The Mission: Way back in the recession-bound depths of 2009, we skipped our normal balls-to-the-wall Dream Machine build in favor of three more modest PCs. Rather than a $10,000 ode to excess, we built rigs actual people would build. Our $1,400 midrange system, which we called the Budget Surplus, was kitted out with an Intel Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R motherboard with 6GB DDR3, a 1.5TB boot drive, and the finest in dual-GPU technology: a Radeon HD 4870x2.
The Budget Surplus is showing its age—nearly three years old! I’ve had many people with similar systems ask if it’s time for a new rig, but I’m hesitant to recommend a major upgrade before Ivy Bridge and Ivy Bridge-E come out.
Rather than going all-out on a new machine, I’m going to bring our 2009-era box into the present day with a few upgrades that’ll make the machine feel new again, and that I’ll be able to bring with me when I do bite the bullet on a new CPU and motherboard.
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.
Want to know how insane the enthusiast motherboard bracket has become? Gigabyte’s X58A-UD7 seems pedestrian next to the other two contenders here. Sure, it has a rakish, liquid-cooling-ready heat pipe to keep the north bridge chilled out, but frankly, without that Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2 in place, the board is damn near boring next to its contemporaries. Where’s the dual 8-pin supplemental CPU power connectors? Or Bluetooth remote-control capability, wired remote overclocking tool, or audio riser card?
EVGA this week added another X58-based board to an already crowded lineup built around Intel's flagship chipset. It's called the X58 SLI3, which builds upon the X58 SLI LE by adding a pair of USB 3.0 ports and two SATA 6Gb/s ports to the mix.
The board also comes equipped with 6 x SATA 3Gb/s ports and 10 x USB 2.0 ports, as well as a handful of features geared towards overclockers. These include 100 percent solid state capacitors, VDroop control, EVGA's EZ Voltage, and the E-LEET tuning utility software.
The rest if pretty standard fare for a $200 X58 board, including SLI and CrossFireX support, RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, and JBOD configurations, a pair of Ethernet ports, and support for up to 24GB of DDR3-1600+ in tri-channel form.
Without a whole lot of fanfare, MSI has gone and released a handful of pictures of its upcoming X58A-GD65 motherboard. From the looks of things and what we know so far, this will serve as MSI's flagship X58 board.
Every bit the next-gen part, the X58A-GD65 will come with six SATA 3Gb/s ports, two SATA 6Gb/s, two USB 3.0 ports, and twin eSATA ports. It will also include MSI's so-called "Military Class" components, which consists of Active Phase Switching, DrMOS, high-end capacitors, and a handful of other goodies.
The rest of the board's construction consists of six DDR3-2133 memory slots, three PCI-E x16 slots (supports 3-way SLI or quad CrossFireX setups), Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, and 7.1 channel audio.
Patriot on Thursday added to its PC memory lineup with a refreshed DDR3 line that purportedly represents the best of the company's past offerings. Dubbed "Sector 7 Edition," the new line is specifically aimed at the high-end crowd, including overclockers, performance-oriented enthusiasts, and gamers.
"The Sector 7 Edition Extreme Performance DDR3 memory is yet another example of how Patriot provides performance modules that meet and exceed the performance expectations of hardcore enthusiasts," states Les Henry, Vice President of Engineering at Patriot. "Sector 7 Edition is an update and refresh of earlier modules. This move consolidates the best of the product offering under a family of products uniquely positioned for the enthusiast. This solution fits well with our objective of offering the latest technology and best performance in our product lineup."
Patriot claims only the "highest quality pre-sorted ICs available" are used to construct the new tri-channel kits, and that each module is fully hand-tested. This all refers to the binning process, and lest Patriot is blowing smoke up our rear ends, it means that the Sector 7 modules should overclock better than other memory in its class.
The kits come in three different speed grades -- 1600MHz, 1800MHz, and 2000MHz -- and in 6GB chunks (1800MHz and 2000MHz) with 9-9-9-27 latencies. The lowest speed kit is also offered in 12GB and 24GB capacities with various latencies.
I’m planning my next build, and I’m having a hard time deciding between a motherboard with the X58 chipset or one with P55. Is triple-channel RAM worth paying extra for? I plan to keep this PC for three years (until the motherboard warranty expires) and I’m worried that in three years there’ll be 9x-channel RAM or something crazy like that. I’m a heavy gamer but I don’t do anything else that requires a ton of memory—I don’t use AutoDesk or Maya.
Running a pair of dual-GPU GTX 295 videocards gives gamers quad-SLI bragging rights, but if you're really serious about driving Crysis cranked up on your swank 30-inch display, EVGA's new 4-way motherboard might be just what you're looking for.
EVGA's X58 Classified 4-Way SLI board supports up to four videocards and coincides with the company's 4-way compatible GTX 285 Classified videocard. Currently the fastest single-GPU videocard on the planet, four GTX 285 cards should trump two GTX 295 cards in just about any situation.
All that design decadence comes at the cost of case real estate and you'll need a chassis that supports the XL-ATX form factor. Measuring 13.5 inches by 10.3 inches, EVGA warns you'll need a case with 9 or more expansion slots, or handy modding skills.
EVGA set out to prove it's not the size of the motherboard that matters, but how you use it. And with the release of the X58 SLI Micro, you can use any speed grade Core i7 processor you want along with a pair of Nvidia graphics cards all in a micro-ATX package.
In addition to 2-way SLI support, the new mobo also crams 6 DDR3 memory slots (supporting up to 12GB of triple channel DDR3-1600MHz+) and 6 SATA II 3GB/s ports onto the mATX board. Other features include 100-percent solid state capacitors, VDroop control, an onboard temperature monitor, support for up 12 USB ports, a single LAN port, a passive heatsink for cooling the chipset, RAID 0/1/0+1/5 and JBOD support, and 8-channel onboard audio, all decked out in a red and black color theme.
Power users routinely punch into the BIOS in order to fine tune their system, but it can be an intimidating place to go exploring if you've never before burrowed beneath the surface. And just like in real life, poking around in unknown places can be a dangerous affair if you don't know what you're doing or where you're going. On the other hand, once you understand the inner workings of your PC's control center, a whole world of overclocking and troubleshooting suddenly opens up. But what exactly is the BIOS?
Every modern motherboard comes with an embedded Flash EEPROM module, otherwise known as the BIOS chip. Short for Basic Input Out System, this is the first bit of code executed when you boot your PC. The BIOS stores all kinds of essential information about your system, such as your CPU's clockspeed, the size and type of RAM you're running, the boot order of your media, what onboard devices are present, and much, much more. An improperly configured BIOS can prevent Windows (or Linux) from loading, while a finely tuned BIOS has the potential to significantly improve performance over that of a similarly spec'd machine.
Whatever your goal is, this is your go-to guide for everything you've ever wanted to know about the BIOS. We cover every setting -- even the obscure ones -- so you'll never feel lost or out of your element, no matter what motherboard you're rocking under the hood.