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Conclusion

Roundup: Six Core 2 Motherboards Under $100
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Who makes the best-value motherboard for under $100? It really depends on what features you’re looking for. The Asus P5QL Pro offered the best performance and lowest price, but its performance leadership was too small to make us forget about the motherboard’s cramped layout. In fact, the MSI P43 Neo3-F tied for lowest price, and its relatively good layout makes it a similarly good choice in spite of its 0.52% slower performance.

Anyone trying to put off buying a graphics card will, of course, prefer a motherboard that has onboard graphics, and the good news for these buyers is that the ECS G45T-M2 is relatively fast and stable. The only reason we couldn’t recommend it to a wider group of value-seekers is that it can’t be overclocked at all, and overclocking is where most of us get better value.

Our top two picks for overclockers are the ASRock P45XE and Jetway BI-500. The BI-500 allowed slightly better CPU stability, but the P45XE allowed much greater bus speeds to be used. Because the average low-budget overclocker will be limited to low-multiplier processors, the P45XE might be the better choice.

Finally there’s the gaming crowd who could find extra value by using a pair of low-cost Radeon HD 4830 graphics cards in CrossFire mode. The two motherboards in today’s comparison that had the best overclocking capability also featured the CrossFire-supporting P45 chipset, but only one of these is a true CrossFire-enhanced design—the ASRock P45XE supports automatic switching between a single graphics card in PCIe 2.0 x16 mode and dual cards in x8 mode, while the Jetway BI-500 forces the second graphics card to limp along using previous-generation PCIe technology {and} x4 pathways.

Good performance and excellent overclocking capability make ASRock’s motherboard look like a good performance value, but added features are where the P45XE really shines. These include proper CrossFire support, automatic PCIe switching for CrossFire mode, and the rarely-seen but much-appreciated ability to set AHCI drives as removable devices. This overwhelming combination of performance, overclocking capabilities, and mid-priced features leads us to select ASRock’s P45XE as the best overall value in a budget-enthusiast motherboard.

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