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Part 3: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Motherboards

Motherboards

Although our main focus in this series is on balance between the CPU and GPU, there’s obviously a lot more hardware involved in procuring respectable performance from your platform of choice. For our purposes, we built our test systems around enthusiast-class motherboards from Asus, picked for their stability, overclocking capabilities, and PCI Express connectivity, enabling ATI CrossFireX and/or Nvidia SLI support.

LGA 1156: Asus P7P55D-E Pro

Our newly added LGA 1156 platform centers on the P7P55D-E Pro from Asus. Based on Intel’s P55 Express chipset, this motherboard features SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0, Asus 16-Hybrid Phase (12+2 phase power design + t.Probe), integrated Via 8-channel HD audio, and overclocking features both beginners and advanced enthusiasts can appreciate.

Four DIMM slots support dual-channel DDR3-2200 (overclocked) and DDR3-1600 memory. The dual PCIe 2.0 x16 slots are configurable as a single 16-lane slot, or as dual 8-lane slots supporting both ATI CrossFire and Nvidia SLI technology.

LGA 1366: Asus Rampage II Extreme

The Asus Rampage II Extreme is based on Intel’s X58 Express chipset, and will be used throughout this series for our LGA 1366 platform.

This feature-packed motherboard is part of the Asus RoG (Republic of Gamers) series, and was designed with the overclocking community in mind. This works out well for us, since two of our balanced platform pieces will center on the effects of overclocking.

The three 16-lane PCIe 2.0 expansion slots support x16/x16 operation or x16/x8/x8 CrossFireX and SLI. The six DIMM slots support triple-channel DDR3-1800 (overclocked) and DDR3-1600 memory.

A few of the other notable features unique to Asus' lineup include TweakIT (joystick-like overclocking control), ProbeIt (eight on-board detection points), Extreme Engine with ML Cap Design (the company's multi-phase power management system with multi-layer polymer caps), a SupremeFX X-Fi eight-channel audio card, and an external LCD Poster.

LGA 775: Asus Rampage Formula

We use the Asus Rampage Formula for any LGA 775-based testing, aside from the Nvidia SLI configurations, which you'll see in an upcoming episode of this series.

Based on the Intel X48 Express chipset, this RoG-series motherboard has two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots supporting x16/x16 CrossFire operation and four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked) and DDR2-1066 memory.

Overclocking-friendly features 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 SupremeFX II eight-channel audio card and external LCD poster are also part of the bundle.

LGA 775: Asus P5N72-T Premium

Based on the Nvidia nForce 780i SLI chipset and boasting two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots (plus one first-gen PCIe 16x slot), the Asus P5N72-T Premium 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 SupremeFX II audio card.

Socket AM3: Asus Crosshair III Formula

At the heart of this series' Socket AM3 testing is Asus' Crosshair III Formula, based on AMD’s 790FX/SB750 chipset combination. Four DIMM slots support dual-channel DDR3-1600 (overclocked) and DDR3-1333 memory settings, while two 16-lane PCIe 2.0 expansion slots support x16/x16 ATI CrossFireX technology.

Asus-specific features for this RoG-series enthusiast motherboard include MemOK (a memory compatibility tool), CPU Level Up (a simplified overclocking utility), TweakIT, a SupremeFX X-Fi eight-channel audio card, and an external LCD poster.

Socket AM3: Asus M4N82 Deluxe

The Asus M4N82 Deluxe will be put to use when it comes time to test dual GeForce cards in SLI paired up to our Socket AM3 processors.

Based on the Nvidia nForce 980a SLI chipset, this Socket AM2+ motherboard has three 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slots supporting two cards in a x16 configuration or three at x8 signaling.

The board has an 8+1 power phase design, four DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR2-1200 (overclocked) and DDR2-1066. It also includes eight-channel integrated sound.

Special thanks to Asus for arranging the motherboards needed to make this entire series possible.

  • fatkid35
    first!
    Reply
  • ColMirage
    fatkid35first!Facepalm...

    Glad to see the last part of the series. Very useful!
    Reply
  • liquidsnake718
    I love how on the first page picture of all the games on this article show the games that truly take a toll on GPU's and CPU's. You are however missing Metro 2033 and Dirt 2 in DX11 which obliterates some GPUs in DX11!
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    A metro 2033 graph wouldn't be interesting it would start at 0 and end at 5 for most set ups :D
    Reply
  • The choice of Corsair Dominator for the RAM is surprising, given that there are equally fast and stable choices at a much lower price point. OCZ, G Skill, Crucial, etc. I still love their power supplies though.
    Reply
  • duk3
    ColMirageGlad to see the last part of the series. Very useful!
    They mentioned a part 4 in the article, with overclocking AMD processors.
    Reply
  • kaintfm
    The choice of Corsair Dominator for the RAM is surprising, given that there are equally fast and stable choices at a much lower price point. OCZ, G Skill, Crucial, etc. I still love their power supplies though.
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    And where is the Core i3 530? This is the real gaming gem of a CPU, but I hardly see it in any reviews @ Tom's...
    Reply
  • manitoublack
    Bought 2 GTX295's on release and run them on my i7-920, in SLi at 640MHz. Still over a year on and there still almost top dog.

    Great review Toms, and makes it easier to sleep at night knowing that 14months on little can touch what I've got regardless of the $1600AUD buyin.
    Reply
  • FUtomNOreg
    Very enlightening though, given my current rig's specs, thoroughly depressing. Curse you for breaking my delusion that my PC was adequate! I feel an overwhelming urge to upgrade coming on.....
    Reply