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Does Biostar Win?

Enthusiast P55: Eight LGA 1156 Boards Between $150 And $200

If CPU overclocking were the sole qualification for today’s comparison, the TPower I55 could be our top pick. But narrowing our focus to that extent would render useless those ugly performance and power tests. Moreover, the point of so large a comparison is to find the best overall motherboard and hopefully, the best value within a narrow price range.

We can start with the least expensive of today’s roundup, the Jetway HI05. Packed with features, a few unfortunate circumstances prevent this model from taking the checkered flag. First, its $150 price is only an estimate, since the HI05 isn’t available yet in the United States. Second, the inability to compensate for core voltage fluctuation put it near the bottom of our list in overclocking. Buyers who aren’t concerned about class-leading overclocking might find this to be their best value, but only if they can find it.

The next cheapest board, Foxconn’s Inferno Katana GTI is almost completely devoid of high-end features. Designed to appear as a stripped-down overclocking model, it didn’t even fill that role well and unfortunately breaks from the company’s recent history of high-value performance boards.

The true value gem of today could be ASRock’s P55 Deluxe. Packed with more features than any other board in today’s comparison, our only reservation in recommending this $160 part is that its voltage regulator isn’t powerful enough to cope with the moderate settings we normally use to overclock. However, buyers who expect less in the way of overclocking will find huge value in this particular model and that’s almost enough to earn the board an award.

The greatest problem in recommending a board with even the slightest shortcoming in power output is that this price range represents the lower rungs of enthusiast-level parts. We’ve already seen perfect stability in the top-two boards of our mainstream P55 comparison and expected these higher-priced models to increase features without sacrificing other capabilities. After all, it’s not like our stability tests were particularly strenuous, as our settings were chosen to fall within the capabilities of air-cooled overclocking and represent a target for the average system tuner.

The four boards that remained 100% stable are Gigabyte’s $170 P55-UD4P, Biostar’s $185 TPower I55, Asus’ $195 P7P55D EVO, and EVGA’s $200 P55-SLI. Of these, Gigabyte’s P55-UD4P has the second-highest CPU overclock, highest base clock, highest memory clock for high-end four-module configurations, lowest power consumption, and lowest VRM temperature. Gigabyte’s P55-UD4P also has the lowest price of the four top-quality boards and is thus the best value in its class.

Yet the one thing missing from the Gigabyte P55-UD4P is any PCIe x4 slot, an interface that enthusiasts might use for an x8 RAID card or “spare” x16 graphics card dedicated to additional displays or PhysX processing. For that we look to Asus and EVGA, since Biostar’s x4 slot has a closed end that prevents longer cards from being installed. Of the two motherboards that support a third x16-length card at x4 bandwidth, Asus provides 1.2% better performance, 0.2% higher CPU overclocking, 1% higher BCLK capability, and 5.3% higher average efficiency. None of those miniscule leads are capable of giving the P7P55D EVO a clear advantage over EVGA’s P55 SLI, but combining them with a 2.5% lower price gives Asus the edge it needs to take honorable mention behind value-leader Gigabyte.

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