Six $200-$260 LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

MSI X79A-GD45 (8D)

MSI rivals Asus in offering the fewest extras for the money by integrating two USB 3.0 controllers and chipset-only SATA (compared to Asus’ eSATA ports and lack of front-panel USB 3.0). Both boards support triple-card CrossFireX, though, and both have a full set of eight DIMM slots.

It bears mention that the X79A-GD45 (8D)’s extra USB 3.0 connectivity is a little less valuable than Asus' eSATA because you can't use the front-panel USB 3.0 header with three graphics cards installed. Short add-in cards fit. Thin add-in cards fit. But USB 3.0 front-panel cable ends are simply too stiff to fit under a graphics card heat sink.

The other two x16-length slots each have a single PCIe 2.0 pathway suitable only for low-bandwidth devices. That functionality could include low-end graphics cards serving 2D needs.

Apart from the unfortunately-positioned USB 3.0 front-panel header, we have no major objections to the X79A-GD45 (8D)’s layout. It's somewhat inconvenient to have the front-panel audio header positioned a little too far back for some of our cases. That's offset by a minor design triumph in MSI's inclusion of a manual switch for its dual-BIOS function.

Supporting up to six internal SATA drives, the X79A-GD45 (8D) includes all six SATA cables. MSI’s M-Connector cable bundler, a single SLI bridge, and an I/O shield complete the installation kit.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • I like Asrock boards. I have an 880GM-LE mATX and a Z68 Pro3 Gen3 ATX and both are good performance and price-performance wise.
  • hellfire24
    Asrock is dominating both high end and mid range market.extreme3/gen3 1155 is awesome and cheapest pci-e 3.0 sli capable mobo.Asrock FTW!!!
  • Achoo22
    Quite simply, the costs associated with Sandy Bridge-E are higher, in part because of Intel's prices and also because the boards are more difficult to design.

    Since the boards all have vastly superior profit margins, your statement is misleading. Why is everyone too afraid to reveal the truth about motherboard pricing?
  • bartholomew
    ASRock has come a long way!
  • AlexIsAlex
    Would it be possible, in future motherboard reviews, to include a measure of the cold boot (POST) time? This is something that different bioses can be differentiated on, and UFEI offers the potential for very fast boots if manufacturers take advantage of it properly.

    A comparison of the time between the power button being pressed and the installed bootloader starting would be very interesting to me. I was thinking it might be easiest to measure this by having no OS on the boot media and measuring the time to the "please insert boot media" message, but I'm sure you can think of other ways of doing it.

    I'm also informed that on some boards the boot time varies dramatically dependent on whether any Overclocking is enabled, as compared to the stock settings - that would also be worth knowing.
  • americanbrian
    your feature table says the asrock extreme 4 comes with an 8 phase voltage regulator, but the text of article says 10 phase...which is it ?
  • crisan_tiberiu
    ASRock = ASUS :)
    crisan_tiberiuASRock = ASUS
    not anymore, asrock is no longer affiliated with Asus and is owned by Pegatron Corp.
  • memadmax
    I wish tom's would do a "best motherboards for the money" or something close to that.
  • Pegatron sounds like a merger between PegASUS + Megatron (or something like that).