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Chris W.

Chris W.

Joined on 01/09/09

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Product Reviews
product reviews
  • 25
Most Favorable Review

So close to perfect, but still fabulous

GIGABYTE X570SI AORUS PRO AX (rev. 1.1) AMD Ryzen 3000 PCIe 4.0 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.2 AMD X570S Mini-ITX Motherboard
GIGABYTE X570SI AORUS PRO AX (rev. 1.1) AMD Ryzen 3000 PCIe 4.0 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.2 AMD X570S Mini-ITX Motherboard

Pros: - The best AM4 mini-ITX motherboard you can buy. - The best AM4 mini-ITX VRM configuration available, by far. - No tiny little whiney VRM fan that inevitably would (a) fail or (b) scream like a baby. - The MediaTek WiFi-6E module is surprisingly good (I usually prefer Intel AX210). - Simple, clean aesthetic. - Metal backplate includes thermal pads for key chip locations AND rear m.2 socket. - EK-240 Basic AIO fits the AM4 socket with the tubes facing the VRM heatsink (see cons). - Pointless cosmetic metal block on top-mounted M.2 socket is at least removable. - UEFI/BIOS is easy to navigate and options are clearly identified. - After tweaking the PBO settings, I managed to shave off 50W under full load and 30W under gaming loads, with no loss of clock speeds while improving performance. -My 5800X is not a good sample, the best Curve Optimizer setting I coudl achieve is a Neg Offset of 15 for all-core. I am not interested in tweaking the individual cores CO.

Cons: - Pointless cosmetic metal block on top-mounted M.2 socket (just no, no need for this). - That same cosmetic metal block impeded AIO tubing in my IQUNIX ZX-1-WC case. - Fortunately, said cosmetic metal block is removable and doing so does not impact m.2 temps. - Proprietary fan headers requiring fan-dongle-adapter cables to use with standard cables (again, no, just no, there is NO need for this). - High power usage at Default and PBO-Auto settings (I get it, you want good benches, but enthusiasts know how to tweak these things themselves, make the Default and Auto stock settings properly energy efficieint please). - would have liked to see a coupld more USB Type-A ports, or even another Type-C, but this is minor nit-picking. - Seriously Gigabyte, still NO SSD/NVMe Secure Erase built-in to the UEFI/BIOS? ASUS and ASRock have had this capability for several generations now, it is easy, please add it. Yes, most people will never need it, but for those who build and rebuild and eventually resell their systems this functionality proves invaluable for quickly, securely erasing data.

Overall Review: - Highly recommended for enthusiasts who like to optimize their builds. - Be aware that you can cut down the power usage of your CPU significantly without impacting (or maybe even improving) your performance by manually tuning PBO with a Curve Optimizer Negative Offset (start at Neg 30 all-core, bench, and reduce by 5 to 25 and re-benching, then continue reducing and re-benching until your system stops crashing and remains stable during multiple benches, to find your sweet-spot). Re-Bench single-core at that point, to ensure no single-threaded instability issues. - If anyone from Gigabyte is listening, please stop with the cosmetic metal blocks that serve no purpose and increase your costs and ours, and also please stop with proprietary fan connectors requiring dongles (you CAN fit proper, standardized 4pin connectors if you do just a little bit of CAD design work before sending it to manufacturing).

RX 5700 XT

PowerColor Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB GDDR6 PCI Express 4.0 CrossFireX Support ATX Video Card AXRX 5700 XT 8GBD6-3DH
PowerColor Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB GDDR6 PCI Express 4.0 CrossFireX Support ATX Video Card AXRX 5700 XT 8GBD6-3DH

Pros: The main reasons I purchased this: - standard dual-slot video card. - standard height video card (the Sapphire's are overly-tall, due to fan-size choice presumably). - dual axial fans. - the heatsink runs the length of the PCB, and the fins are densely packed. - zero-fan mode enabled by default so it is silent for desktop use. - temperatures in gaming loads with the default fan curve were 55C-65C on an open bench table with the default fan curve in a ambient room temperature of 20C. - no blingy RGB lights, fancy-pants dragons or demons, or gamery-gimmicky garbage that adds nothing to the performance of a video card but adds unnecessary cost for the consumer.

Cons: - the default fan curve is fine for desktop use (silent mode), but once the GPU temperatures start to rise during gaming the stock fan curve is overly aggressive and the noise is more than it needs to be. - setting a custom fan curve through MSI Afterburner or other utilities is only semi-functional so far. With AB 4.6.2 Beta I was able to set a less aggressive fan curve to keep the fan speed and the noise down during gaming, and temperatures remained largely the same as the stock fan curve (55C-65C). - the bigger problem is once a custom fan curve is enabled in AB and I stop gaming to go back to typical desktop use, the fans only spin-down to my minimum AB custom fan curve that was above 0. This is true even after closing AB or disabling the custom fan curve entirely. In my case that was 35% which barely makes any noise at all but I would still rather the fans return to zero-rpm mode to conserve the fans' lifetime. Disabling the custom fan curve in AB and rebooting returns the fan mode to stock default values, but you have ensure AB is not auto-starting upon reboot and re-applying the custom fan curve. - This is a quality of life pain in the you-know-what, and should not be present in this day and age. - Having done my own research before purchase I knew ALL of the above cons before I purchased this so I am not down-grading my product rating because of it. - I am, however, rating the video card as a 4-egg'r simply because these issues should not be present at all in a product this expensive. I get the sense AMD's board partners either did not get enough access to the BIOS to correct such issues, or they rushed their products out before doing that work before-hand. - I am formally requesting here that PowerColor and/or AMD release BIOS updates and/or driver updates for their RX-series video cards to correct these issues as they do impact on the quality of the user experience, and frankly should have been corrected before products were released to retail/etail.

Overall Review: - Happy with my purchase, but would like a bit more polish on the fan control issue. - I wanted a true dual-slot, dual-axial fan, standard height RX 5700 XT without the blingy RGB garbage and this is it. - PowerColor, AMD - if you are listening, please correct the fan control issues, they put a minor stain on an otherwise fantastic product.

The best. Period.

ASRock Z390 PHANTOM GAMING-ITX/AC LGA 1151 (300 Series) Intel Z390 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
ASRock Z390 PHANTOM GAMING-ITX/AC LGA 1151 (300 Series) Intel Z390 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard

Pros: - Every reasonable feature possible for a mini-ITX motherboard is present. - Exceptional VRM, great motherboard layout. - Dual M.2 slots, front-side with a heatsink, 2nd on the back-side. - Plenty of USB 3.1 Type-A. - USB 3.1 Type-C / Thunderbolt-3. - Simple, clean, easy to navigate UEFI/BIOS. - Intel 9560ac Wifi. - Realtek ALC1220 audio. - No flashy colours (the RGB can be turned off either in software or through BIOS, though it took a BIOS update to have the option show up there).

Cons: - None, nada, nil, zilch.

Overall Review: - I have been building systems for ~30 years now, and this motherboard is the best I ever owned. - The only thing I would add is the ability to Secure Erase SSD from within the UEFI/BIOS, but that is serious nit-picking and really of no concern to most people. Great work with this motherboard ASRock. Well done. UPDATE May 2019: ASRock UEFI/BIOS updates have added Secure Erase support, which is great to see. Many thanks. The board is running flawlessly with my 8700K running 4.8GHz all-core at stock voltages (it can go higher but I want this system to last). I run a pair of M.2 drives. The OS is running from an EVO 970 in the heatsink'd socktet which runs a bit hotter (40C in a 20C ambient room) than the rear-socket EVO 860 does (35C). This is mostly a result of the top-mounted M.2 socket's heatsink having a heat-pipe coming in from the VRM heatsink, so it is picking up radiated heat from there. But even overclocked in a Fractal Nano-S temps are not a problem.

Very good B450 mini-ITX

ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I GAMING AM4 AMD B450 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 HDMI Mini ITX AMD Motherboard
ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I GAMING AM4 AMD B450 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 HDMI Mini ITX AMD Motherboard

Pros: - Good motherboard layout. - 2 x M.2 slots. - Simple charcoal aesthetic. - 2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 type-A ports (wish one was a type-C). - ASUS' great UEFI/BIOS interface, easy to navigate, update, and includes Secure Erase for SATA-based SSD's). - At least the RGB can be turned off completely in the UEFI/BIOS.

Cons: - Price was still a bit higher than I would have thought, for a B450 motherboard. - Would like to see a USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C port. Maybe spend less on RGB and put that port on it instead? - ASUS D.O.C.P. reads my G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-3200 CL14 RAM correctly but will not run it at proper timings. I have to soften the timings from CL14 to CL15. Disappointing, since I have an ASRock motherboard that runs it perfectly fine with the exact same CPU by simply enabling the XMP 2.0 profile. - RGB. Pointless waste of money to implement. I would rather see that money put into design and UEFI/BIOS to support full RAM timings, and maybe that USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C port that is missing? - RGB audio ports. Same as above. Just properly color-code them with plastic and put the money saved into design and UEFI/BIOS to support full RAM timings please? - top-side M.2 heatsink makes the SSD run at higher temperatures than it does with the heatsink off. Sort of makes the design a waste of both money and engineering time. How about not putting a heatsink on there at all and put that savings into design and UEFI/BIOS to support full RAM timings, oh and that USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C port?

Overall Review: - I know it may seem that I am picking on a coupel of things, but overall I am pleased with the motherboard. - If it came with no RGB, a USB 3.1 Gen2 type-C port, and could run my G.Skill RAM (it is Samsung b-die) at proper timings at DDR4-3200, it would be perfect. - Instead it gets 4/5 eggs. If a future BIOS update gets my RAM working at proper timings, I will update the review.

10/11/2018

Simply the Best

ASRock Fatal1ty X470 Gaming-ITX/ac AM4 AMD Ryzen 3000 Series CPU Ready Mini ITX AMD Motherboard
ASRock Fatal1ty X470 Gaming-ITX/ac AM4 AMD Ryzen 3000 Series CPU Ready Mini ITX AMD Motherboard

Pros: - Great motherboard layout. - Runs my G.Skill Ripjaws V 32GB (16GBx2 DS DIMMs) Samsung b-die at XMP2.0 DDR4-3200 low-latency timings (very well done ASRock). - Top-end Intel AC 9260 Wifi and Intel gbE (keep doing this please). - Easy to use and navigate UEFI/BIOS, and easy to update. - Top-end Realtek ALC1220 audio (keep doing this please). - POST to OS load is very fast even with Fast Boot Disabled. - USB 3.1 Gen2 type-A and type-C on rear IO panel (they share bandwidth, best to only use one at a time). - No RGB bling (thanks).

Cons: - none, because it is what it says it is and does what it says it does.

Overall Review: - ASRock, if you are reading, take note please: This motherboard is almost perfect. The only additional features I would use if they were available would be: 1. A 2nd M.2 slot. 2. Implement Secure Erase in the UEFI/BIOS. Honestly though, this is the best motherboard I have owned recently and have no complaints whatsoever.

10/11/2018

Fantastic memory

G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600) Desktop Memory Model F4-3200C14D-32GVK
G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600) Desktop Memory Model F4-3200C14D-32GVK

Pros: - Very well done G.Skill. - Samsing b-die. - Low-profile heatsinks. - High-speed and low latency timings. - Works perfectly at XMP settings, provided your motherboard's UEFI/BIOS is well-coded to support it.

Cons: - None.

Overall Review: - The prices at the time I bought this kit were outrageous, and they are still painfully too high as of the time of this review, which says a lot since they have dropped $50 since then. - I have ran this kit on several motherboards and found that it works at XMP 2.0 speed and timings as long as the motherboard(s) support it. I have two ASRock motherboards it works perfectly on, and two ASUS' that it does not; in the ASUS' case it is simply poor UEFI/BIOS support for the XMP 2.0 profile, the RAM will run at DDR4-3200 speed but with very weak timings and will not run with manual timings keyed in (will not POST). But this is a problem with ASUS' UEFI/BIOS code, not G.Skill's RAM. On my two ASRock motherboards it runs perfectly fine at speed and low-latency timings without even having to key in the values. Oh, and QVL has nothing to do with it.

10/11/2018