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XFX Radeon HD 7850 Black Edition Review

Outsized performance from a midrange card

The $250 price point is where the hardcore and the serious gamer part ways. It’s not that hardcore gamers aren’t serious—it’s that they sometimes lose perspective, willing to throw vast, silly sums of money at shiny high-end GPUs. Serious gamers know that a good $250 graphics card will buy you high frame rates on standard, 1080p displays without requiring a second mortgage.

XFX’s “Ghost” fan shrouds are easy on the eyes, but they don’t vary much from card to card

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Asus GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP Review

More power than a stock GTX 680

Every GPU generation has its flagship videocards: the ones with the top-of-the-line GPU with all cores enabled, loaded for bear. In this generation, those cards are Nvidia’s GTX 680 (with a full GK104 GPU inside) and AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 (with a full Tahiti GPU). These cards are monstrously fast, but they’re also expensive and tricky to manufacture. Not all parts come off the line fully functional. So a few months after each flagship GPU launch, the vendors come out with a slightly stripped-down version that uses binned top-end GPUs with a few parts disabled, or lower clock speeds. AMD’s Radeon HD 7950, for example, uses the same GPU as the 7970, but with 28 GCN units instead of 32, and with an 800MHz reference clock instead of 925MHz. The cheaper, lower-powered video cards appeal both to gamers with shallower pockets and also to vendors, who clock those stripped-down, less expensive GPUs right back up to within spitting distance of their full-powered peers. Thus we arrive at the Asus GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP, a factory-overclocked GTX 670 with a custom cooling solution.

The DirectCU II cooler’s three direct-contact heat pipes keep the GPU cool.

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MSI Z77A-GD65 Review

MSI Z77A-GD65

Midrange boards typically have to sacrifice features to get under $200 and MSI’s Z77A-GD65 shows evidence of this philosophy. It’s the only board here without a discrete USB 3.0 controller, instead relying on the native Intel chipset for all USB 3.0. It’s also the only board without DisplayPort.

MSI shaved costs by jettisoning extra USB 3.0 ports on the Z77A-GD65.

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Asus P8Z77-V Review

Asus P8Z77-V

Apparently budget board means legacy support. That’s what we inferred from Asus’s P8Z77-V board, which has a quaint PS/2 port and not one, but two PCI slots. Don’t think that means Asus cheaped out on more modern amenities, though. Although there’s no eSATA or FireWire, Asus includes some truly compelling features such as onboard Wi-Fi, an Intel LAN controller, incredibly fast USB 3.0, and a revamped Fan Xpert 2.

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Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H Review

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H

Of all the boards here, we’re most intimately familiar with Gigabyte’s GA-Z77X-UD5H. It’s the board we used for the bulk of our Core i7-3770K testing, and one thing we can say, it’s stable. We’ve literally run more than 50 hours of benchmarks on this board without any issue.

We hit our highest auto-overclock with the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H.