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Hardware And Software Configuration

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

CPU

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

CPU Cooler

Thermalright MUX-120

RAM

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

Graphics

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

Sound

Integrated HD Audio

Network

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Power

CORSAIR CMPSU-850HX
850 W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V

Software

OS

Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Graphics

Nvidia Forceware 190.62 WHQL

Chipset

Intel INF 9.1.1.1014


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

Crysis

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

iTunes

Version: 8.2.1.6 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

Version: 4.7.3.292
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)

Productivity

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 10.00.00.3646

SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4a

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

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  • 0 Hide
    dirtmountain , October 8, 2009 7:05 AM
    The Asrock P55 Pro is 16x-4x, not 8x-8x.
    http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P55%20Pro
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157171
    The Asrock P55 Extreme at $140 offers 8x-8x
  • 4 Hide
    JeanLuc , October 8, 2009 8:44 AM
    Good read but it really just confirms what a lot of us have known for a long time. Don't buy budget motherboards (MSI, ASrock, ECS) if you want to overclock and it's no coincidence that the boards from Gigabyte and Asus passed with flying colours as these companies clearly have proper testing procedures in place and quality assurance measures to avoid such issues.
  • 0 Hide
    evongugg , October 8, 2009 11:29 AM
    Another great article from Tom's, letting us know about how one of these motherboards can burn your CPU. Never would have known without you.
    Might have burnt out a CPU and not know the cause.

  • -4 Hide
    Crydee , October 8, 2009 12:06 PM
    How would P55 stack up against non P55s is what I wanted to see as well. See if the premium is worth it over the more budget friendly P55.
  • 0 Hide
    LATTEH , October 8, 2009 1:01 PM
    nice article i liked it!
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , October 8, 2009 1:26 PM
    Unfortunately neither Gigabbyte nor ASUS boards offer the 8x8x PCI-e slots for multiple GPUs. I think it's better to wait for their premium brethren to fall below $150 before upgrading.
  • 1 Hide
    SchizoFrog , October 8, 2009 1:52 PM
    For the extra $20 you can get the ASUS P7P55D PRO which is a much better board and offers the full spec for multi GPUs... However, I personally can only recommend what I would do myself and that is to wait. There are a lot of major PC spec changes over the next 6 months. So I am waiting for USB3 and SATA3 to make it to mainstream.
  • -4 Hide
    SchizoFrog , October 8, 2009 1:52 PM
    For the extra $20 you can get the ASUS P7P55D PRO which is a much better board and offers the full spec for multi GPUs... However, I personally can only recommend what I would do myself and that is to wait. There are a lot of major PC spec changes over the next 6 months. So I am waiting for USB3 and SATA3 to make it to mainstream.
  • -4 Hide
    helms , October 8, 2009 1:54 PM
    I doubt their quality assurance is as good as you think Jeanluc. Both Gigabyte and Asus make crap DDR3 controllers for socket 775 motherboards. I've tested a heap of DDR3 socket 775 boards from Asus and Gigabyte, the Asus P5Q3 in particular is causing a lot of problems. When paired with a quad core cpu (everything stock) and running 3 threads prime(blend) + furmark, the system would inevitably freeze in under 2hr's (usually within the 30 minutes mark, quite a bit less than 2hrs). In fact systems with those boards would freeze even during normal non PC intensive use such as browsing the internet. Running prime+furmark just forces it happen rather than waiting for it to freeze which is quite random during light use like word prcoessing. I doubt Asus even realizes that their P5Q3 is a faulty product and shouldn't have hit retail stores. They have been selling the P5Q3 for ages. They probably tested the board with a cheap dual core celeron and since it worked with that called it a day.
  • 0 Hide
    burnley14 , October 8, 2009 2:18 PM
    JeanlucGood read but it really just confirms what a lot of us have known for a long time. Don't buy budget motherboards (MSI, ASrock, ECS) if you want to overclock and it's no coincidence that the boards from Gigabyte and Asus passed with flying colours as these companies clearly have proper testing procedures in place and quality assurance measures to avoid such issues.


    I think you're jumping to conclusions here. Tom's reviewed some boards a while back for the 1366 socket and gave ASRock first place for quality and value.
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , October 8, 2009 2:24 PM
    @ schizofrog :
    Yeah and the GIGABYTE GA-P55-UD4P is priced similarly and sports 8x8x configuration and more SATA ports.
    I believe well-featured P55 mobos are still expensive for the mainstream market.
  • -2 Hide
    oldscotch , October 8, 2009 2:35 PM
    Still getting two or three PCI slots on these new boards. I can see one, and I realize they're budget boards - but still. I'd much rather see some more x4 PCI-e or even just x1 options that would give graphics cards some breathing room.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , October 8, 2009 3:00 PM
    helmsI doubt their quality assurance is as good as you think Jeanluc. Both Gigabyte and Asus make crap DDR3 controllers for socket 775 motherboards.


    Intel made the memory controllers on Asus and Gigabyte P45/X48 motherboards. If it fails after two hours, there's a chance you're using inferior-quality memory.
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , October 8, 2009 3:03 PM
    oldscotchStill getting two or three PCI slots on these new boards. I can see one, and I realize they're budget boards - but still. I'd much rather see some more x4 PCI-e or even just x1 options that would give graphics cards some breathing room.


    They're already using up all the PCIe lanes, when they put a second x16 slot on a board and feed it with four of the P55's eight. Sorry, the P55 isn't designed to support a buch of high-bandwidth slots, that's what the X58's for.
  • 1 Hide
    alexie , October 8, 2009 3:09 PM
    My question is
    "will there be a chipset made by Nvidia for 1366 socket or 1156 socket intel cpus?"
    Cause Nvidia is making good chipsets with both on-board VGA for mainstream and upper mainstream cpus.
  • 0 Hide
    ceteras , October 8, 2009 3:26 PM
    alexieMy question is"will there be a chipset made by Nvidia for 1366 socket or 1156 socket intel cpus?"Cause Nvidia is making good chipsets with both on-board VGA for mainstream and upper mainstream cpus.


    The answer is NO
  • 0 Hide
    murst , October 8, 2009 3:35 PM
    The ECS P55H-A has a power connector for the graphics card next to the pci express 16x slot. My graphics card ( Radeon 5850 ) already has 2 power connectors on it.

    Do all 3 power connectors need to be hooked up? Thanks!
  • -1 Hide
    lafanzy , October 8, 2009 3:44 PM
    Quite an irritating writeup I'd say. Sarcastic and vague comments with strong emphasis on avoidance in getting to the point. i like to call it bias, but, i haven't tested all the mobos myself. What do I get out of this article? How to kill a good article title in five.
  • 1 Hide
    ceteras , October 8, 2009 3:47 PM
    I wonder how cheap can they build a mainboard with no extra features (no overclocking support, no bells&whistles). Just the bare needed to keep the cpu working at it's default potential.
    I'd like one of these.
  • 2 Hide
    Sunburn74 , October 8, 2009 4:05 PM
    Hey, can you guys start testing if S3 sleep is maintained at high overclocks? Gigabyte board look great on paper, but the fact is something like 80-90% of them cannot S3 sleep once you start overclocking past a certain point. My next mobo has to be able to overclock and keep the sleep feature intact. It takes one sec to test. Please include it in the future. Thanks
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