Conclusion: Several Product Classes Emerge
The really good news first : there were no serious problems with any of the boards we tested. If we were to be nitpicky, we could mention that the instructions from PC Chips for the CMOS reset jumper were confusing, and that one or two of the boards had initial problems booting up. But we did not find anything that would have you running back to your dealer. Even receiving the incorrect manual with the MSI motherboard is hardly critical, since the latest manuals are nearly always available for download from the manufacturers’ websites.
In the low-priced budget range are the boards from PC Chips and QDI. Here, QDI’s P4I865PE Novo left us with a better impression, since it worked well with all the modules in the memory test.
In the mid-price range are boards from Albatron, Biostar, Epox, Intel and MSI. The latter is a slimmed-down board, which can hardly be described as feature-packed. Epox edges toward the upper class but is set back because of its performance in the memory test. The Intel also had problems with one type of memory. However, it compensates for this failing with its Desktop Control Center, which we rate very highly indeed. Biostar and Albatron have no features worth highlighting, although Biostar gains points with its WLAN module. All five are perfectly usable mid-range boards.
For speed freaks and gamers, we would limit our recommendation to the boards from Abit and DFI. Abit offers better hardware specifications and is well set up for tuning, while DFI definitely has gamers in mind and has configured its accessory bundle accordingly.
The upper class consists of boards from AOpen, Asus, ECS, Gigabyte, Supermicro and Tyan. Certain aspects of the Abit and DFI boards also justify inclusion in the upper class, depending on your personal preferences. AOpen, Asus and Gigabyte share pole position, with the Photon series from ECS just behind them. Supermicro and Tyan will appeal more to the workstation user. The Supermicro should find favor as a server motherboard, thanks to its PCI-X Southbridge and dual Gigabit LAN. Both of these boards are a special case, since they would not usually be used in a normal desktop PC.
Our recommendations go to the Biostar, AOpen and Asus boards. The cost-performance ratio and the WLAN of the Biostar make it a very good choice. AOpen combines a wealth of features with the highest component quality, and Asus once again delivers a product that sets the standards, thanks to its excellent features and a perfect score in our memory test.
Another trouble-free performance : Asus P4C800-E Deluxe
Winner on points : Only the best components from AOpen
Winner in the budget category : Biostar P4TCO Pro