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Hardware And Software Configuration

P55 On A Budget: Five Core i5/i7 Motherboards For $100-$150

Test System Configuration


Intel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz, 8.0MB Cache)

CPU Cooler

Thermalright MUX-120


Kingston KHX2133C9D3T1K2/4GX (4GB)
DDR3-2133 at DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24


XFX GeForce GTX 285 XXX Edition
670 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2500

Hard Drive

Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS, 300GB
10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache


Integrated HD Audio


Integrated Gigabit Networking


850 W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V



Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64


Nvidia Forceware 190.62 WHQL


Intel INF

Intel sent a sample of its highest-speed LGA 1156 processor specifically for our motherboard comparisons. Unlike earlier LGA 1366 engineering samples, these have memory multipliers unlocked up to 6x base clock, just like their retail counterparts. We enabled Intel Turbo Boost, EIST, and the highest available C-States for each motherboard, since the last two settings are required to get the most out of Turbo.

Intel also sent Thermalright’s MUX-120 CPU cooler, a part the manufacturer claims is all-new and designed specifically for LGA 1156 in spite of its subsidiary brand.

One thing we must note about the MUX-120 is that it doesn’t fit some motherboards properly. Its fan blocked the closest memory slot of ECS’ P55H-A, along with that of an upcoming higher-model board.

Similar to its previous triple-channel parts, Kingston now offers DDR3-2133 that’s pre-tested at a lower CPU Uncore frequency of 1.30 V in these dual-channel kits. We used two sets to determine each motherboard’s highest stable DRAM frequency.

Western Digital’s VelociRaptor keeps churning out good numbers. In spite of the price premium one pays for 10,000 RPM rotating speeds, this is still an economical alternative to high-performance solid-state drives (SSD).

Benchmark Configuration

3D Games


Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA

Far Cry 2

Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

Clear Sky Benchmark version
Test Set 1: High Preset, DX10 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX10 EFDL, 4x MSAA

World in Conflict

Patch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF
Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF

Audio/Video Encoding


Version: x64
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min
Default format AAC

Lame MP3

Version: 3.98.2, wave to MP3
Audio CD "Terminator II" SE, 53 min

TMPEGEnc 4.0 Express

Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9

DivX 6.8.5

Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search

XviD 1.2.2

Display encoding status = off

MainConcept Reference 1.6.1
Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1

MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)


Adobe Photoshop CS4

Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates

Autodesk 3ds Max 2009

Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)

Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8.5

Version: 8.5.287, Virus base: 270.12.16/2094, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files

WinRAR 3.90

Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings

3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores

PCMark Vantage

Version: 1.00 x64, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player

SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4a

Version 2009.9.15.130, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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