An in-depth look at the motherboard and processor markets

Mother of all invention

In this current economic climate, both consumers and businesses are having to look at their outgoings and disposable income and consider whether that new computer is really necessary.

Components have long been heralded as the ideal solution for those who want to boost the power of their computer cheaply, but with portable computers having passed the 50 per cent mark in terms of shipments versus desktops, does the market still exist?

“With strong sales of laptops and netbooks, it might be fair to assume component sales would be down, but we’re finding the high-end PC market is still seeing a lot of demand, especially from the do-it-yourself market,” comments EntaTech’s motherboards and processors channel manager Nigel Sutch.

The continued demand has manifested itself in new products. Both the motherboard and processor markets have seen new platforms emerge, with Intel launching X58 and AMD launching AM3 recently. “Currently the most focus in the market is on the X58 series of Intel motherboards, which use the new Intel Core i7 processors, and AMD’s AM3 platform, which will utilise the new Phenom II AMD processors,” explains Target Components’ product manager Glen Rhodes.

In particular, Intel’s new X58 boards are aimed at the high end of the market, which has shown little sign of slowing down. “The new X58 chipsets are aimed directly at the gaming and enthusiast market, boasting DDR3 support and Tri-SLI/Crossfire too,” adds Rhodes. “However, with their hefty performance comes a hefty price tag.”

So with consumers looking to scrimp and save on anything they can, is it really possible to sell new hardware? “Yes,” answers Sutch. “Although the current market is tough, people seem to be looking for products that will have a longer life-cycle.” Rhodes agrees, but says that with some smart selling techniques, it is possible to help customers realise just what is in their reach. “AMD is aiming to become the more affordable route to upgrading through its new Dragon platform.”

VIP Computers’ CPU product manager, Lee Gordon, echoes both Sutch and Rhodes, adding that the platform has more flexibility that might be apparent at first: “With consumers still cutting back, the new AMD Phenom II processors offer retailers and system builders alike, the ideal opportunity to sell a future-ready processor that is compatible with current AM2+ motherboards.”

Expanding on the benefits for system builders, he says: "Their backwards-compatible features mean they can build a cost-effective system that is based on the latest processors, but with a cheaper AM2+ motherboard that can then, at a later date, be upgraded by the user to an AM3 alternative."

"I think the very best advice is to concentrate on a good mixture of chipsets," adds Rhodes. "Components such as the buzz products (X58 and 790GX), the midrange (P45 and A770), and the bigger volume movers (G31 and NF6150). It’s also important to stock a varied range of processors to suit the motherboards that you stock. Merely concentrating on one area at the moment could send customers elsewhere, as no two customers are alike in their requirements.

"The number one priority for retailers or resellers should be looking out for a good quality motherboard as that is the most crucial – but oft underappreciated part of a computer. Retailers and resellers should offer user-friendly hardware designed motherboards that offer convenient, easy assembly and protection for the user," he adds.

Intel Motherboards
Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R
Designed specifically to utilise the benefits of Intel’s Core i7 processors and its X58 chipset, Gigabyte’s motherboard is one of the fastest currently available. Replacing the FSB with Intel’s new QuickPath Interface technology, it eliminates the bottleneck between the processor and chipset, leading to a much faster and smoother experience, when gaming or using the PC for any other intensive application.

Asrock X58 Deluxe
Built for Intel’s new 1366 socket, Asrock’s motherboard for Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme Edition processors supports the chipmaker’s new DynamicSpeed and QuickPath Technology. It comes with Asrock’s DuraCap high quality capacitors, which help to prolong the life of the motherboard. The X58 Deluxe also supports both ATI CrossFireX and Nvidia’s SLI.

Biostar T-Power X58 v50

The T-Power X58 is Biostar’s top motherboard for Intel processors. Offering a huge array of features including extreme durable capacitors and space-pipe thermal design, the board is extremely durable, even when being pushed to its extreme. It is compatible with all X58 processors, such as Core i7 and i7 Extreme.

Intel Processors

Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition 965
Intel’s top-of-the-line native quad-core processor, the Extreme Edition 965, is a 45nm chip with a clock speed of up to 3.2GHz. It also has a cache of 256KB L2 and 8MB shared L3, and a QuickPath Interface speed of 6.4GT/s reducing the chances of bottlenecks. It also brings the memory controller onto the die to increase speed of data transfer.

Intel Core2Duo T960

It might be last gen, but the Penryn still holds its own against the majority of its challengers, but with a price approximately half that of its Core i7 counterpart. With a clock speed of 2.8GHz and a bus speed of 1066MHz, it is still more than capable of playing the latest games.

Intel Core i7 920
Intel’s Core i7 920 shares many of the same features as the Extreme Edition 965. However, unlike the more expensive 965, it comes with a clock speed of 2.66GHz, a lower core multiplier and a slightly slower QuickPath Interface. The trade off though is a massive saving of around £600 off the retail price.

AMD Motherboards

Asrock M3A790GXH-128M
With support for the new AM3 socket, the M3A790GXH-128M is Asrock’s top-of-the-line motherboard for AMD processors. It is built with the vendor’s DuraCap high quality capacitors, which help to prolong the life of the motherboard, and supports HyperTransport v3 and DDR3 dual channel RAM. This is the ideal motherboard for those who want an AMD-based PC that is as powerful as possible.

Biostar TA790GXA3
Designed for high definition content, Biostar’s AM2+ motherboard provides the ideal solution for anyone looking for ultimate flexibility when it comes to choosing a processor. It is compatible with the latest Phenom X4 and X3s, as well as Athlon and Sempron processors. It also comes with support for ATI’s CrossFireX technology, allowing up to four GPUs to be mounted, creating a very powerful computer.

Gigabyte GA MA790GP DS4H

Based around AMD’s AM2/AM2+ chipset, the GAMA790GP- DS4H is a high performance motherboard, with support for quad-core processors, HyperTransport 3.0 technology and 128-bit floating-point units. It also features Gigabyte’s own S series technology, which is designed to help the motherboard reach maximum performance with highly customisable settings.

Asus M4A78 Pro

Asus might be better known for its range of laptops and netbooks these days, but its roots are firmly in the component market. Its latest motherboard, the M4A78 Pro, demonstrates this history, with an AM3 socket, Asus anti-surge protection, DDR2 RAM, ATI hybrid CrossFireX and 45nm Phenom II CPU support. It also has support for AMD’s older AM2/AM2+ sockets. The M4A78 also comes with Asus’ EPU technology, which monitors power use.

AMD Processors

AMD Phenom II X4 920
One of AMD’s top of the line AM2+ socket quad-core processors, the Phenom II X4 920 has been designed to take advantage of the benefits of native multicore technology. Featuring a clock speed of 2.8GHz and HyperTransport 3.0 technology, it is a blisteringly fast processor. It also includes AMD’s Cool & Quiet v3.0 technology that helps to reduce the power consumption through fans, and at the same time increase the lifespan of the processor.

AMD Phenom II X3 720
As with its quad-core counterpart, the Phenom II X3 is a second generation native multicore processor, but with three cores instead of the four on the more expensive X4 920. It features the same clock speed as its counterpart, as well as its advanced feature, but at a price around £30 less than the quad-core product.

AMD Phenom X3 8650
It might be a last generation processor, but the AMD Phenom X3 8650 can still hold its own against its more expensive second generation cousins. Featuring the same native multi-core technology as the newer Phenom II processors, the 8650 is very quick and ideally suited for applications where speed is key, but price is a factor.


EntaTech: 0870 770 9588
Spire Technology: 0870 750 5100
Target Components: 01977 739 300
VIP Computers:
0871 622 7500

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