AMD Motherboard: ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe
Current Cost: $220
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: -$5
With the move to the Phenom as our AMD processor selection, we upgraded our motherboard to a Socket AM2+, as although Phenom may be backward compatible with AM2, we wanted the newest and most powerful hardware. Going the AM2+ route, and specifically the AMD 790FX chipset, supplies us with enhanced power saving, PCI Express 2.0, HyperTransport 3.0, and a longer upgrade path - more than enough reasons to spend a few extra dollars. The Phenom X4 9850 BE supports the same platform, so there is really no need to change motherboards this month.
Our selection of the ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe motherboard is an easy one, as we use this platform for all Phenom X3/X4 testing and benchmarking, and have experienced no problems at all. Although the price was a bit steep, the low cost of the Phenom X4 made up for it, and easily fit into the budget. This motherboard features the AMD 790FX chipset, and includes four PCI Express graphics slots (PCIe 2.0/1.0) and four memory sockets with support for up to 8GB of DDR2-1066. Other features include support for SATA 3.0 Gb/s, Gigabit LAN, 8-channel audio, IEEE 1394, and SATA RAID, along with CrossFireX multi-GPU technology.
The ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe includes an advanced thermal and power design, including an 8+2 Phase Power Design, which provides independent power to vital components and protects them from potential damage. It features the now-standard ASUS fanless, heat pipe thermal cooling, with chipset heatsinks attached to several heat pipes and heat fins/sinks for maximum thermal protection, without the noise of a cooling fan. ASUS also bundles a Cool Mempipe device, which attaches to the main heatpipe, and then to the memory modules. This is component can be installed by the end user, and ASUS states that memory temperatures can run up to 10 degrees C lower.
Intel Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X48-DS4
Current Cost: $225
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
Although there is no express need to switch motherboards, as the ASUS P5E X38 could easily handle our Core 2 Duo E8500, the emergence of the Intel X48 chipset is reason enough. The only real question is whether to go with DDR2 or DDR3, as the X48 supports both. In the interest of fiscal responsibility, we chose the DDR2 route, as not only is the DDR3 memory itself more expensive, but this premium also translates to the X48 motherboards supporting it. Our selection is the Gigabyte GA-X48-DS4, a motherboard based on the Intel X48 chipset, and one we've really grown to like.
Gigabyte has really been challenging ASUS at the high-end of the motherboard market, and their GA-X48-DS4 is an excellent combination of features and price. The board is powered by the Intel X48 chipset, which provides full support for all 45/65nm Core 2 Duo, Quad and Extreme processors at certified FSB speeds from 800 to 1600 MHz. Gigabyte has upgraded memory support to DDR2-1200, along with standard DDR2-667/800/1066 speeds using both ECC and standard modules.
The GA-X48-DS4 motherboard supplies dual PCIe x16 slots (both x16 in CrossFireX mode) 3 x PCI Express x1, and 2 x PCI expansion slots. Other features include 1 x PATA and 6 x Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s (with RAID), along with Gigabit LAN, Realtek ALC889A 8-channel audio, 12 x USB 2.0, and 3 x IEEE 1394a Firewire. It supports Dynamic Energy Saver functionality and includes the Gigabyte Ultra Durable 2 design, with a Quad-Triple Phase power design, ferrite core chokes, lower RDS (on) MOSFETs and lower ESR solid capacitors.