle 3 power setting” in the spec sheet, the product manual, the AT commands, or really anywhere in the internal Seagate documents according to the first couple levels of phone tech support. I suspected this was dreamed up by marketing and just means regular idle mode (as in fully powered/spun up but not actually writing).

Support followed up by email and they said the following: "Please understand that "Idle 3 Mode" is really a marketing term which because of its newness has proven to difficult to find much information beyond the fact that it is a special state that reduces the drive's power consumption by moving the heads on the ramp and reduces the drive's spin speed."

In reading the product manual to try to figure out Idle3 there was also a cryptic footnote to the power consumption for Idle mode “with DIPLM Enabled”. I asked what DIPLM stands for since it is not mentioned anywhere else including google. They will have to research this and get back to me.

Item two: Several non-seagate sites on the internet suggested that the drive’s spindle speed might really be 7200 RPM. The product manual does not help with this, but tech support was able to confirm that although there was a version of the 3TB ST3000VX000 that was 7200, the current latest version of the 3TB ST3000VX002 and this drive, the 4TB ST4000VX000 are 5900RPM.

Other Thoughts: Various new factors are impacting the HDD market for video surveillance. New global legislation is increasing the maximum retention time for video surveillance and legal requirements for surveillance in certain public places are being mandated. When you add the fact that image quality and resolution is going up, the market for surveillance hard drives is estimated to increase to over a billion dollars per year around 2017. This would be over 7 million units per year. By comparison PC HDD sales fell 7% in 2013 to 444 million units.

Most modern security DVR’s support multiple drives and capacities of > 3Tb per drive. Most modern NVR’s can use >3TB drives, also. However, if you are trying to put this into a consumer DVR device, do your homework. Many consumer-level DVR’s will not support 4TB drive sizes. For instance, Direct TV needs to be the HR34 or HR44/Genie models to use either 3 or 4 TB drives. Tivo needs to be series 4 or greater because of either hardware or software limits. Most Scientific Atlanta HD box internal drives are IDE not SATA, and so on.

I tested this drive for 24 hours each in: PC based security DVR system with Geovision cards, and a linux-based NVR where I removed the other drives to just test this one (the old ones were 3TB). The drive did its job in both applications. The main thing I noticed was how very quiet it was.

I tested Seagate customer phone support for this review by asking the technical questions I mentioned above. They were very responsive. On a weekday at around lunchtime I got a real person in the US on the second ring. They spent a lot of time trying to get the right answers questions. They followed up by e-mail.

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Prime Graphing Calculator
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 day to 1 week

5 out of 5 eggs HP is back. 03/31/2014

This review is from: Prime Graphing Calculator

Pros: Modern, light-weight, really-thin, physically appealing, fast processor, nice backlit color touch screen, rechargeable Li-Ion battery that lasts a really long time before recharge via USB. The buttons feel right for an HP – much better than recent models. The graphing features are rather spectacular and ultra-fast and can do things like implicit equations, inequalities, and conic sections. It’s not just y=... Has an app model in which each app is isolated and has its own settings/content/variables. Built in apps include spreadsheet, equation solver, stats, financial, and more. Some apps are aimed at the education market for high school level and up. There is data collection potential. There is wireless add-on capability. You can download an emulator so you can try a virtual calculator. Get it from: ftp.hp.com/pub/calculators/Prime/. Write programs on the computer and transfer to the calculator – or just program on the calc. There is a decent amount of memory. There is a textbook-like input option very much like the Casios that makes it easy to enter equations the way you would write them on paper. There is an exam mode for teachers. It is quite inexpensive for what you get. The learning curve is less than the typical HP like the 50g and more like learning a TI-89 but with a lot more power under the hood.

By the numbers: 400 MHz ARM, 32MB memory (1/2 used by OS), 256 MB flash, 320x240 true color touchscreen display. CAS engine said to be based on the Giac/Xcas open source CAS started by Bernard Parisse. It’s really nice seeing HP committing some resources back into what they invented- the “calculator” (named by Bill Hewlett).

It takes more than a week to get familiar with a powerful calculator like this and I’ve owned most of the HP calcs since the HP-55. I'm also very familiar with the TI series including the TI-89 and the TI-84 loaded with Zoom math CAS from helping my kid with trig, calc, and stats. I’ve also used the multiple versions of Wolfram’s Mathematica and the MAPLE programs since they were first available as well as some ipad/iphone CAS apps. This is a new type of beast as far as handhelds go.

Cons: CAS and numeric mode are separate apps and copying/pasting between the two modes can be frustrating. For example, you often need to use uppercase variables in home mode and lower case in CAS. No 3D graphing yet but it is supposed to be coming. No pinch zoom like iOS/android for the graphs. RPN is only available in numeric mode not in CAS and doesn’t work quite the same way as it does on the older HP’s. Pale blue and orange legends on the number keys are hard to read till you memorize them. There is a buglist on this new device which is decreasing with firmware updates. It’s easy to migrate to from a TI device, it’s also easy if this is your first advanced calc, but it’s harder if you’re coming from an HP. (I’m guessing most early-adopting first-time buyers are going to be prior HP users.) Programming language is HP PPL only (no RPL). There is no SDK for accessing native code and no ASM feature. It lacks a periodic table app and the calc-to-calc linking mentioned in the manual isn’t functional at this time. No external memory slot. It takes a bit of time to understand the implementation of apps because saving the data that you enter into an app (like data, settings, variables) isn’t done as a document but as a clone/instance of that particular app. It’s OK, but is an unfamiliar concept.

This may look like a lot of cons, but it's really not. I expect most of these to improve with firmware updates and some to only be relevant to old HP users.

Other Thoughts: All the handhelds have a learning curve before they become a tool. The learning curve on the older HP’s was the steepest but the reward was the most efficient way to solve professional problems and the deepest toolset. HP’s solved stuff the TI’s didn't and could be easily programmed for repetitive problems. They have a devoted following that is fanatical about using RPN to enter data. If you are one of these fanatics, this isn’t your next calculator - yet. It won’t be a seamless, easy transition like going from one model of HP to the next one up. If you don’t have the time to learn a new system and you depend on your calc for your bread, stay with the 50g or your old 41 (one of which backed up the space shuttle landing computer).

The TI’s are much more plentiful out there and fill the US educational/academic niche since they are designed to solve problems just like in the books and almost all the book examples look like they are written for TI’s. Most kids are taught on TI’s in school. TI’s are also approved devices for most of the standardized tests like the AP’s. The HP Prime is not currently approved for the college board tests yet.

The Casio’s I’ve tried have also been aimed at education and marketed as the cost-effective alternative. They have two nice features: a very nice pretty print entry system, and a button that will display a number in various methods (decimal, fraction, mixed fraction). The HP Prime has a button for doing just that and also has a built in pretty print entry system.

It is my impression that this particular HP is aimed at the higher educational market. It is more modern, has a faster processor, is more capable and is flashier than the competition. Its success will depend on whether HP continues to support and upgrade the firmware with features such as pinch zoom and 3-D graphing as well as getting it approved for standardized testing. The sales base can be expanded rapidly to include the large number of older HP fanatics and professionals by making the RPN implementation better. An under-$200 long-battery-life portable calc can beat a laptop or a tablet running a math package in terms of practicality and cost if the old HP guys didn't have to re-learn everything from square one. HP already has the non-4-banger financial market for calculators but didn't have one that does nice color graphing till now. TI has the US academic market. HP has the niche engineer/professional market and could get some of that to move to this device with minimal firmware changes. I think the Prime fits well in the “I passed AP calc, gonna be an engineer” spot for now. It could fit the high-school crowd if it gets approved for college board board testing and gets some teachers on board. Maybe start in the Euro teacher market. Prime is certainly a lot more capable than the TI’s. It also fits well with the finance crowd too. Lots of potential here.

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Gregory P.'s Profile

Display Name: Gregory P.

Date Joined: 11/07/09

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