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Foxconn Z68A-S Motherboard (P)review

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi all, here’s the preview of Foxconn’s new product for the Intel Sandy Bridge platform, the Z68A-S enthusiast motherboard.

I have a copy of the board at home and in the box it includes:

  1. Z68A-S Motherboard
  2. 2x SATA Cable
  3. CD containing Drivers, Antivirus and other software
  4. Rear I/O Shield
  5. Quick reference manual

201106150541200314_Z68A-S-Big

As indicated, the Z68 Express (codename: Cougar Point and not Sandy Bridge, it’s for processors) series is Intel’s enthusiast  chipset for the 2nd generation of Core i series of processors (code named: Sandy Bridge). Intel has fixed the issue found in the other boards (P67 boards now sporting a 2nd revision) of the line. The following are specs found for the board:

 

Processor:

Intel® Sandybridge processors, Socket LGA1155
Chipset: Intel® Z68
Memory: Dual channel DDR3 1333/1066 x 4 DIMMs, Max. 32GB
Expansion Slots: 1* PCIe2.0 x16, 2* PCIe x1, 3* PCI bus slots
Serial ATA(SATA)/RAID: 3* SATA II + 2* SATA III w / RAID 0, 1, 0, 1.5; Intel® Matrix storage technology
Audio: 7.1 channel HDA
LAN: Gigabit Lan
Back Panel I/O Ports:

1 x PS/2 keyboard port
1 x VGA port
1 x DVI port
1 x S/PDIF out Optical port
1 x eSATAII port

Internal I/O Connectors:

1 x ATX 24-Pin power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x 4-pin CPU FAN connectors
2 x 4-pin System FAN connector
1 x Front pannel header
1 x Front Audio Header
1 x COM header
1 x TPM header
4 x USB 2.0 connectors support additional 8 ports
3 x Serial ATAII connectors
2 x Serial ATAIII connectors
1 x Intruder Alarm headers
1 x S/PDIF out header
1 x CLR_CMOS header
1 x CD-IN header
1 x Speaker header

BIOS Features: 32Mb flash EEPROM w/ LAN boot PnP, ACPI, WfM, DMI 2.0
Support CD: Drivers, Adobe Reader, SuperUtilities, Norton Internet Security
Standards/Manageability: USB3.0, DMI 2.0
Form Factor: ATX form factor 12.0 inch x 8.8 inch

As an enthusiast board, one thing I’ve noted was that it only has one PCIe 2.0 x16 slot. Normally for high end boards, these would have had 2 or more PCIe 2.0 slots for Crossfire/SLI support. It’s quite explainable though, as this board is not under the Quantum Force series of high end gaming boards by Foxconn. It features an all solid capacitor setup, SATA II and importantly SATA III (faster data read/write for HDDs), and onboard video if the processor used does have a cpu/gpu setup like the higher end processors from Intel. This pegs the motherboard to a price point of around $100-$160.

Unfortunately, the board that I have with me right now didn’t come with a 2nd Gen Intel Core i processor… so I couldn’t give a performance review of this bit. Sad smile But basing on its design, it’s targeting enthusiasts on a budget as it doesn’t have an additional PCIe slot for graphics, it lacks UEFI and still uses BIOS, and doesn’t have a whole lot of stuff included inside. There are other motherboards in the lineup found in this link: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/z68xp-ud3-dz68db,2980.html. Most notably, this Foxconn board in particular references well with the ASRock motherboard in the looks department.

UPDATE:How to Run FFVII on Windows 7

August 8, 2011 5 comments

There’s been some recent updates on how to run FFVII on Windows 7. By backtracking to the site where I first found it. There have indeed been updates to the set-up in particular, the use of the TrueMotion Video codec which doesn’t work on Windows 7. Here’s the updated blog (still same pictures, but will be replaced with new images once I’ve installed the HD pack).

INTRODUCTION

31VKF58JSNL__AA214_ Since I’ve ran out of new games to cover (and I’m saving up my resources for a trip to the US this April), I’ll drop back to an old game that I was playing since the PSOne and Windows 95/98 era…. Final Fantasy VII. Of course I’ve played this first in my old PSOne, which is now property of my siblings and my PS2 cannot play the old game, even if Sony touted backwards compatibility {shame}.

Since the PSOne’s no longer with me, I purchased FFVII for the PC from Datablitz. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy VII for the PC had terribly written code, and because of it, it was a chore to play on Windows XP (especially in SP2), since we all have to set some things to make it work. This also pose a problem for Windows 7. The symptoms range from not being able to see the screen, seeing choppy graphics, the game crashing on start, and more.

I used various search engines to look for answers. and one site was able to help me out. Here is the link: http://ntcompatible.com/Final_Fantasy_VII_c522.html. The following instruction came from within the site linked by an anonymous poster.

SETUP INSTRUCTIONS

Now out of all the replies there on how to make run FFVII on Windows 7, there’s one sure fire way. It came from this post.

    • Note : Not tested on isos, I used the original game CD.
  • Access all of the downloads via: http://wiki.qhimm.com/FF7/Technical/Customising
    • First: Install your FF7 Game (Uncheck the Yamaha, the directx and the directshow cases) and choose the Maximum install. Follow the steps until the end.
  • Second: When installed, apply : 
    - 1.02 patch
  • - FF7/FF8 OpenGL – v7.9 is stable based on my test, as beginning v7.10 my screen went white

Third: Apply the goodies if you want: 
- Team Avalache’s Graphical Overhaul: HD Patch 
- FMV Restoration

- one can get the Cloud AC model via finalfantasy7pc.com’s site

  • Fourth: Run FF7.exe, and the configuration utility will pop-up, then conf.igure the following:
  • - Graphics : I used 640 x 480 Full Screen and checked NVIDIA TNT with renderer Direct3D hardware acceleration. 
    -  Sound : Don’t touch it. 
    -  MIDI : MIDI Driver Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth and MIDI Data General MIDI
    • Fifth: My game started perfectly and it plays well!!!!!!

BUILD SAMPLE

In my build of Final Fantasy VII for the PC I have the following PC Specs:

Intel i7 950 Quad Core 3.07GHz
3x 2GB DDR3 1333  KINGSTON RAM
PALIT 9800GT 512MB Green 
500GB WD Blue / 750GB WD Black / 450GB WD Raptor
 
Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit SP1

 ffvii_pc_2 ffvii_pc_3 ffvii_pc_4 ffvii_pc_5 ffvii_pc_6 ffvii_pc_7 ffvii_pc_9 ffvii_pc_10 ffvii_pc_11 ffvii_pc_13 ffvii_pc_14

*All of these images came from the PC running at 640×480 resolution.

ADDITIONAL SETTINGS

In order to play the game and prevent from "crashing" at start, change the compatibility settings of the game .exe file to run as Administrator. With that we can start the game normally.

Also to get the original 4:3 screen format, edit the ff7_opengl.cfg file in the root installation directory and set the x and y values to your monitor’s current max resolution.

Thanks to those who’ve replied in the previous effort’s comments.

Categories: Games Tags:

WD Raptor Review

August 6, 2011 Leave a comment

I got my personal Raptor drive roughly a year after giving my initial review and talk during its launch. Previously, my test rig was a dual core Pentium D PC. Right now, a Core i7 rig is currently my primary computer and now I have some tools for benchmarking some aspects of the drive.

Similar to my previous test, I did a benchmark of the Raptor to some games that I have, albeit with some alterations to the selection of games. Also, instead of making the Raptor my primary drive, I made it one of my slave drives for the purpose of containing all of my games and as a scratch disk for Photoshop. Another test I did was the standard file transfer test between my Raptor and my WD Black HDD. I’ll transfer a Windows OS ISO file that I have from my primary drive to my two drives here.

WDC_Raptor450

WD Velociraptor 450GB HD Tune Test

WDC_Black750

WD Black 750GB HD Tune Test

This by no means is a scientific test (similar to big budgeted sites), I just used a basic timer to count the run.

Test #1: Game Load Test

Crysis 2: 20 sec load time / 20 sec (Crysis 1 on previous test)

Modern Warfare 2:  12 sec load time / 12 sec load time

Grand Theft Auto 4: 18 sec load time / 20 sec load time

Test #2: Photoshop Test

4 images (3MP SRAW2) stitched in panorama : 26 sec

Test #3: File Transfer Test

a.) Transfer from WD Blue 500GB to WD Black 750GB = 40 sec @ 80MBps +/-

b.) Transfer from WD Blue 500GB to WD Raptor 450GB = 32 sec @ 100MBps +/-

For test #1, as the test unit I’ve used on my first run was an AMD triple core machine with the 4th core unlocked, there’s little or no difference with my current setup. This means that whether the drive is used as primary or as backup, there’s not much of a difference there. Comparing it to another drive in test #3 however, does show that for a hard disk drive, nothing will beat the Raptor in a straight out file transfer contest. Only SSDs can beat it now, however there’s still a big price difference for large sized SSDs and the Raptor. Again, if there’s a need for getting the fastest storage with ample space, the WD Velociraptor drive is still the choice.

Categories: Uncategorized
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