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P67 Motherboard Roundup: Nine $150-200 Boards

A few of the boards in today’s comparison have yet to reach the market, while a few others are likely to face overpricing over the next few weeks until supply is able to catch up with demand. While that makes any comparison of value purely speculative, we can at least point out the strengths of our candidates.

ECS, for example, packs its P67H2-A2 with the greatest number of features, going so far as to include RAID mode for both of its additional 6Gb/s controllers (SATA and eSATA), and even supplying the board with teaming-capable dual network controllers and a black-dyed brushed-aluminum bay adapter for its front-panel USB 3.0 jacks. This board went on to take second place in CPU overclocking behind the legendary Asus, and our only real complaint is an immature UEFI that had a few of its labels switched. The P67H2-A2 was delivered as a $200 sample, and ECS is likely to win over a great number of converts if it can keep that price while resolving its last few early-firmware problems.

Opposite of ECS, Foxconn’s P67A-S included very few feature and very many firmware limitations. We have a hard time believing that this will be a $150 product (the bottom end of this roundup), though the company might be basing its price target on MSRP rather than the discount Web prices to which we’ve grown accustomed. It did perform well, but we wouldn’t pay over $130 for it.

Asus had the highest overclock, and one of the extra features it includes might blow ECS out of the water. Though it lacks dual-networking or RAID capability on its slower eSATA ports, the Bluetooth adapter could potentially save its buyers around $20 compared to a USB dongle, while tucking nicely into its own port. Asus even optimizes the placement of its front-panel USB 3.0 connector, though it doesn’t actually include a bay adapter to connect it. This particular product will become even more attractive as case manufacturers release models that use the internal USB 3.0 interface.

Doing well at everything, but not leading the pack at anything, the MSI P67A-GD65’s only weakness is that it never completely overtakes the similarly-featured product from Asus. Perhaps MSI will attempt to win that war on the battlefield of price!

ASRock’s P67 Extreme4 had the highest memory overclock and second-best efficiency, while Gigabyte’s second-highest memory overclock and tied-for-second CPU overclock makes its P67A-UD4 a worthy adversary. Extra features tip the scale in ASRock’s favor, though not likely by a large enough margin for the firm to steal previous Gigabyte customers.

Though the performance of the top eight boards was almost identical, Biostar’s slim performance lead is still noteworthy. We particularly liked the old-fashioned menus found in its new UEFI, but fans of the brand will certainly be disappointed that it didn’t also take a lead in overclocking. After all, mid-budget overclocking should be Biostar’s tour-de-force.

Finally there’s the Jetway HI08. This appears to be a very well-designed, well-produced product for mid-budget gamers who want three-way CrossFire. It’s even the only board to support three double-slot cards within a standard seven-slot case. Though high-end builders won’t like the four-lane limitation of its third slot, this chipset limitation surely won’t dissuade anyone who wants to inexpensively carry-over three cards from a previous build. The only real problem, then, is its firmware, and that problem put it on the bottom of most of our performance charts. We look forward to future improvements, but must wait for those before we can add this product to our list of recommendations.

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