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ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 day to 1 week

Pros: I love the looks of this board.. I have built several systems and have fallen for Mini ITX form factor. I’ve never ever seen one with so much stuff built in which is a huge plus. As a professional embedded SW engineer I usually end up wanting to stick some sort of a special feature in the box.. Which means I usually have to choose carefully.. this gives me a lot more room as most everything is built in. It also means that all the USB ports on the box won’t be eaten up and that I *won’t* have to use an active HUB (which don’t work with a lot of devices).. all of this is great for making a really small footprint PC.
One of the things to appreciate about this system is that because of all the built in features, the investment to get a decent working system is hundreds less than larges systems.. That includes the lower price of the small case, smaller power supply as you have decent built in video, bluetooth, and wifi (AC! – future proof) built in.
One thing that may be over looked is that the Bluetooth has 3.0 (high speed – up to 24 Mbit/s transfer rate – plenty for HD video much less music), and 4.0 which also allows for low energy so if you’re talking to peripherals on batteries they don’t get taxed too much on power.
Also – in the future proofing area, though it’s becoming more common is UEFI bios. If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s probably best described as a complete operating system residing in your bios, that your “regular” OS sits on top of (e.g. Windows, Linux, etc). One of the huge advantages of this is that your OS can use the device drivers written for UEFI and you won’t need OS specific ones. No matter what MB you get, I suggest getting a UEFI board as whenever they update OS’s you won’t have to toss the board as the mfg no longer updates the drivers for new OS’s. For this I was running W7, and experienced no problem other than those of my own creation.
I am not a big fan of performance statistic as I know they often cloud the more important aspects of products, and sales are often made on things you wouldn’t normally notice as that is where the marketing hype goes – so I refrain from it. I will say that you can build a scorchingly fast system with this board, though I prefer great performance and reasonable power. I build with i5 processors consuming 84W max as 90% of the time I am running applications that don’t require a processor that blows fire out the back of the box - like most occasional gamers anything more is useless to me.
I did not have an 802.11ac router setup for these tests so all I could do was verify that the system was connected and that 802.11g and 802.11n worked by connecting to different routers. I got a good strong signal for all connections and was impressed with it. Connecting direct with Ethernet via a cable modem I was able to get comparable rates with www.speakeasy.net/speedtest . Since that’s as fast as my modem goes, I can’t ask for much else.

Cons: It would have been nice if it supported Bluetooth V4.1 (2013) – as this may be the last incarnation of Bluetooth in a while – it would allow for some wireless phone signaling becomes more widespread. I’m him hoping this is mostly a FW update though I do not know if it requires and HW changes – none that I am aware of.
Some of the “Pros” may be echoed in the “Cons”, by that I mean even though the box may be really small, you will have to really work to get all the cables in the box connected – when you put the heat sink on your processor that eats up most of the available space to get to the board. That’s not a design flaw per se, but it is a reality in building the system. For me personally, the pain is worth the gain, but this may not be the ideal board to build into a system for a beginning system builder unless you have some technical chutzpa patients and like skinned knuckles.

Other Thoughts: I have a “large” rectangular Lian Li mini ITX case which allows more room than many mini ITX cases, I would not recommend a case any smaller. I’m sure it’s possible but at such as size you need to worry not only about airflow, but also the physical constraints of having to bend cables in such a small space and getting everything to fit.

Whenever I build a system, I end up spending way more that I originally ball parked. This board has been an exception since I really only had to buy memory (8GB DDR3 1333 and an i5-4590) and recycled an older case/PS and SSD. So.. hats off for this.. no wi-fi, BT, video card, etc – it’s a decent system at a decent price.

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TP-LINK Archer C7 v2 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 day to 1 week

Pros: First impressions are it looks pretty cool and it’s an AC router which is supposed to be faster. It is unfortunate that I do not have any AC clients at this time to test it out though I am building up a mother board with a built in AC client so it’s becoming the new standard rather than another never really widely adopted improvement. My disclaimer is that the review is only based on what I could checkout, so if the 802.11ac is good or bad doesn’t affect this review.

My point of comparison is a Netgear N600 router, which was a fairly full functioned router at the time of purchase. From looking at a point to point comparison the AC1750 seems to be fairly basic. The features it does have are really useful so that it has NAS and a DLNA server. I personally keep a bunch of video lessons and my kids cartoons on it so it’s a nice feature to have. Also included are GBit LAN which I do use with A smart DVD player.

The good is that the interface is okay and understandable, though some have complained it’s not “graphical” my feeling is that I would rather have the developers put the time into making sure the router is speedy and solid – as long as I can read and figure it out I don’t care as it’s generally a rarely used item once it’s set up. As far as 802.11g which is what the majority of devices I have including tablets, DVD players and PCs are seem to be really solid. I know my Nexus 10 sometimes drops out in my bedroom on the second floor, and as the router is in the basement it all connected up and ran without a hitch.

Cons: As my printer is wireless I haven’t tested out the print server, I can’t imagine who would use the Bandwith Control but I’m sure there is some control freak would appreciate it. As far as an FTP server goes, Dropbox and other similar services which non-technical people can use are making FTP severs go the way of the modem. I spent about 10 emails and 5 hours trying to explain to my cousin how to upload something off an old one I had, he could never figure it out so I would never use one again unless it was me using it exclusively on both ends.

Other Thoughts: To sum this whole thing up, the Archer C7 is a really basic and inexpensive router with 802.11ac which I have yet to try – but as far as all the basic services, it seems to work as advertised. This is a decent router to install in a place where you don’t really have any special needs aside from a basic NAT firewall wireless router. It does have a few bells and whistles and of those tested I have no complaints – but most are features found on just about all routers. The good news is you get what you pay for – and as it’s basic, the going price also reflects this. It’s the type of router I would install in my elderly mom’s house so she can send email and watch Netflix – and would fill the bill well.

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GIGABYTE GA-Z87X-UD3H LGA 1150 Intel Z87 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: Clean layout and design, easy to install,reasonable documentation and features.

Great Board if you are looking for a higher end Work Horse PC or a non-Gamer looking for a cheap high performance board. I’m a SW engineer who does a fair amount of Linux and embedded apps often on processors embedded on PCIe boards and used to be a HW engineer who had designed using PCI buses. When I change the board in my PC case, it’s usually every 4-5 years so I want something that doesn’t have to be the very fastest, but also not a dog a few years down the line. For me flexibility, peripherals, and slots are meaningful things if you want to understand my perspective. When I had the opportunity to evaluate this MB I first spent time looking through current offerings to see what is out there.

Three years ago I had to specify development stations for dozen other SW engineers on a project we were on and chose a Gigabyte MB. There were no complaints about those stations ever. So far Gigabyte has never burned me through several iterations of PCs both professionally and personally.

Cons: I configured my board to run with 4 monitors which I use for SW developing, not for gaming. One of the things I found as I was setting up and reading the literature is that the x16 slots share bandwidth, and if you populate two of the PCIe x16 slots with video cards, both will operate at x16. If you aren’t familiar with PCIe, a 16x card can operate at the lower rates (x8). If you are a gamer going after maximum frame rate, you will find this as a bummer (technical term), but for anyone else there really isn’t much out there in the generic PC world that really needs a x16 slot. Running generic PC apps on a x4 graphics card (even some CAD software), this will still be great.

From a marketing point, having all the fat x16 slots on the board makes it look a little hotter than it really is, though only one will deliver x16 and not if you’re using the one next to it. You could call it false advertising – but it will also allow you to use cards with a higher lane count to physically operate in the system – so it would be my preference to have them even if it may appear slightly deceiving.

If it wasn't for this, I would have given 5 eggs.

Other Thoughts: One of the things I really did like about this is that it is dual BIOS UEFI and generic which is really handy going into the future. If you don’t know about UEFI, it is a generic abstracted interface to the host OS which is much easier to run emulators on which support it since they don’t have to understand different BIOS types. It is deep and complex, almost like an OS itself but you don’t have to learn it, you just use it and it (should) make your life easier when running virtual OS’s. Your OS (Windows 8, Linux, etc) will access it as the device driver making it possible for device manufacturers (eventually) just to supply a UEFI driver and any O.S. should work with it so long as they support UEFI.

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Brian F.'s Profile

Display Name: Brian F.

Date Joined: 10/14/04

  • Reviews: 36
  • Helpfulness: 20
  • First Review: 08/17/05
  • Last Review: 06/23/14
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