Motherboards: Power at the Right Price
- Asus P5N-E SLI
- ECS (Elitegroup Computers) nForce 570 SLIT-A (V5.1)
- MSI P965 Platinum Motherboard (Intel Core 2 Extreme/Core 2 Duo/Pentium EE/Pentium, Socket T, P965, ATX, 8GB DDR2, 1066MHz)
- ABIT Abit AB9 Pro
- Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5 Motherboard (Athlon 64 FX/ Athlon X2, Socket AM2, ATX, 16GB DDR2, 1GHz Bus)
- ABIT Fatal1ty AN9 32X
- MSI K9A Platinum Motherboard (Athlon 64/64FX/64 X2, Socket AM2, nForce2, ATX, 8GB DDR2, 1000MHz Bus)
- Asus Crosshair
- Sapphire Pure CrossFire PC-AM2RD580
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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