A TEXT POST

ASUS Z97-AR Motherboard Review

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/asus-z97-ar-review/

ASUS Z97-AR Motherboard Review


I am always on the verge of pulling the trigger when it comes to purchasing a new motherboard.  However, the dollar spent to performance gained ratio plays out like a bad commercial in my head.  These days, motherboards are becoming more expensive and really aren’t offering too much in the way of shiny new features.  Sure, they look cool… but do they really offer you anything over your current mobo?  Simple answer… Yes… and no. Enter the ASUS Z97-AR motherboard.

Let’s face it, the motherboard market is completely saturated.  In the old days (when AMD was the first to break the 1GHz barrier), abit and ASUS were the top two primary overclocking motherboard makers to choose from.  Today, everyone is fighting for your nickel and the war has made them all step up their game.  Unfortunately, the prices went up as the quality did too.  The ASUS Z97-AR is not going to be your most expensive option in the z97 market.  In fact, I would almost call this a budget board at $149.99 USD when you start to consider some of the motherboard pricing we have been seeing lately, some upwards of $500!!!!

Asus Z97 AR 13 580x386 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

If you have been hunting around for a Z97 motherboard, you may have seen the A version of this. The Z97-AR is not that much different than the Z97-A.  The A version does have some different colors and VGA / DVI integrated… that’s it.  Colors: Silver (AR), Gold (A).

If you stalk the Z97-AR on ASUS’s product page, you see things like:

  • 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5 – One click, total system optimization!
  • M.2 & SATA Express – Speed up your system with lightning-fast 10Gb/s transfer speed
  • Crystal Sound 2 and Intel Gigabit Ethernet — a game-winning combo!
  • ASUS HomeCloud – Access your PC remotely and stream multimedia content anywhere, anytime
  • Proven quality – 5X Protection. 1000+ compatible devices. 7000+ validation hours.

With one click, you can achieve total system optimization. 

ASUS has always been on my short list when looking for a motherboard overclocking.  Over these last few years, overclocking has become increasingly easier.  With the 5-Way Optimization, ASUS takes the responsibility out of the consumer and dynamically optimizes yours system based on real-time use.  TPU, DIGI+, EPU, Fan Xpert3, and TurboAPP are the primary components and one click will configure the settings of all these for you.  Personally, I like a little more control.  Thankfully, there are always Advanced modes.

Asus Z97 AR 29 580x220 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The Z97-AR doesn’t ship in a double stacked motherboard crate (like ROG mobos) and it doesn’t have 400 accessories crammed into its box either.  Instead, you get the motherboard, a couple of manuals, a driver/utility disk, the rear I/O plate, a pair of SATA cables, an SLI cable and two EZ connect blocks.

Asus Z97 AR 31 300x200 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 32 300x200 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Asus Z97 AR 1 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Detailed Specifications

Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12.0 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
CPU Interface LGA-1150
Chipset Intel Z97
Memory 4 x DDR3 supporting up to 32 GB
1333-3300 (OC) MHz
Graphics HDMI (4096×2160 at 24 Hz or 2560×1600 at 60 Hz)
DisplayPort (4096×2160 at 25 Hz or 3840×2160 at 60 Hz)
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA Quad-GPU SLI Technology
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 or x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
4 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Storage 4 x SATA 6 Gbps Ports
1 x SATA Express
1 x M.2 PCIe and SATA
LAN Intel I218V
Audio Realtek ALC892
USB Ports 6 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
8 x USB 2.0/1.1 port(s) (2 at back panel, , 6 at mid-board)
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jacks
Internal I/O Ports 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x SATA Express connector: , compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
1 x M.2 Socket 3 for M Key, type 2260/2280 devices
1 x TPM header
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 x 4 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x Thunderbolt header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x EZ XMP switch
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
Accessories User’s manual
I/O Shield
2 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
Warranty Period 3 Years

Asus Z97 AR 5 580x596 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The back I/O panel has a display port as well as an HDMI, absent is the VGA port found on the A version.  There are two USB 2.0 Ports, four USB 3.0 Ports, a single Intel Gigabit Ethernet port, and audio connections.  There is also a PS/2 port for your trusty IBM Model M clicky keyboard!

Asus Z97 AR 18 300x300 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The board’s layout is excellent. Overall, nothing seems to be out of place but it does seem to remind me a fight scene in Star Wars.

Asus Z97 AR 13 300x200 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 14 300x200 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The CPU socked area is clean and free from large (tall) obstructions.  There isn’t much distance between the socket and the cooling towers for MOSFET and such but with so much crammed on a motherboard, there isn’t much available space.  Around the socket, there is no less than 25mm of clearance, the shortest distance found just to the left.  The heatsinks rise to a total height of 27mm.

Asus Z97 AR 8 580x386 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

There are four available DIMM slots that can support up to 32GB of RAM at speeds of up to 3300MHz (overclocked). The DIMMS are color coded black and dark grey for differentiation (dual channel memory operation).  However, the grey is so dark that it can be confused.  In a poorly lit room with fluorescent lighting and the motherboard already installed in a case… indistinguishable.  The single sided locking mechanism for the DIMM slots has been a godsend.  The days when you have to remove your overstuffed video card to switch memory around are over…

Asus Z97 AR 10 580x386 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Just below the CPU socket is the M.2 socket with plenty of room.  Although this board offers plenty of PCIe slots, SATA Express, and an M.2 slot, there is only so much PCIe love to go around.  The M.2 slot uses the same lanes as the two PCIe x 1 slots.

Asus Z97 AR 9 580x386 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The chipset rests below some decently sized passive cooling and just behind the SATA Express and four SATA ports.  The Z97-AR supports all the normal RAID levels and SSD performance requirements like TRIM while SSDs are configured for RAID.

Asus Z97 AR 6 300x200 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 11 300x200 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Circling around, you find the two PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 or x8/x8), the one PCIe 2.0 and the PCI slots.  Crystal Sound 2 can be found on the edges.  Crystal Sound 2 here on the Z97-AR uses the Realtek ALC892 HD Audio Codec with support for DTS Ultra PC II and DTS Connect.

 Asus Z97 AR 311 580x596 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Additionally, you will find things like a MEMOK! Button an EZ XMP Switch, an EPU Switch, a TPU Switch, and Power-on Button.

  • MEMOK! Button – When installing RAM, there are circumstances and situations that may cause a system boot failure.  Pressing this button begins automatic memory compatibility tuning for a successful boot.
  • TPU Switch – Allows the adjustment of CPU ratio and clock speeds
  • Power-on Button – this is by far my favorite feature of the new ASUS motherboards.  This allows you to boot the system without having to wire a switch or short the pins with a flat head screw-driver.
  • EZ XMP Switch – This allows you to overclock the installed DIMMS.
  • EPU Switch – allows the automatic detection of current settings and intelligently moderates power consumption.

The ASUS Z97-AR also supports TPM (Trusted Platform Module).  TPM can store keys, digital certificates, passwords and data. More Details

The BIOS has come a long way from the blue background and yellow ANSI graphics.  The UI now recognizes mouse movements and is more like an OS environment than anything I grew up on.  With that said, the Z97-AR UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface) is really slick.  Everything is easy to find and there are a ton of options to configure.  I must confess… the color scheme, which matches the board colors, is a little nauseating.

There are two modes in which you can interact with the BIOS.  There is the EZ Mode and the Advanced Mode.  Upon entering, you are immediately thrust into EZ Mode and required to present the ability to press F7 to enter the advanced configuration screens.

Asus Z97 AR 43 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The EZ Mode presents the user with information about your motherboard, CPU, and RAM configuration.  Your temperatures and voltages are displayed in text and graph form while your DRAM Status and SATA information are displayed elegantly.  Drag and drop boot priority as well as manual fan tuning function magically.

Additionally, the EZ Mode provides the burgeoning enthusiast with access to the EZ System Tuning Feature and manual fan tuning capabilities.

  Asus Z97 AR 44 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

If you are the adventurous type, F7 will bring you into the advanced mode.  Here, you can tweak endlessly.  The Favorites menu allows you to tag frequently accessed settings to one location for quick access.

Asus Z97 AR 45 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Beyond favorites, in order from left to right, Main:

 Asus Z97 AR 46 300x225 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 47 300x225 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Overclocking is handled through the Ai Tweaker menu section and allows fine tuning of your system.

Asus Z97 AR 48 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 49 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 50 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 51 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 52 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 53 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 54 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 55 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 56 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 57 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 58 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 59 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 60 580x435 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

To get a quick look at all the screenshots, click on an image below and either use the arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll through, or click the images.

Advanced:

Asus Z97 AR 72 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 73 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 74 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 75 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 76 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 77 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 78 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 79 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 80 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 81 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 82 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 83 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 61 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 62 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 63 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 64 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 65 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 66 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 67 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 68 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 69 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 70 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 71 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Monitor:

Asus Z97 AR 86 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 85 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 84 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 831 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

  Boot:

Asus Z97 AR 87 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 88 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 89 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 90 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 91 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Tool & Exit:

Asus Z97 AR 92 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 93 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 94 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 95 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 96 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 97 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 98 150x150 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review


ASUS has packaged their well-known AI Suite 3 to bring customization and overclocking out of the BIOS and onto your desktop.  AI Suite 3 offers a ton of configurable options, included the 5-Way Optimization button.  According to ASUS, this will detect the best settings for the way you use your computer.

Asus Z97 AR 321 580x413 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Along the bottom of the application, you have an information panel that tells you your CPU Frequency (per core), Voltage, Temperature, and Fan information.  Each of these fly-out to provide a greater level of detail.

Within TPU you can tune a number of elements.  These range from BCLK frequency and CPU Cache ratio to Core Voltage and more.  A second tab offers tuning of the CPU Strap.

Asus Z97 AR 331 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 341 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Fan Xpert 3 brings cooling management under control.  You can assign visual locations to your fans within the application and tune them for usage.

Asus Z97 AR 351 580x299 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

DIGI+ VRM can control things like CPU Power Phase control and VRM switching frequency.

Asus Z97 AR 361 580x299 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

TurboApp brings the ability to tweak system performance based on the application you are running.  For things that don’t require much, like office, you can tune the system down using less power and creating less noise.  When things need to heat up, like during a late night fragging session, then tune everything to the MAX.

Asus Z97 AR 371 580x299 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

EPU allows you to create and set power presets.

Asus Z97 AR 381 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 391 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 401 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 411 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review Asus Z97 AR 421 300x154 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

Motherboard Asus Z97-AR
Processor Intel i7 4790K
Memory 2x8GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3 PC3-12800
Hard Drive OCZ Vector 256GB
Power Supply OCZGXS850
Video Card Gigabyte R9 170
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit


Motherboard Benchmarking Hardware & Methodology details hardware used & methodology for conducting benchmarks.
To see how this Motherboard compares to others, please visit our MotherboardBenchmarking Database

Ethernet Performance

For testing the Ethernet Performance, we transfer a 2GB file from the workstation to a NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.

[table id=”20” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” hide_columns=”all” show_columns=”6,7,8” use_datatables=”false” /]

CrystalDiskMark is a benchmarking utility that determines speeds by measuring 512KB, 4KB, and 4KB (Queue Depth 32) sequential and random read and write speeds. Test data can be Random, 0Fill, and 1Fill. For our purposes, we left the test at Random.

[table id=”21” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-5,9-16” /]
[table id=”21” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-5,7-8,11-16” /]
[table id=”21” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-5,7-10,13-16” /]
[table id=”21” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-5,7-12,15-16” /]
[table id=”21” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-5,7-14” /]

CPU Queen Benchmark

This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example — with HyperThreading disabled — the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.

[table id=”22” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,11-14” /]

CPU PhotoWorxx Benchmark

This benchmark performs different common tasks used during digital photo processing.

It performs the following tasks on a very large RGB image:

  • Fill the image with random colored pixels
  • Rotate 90 degrees CCW
  • Rotate 180 degrees
  • Difference
  • Color space conversion (used e.g. during JPEG conversion)

This benchmark stresses the SIMD integer arithmetic execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem. CPU PhotoWorxx test uses the appropriate x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4A, AVX, AVX2, and XOP instruction set extension and it is NUMA, HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

[table id=”22” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,10,12-14” /]

CPU ZLib Benchmark

This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library. CPU ZLib test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

[table id=”22” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,10,11,13,14” /]

CPU AES Benchmark

This benchmark measures CPU performance using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) data encryption. In cryptography AES is a symmetric-key encryption standard. AES is used in several compression tools today, like 7z, RAR, WinZip, and also in disk encryption solutions like BitLocker, FileVault (Mac OS X), TrueCrypt.
CPU AES test uses the appropriate x86, MMX and SSE4.1 instructions, and it’s hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C3, VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors; and on Intel AES-NI instruction set extension capable processors. The test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

[table id=”22” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,10,11,12,14” /]

CPU Hash Benchmark

This benchmark measures CPU performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm defined in the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 180-4. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate MMX, MMX+/SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, AVX, AVX2, XOP, BMI, and BMI2 instruction set extension. CPU Hash benchmark is hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors.

[table id=”22” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,10,11,12,13” /]

PCMark 8 Home

PCMark 8 Home benchmark measures your system’s ability to perform a series of common tasks typical of daily home use. The Home workloads generally have light computational requirements and are ideal for testing low-cost tablets, notebooks and desktop home PCs.

The PCMark 8 Home benchmark test contains the following workloads.

  • Web Browsing
  • Writing
  • Casual Gaming
  • Photo Editing
  • Video Chat
[table id=”23” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,10,11” /]

PCMark 8 Creative

PCMark 8 Creative benchmark measures your system’s ability to perform a series of entertainment and media tasks. The Creative workloads generally have demanding computational requirements and are designed for testing mid to high-end notebooks and desktops. Your system must have a GPU with full DirectX 11 support in order to run all the workloads in the PCMark 8 Creative benchmark.

The PCMark 8 Creative benchmark test contains the following workloads:

  • Web Browsing
  • Photo Editing
  • Batch Photo Editing
  • Video Editing
  • Media To Go
  • Mainstream Gaming
  • Video Group Chat
[table id=”23” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,11,12” /]

PCMark 8 Work

PCMark 8 Work benchmark measures your system’s ability to perform a series of basic office and work tasks. For more demanding office use, run the Creative benchmark test. The Work tests are designed for testing typical office notebooks and desktop PCs that lack media capabilities.

The PCMark 8 Work benchmark test contains the following workloads:

  • Web Browsing
  • Writing
  • Video Chat
  • Spreadsheet
[table id=”23” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8,10,12” /]

Handbrake is a widely used media encoding platform. We took a standard DVD (A Bronx Tale) and used the preset for “normal” conversion. Encoding is a CPU intensive task that can reveal a lot about your particular system and FPS (Frames per second) in the encoding results is a key indicator to the performance of your system.

[table id=”24” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8” /]

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more.

[table id=”25” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8” /]

Hyper Pi is a front end for Super PI. Super PI is a single threaded benchmark that calculates pi to a specific number of digits. It uses the Gauss-Legendre algorithm and is a Windows port of a program used by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to compute pi to 232 digits. In our case, Pi is calculated to 1M using all processors available and high priority.

[table id=”26” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,2” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-8” /]

Overclocking seems to be more challenging for the CPU than the motherboard these days. The Z97-AR offers much in the way of configuration, but if the CPU isn’t willing, then your options are limited. Overclocking the Z97-AR through 5-way optimization yielded only a 0.9% increase in performance and quite frankly, it was unimpressive. However, when we got down to brass tacks we were able to push our i7 4790K processor to 4.7GHz without much issue (and stable). Granted, the temps got pretty high, but that has little to do with the motherboard. Beyond 4.7GHz, the system became unstable and the famed BSOD presented itself regularly during stability testing at any speeds beyond 4.7.

If you are looking for some ground breaking innovations in the Z97 chipset over its predecessor (Z87), get your magnifying glass out as they are hard to find.  The chipset does offer some enhancements over its older brother, but does that mean you should ditch your Z87 board for a shiny new one?  Well, if things like M.2 support and SATA express are key drivers in your buying decision, then yes.  If you have an older motherboard, then the choice to upgrade is easy.

Ultimately, the motherboard here offers a lot of bang for your buck.  Overclocking was easy enough for the novice and robust enough for those that like to tinker a bit more.  Crossfire and SLI compatibility for the gamer, overclocking for the enthusiast, and a price tag that everyone can afford makes this motherboard a good option for just about everyone.  The UEFI BISO is pretty slick and the included Asus software is hard to beat.

Asus Z97 AR 19 ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

The Z97-AR offers the looks, the features, and just about everything you need rolled up into one happy little package.  Team this board up with some quality components and you can build one heck of a rig.  Bottom line, would I buy one? Yes… and I would stamp this one with the Editor’s Choice Award based on the amount of bang for you get for your buck.

cod editorschoice badge ASUS Z97 AR Motherboard Review

A TEXT POST

How XBMC is Keeping Me Alive

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/xbmc-keeping-alive/

How XBMC is Keeping Me Alive

I will admit it.  I am usually a hold out.  In this particular case, I held out as long as I could in fear that an upgrade wouldn’t work the way I liked it to.  For a long time I had been using a combination of WMC (Windows Media Center) and XBMC to front end my Home Theater PC.  WMC handled my Live TV streaming with a cable card and an HDHomerun Prime, while XBMC did everything else.  To be honest, XBMC had some level of PVR functionality built-in to handle live TV… but it was crap in comparison and a major headache to configure with my setup.

I had gone through all types of hoops and trials to get the feel of a single application, but it wasn’t enough.  To my family, it was a pain in the rear to try to figure out how to get what they wanted, when they wanted it.

To give you an idea of what it was like in the C.O.D. household…

First, the PC fires up and you are instantly thrust into everything WMC.  Live TV works like a charm! Controls are handled by either a Logitech Harmony One or My Media Center from Ceton on the iPad.  iPad usually won the battle, because its cool to control stuff from an iPad (remember Bow-Ties are cool).  If you wanted to watch a move or one of my archived TV shows, we would have to navigate to the XBMC icon in WMC.  Once clicked, WMC would minimize and XBMC would occupy our attention.  This means that control, once handled My Media Center on the iPad, would now be transferred to XBMC Constellation.  Close the app on the iPad and open the new one. Endless struggles for my family with rhythmic chants of “I can’t control this stupid thing” hurled at me, accompanied by threats of mutiny if I didn’t return the cable box to the TV stand.

The cable box will not win…

Thankfully, XBMC was able to return order to my home.  The WMC.PVR client released by a group of heroes made it easy to obtain the finesse and function of Live TV found within Windows Media Center inside of XBMC.  The XBMC addon requires only a simple utility to be installed for complete functionality, down to the grace and beauty of the WMC EPG.  Live TV had been working flawlessly in WMC and now in XBMC.

800px PVR Confluence EPG How XBMC is Keeping Me Alive

If you have WMC configured for Live TV already and want to expand into all the wonderful possibilities using XBMC can provide, the door is now wide open.  After all, the endless add-ons for XBMC make doing nearly anything entertainment related possible.  All you have to do is download this simple utility, install it, and configure it.

For a detailed list of instructions: Click Here

With this new PVR add-on, I am now able to focus on one front end for my Home Theater PC.  Order has been restored in my household and all is well.  I get the benefits and strengths of both applications in one now, with one set of controls, and I win… no more cable box and a computer has made its way into another room in this house… without further argument :).  XBMC and this add-on have now restored my confidence and my position as master of the media center.  The remote is now firmly held in the hands of a man restored (until they snatch it from me).  Happy wife… happy life.

A TEXT POST

Thecus Announces First Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials NAS

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/thecus-announces-first-windows-storage-server-2012-r2-essentials-nas/

Thecus Announces First Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials NAS

Thecus Technology Corp. today announces another world first: Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials is now available for NAS users. Available this October, the 2-bay W2000, 4-bay W4000, and the 5-bay W5000 offer a host of benefits to SMB users, including data protection, integrated cloud services, and secure remote access.

“Thecus NAS provide users with a complete solution to their storage needs. With the additions to the W Series, Thecus is able to offer a more diversified product to its customers. Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials is an ideal pairing with Thecus NAS and will equip small businesses with a powerful and trusted storage solution.” – Florence Shih, CEO at Thecus Technology Corp.

By running Windows Server software on a Thecus NAS, users will be able to simplify the integration of Microsoft’s cloud-based applications and services, including Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. These new NAS offerings provide users with an affordable, flexible solution that minimizes resources spent on business operations while still optimizing productivity.

“The Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials software allows small businesses to protect, centralize, organize, and access their data anywhere by using almost any device,” said Peter Han, Vice President of Worldwide OEM Marketing, Microsoft. “We believe offering our software on Thecus NAS devices will provide an excellent solution for those small businesses looking to protect their data while optimizing their resources with a hybrid, on premise, and cloud-connected offering.”

Thanks to proven Thecus hardware based on the Intel Atom platform, serviced by dual LAN ports and no less than 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and all featuring media connectivity (HDMI and VGA), the new line of world-first Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials NAS are user-friendly yet robust answers to the data needs of every forward-thinking small to medium-sized business.

20140910 2 2 Thecus Announces First Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials NAS

A TEXT POST

Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/crucial-mx100-256gb-review/

Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review


Crucial, the company that impressed us with their M4 series SSD, has expanded their SSD portfolio with a low-cost, high performance, MX100 series drive. Their claims of “unrelenting performance” combined with low-cost per GB is an attractive marketing campaign. Extreme Energy Efficiency, Adaptive Thermal Protection, and Power Loss Protection mark some of the Crucial benefits on the product page. With all this marketing fluff, the real question is… how does this budget SSD stack up when it comes to spending your hard-earned cash?

Crucial MX100 256 12 580x386 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

First, the MX100 is not going to be one of those drives that wipes the floor with the competition in benchmarks. Crucial’s product page boasts sequential read speeds of 550MB/s and write speeds of around 300MB/s. It is however, a very well priced SSD that delivers solid performance at a very respectable price (at time of review $109.99 USD at Newegg.com). What do you get for $109.99 you ask? Well, you get this snazzy SSD, a fancy box, a spacer, and a serial for Acronis True Image HD 2014. The SSD itself is a SATA 6.0GB/s 2.5″ solid state drive that measures in at just 7mm thick.

Similar to the M4 and the OCZ Vector, the MX100 looks the part. The aluminum enclosure exudes confidence and provides that quality feel while the subtle graphics provide that tingling sensation, like you were about to toe the line in an Indy 500 qualifying round. That quality feel is backed by a 3 year warranty, an MTBF of 1.5 million hours, and endurance that claims you can write 40GB every day for 5 years. The drive features advanced features like Native Write Acceleration, Redundant Array of Independent NAND (RAIN), Exclusive Data Defense, Adaptive Thermal Protection, Power Loss Protection, Data Path Protection, Active Garbage Collection, TRIM Support, Self Monitoring and Reporting Technology (SMART), and Error Correction Code (ECC)

Crucial MX100 256 11 580x386 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

So, how does Crucial keep low-cost, speed, and reliability consistent in the MX100? Inexpensive NAND. Although the MX100 sports the same controller found in the M550 (Marvell 88SS9189-BLD2 with custom Micron Firmware), the MX100 features 16 x FBGA NW645 (MT29F128G08CBCCBH6-10:C) 16nm MLC NAND. Not much can be found on the NAND, but a quick decode over at Microns FBGA Decoder reveals the part number: MT29F128G08CBCCBH6-10:C

Crucial MX100 256 2 300x200 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review Crucial MX100 256 3 300x200 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

The Marvell 88SS9189 controller supports high-speed NAND flash interfaces up to 200MB/s per channel and integrates a dual-core Marvell 88FR102 V5 CPU with shared DTCM and ITCM SRAM. It can support up to eight NAND flash channels, ~500MBps sequential write performance, as well as EPP and T10 CRC Checks.

Crucial MX100 256 1 580x319 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

Crucial MX100 256 13 580x349 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

Given that Crucial’s product page makes reference to modest performance, what king of performance can you expect from the MX100?

SSD Benchmarking Hardware & Methodology details hardware used & methodology for conducting benchmarks.
To see how this SSD compares to others, please visit our SSD Benchmarking Database

SSD Key Bencharmking Results

[table id=”13” row_order=”sort” row_order_sort_column=”E” row_order_sort_direction=”DESC” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”all” use_datatables=”true” hide_columns=”1-3,7-8” /]
[table id=”13” row_order=”sort” row_order_sort_column=”E” row_order_sort_direction=”DESC” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”all” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-6” /]

AS SSD is a small but powerful SSD benchmarking utility created specifically for that purpose. The software uses “incompressible” data to benchmark your drive without the benefits of compression that may increase performance under certain circumstances.

[table id=”4” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,8-18” /]
[table id=”4” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-7,10-18” /]
[table id=”4” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-9,12-18” /]
[table id=”4” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-11,14-18” /]
[table id=”4” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-13,16-18” /]
[table id=”4” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-15” /]

CrystalDiskMark is another benchmarking utility that determines speeds by measuring 512KB, 4KB, and 4KB (Queue Depth 32) sequential and random read and write speeds. Test data can be Random, 0Fill, and 1Fill. For our purposes, we left the test at Random.

[table id=”6” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,7-16” /]
[table id=”6” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-6,9-16” /]
[table id=”6” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-8,11-16” /]
[table id=”6” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-10,13-16” /]
[table id=”6” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-12,15-16” /]
[table id=”6” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-14” /]

Anvil Storage Benchmark is a software package that I strolled across one day while cruising some reviews. The software is still in BETA and offers it out to you for free during the BETA period. The software has an SSD benchmark that can be configured to test with data from 0Fill to 1Fill. You get read write speeds in MB/s and IOPS. There are other benchmarking options, but we are only concerned with the SSD benchmarking at 0Fill and 100% (1Fill – Incompressible).

[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-14,18-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-27” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,7-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-6,9-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-8,11-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-10,13-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-12,15-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-17,20-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-19,22-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-21,24-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-23,26-30” /]
[table id=”8” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-25,28-30” /]

IOMeter has to be one of the most widely used software packages for benchmarking disks. There are an endless number of ways you can build a benchmark, but we chose to limit our benchmarking to 100 percent Sequential Read and Write then 100 percent Random Read and Write. You can emulate our benchmarking by using the following configuration

[table id=”9” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,7-16” /]
[table id=”9” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-6,9-16” /]
[table id=”9” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-8,11-16” /]
[table id=”9” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-10,13-16” /]
[table id=”9” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-12,15-16” /]
[table id=”9” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-14” /]

The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.

[table id=”10” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3” /]

PCMark Vantage is a benchmarking suite designed to stress components in various ways to measure performance. For our purposes, we will be utilizing the HDD Suite to gain an understanding on how this drive will perform under these simulated criteria: Windows Defender, Gaming, Importing Photos, Windows Vista Startup, Video Editing Windows Media Center, Adding Music, and Application Loading.

[table id=”11” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,6-13” /]
[table id=”11” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5,10-13” /]
[table id=”11” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-9” /]

Using traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games, PCMark 8 Storage highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices. You do not need to have these applications installed on your system to run the Storage benchmark. The PCMark 8 Storage benchmark test contains the following workload traces:

  • Adobe Photoshop light
  • Adobe Photoshop heavy
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe After Effect
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • World of Warcraft
  • Battlefield 3
[table id=”19” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,6-16” /]
[table id=”19” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5,7-16” /]
[table id=”19” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-6,9-16” /]
[table id=”19” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-8,14-16” /]
[table id=”19” hide_rows=”all” show_rows=”1,9” use_datatables=”false” hide_columns=”1-3,5-13” /]

Although Crucial’s MX100 didn’t top our benchmarking charts it did perform well.  The confusing aspect of the MX1oo to me is where to position it.  The drive doesn’t really market itself as a performance drive or an enthusiasts drive, but it doesn’t market itself as a low-end SSD either.  Rounding out at just about $105 USD, this 256GB drive is certainly less expensive than the high cost barn burners but it isn’t the cheapest either. You can certainly find some low-cost drives out there, some of them being high performance drives from yesteryear (like the OCZ Vector).

Crucial MX100 256 4 580x386 Crucial MX100 SSD 256GB Review

If you are a fan of Crucial products, by all means this drive is a good one.  This drive is the next step in Crucial’s SSD evolution.  The MX100, packed with new 16nm NAND and an enhanced Marvell controller, is the newer faster brother of the M550.

So what does all that mean to you? Add the performance and the reliability claims and this drive seems like a bargain.  If you want a drive that you can abuse (write 40GB every day for 5 years) and still move data swiftly, this may be the drive for you.  If you are looking for the newest / fastest SSD and you have money to burn, you may want to consider one of the benchmark toppers instead.  Overall, I can say that I am happy with the MX100, and if were in the market for an SSD… it would be on the list.

A TEXT POST

Redirect Your WordPress RSS Feed to FeedBurner Without a Plugin

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/redirect-wordpress-rss-feed-feedburner-without-plugin/

Redirect Your WordPress RSS Feed to FeedBurner Without a Plugin

I am not a fan of running a large amount of plugins on my WordPress sites.  Even though there has been a lot of debate as to whether or not it actually effects the performance of your site, I would rather limit the number by as many as possible.  For those of you that have looked for a quick and easy way to redirect your feeds to FeedBurner, you may have downloaded and installed a few different plugins.  Well, you don’t need a plugin, just edit your functions.php file and redirect away.

To redirect your feed without a plugin, add the following to your theme’s functions.php file and replace the URL with your own FeedBurner URL

// --------------------------------------------------------------------------
// Start Redirect Feed to FeedBurner
// --------------------------------------------------------------------------
function custom_rss_feed( $output, $feed ) 
    if ( strpos( $output, 'comments' ) )
        return $output;

    return esc_url( 'http://feeds.feedburner.com/yourfeedburnerurl' );

add_action( 'feed_link', 'custom_rss_feed', 10, 2 );
// --------------------------------------------------------------------------
// End Redirect Feed to FeedBurner
// --------------------------------------------------------------------------
A TEXT POST

LaCie FUEL Review

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/lacie-fuel-review/

LaCie FUEL Review

If you are a road warrior, then you know having only a few GB of space on your mobile device is a complete bummer.  Instead of shelling out hundreds more for a device with a few extra GB, what if there was an inexpensive solution that could expand your space to TB instead of just GB.  What if I told you that your 16GB iPad or 8GB Samsung could now store up to 1TB of music, movies, photos, documents and more?  Well, LaCie thinks they have the answer to your storage needs and they think that their solution, the LaCie Fuel, is the one that should earn your money.

To put it simply, the LaCie FUEL is a 1 or 2TB hard drive that can connect via WiFi to just about any device.  The sleek-looking, rugged package is built for those on the go.  LaCie FUEL takes documents and media wherever you need to go.

LaCie Fuel 9 580x414 LaCie FUEL Review

The LaCie FUEL measures just 4.5 x 4.5 x .9 inches, weighs in at 9.7 ounces, has a Wi-Fi range of up to 150 feet, supports up to 5 connected devices, and has a battery life of up to 10 hours.  Worried about security? You can configure the FUEL’s WiFi hotspot to operate with WPA2-PSK[AES] or WPA2-PSK [AES] + WPA-PSK[TKIP]. The FUEL sports Wireless B, G, and N protocols and also has a USB 3.0 port for speedy data transfers.

LaCie Fuel 7 300x214 LaCie FUEL Review

Additionally, the LaCie FUEL operates via WiFi very much like a proxy.  You connect your device to the FUEL via WiFi, then through the FUEL settings you point it to your WiFi.

LaCie Fuel 8 580x413 LaCie FUEL Review

On the outside, the FUEL isn’t all that complicated to look at.  Up front, there are two LEDs and a Power button.  The first, is a power LED. The LED indicates 3 things: Green solid: Fully charged, Amber: Charging, Red: Battery is low.  The other LED indicates the wireless broadcasting state.

LaCie Fuel 6 580x414 LaCie FUEL Review

On the left, is a USB 3.0 Port and a tiny reset port.

LaCie Fuel 5 580x414 LaCie FUEL Review

When using the FUEL with a laptop, there are a number of ways to interact with the drive.  First, you can simply connect the drive to your PC through a speedy USB 3.0 port.  Although that isn’t much fun, it does offer the best performance.  If cords aren’t your thing, connect via WiFi and allow up to 5 of your brethren share your stuff.

If you were to type www.laciefuel.com into your browser while connected, you can browse, play, upload, and interact with your data easily.  The interface is somewhat drab and confusing, but it does get the job done.  While exploring, if you find something that strikes your fancy, click it and it will open in one of the Windows default applications.

LaCie Fuel 2 300x140 LaCie FUEL Review LaCie Fuel 1 300x140 LaCie FUEL Review

For me, I prefer to explore the FUEL through windows file explorer. Just access this like you would any network share… \172.25.0.1 and you are off and running.  Just make sure you don’t have ECO mode enabled, it turns off SAMBA.

While operating the FUEL from an iOS or Android device, connect to it via Wireless networks in your device’s settings.  Once connected, open your browser to laciefuel.com and install the Seagate Media app.  The app is a quick window into your FUEL and allows you to navigate your data or media collection easily.  Unfortunately, the application doesn’t have the ability to play MKV files.  When attempting to play, it prompts to you buy one of two apps from the app store, Good Player and Ace Player.  Both are $2.99 on iOS.  Unfortunately, there is no VLC support.

LaCie Fuel 10 300x225 LaCie FUEL Review LaCie Fuel 11 300x225 LaCie FUEL Review

Typically, I don’t get all excited about external storage devices.  However, LaCie FUEL is something different.  The FUEL allows me to connect to just about anything… and even with more than one device at a time.  While flying, I can be accessing tons of music while my significant other is watching her favorite TV show (Doctor Who of course, or if you ask her.. Grey’s Anatomy).  Don’t get me wrong, the web interface could be a bit better, and the iOS / Android app has its limitations, but look at the alternative… um… wait… there is none!  Bottom line, the LaCie FUEL is one of those must haves for travel or work on the go.  Is it worth a nearly $180.00 USD price tag for a 1TB drive?  Yes… this is an awesome piece of tech.

A TEXT POST

Thecus N2310 Review

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/thecus-n2310-review/

Thecus N2310 Review

Can you think of a NAS worth buying that costs less than $150.00 USD? I bet you would have a hard time answering that question. I have reviewed a slew of NAS and can’t answer that question, until now. Thecus has done what many have considered as the impossible. They may have just set a new standard for affordability, slapped the Thecus badge on it, and dubbed it the N2310.

The N2310 is not going to set any LAN speed records, but it will introduce you to “a whole new world”. Sorry… bad Alladin reference there. Anyway. To get some quick information out-of-the-way. The N2310 is a two bay NAS that measures in at just 135 x 97 x 207 (mm) and just 1.8 lbs. This tiny little box supports hard drives up to 6TB in size and can support RAID 0, 1, and JBOD. The N2310 is powered by an 800MHz processor, sports 512MB of RAM, and consumes just about 5W of electricity.

Thecus N2310 29 580x580 Thecus N2310 Review

The N2310 runs Thecus NAS OS6 and provides many of the features and functionality found in much more expensive options. Thecus NAS OS6 brings things like Web-based file access, FTP server, BitTorrent clients, Plex, Mobile Apps, Self RAID creation, and plenty of modules to extend features even further.

Thecus N2310 19 580x895 Thecus N2310 Review

Fighting in the lightweight division, there are some features missing.  First, this NAS does not feature an HDMI port for direct connection in your home theater. Second, don’t expect to get iSCSI support or dual Ethernet connections. Lastly, plastic… everywhere, no brushed aluminum or metal garnish.

Thecus, again departs from dull and drab in the N2310, but not too far. The NAS is seemingly Synology’esque in its outer skin. Up front, there isn’t much going on. You have a pair of quick release drive trays, LEDs for Power, Information, HDD1, HDD2, LAN, and USB connectivity. There is a Power button and a copy button for quick backup.

Thecus N2310 29 300x300 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 30 300x300 Thecus N2310 Review

Around back you have a system cooling fan (ADDA), a single Gigabit Ethernet Port, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, a hard reset button, and DC power in.

Thecus N2310 28 580x580 Thecus N2310 Review

Thecus N2310 20 300x200 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 21 300x200 Thecus N2310 Review

Inside, the N2310 is just as simple as you would expect.  The NAS is powered by an applied micro Catalina processor clocked at 800MHz and two Samsung K4B2G1646E-BCK0 DDR3 modules.

Thecus N2310 22 580x386 Thecus N2310 Review

applied micro Catalina (APM86491-SKB90DT)

  • Single-Core Power™465 processors with a floating-point unit
  • CPU speed (frequency): 600 MHz to 1.0 GHz
  • Performance: 2000 Dhrystone, 2.1 MIPS @ 1.0GHz
  • 32 KB I/32 KB-D L1 caches and 256 KB L2 cache
  • 16/32-bit DDR3 SDRAM controller with optional ECC, for up to 1066 Mbps operation
  • Two Gen 2 PCI Express interfaces with x1 operations
  • USB 3.0 – 1 Host with integrated PHY, 1 Host & Device with integrated PHY
  • Two SATA ports
  • Two Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps ports: 2x RGMII with Classification and TCP/IP offload.
  • Four UART
  • Symmetric and asymmetric security hardware acceleration engines – encryption, hash and more
  • Supports AES, ARC4, 3DES, MD5, HMAC, SHA-xxx with HMAC, Kasumi and XTS-AES, PKA, PRNG
  • Embedded volatile and non-volatile private key storage
  • Boot support from 16-bit and 8-bit NAND flash, NOR flash/SD card/serial flash/USB/DRAM
  • SLIMPro ARM 32-bit acceleration processor to provide enhanced hardware acceleration capabilities
  • Dedicated Ethernet Offload Engine, Classification Engine, Queue Manager / Traffic Manager.
  • Power Management via advanced wake up capabilities from Deep Sleep Mode such as Wake on LAN, Wake on USB, Wake on PCIe, and Wake on Interrupts.

Thecus N2310 25 580x386 Thecus N2310 Review

10/100/1000 Ethernet is handled by Realtek (RTL8211E)

  • 1000Base-T IEEE 802.3ab Compliant
  • 100Base-TX IEEE 802.3u Compliant
  • 10Base-T IEEE 802.3 Compliant
  • IEEE 802.3 Compliant RGMII (RTL8211E/RTL8211EG)
  • IEEE 802.3 Compliant GMII (RTL8211EG only)
  • Supports IEEE 802.3az Draft 3.2 (Energy Efficient Ethernet)
  • Built-in Wake-on-LAN (WOL)
  • Supports Interrupt function
  • Supports Parallel Detection
  • Crossover Detection & Auto-Correction
  • Automatic polarity correction
  • Supports PHYRSTB core power Turn-Off
  • Baseline Wander Correction
  • Supports half/full-duplex operation
  • Supports 120m for CAT.5 cable in 1000Base-T
  • Supports 3.3V or 2.5V signaling for RGMII/GMII
  • Supports 25/50MHz external crystal or OSC
  • Provides 125MHz clock source for MAC
  • Provides 3 network status LEDs
  • Supports Link Down power saving
  • Green Ethernet (Gigabit mode only)
  • Built-in switching regulator
  • Packages
    • 48-pin QFN (RTL8211E)

Thecus N2310 23 300x200 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 24 300x200 Thecus N2310 Review

Thecus has done a beautiful job of making things easy for the first time NAS user.  You can have this NAS plugged in and configured in a matter of minutes.  Initial configuration is handled by Thecus Intelligent NAS software.  Installing the Intelligent NAS software is as easy as anything… run the installer, follow the prompts.

Thecus N2310 1 300x233 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 2 300x233 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 3 300x233 Thecus N2310 Review

Once installed, Intelligent NAS gives you a bird’s-eye view of all things Thecus on your network.  You can choose the NAS you want to configure and get things setup quickly

Thecus N2310 4 300x235 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 5 300x235 Thecus N2310 Review

After finding your NAS, the application prompts you for self RAID configuration or manual RAID creation.  If you have two similar disks inhabiting your drive trays, Self-RAID configuration will choose RAID 1 and begin the process of creating your volume.

Thecus N2310 7 300x235 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 8 300x235 Thecus N2310 Review

Thecus N2310 10 300x163 Thecus N2310 Review

Thecus N2310 11 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 12 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 13 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 14 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 15 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 16 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 17 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review Thecus N2310 18 150x150 Thecus N2310 Review

It is a given that using your NAS should be easy, and it is also a given that your NAS should perform well in serving up your files. After all, this is basically what the devices is intended for. To benchmark the NAS, we run synthetic benchmarks as well as benchmark some real world activities. Testing is conducted by configuring the N2560 PRO in both RAID 0 and RAID 1.

NAS Benchmarking Hardware & Methodology details hardware used & methodology for conducting benchmarks.
To see how this NAS compares to others, please visit our NAS Benchmarking Database

For testing the large file transfer speed of the NAS, we transfer a 46.6GB Blu-Ray ISO (Avatar) from the workstation to the NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting. For more on our Avatar Benchmark please see our Benchmarking application: COD Benchmarking Utility

[table id=1 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=all show_columns=3,6,7 use_datatables=false /]

For testing the transfer speed of the NAS with smaller files, we use the same method as the Avatar test but instead create two hundred individual MP3′s of specific file sizes for repeatable results. The files are copied from the workstation to the NAS and back 5 times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.

[table id=2 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=all show_columns=3,6,7 use_datatables=false /]

For testing the large file transfer speed of the NAS, we transfer a 2GB file from the workstation to the NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.

[table id=2 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=all show_columns=3,6,7 use_datatables=false /]
credits:enabled:false,plotOptions: series: dataLabels: enabled: true[/Table2Chart]

For further benchmarking, we test each NAS using Intel’s NAS Performance Toolkit to rate 2 key areas of NAS performance. We measure File Copy speeds to and from the NAS and the Directory Copy speeds to and from the NAS. System RAM is set to 2048MB of RAM to ensure there is no mem caching for transfers.

[table id=3 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=3 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=3 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=3 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=3 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 use_datatables=false /]

CrystalDiskMark is another benchmarking utility that determines speeds by measuring 512KB, 4KB, and 4KB (Queue Depth 32) sequential and random read and write speeds. Test data can be Random, 0Fill, and 1Fill. For our purposes, we left the test at Random.

[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,12,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,30,31 hide_columns=1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15 use_datatables=false /]

The N2310 is a good option for those of you that are looking for your first NAS on a budget.  Pound for Pound, this NAS is going to be hard to beat.  When you add up all the features Thecus packs into their OS, and then top it off with a sub $150.00 price tag; you are looking at something that is pretty amazing.

Thecus N2310 30 580x580 Thecus N2310 Review

In the benchmarks, this NAS isn’t a chart topper.  It does manage to squeak out some small victories by beating out the LaCie 2big NAS in most benchmarks, but loses out to the rest of the pack.  However, let’s not forget that this NAS is bested by devices in these benchmarks costing twice as much.  In my opinion, you don’t buy a budget NAS to top benchmarking charts anyway.

Even though I like the Thecus N2310, it is somewhat of a question mark for me.  It has an amazing price tag and packs plenty punch.  One of the reasons I question the N2310 is need vs want.  Yes, the N2310 has almost everything a home user is looking for in a NAS… but will it do everything you want?  It lacks iSCSI, HDMI, and dual Ethernet Ports; for some, those features can be overlooked making this a great option.  The primary reason this NAS is a question mark for me is that I am hesitant recommending ANY two bay NAS (this is a recent development).  In my opinion, it is inevitable that you will wish you had purchased a four bay device.  You will quickly realize that transferring your movies, music, photos, documents, and backing up PCs in your house to one NAS will shrink your percentage of available storage in no time.  If it were me in your position, looking at a budget NAS, skip this one and move right up to the N4310 when it becomes available.  Same features, some better guts, and more HDD bays.

A TEXT POST

Thecus Adds Snapshot and ESXi VAAI Support

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/thecus-adds-snapshot-esxi-vaai-support/

Thecus Adds Snapshot and ESXi VAAI Support

Thecus Technology Corporation, the creator in NAS and NVR storage solutions, announces firmware updates to its business class NAS models, adding support for the BTRFS file system as well as ESXi VAAI. The new features enhance Thecus OS5, adding snapshot backup functionality as well as allowing ESXi virtualization storage tasks to be offloaded to the NAS. In addition, USB backup functionality has been improved with bi-directional copying now available.

BTRFS Snapshots

As BTRFS becomes increasingly popular, Thecus NAS owners can now enjoy support for this full featured file system. With BTRFS, advanced storage features such as snapshot backups are native to the file system rather than requiring external drivers or software. This means enhanced storage functionality while simplifying storage management.

With BTRFS support, Thecus NAS users can enjoy the simplicity of snapshot backups. Through BTRFS subvolumes, snapshots of data at various time points can be manually or automatically made and just as easily later restored to rollback files or folders to previous states.

ESXi VAAI

Users of the popular virtualization hypervisor, ESXi, can now appreciate full support for VAAI. vSphere storage APIs for Array Integration allows storage operations in the virtualization platform to be offloaded to networked storage, improving overall performance of the Virtualized Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

USB Backup

With the ubiquity of USB storage, the ability to easily back up USB and external hard drives to Thecus NAS has been a well-appreciated feature. Now, users will also be able to back up the other way around. The newest updates from Thecus allow data from the NAS to be backed up onto USB attached storage, helping users conveniently keep their multiple backups up-to-date.

How to

For users of Thecus NAS, upgrading their units to the latest software is as simple as going to the Download Center and following the instructions for the appropriate model: http://www.thecus.com/sp_download.php

A TEXT POST

Facebook Sucks

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/facebook-sucks/

Facebook Sucks

Sorry about this, but I am about to express my disgust with Facebook.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook.  I use it all the time for work and for fun.  I have yet to find a tool better for reconnecting with old friends.  However, it has gone too far.  This isn’t a rant about privacy and the social engineering project that the Facebook Enterprise is embarking on.  This is about SPAM.

If you remember, a long time ago I wrote an article on AOL and its SPAM tactics advertising that it would prevent SPAM.  If you know me, I hate SPAM.  SPAM through Mail, SPAM through email, SPAM through phone calls, SPAM SPAM SPAM!!!

My Facebook wall used to be a place where I could keep up with everyone.  Tom went to the beach, Linda had a baby, Jeff stepped on a frog.  The tiny bits of information that we found inviting about our friends and their lives.  Instead of the little tidbits of information we used to find so hilarious “Sitting on the deck #bored”, we are now bombarded with SPAM… and you are loving every second of it.  I used to make fun of the little updates… seriously? Who the hell cares where you are sitting?

Today is different though.  My Facebook wall is now littered with video garbage and post card images that have nothing to do with anyone anymore.  Cats that knock stuff off of counters and a kid, albeit a cute kid, that says “apparently”.  The entire wall is meaningless crap.  I found myself watching a video of an overweight clown dancing to “Single Ladies” for more than than 5 seconds.

I sat down and thought about this for a minute.  If I went through my friends list and deleted anyone that posted all this garbage, I wouldn’t be left with ANYONE!  My Facebook friends list would be a collection of senior citizens, that signed up for Facebook because their grandchildren thought it would be funny to have grandpa on Facebook.  That’s all.  I would only know whats going on with Medicare and that someone didn’t get a large enough cost of living increase from Social Security.

BTW, share this.  HA!

A TEXT POST

QNAP’s myQNAPcloud SmartLink Service

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/qnaps-myqnapcloud-smartlink-service/

QNAP’s myQNAPcloud SmartLink Service

If you are one of the many QNAP faithful, you may have realized that there have been many quiet changes that accompanied QTS 4.1.  Among the many enhancements came an enhancement to QNAP’s MyQNAPCloud service.  From the start, the service didn’t look like it would be something that I would really take advantage of.  The interface was simple and didn’t really offer me much in the way of functionality.  Also, having multiple NAS meant multiple logins and just an additional layer of pain.  Well, things are different now… and I like it.

myqnapcloud 2 580x315 QNAPs myQNAPcloud SmartLink Service

The myQNAPcloud service simplifies remote management for the casual, home , and power user.  The service now provides a gateway to your appliance(s) in a very clean and easy to navigate portal.  Once you have assigned your NAS a name (QID) through the myQNAPcloud service your NAS becomes available to use in the myQNAPcloud portal.

Through this cloud service, you not only have an easy way to access your NAS or NAS (that’s the plural) via Dynamic DNS, you have a single interface to access things like the Device Details, NAS Administration, Download Station, File Station, Web Server, Multimedia Station, Photo Station, Music Station, and more.  It is all there.

The interface is broken up into two major sections.

The left has sections for My Devices, Favorite Devices, and devices Shared With Me.

  • My Devices: From here, you can manage and catalog all your QNAP devices.  They are listed out in alphabetical order.
  • Favorite Devices: You can easily search for devices owned by friends, family, or others and add them to your list of favorites.
  • Shared With Me: If someone shares a file with you using your email address registered with myQNAPcloud, the links for those files will show up here.

When a device is selected from My Devices, the right side of the portal allows you to login to your NAS.  The Shared folders and Share links tabs require you to login, while the Device detail tab can be viewed freely.

Device Detail provides a photo of your NAS for easy identification, the device name, model, internet address, local and WAN IP, the firmware version, and the last update.  The links along the bottom, in my case, QTS, File Station, Multimedia Station, etc, will quickly redirect you to your NAS.  In order for this to work, myQNAPcloud and your router need to be properly configured to forward the ports for those services.

myqnapcloud 1 580x315 QNAPs myQNAPcloud SmartLink Service

The Shared Folders tab is an easy way to quickly access files from across the internet.  Downloading, Sharing, and uploading is easy and intuitive.

myqnapcloud 3 580x304 QNAPs myQNAPcloud SmartLink Service

To register your NAS in the myQNAPcloud service, use the myQNAPcloud icon in QTS.  For instructions: Click Here

QNAP has done it again.  The myQNAPcloud SmartLink Service in QTS 4.1 has brought access and usability to another level.  Having all of these features at your fingertips; like Music Station, DJ Station, Video Station, etc. no matter where you are from one simple interface really strengthens QNAP’s position as a leader in NAS.