4 AMD Socket 754 MicroATX Motherboards: Getting the Job Done on the Cheap

Results Roundup: A Real Neck-and-Neck Race

Although all four motherboards look very similar at first glance, there are numerous differences on a feature and design level. But while you might study the benchmark results closely, it is important to keep in mind that these are all low-budget motherboards. Their differences are narrow and also small enough to make little difference when the rubber meets the road (or the bits enter the FSB).

The ASRock motherboard pulls away from the pack somewhat in layout because the K8Upgrade 706GX supports a CPU upgrade connector that may be used to handle a Socket 939 CPU - someday. But it also raises troubling questions, such as when will such an upgrade card be available, and how good can it really be ? To muddy things still further, this added slot drops the number of PCI slots to two, while the other motherboards reviewed here have three PCI slots.

AOpen, ECS, and Winfast resemble each other more than they differ in appearance. But the AOpen throws in a Northbridge fan, which although we believe is uncalled for in the budget motherboard market segment, it makes it the best-looking board of the three. ECS fielded the biggest board in the bunch, and uses that extra real estate to create the cleanest layout overall. Winfast is the only vendor in the group to build in a FireWire chip, a point the vendor uses to target its competition. But the Winfast board also lacks any kind of overclocking options, where AOpen and ECS demonstrate clearly just how much speed control these low-cost boards can really deliver.

For its part, AOpen is the only vendor to deliver RAID drivers along with its motherboard (they’re included on diskette and are required during installation of the Windows OS). In terms of packaging, Winfast sets the standard, but ECS runs a close second with its attractive color-coded connectors and its three-phase voltage regulator. Without a clear leader in this pack, we must leave the final choice up to you.

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