Averaging all gaming and application benchmarks for each motherboard provides a better perspective on overall performance leadership.
MSI may have performance leadership, but performance fanatics in this motherboard class will try overclocking for even larger performance gains. Gigabyte had the highest stable CPU speed, while DFI had the best overall (three and six DIMM) memory overclock. That certainly makes it difficult to pick a winner, especially when we consider that MSI and Asus got their first-place and second-place overall performance positions by setting the “standard” base clock at nonstandard speeds of 133.7 and 133.6 MHz. The overclock is tiny, but so is the lead.
But when motherboards are this close in performance and overclocking, should we even bother to pick a winner based on such simple factors? The most important consideration for most buyers will be how well each motherboard supports the hardware. If we were to rebuild our most recent System Builder Marathon Extreme PC, we’d choose the MSI Eclipse for its ability to hold our Quad-SLI configuration of two dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 graphics cards, add a PCIe x8 RAID card to its four-lane PCIe x16 slot, and still have two slots left for high-end audio and multimedia cards. If, on the other hand, we were to rebuild our earlier 3-way SLI SBM system, we’d choose the DFI LANParty UT X58-T3eH8 for its ability to hold those cards within the confines of a standard ATX case.
But while DFI and MSI might lead our above-ambient-cooling three-way and two-unit graphics scenarios, Gigabyte, Asus, and Foxconn are battling for supremacy in liquid nitrogen-cooled overclocking competitions.
We know from experience that our favorite components don’t always stand up to the stress of voltage and cooling extremes, and these three are the likely choices for enthusiasts who spend $300+ fully expecting to punish the hardware. This is where we can appreciate niche extras like the water block built into Gigabyte's board, the easily-found voltage contacts on the surface of Asus' offering, and the inclusion of just three memory slots on Foxconn's Blood Rage product.