Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Asus ROG Strix B250F Gaming Motherboard (Gen. Kabylake)

What Asus says...

Intel LGA-1151 ATX gaming motherboard with Aura Sync RGB LED, Intel Gigabit LAN, DDR4 2400MHz, dual M.2, SATA 6Gb/s, and USB 3.1 Type-C

  • Aura Sync RGB LED lighting technology for ultimate customizability
  • 3D-printing-friendly design — Dedicated 3D mounts makes fitting 3D-printed parts easy
  • ROG SupremeFX audio — Renowned audio performance with dual headphone amplifiers, leveled-up Sonic Studio III, and Sonic Radar III
  • Gaming networking — Best-in-class Intel® Gigabit Ethernet, LANGuard, and GameFirst technology
  • Next-gen connectivity — Dual onboard M.2 slots for up to 32Gbps PCIe bandwidth and USB 3.1 Type-C connector
  • Patent-pending ASUS SafeSlot for enhanced PCIe retention and shearing resistance





In my earlier share on the Asus B150i Pro Gaming/WiFi/Aura Motherboard, Asus crept closer and closer to splashing the obviously marketable ROG monicker on lower end models (maybe everything?). Well, this time they had finally gone full monty and done it - even this non-overclocking B250 motherboard is labelled as a ROG model!


Intel 200 Series Chipsets - What's New?

Intel 200 Series Chipset Guide

As recommended by Asus

B250

Like the H270, the B250 is aimed at users who prefer single GPU gaming setups without overclocking. However the B250 offers a slimmer feature set than H270, making it suitable for users who need less expansive systems. It still offers six SATA 6Gbps and plenty of USB 3.0, but there's only ~half the PCI-Express lanes available and no multi-drive PCI-Express M.2/U.2 support for RAID-0 - only one is covered by Intel RST.
Who needs the B250? Single-GPU gamers who opt for a single, fast M.2/U.2 device with plenty of SATA used for storage. Peripheral needs are more basic, and less than the wealth offered by H270.
ROG B250 Gaming motherboards to look out for:






Do remember with non-Z chipsets, you can officially run exactly at stock speeds only, ROG labelled or otherwise. Anyway, here's just a bookmark for the Asus Kaby oc guide which you do not get to put into practice with the B250 chipset here. You'll have to spend more and pay the Intel Z & K tax. lol
Kaby Clocking


The chipset comparison table above also shows why running more than a single gaming card on a motherboard with the B250 chipset isn't the best idea due to the rather limited 12 PCI-e 3.0 lanes. Besides, Nvidia demands a minimum of 8x8 link to support SLI.

A surprising omission unmentioned so far is Intel Optane technology which is supported as expected... the other pre-requisite being the new 7th generation Kabylake Intel Core CPU introduced along with the 200 series chipsets. Suck it up, Skylake owners!




Intel Optane

A system that is Intel® Optane™ memory ready includes: a 7th Gen Intel® Core™ processor, an Intel® 200 series chipset, M.2 type 2280-S1-B-M or 2242-S1-B-M connector on a PCH Remapped PCIe* Controller and Lanes in a x2 or x4 configuration with B-M keys that meet NVMe* Spec 1.1 and System BIOS that supports the Intel® Rapid Storage Technology (Intel® RST) 15.5 driver.



btw, here's an interesting forum discussion, with local flavouring of course, on $ vs features in mobo chipsets for those who have not seen it
Hardware Clinic - "mobo differences"



Unboxing

Beautiful colourful ROG style packaging






ROG stickers and i/o backplate






Attractive sleek dark looks in silver black shades, carbon fibre sticker anyone? That PCB job simply looks fantastic!



The back view also shows all heatsinks are properly anchored with metal screws and not plastic push pins, nice!



Spread of 6 x SATA3, 2 x M.2 ports.
NB: The M.2_1 socket supports Intel® Optane™ Technology, only supported when using 7th Generation Intel® Processors.





Metal reinforced main x16 slot and new look angular ROG southbridge heatsink




SupremeFX audio isolation, Japanese caps






Finely brushed aluminium Strix mosfet heatsink, looking the part!




Intel® I219V GLAN, Asmedia Type A and C USB 3.1, optical audio out - well decked out, nice!





Does Foxconn socket cover = Foxconn socket? Hmm, nothing mentioned on the actual metal brackets leh...






Aura LED array on back of PCB




Aesthetic looking and impressively large ROG heatsinks seems an overkill marketing feature on a non-Z model destined to run at only stock speeds.


UEFI

A smattering of screenshots to show the ROG graphics interface of Asus famed industry leading UEFI











Do note the super optimistic DDR4-4266 MHz memory selection being shown above, however only the stock DDR4-2133 speed works on this B250 model for Skylake CPUs cos all other selections will end up with a no POST situation. Guess we can probably wait forever, pray and hope for Intel to allow any possible overclocking on non-Z 200 chipsets. lol

* Due to Intel® chipset limitation, DDR4 2400MHz memory frequency is only supported by 7th Generation Intel® processors.



Aura LEDs

Once mains power is applied, by default the Aura LEDs already light up and do the heartbeat style glowing rainbow dance.




Aura Sync

Being a recently introduced model, this mobo supports Asus Aura Sync which allows you to

Aura Sync Home

Perfect Synchronization
ASUS Aura Sync takes RGB lighting beyond the checkbox, combining and controlling the LEDs of all your Aura-enabled products from a single application to achieve perfect, synchronized harmony. From motherboards and RGB strips to graphics cards and beyond, Aura Sync enables a veritable symphony of light for ultimate personalization.


Asus Aura Utility

Has come a long way since its inception, now it's up to this version where you can sync and customize RGB in more than just the motherboard eg. video cards, RGB LED strips etc







Windows 7 Support

Asus is providing Win 7 motherboard driver support for this B250 model as can be seen at their download site






However, things are not so rosy with the iGPU drivers as for now, Kabylake is officially* supported only with Win 10 x64 onwards by Intel and Asus... looks like a matter of time before every hardware upgrader is forced to update their choice of OS.



* beta Kabylake iGPU drivers for Win 7 may be available on the web if you look hard enough

Testing was started with Windows 7 just to confirm that it works with this motherboard while running a Skylake i3-6100. Which it does... main test OS was a fresh new Windows 10 installation.



Test Setup

Asus ROG Strix B250F motherboard | Core i3-6100 Skylake@stock HSF | 2 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666@2133 | Radeon HD 6670 GPU | Win 10 x64 | Silverstone 450W PSU


Open air caseless, ambient 27C



Benches

Bearing in mind, this motherboard sports the B250 chipset which is a non-overclocking series... personally, this chipset is a little too staid especially on such a solidly built motherboard. With quality components cooled by heavy heatsinks and yet being capable of running only at stock speeds, this model could potentially last a long long time, quite likely long enough for you to get bored and hanker after an update.

The bench numbers derived so far, appear consistent with stock speed performances on other motherboards tested.


CPU-Z Bench




AIDA64 Bench




WinRAR Bench




HEVC* Decode Bench
A pure CPU power decoding benchmark. With the latest Realtek S1220A SupremeFX based audio and optical audio out, this mobo should make for a nice core of a HTPC. Spotify Free streaming sounds really pleasingly good to these jaded ears.


* What is HEVC?



DPC Latency

Passed!




BIOS Time

Pretty decent number.




Cinebench R15





Speedtest.net

Happy numbers!




Daily Usage

The Strix B250F runs real cool during actual daily tasks surfing, Spotify etc, max. motherboard temps are barely above the ambient with no added fans.




Initial Impressions

The Asus ROG Strix B250F Gaming is an attractive bling motherboard based on the latest Intel 200 chipset series. The fact that it is clearly over-built for running at stock likely means a long operating lifetime. It is definitely among the cream of the current crop of Intel B250 chipset models, there won't be many other better built or glitzier Intel B250 motherboards around.

With its HTPC geared components eg. latest S1220A SupremeFX audio and digital audio out, it should make for a good HTPC core too.

If you are quite sure that one GPU and stock speeds are all that you ever will want, this model should warrant a much closer look... as long as the Asus ROG label premium is not too forbidding.

2 comments:

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