Current Cost: $225
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
Now that Intel has finally introduced the X48 Express performance chipset, this is the natural choice for our Intel system. Where the situation got a bit hazy was in choosing whether to go with a DDR2 or DDR3 platform. This was a tough decision, as we want the top performance and scalability, but also realize that DDR3 memory is significantly more expensive, especially at the 2x2GB, higher-clocked range. So we chose to go the DDR2 motherboard route with our main selection, while offering up a few DDR3 options for those who want to travel that higher-priced road.
The Gigabyte GA-X48-DS4 satisfies all our main requirements, sporting the Intel X48/ ICH9R chipset with LGA775 support for all Core 2 Duo, Quad and Extreme FSB1066/1333/1600 models, dual PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots with CrossFireX support, and four memory slots at up to DDR2-1200 speeds. The board also includes six SATA ports, Gigabit LAN, 8-channel audio, 8 x USB 2.0, 2 x IEEE 1394a, and a 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16, 3 x PCI Express x1, and 2 x PCI slot layout.
We do understand that some will want to go with DDR3 memory, and there are several ultra high-end X48 motherboards supporting this memory format. For more conventional tastes, Gigabyte offers the high-end GA-X48T-DQ6 motherboard, with support up to DDR3 1800, and all the performance fixings at just around $300. The ASUS Rampage Extreme is the very top-of-the-line model, with support up to DDR3-1800 and -2000 overclocked memory speeds and ATI CrossFireX, and is designed to be water-cooling ready. It also checks in at almost $400, so bring your checkbook.
Current Cost: $200
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
When it comes to performance AM2+ motherboards, the conversation begins and ends with the AMD 790FX chipset. This is currently the most powerful chipset for a Phenom X4-based platform, and is the de facto choice for our guide. The only question is determining the exact brand and model, but we're going back to the ASUS well and upgrading from the Crosshair we selected last time out, and moving to the impressive ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe motherboard.
This is not a very difficult selection for us to make, as we use the M3A32-MVP Deluxe in all our Phenom X3/X4 testing, and it's been an extremely high-performance platform with excellent stability. This ASUS board is powered by the AMD 790FX chipset, and includes four PCI Express graphics slots (PCIe 2.0/1.0) and four memory sockets with support for up to 8GB of DDR2-1066. Other onboard features include SATA 3.0 Gb/s, Gigabit LAN, 8-channel audio, IEEE 1394, and SATA RAID, along with ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU technology.
The ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe includes an advanced thermal and power design, including an 8+2 Phase Power Design, which provides independent power to vital components and protects them from potential damage. It features the now-standard ASUS fanless, heat pipe thermal cooling, with chipset heatsinks attached to several heat pipes and heat fins/sinks for maximum thermal protection, without the noise of a cooling fan. ASUS also bundles a Cool Mempipe device, which attaches to the main heatpipe, and then to the memory modules.
Current Cost: $122
Consecutive Guides: 2
Price Change: -$33
We continue to see lower DDR2 price levels, and no where is this more apparent than in the ultra high capacity range. Matched pair 2x2GB DDR2 kits are priced significantly lower than DDR3, and there are even 2x4GB DDR2 kits emerging that DDR3 can't match. The OCZ DDR2 PC2-8500 Reaper HPC 4GB Edition is a superior value, with a price tag of only $122.
The Reaper brand name includes a heat pipe mounted along the upper edge, which helps extend cooling away from the modules, drawing additional hot air away, and doubles as an easy-to-use handle for installing or removing the OCZ modules. We continue to go back to enthusiast-level OCZ memory, and as we've had very good luck with it in the past. The OCZ2RPR10664GK 2x2GB kit continues this tradition, and at only $122, offers an incredible price-performance ratio.
For those who went the DDR3 route, OCZ also offers a Reaper HPC 4GB (2x2GB) kit in a DDR3-1800 configuration. The OCZ3RPR18004GK kit retails at approximately $350, and features timings of 8-8-8-27 at 1.9V. OCZ also offers a DDR3-1600 Reaper HPC 4GB kit (OCZ3RPR16004GK), which is priced a bit lower at $275, and has timings of 7-7-7-24 at 1.9V.