Motherboard Mania!

At a Glance
  • Asus A8R-MVP Motherboard (Athlon X2/ Athlon 64/ Sempron, Socket 939, Radeon Xpress 200 Crossfire, ATX, 4GB DDR, 1GHz Bus)

    PCWorld Rating
  • Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe Motherboard (Athlon X2/ Athlon FX/ Athlon 64/ Sempron, nForce4 SLI X16, Socket 939, ATX, 4GB DDR, 1000MHz Bus)

    PCWorld Rating
  • eVGA nForce4 SLI Motherboard (Athlon 64 FX, Socket 939, nForce4 SLI, ATX, 4GB DDR, 1000MHz)

    PCWorld Rating
  • DFI LANPARTY UT RDX200 CF-DR Motherboard (Athlon X2/Athlon FX/Athlon 64/Sempron, Socket 939, Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire, 4GB DDR, 1GHz Bus)

    PCWorld Rating
  • Gigabyte GA-K8N PRO-SLI Motherboard (Athlon 64, Socket 939, nForce4 SLI, ATX, 4GB DDR, 2000MHz FSB)

    PCWorld Rating
  • Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe Motherboard (Pentium EE/Pentium D/Pentium 4/Celeron, Socket 775, nForce4 SLI, ATX, 16GB DDR2, 1066MHz FSB)

    PCWorld Rating
  • ABIT AW8-MAX Motherboard (Pentium 4 Extreme/Pentium Extreme/Pentium D, Socket 775, 955X, ATX, 8GB DDR2, 1066MHz FSB)

    PCWorld Rating
  • Intel D975XBX Motherboard (Pentium D/Pentium EE/Pentium 4, Socket 775, ATX, 8GB DDR2, 1066MHz FSB)

    PCWorld Rating
  • Gigabyte G1-Turbo GA-G1975X Motherboard (Pentium D/ Pentium 4, LGA775, 975X, ATX, 8GB DDR2, 1066MHz FSB)

    PCWorld Rating
  • Foxconn 955X7AA-8EKRS2 Motherboard (Pentium D/Pentium 4, Socket 775, 955X, ATX, 8GB DDR2, 1066MHz FSB)

    PCWorld Rating

Gigabyte's GA-G1975X motherboard for Intel CPUs (lower right); DFI's LanParty UT RDX200 motherboard (upper left).
Gigabyte's GA-G1975X motherboard for Intel CPUs (lower right); DFI's LanParty UT RDX200 motherboard (upper left).
Want to build the perfect PC? The first thing you'll need is a motherboard. If the processor is the brains of your computer, the motherboard is its nervous system: It provides the pathways that allow the processor to talk to the other components. Finding the perfect motherboard means navigating a minefield of technical jargon and marketing buzzwords,

And it can be tricky for even the savviest PC enthusiasts. But with a bit of inside knowledge, you can determine which board is right for you.

Some of the best boards aren't even that expensive. Though our two top picks--Asus's $215 A8N32-SLI Deluxe for AMD chips and its $200 P5N32-SLI Deluxe for Intel CPUs--cost a significant chunk of change, other highly rated models come in at around the $100 mark. Both Asus products provide a great selection of features, one of which is an external SATA port. In addition, they support nVidia's SLI dual-graphics card technology, another performance-friendly feature. But even some less-expensive motherboards, like Gigabyte's $105 GA-K8N Pro-SLI, support dual graphics boards and advanced RAID features.

Asus's A8N32-SLI Deluxe and P5N32-SLI Deluxe earned our Best Buy awards with useful features such as heat-pipe cooling (top) and eSATA ports (left).
Asus's A8N32-SLI Deluxe and P5N32-SLI Deluxe earned our Best Buy awards with useful features such as heat-pipe cooling (top) and eSATA ports (left).
We rounded up 14 motherboards and then set the PC World Test Center loose on them, using similarly priced Intel and AMD dual-core processors (a $450 3.2-GHz Pentium D 940 and a $460 2.2-GHz Athlon 64 X2 4400+) and fast memory (2GB of Corsair DDR2-667 RAM for the Intel boards and 2GB of DDR400 RAM for the AMD models). Other components of the systems were identical. The Test Center ran our WorldBench 5 test suite and several of the gaming tests we use to assess graphics boards; however, it found few performance differences that we could attribute to the motherboards themselves. The seven boards designed for AMD processors were an insignificant three points apart on WorldBench 5. The $120 Abit AN8 Ultra tied for the highest score, 123, but missed our chart due to poor ratings for design and features. DFI's $169 LanParty UT RDX200 CF-DR wasn't very far behind with a score of 120. On the Intel side, the Test Center saw a slightly broader array of WorldBench 5 scores, ranging from 107 for the Intel D975XBX motherboard to 113 for the Gigabyte GA-G1975X board. In tests of 3D game performance, we saw differences of only a few frames per second between systems with the same CPU.

These negligible differences in our performance tests convinced us that performance isn't a compelling factor in choosing among the motherboards in a given category. Instead, you should look for a well-designed board capable of supporting the processor you want while also offering the features and specs you need.

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At a Glance
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