I'm researching building a new system specifically to play FSX in a six monitor eyefinity setup. My research tells me that a Core i5-2500K with dual Ati 6970 2gb in crossfire will do the trick. I selected the P67 chipset over the Z68 because I will be loading everything on one 80gig Intel X25M SSD (no need for cache) and I don't ever see needing the onboard graphics of the Z68 either. My question has to do with the differences in these motherboards. I have limited my brand selection to Gigabyte, MSI and ASUS. From what I can tell they all have the following:
- 2 PCIe 2.0 slots for crossfire (does the mobo need to specifically be enabled for crossfire or is the fact that there are dual slots enough?)
- Sata 6gb/s
- 2 usb 3.0 slots
- 6 to 8 usb 2.0 slots
- DDR3 RAM
- 4 memory slots
- LGA 1155
My thoughts are that the ASUS motherboards both have 2 less USB 2.0 slots and are more expensive so I'd probably drop them. I can discern literally no differences in the MSI boards. The Gigabyte UD$ B3 has e-sata ports which I don't need but other than that again no differences. Can I just go with the cheapest one (MSI G43) and call it a day?
The 2 MSI boards worth $149.99 have IEEE 1394 ports. If this have no use to you, then your MSI option boils down to the #124.99.
With regards to the Gigabyte, the 129.99 have 2xPCIe slots but operates only at x16+x4 whereas the other two ( including the 2 MSI above ) operates at least by x8+x8 ( according to quick look on the specs). If this is important to you, then your Gigabyte options go down to the $134.99 one.
So between the $134.99 Gigabyte & 124.99 MSI, with everything the same except the looks, yes you can go for the MSI being the cheaper one. I have MSI motherboards for AMD (790FX ) & Intel 1155 ( Z68A-GD55 ) and they never failed me so far.
For crossfire/SLI, x8+x8 is preferred, since both come from the i5. x16+x4 means x16 comes from i5 while x4 comes from southbridge. Passing the southbridge means a little more latency with memory transfers. But some benchmark showed that x4 to x8 show more performance gain than x8 to x16 (although I don't remember if it was about PCIe 1.0 or 2.0).
Also many motherboards make you choose between either the x4 link or the non-intel addon chips like (marvell) sata controller, firewire (1394) controller. Basically anything extra apart from network and audio. And this is rarely documented.