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Asus And DFI: Core i7 Micro-ATX Motherboards Compared

Test Settings

Though most of our current articles contain updates to both hardware and software, a previous test configuration was required to make today’s benchmark results consistent with those of our other X58 motherboard comparisons.

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7 920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)
CPU CoolerSwiftech Apogee GTZ Liquid Cooling
RAMKingston KHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GX (6.0 GB) DDR3-2000 at DDR3-1866 CAS 7-8-7-20
GraphicsXFX GeForce GTX 285 XXX Edition 670MHz GPU, GDDR3-2500
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD5000AAKS, 500 GB 7,200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16 MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCoolermaster RS850-EMBA 850W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 181.20 WHQL
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.0.1007

While other reviewers have standardized their tests using DDR3-1600 CAS 8 memory, faster modules are required to assess the full overclocking capabilities of X58 motherboards. Kingston’s DDR3-2000 was chosen for its win in our 6 GB DDR3 overclocking shootout.

Zalman’s ZM-STF1 thermal grease was chosen for its quick set-in time, low thermal resistance, and mess-free application.

Excellent cooling is required to reach our Core i7 920’s overclocking limit. Swiftech’s Apogee GTZ moves heat quickly away from the CPU, via its MCP-655b high-volume pump and 3x120mm radiator.

Top benchmark performance in our previous X58 Motherboard Shootout has made the Asus P6T the reference platform for most of our tests. Today it represents the “Full ATX standard” by which we can judge the effectiveness of micro-ATX alternatives.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: World at WarPatch 1.1, FRAPS/saved game High Textures, No AA / No AF, vsync off Ultra Textures, 4x AA / Max AF, vsync off
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 2DirectX 10, Steam Version, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very HighDetails 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion: 7.7.0.43 Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007) Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min wave to MP3
TMPGEnc 4.5Version: 4.5.1.254 Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.3Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
Xvid 1.1.3Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 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 kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Autodesk 3ds Max 9Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.80Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression = Best, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
WinZip 11Version 11.2, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
Sythetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • IzzyCraft
    Shame the DFI board didn't do better it help shut up people going where is the Rampage II gene in the Builders marathon.

    Although this review let me have a little more respect for the board I'm still asus and gigabyte all the way.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Really nice article! BIOS screenshots are so important when helping someone configure their board on line, and we do a lot of that around here. I thought you hit all the major points and I especially like the conclusion format.
    Reply
  • andy_mcp1
    Great article. About time the facts were laid on the table. I've not quite got to upgrading to I7 M-Atx yet, but got an Asus P5E-VM (not the best admittedly) and an E8400 which on air is oc'd to 4.1Ghz stable (for the past 8 months), which I’ve on countless occasions used to show my mates who have full atx systems that bigger isn’t always better as my 3dmark and pcmark scores were better than theirs (of comparable full sized board builds).

    Good point, and I agree, that the hardest thing for the market is for those who have idealisms that the atx board with the most slots are best, have to admit that this not the case, that they don’t need and wont likely use them. It’s about time technology moved on and we start shrinking the components. We've come a long way from house sized computers but seems to have got stuck with fridge-sized atx, time to change that and join the 21st century!
    Reply
  • doomtomb
    The prices between the DFI and Asus are nearly the same, a difference of $20 or $30. The Asus Rampage II Gene wins it in my opinion.
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    For me, it's about the features and backplate I/O ports not the performance, when it comes to motherboards with the same chipset. The differences between them is so little that it doesn't matter in real life. Plus given the fat that motherboards, like processors, aren't identical I might get one that performs lower/better then what's in this review.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    IzzyCraftShame the DFI board didn't do better it help shut up people going where is the Rampage II gene in the Builders marathon.Although this review let me have a little more respect for the board I'm still asus and gigabyte all the way.
    Really, the reason the Rampage II Gene wasn't considered for the $2500 PC is that it didn't show up under a Newegg category search (LGA-1366, Micro ATX) and Newegg didn't fix that until this week. It's a good board, and if you need a weird cooler style, supports the more popular LGA-775 coolers.
    Reply
  • atamanroman
    I like it that uatx is getting more and more attention, since my own i7 uatx cube project is only a few weeks away.

    but im missing the MSI X58M (160€ best prive vs 198€ asus and 190 dfi) here, theres a great review at anandtech. the board really rocks and has only a few weak points (fan control and s3 wake up problem if overclocked). i think ppl would be glad if the msi could be added to this comparison.

    best regards,
    roman
    Reply
  • zehpavora
    Very good article, but I think that the components chosen should be from the same time frame, because I think that the P6T is "too old" compared to the GENE board. Maybe the P6T V2 would be a better idea. Now I fear the Mini-ATXs.
    Reply
  • avatar_raq
    Nice article..I wonder if you were planning on it for a while or you wrote it in response to our comments in the SBM..And yeah it showed what I always expect from ASUS; top notch mobos.
    P eople go for a full atx build simply because they can (:P), and because larger cases offer better cooling especially for SLI and CF, it's much easier to build and, other than portability, there is no real advantage of a micro-atx build, even the price difference is not worth it in my opinion. But the article does a good job of showing that u-atx boards can be excellent performers.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Excellent article. Any differences between those boards are molehills, not mountains.
    Personally, I'd probably give up a tiny bit of performance for the more noteworthy reduction in power used by DFI; I like the cooler flexibility of the Asus though. It would be a tough call.
    Reply