OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 and Plugable TBT3-NVME2TB Portable SSDs Review

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Portable SSDs with NVMe-based internal drives and a Thunderbolt 3 interface are the fastest bus-powered storage devices currently available in the market. We have been following this market since inception with a steady review of incoming products, while also experimenting with DIY models. The recent glut in the flash market with low-priced, yet high-performance, 3D TLC memory and the availability of Phison’s Thunderbolt 3 external SSD reference platform has enabled vendors to put out relatively cheap high-capacity Thunderbolt 3 SSDs. Today, we take a look at two 2TB Thunderbolt 3 SSDs that do not break the bank – the OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 (Standard Edition) and the recently launched Plugable TBT3-NVME2TB.

The Google Pixel 4 XL Review: Stuck In The Past In 2019

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Amongst the last big smartphone releases of 2019 is Google’s Pixel 4 series. Google’s own flagship devices come late in the generational product cycle whose timing is mostly dictated by the SoC release schedule – it’s always hard to be able to make a case for your product knowing in a few months’ time we’ll be seeing a barrage of new competing products raising the bar again. Google’s forte in this regard is that it promises to augment its products with features beyond what the hardware can provide, yet in a sense, the Pixel 4’s biggest improvements (and weaknesses) this year are actually mostly related to its hardware.

The new Pixel 4 is again a camera centric phone – it’s the topic that Google talked about the most and dedicated the most time to during its launch event in New York. The Pixel 4 adds for the first time a second camera module that acts as a telephoto unit, and also promises to have improved the capture quality on the new main camera. Whilst Google has a reputation for having good cameras, the Pixel 4 this year faces incredible competition as essentially every other vendor this year has launched devices with triple cameras and have stepped up in terms of their computational photography capabilities.

Other big features of the Pixel 4 include a new 90Hz capable display panel that allows for a new ultra-smooth device experience, a feature that’s still quite rare amongst flagship devices this year, but quickly catching up with many vendors. Another big change for the Pixel 4 is the dropping of the fingerprint sensor in favour for a new full-blown face unlock feature. This latter feature is augmented by another novelty of the Pixel 4: A radar sensor that’s able to detect movements and gestures pointed at the phone.

We’ll be putting the new Pixel 4 XL through our test benches and determine if Google has managed to create a compelling product worth your money.

The Intel Core i9-9900KS Review: The 5 GHz Consumer Special

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Intel likes 5.0 GHz processors. The one area where it claims a clear advantage over AMD is in its ability to drive the frequency of its popular 14nm process. Earlier this week, we reviewed the Core i9-9990XE, which is a rare auction only CPU but with 14 cores at 5.0 GHz, built for the high-end desktop and high frequency trading market. Today we are looking at its smaller sibling, the Core i9-9900KS, built in numbers for the consumer market: eight cores at 5.0 GHz. But you’ll have to be quick, as Intel isn’t keeping this one around forever. Read on for the full review.

SiFive Announces First RISC-V OoO CPU Core: The U8-Series Processor IP

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In the last few year’s we’ve seen an increasing amount of talk about RISC-V and it becoming real competitor to the Arm in the embedded market. Indeed, we’ve seen a lot of vendors make the switch from licensing Arm’s architecture and IP designs to the open-source RISC-V architecture and either licensed or custom-made IP based on the ISA. While many vendors do choose to design their own microarchitectures to replace Arm-based microcontroller designs in their products, things get a little bit more complicated once you scale up in performance. It’s here where SiFive comes into play as a RISC-V IP vendor offering more complex designs for companies to license – essentially a similar business model to Arm’s – just that it’s based on the new open ISA.

Today’s announcement marks a milestone in SiFive’s IP offering as the company is revealing its first ever out-of-order CPU microarchitecture, promising a significant performance jump over existing RISC-V cores, and offering competitive PPA metrics compared to Arm’s products. We’ll be taking a look at the microarchitecture of the new U8 Series CPU and how it’s built and what it promises to deliver.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Super Review, Feat. EVGA SC Ultra: Recalibrating The Mainstream Market

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Kicking off the first of a series of video card launches for this holiday season is NVIDIA, who is announcing their GeForce GTX 1660 Super. This is a relatively minor, but none the less interesting revision to the GTX 1660 family that adds a 1660 (vanilla) SKU with faster GDDR6 memory for improved performance. Along with the GeForce GTX 1650 Super (shipping in late November), these two cards are going to be the backbone of NVIDIA’s mainstream efforts to close out the year. And while NVIDIA’s other GTX 1660 cards aren’t going anywhere, as we’re going to see today, with its $229 price tag, the GDDR6-equipped GTX 1660 Super is pretty much going to make the other 1660 cards redundant.

The Intel Core i9-9990XE Review: All 14 Cores at 5.0 GHz

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Within a few weeks, Intel is set to launch its most daring consumer desktop processor yet: the Core i9-9900KS, which offers eight cores all running at 5.0 GHz. There’s going to be a lot of buzz about this processor, but what people don’t know is that Intel already has an all 5.0 GHz processor, and it actually has 14 cores: the Core i9-9990XE. This ultra-rare thing isn’t sold to consumers – Intel only sells it to select partners, and even then it is only sold via an auction, once per quarter, with no warranty from Intel. How much would you pay for one? Well we got one to test.

The ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Impact: A Sharp $430 Impulse on X570

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One of the most interesting unveilings from the X570 launch earlier this year came from ASUS, with the reintroduction of the ROG Impact series of small form factor motherboards. Not seen since the days of Intel Z170 days, the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Impact is the first truly AMD high-end SFF model from the vendor. Accompanied by its SO-DIMM.2 slot for dual PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 SSDs, a SupremeFX S1220 HD audio codec and support for up to DDR4-4800 memory, the Impact looks to leave its mark on AM4 for enthusiasts just like previous iterations have done on Intel platforms. The only difference this time round is that it’s not a true Mini-ITX like the previous Impact designs.

Samsung Announces Exynos 990: 7nm EUV, M5, G77, LPDDR5 Flagship SoC alongside Exynos 5123 5G Modem

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Today Samsung unexpectedly announced the brand new Exynos 990 chipset – likely to be Samsung’s flagship SoC for 2020, employing the newest IP and offering the newest features on the 7nm EUV manufacturing node. The chip closely follows the release of the Exynos 980 earlier in September, and both new silicon chips bring with them 5G connectivity alongside their new product naming scheme.

Samsung Exynos SoCs Specifications
SoC

Exynos 990

Exynos 9820 / 9825

CPU 2x Exynos M5 @ ? GHz
(+20% perf)

2x Cortex A76 @ ? GHz

4x Cortex A55 @ ? GHz

2x Exynos M4 @ 2.73 GHz
2x 512KB pL2
3 MB L3

2x Cortex A75 @ 2.31 / 2.4GHz
2x 256KB pL2

4x Cortex A55 @ 1.95 GHz
No pL2’s

1MB L3

GPU Mali G77MP11 @ ? MHz Mali G76MP12 @ 702 MHz
Memory
Controller
LPDDR5 @ 2750MHz 4x 16-bit CH
LPDDR4X @ 2093MHz

2MB System Cache

ISP Single: 108MP
Dual: 24.8MP+24.8MP
Rear: 22MP
Front: 22MP
Dual: 16MP+16MP
NPU Dual NPU + DSP
>10 TOPs
Dual NPU
1.86 TOPs
Media 8K30 & 4K120 encode & decode
H.265/HEVC, H.264, VP9
8K30 & 4K150 encode & decode
H.265/HEVC, H.264, VP9
Modem Exynos Modem External 

(LTE Category 24/22)
DL = 3000 Mbps
8x20MHz CA, 1024-QAM
UL = 422 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6)
DL = 5100 Mbps

(5G NR mmWave)
DL = 7350 Mbps

Exynos Modem Integrated

(LTE Category 20/20)
DL = 2000 Mbps
8x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 316 Mbps
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

Mfc. Process Samsung
7nm LPP (EUV)
Samsung
8nm LPP / 7nm LPP (EUV)

Starting off with the new CPU complex, Samsung seemingly is continuing with their custom CPU designs for this generation, and we’re seeing the deployment of the new Exynos M5 microarchitecture. Samsung quotes that the new design is 20% faster than the Exynos M4 in the 9820 – a bit of a conservative figure given the larger process node improvement. The new CPU will have to compete against the next generation Snapdragon flagship which most likely will come with Cortex-A77 derived cores which promises 23-30% IPC increases – unless that chip comes with clock degradations, the new M5 will have a hard time competing.

Samsung has upgraded the middle core from the Cortex A75 in the previous generation a newer Cortex A76 design, which should provide a more significant performance uplift in every-day workloads. Finally, we continue to see Cortex A55 cores as the little efficiency cores. Samsung doesn’t disclose the clock frequencies of any of the CPU clusters, but advertises that the overall improvement of the new tri-cluster is 13%.

The Exynos 990 sees a big GPU upgrade in the form of the new Mali-G77 in an MP11 configuration. The new Valhall architecture promises to be a very large performance jump for Arm’s GPU IP, and it looks like the new Exynos will be amongst the first chipsets to employ the new GPU family. Samsung press release claims we’ll see performance uplifts of up to 20%, or power efficiency gains of up to 20%. The increase seems quite meagre given the process improvement as well as the new GPU architecture, it seems very unlikely Samsung will be unable to catch up to Apple’s newest chipsets – and Qualcomm is expected to have a big generational jump as well.

One fundamental change that the Exynos 990 brings with itself is the transition from LPDDR4X memory to LPDDR5 memory. This allows the new chipset to increase the memory controller frequency from 2093 MHz to 2750MHz and we’re also expecting the new DRAM technology to bring power efficiency gains to the table.

Samsung discloses that the chip comes with a dual-core NPU and a new DSP which can perform over 10 TOPs in computational throughput – it’s not exactly clear here if Samsung is referring to the DSP’s capability or the combined capabilities of the NPU and DSP. The Exynos 9820’s NPU had a throughput of 1.86TOPs.

Finally, what’s odd here is the chip’s connectivity capabilities: Samsung doesn’t list the Exynos 990 as having modem capabilities which might point out that we’re maybe looking at a pure application processor this generation. Instead of an integrated modem, Samsung is advertising the new Exynos Modem 5123 as a new discrete chipset:

The new modem iterates on the Exynos Modem 5100 used this year: It’s still a complete multi-band solution supporting everything from 2G to 5G sub-6 as well as mmWave, however Samsung has massively upgraded the new chip’s maximum throughput. In regular 4G LTE, the new chip now supports downlink speeds of up to 3Gbps while offering 422Mbps upload. In 5G sub-6, we’re seeing 5.1Gbps downloads, and 7.35Gbps in mmWave networks. The chip’s speeds are enabled by up to 8x carrier aggregation and a new higher-order 1024 QAM, which is as far as we know, the first modem to be announced with such capabilities.

Samsung’s choice of going with a discrete 5G modem this generation seems to be related to the economics of the new silicon: The new 5G modems are still quite large in die size, although the Exynos Modem 5100 was amongst the smallest at 56.03mm². Still, both the new modem as well as the Exynos 990 are manufactured on Samsung’s 7nm EUV node, and separating the two into discrete chips likely makes sense at this point in time in order to offer more flexibility and to increase manufacturing yield.

One question which remains open, is whether Samsung will be opting to pair the Exynos 990 with a different modem than the 5123. Still, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any pairing with a 4G modem, meaning all Exynos flagship devices next year will have 5G supp

The AUKEY KM-G3 RGB Mechanical Keyboard Review: A Basic Budget Mechanical Keyboard

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Today we are taking a look at the KM-G3 RGB Mechanical keyboard from AUKEY, a Chinese manufacturer. Designed as an entry-level mechanical keyboard, AUKEY engineered the KM-G3 to offer mechanical switches and RGB lighting at a significantly lower price than the competition. There aren’t any advanced features to speak of, but as a result AUKEYsells the keyboard for just $65, and it is often on sale for even less than that.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (15-Inch) Review: AMD Ryzen Surface Edition

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This year at Microsoft’s somewhat annual Surface update event, Microsoft surprised everyone by not only announcing a newer and larger Surface Laptop 3, bumping the screen size from 13.5-inches to 15-inches, but also by selecting an AMD processor for the laptop. Though still an incremental shift when looking at the entire Surface lineup, it was a big change for Microsoft, as well as a big win for AMD. Not only is Microsoft now offering a traditional, clamshell laptop in the ever-popular 15-inch form factor, but it’s the highest profile laptop yet to ship with one of AMD’s APUs.

The Apple iPhone 11, 11 Pro & 11 Pro Max Review: Performance, Battery, & Camera Elevated

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It’s been a little over a year since our review of the iPhone XS and XS Max, and it’s that time of the year to investigate Apple’s latest and greatest: the iPhone 11 family. This time around Apple was able to launch all three phones, the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max simultaneously, and we’ve gotten our hands on all of them. We’ll be running them through our extensive testing marathon, again hopefully revealing more about how Apple’s newest hardware improvements change the product experience.

This year we’re not seeing major changes how Apple is slicing up their market segments among the phone models, though we are seeing bit of a name change for the new phones. The iPhone 11 is the direct successor to the iPhone XR: The new phone largely remains similar to its predecessor in terms of externals, although we’re seeing the newest internal hardware as well as adoption of two of the three new cameras in the series.

The iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max succeed the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Here again, we’re not seeing too major of changes in the design, although the backs of the phones differ more significantly to the regular iPhone 11. These are also the first devices that employ Apple’s new full triple-camera system, utilizing a new generation main camera sensor, the well-known telephoto module, and Apple’s first ultra-wide-angle module, matching a significant feature set that’s been prevalent in many 2019 flagship smartphones.

Alongside the usual yearly SoC upgrade and the new generation A13, a big area Apple has improved the hardware design this year is in terms of battery capacities and screen efficiency, with the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max particularly benefiting from some remarkable changes here.

Google Announces The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL: The 2019 Pixels

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Today Google announced the new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL flagship devices, representing Google’s vision for 2019 and 2020. The new phones upgrade the hardware to the latest and greatest, such as introducing a new 90Hz display. The new phones come with a new design language that does differ more significantly from its predecessors, with some risky choices in terms of the new features that the new generation drop as well as adopts.
As always, Google prides itself in the camera of the Pixel phones and this year we kinda saw the new Pixel go against the flow of industry trends, and instead of adopting a much hyped ultra-wide-angle module, Google doubled down on a new telephoto camera. However Google’s forte remains software, and here alongside new camera features, Google also brings new features to the table, such as a new upgraded voice recognition aided by machine learning that’s been used both for the new Assistant, as well as new apps such as the live transcription recorder app

AMD + ITX + TB3? It’s the ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 Motherboard Review

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When it comes to small form factor systems, options are few and far between. For AMD’s X570, out of the 35+ motherboards currently available, just four of them are smaller than mATX. This doesn’t give users much to choose from. In this case, mini-ITX implementations have to get it right, and over the last few years ASRock has been at the forefront of the enthusiast small form factor market with an array of models. Today we are reviewing its latest mini-ITX motherboard, the ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3. This unique product incorporates Thunderbolt 3 into the frame, pairing it with 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 as well. Read on for our review.

The Modular PC: Intel’s new Element brings Project Christine to Life

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Way back at CES 2014, Razer’s CEO introduced a revolutionary concept design for a PC that had one main backplane and users could insert a CPU, GPU, power supply, storage, and anything else in a modular fashion. Fast forward to 2020, and Intel is aiming to make this idea a reality. Today at a fairly low-key event in London, Intel’s Ed Barkhuysen showcased a new product, known simply as an ‘Element’ – a CPU/DRAM/Storage on a dual-slot PCIe card, with Thunderbolt, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB, designed to slot into a backplane with multiple PCIe slots, and paired with GPUs or other accelerators. Behold, Christine is real, and it’s coming soon.

Microsoft Announces Surface Laptop 3 Family: Now Including 15-Inch Models & Custom AMD Ryzen APUs

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Kicking off the holiday quarter for Microsoft, today the company held its annual Surface press event, where the company announced a slate of new laptops, tablets, & 2-in-1s for the PC market. While there are a few items to get through, probably the marquee announcement for AnandTech readers is the Surface Laptop 3 family. The latest iteration of Microsoft’s laptops aren’t changing too much in terms of overall design, but this year’s models include a new 15-inch model, as well as models that incorporate semi-custom AMD Ryzen APUs, marking the first time AMD has landed a deal for a Surface device.

Intel’s Cascade Lake-X CPU for High-End Desktops: 18 cores for Under $1000

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With someone in the press having broken their embargo earlier today, Intel is lifting the lid earlier than planned on their upcoming Cascade Lake-X family of processors for the high-end desktop (HEDT) market. Similar to the way Intel’s Cascade Lake based Xeon Scalable processors are a further revision of their Skylake Xeons, offering clock speed increases and security fixes in hardware, the new HEDT processors will grant higher frequencies, more memory capacity, and better protection against side-channel attacks. The key numbers however are the big drop in Intel’s pricing: Intel will be releasing its 18-core part, the Core i9-10980XE, for under $1000.

Intel Cascade Lake-X
AnandTech Cores
Threads
Base All
Core
TB2 TB3 TDP Price
(1ku)
Core i9-10980XE 18C / 36T 3.0 3.8 4.6 4.8 165 W $979
Core i9-10940X 14C / 28T 3.3 4.1 4.6 4.8 165 W $784
Core i9-10920X 12C / 24T 3.5 4.3 4.6 4.8 165 W $689
Core i9-10900X 10C / 20T 3.7 4.3 4.5 4.7 165 W $590

This pricing is a significant shift in Intel’s strategy, and a number of fingers will be pointed at AMD as having made this happen. Next month AMD is set to launch its 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X at $749, which will offer 16 PCIe 4.0 lanes and support for 128 GB of DRAM. So Intel needed something similarly speedy, but with more PCIe lanes and more memory support that they could offer for just a bit more, leading to the 10980XE for $979. Ultimately, the on-shelf price is often just slightly higher than tray price, so don’t be surprised if retail prices land at around $1000. 

All the CPUs will support 256 GB of quad-channel memory, and have 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes. Memory speed support is listed as DDR4-2933 for 1 DIMM per channel, and DDR4-2666 for 2 DIMMs per channel. All these CPUs have a TDP of 165 W, up from 140 W in the previous generation, which Intel states will help the CPUs to turbo longer under Intel’s recommended settings (as we know, consumer motherboard manufacturers like to ignore these anyway). All these CPUs are supported in X299 motherboards.

There is no 16-core in this stack, with Intel’s official reasoning being that they assess the market with each generation and they don’t believe there’s a suitable price point for such a part when the 14C and 18C parts are so close. Most people will point the finger and say that no-16 core Intel part means no direct comparison with the Ryzen 9 3950X, which is something to think about.

Another point to note is that Intel has stopped this stack at the 10 core and no lower. This means that there will be no cross over between Intel’s consumer processor stack and the HEDT stack, with users needing to spend just a little bit more from the Core i9-9900K/KF to reach up to the Core i9-10900X. It will be interesting to see where Intel’s Core i9-9900KS fits in, although that still only has dual channel memory and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes.

Intel lists Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5GbE support on these new processors – to clarify, Intel means external controllers here. For some odd reason when Intel says support, it could mean internal to the chipset or external via a controller; this is messaging I’ve rallied against for a while, as it ends up confusing for enthusiasts, especially when this is an enthusiast platform. It does mean however that we get official information about Intel’s 2.5GbE controllers, which we’ve been waiting on for a couple of years. Intel stated that these controllers will be ready at a later date, and more information to follow. (The controllers are currently listed on Intel’s ARK database, but as 1 GbE controllers for some reason.)

These CPUs will have the same security mitigations as the Cascade Lake Xeon processors, with updated hardware mitigations for a number of side channel attacks. We are waiting to hear from Intel if the firmware that supports these processors will also have additional fixes in for Zombieload by default.

One question about this launch is surrounding Intel’s 14nm capacity. Within the last week, there have been reports that despite Intel’s best efforts and promises to match demand, and that Q3 and upcoming for Q4 is going to be busier than expected. We reached out to Intel last week for clarification, and the company said that the bulk of its capacity is focusing on the high-end processors in the market: the Xeon Scalable, the Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5. It will be interesting to see if launching another family of products is going to put additional strain on Intel’s capacity and demand.

With AMD’s recent Zen 2 Ryzen 3000 series launch on 7nm earlier in the year, Threadripper 3 coming later this year, and Intel swinging another generation of 14++ into the high-end desktop market, Intel is going to have some tough times. Don’t get me wrong, this pricing update from Intel is a good thing for users, especially those looking at implementing things like DL Boost to their workflow, but this market is suddenly turning very aggressive, and it will be interesting to see if Intel can be agile enough to keep pace.

Intel’s Cascade Lake-X processors will be available in November. More details should be released nearer to launch.

Related Reading

The ASUS ROG Phone II Review: Mobile Gaming First, Phone Second

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The concept of mobile gaming is still a relatively new phenomenon. The idea that a user can have a smartphone dedicated to gaming that isn’t in of itself a console or handheld platform from Nintendo seems very odd – here’s a device that does everything a phone can do, as well as play the same games, so what makes it a “Gaming Phone”, especially if it has almost the same hardware inside? ASUS’s new ROG Phone II, designed under its Republic of Gamers brand, is ultimately a product designed to showcase that there are things you can do with a phone to make it more gaming focused. We take the device (and some of its accessories) for a spin.

The Black Shark 2 Review: A Gaming Phone’s Existential Crisis

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Over the last 1-2 years we’ve seen a new type of smartphone category start carving itself a niche in the market: the gaming smartphone. Last year, the original Black Shark was amongst the first devices to try to cater to a gaming audience, offering characteristic “gaming designs” as well as promising to offer software features to differentiate itself from the more usual smartphone offerings.

This year, Xiaomi has updated its Black Shark line and brand with the new Black Shark 2. The phone is very much a continuation of what we saw last year with the Black Shark, but offering the newest hardware innards and iterative improvements to the design and features.

The GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme Motherboard Review: Fanless AM4

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The introduction of the X570 chipset has heralded some of the most impressive and feature-rich desktop motherboards for an AMD platform in recent times. One prime example of this is the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme which includes an Aquantia powered 10 GbE NIC, Intel’s Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax wireless interface, and has support for up to three PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 drives. Looking to live up to the Xtreme naming, there’s a 16-phase power delivery with dual BIOS for the more extreme enthusiast, whereas users looking to create a clean looking RGB laden system will appreciate the right-angled 24-pin motherboard power input. The X570 Aorus Xtreme is also the only current motherboard to include a passively cooled chipset heatsink, with GIGABYTE looking to make its flagship model unique and to stand out from the crowd.

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