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The Best Money Can Buy: Motherboards (Part 2) - Asus Rampage IV Black Edition, Asus Crosshair V Formula-Z

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9/5/2014 11:12:31 AM
Asus Rampage IV Black Edition Price: $585

This is another Asus board, this time not part of a bundle but still part of the ROG family. The Rampage IV Black Edition is an overdocking board that allows users to tweak the performance of their system in real time using a graphical interface. It's an excellent board for advanced system tweakers who like to get the most out of their hardware, and as a gaming board, it's got it where it counts.

Asus Rampage IV Black Edition

Asus Rampage IV Black Edition

The LGA2011 CPU socket allows support for the Core i7 range, as well as Intel Xeons, and you can install up to 64GB of DDR3 RAM, along with ten SATA drives and two eSATA units. There's on-board HD audio, Bluetooth, gigabit Ethernet and wi-fi (including 5GHz ac).

It's a pricey board, sure, but one that offers far more performance out of the box than most, and if you don't like that, the powerful overclocking features will allow you to address any issues.

Asus Crosshair V Formula-Z Price: $267

Asus Crosshair V Formula-Z

Asus Crosshair V Formula-Z

Yes, it's another Asus board, but this time it's an AMD CPU compatible model, supporting the FX, Phenom II, Athlon II and Sempron 100 CPUs. Like the Intel options we've looked at already, this is an ROG model board, so it's designed for gaming and for users who need more power, and better performance.

The AMD 990FX chipset supports dual SLI and CrossFireX, and you can cram up to 32GB of RAM onto it, install eight internal hard drives, two eSATA units and utilise gigabit Ethernet. Sadly, there's no built-in wi-fi with this model, but the board has plenty of expansion slots, should you wish to install a wireless card. The on-board audio is better than most, however, with the SupremeFX 111 device offering clean and crisp HD audio.

MSI Z97 XPOWER AC Price: $450

If there's one word to describe this MSI board, it's durable. The board has gone through rigorous military level tests, including burn-in tests to ensure its reliability. In terms of actual features, it supports Intel's fourth and fifth generation of Core CPUs, as well as Pentium and Celeron, and it can handle 32GB RAM. It has full four-way support for 5LI and CrossFire graphics tech, and there's even an easy-to-access on-board VGA graphics switch.

MSI Z97 XPOWER AC

MSI Z97 XPOWER AC

MSI's OC Genie makes overdocking easy with the Z97 and, as always, it's a tweaking tool designed for everyone, even those with no prior experience, and any extra heat generated is taken care of by the specially designed thermal heatsink, which incorporates water cooling.

Other standard features include six SATA connectors and full RAID support, as well as Bluetooth, gigabit Ethernet and wi-fi (802.1 la.b.g.n.ac).

It's an impressive motherboard and is a high-quality performer, even right out of the box without any tweaking. Well worth a look.

EVGA Z97 Classified Price: $467

EVGA may not have the high profile enjoyed by the likes of Asus and MSI, but that doesn't mean its boards are any less impressive from time to time. The EVGA Z97 Classified is a great example, and it's a unit that puts the focus on cutting- edge tech and user-controlled overclocking.

EVGA Z97 Classified

EVGA Z97 Classified

The board supports Intel's fourth and fifth generation of Core CPUs for its LGA 1150 socket, and the Z97 chipset setup has some great features up its sleeve, Up to 32GB of RAM can be installed, along with six hard disk ports (with RAID support), and there's four-way SLI and CrossFire to be utilised, making this another perfect choice for gamers.

Overdocking is supported too, with the added bonus of the new GUI BIOS interface, which eliminates those worrying text screens of yesteryear and replaces them with a much more user-friendly interface. An evolution of motherboard settings we're all thankful for.

Asus Sabertooth Z77 Price: $534

If we said the MSI Z97 board was durable, this model from Asus is just plain bulletproof. Well, almost. The striking design of this board, covered as it is with black panels, flip-down dust defenders and 'thermal armour', clearly demonstrates its hardy construction.

This build uses special thermal air tech to improve airflow around the components and has a 'thermal radar', which monitors internal temperatures in real time so it can alert you to any problems. This is very useful when overclocking, and all of this is tested to military standards.

Asus Sabertooth Z77 Price

Asus Sabertooth Z77 Price

The LGA 1155 socket supports Intel’s Core CPUs, and the board can hold up to 32GB RAM. There's room for ten hard disks and support for both SLI and CrossFire.

All of the protection is also designed to limit the amount of dust and detritus that can get into the system, which can also help overall system health and performance. So if you want a powerful, durable and unique motherboard option, you could do worse than this.

That just about covers our brief look at some of the more pricey motherboard options around, and as you can see, there's no need to worry about too many limits or restrictions when you're not limited to a smaller budget. You can start a PC build off with a bang, boasting a powerful motherboard for all that lovely, expensive hardware to sit on.

Next time well continue our look at the more expensive side of the PC hardware market with a focus on CPUs. See you then.

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