HotHardware Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008

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Mounds of Motherboards

Now, it’s time to find a happy home for that new processor. We’ll start with the high-end and work our way back to the more affordable level.  

Asus Rampage II Extreme X58 - $398

With the Core i7’s high price tag, it shouldn’t be too surprising that you’ll also have to pay good money for a board to match. The Asus Rampage II Extreme offers three x16 PCIe slots that are fully accessible for dual-slot cooled graphics cards. As one of the first motherboard to support both CrossFire X and NVIDIA's 3-Way SLI technology, this board has gained some attention.  This board also offers a good amount of overclocking and tweaking features.

The Rampage II Extreme X58  supports 7 internal SATA connections, 1 eSATA connection and an IDE channel, along with 12 USB 2.0 ports and a pair of FireWire ports. Courtesy of Creative's X-Fi technology, this board also has good on-board audio options along with dual Gigabit Ethernet.
 

ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe - $184

Filling both the high-end and the mid-range spot for AMD processors, the ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe brings together the AMD 790FX Northbridge chipset and the updated SB750 Southbridge. This combination brings performance and enhanced overclockability at a reasonable price.

The M3A79-T Deluxe offers CrossFire support, 6 USB 2.0 ports, 1 Gigabit port, 8 channel HD audio through coax and optical S/PDIF connections, FireWire support, 1 PS2 Keyboard or Mouse port, and a LAN port. Internally the board sports one floppy disk connector, an IDE connector, 6 SATA ports, 4 PCI-Express 16x slots, 2 PCI slots, and 4 DDR2 1066 RAM slots.


  
EVGA nForce 790i SLI FTW - $246

You'll need something to house that Core 2 Quad Q9300 and this just might be the happiest hope for it, especially if you're the gaming type.  The EVGA nForce 790i FTW is built on NVIDIA's nForce 790i SLI chipset obviously and support FSBs up to 1600MHz and DDR3 system memory up to 2000MHz (2GHz).  It also supports up to 3-way SLI multi-GPU NVIDIA graphics technology and has an 8 phase digital PWM circuit for for efficient, stable power conversion for the CPU.  Since Intel X48 and X38 chipset based boards are a bit on the pricey side (think ~ $300 on average), we feel this board represents a better value.  If you're still hankerin' for an Intel chipset, we'd recommend Intel's own DX48BT2, which can be had for a more reasonable $249 price tag.  


*  Editor's note:  Updated to offer EVGA motherboard - 12/12/08



MSI X58 Platinum - $214

For the mid-range Intel motherboard, we’ve chosen the MSI X58 Platinum. As one of the more affordable Core i7 motherboards, this version targets the upper mainstream / performance market. As a result, it only supports ATI's Crossfire. Since it doesn’t support NVIDIA's SLI as well, you’ll save some dough. Should you desire support for both NVIDIA’s SLI and ATI's Crossfire configuration, then you’ll have to go with the higher-end Eclipse version of this board.

This board features 2 x PCIe (x16) slots for Crossfire configuration, 3 x PCIe (x1) slots, and 2 x standard PCI slots. It also has 6 x DDR3 DIMM slots for Triple / Tri Channel DDR3. Finally, it offers dual 10/100/1000Mbps ports.
 



Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R - $120

The most affordable Intel motherboard in this roundup is the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R. With the GA-EP45-UD3R, Gigabyte introduced its GIGABYTE Ultra Durable 3 technology, with a 2 oz copper PCB to help reduce system temperature and enhance your system’s stability and performance.  Based on the Intel P45 chipset, this affordable motherboard delivers a 1,600MHz FSB for the latest Intel Core 2 multi-core processors, and supports dual channel DDR2 memory at speeds up to 1,366MHz.

In terms of energy saving capabilities, the GA-EP45-UD3R uses GIGABYTE DES Advanced technology for better efficiency. The GA-EP45-UD3R also has eight SATA ports, 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, 3 x PCI Express x1 slots, and 3 x PCI slots. For tweaking, the board also offers Hardware Overvoltage Control, which provides more voltage control options on the CPU, Northbridge, and memory.


Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3 - $68

The most affordable motherboard of this roundup, the Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3 supports AMD Socket AM2+/ AM2 processors, including the AMD Phenom X4, AMD Phenom X3, AMD Athlon 64 FX, AMD Athlon 64 X2, and others. This affordable motherboard supports up to 16GB of Dual Channel DDR2 1,066 RAM and support for HyperTransport 3.0 technology.

In terms of connectivity, the GA-MA770-DS3 offers 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, 4 x PCI Express x1 slots, 2 x PCI slots, 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices, 1 x floppy disk drive connector, and 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors.
 


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