Although ourmain focus in this series is on balance between the CPU and GPU, there’sobviously a lot more hardware involved in procuring respectable performancefrom your platform of choice. For our purposes, we built our test systemsaround five enthusiast-class motherboards from Asus, picked for theirstability, overclocking capabilities, and PCI Express connectivity, enablingATI CrossFireX and/or Nvidia SLI support.
LGA1366: Asus Rampage II Extreme
The AsusRampage II Extreme is based on Intel’s X58 Express chipset, and will be used throughoutthis series for our LGA 1366 platform.
Thisfeature-packed motherboard is part of the Asus RoG (Republic of Gamers) series, and was designed withthe overclocking community in mind. This works out well for us, since two ofour upcoming balanced platform pieces will center on the effects ofoverclocking.
The three16-lane PCIe 2.0 expansion slots support x16/x16 operation or x16/x8/x8CrossFireX and SLI. The six DIMM slots support triple-channel DDR3-1800(overclocked) and DDR3-1600 memory. A few of the other notable features uniqueto Asus' lineup include TweakIT (joystick-likeoverclocking control), ProbeIt (eight on-boarddetection points), Extreme Engine with ML Cap Design (the company's multi-phasepower management system with multi-layer polymer caps), a SupremeFXX-Fi eight-channel audio card, and an external LCDPoster.
LGA775: Asus Rampage Formula
We use theAsus Rampage Formula for any LGA 775-based testing aside from the Nvidia SLIconfigurations, which you'll see in an upcoming episode of this series.
Based on theIntel X48 Express chipset, this RoG-seriesmotherboard has two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots supporting x16/x16 CrossFireoperation and four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked)and DDR2-1066 memory.
Overclocking-friendlyfeatures include Voltminder LED status reminders(essentially, a red-line equivalent for voltage), COP EX OC protection, loadline calibration (stabilizing CPU voltage under load),and cooling via the pin-fin thermal module. A SupremeFXII eight-channel audio card and external LCD poster are also part of thebundle.
LGA 775: Asus P5N72-T Premium
Based on theNvidia nForce 780i SLI chipset and boasting two16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots (plus one first-gen PCIe 16x slot), the Asus P5N72-TPremium supports 3-way Nvidia SLI technology (three cards at x16 signaling).This LGA 775 motherboard has four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200(overclocked) and DDR2-1066. Plus, it comes bundled with the RoG Supreme FX II audio card.
SocketAM3: Asus Crosshair III Formula
At the heartof this series' Socket AM3 testing is Asus' Crosshair III Formula, based onAMD’s 790FX/SB750 chipset combination. Four DIMM slots support dual-channelDDR3-1600 (overclocked) and DDR3-1333 memory settings, while two 16-lane PCIe2.0 expansion slots support x16/x16 ATI CrossFireX technology.
Asus-specificfeatures for this RoG-series enthusiast motherboardinclude MemOK (a memory compatibility tool), CPULevel Up (a simplified overclocking utility), TweakIT,a SupremeFX X-Fieight-channel audio card, and an external LCD poster.
Socket AM3: Asus M4N82 Deluxe
The AsusM4N82 Deluxe will be put to use when it comes time to test dual GeForce cardsin SLI paired up to our three Socket AM3 processors.
Based on theNvidia nForce 980a SLI chipset, this Socket AM2+motherboard has three 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots supporting two cards in a x16configuration or three at x8 signaling. The board has an 8+1 power phasedesign, four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked) andDDR2-1066. It also includes eight-channel integrated sound.
Specialthanks to Asus for arranging the motherboards needed to make this entire seriespossible.