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X58 On A Budget: Seven Sub-$200 Core i7 Boards

First place overclocker Foxconn FlamingBlade gives way to second-place overclocker MSI X58 Pro-E when more than three memory slots are required. Comparing features, the FlamingBlade supports a second Gigabit Ethernet connection, while the X58 Pro-E supports a third x16-length card in its x4 slot. Both also support two full-bandwidth PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, but the same can be said of any X58-chipset motherboard.

Anyone more interested in performance leadership than top overclocking might instead choose the Gigabyte X58-UD3R, its higher-spec eight-phase voltage regulator and two ounce copper PCB providing cooler VRM operation rather than an overclocking crown. Equally priced to the X58 Pro-E but with slightly less room for memory and expansion cards, its lower operating temperatures might make it a more reliable choice in high-stress environments.

Perhaps the most surprising board in today’s comparison, ASRock’s X58 Extreme came in third place in both overclocking and performance while also having the lowest price. Lacking no features compared to MSI’s high-flying X58 Pro-E, the X58 Extreme puts a little more emphasis on easy installation with front panel connections located above the board’s center line. ASRock even includes a floppy header to ease RAID driver access during Windows XP installation, and its Port 80 diagnostics display is unmatched by the X58 Pro-E.

Supporting up to five graphics cards, Jetway’s BI-600 provides the best combinations of features for the price. It also won our efficiency comparison, but only by using lower-than-specified CPU voltage. From a features perspective it’s a terrific bargain, but we won’t be able to recommend it until Jetway does some serious work on its BIOS, and we’re hoping improved BIOS might also address its severe core voltage droop.

With the BI-600 out of the running in recommended value, the ASRock X58 Extreme’s combination of great overclocking, good performance, and lowest price earn it our “Recommended Buy” award.

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