Motherboards and Features

As mentioned earlier, Cougar Point chipset-based motherboards are fully diversified into every cost niche of the motherboard market. While cutting-edge, flagship motherboards garner the most attention from enthusiasts, inexpensive, no-frills boards are generally just assumed to all be more or less equivalent in performance. But does performance vary between these budget boards? We briefly benchmark a few important motherboard features: LAN, SATA, and USB 2.0 throughput. But before we get to the benchmarks, let's compare features.

I tested eight different budget motherboards—four socket AM3 with AMD chipsets, one FM1 with the A55 chipset, and three based on Intel chipsets (all LGA 1155). Here's a quick rundown of the various features for each board.

Product Platform/
Price RAM
Rear USB
LAN Graphics
ASRock A55M-HVS FM1 /
$59 2 6 USB 2.0 1Gb VGA, HDMI 6 1xPCIe x16
1xPCIe x1
ASRock 880GM-LE AM3 /
880G + SB710
$55 2 6 USB 2.0 1Gb VGA, DVI 6 1xPCIe x16
1xPCIe x1
Biostar A780L3L AM3 /
760G + SB710
$50 2 4 USB 2.0 100Mb VGA, DVI 4 1xPCIe x16
Biostar A870U3 AM3 /
870 + SB850
$70 4 2 USB 2.0,
2 USB 3.0
1Gb VGA, DVI 6 (6Gb) 1xPCIe x16
1xPCIe x4
2xPCIe x1
MSI 760GM-P33 AM3 /
760G + SB710
$55 2 4 USB 2.0 1Gb VGA 6 1xPCIe x16
2xPCIe x1
ASRock H61M-VS LGA1156 /
$54 2 6 USB 2.0 100Mb VGA 4 1xPCIe x16
1xPCIe x1
Biostar H61ML LGA1156 /
$60 2 4 USB 2.0 100Mb VGA, DVI 4 1xPCIe x16
1xPCIe x1
MSI H61M-P21 LGA1156 /
$55 2 4 USB 2.0 100Mb VGA 4 1xPCIe x16
3xPCIe x1

One thing to note is that of the above motherboards, Biostar and MSI offer 3-year warranties while ASRock offers a 1-year warranty. As you can see, in general, you'll get more for your money from an AMD-based motherboard than an Intel-based motherboard. That is, none of the Intel boards offer Gigabit ethernet, and only one offers DVI in addition to VGA connectivity; the FM1 board is also the only board with an HDMI port. Do the Intel platforms instead offer better performance? Let's find out.


While we did not perform thorough testing like when we review a specific motherboard, we tested three important metrics for all eight boards: USB 2.0 performance, SATA throughput, and LAN performance.

USB 2.0 performance

We used a Mushkin Ventura Pro USB 3.0 flash drive and CrystalDiskMark 3 to test the sequential write and read speeds of a 1000MB file. While the Intel boards tend to perform better than the AMD boards, the differences here are very minor and would likely not be noticeable in real world scenarios. The single USB 3.0 equipped board would of course be able to run quite a bit faster with an appropriate USB 3.0 flash drive.

SATA performance

To test SATA performance, we again used CrystalDiskMark 3 to measure the sequential write and read speeds of a 1000MB file—with a Patriot Pyro 120GB SSD. This SSD is one of today's top performers and costs nearly $200—well above the budget sector. However, prices on SSDs will only fall as time passes, and this SSD illustrates what these boards are capable of better than a mechanical HDD. From these results, it's clear that all of the boards perform very similarly in terms of SATA throughput.

LAN performance

LAN Speed Test is a freeware program designed for testing the network connection between two PCs on a home network. The speed of the transfer is limited by the lowest common denominator on the network, so if you have gigabit ethernet capable computers but a 100 Mbit capable router, you are limited to 100 Mbit transfer. For this test, we use LAN Speed Test to transfer a 1000 MB file across a home network with a 100 Mbps lowest common speed to the same machine each time, in a write/read scenario. It is critically important to note that if you plan on attaching any of the Intel Cougar Point chipset-based boards in this guide to a network, you will be limited to 100 Mbps transfers as none of them have Gigabit adapters.

From these benchmarks, it appears that the budget boards are mostly equivalent performers. I was heartened to experience neither anomalous behaviors nor frustrating issues with any of the boards in the course of testing. Though it's somewhat disappointing to not find a hidden gem, it is useful to know that many budget boards are solid performers—so savvy consumers can watch for sales and rebates.

We cover the rest of the system components on the next page.

Battle of the Budget Processors RAM, HDDs, SSDs, GPUs, PSUs, and Cases
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  • countdooku2028 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    I just decided to build a new computer for my workplace. I saw that Microcenter was giving me the motherboard with the purchase. Let me tell you I am extremely satisfied with my purchase. I opted for the ASUS motherboard.

    I put 4GB of Corsair Ram and my old P128 SSD. This machine is incredible for my needs..... we do a ton of Corel Draw layouts for our trophy shop.

    Only thing missing is a dedicated video card...... once a 560 GTX or 6870 goes way down I will slap it in there. Oh and I will unlock the additional cores when I have the proper cooling.

    Oh and my old machine was a Dell Vostro 200 which I had dumped an old Raptor drive into. It was zipper than the original 7200 drive...... but now my machine kicks ass.

  • flpxjs - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    H61 1156?
    Too funny!
  • TGIM824 - Sunday, November 13, 2011 - link

    The table for Intel motherboards lists socket as 1156, and should be 1155.
  • Artas1984 - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    Intel Celeron G530
    Gigabyte GA-H61M-S2V-B3
    Kingston Value DDR3 1333 MHz C9 4 Gb
    Kingston SSDNOW v100 64 Gb
    Tacens Radix 4 450 W

    Advantages: cheap build, MB has DVI, power supply is 10 dBA & 80+ E.

    I do not recommend neither Antec or Corsair power supplies, because they are too expensive for a budged system+ they are not silent + less than 80+ E.
  • Saikii - Thursday, June 12, 2014 - link

    I think Intel should have changed the name of their budget CPUs, Celeron. Most people still think Celerons are crap, but the newer Sandy-Bridge- based dual core Celerons are actually great. They are very good CPUs for the value. I have an Intel Celeron G530 (2.40GHz, dual core, 2MB L3 cache) paired with a GTX 650 (1GB, OC edition), 8GB RAM and a 450W PSU (don't know the model). All I can say is that I'm very happy with this bugdet rig. It performs great in everything...from regular tasks to intensive gaming. I tried many games...from older games such as WoW, to Crysis 3 (on low --> 30-35 fps). I get decent FPS in ANY game, on medium-high settings.

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