Ready to finally build your post-recession machine?
That’s good, because we’ve decided to round up the best and brightest motherboards available. And we’re not talking Micro ATX, sub-$100 budgetrino boards here. We reached for the most feature-filled, over-the-top X58 and 890FX boards from the top three mobo vendors.
Want to know how over the top? One board lets you remotely reboot or overclock it using your cell phone. Another features power connectors usually found only on dual-processor server motherboards. Hell, one has a heat pipe so freaking big, some editors here thought it was some sort of new PCI-E add-in card. And one board is so large, you’ll have to buy a case specifically for its generous dimensions.
So if you’re ready to build a machine that will motor you away from those recession doldrums, keep reading because the best board here will be the one you want in your AMD or Intel machine.
It’s almost impossible to drop a processor into MSI’s 890FXA-GD70 motherboard without overclocking it. The reason has nothing to do with MSI not letting you run a chip at stock speeds—it does—but the temptation to goose your processor presents itself at every turn. If you’re poking around the BIOS, you need only enable the OC Genie Light option for a free speed boost. Alternately, you can turn a knob on the motherboard to make front-side-bus adjustments on the fly. And yet a third way to overclock is to fire up the included Control Center software and start moving sliders, or press the OC Genie button and be done with it. Using the latter option, we were prompted to restart our test bed, at which point the MSI board cranked our Phenom II X4 955BE up from 3.2GHz to a stable 3.68GHz. Not bad.
Any old scrap heap will get you from point A to point B, but it’s about the ride, playa, and that’s where the Crosshair IV Formula shines. Not only does the red and black color scheme look pimp, the board backs up its ferocious style with extensive overclocking controls and enough cooling potential to blow down a brick house. How so? Asus plopped eight freakin’ PWM fan headers around the motherboard.
Gigabyte has a frustrating habit of releasing a dozen motherboard models per chipset, and sometimes more—we counted no fewer than 15 Gigabyte boards based on Intel’s X58 chipset. That isn’t the case in 890FX land, where Gigabyte offers just two variants to choose from—the GA-890FXA-UD5, and the board reviewed here.
The differences between the two are big, and we mean that literally. Unlike the UD5, the UD7 ditches the tried-and-true standard ATX formfactor and comes constructed in XL-ATX, which is even larger than Extended ATX (E-ATX). Only folks with full towers need apply, and even then you’ll want to verify with your case manufacturer that an XL-ATX motherboard will fit. Gigabyte’s Chassis Support List of qualified cases is disappointingly sparse, though not all-inclusive.