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What Core 2 Duo motherboard is right for me?

post #1 of 141
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Which motherboard should I choose for my Core 2 Duo rig? Use this flow chart to help guide you to the best motherboard choice for you.



P965 Express Chipset Overview

Northbridge:
P965/G965:
-Core 2 Duo Support
-Supports 1066/800/533FSB
-Supports ATI Crossfire (on some boards)
-Native DDR2-800 Support

Southbridge:
ICH8:
-No PATA support
-4 SATA 3.0 Ports
-No RAID Support

ICH8R:
-No PATA support
-6 SATA 3.0 Ports
-Supports RAID 0,1,5,10

975x Express Chipset Overview

Northbridge:
975x MCH:
-Core 2 Duo Support (Support VT,
-Supports 1066/800 (non-native support for 533FSB)
-Native DDR2-667 Support
-Dual PCI-Express Graphics cards (support 8x, 8x)

Southbridge:
ICH7R/ICH7R DH:
-Supports RAID 0,1,5,10
-4 SATA 3.0 Ports
-Supports PATA RAID


Intel P965 Chipset Motherboards

Abit AB9-Pro
The Highs-
•High quality capacitors
•Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports
•The ICH8R Southbridge (for the price)
•Not picky with RAM

The Lows-
•Board layout
•2.3v vDimm max
•~440 FSB wall some have experienced

Thoughts- Abit’s latest P965 board that is competing against a very rivaled market. This board is definitely overshadowed by the Asus P5B-Deluxe and Gigabyte DS3 in both performance and price. Lows include limited BIOS voltage settings (compared to others), a low FSB wall, and the cheesy placement of IDE and FDD ports which takes away from a possible second PCI-E slot or 3rd PCI slot. However, like past Abit boards, this is well built, with added cooling over the PWM power connectors for better overclocking results. Also, Abit upgraded the Southbridge to a ICH8R, to support Intel Matrix RAID instead of a 3rd party controller which is hard to find at ~140 dollars.

Asus P5B

The Highs-
•Overclocking on budget
•480+ FSB Performance
•Board layout

The Lows-
•RAID!!!
•Low voltage settings in BIOS (vDimm 2.1)
•No Firewire
•Southbridge chipset

Thoughts- The little sister to the P5B-Deluxe board, with a small price tag, and fewer features. Asus chopped of the nice BIOS features of the P5B-Deluxe board and put it on this vanilla version. Hence why may of the BIOS features are sub-par compared to the competition. However, it’s a good overclocking board for the price. It’s probably second to the Gigabyte DS3, in that category, but still a decent alternative. The biggest downside to the board is the RAID controller. The Jmicron controller on this board is horrible, and next to impossible to setup. Please, steer clear from this board and grab a ICH8R board for RAID setups. Lastly, the thing that bugs me most about this board is the looks and feel of a true overclocking board. The color of the PCB and the BIOS features make it feel cheap and just a marketing board for Asus (which it is). Sorry Asus, budget may not be your area.

Asus P5B-Deluxe

The Highs-
•Overclocking results
•BIOS voltage features/easy to update BIOS
•Board Layout
•2x PCI-E slots
•Chipset cooling
•Tons of Inputs (Dual Gigabit Ethernet, etc.)
•Accessories

The Lows-
•Ease of Overclocking

Thoughts- If you want the best, look no further, because you are staring at it. This is definitely a top choice as far as Core 2 Duo motherboards go. The BIOS is easy to flash and update, there are plenty of USB ports, along with Firewire. The layout of the board is perfect, easy to reach IDE port and FDD port. The stock cooling on the Northbridge and Southbridge is excellent. It comes equipped with 3 PCI ports and one PCI-E 1x slot. The only complaint is the amount of tweaking around 500 FSB. Some boards take time to find their sweet spot, this board included. Though, that is the only downside of an almost flawless motherboard. Good job Asus.
- Thanks to Transonic for thoughts

Biostar TForce P965PT (/Deluxe)

The Highs-
•Insane Overclocking capabilities!
•Price!
•Flash-able to Deluxe BIOS
•Sweet looking board for the price

The Lows-
•RAID is a mess
•No Quad Core support
•BIOS selections (max 2.2v vDimm)
•No Firewire
•Poor chipset cooling
•Biostar’s Rep

Thoughts- Ok, I am about to buy one of these boards myself. The Pook and others have reached above 500FSB without any problems. Though it’s required to add secondary cooling to the Northbridge. Second, I recommend flashing the board to the Deluxe BIOS version of the motherboard. This allows for more voltage options, and better overclocking abilities. So long story short, this is a stripper version of the Gigabyte-DS3, with better overclocking results, and for a cheaper price. Now, the downsides are long, but can be fixed. The chipset is definitely going to need cooling above 440 FSB, and it’s definitely going to need that BIOS flash for the upper end of 400’s-500’s. Now, with that said, why hasn’t this board been talked about very much? Good question and I have no answer. It’s literally the most underrated board as far as Core 2 Duo setups go. So boys, buy up, because boards like these don’t last long.
-Thanks to The Pook for thoughts

Gigabyte 965P-DS3

The Highs-
•The Price!
•Overclocking capability

The Lows-
•IDE connector layout
•Very picky about DDR2
•Northbridge runs hot
•No Firewire

Thoughts- Really, one of the best boards you will find for ~120 dollars, period. So please, look no more, and click the buy button, because this Gigabyte 965P-DS3 is one of the cheapest boards with a brand name to stand behind it. The poor IDE placement and hot running Northbridge are easily overlooked by the ~500FSB potential overclocking capability and price of this motherboard. Gigabyte also helps the overclocker by releasing constant BIOS updates, plus makes it easy to flash the BIOS. Lastly, there are a ton of simple looking pencil mods that can be done to this board (vCore droop, vDimm mod, vMCH mod), though if done incorrectly, the effects can be detrimental. Thanks Gigabyte for releasing a good bang to the buck board for Core 2 Duo.
-Thanks to Transonic for thoughts

Gigabyte 965P-DQ6

The Highs-
•2x PCI-E Slots
•Overclocking
•Accessories
•Heat-pipe cooling over PWM
•12 Phase Power

The Lows-
•Price fit
•The “Crazy Cool” plate under the socket

Thoughts- Boys, load your pockets up with the accessories, because this board is going to take all your pretty pennies with it. For the cost, the board is second to most boards. However, the board has a good layout with 2x PCI-E slots, 2 PCI slots, and 3x PCI-E 1x slots and better IDE placement than the DS3. Plenty of SATA ports, RAID choices, nice cooling options and solid capacitors make this a well rounded board. In perspective, the DS3 is 80 dollars cheaper, that’s proving better overclocking wise. Unless you’re a diehard Gigabyte fan or love the board layout, get the P5B Deluxe.

MSI P965 Platinum

The Highs-
•ICH8-R Southbridge (/RAID support)
•2 PCI-E slots
•Features for the price
•Friendly BIOS

The Lows-
•Overclocking
•Motherboard Software
•Poor Jmicron IDE controller

Thoughts- If you want dual video cards on a P965 board for cheap, this is what you want. This board is loaded with features for the price. They include Dual PCI-E slots, the Intel ICH8R Southbridge and Firewire. Which for this price range, none of the competitors offer (compared to DS3 and P5B). Though, you get what you pay for when it comes to overclocking. Yes, this board does hit in the low 420FSB’s but, MSI and Intel are not a great combination when it comes to overclocking. Forget the software that comes with the board. Complaints about their temperature readouts on their software are rampant along with the poor and simply annoying overclocking tools. Ignore the accessories, and grab this board if you’re looking for high end features for a low end price.

Intel 975x Chipset Motherboards

Abit AW9D-Max
The Highs-
•Overclocking
•Cooling Features
•Accessories
•Added Soundcard
•Not picky about RAM
•Well built/Solid

The Lows-
•Board layout
•1 PCI slot
•Lack of BIOS updates

Thoughts- Abit’s return board from the dead as far as overclocking goes. Most people remember their sweet IC7 Series from socket 478 days. Well, it has returned, this flavor is LGA775, and we’re talking Core 2 Duo compatible. It’s featured with Abit’s OTES cooling system, which gives the feeling of a true performance board with all the bells and whistles. Extra cooling is featured on the PWM controllers and in the MOSFET
areas. However, this board does have its flaws as well. First off, 1 PCI slot, lets see now, I got my Audigy 2 ZS, and my.. oops… no more room. While others offer 2+ PCI slots, Abit’s only offers 1. Though Abit’s decent onboard soundcard (add-in PCI-E 1x card) is suitable for most audiophiles, this should free up the port for something else. Finally, the one thing that bugs me about this board is its overclocking potential. Most have reached in the upper 400’s, but this Abit is walled due to a Northbridge strap. This could be easily fixed with a simple BIOS update, but Abit has only released one update since its original. So Abit, this would be a top ranked board with a new BIOS, so please, release it! Overall, it’s a nice board, job well done Abit.

Asus P5W DH Deluxe

The Highs-
•BIOS Features/options
•IDE connector placement
•WIFI Options

The Lows-
•RAID Options
•Somewhat pricy
•Northbridge cooling

Thoughts- Loaded with tons of features for the price (some of them useless), it’s really a nice board with tons of overclocking options and BIOS features. Well balanced between overclocking and initial setup. The overclocking is maxing out around 450 or 480 with mods, so don’t expect too much, but it will get you up there especially on higher multi CPU’s (E6600, E6700). Though, unless you get the board for a steal, it’s more expensive than the Abit that overclocks better. The RAID setup doesn’t allow for more than a 2 disk drive setup, so no 4x Raptors in RAID 0. However it’s a well rounded board that’s definitely worth taking a look at.
-Thanks to Taeric for thoughts

Asus P5W64 WS Professional

The Highs-
•Overclocking, 480+ FSB’s
•4x PCI-E slots (16x + 4x or 8x + 8x + 4x + 8x)
•Loaded with Features
•RAID Options/setup

The Lows-
•Price
•No PCI-E 1x slots

Thoughts- Dubbed the “Wall Street Quartet” workstation motherboard; it looks funny in the hands of an overclocker. Though, don’t be scared away by the workstation/server board idea, because this puppy is hiding a lot of gems. First off, it supports 4 Graphics cards that support up to 8 monitors, ideal for workstation board. But, if you glance into the BIOS, you see a world of options that aren’t on your general workstation motherboard. First off, it allows for tons of voltage changes that include Northbridge, Southbridge and high vCore and vDimm voltage options. The board is hitting 480+ FSB’s without any mods. Now if you can lay down upwards to 300 dollars for this board, it’s definitely worth buying. Though, if you aren’t going to take advantage of the 4x PCI Express slots, or need PCI-E 1x slots, grab the Abit AW9D-Max and pocket the green.

DFI Infinity 975X/G
The Highs-
•BIOS voltage options (vDimm max is 2.65)
•I/O connections

The Lows-
•FSB walls ~420
•Takes a lot of tweaking for results
•Power connector placement
•Chipset cooling
•Where’s LP? This is the best DFI brought?

Thoughts- Is this the best thing DFI brought to the table for Intel? I mean, where are all the nice features and overclocking results? Yes, the BIOS has the classic high vCore and vDimm settings, but in general there really aren’t any overclocking results. DFI doesn’t really have any answers and nor do I. It seems DFI blames the chipset (which they have done in the past) but other 975x boards are hitting nearly 500FSB and yet were having problems above 400? All in all, spend your money somewhere else, because buying this board means a replacement next month.

Intel Bad Axe 2 (D975XBX2)
The Highs-
•Board Layout
•BIOS options (2.8v vdimm!)
•Near 500FSB performance
•Northbridge Chipset cooling
•3x PCI-E slots (16x/4x or 8x/8x/4x)
•Ease of setup/install

The Lows-
•Price!
•Marvell Secondary RAID Controller
•No PCI-E 1x slots

Thoughts- Intel Bad Axe 2 is probably the most looked over board on the market today. The timing, and release price (of 329 dollars) was very bad on Intel's marketing part to put their performance board in the overclocker's hands. But, the board's stunning FSB performance puts this board near the top of the charts. Intel and overclocking has had a bad rep in socket 478 lifetime, but this board is a new era of Intel overclocking. It's loaded with plenty of BIOS features including 2.8v of vdimm (tops of any current motherboard). The BIOS can be updated through bootable ISO CD's which makes BIOS updates a breeze. The board layout is also very good, with side connectors for your IDE and FDD ports. The motherboard uses Intel's ICH7-R for RAID support up to 4 drives, so the secondary RAID controller (Marvell) shouldn't be an issue for most people. Overall, the 200+ dollar price tag makes up for the features and performance you get with this board.

MSI 975x Platinum

The Highs-
•Features for the price
•Price
•Board layout

The Lows-
•The BIOS updates
•MSI’s bundled software
•Overclocking (improving)

Thoughts- I am currently using this MSI board and I have mixed feelings about the board. First off the board is bundled with tons of accessories and loaded with BIOS features that are improving with BIOS updates. But, overclocking results have been very mixed. Most people are hung around 440FSB. MSI is continually working on BIOS updates; they have come out with around 40 BIOS’s since the original and I’ve seen very few improvements between them. Some of the improvements have been an unlocked multiplier, which should have been there in the first place. Though by this point, I believe MSI will be focusing on building newer boards instead of improving the older ones which bugs me. As for the price, it’s one of the cheapest 975x boards you will find. Final thought, find the right BIOS for you, and it’s definitely worth the money. If you don’t want to hassle with the BIOS, spend your green on the Abit AW9D-Max.

Nvidia 680i Chipset Motherboards

Asus Striker Extreme
The Highs-
•Overclocking
•Accessories/ Included Soundcard
•Digital LED Debugger
•Board layout

The Lows-
•Price
•Heatpipe jungle gym
•BIOS Issues
•Bios Updates

Thoughts- First impression, it’s an amazing board with an amazingly outrageous price tag. Though the overclocking results and features don’t justify the high price tag. Yes, it’s a really nice board, built very well, but there are boards with just as many options for half the price. The BIOS is extremely buggy and there has been a lack of updates from Asus which is rather disappointing. Moving onto the board’s features, they come with an unbeatable layout. The SATA ports are in nice spots, along with the IDE connector and the FDD connector. The ATX power connector is also in an ideal location. Though, when you first look at the board, you notice the jungle gym of heatpipes around the Northbridge and socket. That would be the first thing I would remove from the board. Though the board does have a nice digital LED Debugger and a soundcard for the onboard audio. But the BIOS is a major downfall for this board, a true annoyance if you ask me. I’m not ready to spend 400 dollars on a killer board that’s half complete, are you? Look at the EVGA as an alternative.

Asus P5N32-E SLI

The Highs-
•Accessories/ Included Soundcard
•Board layout
•500+ FSB preformance
•Easy memory OCing features

The Lows-
•Price
•No LED Debugger

Thoughts- The BIOS issues have been fixed with this board. It's now cranking over 500+ FSB (thanks Robilar), and also fixed the memory issues. This board is definitely be a top contender against the Intel 965P chipsets as far as overclocking. Anyways, like the Striker, it comes loaded with extras, that include it’s own soundcard. It’s also a very good overclocker, superior to the EVGA as far as overclocking goes.
-Thanks to Robilar for thoughts (read his review here)

EVGA 122-CK-NF68

The Highs-
•Price
•Debug LED
•Memory OCing Features
•Board layout

The Lows-
•Northbridge cooling
•BIOS issues (getting better)
•BIOS options

Thoughts- If you want SLI without breaking the bank, this is the board for you. It’s loaded with nice features that include a nice board layout, great memory overclocking, and a Debug LED if problems surface. There are 2 handy SATA ports mounted on the side of the board for quick connections to hard drives. However, this board when first released was loaded with BIOS issues. Consistent BIOS updates are being released by EVGA, so problems are starting to disappear. The BIOS has plenty of overclocking options for memory, but nothing overwhelming as you would find on a DFI board. Still, it’s a rocking board for a rocking price.
-Thanks to tubnotub1 for thoughts

ATI R600 Chipset Motherboards
DFI LanParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G

The Highs-
•500+FSB Performance
•3x PCI-E slots (8x, 8x, 2x)
•Debug LED
•BIOS Voltage Options
•Board layout

The Lows-
•Northbridge cooling
•No Dual 16x PCI-E Lanes
•No PCI-E 1x Slot

Thoughts- Finally DFI releases a LanParty board for Intel’s LGA 775 C2D line. An almost guaranteed 500+ FSB performance puts this board on top of the 975x boards (for comparison). It’s 270 dollar price tag is quite a bit, but you get a lot with the features this board provides. Following the trends of Lanparty boards from DFI, this board offers tons of voltage options in the BIOS. Allows 3v of vdimm and tons of NB and SB voltage options. However, like the 975x boards, it still only supports dual 8x PCI-E lanes, which isn't much slower than dual 16x slots, but not of an improvement over the 975x boards. I'd never thought I'd recommend an AMD chipset for an Intel CPU, but I guess I am now

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-Thanks to Taeric for Proofreeding my works
    
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post #2 of 141
Yea... Holy crap man. It's good to see someone is keeping their brain active while we're in Winter break.
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post #3 of 141
Jesus dood rep 4 sure
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post #4 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by beret9987 View Post
Yea... Holy crap man. It's good to see someone is keeping their brain active while we're in Winter break.


Tomorrow i buy the P5N32 SLI with a Conroe E6600, that is the right one for me...


I only want ASUS and no other one. After Christmas i can tell you more about the motherboard..
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post #5 of 141
Very nice breakdown however your DFI board info is about... oh, totally wrong. The real wall is closer to 450 than it is to 390.

EDIT: That was an exaggeration before you all kill me. However I'm seeing a lot of 420s in the FSB range prime stable.
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post #6 of 141
Excellent work wowza! This will be extremely helpful for people still trying to decide which board to get for C2D.

Extremely worthwhile effort; great stuff! I'm linking to this in my sig!

Unquestionably REP-worthy.

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post #7 of 141
Nice I like this alot and your comments on my mobo are so right.
post #8 of 141
Very very very nice!
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post #9 of 141
Which msi did I buy off you? lol
    
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post #10 of 141
amazing, helped me a lot
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