Next week is the annual Computex trade show and we have a substantial number of meetings booked, but as part of the regular pre-show ritual, companies are coming at us with the start of their press release mêlée. One of the first to officially release their embargo is ASRock, showing off some impressive equipment ready for media to gawk at when we hit the booth on the show floor.

First up is a tantalising teaser of what is to come. Anyone interested in the PC space is talking about upcoming Broadwell and the iteration after that called Skylake. Skylake for desktops will require a new chipset and new motherboard, which we at least know that Z170 is part of it (H, B and Q series motherboards are likely in the scheme as well). A big part of Computex in recent years has been showing off these designs regardless of the launch window, and ASRock’s PR today mentions two such Z170 motherboards: the Z170 Gaming K6 and the Z170 Extreme7.

The Z170 Gaming K6 throws up some interesting talking points. We have an ASRock gaming logo on the chipset, which is supposed to be akin to a praying mantis and will most likely supplant the Fatal1ty branding on the gaming range. The new socket looks similar to the one used for Z87 and Z97. The PCIe slots are split electrically x16/x8/x4 with an Ultra M.2 in the middle suggesting a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot. Killer networking returns on this platform, and it would seem that SATA Express is also along this line. In the top left, you’ll notice the DRAM slots are listed as DDR4_A1, DDR4_A2 and so on, with single sided latches supporting the DDR4 modules.

The Z170 Extreme7 images are more exciting, showing off three M.2 slots between the PCIe slots. These are all listed as Ultra M.2, which means PCIe 3.0 x4 bandwidth each for 12 lanes. At this point details of the Z170 platform have not been released, but having access to three M.2 x4 slots either means that some can only be used when integrated graphics is in play, the CPU has more than 16 lanes, or some of these are running off the chipset, none of which can be confirmed. Both the Extreme7 and the Gaming K6 would seem to have Purity Sound 3, the next iteration of the upgraded motherboard audio. This should be the Realtek ALC1150 still, however that is not confirmed as of yet.

Another surprising element to the press release was the announcement that ASRock’s Gaming brand is expanding beyond motherboards. Similar to other gaming brands from motherboard companies, ASRock will also provide mice and mousepads (no mention of keyboards or headsets), but in an interesting twist they will also provide a router. The G10 is meant to be a similarly themed (with the logo and the angled edges) device but offers 4T4R connectivity on 802.11ac. This means up to 1733 Mbps connectivity over a single WiFi application. The only critical point here is that no-one sells a 4T4R WiFi card for a PC – the most we’ve seen so far is 3T3R in commercial applications. It will be interesting to see if that leads down a certain path of better WiFi bandwidth opportunities.

We have plans to meet with ASRock during Computex where we hope to get some hands-on time with this stuff. Release dates and pricing are not being announced as of yet.

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  • foxtrot1_1 - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    This, this is what I want to build. Reply
  • BubbaJoe TBoneMalone - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Same here. Patiently waiting for Skylake-E. I have a Core i7-920. 32" 4k monitors should be much more affordable by then. Would be nice to also have a completely wireless PC - no more audio/video/etc cable connections. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Good luck with that. My 920 died a month ago. My 930's still running; but I built a 4790 since i didn't want to be forced into a panic upgrade if the other one went too. Even if I waited a year there'd still be something major sitting on the horizon; probably USB 3.1 in the chipset; given Intel's lack of major changes in tock chipsets; probably not for another two years with the 300 series. Reply
  • Fujikoma - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Dropped a X5670 (six core Xeon) as a replacement to my 920 (glad a BIOS update allowed for it). 30 Watts less power for nearly twice as much processing power. Bought it used for $100, since I didn't feel the new build cost was worth it. Maybe this will justify shelling out some cash. I've been wanting a to build a new workstation for quite a while. The micro-atx builds just aren't as fun. Reply
  • Uxi - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    But Skylake-E won't be available before H2 2016, at least that is what I have read. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    For the last year or so, the rumors seem to've settled on still only having 16 PCIe lanes on the CPU; but that the chipset would have up to 20. The latter's a bit of deceptive though; similar to how the 8x/9x series chipsets had 18 flexible io ports that could be shared among PCIe/USB3/Sata the 1xx chipset will have 28 flexible io ports to share among all three; so unless you skip heavily on sata/usb3 you won't actually have the max 20 available on the chipset; and unless a lot of USB3 hubs/PLX/sata controller chips are used you won't be able to populate all of the PCIe/M2/Sata express connectors at once. Reply
  • ToTTenTranz - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    I'm not so sure that cutting the PCI-E bandwidth in half is a good idea during the advent of HSA-enabled graphics cards and applications. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    People've been saying some version of "but what if 8 lanes won't be be enough for new GPUs" with every generation of boards that've launched. Outside of occasional edge cases it's never been a problem in the real world. Reply
  • Ammaross - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    When it becomes a problem, PCIe 4.0 will happen, or CPUs will come with more lanes. Skylake is bumping up to 20 lanes for a reason. Need pushes features. Reply
  • tachikaze - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Actually it's my understanding that Skylake-S's connection to the "Sunrise Point" PCH has the 20 lanes, up from 8x PCIe 2.0. Skylake itself still has x16 CPU PCIe AFAICT. Reply

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