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Sometimes it pays to be patient. When Intel’s high-end Core i7 processors burst onto the scene last fall, motherboards that supported them were both expensive and relatively less mature than they are today. As a consequence of the top-down approach many vendors used in introducing X58, shipping their most-expensive products first, buyers willing to sacrifice a few features will sometimes find that the newest mainstream parts are less troublesome than high-end predecessors.
We saw this type of maturation between last winter’s $300+ X58 motherboard roundup and this spring’s $200-300 follow up, and we expected further progress in small items such as BIOS implementation for today’s planned sub-$200 comparison. But something happened to alter our plan: prices slowly crept back up.
Extended stability tests for overclocking lead to weeks of testing in a seven-motherboard roundup, but prices don’t stop fluctuating during that time. Recent increases in the price of several models would have excluded two of today’s products from a sub-$200 roundup had those increases occurred before testing began. One company had even given us a choice between two models, and the board we chose went over the limit while the other did not. Forced to add a caveat to our “sub-$200” title, we’ve kept an eagle’s eye on value in these sensibly-priced parts.