First off, let me apologize for being so long winded, but I am trying to be very thorough (read: OCD perfectionist). That, and I am retired disabled military living on a small pension and I can't afford to make mistakes. This is a decision I will have to live with for 2 to 3 years. But then, that is also why I am here hoping to get a lot of inputs from all of you.
Usage: The computer will be used daily for basic tasks (browsing, downloading, email, etc), periodic gaming, and video encoding. Heavy Gb LAN tasks with NAS etc. USB 3 will be used for external drive connected on and off.
Reliability: This computer will probably often see 8 hours use a day and will have to be rock solid for 2 to 3 years. I don't upgrade without good reason and when I do the machines get passed down to wife or adult son. Solid reliability is most important.
Other components: This computer will start life with an inexpensive SB processor, 4-8 GB ddr3, a GT 240, GTX 550 ti or the like GPU, a boot SSD, 2 x 150GB raptors (RAID 0), 1 x 1 TB data drive, and 1 x DVD RW optical drive. When the IB equivalent of the i7-2600K comes out, the processor will be swapped for that IB processor, and maybe also a GTX 560 ti GPU upgrade if they drop seriously in price by then. The computer will most likely spend the rest of it's life in that configuration.
General: As you can see from the configuration(s), PCI-e 3.0 is really no concern to me, nor is SLI. While it is possible I might use SLI, or a nice inexpensive PCI-e 3.0 video card could come out by the time that IB processor is released, I find both very unlikely. The only real reason I picked a couple of Gen 3 boards is to be assured of being able to use the IB processor I am hoping will come out (an LGA 1155 IB version of the i7-2600k).
Now that I have hopefully covered all the questions you might have about other components and use etc, let's get to the meat of all this. After researching until my head hurt and asking a few other questions here, I have narrowed it down to two motherboards, the very heart of any system IMHO.
With the price + shipping being within $3 of each other, it really comes down to the boards themselves, with price not being a factor.
I have built many systems with Asus boards and they have never let me down. At the same time, I have never used an MSI board and this would be a first. However, with that said, it appears Asus is not what it used to be, this MSI board is supposed to be solid, and the customer ratings seem to be on par with each other. Thus, my decision is not easy (at least for me).
I have dug into everything I could find that is different between the two boards and will list them here, but I really want to hear your inputs and evaluations of all the information, and more if you got it.
I am not sure where to start or what order to put things in, so I will just jump in and list things in random order starting with basic construction I guess.
First of all, the MSI board is supposed to be “military class II” components. Being retired military and knowing what real mil-spec parts means and what that would cost, I am suspicious of this claim, but then it could be quality level components without the whole mil-spec process. Who knows? I do know MSI makes a big deal about it and the Hi-c caps, SFC (super ferrite choke) and Solid caps. Asus makes no special component claims on their board, but they have always supposedly used higher quality components. Given my desire for long rock solid life, this could be a key element?
Next would be power I guess. The MSI board uses an 8 phase as near as I can tell and something they are calling Active Phase Switching technology, they claim is great blah blah blah. Asus uses a 12 phase as near as I can tell and of course has their “dual intelligent processor” (EPU and TPU) with Digi+ VRM blah blah blah. I am well aware this area of a motherboard can be critical on how power hungry it is, how well it overclocks, how stable it is, and even how long it will last. I am also aware that the more phases the better normally (within limits), but how well it is all designed and implemented is just as important. Its not always a simple number game. Since I have never used either of these, I would really like some inputs and opinions on this one please.
They both use a UEFI BIOS, but how they implement it seems very different. Thoughts?
The Asus seems to have more memory options?
MSI appears to use a 1 x 16X or 2 x 16X slots vs Asus using 1 x 16X and 2 x 8X?
MSI has 3 PCI-e 1x where the Asus has 2 PCI-e 1x.
A note about the PCI-e slots. While the number of slots will not really come into play for my configuration, it is my understanding that how the PCI-e lanes available to the chipset are used with the slots, USB 3.0, etc etc can make a big difference on performance overall???
MSI uses a Realtek 8111E Gb LAN chip vs Asus with an Intel 82579 Gb LAN chip. IMO, the Intel chips are far superior to Realtek and I will be using the Gb LAN under heavy loads, I would still like to hear what people have to say about both please.
They both have Lucidlogix Virtu, but I do not know if either is actually licensed versions? Since I plan to do a lot of video encoding, this could be a factor.
External port wise, they are both about the same, with minor difference in that the MSI has 4 x USB 2.0 and a PS2 port where the Asus has no PS2 port and 6 USB 2.0. That and the Asus has an eSATA port.
That eSATA port brings me to the SATA stuffs. They both appear to have the standard Z68 Intel SATA configuration of 2 x 6Gb SATA and 4 x 3Gb SATA and both have an extra 2 x 6Gb SATA with another controller. That last part gets a bit fuzzy. I think both are using the Marvell 88SE9128 RAID controller, but I can't tell for sure. Anyone know for sure?
I was not able to determine which/what USB 3.0 chip either was using for sure.
Last but not least were customer reviews at newegg. Both boards had complaints of DOA, bad slots, or other hardware malfunctions, but how much of that is user error and how much the boards is always hard to tell.
With the MSI board, there were lots of complaints about the BIOS. Things like settings not sticking after saving, voltages and temps etc not reading correctly, and poor user interface. There were several complaints about the LAN port not clipping in the cable well. There were also plenty of complaints about the drivers, especially with Win 7-64 which is what I will probably use.
For the Asus board, the complaints were more spread around and random. There were a couple complaints about USB ports for mouse and keyboard. Several complaints about memory compatibility, a couple complaints about booting with an SSD (not cool), some sound crackling/popping complaints, and a couple problems with the Marvell SATA controller. Oops, and also some more complaints about Win 7-64 drivers.
That's about all I can say about the boards, like it wasn't enough already, LOL.
I am very seriously looking forward to hopefully many comments about all the various parts of the information.
Please help. I really need to get this one right. Money is just too tight to for me to screw up.
Well, You yourself said you've loved and not had a bad experience with Asus so i would go that route based on that alone. All MFG's send out the occasional dud, even asus. I wouldnt put too much behind the military spec, more to the 8 vs 12 phase. Or do you think you would ever want to do SLI? if so then the multiple x16 ports of MSI trumps the 1x16 and multiple x8 ports of the asus. The additional 1x PCIe slot would probably be a non point as what devices do you have utilizing 1x ports? i mean if you have a controller card for TV or a wireless card or both, what else? your not going to need an additional for audio unless you dont want to use the onboard or for additional NIC's? Is eSATA an important factor? There are always ways to bring esata ports to expansion slots on the back of the case or even 3.5" bays with esata/usb/SD cards etc so if you think you would definitely use eSata then that external port is nice but not the only way to accomplish this.
I would say shoot for the asus as i too have had great luck with asus, that being said i've built my fair share of MSI boards including a media center PC with a Llano/fusion cpu and its run wonderfully thus far. I did have an issue with internal motherboard headers for USB2, USB3 etc as my Media Center case has multiple USB2 header cables for external ports but my board only had 1 USB2 header as it also had a USB3 and firewire header. SO this would be something i considered when i made my next purchase personally.
Both have the same audio, both have 4 SATA2 and 4xSATA3 ports and support the same RAID utilizing 6 of the ports each but the ASUS board does have bluetooth built into it which could be nice as i personally use a USB port for my bluetooth keyboard but you could use to pair with a phone or any number of things which would free up a USB port.
Ohh and the Asus board has onboard video which may come in handy down the road if you have problems, troubleshooting GPU or possibly an additional monitor port if needed.
I would go home with Asus on this one at this time