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Motherboards

Part 3: Building A Balanced Gaming PC
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Motherboards

Although our main focus in this series is on balance between the CPU and GPU, there’s obviously a lot more hardware involved in procuring respectable performance from your platform of choice. For our purposes, we built our test systems around enthusiast-class motherboards from Asus, picked for their stability, overclocking capabilities, and PCI Express connectivity, enabling ATI CrossFireX and/or Nvidia SLI support.

LGA 1156: Asus P7P55D-E Pro

Our newly added LGA 1156 platform centers on the P7P55D-E Pro from Asus. Based on Intel’s P55 Express chipset, this motherboard features SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0, Asus 16-Hybrid Phase (12+2 phase power design + t.Probe), integrated Via 8-channel HD audio, and overclocking features both beginners and advanced enthusiasts can appreciate.

Four DIMM slots support dual-channel DDR3-2200 (overclocked) and DDR3-1600 memory. The dual PCIe 2.0 x16 slots are configurable as a single 16-lane slot, or as dual 8-lane slots supporting both ATI CrossFire and Nvidia SLI technology.

LGA 1366: Asus Rampage II Extreme

The Asus Rampage II Extreme is based on Intel’s X58 Express chipset, and will be used throughout this series for our LGA 1366 platform.

This feature-packed motherboard is part of the Asus RoG (Republic of Gamers) series, and was designed with the overclocking community in mind. This works out well for us, since two of our balanced platform pieces will center on the effects of overclocking.

The three 16-lane PCIe 2.0 expansion slots support x16/x16 operation or x16/x8/x8 CrossFireX and SLI. The six DIMM slots support triple-channel DDR3-1800 (overclocked) and DDR3-1600 memory.

A few of the other notable features unique to Asus' lineup include TweakIT (joystick-like overclocking control), ProbeIt (eight on-board detection points), Extreme Engine with ML Cap Design (the company's multi-phase power management system with multi-layer polymer caps), a SupremeFX X-Fi eight-channel audio card, and an external LCD Poster.

LGA 775: Asus Rampage Formula

We use the Asus Rampage Formula for any LGA 775-based testing, aside from the Nvidia SLI configurations, which you'll see in an upcoming episode of this series.

Based on the Intel X48 Express chipset, this RoG-series motherboard has two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots supporting x16/x16 CrossFire operation and four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked) and DDR2-1066 memory.

Overclocking-friendly features include Voltminder LED status reminders (essentially, a red-line equivalent for voltage), COP EX OC protection, loadline calibration (stabilizing CPU voltage under load), and cooling via the pin-fin thermal module. A SupremeFX II eight-channel audio card and external LCD poster are also part of the bundle.

LGA 775: Asus P5N72-T Premium

Based on the Nvidia nForce 780i SLI chipset and boasting two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots (plus one first-gen PCIe 16x slot), the Asus P5N72-T Premium supports 3-way Nvidia SLI technology (three cards at x16 signaling).

This LGA 775 motherboard has four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked) and DDR2-1066. Plus, it comes bundled with the RoG SupremeFX II audio card.

Socket AM3: Asus Crosshair III Formula

At the heart of this series' Socket AM3 testing is Asus' Crosshair III Formula, based on AMD’s 790FX/SB750 chipset combination. Four DIMM slots support dual-channel DDR3-1600 (overclocked) and DDR3-1333 memory settings, while two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 expansion slots support x16/x16 ATI CrossFireX technology.

Asus-specific features for this RoG-series enthusiast motherboard include MemOK (a memory compatibility tool), CPU Level Up (a simplified overclocking utility), TweakIT, a SupremeFX X-Fi eight-channel audio card, and an external LCD poster.

Socket AM3: Asus M4N82 Deluxe

The Asus M4N82 Deluxe will be put to use when it comes time to test dual GeForce cards in SLI paired up to our Socket AM3 processors.

Based on the Nvidia nForce 980a SLI chipset, this Socket AM2+ motherboard has three 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots supporting two cards in a x16 configuration or three at x8 signaling.

The board has an 8+1 power phase design, four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked) and DDR2-1066. It also includes eight-channel integrated sound.

Special thanks to Asus for arranging the motherboards needed to make this entire series possible.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    builderbobftw , May 12, 2010 1:45 PM
    Quote:
    Its total nonsense, buying pc for gaming today. I have Xbox360 and PS3 + Nintendo DS and also QuadCore based gaming PC. I dont play on PC anymore, im only using it for browsing, listening music and communicating with others. Netbook should be totally sufficient for such task, i will never buy PC for gaming in future. GO and buy gaming console, if you have good TV, and you will be sitting around 2 - 2,5 meters from screen, graphics is pretty good - totally sufficient.


    if the diffrence bewteen console and PC isn't night and day, you must be using a 5450.
  • 12 Hide
    ColMirage , May 12, 2010 4:22 AM
    fatkid35first!

    Facepalm...

    Glad to see the last part of the series. Very useful!
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    ColMirage , May 12, 2010 4:22 AM
    fatkid35first!

    Facepalm...

    Glad to see the last part of the series. Very useful!
  • -3 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , May 12, 2010 4:37 AM
    I love how on the first page picture of all the games on this article show the games that truly take a toll on GPU's and CPU's. You are however missing Metro 2033 and Dirt 2 in DX11 which obliterates some GPUs in DX11!
  • 8 Hide
    IzzyCraft , May 12, 2010 4:56 AM
    A metro 2033 graph wouldn't be interesting it would start at 0 and end at 5 for most set ups :D 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 12, 2010 5:23 AM
    The choice of Corsair Dominator for the RAM is surprising, given that there are equally fast and stable choices at a much lower price point. OCZ, G Skill, Crucial, etc. I still love their power supplies though.
  • 0 Hide
    duk3 , May 12, 2010 5:27 AM
    ColMirageGlad to see the last part of the series. Very useful!


    They mentioned a part 4 in the article, with overclocking AMD processors.
  • 1 Hide
    kaintfm , May 12, 2010 5:27 AM
    The choice of Corsair Dominator for the RAM is surprising, given that there are equally fast and stable choices at a much lower price point. OCZ, G Skill, Crucial, etc. I still love their power supplies though.
  • 0 Hide
    agnickolov , May 12, 2010 6:05 AM
    And where is the Core i3 530? This is the real gaming gem of a CPU, but I hardly see it in any reviews @ Tom's...
  • 3 Hide
    FUtomNOreg , May 12, 2010 7:40 AM
    Very enlightening though, given my current rig's specs, thoroughly depressing. Curse you for breaking my delusion that my PC was adequate! I feel an overwhelming urge to upgrade coming on.....
  • 6 Hide
    micky_lund , May 12, 2010 8:02 AM
    haha...the i5s so close to the i7 in everything :D ....such as an awesome buy for gaming, on the intel side at least
  • 0 Hide
    Lewis57 , May 12, 2010 10:35 AM
    A great article. I'm impressed with the I5 in all these charts. It would of been nice to use something a bit beefier than the i7-920 to see if that itself is causing a bottle neck.
  • 0 Hide
    gti88 , May 12, 2010 10:48 AM
    Wolfdale will still be a decent CPU until 2012, I guess.
  • 0 Hide
    bikermicefrmars , May 12, 2010 11:46 AM
    Where's i3, please include it in tests with same clock speed as E8400 and show its performance!
  • 8 Hide
    kartu , May 12, 2010 12:26 PM
    5770 wasn't even considered? :( 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 12, 2010 1:09 PM
    I am very suprised that the quad core processors seem to give better results with the 5870. I wonder why that is. I still have my Q6600 OC'ed to 3.2...I was thinking that I should upgrade to teh i5 750...but after seeing this article...I am struggling to find a reason.....well unless I have a lot of money for a dual GPU card.....NOT.....;(
  • 14 Hide
    builderbobftw , May 12, 2010 1:45 PM
    Quote:
    Its total nonsense, buying pc for gaming today. I have Xbox360 and PS3 + Nintendo DS and also QuadCore based gaming PC. I dont play on PC anymore, im only using it for browsing, listening music and communicating with others. Netbook should be totally sufficient for such task, i will never buy PC for gaming in future. GO and buy gaming console, if you have good TV, and you will be sitting around 2 - 2,5 meters from screen, graphics is pretty good - totally sufficient.


    if the diffrence bewteen console and PC isn't night and day, you must be using a 5450.
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , May 12, 2010 2:15 PM
    Looking forward to reading the next article in the series.
  • -5 Hide
    shin0bi272 , May 12, 2010 2:35 PM
    so you guys claim we should be looking to buy a 285 (dx10 card) and a core2 duo 8400 (socket 775)? Exactly what are you smoking? yeah here go buy this 1982 ford mustang... its a mustang for crying out loud... its just the WORST mustang ever made. And its old technology so you could do a lot better by buying a newer one that will last longer and have better technology.
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