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While most enthusiasts lusted over the superb performance of Intel’s Core i7 technology and X58 platform when the combo was launched last year, the majority waited for something cheaper. After all, motherboards took their sweet time breaking out under $200, and the least-expensive Bloomfield processor, the i7-920, still costs $270.
News of an upcoming “mainstream” processor family, complete with a new socket interface and a less-expensive chipset, had to sustain value-seekers for 10 unbearably long months. Intel knows what it's doing, though. The company still has a perfectly adequate supply of Core 2 products in the channel already, which are still solid performers and worth mid-range prices.
While the initial release of LGA 1156-based processors has yet to yield any “inexpensive” products (a $200 Core i5-750 is still considered upper-mainstream), we can certainly find significant cost savings in motherboards compared to the X58 generation. It'd seem to be the perfect time to strike out in search of value-oriented P55 platforms.
However, let’s not forget that the current range of P55-based motherboards is still immature and unproven, a combination that can be catastrophic for early adopters. Just as worrisome for mainstream converts is how quality is often proportional to price. Is today’s crop of mainstream products a pathway to the future for budget-oriented buyers or a recipe for disaster?