It's been quite some time since we reviewed any motherboards from the green camp of AMD. With Intel's stranglehold on the CPU market, one might say that AMD motherboards are a 'much of a muchness' these days and as such have not received the same attention Intel have been given over the past year. AMD it seems, have been thrown in the bottom drawer while Intel have taken pride of place on the mantelpiece. It's quite a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in at present as Intel's domination of the CPU market has stifled new technology. Sure, there have been some breakthroughs but it seems eons away since AMD and Intel were squaring up against one another, Mano ET Mano in a no holds barred contest of speed. Not since the very popular Opteron and x2 range of processors have AMD held any significant advantage over Intel. Of course, dedicated followers of AMD will beg to differ but the truth is Intel are reigning supreme and it looks like we are going to have a long wait until AMD catch up.
Last year we checked out AMD's progress with the Phenom chip and the AM2 socket. While Intel have jumped from Core2Duo, to Core2Quad and most recently Core i7, AMD have made just one switch with the AM3 socket and Phenom II CPU. Quietly busying themselves away, AMD have made advances in both chipset and CPU technology. The 790FX chipset is renown to be the best AMD platform since the good old Nforce 4 days and like I stated in our last visit to the AMD camp, all AMD need now is a CPU to match this chipsets potential. Today we believe that AMD have made a step in the right direction with the Phenom II 955 Black edition.
AM3 motherboards are a break away from the AM2/+ range of motherboards and will require a new AM3 compatible CPU. These CPU's carry 938pins where current AM2+ processors have 940.This drop in pin count is not the only change though. While the same 128bit memory controller is still in-situ, running in dual 64bit configuration for the memory, the major shift in speed is with the increase of the frequency from 1.8GHz to 2GHz. The kicker here is the hyper transport bus also increases in-line with the memory controller to match the 2GHz speed. Add DDR3 memory support with an official rating of 1333MHz (although this can be overclocked higher) and you have the makings of a speedy platform. The transistor count has been increased to around the 758 million mark thanks to a die shrink to 45nm. Also worthy of note is the price. For £150 you can have an unlocked top of the range AMD Phenom II 955 Black edition which is a drop in the ocean compared to the extortionate prices Intel are asking for there comparable Extreme Edition CPU's.
Today we have two 790FX based motherboards with which to test this new CPU on and will compare the performance of both motherboards with an X58/Intel i7 combination which is thrown in for good measure. The two boards we will be looking at will be like a throwback to the top performing motherboards of yesteryear. Anyone who had the fortune to enjoy the NForce 4 platform will remember the two top performing motherboards of the day, the Asus A8n32SLI Deluxe and the DFI Lanparty Ultra/Expert. Both of these motherboards could overclock socket 939 CPU's to amazing speeds, and the performance of these setups were enough to make Intel enthusiasts cry into there Pentium boxes. DFI, most would agree, were the victors in that previous battle so today it only seemed right that we pitch both manufacturers head to head once more.Both the Asus Crosshair III and DFI DK 790FX M3H5 are targeted toward the overclockers and gamers, much the same as the NF4 boards of yesterday so it will be good to see how each manufacturer has progressed in the AMD sector.