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Six $200-$260 LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

Test Settings And Benchmarks

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E): 3.60 GHz, 15 MB  Shared L3 Cache, LGA 2011
CPU CoolerSwiftech Apogee GTX, MCP 655b, Triple Fan Radiator Kit
RAMG.Skill F3-17600CL9Q-16GBXLD 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-2200 Benchmarked at DDR3-1600 CAS 9 defaults
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 580: 772 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4008
Hard DriveSamsung 470 Series MZ5PA256HMDR, 256 GB SSD, SATA 3Gb/s
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerSeasonic X760 SS-760KM: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 285.62
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.3.1020

A credit to Swiftech’s reliability, its LGA 775-era Apogee GTX kit keeps our CPU temperature well below its thermal throttling limits under every test condition, even while using its original coolant and nothing more than a bracket and screw change to fit the newer LGA 2011 platform. We added an SFF21D cooling fan above its water block to assist voltage regulator and DRAM cooling.

G.Skills Ripjaws DDR3-2200 allows us to test the overclocking capabilities of each motherboard at one module per channel, and the basic performance of each board at default DDR3-1600 SPD values. The firm sent a second set for our eight-DIMM tests using the same ICs, but different XMP values.

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580 pushes our CPU limits under games, enhancing any small performance deficits that some motherboards occasionally exhibit.

Samsung’s MZPA256HMDR 256 GB SSD keeps load times and idle power low.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene Test Set 1: DX11, High, AAA, 4x AF, No PhysX, No DoF Test Set 2: DX11, Very High, 4x AA, 16x AF, No PhysX, DoF On
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide V2" Test Set 1: High Details, High Quality Test Set 2: Ultra Details, Extreme Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.01: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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!!!
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • bartholomew
    ASRock has come a long way!
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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 ?
    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu
    ASRock = ASUS :)
    Reply
  • KT_WASP
    crisan_tiberiuASRock = ASUS
    not anymore, asrock is no longer affiliated with Asus and is owned by Pegatron Corp.
    Reply
  • memadmax
    I wish tom's would do a "best motherboards for the money" or something close to that.
    Reply
  • Pegatron sounds like a merger between PegASUS + Megatron (or something like that).
    Reply