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Test Settings

Roundup: Six Core 2 Motherboards Under $100

Test Configuration


Intel Core 2 Duo E8600

3.33GHz, FSB-1333, 6.0 MB Cache


Crucial Ballistix PC2-6,400 2x 2.0 GB

Overclocked to DDR2-1,066 CAS 5-5-5-15

Hard Drive

Western Digital WD5000AAKS 500 GB

7200 RPM, SATA 3.0 GB/s, 16 MB cache


Integrated HD Audio


Integrated Gigabit Network Controller (offline)


Cooler Master RS850-EMBA

850W, ATX12V v2.2

Software and Drivers

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate SP1

Graphics Driver

ATI Catalyst 8.9

Chipset Drivers

Intel INF

Onboard Device Drivers

Motherboard Driver DVD

Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8600 uses the recent E0 stepping for increased efficiency and better overclocking capability. Although this mainstream processor might be a little above the market of today’s low-cost boards, the same stepping has started appearing in lower-cost models.

With so much value in overclocking, we also had to find each motherboard’s maximum achievable memory speed. Crucial’s spectacularly-overclockable Ballistix DDR2-800 4.0 GB dual-channel kit has shown us stable speeds beyond DDR2-1200.

Different builders have different ideas about which CPU cooler offers the best value, but consistency takes primary importance in hardware comparisons. We’ve had such good results with Swiftech’s three-fan radiator, the MCP-655b, and the Apogee GTX water block that these components are now mounted into a test bench.

Benchmark Settings



Version: 1.2.1

Test 1: Low Details, No AA

Test 2: Very High Details, 8x AA

Demo: CPU-Benchmark + Tom's Hardware Tool

Supreme Commander

Forged Alliance

Version: 1.5.3599

Test 1: Low Details, No AA

Test 2: Very High Details, 8x AA

Demo: WallaceTX_006_006

Benchmark: Fraps 2.9.4 - Build 7037

Unreal Tournament 3

Version: 1.2

Sound and DirectX10 Enabled (Full Screen)

Test 1: Texture/Level Details: 1

Test 2: Texture/Level Details: 5

Demo: vCTF-Reflection_fly

Time: 12/60

World in Conflict


Test 1: Very Low details (No AA, No AF)

Test 2: Very High details (4x AA, 4x AF)

Demo: Game-Benchmark

Audio Encoding



Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min

Default format AAC

Lame MP3

Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007)

Audio CD Terminator II SE, 53 min

Wave to MP3, 160 Kb/s

Video Encoding



Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)

Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9

DivX 6.8.3

Encoding mode: Insane Quality

Enhanced multithreading

Enabled using SSE4

Quarter-pixel search

XviD 1.1.3

Display encoding status = off

Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1

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 kbps)

Mode: PAL (25 FPS)

Profile: Tom's Hardware Settings for Qct-Core


Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9

Version: 9.0

Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)

Adobe Photoshop CS 3

Version: 10.0x20070321

Filtering from a 69 MB TIF-Photo

Benchmark: Tomshardware-Benchmark V1.0.0.4

Filters: Crosshatch, Glass, Sumi-e,

Accented Edges, Angled Strokes, Sprayed Strokes

Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8

Version: 8.0.134

Virus base: 270.4.5/1533

Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of compressed files

Winrar 3.80

Version 3.70 BETA 8

WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3

Compression = Best

Dictionary = 4096 KB

Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

Winzip 11

Version 11.2

Compression = Best

Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)


3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02

3DMark, GPU and CPU scores

PCMark Vantage

Version: 1.00

System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks

Windows Media Player

SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2

Version 2008.5.14.24

CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia

Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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