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Upgrade Report [Battle of the Boards - 04/05/2005]

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by Ablang, Apr 6, 2005.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    April 5th, 2005

    Battle of the Boards

    PC World Contributor Jon L. Jacobi

    Techies and PC gamers routinely soup up their systems to maximize
    performance and appearance. My own computer has been refurbished so
    many times that I can't even remember when I bought the case.

    But at the heart of every home-built PC or system rebuild is a
    motherboard, and choosing the right one can be difficult. Most of the
    boards are built around a small number of chip sets, resulting in
    similar designs that can be hard to differentiate. But the details of
    motherboard design--the connectors the board comes with, the firmware
    the manufacturer uses, and even the physical layout of components--are
    important considerations.

    To help you find the best centerpiece for your machine, PC World
    road-tested 14 state-of-the-art boards for Advanced Micro Devices
    Athlon 64 and Intel Pentium 4 CPUs. Thanks to NVidia's NForce4 chip
    sets and some new competing chip sets from ATI and Via, PCI Express
    graphics technology is finally available on both AMD and Intel
    platforms. That let us select boards with all the technologies you'll
    need to keep your PC up-to-date: PCI Express (PCIe) graphics, Scalable
    Link Interface (SLI) graphics, 3-gigabits-per-second Serial ATA (SATA
    II), and gigabit ethernet. Ten boards eventually made it to our chart;
    for a quick overview of our test results, scan "Athlon 64 and Pentium
    4 Motherboards":

    We didn't see large performance differences among the boards, but some
    patterns did emerge. The Athlon setups performed slightly better and
    had more features as a group than their P4 counterparts, and the
    average price of the Athlon boards was lower. Though we tested boards
    built around several different chip sets, our WorldBench 5 and gaming
    tests revealed no significant performance differences along those

    For most mainstream applications, any of the motherboards we tested
    will perform well enough, but if you want a closer look at the test
    results, consult our gaming and multitasking test reports:

    "Athlons Dominate Our Gaming Tests"

    "NForce4 Setups Perform Best in Multitasking"

    Athlon 64

    Overall, the Athlon 64 boards impressed us with their clean layouts,
    rock-solid stability, and rich feature sets--especially the NForce4
    units. On average, the Athlon motherboards are about $35 cheaper than
    their Pentium 4 rivals--a prime consideration when it comes time to
    hit the parts store.

    All of the Athlon 64 boards we gathered for this roundup utilize AMD's
    latest socket 939. The company's 64-bit CPU comes in other pin-count
    flavors as well: socket 754 for less-expensive, single-memory-channel
    Athlon 64 processors, and socket 940 for the Athlon 64 FX-51 and AMD
    Opteron server CPUs. However, socket 939 is the best choice for
    mainstream machines.

    Pentium 4

    Feature for feature, the Pentium 4 motherboards didn't quite stack up
    to their less-expensive Athlon 64 counterparts, and the P4 setups'
    performance lagged slightly behind that of the Athlons. Still, those
    differences were small, and many of the P4 boards offered an
    impressive package.

    All of our Pentium 4 setups use Intel's new high-end socket LGA775,
    which already supports DDR2 memory and will support the upcoming
    dual-core Pentium 4 CPUs, as well as the 64-bit-enabled Pentiums I
    discussed last week. If you missed that newsletter, you can read the
    original article here:

    For more on dual-core Pentiums, see "New Motherboard Tech":

    If you've built PCs before, socket LGA775 CPUs may surprise you
    initially because they have no pins. Don't worry--they aren't supposed
    to. Intel's new CPUs use little gold contacts on the bottom of the
    chip that press up against tiny metal balls in the socket.

    Tips for PC Builders

    * If you're buying a big heat sink for your CPU, check with the
    manufacturer to make sure it will fit your motherboard.

    * Many high-end and midrange graphics boards use fans large enough to
    prevent you from installing an expansion card in the adjacent slot.
    Plan accordingly when you're shopping for components.

    * Many PC cases include easy-access USB or FireWire ports on the front
    panel. You'll need a motherboard that has the appropriate headers if
    you want to take advantage of these ports.

    * When you're putting your PC together, spend some extra time routing
    and tying cables out of the way of the airflow in your case. You'll
    achieve a cleaner look and keep as much air as possible flowing to
    cool your processor and sensitive components.

    For more advice on building the PC of your dreams, read "Your Ideal

    Note: This newsletter is an abridged edition of the comprehensive
    review located here at PC World's Web site:

    For more news and reviews concerning motherboards, browse the PC World
    Web site:

    "We did it every way you could. She was an animal in bed. But it wasn't cheap."
    -- Britney Spears's ex-husband Jason Alexander on their night together before exchanging vows
    Ablang, Apr 6, 2005
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