Motherboards: Power at the Right Price
A new motherboard can provide cool new technologies that your PC might be missing: faster, second-generation SATA connections, which currently reach 3 gigabits per second (gbps); gigabit ethernet; high-definition audio; and even dual-card graphics (SLI or CrossFire).
We evaluated 14 standard-size motherboards by building systems using each board, running our Windows XP-based WorldBench 5 benchmark, and then installing Windows Vista Ultimate to check for compatibility problems.
Rather than make an apples-to-oranges comparison between AMD- and Intel-equipped motherboards, we split our roundup into two groups: seven boards based on AMD's socket AM2 (for use with AMD chips requiring DDR2 memory) and seven boards employing Intel's socket LGA775 (for use with that company's dual-core and quad-core processors). The Intel boards' WorldBench 5 scores were nearly 15 percent better than those of the AMD group, thanks to the advantage the Core 2 Duo CPU holds over the Athlon 64 X2 processor running at the same clock speed, though the Intel chip we tested costs around $200 more. Performance within each group varied little, however, so once you decide whether to choose an AMD or an Intel CPU, selecting a board largely comes down to assessing its features.
See our chart, "Features Set Motherboards Apart."
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