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X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards


We calculated average performance levels for each application test suite (games, encoding, and productivity). Averaging these results allows us to consider the combined performance of each motherboard, with the fastest model chosen as a baseline.

With a base clock of 133.7 MHz, the MSI X58 Platinum comes in second place for overall performance. Asus’ P6T wins, in spite of its smaller 0.20% base-clock "nudge" (133.6 MHz). With a performance advantage of over 2% over the Foxconn, DFI, ASRock, Biostar, and EVGA products, Asus could have easily won the performance comparison even without its 0.20% base clock advantage. Exceptional performance at its stock settings earns Asus' P6T a spot in each Tom's Hardware lab as our reference platform for 2009.

Overclockers will of course seek even greater performance benefits from added clock speed, a fact that allows EVGA’s top CPU overclock to more than offset its last-place performance finish.

Foxconn’s Renaissance offers the most features for the money, though its slot configuration isn’t favorable to multiple double-slot graphics cards. For that we again choose EVGA, a product that supports splitting of one set of slot pathways across two slots for better 3-way SLI performance. The X58 3X SLI also better-supports overclocking of two graphics cards, since the added space between its full-x16 slots allows better cooling.

EVGA’s X58 3X SLI is thus our preferred choice among sub-$300 motherboards for use in overclocked, high-end gaming configurations. Anyone taking score can call that a win.

With a similar slot layout to EVGA, DFI’s LANParty DK X58-T3eH6 provides a similar cooling advantage in two-card graphics configurations. And while it doesn’t offer the same level of 3-way SLI support as EVGA, its lower price keeps it in the running.

The cheapest of today’s competitors, the MSI X58 Platinum SLI is also a great choice for value-conscious SLI system builders, though we choke a little when trying to put “value-conscious” and “SLI” in the same sentence.

Enough differences in features and price exist between all of today’s motherboards that each builder should carefully reconsider such items as onboard controllers, slot type, and slot placement before taking any of our recommendations as a cause to buy. Everyone has slightly different needs, and while some builders may choose to load up the Foxconn Renaissance with four single-slot graphics cards to support eight displays, others will pack the EVGA 3X SLI with three GTX 285’s for a single display. Whatever your needs, we’re almost certain that one of today’s sub-$300 products can suit them.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.