Top-quality Micro-ATX motherboards offer a level of performance, stability, and capability believed by many to be possible only with full-sized parts. The results make sense because of the equally-sized upper portion of Micro-ATX and full ATX motherboards, but this is the first time we’ve seen manufacturers put serious effort into the overclocking capabilities of the four-slot form factor. For those of you who’ve jumped ahead, the DFI LANParty Jr X58-T3H6 and Asus Rampage II Gene actually exceeded the overclocking capability of the full-sized Asus P6T on this article’s previous page.
But some readers are only interested in benchmarks, so here’s a quick recap of how each Micro-ATX motherboard performed against the full ATX Asus P6T.
The LANParty Jr X58-T3H6 lagged slightly behind the full-sized-class-leading P6T, but a look back at our earlier comparison reveals that performance levels for DFI’s ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards are almost identical. The real star of today’s performance shootout was the Rampage II Gene, with prowess to outclass even the best board of that previous comparison.
We’re sure that several readers will point out that Asus has an advantage due to running its default base clock at 0.20% over reference speed, but its performance lead is much greater than 0.20%. We even monitored Bclk through several benchmarks to make sure Asus wasn’t ramping up base clock in some other way. Instead it appears that Asus has figured out a way to better-manage Intel’s Turbo mode, while also finessing voltage levels to keep everything stable. But Asus’ added performance came at a sizeable power-consumption cost. Dividing the relative performance of each motherboard (from the chart above) by the average of its full load and idle power consumption (previous page) shows a stark contrast in efficiency.
Though it did beat even our fastest full-ATX P6T motherboard in both performance and efficiency, the Rampage II Gene’s improved efficiency wasn't able to best that of DFI’s LANParty Jr X58-T3H6.
Great results from both Micro-ATX motherboards prove that the only significant reason to “go big” is to get a couple extra slots. But most builders never use more than four slots, even in an SLI gaming configuration. Anyone who truly desires a smaller-format high-end PC can no longer use the motherboard as their excuse for not chasing their dream.