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GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD5H LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: Audiophile friendly: My #1 pro for this board, personally, is the built-in DAC/audio amplifier. I have a set of hard-to-drive AKG headphones. This onboard amp is so capable that, yes, maxed out there is some overdriving- that comes with the territory. But I have headphone amps and DACs that have never driven these headphones so well- one of which cost nearly as much as this board. If you told me I could buy a great solid state headphone DAC/amplifier that doubled as a Gigabyte motherboard, I wouldn’t think twice about getting it.

Amazing BIOS interface. I’m coming from a Gigabyte UD3 board with the older interface. The new one includes a cursor and numerous features. It’s still not up to some enhanced MSI features I’ve used with the primitive, bult-in OS. The cursor is kind of annoying, however.

OC’s like a champ. I have a Haswell i5K processor pushed to 4.3GHz and my RAM is pushed to 1866Mhz (where, on my old Gigabyte board it underclocked my memory to 1300Mhz and crashed like crazy when I tried to OC even to the RAMs rated speed..1600 or 1800.) You can also OC and set timing in pairs. Great if you mix and match RAM in pairs.

Fan headers, fan headers everywhere. Well, there are more of them, at least. Before, I had adapters everywhere converting power plugs to fan headers. I was able to remove all adapters and plug directly to the board. It cleaned up so much clutter in my case that it’s actually OCD-friendly now.

M.2 SATA connector. I don’t have one of these, but I can definitely see myself getting one in the future as they’re popularized and practical.

You get a SATA port, you get a SATA port, SATA ports for everyone! I have a few 2TB drives, an OS drive, and a 4TB. While this may not be normal, this board can handle even those odd situations.

3-year warranty. In technological terms, when all the components you put into this board are one or two generations old, this board will still be under warranty. If you buy the black edition, then a 5-year warranty pushes that further. Let that sink in.

“Execute Disable Bit” protection if you have a processor to support it.

Dual gigabit + Killer Network Manager = beastly networking. I read elsewhere that you couldn’t use both LANs at the same time. Hogwash. I installed the Killer driver and software from Atheros, connected both Ethernet cables, highlighted them in Control Panel -> Network Connections, then right click and “Bridge Connections.” My speedtest was a typical 50mbit down and measly 3mbit up, typical cable speeds. But the Killer Network Manager allows you to sort internet priority by application. So streaming 1080p content to my home network from my computer through SMB can use both Ethernet ports and I can set the priority as lower than my gaming, if I so choose, with the Killer software. It’s sort of a QoS at the source. There are numerous possibilities with dual LAN.

Cons: There are no serious cons with this board, in my experience. It is a solid 5-star board and I am extremely impressed. I do have a couple small gripes, however.

Most of the fan headers are on the bottom of the board. For those of us with “ceiling fans” in our cases, it’s a “bit of a stretch” to reach the bottom of the case. I had to plug my CPU fan into one of the lower headers and used the extra CPU fan headers for one of the top fans (and removed the other for the time being.) Be sure to have some extensions for the fan cables and if you need to order them, make sure to get 4-pin connections if you need them. Some fans are three, some are four.

PCIe x8/x8. I now it’s a tedious gripe, but 16x/8x would have been reassuring. Even my old Gigabyte board had it. The performance increase is marginal but at $170…why not even dial x16?

Bloatware on the driver disk. Why, Gigabyte? I use Google Chrome and Drive but why try to force it on end users? It also automatically selects Norton for install. One pro about building your own PC is not having the bloatware pre-installed. I accidentally clicked “express install” and immediately regretted it. It ran through installing everything WITH NO WAY OF CANCELLING. I ultimately restarted my computer to get it to stop..But I was greeted with freshly installed Norton and it was still installing the rest of the software! I had to let it play out and go through uninstalling. Whatever you do, do not click “Express Install” unless you plan to install all the applications included on the disk. It even broke my Google Drive and I went to class not realizing my homework wasn’t synced when I needed my notes! I usually go to manufacturer sites to download drivers instead of using a disk. They’re always up to date and you can avoid bloatware. To be thorough, I used the disk so I would have an opinion on it…which is very negative.

No onboard eSATA. This isn’t a con, either, because eSATA will probably be legacy soon. But with all those USB3.0 ports, you’d think they could have made one of them an eSATA for compatibility. I have a multi-card reader + eSATA. They’re like $10 and highly recommended if you need accessible eSATA.

Other Thoughts: It’s pricey but worth it for the durability and warranty. With this board, I switched a system from an AMD FX-8350 and Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3 to an i5-4690K, pushed my RAM to 1866, processor to 4.3GHz on air, and OC’d my onboard graphics to 1350Mhz but haven’t researched enough to know the limits on that.

With style, in my experience GB’s UltraDurable series of boards are unlikely to disappoint. The components are visibly sound and the traces on the PCB are clearly layered for protection. This isn’t like the days of old, green PCBs where you could damage something with the slip of a screwdriver across the surface. There is a stylish streak of orange light on the board. (Look at the 360-view here on Newegg. Scroll all the way left. The faint line behind the speaker plugs/screw hole lights up a soft orange color.) It’s obvious that Gigabyte but a great effort into making sure this particular board is exceptional in quality and performance.

Other specs are:
XFX 6950 2GB Double-D crossfired with MSI Radeon 6950 (unlocked to 6970)
2x8GB AMD 1866MHz RAM and 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz RAM (Both clocked at 1866, stable.)
Fatal1ty 750w PSU

These components are AMD friendly. Yet they perform better than the AMD processor ever pushed them. With more SATA ports, I took a couple drives from a dual-bay external and put them in my box. My system is cleaner and nicer than ever and I hadn’t realized before that it was even cluttered.

Some tips I found:
Set your allocated onboard graphics memory higher if you’re going to use it. Even if not, if you have a lot of RAM it wouldn’t hurt anyway. The default is 64MB.

Under M.I.T -> PC Health Status enable the CPU temperature warning. Not necessary for everyone but not a bad idea to keep in case something goes wrong inside your case and you don’t have to fry your processor before you realize it.

Sidenote: This board is compatible with OSX Mavericks. In testing, everything from both NICs, sound, power management, onboard graphics, etc worked without problems. Just load optimal defaults in BIOS, disable VT-d, and be sure not to generate PStates and CStates after installing. Delete AppleHDA.kext and do not install the Killer LAN driver if you plan to update to 10.9.4. (This is for testing and development purposes, of course. Check local laws about running OSX on non-Apple hardware.)

To this day I recommend the UD series after other brands failed over the years. Coming from the older 990FXA-UD3 to this it’s clear that GB is maintaining quality throughout the UltraDurable series while adding new features. They had different versions of this board for overclocking, gaming, and the black edition. Look at different features, shop around, read reviews, check compatibility, and find what works for you.

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EnGenius EAP300 Business Class Indoor High-power Long-range 800mW Wireless-N Access Point/WDS Bridge/WDS AP with Smoke Detector Housing & 802.3af PoE Support
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: - Smoke detector-like style is definitely appropriate for a business setting.
- Impressive set of features, which is expected if this device is to be the wireless backbone of a populated network. WDS mode, client mode, AP mode.
- PoE compliant.
- Ethernet port is expected but beneficial if you wanted to link up a switch if need be or use the PoE.
- Can disable ALL LEDs. Otherwise this unit is a bright blue color. Disabling all the LEDs makes it so there are not lights at all.. you cannot even tell if the unit is on or not.
- Intuitive interface that is mostly simple to use with one exception mentioned in OTs.
- Unboxing the unit included the basic necessities including mounting screws to secure the two-piece bracket so you can easily remove and replace the device.

Cons: I would definitely expect there to be gigabit ethernet port (at least.) This isn’t really a con in smaller networks. But I imagine that these devices on larger networks, being N300 devices, could experience some overhead if there is a larger user base or heavy bandwidth consumption. A gigabit copper backbone would avoid saturation. A 300Mbps signal halved and slowed by numerous WDS hops (and signal noise in between, packet error correction, etc.) can drop from that theoretical top speed to 2 or 1Mbps easily.

Also it was a bit buggy with working together on my network. Everything connected well with wireless security disabled but for some reason it would not connect for WPA or WPA2.

Other Thoughts: Tip: If you’re one to skip reading the manual then you’ll probably want to know that you have to manually enter a static IP address when setting the device up. In fact, the pdf of the manual is included on a disk. You should probably at least skim the contents…because DHCP is disabled by default and you should know that no changes take effect when you click to submit them. You also have to click “Save/Reload:#” in the top left of the navigation pane. If you do not, then it will read like your changes saved but they will not apply.

Being assigned only one unit, it’s a bit tough to test this out in a practical scenario, but overall this about as well as expected. On the software side, any tech admin or competent techie can set up an efficient, controlled EAP/WDS wifi network. I did not test EAP on this device but I tested WDS and Repeater modes. I wasn’t actually able to get it to work with any encryption. It’s likely an error on my part somewhere, I’m sure.

There is a command Line interface but it is VERY limited. Logs show it running Busybox 1.19.4 but when you connect via Telnet it never gives you shell access. It’s not a pro to have a CLI if you can’t create and run custom scripts or actually do something you can’t easily do on the web interface..

Over all this seems like a decent solution for a smaller network. It seems a little buggy in my testing but I also am using equipment different than Engenius’ brand (DD-WRT devices.) I'm not sure that I would value these at the current $100 price tag, however. I would recommend someone to explore other options in this range..

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BUFFALO MiniStation Air 1TB USB 3.0 / WIFI Wireless Mobile Storage HDW-PD1.0U3
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: - 25MB/s write speed on USB2.0, 108MB/s write speed on USB 3.0, 3MB/s write speed over wifi. 5MB/s. read speed…this is horribly slow.
- 1TB capacity. Tons of storage if, like me, you'll be streaming to tablets and small devices. Then you can re-encode your videos to smaller mp4 files that are fully supported by the device and fit more on the 1TB of space.
- uPNP, Samba, and web interface. Pretty much everything you need for any application.
- On Android, ES File Explorer detects SMB shares and MX Player plays everything from avi files to ogv (Ogg Video) files. This is superior to any proprietary DLNA/uPNP app, including Buffalo’s own.
- The interface runs on lighttpd for the web UI and the twonky configuration files are accessible through SMB and when the disk is mounted. (For you tinkerers, it appears you can edit the configuration files, if you’d like, there is not ssh access or anything developer-friendly, unfortunately.)
- “Disclose to network” Security implementation. When accessing the Buffalo from a different network I get the error “This device is currently connected to the MiniStation through an access point. To switch to another access point, connect to the MiniStation directly.” This lets me know that if someone were to break through the WAN (or another client on a public wifi network) then it wouldn’t be wide open to meddling.
- If you enable “Disclose to network,” however, then you can access the Buffalo (web, DLNA, SMB) from other clients on the host network the Buffalo is connected to.
- Power saving settings: “Don’t sleep”, “Balanced”, and “eco”. By default it is set to “Don’t sleep.” Balanced seems more reasonable.
- Extensive help information right on the web interface for those who may not be so savvy. Included instructions were very informative as well.
- It can act as a repeater for up to 5 clients. (You can also set it up with AOSS/WPS [PIN and PBC] though I always strongly advocate against WPS altogether.)
- 3-Year warranty!
- Additional USB charging port to charge other devices form that beastly 12-hour battery (I think…see cons.)
- Solid, sturdy build.

Ministation Air2 Android app:
- Surprisingly smooth though it did force close often when running in the background on my Nook. I’ve converted most of my files to mp4 format to save on space so the device works well for it.
- Says “Designed for phones.” But looks fine on tablets.
- Is a full remote to the device meaning you change all the MiniStation settings, see drive free space, battery %, and even power off the device from the app.
- “Auto upload” feature can be enabled. If you pair your smartphone with the MiniStation often then it can act as a backup device for your pictures and images.
- Can navigate away while it’s playing music and it continues to play. The app crashed once when I did this and uploaded simultaneously but when I opened it again it continued uploading where it left off. I later realized it just crashes in the background regar

Cons: I was worried about that 5MB/s read and write speed over wifi because it seems a little slow if you’re streaming multiple devices. Sure enough, my daughter was watching a hefty 720p mp4 (Frozen for the 500000th time) and as soon as I did anything on another device, be it stream an SD movie, copy a file, or anything, her movie glitched and stuttered. Definitely -1 egg for that. If you say a device can support up to 8 clients I hardly think it’s possible with such an incapable network.

I charged the device to 100%, left it on my couch powered off for about 20 hours, and when I powered it back on to use it, it kept dying within 30 seconds. Does the battery drain even not when in use? I’m going to have to do more testing with this. Even so, the battery light was green and not red so it was as confused as I was about whether it was charged. On that note, having a green = charged and red = dead scheme is not really helpful. Even an orange battery light in between would have been useful. (After testing it throughout the weekend it has not happened again. I’m guessing it has to do with the next con.)

It has been finicky sometimes. I've had to restart the device many times before wifi showed up again on my tablet on three separate occasions. I troubleshot it anyway I could. Toggling wifi off and on, on both devices and power cycling both devices. It is just buggy sometimes. Maybe future firmware updates will stabilize it (for a $170 device there will be future firmware updates, right?) But when it works, it works and It's not like it's always giving problems. 89% of the time it works without a hitch (with one wireless client streaming.)

Not really a con, but I’m only assuming the USB charging port works on good faith. When I've plugged my phone or tablet in there’s no sign that they’re charging. Even when I plugged my old iPod Mini in there was still no indication. I never really planned to use the feature anyway but it’s notable.

Other Thoughts: When Newegg offered this assignment I started right away researching the tech. I’m experienced with wifi, NAS, and HDD tech but not really an AIO device combining them all. There are many options out there if you do your research but I can say this is not a horrible drive if you have the money to spend. It is capable, sturdy, a 3 year warranty, and the battery life is superb. Overall this is a decent device but I can’t say it’s a 5-star product. There are some kinks to work out with the firmware it seems and the wireless speeds are seriously lacking. I haven’t tested it against similar products to measure it but I know my home wireless network has never had problems streaming to even three and four devices. Granted this is a mobile product and not a $100 router,

For a $170 price tag I would expect a reliable, smoothly operating 5-egg device. Instead there were a few random reboots, dropped connections, and it struggled to stream to even two devices when it's supposed to support up to eight. When it worked, it remained stable mostly. The only times there were issues were connecting and powering on.

This is definitely a 3-egg product for $170.
It would easily be a 4 to 5-egg product if it cost around $100 to $120. Or if future firmware updates fix some of the bugs then could redeem itself (I will update this review if that ever happens.)


Some things to note:

-If this device is too expensive or you want more customization then I recommend checking out wireless enclosures by Macally. You can pick one up for ~$30 to ~$40 (some even have ethernet ports and SD card slots) and a 500GB hard drive for $50-$60 or so and have the same device for close to half the price. (You could also consider SSD or smaller drives if you wanted.)

-The internal disk to this is a $70 “Travelstar 5K1000” (See Newegg Item#: N82E16822145584 for reviews on that.) It’s a 5400RPM 8MB cache drive with a decent reputation.

-It CAN be used while charging but wifi turns off when USB is plugged in. Also it’s more susceptible to the finicky problems I mentioned in cons.

-The wifi reaches throughout my small, one story house. The signal will drop to one or two bars when in the front yard or across the house but it still streams [to one device] with no problems.

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Theodore P.'s Profile

Display Name: Theodore P.

Date Joined: 02/13/11

Achievements:

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  • Reviews: 62
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  • First Review: 03/02/11
  • Last Review: 09/08/14
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