"Finally, now the meat of the systems are starting to come out," Maximum PC reader I Jedi exhaled in the comments of our earlier article about the new Biostar TZ77XE4 Motherboard. If he only knew how right he was: since the Biostar news went live, a bevy of companies have announced new 7-series-supporting mobos of their own, including ASRock, MSI and Gigabyte.
Pushing your PC to its limits has obvious inherent dangers; overclocking your CPU can definitely bust your rig if you push it too far. That being said, reasonable overclocking doesn’t actually carry too much risk – normally. Right before Christmas, one overclocker’s Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 mobo crashed, then burned (literally) in the midst of a lightweight stress test. After he posted the video on YouTube, Gigabyte looked into the problem, and apparently, it wasn’t a case of crap luck. Yesterday, Gigabyte’s Chinese branch announced the faulty CPU VRM is a widespread issue and recalled all GA-X79-UD3, GA-X79-UD5, GA-X79-UD7 and G1.Assassin 2 mobos. US users, meanwhile, get a critical BIOS update.
Want a little bit more Autobot in your PC’s life? While everybody was busy making a big deal out of Habro’s trademark lawsuit against the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime – ourselves included – another manufacturer quietly showed off some Transformer-related PC hardware of its own, and these components look like they may actually be licensed! Late last week, ASRock plopped concept pics of Optimus Prime- and Bumblebee-branded X79 mobos up on its Facebook page.
Sometimes, Maximum PCs can be minimum PCs. Bigger isn’t always better. Gigabyte is giving love to the little guys with their new mini-ITX HTPC motherboard, gracefully named the A75N-USB3. As you may have guessed from the name, it’s based around AMD’s A75 Fusion chipset and packs in four speedy USB 3.0 ports, but that’s not all.
Just how influential is Intel? If the fact that the company owns over 80 percent of the global microprocessor market doesn’t do anything for you, how about this: Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge line haven’t even been released yet – that’s why they’re “upcoming” – but manufacturers have already begun offering motherboards capable of utilizing the PCIe 3.0 slots supported by the chips. MSI kicked off the trend, and Asus’ German arm has pulled the veil off of three new Ivy Bridge mobos of its own.
There’s good news and bad news for Intel lovers. The bad news is for folks who just bought a motherboard using the LGA1156 socket: Yup, it’s obsolete already. The good news: The LGA1155 motherboards using Intel’s performance P67 chipset are swimming with improvements such as native SATA 6Gb/s support, front-panel USB 3.0 headers, and UEFI. The biggest change, of course, is support for Intel’s new line of Sandy Bridge CPUs. These second-generation Core ix processors are not only fast, they’re cheap and overclock like hell. To find a suitable home for your new Sandy Bridge chip, we gathered up boards from old foes MSI and Asus to see whose next-gen motherboard deserves the honor.
Hit the jump for the reviews and an exclusive video look at all the boards!
We love Sandy Bridge, and we even like some aspects of the P67 chipset. But, we’ll say it again: Intel’s decision to cheap-out on SATA 6Gb/s will create massive port confusion. With the Asus board, we had to RTFM to figure out which port went to which controller and at what speed. The situation is murkier with the P67A-GD65. The board features eight SATA ports and tells you which are SATA 6Gb/s. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you which controller they’re running off of.
We’ll be honest: We’ve had the most hands-on time with Asus’s new P8P67 Deluxe board of any P67-based board this cycle. That’s because Asus sent a functioning board to us far before its competitors (including Intel) did, and as such, we conducted the bulk of our Sandy Bridge chip testing with the P8P67 Deluxe board.
Usually, early boards mean soldered-on wires, unpredictable performance, and hiccups that are often a consequence of very early hardware. None of that was true of the P8P67 Deluxe board. Out of the box, it offered rock-solid stability and its performance was excellent across the board.
If you think old motherboards go off to die long, slow deaths in an e-waste dump or silver reclamation plant, think again. Motherboards that have made a significant contribution are elevated to star status where they live forever.
Not all boards are worthy of the Motherboard Hall, of course. In fact, our list notably starts with ATX and moves forward. Why no AT or Baby AT boards? When was the last time someone thought wistfully of a 1992 VL-Bus motherboard? Those boards of old, while certainly heroic, hark back to a day when the component received little attention or enthusiasm—a time before it had realized its true potential.
You’ll also notice that our list doesn’t include any boards made in the last three years. We’ve intentionally excluded modern boards because it remains to be seen how much of an impact they’ll make over time. Even today’s most stellar boards, such as EVGA’s Classified SR-2—the board we used in this year’s Dream Machine, and an obvious contender for the Hall—are still too young to get inducted.
The reverence owed to the 10 boards you’ll see here, however, is unquestionable, as you’ll learn when we recount their respective roles in modern motherboard history. But if there are others you feel we’ve overlooked, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a world where you can get a pretty decent $99.99 motherboard, a lot of consumers don’t understand why you would pay one-and-a-half times more for a board using the same chipset.
That’s because those same consumers don’t seem to understand the attitude and atmosphere you get with a high-end motherboard. It’s about the flair, and the Asus Maximus III Formula offers that in spades.
While some of the flair is extraneous, such as the garish case sticker, some can be truly handy. A set of stickers lets you label your SATA cables, for example. And then there’s the flair that we’ve come to expect of Asus: the ever-useful Q-connector for front-panel connections and the no-snag I/O shield and snag-free RAM slots we first saw on the P7P55D Deluxe. Audio is upgraded over baseline boards with the SupremeFX X-Fi module. The module and drivers give you X-Fi algorithms and the codecs are moved off the noisy motherboard. Since RAM configuration can affect system reliability, the board also includes a handy BIOS-based MemPerfect utility to validate your RAM settings.
Asus takes remote-control monitoring and overclocking to the next level with the MIIIF, too. You can now connect a laptop directly to the motherboard to monitor voltages, temperature, and fans; read POST codes; and even overclock the board. It’s neat, but we wish Asus would build in logging and graphing capabilities, as well.