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P55 On A Budget: Five Core i5/i7 Motherboards For $100-$150

Hardware And Software Configuration

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz, 8.0MB Cache)
CPU CoolerThermalright MUX-120
RAMKingston KHX2133C9D3T1K2/4GX (4GB) DDR3-2133 at DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24
GraphicsXFX GeForce GTX 285 XXX Edition 670 MHz GPU, GDDR3-2500
Hard DriveWestern Digital VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS, 300GB 10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCORSAIR CMPSU-850HX 850 W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia Forceware 190.62 WHQL
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.1.1014

Intel sent a sample of its highest-speed LGA 1156 processor specifically for our motherboard comparisons. Unlike earlier LGA 1366 engineering samples, these have memory multipliers unlocked up to 6x base clock, just like their retail counterparts. We enabled Intel Turbo Boost, EIST, and the highest available C-States for each motherboard, since the last two settings are required to get the most out of Turbo.

Intel also sent Thermalright’s MUX-120 CPU cooler, a part the manufacturer claims is all-new and designed specifically for LGA 1156 in spite of its subsidiary brand.

One thing we must note about the MUX-120 is that it doesn’t fit some motherboards properly. Its fan blocked the closest memory slot of ECS’ P55H-A, along with that of an upcoming higher-model board.

Similar to its previous triple-channel parts, Kingston now offers DDR3-2133 that’s pre-tested at a lower CPU Uncore frequency of 1.30 V in these dual-channel kits. We used two sets to determine each motherboard’s highest stable DRAM frequency.

Western Digital’s VelociRaptor keeps churning out good numbers. In spite of the price premium one pays for 10,000 RPM rotating speeds, this is still an economical alternative to high-performance solid-state drives (SSD).

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear SkyClear Sky Benchmark version Test Set 1: High Preset, DX10 EFDL, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX10 EFDL, 4x MSAA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion: 8.2.1.6 x64 Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98.2, wave to MP3 Audio CD "Terminator II" SE, 53 min
TMPEGEnc 4.0 ExpressVersion: 4.7.3.292 Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.5Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1 Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2009Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8.5Version: 8.5.287, Virus base: 270.12.16/2094, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00 x64, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646
SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4aVersion 2009.9.15.130, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • dirtmountain
    The Asrock P55 Pro is 16x-4x, not 8x-8x.
    http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P55%20Pro
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157171
    The Asrock P55 Extreme at $140 offers 8x-8x
    Reply
  • JeanLuc
    Good read but it really just confirms what a lot of us have known for a long time. Don't buy budget motherboards (MSI, ASrock, ECS) if you want to overclock and it's no coincidence that the boards from Gigabyte and Asus passed with flying colours as these companies clearly have proper testing procedures in place and quality assurance measures to avoid such issues.
    Reply
  • evongugg
    Another great article from Tom's, letting us know about how one of these motherboards can burn your CPU. Never would have known without you.
    Might have burnt out a CPU and not know the cause.

    Reply
  • Crydee
    How would P55 stack up against non P55s is what I wanted to see as well. See if the premium is worth it over the more budget friendly P55.
    Reply
  • LATTEH
    nice article i liked it!
    Reply
  • avatar_raq
    Unfortunately neither Gigabbyte nor ASUS boards offer the 8x8x PCI-e slots for multiple GPUs. I think it's better to wait for their premium brethren to fall below $150 before upgrading.
    Reply
  • SchizoFrog
    For the extra $20 you can get the ASUS P7P55D PRO which is a much better board and offers the full spec for multi GPUs... However, I personally can only recommend what I would do myself and that is to wait. There are a lot of major PC spec changes over the next 6 months. So I am waiting for USB3 and SATA3 to make it to mainstream.
    Reply
  • SchizoFrog
    For the extra $20 you can get the ASUS P7P55D PRO which is a much better board and offers the full spec for multi GPUs... However, I personally can only recommend what I would do myself and that is to wait. There are a lot of major PC spec changes over the next 6 months. So I am waiting for USB3 and SATA3 to make it to mainstream.
    Reply
  • helms
    I doubt their quality assurance is as good as you think Jeanluc. Both Gigabyte and Asus make crap DDR3 controllers for socket 775 motherboards. I've tested a heap of DDR3 socket 775 boards from Asus and Gigabyte, the Asus P5Q3 in particular is causing a lot of problems. When paired with a quad core cpu (everything stock) and running 3 threads prime(blend) + furmark, the system would inevitably freeze in under 2hr's (usually within the 30 minutes mark, quite a bit less than 2hrs). In fact systems with those boards would freeze even during normal non PC intensive use such as browsing the internet. Running prime+furmark just forces it happen rather than waiting for it to freeze which is quite random during light use like word prcoessing. I doubt Asus even realizes that their P5Q3 is a faulty product and shouldn't have hit retail stores. They have been selling the P5Q3 for ages. They probably tested the board with a cheap dual core celeron and since it worked with that called it a day.
    Reply
  • burnley14
    JeanlucGood read but it really just confirms what a lot of us have known for a long time. Don't buy budget motherboards (MSI, ASrock, ECS) if you want to overclock and it's no coincidence that the boards from Gigabyte and Asus passed with flying colours as these companies clearly have proper testing procedures in place and quality assurance measures to avoid such issues.
    I think you're jumping to conclusions here. Tom's reviewed some boards a while back for the 1366 socket and gave ASRock first place for quality and value.
    Reply