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Dell G5 15 5500 Review : Affordable RTX Gaming!

Dell G5 15 5500 Review : Affordable RTX Gaming @ 144 Hz!

The Dell G5 15 5500 is a 15.6-inch gaming powerhouse that offers affordable RTX gaming, with on-site warranty!

Find out why we gave it our Reviewer’s Choice Award, and why this could be the gaming laptop you have been waiting for!

 

Dell G5 15 Series : What Is It?

The G-Series is Dell’s range of affordable gaming laptops, with the G5 15 as the mid-range option with a 15.6-inch display.

The Dell G5 series laptops come with more powerful processor and graphics options with beefier cooling, than the entry-level G3 series.

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Specifications

First, let’s take a look at the specifications of our review sample, which is the top-of-the-line model.

Dell offers cheaper configurations with a Core i5 processor, and GeForce GTX 1650 Ti or GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics.

Dell G5 15 5500
Display 15.6-inch TN display
– 1920 x 1080 pixels (141 ppi)
– 144 Hz refresh rate, 19 ms response time
– 300 nits max brightness
– 72% NTSC colour gamut
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 Home
Processor Intel Core i7-10750H
– 6 core, 12 thread, 45 W TDP
– 2.6 GHz base, 5.0 GHz boost
Chipset Intel HM470
Memory 2 x 8 GB DDR4-2933
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6 GB)
Storage 512 GB SK hynix BC511 PCIe SSD
Camera 0.92 MP webcam (720p video)
Audio Realtek ALC3254 with Nahimic 3D Audio
2 x 2 W speakers
Dual-array microphone
Connectivity LAN : Killer E2500 Gigabit
Wi-Fi : Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650i
Bluetooth : BT 5.0
Ports 1 x RJ-45 LAN port
1 x Thunderbolt 3 port
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 port
2 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x HDMI 2.0 port
1 x mini DisplayPort 1.4b
1 x audio port
Card Reader SD Card Reader
Security Wedge-shaped lock slot
Capacitive fingerprint reader
Keyboard 4-zone RGB Keyboard with G Key
– 18.7 mm x 18.05 mm key pitch
Touchpad 105 mm x 65 mm touchpad
Battery 4-cell polymer (68 Wh)
Charging 240 W charger
– 19.5 VDC @ 12.31 A
Dimensions 364.46 mm wide
254.0 mm deep
31.13 mm thick
Weight 2.65 kg

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Price + Availability

The Dell G5 15 5500 is available in the Interstellar Dark Cover colour, with a starting price of RM 4,499 (about US$1,083 / £847 / A$1,486 / S$1,482).

Here are some online purchase options :

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Box Contents

The Dell G5 15 5500 comes in a no-frills brown cardboard box. Inside, all you will find are these items :

  • Dell G5 15 5500 laptop
  • 240 watt charger + cable
  • Dell G5 Quick User Guide
  • Safety and Regulatory Information

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Hands-On Experience!

The Dell G5 15 5500 is designed to offer RTX gaming, at an affordable price point. So the first thing you will notice its thick plastic chassis and heft.

This is no thin and light laptop, not at 31 mm thick and a weight of 2.65 kg… and that’s not even counting the large and heavy 240 watt charger!

Performance

Our review model was powered by the Intel Core i7-10750H, a 6-core, 12-thread processor with a clock speed that goes up to 5 GHz.

It’s paired with 16 GB of DDR4 memory, and the the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, with 6 GB of GDDR6 memory. More than powerful enough to handle any game you throw at it.

144 Hz Display

The Dell G5 15 5500 comes with a 15.6-inch TN display with a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and a 144 Hz refresh rate.

Thankfully, it’s paired with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics, which should have no problem driving the high refresh rate for most games.

Storage

The Dell G5 15 5500 is spacious enough to support both a M.2 socket (for a PCIe SSD), as well as a 2.5-inch drive bay (for a hard disk drive).

Our review sample came with the 512 GB PCIe M.2 SSD from SK hynix. Dell also offers a 512 GB Intel Optane storage option in some countries.

This is more than enough storage for a gaming laptop, but if you need more, there is a 1 TB SSD option, as well as a 2 TB hard disk drive option.

Next Page > Dell G5 15 5500 : A Closer Look!

 

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Dell G5 15 5500 : A Closer Look!

Available Ports

One advantage of not going thin and light is the additional ports. On the left side, you will find these ports (from left to right) :

  • its barrel power port,
  • a Mini DisplayPort 1.4b port,
  • a HDMI 2.0 port,
  • a USB 3.2 Gen 1 PowerShare port,
  • an RJ45 LAN port, and
  • a Thunderbolt 3 (USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C) port.

On the right side, you will find the following (from left to right) :

  • an SD card reader, which supports SD, SDHX and SDXC cards,
  • a 3.5 mm earphone + microphone jack,
  • two USB 2.0 Type A ports, and
  • a wedge-shaped security lock slot

Keyboard + Touchpad

Thanks to its larger form factor, Dell could fit a full keyboard with a numeric keypad, and a horizontal key pitch of 18.7 mm.

The keyboard is backlit in blue by default, with WASD key highlights. But it can be programmed to support any RGB combination, in up to 4 zones.

It has a pretty small touchpad – just 105 x 65 mm, and it’s offset to the left, which makes it a little awkward to use, unless you are left-handed.

But this isn’t a big problem. This is a gaming laptop, and you will definitely be using a mouse.

RGB Lighting

Complementing the RGB keyboard lighting is an RGB LED light strip along the front edge. This is arguably the Dell team’s only concession towards pointless gaming bling.

Some gamers will argue that it will give a more immersive gaming feel. Whatever rocks your boat, my friend.

Fingerprint Sensor

Dell offers an optional fingerprint sensor integrated directly into the power button, right above the keyboard. There is no IR camera option for face recognition.

We highly recommend adding this feature, as it allows for convenient logging in and greater security especially in public – there’s no need to type in your password.

Webcam + Microphones

The Dell G5 15 5500 comes with a basic webcam, capable of recording 720p video. As well as two microphones – one on each side of the webcam.

This is hardly the ideal setup for video streaming, but it is perfectly adequate for gamers who just need to use it for video chats.

Note that it doesn’t come with a privacy cover, only a status light to let you know when the webcam is activated.

Speakers

The Dell G5 15 5500 comes with two side-firing speakers with a 2 watt output.

Powered by the Realtek ALC3254 with an integrated amplifier, they are loud and offer pretty decent sound quality.

Killer Connectivity

Our premium model comes with a Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN connectivity. Otherwise, you will receive Realtek Gigabit LAN, which isn’t bad at all.

Wireless connectivity is provided through Killer 1650i, which offers Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) connectivity on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, as well as Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

The basic models though come with Qualcomm DW 1820, which offers Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) connectivity on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, as well as Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity.

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Surface Temperatures

An important criteria that many potential buyers forget to check for in a gaming laptop is “how hot does it get?

What’s the use of buying a powerful gaming laptop if it literally burns your hands while you game?

Take a look at the surface temperatures of the Dell G5 15 5500, with an ambient temperature of 29.8°C.

As you can see, the G5 15 5500 can get pretty toasty, with the temperature of the keyboard reaching a peak of just under 52°C.

On the underside, it peached a peak of 54.3°C in the middle. It is definitely not advisable to game with it on your lap!

We highly recommend you pair the Dell G5 15 5500 with a good laptop cooler, or play in an air-conditioned room. That will greatly reduce its contact temperature, and allow for hours of comfortable gaming.

Next Page > Dell G5 15 5500 : Performance, Verdict + Award

 

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Dell G5 15 5500 : Performance

Our Dell G5 15 5500 is the top-of-the-line model, powered by the 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H.

This is high-powered 45 watt processor with 6 cores and 12 threads, and a 2.6 GHz clock speed that ramps up to 5 GHz during intensive tasks.

The processor has Intel UHD Graphics built-in, but switches to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (with 6 GB of GDDR6 memory) for gaming and more strenuous graphics work.

Our review sample came with 16 GB of DDR4-2933 memory, and a 512 GB SK hynix PCIe SSD. Keeping all that powered is a large 68 Whr lithium-ion battery.

Work Performance : PCMark 10

The Intel Core i7-10750H is about 13% faster than the Intel Core i7-10510U, which is a 25 watt processor, with 4-cores and 8-threads.

It is, frankly, overkill for basic work applications, but will be very helpful in tackling compute-intensive tasks, like rendering videos.

Gaming Performance : 3DMark Time Spy

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 offers 6X more graphics performance than entry-level graphics like the GeForce MX250.

It is roughly between the performance of the desktop Radeon RX 5500 XT, and the desktop GeForce RTX 2060.

That means it will not only easily handle games at the display’s native 1080p resolution, it can deliver higher frame rates to take advantage of the higher Hz refresh rates it supports.

Gaming Performance : 3DMark Time Spy Extreme

We also ran a Time Spy Extreme test for those who are thinking of hooking up this laptop to an external display.

Performing between the desktop Radeon RX 5500 XT, and the desktop GeForce RTX 2060, it can handle 1440p gaming, but at roughly half the frame rate.

Gaming Performance : Strange Brigade @ 1080p

Strange Brigade is a third-person shooter game released in August 2018. We tested it at 1080p using the Vulkan API at Ultra High settings.

As you can see, the Dell G5 15 5500 has no problem exceeding 144 fps at times, with an average frame rate of 101 fps.

Gaming Performance : The Division 2 @ 1080p

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is a newer third-person shooter game released in March 2019, with much higher graphics requirements.

Even at the Extreme graphics settings, Dell G5 15 5500 was able to deliver an average frame rate of 59 fps.

It was head-to-head with the desktop Radeon RX 5500 XT, and just 6% slower than the desktop GeForce RTX 2060.

Battery Life : Modern Office + Gaming

We locked the display’s brightness at 50%, and ran PCMark 10’s Modern Office and Gaming tests until it powered off.

The Dell G5 15 5500 lasted about 5.5 hours running Modern Office applications, but only about 77 minutes while gaming.

You can only game on-the-go for a short time. Realistically, it should be plugged in when you game.

Battery : Recharging Speed

Dell quotes a 4 hour recharging time using the massive 240 watt charger, when the laptop is completely powered off.

We are glad to report that its real-world recharging speed is much, MUCH faster. To test it in a real world setting, we started charging at 10% with the display brightness set to 50% :

  • 25% : 21.5 minutes
  • 33% : 26.5 minutes
  • 40% : 35 minutes
  • 50% : 46 minutes
  • 60% : 57.5 minutes
  • 75% : 75 minutes
  • 90% : 91.5 minutes
  • 100% : 148 minutes

It charges really fast to about 90%, taking only just over 1.5 hours. However, the last 10% took much longer – an addition 56.5 minutes!

This gives it a battery life : recharging time ratio of 2.3:1 for office work. As a rule of thumb, you will need to recharge its battery about 26.5 minutes for every hour of battery life.

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Verdict + Award

The Dell G5 15 5500 does a good job of focusing on what’s important for gamers, wasting little on pointless aesthetic bling.

Its powerful 45-watt Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics will have no problem driving its Full HD display beyond 60 Hz, no matter what game you play.

It also comes with fast networking capabilities – Killer E2500 offering Gigabit LAN, and Killer AX1650i offering Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

And we love its large number of ports – three USB Type A ports, one USB Type C port, as well as an SD card reader and both HDMI and miniDP ports.

Powering all that is a large 68 Wh battery, but here’s a reality check – you can’t really game on-the-go for more than an hour or so. All that performance comes at a price – battery life.

Realistically, the Dell G5 15 5500 should be plugged into a wall socket whenever you game.

It is also a chunky and heavy laptop, no thanks to its large battery and the much higher cooling requirements for its powerful components.

But if all you want is an affordable gaming laptop that offers powerful gaming performance and a 144 Hz display, it’s hard to beat what Dell G5 15 5500 offers.

And here is what Dell offers over other gaming laptop brands – 2 years of premium on-site service!

Whatever happens to your G5 15 5500, just call Dell Support and they will either remotely solve the problem or send a technician to wherever you are to fix it.

That’s why we have no qualms awarding it our Reviewer’s Choice Award!

 

Dell G5 15 5500 : Where To Buy?

The Dell G5 15 5500 is available in the Interstellar Dark Cover colour, with a starting price of RM 4,499 (about US$1,083 / £847 / A$1,486 / S$1,482).

Here are some online purchase options :

 

Recommended Reading

Go Back To > First PageComputer | Gaming | Home

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Memory DQ Drive Strength from The Tech ARP BIOS Guide!

Memory DQ Drive Strength

Common Options : Not Reduced, Reduced 15%, Reduced 30%, Reduced 50%

 

Memory DQ Drive Strength : A Quick Review

The Memory DQ Drive Strength BIOS feature allows you to reduce the drive strength for the memory DQ (data) pins.

But it does not allow you to increase the drive strength because it has already been set to use the maximum drive strength by default.

When set to Not Reduced, the DQ drive strength will remain at full strength.

When set to Reduced 15%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 15%.

When set to Reduced 30%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 30%.

When set to Reduced 50%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 50%.

Generally, you should keep the memory data pins at full strength if you have multiple memory modules. The greater the DRAM load, the more memory drive strength you need.

But no matter how many modules you use, AMD recommends that you set this BIOS feature to Not Reduced if you are using a CG or D revision Athlon 64 or Opteron processor.

However, if you are only using a single memory module, you can reduce the DQ drive strength to improve signal quality and possibly achieve higher memory clock speeds.

If you hit a snag in overclocking your memory modules, you can also try reducing the DQ drive strength to achieve higher clock speeds, even if you are using multiple memory modules.

AMD recommends that you reduce the DQ drive strength for Revision E Athlon 64 and Opteron processors. For example, the DQ drive strength should be reduced by 50% if you are using a Revision E Athlon 64 or Opteron processor with memory modules based on the Samsung 512 Mbits TCCD SDRAM chip.

 

Memory DQ Drive Strength : The Full Details

Every Dual Inline Memory Module (DIMM) has 64 data (DQ) lines. These lines transfer data from the DRAM chips to the memory controller and vice versa.

No matter what kind of DRAM chips are used (whether it’s regular SDRAM, DDR SDRAM or DDR2 SDRAM), the 64 data lines allow it to transfer 64-bits of data every clock cycle.

Each DIMM also has a number of data strobe (DQS) lines. These serve to time the data transfers on the DQ lines. The number of DQS lines depends on the type of memory chip used.

DIMMs based on x4 DRAM chips have 16 DQS lines, while DIMMs using x8 DRAM chips have 8 DQS lines and DIMMs with x16 DRAM chips have only 4 DQS lines.

Memory data transfers begin with the memory controller sending its commands to the DIMM. If data is to be read from the DIMM, then DRAM chips on the DIMM will drive their DQ and DQS (data strobe) lines.

On the other hand, if data is to be written to the DIMM, the memory controller will drive its DQ and DQS lines instead.

If many output buffers (on either the DIMMs or the memory controller) drive their DQ lines simultaneously, they can cause a drop in the signal level with a momentary raise in the relative ground voltage.

This reduces the quality of the signal which can be problematic at high clock speeds. Increasing the drive strength of the DQ pins can help give it a higher voltage swing, improving the signal quality.

However, it is important to increase the DQ drive strength according to the DRAM load. Unnecessarily increasing the DQ drive strength can cause the signal to overshoot its rising and falling edges, as well as create more signal reflection.

All this increase signal noise, which ironically negates the increased signal strength provided by a higher drive strength. Therefore, it is sometimes useful to reduce the DQ drive strength.

With light DRAM loads, you can reduce the DQ drive strength to lower signal noise and improve the signal-noise ratio. Doing so will also reduce power consumption, although that is probably low on most people’s list of importance. In certain cases, it actually allows you to achieve a higher memory clock speed.

This is where the Memory DQ Drive Strength BIOS feature comes in. It allows you to reduce the drive strength for the memory data pins.

But it does not allow you to increase the drive strength because it has already been set to use the maximum drive strength by default.

When set to Not Reduced, the DQ drive strength will remain at full strength.

When set to Reduced 15%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 15%.

When set to Reduced 30%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 30%.

When set to Reduced 50%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 50%.

Generally, you should keep the memory data pins at full strength if you have multiple memory modules. The greater the DRAM load, the more memory drive strength you need.

But no matter how many modules you use, AMD recommends that you set this BIOS feature to Not Reduced if you are using a CG or D revision Athlon 64 or Opteron processor.

However, if you are only using a single memory module, you can reduce the DQ drive strength to improve signal quality and possibly achieve higher memory clock speeds.

If you hit a snag in overclocking your memory modules, you can also try reducing the DQ drive strength to achieve higher clock speeds, even if you are using multiple memory modules.

AMD recommends that you reduce the DQ drive strength for Revision E Athlon 64 and Opteron processors. For example, the DQ drive strength should be reduced by 50% if you are using a Revision E Athlon 64 or Opteron processor with memory modules based on the Samsung 512 Mbits TCCD SDRAM chip.

 

Recommended Reading

Go Back To > Tech ARP BIOS GuideComputer | Home

 

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The AMD Ryzen Gen 2 Reviewer’s Kit Revealed!

AMD just sent us the AMD Ryzen Gen 2 Reviewer’s Kit. This time, it’s two heavy boxes, instead of just one. Let’s take a look and see what they sent us, and what you should look forward to!

 

The AMD Ryzen Gen 2 Reviewer’s Kit

Earlier AMD Ryzen Reviewer’s Kits came in the form of a large black box, or a fancy wooden box. Each Reviewer’s Kit contains a complete set of CPU + motherboard + memory kit.

This time, they sent us a gray box, as well as the large black box. Let’s take a look inside the AMD Ryzen Gen 2 Reviewer’s Kit!

.

The AMD Ryzen Gen 2 Reviewer’s Kit contains the following components :

 

Why It Matters What’s In The Reviewer’s Kit

What AMD ships in these kits is important, because it shows us the motherboard and memory kit that AMD had earlier tested and confirmed to work best out of the box with their latest Ryzen processors.

AMD assured us that X470 motherboards that ship on launch date have been thoroughly tested by their partners for compatibility with the 2nd Gen AMD Ryzen processors.

But if you are an early adopter, and want a worry-free experience, it may be helpful to know what AMD has personally tested out and certified for use by reviewers.

 

Suggested Reading

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CES 2018 : The Acer Nitro 5 2018 Gaming Laptop Revealed!

LAS VEGAS (January 6, 2018) – Acer today announced its new Acer Nitro 5 2018 gaming laptop, designed for casual gamers seeking great performance in an attractive laser-textured design. Powered by Windows 10, the new 15-inch laptop is targeted towards mainstream users who enjoy the thrill of gaming with friends, and building their own network of like-minded players.

 

The Acer Nitro 5 2018 Gaming Laptop Revealed!

The Acer Nitro 5 2018 packs in the latest-generation AMD Radeon RX 560 graphics for faster rendering, improved lighting and texture details so users can immerse themselves in on-screen excitement. Gamers will also benefit from the latest AMD Ryzen Mobile processors for amazing performance, whether it be for gaming, content creation or multi-tasking applications.

The Nitro 5’s internal solid-state drive is available up to 512 GB, plenty of storage for the latest gaming titles, music and movies. The lightning-fast speeds of DDR4 RAM of up to 32 GB combined with the SSD means fast booting, loading and restarting in mere seconds so players can get to the action immediately.

Once in the throes of battle, Acer’s NitroSense utility allows the monitoring of the CPU/GPU, and adjustment of cooling fan speeds via Acer CoolBoost to keep them in optimal operation.

Designed for Visual Seduction

The Nitro 5’s chassis features a top cover with elegant laser texturing that brings bold refinement to the gaming laptop. A matte, crimson red hinge is a gorgeous yet understated accent that beautifully matches the futuristic design of the backlit keyboard.

The 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display produces brilliant imagery with crisp details, letting users track with precision the bloodshed that reigns down on their enemies. For better online collaboration, a front-facing HD web camera lets users strategize face-to-face, and then celebrate together as they bask in their post-match glory

Users can also easily broadcast games live with Mixer, directly from the Game bar on Windows 10 simply by pressing the Windows key plus G.

Immersive Excitement and Connections

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To round out the gaming experience, Acer’s Nitro 5 2018 features finely-tuned, high-quality speakers with Dolby Audio Premium and Acer TrueHarmony technology. This equips gamers with the necessary gear to hone in on the faintest sound of tip-toeing attackers, and then relish in the reverberating boom of a carefully-placed landmine.

The Nitro 5 2018 features all of the supporting technologies and connections the casual gamer needs: fast and reliable dual-stream 802.11ac wireless technology, a plethora of ports, including hyper-fast USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, and Gigabit Ethernet to enable users to enter any arena prepared to execute every mission at the highest level.

 

The Acer Nitro 2018 Pricing and Availability

The Acer Nitro 5 2018 will be available in North America in April with prices starting at US$799; and in EMEA in April with prices starting at €1,099.

Exact specifications, prices, and availability may vary by region

Go Back To > News | Home

 

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DCLK Feedback Delay – The Tech ARP BIOS Guide

DCLK Feedback Delay

Common Options : 0 ps, 150 ps, 300 ps, 450 ps, 600 ps, 750 ps, 900 ps, 1050 ps

 

Quick Review of DCLK Feedback Delay

DCLK is the clock signal sent by the SDRAM controller to the clock buffer of the SDRAM module. The SDRAM module will send back a feedback signal via DCLKFB or DCLKWR.

By comparing the wave forms from both DCLK and its feedback signal, it can be determined if both clocks are in the same phase. If the clocks are not in the same phase, this may result in loss of data, resulting in system instability.

The DCLK Feedback Delay BIOS feature allows you to fine-tune the DCLK-DLCK feedback phase alignment.

By default, it’s set to 0 ps or no delay.

If the clocks are not in phase, you can add appropriate amounts of delay (in picoseconds) to the DLCK feedback signal until both signals are in the same phase. Just increase the amount of delay until the system is stable.

However, if you are not experiencing any stability issues, it’s highly recommended that you leave the delay at 0 ps. There’s no performance advantage is increasing or reducing the amount of feedback delay.

 

Details of DCLK Feedback Delay

DCLK is the clock signal sent by the SDRAM controller to the clock buffer of the SDRAM module. The SDRAM module will send back a feedback signal via DCLKFB or DCLKWR.

This feedback signal is used by the SDRAM controller to determine when it can write data to the SDRAM module. The main idea of this system is to ensure that both clock phases are properly aligned for the proper delivery of data.

By comparing the wave forms from both DCLK and its feedback signal, it can be determined if both clocks are in the same phase. If the clocks are not in the same phase, this may result in loss of data, resulting in system instability.

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The DCLK Feedback Delay BIOS feature allows you to fine-tune the DCLK-DLCK feedback phase alignment.

By default, it’s set to 0 ps or no delay.

If the clocks are not in phase, you can add appropriate amounts of delay (in picoseconds) to the DLCK feedback signal until both signals are in the same phase. Just increase the amount of delay until the system is stable.

However, if you are not experiencing any stability issues, it’s highly recommended that you leave the delay at 0 ps. There’s no performance advantage is increasing or reducing the amount of feedback delay.

Go Back To > The Tech ARP BIOS Guide | Home

 

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Idle Cycle Limit – The BIOS Optimization Guide

Idle Cycle Limit

Common Options : 0T, 16T, 32T, 64T, 96T, Infinite, Auto

 

Quick Review of Idle Cycle Limit

The Idle Cycle Limit BIOS feature sets the number of idle cycles that is allowed before the memory controller forces open pages to close and precharge. It is based on the concept of temporal locality.

According to this concept, the longer the open page is left idle, the less likely it will be accessed again before it needs to be closed and the bank precharged. Therefore, it would be better to prematurely close the page and precharge the bank so that the next page can be opened quickly when a data request comes along.

The Idle Cycle Limit BIOS option can be set to a variety of clock cycles from 0T to 96T. This determines the number of clock cycles open pages are allowed to idle for before they are closed and the bank precharged.

If you select Infinite, the memory controller will never precharge the open pages prematurely. The open pages will be left activated until they need to be closed for a bank precharge.

If you select Auto, the memory controller will use the manufacturer’s preset default setting. Most manufacturers use a default value of 16T, which forces the memory controller to close the open pages once sixteen idle cycles have passed.

For general desktop use, it is recommended that you set this feature to 8T. It is important to keep the pages open for some time, to improve the chance of page hits. Yet, they should not be kept open too long as temporal locality dictates that the longer a page is kept idle, the less likely the next data request will require data from it.

For applications (i.e. servers) that perform a lot of random accesses, it is advisable that you select 0T as subsequent data requests would most likely be fulfilled by pages other than the ones currently open. Closing those open pages will force the bank to precharge earlier, allowing faster accesses to the other pages for the next data request. There’s also the added benefit of increased data integrity due to more frequent refreshes.

 

Details of Idle Cycle Limit

DRAM chips are internally divided into memory banks, with each bank made up of an array of memory bits arranged in rows and columns. You can think of the array as an Excel page, with many cells arranged in rows and columns, each capable of storing a single bit of data.

When the memory controller wants to access data within the DRAM chip, it first activates the relevant bank and row. All memory bits within the activated row, also known as a page, are loaded into a buffer. The page that is loaded into the buffer is known as an open page. Data can then be read from the open page by activating the relevant columns.

The open page can be kept in the buffer for a certain amount of time before it has to be closed for the bank to be precharged. While it is opened, any subsequent data requests to the open page can be performed without delay. Such data accesses are known as page hits. Needless to say, page hits are desirable because they allow data to be accessed quickly.

However, keeping the page open is a double-edged sword. A page conflict can occur if there is a request for data on an inactive row. As there is already an open page, that page must first be closed and only then can the correct page be opened. This is worse than a page miss, which occurs when there is a request for data on an inactive row and the bank does not have any open page. The correct row can immediately be activated because there is no open page to close.

Therefore, the key to maximizing performance lies in achieving as many page hits as possible with the least number of page conflicts and page misses. One way of doing so is by implementing a counter to keep track of the number of idle cycles and closing open pages after a predetermined number of idle cycles.

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This is where the Idle Cycle Limit BIOS feature comes in. It sets the number of idle cycles that is allowed before the memory controller forces open pages to close and precharge. It is based on the concept of temporal locality.

According to this concept, the longer the open page is left idle, the less likely it will be accessed again before it needs to be closed and the bank precharged. Therefore, it would be better to prematurely close the page and precharge the bank so that the next page can be opened quickly when a data request comes along.

The Idle Cycle Limit BIOS option can be set to a variety of clock cycles from 0T to 96T. This determines the number of clock cycles open pages are allowed to idle for before they are closed and the bank precharged. The default value is 16T which forces the memory controller to close the open pages once sixteen idle cycles have passed.

Increasing this BIOS feature to more than the default of 16T forces the memory controller to keep the activated pages opened longer during times of no activity. This allows for quicker data access if the next data request can be satisfied by the open pages.

However, this is limited by the refresh cycle already set by the BIOS. This means the open pages will automatically close when the memory bank needs to be recharged, even if the number of idle cycles have not reached the Idle Cycle Limit. So, this BIOS option can only be used to force the precharging of the memory bank before the set refresh cycle but not to actually delay the refresh cycle.

Reducing the number of cycles from the default of 16T to 0T forces the memory controller to close all open pages once there are no data requests. In short, the open pages are refreshed as soon as there are no further data requests. This may increase the efficiency of the memory subsystem by masking the bank precharge during idle cycles. However, prematurely closing the open pages may convert what could have been a page hit (and satisfied immediately) into a page miss which will have to wait for the bank to precharge and the same page reopened.

Because refreshes do not occur that often (usually only about once every 64 msec), the impact of refreshes on memory performance is really quite minimal. The apparent benefits of masking the refreshes during idle cycles will not be noticeable, especially since memory systems these days already use bank interleaving to mask refreshes.

With a 0T setting, data requests are also likely to get stalled because even a single idle cycle will cause the memory controller to close all open pages! In desktop applications, most memory reads follow the spatial locality concept where if one data bit is read, chances are high that the next data bit will also need to be read. That’s why closing open pages prematurely using DRAM Idle Timer will most likely cause reduced performance in desktop applications.

On the other hand, using a 0 or 16 idle cycles limit will ensure that the memory cells will be refreshed more often, thereby preventing the loss of data due to insufficiently refreshed memory cells. Forcing the memory controller to close open pages more often will also ensure that in the event of a very long read, the pages can be opened long enough to fulfil the data request.

If you select Infinite, the memory controller will never precharge the open pages prematurely. The open pages will be left activated until they need to be closed for a bank precharge.

If you select Auto, the memory controller will use the manufacturer’s preset default setting. Most manufacturers use a default value of 16T, which forces the memory controller to close the open pages once sixteen idle cycles have passed.

For general desktop use, it is recommended that you set this feature to 16T. It is important to keep the pages open for some time, to improve the chance of page hits. Yet, they should not be kept open too long as temporal locality dictates that the longer a page is kept idle, the less likely the next data request will require data from it.

Alternatively, you can greatly increase the value of the Refresh Interval or Refresh Mode Select feature to boost bandwidth and use this BIOS feature to maintain the data integrity of the memory cells. As ultra-long refresh intervals (i.e. 64 or 128 µsec) can cause memory cells to lose their contents, setting a low Idle Cycle Limit like 0T or 16T allows the memory cells to be refreshed more often, with a high chance of those refreshes being done during idle cycles.

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This appears to combine the best of both worlds – a long bank active period when the memory controller is being stressed and more refreshes when the memory controller is idle. However, this is not a reliable way of ensuring sufficient refresh cycles since it depends on the vagaries of memory usage to provide sufficient idle cycles to trigger the refreshes.

If your memory subsystem is under extended load, there may not be any idle cycle to trigger an early refresh. This may cause the memory cells to lose their contents. Therefore, it is still recommended that you maintain a proper refresh interval and set this feature to 16T for desktops.

For applications (i.e. servers) that perform a lot of random accesses, it is advisable that you select 0T as subsequent data requests would most likely be fulfilled by pages other than the ones currently open. Closing those open pages will force the bank to precharge earlier, allowing faster accesses to the other pages for the next data request. There’s also the added benefit of increased data integrity due to more frequent refreshes.

Go Back To > The BIOS Optimization Guide | Home

 

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Power Your AMD Ryzen With Corsair DDR4, Hydro Cooler & PSU

FREMONT, CA – February 28th 2017 – CORSAIR today announced its extensive compatibility for the groundbreaking new range of AMD Ryzen processors and the AM4 platform. With a completely new CPU architecture, chipset and CPU socket, AMD Ryzen demands the latest in performance PC hardware. With a wide range of compatible DDR4 memory, liquid CPU coolers and PSUs, CORSAIR has everything enthusiasts need to make AMD Ryzen CPUs run to the full extent of their abilities.

“CORSAIR is uniquely positioned for the launch of AMD Ryzen with an outstanding range of not just high-performance DDR4 memory, but liquid CPU cooling and power supplies as well,” said Travis Kirsch Director, Product Management, Client at AMD. “CORSAIR offers everything system builders need to get the absolute best performance from AMD Ryzen and the new AM4 platform.”

 

Ryzen-Compatible Corsair Memory, Watercooler & PSU Models

AMD Ryzen CPUs require the latest DDR4 memory and CORSAIR has a growing range of AMD Ryzen qualified high-performance DDR4 memory, with more kits being certified for Ryzen processors every day. Launching with Vengeance LPX 16GB, 32GB and 64GB kits running at 2,133MHz and 2,400MHz, and Dominator Platinum 16GB running at 3,000MHz, CORSAIR has the DDR4 memory to match your choice of AMD Ryzen build.

AMD Ryzen processors dynamically adjust and optimize performance based on power and temperature conditions; lower temperatures mean higher clock speeds and better benchmarks. With the addition of a CORSAIR Hydro Series liquid CPU cooler, you’re able to cool Ryzen processors to temperatures substantially lower than when using standard air cooling, allowing for higher clock speeds, better performance and easier overclocking.

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AMD Ryzen processors also bring an entirely new CPU socket, AM4, and the CORSAIR Hydro Series H60, H110i and H100i are ready right out of the box to deliver superior liquid CPU cooling to socket AM4 Ryzen CPUs. The rest of the CORSAIR Hydro Series range of coolers are also fully compatible with AMD Ryzen and AM4 via an additional mounting bracket. CORSAIR is proud to announce that, for a limited time, an AM4 bracket will be supplied, upon request, to all qualifying Hydro Series owners free of charge, including shipping to EU, USA and select other countries. Brackets start shipping on March 2nd.

What’s the use of performance without the power to supply it? CORSAIR PSUs have been trusted by PC enthusiasts for over a decade, winning hundreds of industry and reviewer awards thanks to a complete commitment to quality, reliable and performance. Now that legacy comes to AMD Ryzen, with every CORSAIR PSU fully compatible with all new AMD X370, B350 and X320 chipset motherboards. Equip the legendary 80-PLUS Titanium AX1500i, the low-noise 80-PLUS GOLD RMx series, or the dependable 80-PLUS Bronze CX series to complete your Ryzen system.

 

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Digital Locked Loop (DLL) – The BIOS Optimization Guide

Digital Locked Loop (DLL)

Common Options : Enabled, Disabled

 

Quick Review

The Digital Locked Loop (DLL) BIOS option is a misnomer of the Delay-Locked Loop (DLL). It is a digital circuit that aligns the data strobe signal (DQS) with the data signal (DQ) to ensure proper data transfer of DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 memory. However, it can be disabled to allow the memory chips to run beyond a fixed frequency range.

When enabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will operate normally, aligning the DQS signal with the DQ signal to ensure proper data transfer. However, the memory chips should operate within the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

When disabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will not align the DQS signal with the DQ signal. However, this allows you to run the memory chips beyond the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

It is recommended that you keep this BIOS feature enabled at all times. The digital locked loop circuit plays a key role in keeping the signals in sync to meet the tight timings required for double data-rate operations.

It should only be disabled if you absolutely must run the memory modules at clock speeds way below what they are rated for, and then only if you are unable to run the modules stably with this BIOS feature enabled. Although it is not a recommended step to take, running without an operational DLL is possible at low clock speeds due to the looser timing requirements.

It should never be disabled if you are having trouble running the memory modules at higher clock speeds. Timing requirements become stricter as the clock speed goes up. Disabling the DLL will almost certainly result in the improper operation of the memory chips.

 

Details

DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 SDRAM deliver data on both rising and falling edges of the signal. This requires much tighter timings, necessitating the use of a data strobe signal (DQS) generated by differential clocks. This data strobe is then aligned to the data signal (DQ) using a delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit.

The DQS and DQ signals must be aligned with minimal skew to ensure proper data transfer. Otherwise, data transferred on the DQ signal will be read incorrectly, causing the memory contents to be corrupted and the system to malfunction.

However, the delay-locked loop circuit of every DDR, DDR2, DDR3 or DDR4 chip is tuned for a certain fixed frequency range. If you run the chip beyond that frequency rate, the DLL circuit may not work correctly. That’s why DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 SDRAM chips can have problems running at clock speeds slower than what they are rated for.

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If you encounter such a problem, it is possible to disable the DLL. Disabling the DLL will allow the chip to run beyond the frequency range for which the DLL is tuned for. This is where the Digital Locked Loop (DLL) BIOS feature comes in.

When enabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will operate normally, aligning the DQS signal with the DQ signal to ensure proper data transfer. However, the memory chips should operate within the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

When disabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will not align the DQS signal with the DQ signal. However, this allows you to run the memory chips beyond the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

Note : The Digital Locked Loop (DLL) BIOS option is a misnomer of the Delay-Locked Loop (DLL).

It is recommended that you keep this BIOS feature enabled at all times. The delay-locked loop circuit plays a key role in keeping the signals in sync to meet the tight timings required for double data-rate operations.

It should only be disabled if you absolutely must run the memory modules at clock speeds way below what they are rated for, and then only if you are unable to run the modules stably with this BIOS feature enabled. Although it is not a recommended step to take, running without an operational DLL is possible at low clock speeds due to the looser timing requirements.

It should never be disabled if you are having trouble running the memory modules at higher clock speeds. Timing requirements become stricter as the clock speed goes up. Disabling the DLL will almost certainly result in the improper operation of the memory chips.

 

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QNAP TES-x85U Enterprise-Class NAS Unveiled

Taipei, Taiwan, 26 May 2016 – Before the upcoming COMPUTEX Taipei, QNAP Systems, Inc. today gave a sneak-preview of its first “dual NAS OS options system” – the enterprise-class TES-x85U series NAS. The brand-new TES-x85U allows users to install the FreeBSD-based QES or Linux-based QTS into a single rackmount NAS for versatility and high-availability, providing the utmost flexibility for businesses to deploy the ideal operating system on multiple TES-x85U units based on their needs and goals.

 

QNAP TES-X85U

The QNAP TES-x85U series uses 12Gb/s SAS controllers and includes two models (18-bay TES-1885U and 30-bay TES-3085U). Both models are powered by an advanced 14nm Intel Xeon D SoC processor with an integrated PCH (6-core CPU for TES-1885U and 8-core CPU for TES-3085U). It is worth noting that the all-SSD TES-3085U provides up to 24 drive bays and 6 dedicated SSD slots for caching in a 2U rackmount form factor, presenting the best choice for high-performance, all-flash storage.

The all-flash TES-3085U features an excellent combination of hardware and software that delivers high expandability, high reliability, and the tools necessary to satisfy IOPS-demanding workloads and applications.

  1. Intel Xeon D multi-core processor – 14nm energy-efficient SoC, supporting DDR4 RAM and PCIe Gen.3 per-lane throughput.
  2. DDR4 2133 MHz memory – Supports four DDR4 RAM modules for UDIMM and ECC RDIMM (up to 64GB UDIMM RAM, up to 128GB RDIMM RAM).
  3. 12Gb/s SAS controllers – Supports 12Gb/s SAS hard drives and SSD for fast data transfer and highly-reliable storage.
  4. Hot swappable fans – Four 6cm hot-swappable cooling fans for quick and easy replacement.
  5. Built-in 10GbE SFP+ port x2 – Boosts iSCSI/NFS/CIFS network transfer.
  6. 2.5” SATA SSD slot x6 – Used for caching, high-performance storage pools, or the QES OS drive.
  7. PCIe slot x3 – PCIe Gen.3 supports 10GbE/ 40GbE adapters and PCIe NVMe SSD.
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The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard Review Rev. 2.0

ASRock is a relatively new motherboard manufacturer, and it shows in their designs. They are more willing to come up with edgier designs, with a particular emphasis on marketing-friendly features. Today, we are going to take a look at one of their Intel Z170-based motherboards – the ASRock Z170 Extreme4.

Updated @ 2016-05-03 : Updated the review with additional information, particularly with regards to its PCI Express and SATA Express ports.

 

ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Specifications

SpecificationsASRock Z170 Extreme4
ChipsetIntel Z170
CPU Support6th Generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors (Socket 1151)
- Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPUs
- Supports ASRock BCLK & Hyper BCLK Engine Full-range Overclocking
CPU Power10-phase digital power design
Memory SupportUp to 64 GB of non-ECC, unbuffered DDR4 memory
- Four DDR4 DIMM slots with 15 μ gold-plated contacts (dual-channel)
- Supports up to DDR4-3866+ (OC) with a single memory module
- Supports DDR4-3600 (OC) / DDR4-3200 (OC) / DDR4-2933 (OC) / DDR4-2800 (OC) / DDR4-2400 (OC) / DDR4-2133
- Supports ECC UDIMM memory modules (operating in non-ECC mode)
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0
BIOSTwo 128 Mbits AMI UEFI BIOS with multilingual GUI support
- Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
- ACPI 5.0 & SMBIOS 2.7 Compliant
- Supports CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA voltage adjustments
Processor Graphics Support- Supports Intel HD Graphics with up to 1792 MB shared memory
- Built-in DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 output supports triple monitors
- Maximum DVI-D resolution : 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Maximum HDMI resolution : 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
- Maximum DisplayPort resolution : 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Audio SupportASRock Purity Sound 3
- Realtek ALC1150 7.1-channel HD audio codec
- Nichicon Fine Gold series capacitors, 115 dB SND DAC with two Ti NE5532 amplifiers
LAN SupportIntel I219V Gigabit LAN
- Supports Energy-Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports Lightning & ESD Protection
Expansion Slots3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots
- x16 with single card / x8-x8 with two cards / x8-x8-x4 with three cards
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX and CrossFireX
- Supports NVIDIA Quad SLI and SLI

3 x PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots (Flexible PCIe design)
Storage Ports3 x SATA Express (10 Gb/s) ports with RAID 0/1/5/10 support
- each can be converted into two SATA 3 (6.0 Gb/s) ports

1 x Ultra M.2 socket
- Supports Type 2230 / 2242 / 2260 / 2280 / 22110 M.2 modules
- Supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen 3 x4
Connectors- 1 x COM Port Header
- 1 x TPM Header
- 1 x Power LED and Speaker Header
- 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 3 x Chassis Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
- 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
- 1 x Front Panel Audio Connector
- 1 x Thunderbolt™ AIC Connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 2.0 ports) (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.0 Header (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
- 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
Rear Panel I/O- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x DVI-D Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 6 x USB 3.0 Ports (Intel Z170) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch
- HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Hardware Sensors- CPU & chassis temperature sensors and fan tachometers
- Case Open detection
- Voltage monitoring for +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore, DRAM, VPPM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA
Form FactorFull ATX
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 10 / 8 / 8.1 / 7
Certifications- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

 

Unboxing The ASRock Z170 Extreme4

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 comes in a typical motherboard box – a large cardboard box with its key features printed on the underside. Let us show you what’s inside the box in this unboxing video…

Inside, the box is divided into two layers by a simple cardboard insert. Under it is the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard in an anti-static bag with a pink polyethylene anti-static sheet wrapped around it.

When you remove everything, you will find the following items :

Page 2 > The Motherboard, CPU Power & Performance, DDR4 Memory

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The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 is a full ATX-sized motherboard that boasts the following key features :

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  1. ASRock Super Alloy
  2. Supports 6th Generation Intel Core Processors (Socket 1151)
  3. Digi Power, 10 Power Phase design
  4. Supports DDR4 3866+(OC) memory modules
  5. 3 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  6. NVIDIA Quad SLI, AMD 3-Way CrossFireX
  7. Graphics Output Options: DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2
  8. Supports Triple Monitor
  9. 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound 3 & DTS Connect
  10. 3 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
  11. 2 USB 3.1 (1 Type-C & 1 Type-A), 8 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 6 Rear)
  12. Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop

We also prepared a special video to show you the key design features of the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard. Enjoy!

 

CPU Power & Performance

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard features a 10-phase power design. This is most likely an 8+2 design, with 8 phases dedicated to the CPU. That ensures a cooler and more efficient power conversion compared to voltage regulator modules (VRM) with fewer phases. Its MOSFETs and inductors are kept cool by large aluminium alloy heatsinks, which helps ensure reliability and longevity of the VRM.

The Z170 Extreme4 uses digital pulse-width modulation (PWM) to control its VRM. The PWM is critical in ensuring a stable power supply. Although high quality (and expensive) analog PWM exists, digital PWM allows for more accurate control of the power frequency and modulation.

ASRock also equipped the Z170 Extreme4 with Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors, which not only boasts faster response times and lower voltage noise but also a much longer lifespan (12,000 hours @ 105 °C). In general – this motherboard is designed to last.

To support CPU coolers with two fans, or a DIMM cooler, the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 has two CPU fan headers placed at the top of the board, right next to the four DIMM slots. Finally, the Z170 Extreme4 features an external base clock generator, which gives you finer control of the BLCK frequency- in 0.0625 MHz steps. Of course, the utility of such fine control of the BCLK clock is questionable…

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DDR4 Memory Slots

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard has four DDR4 DIMM slots, their contacts gold-plated to protect them against oxidation and corrosion. Even though the Intel Z170 chipset only supports non-ECC memory, these DIMM slots can accept ECC memory modules – with their ECC capability disabled.

The Intel Z170 chipset only supports DDR4 memory up to 2133 MHz in frequency, but the Z170 Extreme4 allows for overclocked memory clock speeds of up to 3600 MHz with selected modules. It even supports 3866 MHz, but only if a single memory module is installed.

Page 3 > PCI Express, Ultra M.2, SATA Ports

 

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PCI Express Slots

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard has 6 PCI Express slots – 3 full-sized PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, and 3 much smaller PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots. The top-most PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (PCIE2) operates at full x16 speed with a single card.

If you have two graphics cards, you will need to install them in PCIE2 and PCIE4 and they will both run at x8 speed. If you install a third graphics cards in the PCIE6 slot, it will only run at x4 speed.

The three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots are of the flexible design. That basically means an open-ended slot. This allows you to use any PCI Express card in those x1 slots, even x16 cards. The only downside is that they will only run at x1 speed.

 

Ultra M.2 Socket

The Ultra M.2 socket is a unique ASRock feature. The M.2 socket is usually connected to the Z170 chipset using two PCI Express lanes. ASRock has instead connected the M.2 socket directly to the Intel Core processor using four PCI Express lanes. This not only doubles the maximum bandwidth to 32 Gbits/s (4 GB/s), it also reduces the M.2 socket’s latency.

Of course, you will need an M.2 SSD that supports PCIe x4. Even so, PCIe x2 SSDs may benefit slightly from the lower latencies associated with the Ultra M.2 socket being directly connected to the CPU, bypassing the Z170 chipset.

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SATA Ports

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 specifications officially quotes 3 SATA Express ports as well as 6 standard SATA 3 ports. However, that is not really the case – it only comes with 3 SATA Express ports.

Of course, each SATA Express port can be “converted” into 2 standard SATA 3 ports. After all, the SATA Express port is really just two SATA 3 ports with a smaller PCI Express port that delivers two PCIe lanes. So you can attach up to 3 SATA Express devices, or 6 SATA devices, or any combinations in between.

Depending on how many drives you intend to use in your system, this may or may not be sufficient. The stacked side-facing SATA ports also may prove to be troublesome. In tight cases, you may not be able to access the lower SATA Express port, depriving you of the opportunity to attach a SATA Express device, or two SATA devices.

Page 4 > Purity Sound 3, Goodies For Techies, I/O Ports & Armor, Other Accessories

 

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ASRock Purity Sound 3

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard comes with their Purity Sound 3 audio solution. It is a combination of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec with a 115 dB SNR DAC, two Ti NE5532 amplifiers as well as EMI and PCB shielding.

One of the Ti NE5532 amplifiers is used as a differential amplifier, which avoids the distortion caused by audio capacitors. The other Ti NE5532 amplifier is dedicated to driving the headphone port, allowing you to use high-impedance headphones without a separate amplifier or sound card.

 

Goodies For Techies

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 was designed with techies in mind. It sports two 128 Mbit BIOS chips, with a physical switch. This allows you to quickly switch to the backup BIOS if you make an unrecoverable mistake in the BIOS setting, or the BIOS is corrupted after a flash failure.

They also include physical Power and Reset buttons on the motherboard, for enthusiasts who prefer to use the Z170 Extreme4 outside of a chassis. There is also a 2-digit Dr. Debug LED display that displays an error code during any failure. Very useful indeed.

 

I/O Ports & Armor

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 has a ton of I/O ports at the rear, including a legacy PS/2 port, a physical Reset button, two USB 3.1 ports (one Type A, one Type C) as well as 6 standard USB 3.0 ports. In addition to the 5 audio and line-in port, it also sports a single Gigabit LAN port. For display purposes, it boasts a DVI-D port, a HDMI port and a DisplayPort.

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 also features what ASRock calls their I/O Armor. It is ostensibly a protective cover that protects the rear I/O ports from static damage. Frankly speaking, this is only useful if you are using the motherboard outside of a chassis. When installed in a chassis, that job is fulfilled by the I/O shield (also included) that is installed into the chassis.

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Other Accessories

Here is a closer look at the other accessories included in the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 package – the manual and driver CD. A case sticker can be found inside the driver CD sleeve.

It also comes with four SATA 3 cables and an SLI bridge card. There is a small plastic bag with a single small screw – this is used to lock the Ultra M.2 SSD in place.

Page 5 > Our Verdict & Award

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Our Verdict

ASRock has been accused of focusing a bit too much on marketing, at the expense of quality. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard.

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 boasts a 10-phase power design with a digital PWM and Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors. The entire power supply is further cooled by large aluminium-alloy heatsinks. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring an efficient power conversion, stable power supply and longer lifespan.

We also like the fact that they added support for USB 3.1. Not just the more common Type C, they also added the larger Type A port. Their Ultra M.2 socket is also a nice touch although it has minimal effect on your M.2 SSD’s performance unless it supports PCIe x4.

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Audiophiles will appreciate the better audio quality courtesy of its Purity Sound 3 module. Enthusiasts who prefer using the motherboard “in the nude” will love their addition of physical Power and Reset buttons as well as a Dr. Debug LED.

There is plenty of expansion options with 3 full-sized PCI Express x16 slots and 3 small PCIe x1 slots. The PCIe x1 slots are even the “flexible” type that will accept any PCI Express card.

The only downside is the limited number of SATA ports. This will be a problem in tight cases because 4 of them are stacked and bent perpendicularly. Only two of the SATA ports are conveniently located at the lower right corner of the motherboard.

Overall, this is one sweet Intel Z170 motherboard, especially for a hardware enthusiast who prefers not to use a chassis. We think it deserves at least our Reviewers’ Choice Award. Congratulations, ASRock!

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Apacer BLADE FIRE DDR4 Launched

Apacer is pleased to announce its groundbreaking achievement in DDR history, BLADE FIRE DDR4 with heartbeat LED, perfectly for gaming, overclocking, and M.O.D enthusiasts. It is astonishing to see speed at 3200MHz with LED pulsing at 44 beats per minute yet it is still consuming low voltage at 1.35V.

It is compatible with Intel Z170 platforms, providing unprecedented performance and energy-saving efficiency. Backed by the world’s best technology in industrial memory module and storage, BLADE FIRE DDR4 makes users on fire in the gaming / overclocking star-war.

 

Apacer BLADE FIRE DDR4

Respectable capacity of 32GB, frequency up to 3200MHz  – High stability & compatibility

The world-class BLADE FIRE DDR4 is an advanced generation of Blade DDR4 which was published in Feb 2015, featured a sensational armory design on heat spreader as well as LED lights heartbeat effect.

The meticulously screened ICs allow the optimized stability and compatibility while playing in the heavy workload games. BLADE FIRE is available in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities in dual-module package and comes equipped with total capacity of 32GB(16GB X 2).

The fastest memory kit available is clocked at 3200MHz, and BLADE FIRE kits are ranged in four different clock speeds from 2400MHz 1.2V to 3200MHz 1.35V with 16-16-18-38. The XMP 2.0 support for simple overclocking setup delivers instant top-level performance for motherboards with Intel’s 100 Series.

Not only low latency for outstanding DDR4 performance but also lower power consumption with less heat and higher reliability provides users the fastest speeds and the highest stability when it comes to gaming and overclocking.

LED heartbeat, Light saber on fire – Aggressive Look with stylish, asymmetrical armory design

The heartbeat LED on top edge of the module undoubtedly brings out the spirit of BLADE FIRE, to win and shine powerfully on battlefield as every beat embodies the enhancing HP(health point). The four modules altogether on motherboard show various LED light patterns, just like a battling saber on fire in the battleground. The design truly adds some serious bling which offers the users gimmicks to show off while meeting their needs with respect to exceptional functionality.

When speaking of the design of BLADE FIRE, the black heat spreader is made from quality aluminum material with matte finish. The metallic silver saber in the middle shows an aggressive look of a gaming memory module. On top edge the serration part of a saber as well as shank at the rear displays an asymmetrical design which presenting an extreme aesthetics.

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With distinguished speed and stability as well as a stylish design of LED light saber on motherboard, BLADE FIRE allows users to experience the most enjoyable and exciting game play ever. If you’re looking for the fastest and coolest memory module available, BLADE FIRE is the one and only you have to look at. Feel the supremacy and prominence of Apacer BLADE FIRE!

 

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Dynamic Counter – BIOS Optimization Guide

Dynamic Counter

Common Options : Enabled, Disabled

 

Quick Review of Dynamic Counter

The Dynamic Counter BIOS feature controls the memory controller’s dynamic page conflict prediction mechanism. This mechanism dynamically adjusts the idle cycle limit to achieve a better page hit-miss ratio, improving memory performance.

When enabled, the memory controller will begin with the idle cycle limit set by Idle Cycle Limit and use its dynamic page conflict prediction mechanism to adjust the limit upwards or downwards according to the number of page misses and page conflicts.

It will increase the idle cycle limit when there is a page miss, to increase the probability of a future page hit.

It will decrease the idle cycle limit when there is a page conflict, to reduce the probability of a future page conflict.

When disabled, the memory controller will just use the idle cycle limit set by Idle Cycle Limit. It will not use its dynamic page conflict prediction mechanism to adjust the limit.

Unlike Idle Cycle Limit, the dynamic page conflict mechanism takes the guesswork out of the equation. So, it is recommended that you enable this BIOS feature for better memory performance, irrespective of whether you are configuring a desktop or server.

However, there might be some server users who prefer to force the memory controller to close all open pages whenever there is an idle cycle, to ensure sufficient refreshing of the memory cells. Although it might seem unnecessary, even extreme, for some; server administrators might prefer to err on the side of caution. If so, you should disable Dynamic Counter and set Idle Cycle Limit to 0T.

 

Details of Dynamic Counter

DRAM chips are internally divided into memory banks, with each bank made up of an array of memory bits arranged in rows and columns. You can think of the array as an Excel page, with many cells arranged in rows and columns, each capable of storing a single bit of data.

When the memory controller wants to access data within the DRAM chip, it first activates the relevant bank and row. All memory bits within the activated row, also known as a page, are loaded into a buffer. The page that is loaded into the buffer is known as an open page. Data can then be read from the open page by activating the relevant columns.

The open page can be kept in the buffer for a certain amount of time before it has to be closed for the bank to be precharged. While it is opened, any subsequent data requests to the open page can be performed without delay. Such data accesses are known as page hits. Needless to say, page hits are desirable because they allow data to be accessed quickly.

However, keeping the page open is a double-edged sword. A page conflict can occur if there is a request for data on an inactive row. As there is already an open page, that page must first be closed and only then can the correct page be opened. This is worse than a page miss, which occurs when there is a request for data on an inactive row and the bank does not have any open page. The correct row can immediately be activated because there is no open page to close.

Therefore, the key to maximizing performance lies in achieving as many page hits as possible with the least number of page conflicts and page misses. One way of doing so is by implementing a counter to keep track of the number of idle cycles and closing open pages after a predetermined number of idle cycles. This is the basis behind Idle Cycle Limit.

To further improve the page hit-miss ratio, AMD developed dynamic page conflict prediction. Instead of closing open pages after a predetermined number of idle cycles, the memory controller can keep track of the number of page misses and page conflicts. It then dynamically adjusts the idle cycle limit to achieve a better page hit-miss ratio.

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The Dynamic Counter BIOS feature controls the memory controller’s dynamic page conflict prediction mechanism.

When enabled, the memory controller will begin with the idle cycle limit set by Idle Cycle Limit and use its dynamic page conflict prediction mechanism to adjust the limit upwards or downwards according to the number of page misses and page conflicts.

It will increase the idle cycle limit when there is a page miss. This is based on the presumption that the page requested is likely to be the one opened earlier. Keeping that page opened longer could have converted the page miss into a page hit. Therefore, it will increase the idle cycle limit to increase the probability of a future page hit.

It will decrease the idle cycle limit when there is a page conflict. Closing that page earlier would have converted the page conflict into a page miss. Therefore, the idle cycle limit will be decreased to reduce the probability of a future page conflict.

When disabled, the memory controller will just use the idle cycle limit set by Idle Cycle Limit. It will not use its dynamic page conflict prediction mechanism to adjust the limit.

Unlike Idle Cycle Limit, the dynamic page conflict mechanism takes the guesswork out of the equation. So, it is recommended that you enable this BIOS feature for better memory performance, irrespective of whether you are configuring a desktop or server.

However, there might be some server users who prefer to force the memory controller to close all open pages whenever there is an idle cycle, to ensure sufficient refreshing of the memory cells. Although it might seem unnecessary, even extreme, for some; server administrators might prefer to err on the side of caution. If so, you should disable Dynamic Counter and set Idle Cycle Limit to 0T.

 

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Team Group Dark Pro DDR4 Overclocking RAM Launched

Team Group Inc., the world’s leading memory brand, today announced the launch of the all new generation of overclocking memory for gaming – Dark Pro Series. Since every motherboard manufacturer is focusing on competing in Skylake platform, besides model for the mainstream Z170 motherboard, we also provide other advanced models for overclocking enthusiasts and gamers to test their passion.

Team Group is pushing the overclocking limit of our all new Dark Pro series for targeted overclocking enthusiasts & gamers. Combining extreme performance and stability that hardcore gaming required, we will provide gamers the finest gaming experience with our solid technology strength.

Dark Pro’s all new cooling design combines the low key style of the Dark series and the multi colors design of the Vulcan series. The reinforced aluminum heat spreader with a punched dots design concept is used to express the hidden strength within. It also matches with the word of Dark Pro printed on the black Tungsten steel heat spreader. No matter it’s for assembling or upgrading, gamers will be satisfied with the excellent performance and the overall visual design.

Dark Pro series have a total of three frequencies: DDR4 3,000/3,200/3,333. In addition to the standard 4GBx2 dual channel version, we also provide 8GBx2 Kits gaming package for advanced gamers. Besides the Dark Pro and the previous released Xtreem for Skylake, all series of Team Group’s DDR4 memory has all been on sale. If you are a gamer who want to experience an all new generation of Skylake’s extreme performance, then you must not miss the overclocking series of Team Xtreem / Dark Pro / Dark / Vulcan / Zeus.

This is a reminder that platform changing comes with risk. You might come across compatibility issues when investing on overclocking accessories. Please choose the easy overclocking, most stable and highly compatible Team Group Dark Pro series, for it will give you the best performance and smoothest gaming experience you ever have.

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