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.
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?
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.
not anymore, asrock is no longer affiliated with Asus and is owned by Pegatron Corp.