The Tom’s Hardware editorial team was presented with a staggering number of products to pore over at this year’s Computex. Only a few stood out as exceptional, though. At the show, we recognized those offerings with Tom’s Hardware’s Best of Computex 2013 awards.
Without a chance to test these brand-new components, we've based our selections on items that appear to have a lot of potential due to innovative features, value, or a combination of both.
Gigabyte deserves credit for bringing in well-known overclocker HiCookie to aid in the design of tweak-friendly motherboards. The result of their collaboration is the Z87X-OC and Z87X-OC Force, both stuffed with features that enthusiasts will find useful. For example, OC Ignition delivers power to the system without spinning up the CPU, but driving cooling component and PCI Express slots. Those same slots can be turned on and off individually via DIP switches. A graphics card bracket and I/O ports on the back of the board make life on an open test bench that much easier. The power connector is infused with more metal so that it doesn’t melt under heavy loads. We could go on, but you get the picture: these boards are particularly special for guys like us who spent more time with hardware running outside of a case than in. Therefore, we’re awarding the cheaper and more accessible of the two platforms, Gigabyte’s $200 Z87X-OC, with Tom's Hardware's Best of Computex 2013 for pure innovation.
Asus ROG Maximus VI Impact
The mini-ITX form factor broke out of the office PC/HTPC stereotype last year when Intel and Nvidia both took great strides to improve high-end performance at greater efficiency than we’ve seen before. Motherboard vendors had to quickly catch up, and Asus created the best of the bunch for the LGA 1155 platform. Now, the incumbent is building on that experience with its ROG Maximus VI Impact. The diminutive 17 cm-square form factor doesn't leave a lot of space for beefy power circuitry, so a daughterboard at a right angle to the PCB plays host to the 8+2 phase digital PWM. Three other small boards enable 802.11ac Wi-Fi/Bluetooth 4.0; an overclocking tool panel placed near the rear I/O including LED debug display, power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons; and finally, a SupremeFX audio card with high-end capacitors, amplifiers, and shielding. You can expect to pay a premium for all of that engineering (somewhere in the neighborhood of $300), but the Maximus VI Impact nevertheless deserves our recognition for introducing an unmatched feature set to enthusiasts conscious of desk space.
Antec Ninteen Hundred with OC Link support
The flexibility to expand is an attribute that enthusiasts covet. Antec's OC Link feature allows two of the company’s HCP Platinum power supplies (850, 1000, or 1300 W models) to work in tandem, giving you the freedom to augment your power delivery system down the road if you need to. It is for this reason that we believe Antec deserves recognition for its gargantuan Ninteen Hundred case. The award isn’t for the enclosure alone, but rather the innovation shown in facilitating an incremental upgrade to a component that previously had to be replaced entirely. While an upgrade system that starts at 850 W is going to be upgrade for pretty much everyone, we’re really hoping to see the concept expand to encompass lower-output supplies as well.
Mini ITX Case:
Cooler Master Elite 130
The Elite 130 is an updated version of last year’s Elite 120. In that regard, it isn’t particularly innovative. But some products deserve recognition for their fundamental goodness and added value. This case, designed for mini-ITX motherboards, can accommodate a full-sized graphics card like AMD’s Radeon HD 7990 (though that’s in theory—practically, we wouldn’t go that route). The new model boasts improved airflow thanks to the removal of restrictive front blockages the original design suffered. In addition, the Elite 130 features support for front-mounted water cooling. The reasonable $60 MSRP makes this case one of the most desirable mini-ITX enclosures for the money, and Cooler Master scores a deserved commendation from our editorial team.
We’ve been doing this a very long time. Yet, we still run across products that take our team by surprise. ASRock’s M8 was one of those offerings at this year’s Computex. Developed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA (the same organization consulted for Thermaltake’s Level 10 family), the attractive enclosure exudes high-quality metal construction. There’s a stylish multifunction LED display sitting front and center. Open the magnetically-attached side panel and you’re greeted by room for a full-sized dual-slot graphics card, enabled by a PCI Express riser card. ASRock claims to have tested enthusiast boards as fast as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 680, and they present no problem for the included 450 W power supply. You also get an LGA 1150-equipped motherboard boasting an extensive list of features, including Creative Labs’ Sound Core3D processor, dual gigabit Ethernet controllers, and 802.11ac wireless networking. True to ASRock’s reputation, the $500 barebones configuration won’t break the bank. It easily earns our respect, along with our Tom’s Hardware Best of Computex 2013 award.
SanDisk Extreme II
Without a doubt, the Extreme II SSD serves up top-tier performance, as demonstrated in our recent article, SanDisk Extreme II SSD Review: Striking At The Heavy-Hitters. In addition, it boasts impressive flash-level innovation via the nCache feature and 19 nm eX2 ABL Toggle-mode NAND. While the product's name and presentation are a bit un-imaginative, we're impressed that SanDisk is making a serious play for retail success with capable enthusiast-class hardware, despite the company's solid OEM roots. It's for all of these reasons that we’re also recognizing SanDisk and the Extreme II SSD with Tom's Hardware's Best of Computex 2013 award.