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

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?

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  • dirtmountain
    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
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  • JeanLuc
    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.
    4
  • evongugg
    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.
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  • Crydee
    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.
    -4
  • LATTEH
    nice article i liked it!
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  • avatar_raq
    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.
    0
  • SchizoFrog
    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.
    1
  • SchizoFrog
    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
  • helms
    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.
    -4
  • burnley14
    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
  • avatar_raq
    @ 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.
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  • oldscotch
    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.
    -2
  • Crashman
    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.
    3
  • Crashman
    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
  • alexie
    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.
    1
  • ceteras
    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
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  • murst
    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!
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  • lafanzy
    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
  • ceteras
    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.
    1
  • Sunburn74
    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
    2