5 Cool Motherboards for Gamers – Reviewed

By: Mike Jennings

Source: PC Pro Magazine

Image representing Intel as depicted in CrunchBase

 

 

 

Intel’s latest processors are an obvious choice, but which motherboard should you use? Here are five P67 models tested by “PC Pro Mag”

Choosing a new processor is pretty straightforward right now – it has to be Intel’s Sandy Bridge – but picking a motherboard is trickier. To help you, I have put five motherboards with the firm’s P67 chipset through some tests.

Loaded with the same components as our reference PC – a 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K and 4GB of DDR3 RAM – as well as an Intel 510 series SSD, we’ve run our Real World Benchmarks to look for differences in potential application performance, our data transfer tests to measure SATA 6Gbits/sec, USB 3 and eSATA speeds, and SiSoft Sandra’s benchmarks to measure memory performance. We’ve also tested for power consumption and temperature.

 

No. 5: Foxconn Rattler

The Rattler is the most expensive board here but, with a POST display, onboard overclocking switches and power and reset buttons, it has plenty admiring its dramatic black-and-red PCB.

There are two SATA 6Gbit/sec and four SATA 3Gbits/sec sockets, and they’re sensibly positioned away from the primary PCI Express x 16 slot. Two x 16 slots support a pair of graphics cards in Nvidia SLI or AMD CrossFireX at 8x speed. Five fan headers are spread around, and the Rattler is the only board here to prove two each of Gigabit Ethernet and eSATA ports on its backplate.

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The Foxconn’s benchmark score of 0.95 was the slowest, and it returned mixed results in file test: second-fastest when writing large files at 376.3MB/sec, but slowest of the five with smaller files, writing at 117.1MB/sec, Elsewhere, it’s the only board to drop below 14GB/sec of memory bandwidth, and its latency and cache results were also poor, albeit by small margins.

A peak processor temperature of 87oC, a maximum chipset heatsink temperature of 54oC and upper power draw of 297W make the Foxconn the worst offender on all three counts. Moreover, it still uses BIOS, which feels archaic next to the more modern UEFI systems.

So although the Rattler has a fine specification of paper, it doesn’t do a lot to justify the outlay in the real world.

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No. 4: ASRock Fatal1ty P67

Enthusiasts could do better with ASRock’s offering. Line the Asus and MSI boards, it replaces the BIOS with a UEFI front-end packing improved visuals and much simpler mouse input.

On the board you get power buttons, a POST display, four DIMM sockets ready for 32GB of RAM and six perpendicular SATA sockets, ready for 32GB of RAM and six perpendicular SATA sockets, two of which run at 6Gbits/sec. The backplate is well-stocked with USB 3, eSATA and a Clear CMOS button. Our only grip is that the single PCI Express x16 slot rules out a dual-graphics setup.

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Real-world performance was disappointing. It scored 0.97 in our benchmarks, and it wrote large files over SATA 6Gbits/sec at 365.8MB/sec, almost 20MB/sec slower than the leader. Results were better over eSATA, but it isn’t really a fast board in this company.

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These performance gaps might not be huge in the grand scheme of things, but they can be a deciding factor, and we expect better from a “gaming” board. It isn’t bad, but others are better – and that makes the Fatal1ty impossible to recommend.

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No. 3: Gigabyte GA-P67A-D3-B3

The Gigabyte GA-P67A-D3-B3 is a bit more palatable and more modest in its features. It starts well, with four DIMM sockets for up to 32GB of DDR3 memory, a pair of SATA 6Gbits/sec ports and a quarter of slower SATA 3Gbits/sec ports, three PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI sockets.

Elsewhere, though, the budget bites. The second PCI Express x16 slot runs at 4x speed, wiping out any dual-graphics aspirations, and the positioning of the fourth fan header in the bottom corner of the board seems strange. The meager backplate offers only four USB 2 ports and no eSATA, and with only three audio outputs you’ll have to use S/PDIF to get 7.1 sound. You do get parallel and serial ports for those using cutting-edge hardware with antique peripherals, however.

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It’s the basic specification that puts paid to the Gigabyte’s prospects. It’s a fine budget board but, without eSATA, dual graphics or additional features, it doesn’t offer much future-proofing.

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No. 2: Asus P8P67-M Pro

This month’s only microATX board also comes with the cheapest price. Despite this, the inclusion of three PCI Express x16 slots is generous – two run at 8x, with the third at 4x – and there’s a single PCI Express x1 slot.

It has seven SATA sockets (four at 3Gbits/sec, three faster), and four DIMMS will take up to 32GB of RAM. There’s a vacant TPM connector so you can easily upgrade security, and you get four fan connectors, three of which have speed control. The backplate is one of the best here: eSATA, FireWire and two PS/2 sockets alongside USB 3, USB 2 and optical S/PDIF.

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The P8P67-M Pro was the fastest board here in our benchmarks, albeit by a tiny mergin. Its performance in our data transfer tests was mostly fine, too, with fast SATA 6Gbits/sec speeds – although it struggled to read over USB 3: in our large file test it was less than half as fast as the leaders, despite table-topping write speed.

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The UEFI front-end serves up a screen full of diagnostics information, albeit not very well laid out: to access advanced options you have to switch to a special mode. The desktop AI Suite offers little besides overclocking options, fan settings and automatic tweaks, but at least it’s presented well.

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The Asus doesn’t have everything you’d expect from a full ATX board, then, but if you’re building in a smaller case it’s a surprisingly well-featured alternative at a reasonable price.

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No. 1: MSI P67A-GD53

If you’re after a full ATX board, however, MSI P67A-GD53 ticks most boxes. It comes with UEFI software and, while it isn’t as enthusiast-friendly as the Fatal1ty or Asus, it’s sensibly laid out of novices. If that’s too detailed for you, try MSI’s OC Genie switch, which automatically overclocks your processor.

Two PCI Express slots run at 8x speed when both are occupied and the four DIMM sockets can handle 32GB of DDR3. There’s no sign of internal USB 3 headers for connecting to a case’s front panel, and there’s also no eSATA or FireWire on the backplate; you do get two USB 3 and eight USB 2 ports – the most of any board here – as well as SATA 6Gbits/sec and a Clear CMOS button.

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It scored 0.99 in our benchmarks, memory latency of 78.3ns was the second-best here, and SATA 6Gbits/sec and USB 3 speeds were decent too.

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While it may lack the flair of other boards, the P67A-GD53 is well featured, well rounded and comes at a perfectly fair price. If we were building a Sandy Bridge PC tomorrow, we’d go with the MSI.

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