Articles: Mainboards

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Mainboards Specifications Comparison

We have briefly covered the features and functionality of each mainboard in this roundup. You can find their detailed specs on the official manufacturers’ web-sites and in the enclosed manuals. However, for your convenience we have summed up all the boards’ specs in the following table:

As you can see, the boards are generally very similar: all of them can accommodate at least two graphics cards, support eight-channel sound, Gigabit network (Gigabyte and MSI mainboards have two network controllers each) and IEEE1394 (FireWire). All mainboards except Biostar support two USB 3.0 ports implemented using NEC D720200F1 controller, and ASRock mainboards comes with two controllers like that. All boards have external eSATA ports, the ones on ASRock and Biostar solutions offer 6 Gbps connection speed, while Gigabyte and MSI boards have combination ports offering eSATA and USB at the same time (Gigabyte has two of those). The major differences between all mainboards are in the number and operation of the expansion slots as well as their placement on the PCB, the layout of the back panel, additional onboard controllers and slightly different accessories bundles.

The next table sums up the major BIOS functionality of the tested mainboards:

Here the mainboards also have a lot in common. At least all of them have the basic functionality required for overclocking and system fine-tuning. All mainboards come with their own built-in BIOS reflashing tools, all of them can save settings profiles and unlock deactivated processor cores. ASRock and Biostar mainboards stand out among others because they do not allow changing the processor clock frequency multiplier if Turbo mode is on, which could be useful for Black Edition CPUs with an unlocked multiplier. All mainboards reset date and time when you Clear CMOS, although Asus and Gigabyte mainboards for Intel processors know to save the date and time. Overall, there are quite a few differences between the mainboards’ BIOS functionality, each has its own unique advantages and drawbacks.

All mainboards except Gigabyte have tools for automatic processor overclocking. All mainboards leave some important CPU related settings in “CPU Configuration” subsection of the “Advanced” section, except the MSI board. It also has a similar subsection, but it is included within the “Cell Menu” section that contains all other important parameters for system overclocking and fine-tuning, so in the end it is the most convenient implementation. However, MSI mainboard can’t boast convenient adjustment of the memory timings: you have to do it twice – for each memory channel individually. Only Biostar and MSI mainboards allow managing right from the BIOS processor power-saving technologies that dynamically change the number of active voltage phases. Although, this feature is disabled in the new BIOS for the Biostar mainboard. Only Asus and MSI boards allow loading their proprietary Linux-based OS, which is called “Express Gate” by Asus and “Winki” by MSI. Asus and Gigabyte mainboards offer built-in tools for monitoring the status of the local network cable. Asus mainboards as usual do not tell you the nominal processor core voltage, and Biostar board allows you to test whether the system memory is operational.

Testbed Configuration

All performance tests were run on the following test platform:

  • Mainboards:
    • ASRock 890FX Deluxe3 (BIOS P1.60);
    • Asus M4A89TD Pro rev. 1.01G (BIOS 0901);
    • Biostar TA890FXE ver. 5.0 (BIOS 89FAD506);
    • Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD5 rev. 2.0 (BIOS F3);
    • MSI 890FXA-GD70, MS-7640 ver. 1.1 (BIOS 1.6);
  • AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition CPU;
  • 2 x 2048 MB OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Blade Series Low Voltage OCZ3B1600LV2GK, (1600 MHz, 6-6-6-24 timings, 1.65 V voltage);
  • HIS HD 5850, H585F1GDG graphics card (ATI Radeon HD 5850, Cypress, 40 nm, 725/4000 MHz, 256-bit GDDR5 1024 MB);
  • Seagate Barracuda XT HDD: ST32000641AS (2 TB, SATA 6 Gbps, 7200 RPM, 64 MB cache);
  • DVD±RW Sony NEC Optiarc AD-7173A optical drive;
  • Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B (SCMG-2100) CPU cooler;
  • Zalman CSL 850 thermal interface;
  • OCZ GameXStream OCZGXS700 (700 W) PSU with Zalman ZM-F3 fan;
  • Open testbed.

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7600) operating system, ATI Catalyst 10.5 graphics card driver.

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