Asus Maximus 4 Extreme
At more than 20K, this was the most expensive motherboard of the lot and with extended ATX form factor, this is the biggest one too. But do features and performance match to the price tag, was the question we were trying to answer? On performance front, Maximus 4 was the clear winner in all categories but power consumption.
Maximus 4 is part of ROG (Republic of Gaming) series targeted at serious gaming or graphics intensive work. This motherboard comes loaded with features that would help convenient overclocking of machine. The board comes with ‘RC Bluetooth’ and ‘ROG iDirect’ that let one to not only monitor desktop PC in real time using Bluetooth devices but also give user capability to tweak parameters like voltage and frequency and that too wirelessly.
Further on graphics front, this board supports 3 way NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossFireX technologies. Presence of a whopping 8 USB 3.0 ports on board was a record in itself and presence of two Gigabit LAN cards would mean network reliability. Ability of flashing BIOS and to share BIOS setting would add to easy manageability of this board.
Asus P8H67-M and EVO
Just like Asus P8P67 couple, P8H67-M and M EVO too are quite similar with slight feature difference and a price difference of Rs 1400. The distinctive feature of these motherboards is micro ATX form factor which mean these boards do not use up too much space. While both the boards support H67 chipset, they have VGA port, and M EVO in addition of VGA also has a DVI port. But if you want to use these boards as gaming machines then there is support for Quad GPU ATI CrossFireX technology. Other difference between M EVO and M is the presence of 2 USB 3.0 ports in M EVO. Interestingly, M was the only board with no on board USB 3.0 port.
On the performance front, M EVO performed slightly better than M in almost all the benchmark results. Just like P8P67 boards, these two boards also have EPU technology that intelligently detects power loading and optimizes delivery to different components of motherboard. MemOK! Technology is also present for push button memory patch.
Asus P8P67 Deluxe and Pro
Deluxe and Pro are almost same except for slight feature difference and a price difference of Rs 3,300. The number of onboard USB 2.0 connectors on Pro is 2, less than that on Deluxe. Also Deluxe has two Gigabit LAN ports. Among the features that stand out, both include onboard Bluetooth that would help one to connect their desktop PC wirelessly, in-built utilities that allow one to use Bluetooth devices as remote, etc. Other unique feature of the duo is support for Quad GPU NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossFireX technologies for extended graphical experience. VRM, or Voltage Regulator Modules, is considered among the most essential motherboard design component. They supply the voltage demanded by the CPU, and a good VRM must intelligently detect actual CPU power draw to provide precise power accordingly. ASUS DIGI+ VRM technology (supported by these boards), that fully integrates Intel VRD12 specifications on a native level, greatly enhance power to go far beyond the limits of analog designs. Dual Intelligent Processors from ASUS uses two onboard chips –EPU (Energy Processing Unit) for moderating power consumption by system and TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) for optimizing performance.
Asus Sabertooth P67
Sabertooth was among the 5 Asus motherboards we received and is extraordinarily different from all the other boards we reviewed here. This motherboard stands out from the crowd thanks to its unique design. Sabertooth comes with unique and first of its kind ‘TUF Thermal Armor’ and ‘TUF Thermal Radar’. The former is a thermal design for the entire motherboard and not just for select critical areas. This safeguards the system against hot air generated by connected cards and components, keeping temperature down. TUF Thermal Radar monitors temps in critical parts of the motherboard in real time, automatically adjusting fan speeds to make sure the system maintains high stability without overheating. It consists of multiple sensors for various components on the motherboard, giving users the ability to monitor each one individually. This design, which also makes motherboard look neat, is the most probable reason behind warranty of 5 years which is the highest of the lot. For people who are looking to use this motherboard for graphics intensive work, this supports Quad-GPU NVIDIA SLI and Quad-GPU ATI CrossFireX Support.
There were three participants from Gigabyte in this comparative review with two based on H67 chipset and the other based on P67 chipset. UD3H is based on H67, means this one comes with integrated DVI-I port and an HDMI out for connecting your monitor or TV. A bit discouraging is the number of on-board USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s ports; UD3H has just 2 USB3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s ports. Even the number of USB 2.0 and SATA 3 Gb/s ports is as low as 4 and 3 respectively. When compared with other brands, these numbers are on the lower side. On performance front, this board performed far better than other Gigabyte boards. And as far as graphical capability is concerned, which was measured using 3DMark06 benchmark, this one was second in overall score. In graphics capability, this one just like pair of MSI boards natively supports ATI CrossFireX technology that allows multiple discrete graphics card support on single board. Other features worth mentioning here is Dual CPU power that splits power phases into 2 sets of power engines that operate in tandem, which effectively halves the amount of work done by each set of power phases which in-turn significantly increase motherboard durability and reliability. Reliability is further enhanced by presence of 2 BIOS ROMs.
Same as UD3H, this Gigabyte board is also based on H67 chipset and comes with on-board DVI-I and HDMI port. Similarity between two boards does not stop here. Both of them have exactly same number of on board USB 2.0/3.0 and SATA 3/6 Gb/s ports. Also, there is not much difference on performance front. One clear visible difference between two boards is that while UD2H has MicroATX form factor making it capable of fitting in small cabinet, UD3H has ATX form factor. This one just like MSI and UD3H natively supports ATI CrossFireX technology that allows multiple discrete graphics card support on single board.
Dual CPU power and presence of 2 BIOS ROMs are other features that are common to all Gigabyte boards we received. One interesting feature present in Gigabyte boards was ‘AutoGreen’, that automatically save power by simply putting your PC in a state of sleep when your Bluetooth cellphone is out of range of your computer. But ironically, there is no on board Bluetooth receiver and one has to invest on it. Power consumed by both UD3H and UD2H is the lowest among the lot. Also, UD2H showed second best results in power consumed at peak load.
The cost of this Gigabyte motherboard is almost double of the other two. So our search began with the very obvious question ‘why?’ However, as soon as you look at the features, price difference seems to be right. Number of USB 3.0 ports present in UD7 is three times the number present in other two Gigabyte boards. Also, there are 2 Gigabit LAN ports that can be teamed together for zero downtime. Both ATI CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI technologies are supported allowing one to connect up to 3 discrete graphics cards on same board. One more feature that would enhance durability of this motherboard is 24-phase power design that would not only give smooth supply of power to CPU but also means overall reduction in heat generation. One more interesting technology present in all the Gigabyte motherboards is Gigabyte On/Off Charge that allows you to charge your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch regardless of whether your PC is on, in standby mode or even off. This is quite relevant with splurge of these devices. But with all these features there seem to be increase in power consumption where UD7 performs poorly.
Let me start with the difference between P67 and H67 chipset. For a laymen user, difference is the presence of VGA/DVI connector in H67 based motherboards which means you don’t have to buy any discrete graphics card. This board has microATX form factor which means this one can be fitted in small sized cabinet saving much needed office space. This board like all the boards we received supports LGA1155 socked based processors. List of processor supported can be found at this link http://tinyurl.com/4nftb59 . Few noticeable connectors present on board include 2 USB 3.0, 2 SATA 6 Gb/s, Gigabit LAN, eSATA 3 Gb/s, DVI-I, and HDMI. You can expand memory to 32 GB while using this board. On performance front, this board managed podium finish in overall performance measured using PCMark05 benchmark, while results of all other benchmarks are above average. This one is also least power consuming board when in idle state. Also, compare to other Intel boards based on P67 chipset, this one seems to be better. Finally this board comes with Intel High Definition Audio and Intel Rapid Share Technology for better audio and capability of supporting RAID 0.1.5, and 10.
This one is based on P67 chipset and would require you to get a discrete graphics card. As of form factor, this one comes in ATX size. With its styling (illuminating skull on board) and features you can easily say that this board is meant for gaming enthusiasts who would love to overclock their system to squeeze out higher performance for their applications. This assumption is further cemented by support for both ATI Crossfire and NVIDIA SLI technologies. But on performance front, though targeted for gaming intensive work, this board performed poorly in 3DMark06 benchmark when compared with others. Further, ports present include 2 USB 3.0, 2 SATA 6 Gb/s, and Gigabit LAN. Number of USB 2.0 and SATA 3 Gb/s ports present in this board is more than that of other Intel board. In fact 8 USB 2.0 and 4 SATA 3 Gb/s were the maximum when we compare this with all other boards reviewed here. DP67BG also supports Intel High Definition Audio and Intel Rapid Share Technologies.
MSI P67A-GD65 and GD55
We also received a couple from MSI and the most difficult part was finding out the difference between two. Both the boards are designed identical and it was after deep inspection we were able to find few differences. MSI P67A-GD65 has double the number of USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s when compared with other MSI boards. There are 8 USB 2.0 and 4 SATA 3 Gb/s ports which mean no dearth of connectivity. GD65/55 does not come with on board VGA/DVI connector which means one has to get a discrete graphics card. Good news for gamers or those who are into intensive parallel processing is that, GD65/55 supports NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossFireX which means one can use two discrete graphics cards either from NVIDIA or ATI. Other features that are worth mentioning include this board comes bundled with an instant-on Linux based operating system, ‘Winki 3’ for basic computer and Internet work, and M-Flash to backup BIOS on flash drive. After comparing two MSI boards, it can be said that GD65 is newest version of GD55 but there is not a lot to differentiate between two even on performance front.