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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  • buildingblock - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    We now have the curious situation where AMD is selling both the A6 3650 APU and the X4 631 Athlon II socket FM, which is the same unit with the graphics unit disabled. Because of the design constraints of Llano, and I suspect because the die-shrink to 32nm didn't really work out that well, the CPU part of the current Llano range is puny compared to the socket 1155 processors, even the low-end budget Gxxx range. At my local hardware dealer, the X4 631 is priced more than the Intel G-series equivalent, but that seems to be the theme of AMDs current APU/CPU offerings - uncompetitive performance and uncompetitive pricing.
  • Iketh - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    You have the 500mhz difference and also the A4 has half the L2 cache of the X2. 1MB of L2 cache with no L3 cache is anemic.

    Ignore slayernine, he's a babbling idiot.
  • Wierdo - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - link

    Ah, if the cache structure is different that I could see one possible potential reason for variation in same-core performance, thanks I didn't spot that.
  • slayernine - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    May I suggest an interesting alternative build that costs a bit more but is still within reach of most budgets. This system build is very tiny, good for those with limited space or in want of a portable machine:

    AMD A8-3850 2.9GHz $139
    ASRock A75M-ITX $94
    G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB $34
    XFX HD-667X-ZHF3 6670 $83 (not including $25 MIR)
    SILVERSTONE SG05BB-450 (incl 450w PS) $129
    Crucial M4 CT064M4SSD2 64GB $119

    This system is tiny and takes advantage of AMD's Dual Graphics between the onboard GPU and the 6670. I normally shop but I bought this system from because they actually had AMD Mini ITX Boards. Please note these are Canadian prices as well. I would suggest a Momentus XT 500GB drive for this system if it was not for the insane prices right now. In this build I'm actually not purchasing a new HD I'm reusing a 60GB OCZ that I just got back from RMA. The RMA business being a big reason why I don't recommend OCZ, Intel and other brands are so much more reliable.
  • A5 - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    Your system costs double of those in this article (one you take out the Win7 license). Also the A8 is a waste if you're going to use a dGPU anyway.
  • slayernine - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    1. Canadian prices are higher than american ones. eg. $60 mobo turns into $90 mobo. This is not a currency value issue, more so that once things cross the border they magically cost more.

    2. The A8 processor is not a waste if you know about dual graphics. You technically get a 6690D2 which offers performance similar to the 6770 without paying more for in money and power usage.

    Educate yourself on dual graphics (sorry for the non anandtech link):

    3. I think $400 is not enough to spend on a system even if it is a budget computer. Also I did forget about the OS as I had previously purchased one.
  • silverblue - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    Asymmetric Crossfire is (or was... any change?) hit-and-miss. In some cases, it can actually harm performance to the point that the iGPU isn't much slower. However, in some cases, it does work very well. WoW works better, but Metro 2033 drops performance, if we consider your second link.

    The following AT link provides more data on aCF's performance (admittedly, things may have changed since then):
  • slayernine - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the link, for some reason I couldn't find that article in my quick google search. Check out this article which actually reviews the 6690D2 configuration that I've been talking about (I hate their graphs love the anand ones) Also rage3d doesn't compare enough games unfortunately but the ones it does use show 6690D2 > 6670:

    The other option I was also considering for this build was to go with Intel plus a 6770 which you can also find single slot cards for:

    However you will notice much higher power requirements on the 6770 as well as it needs a 4pin power connector on the end of the card. Something which caused me a lot of hassle when taking my 4850 out of my previous mini pc build.
  • Paul Tarnowski - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    3. That is your choice. This is about building a budget system. When a client asks me to supply an office computer, putting in Hybrid Crossfire is not going to make them magically want to spend double. Likewise for home use for the grandparents or so the little kids have something to write their homework on (they tend to play on iPads if they have them).

    Budget means that you have a low amount allotted to the project. Otherwise you miss the entire point of the article.
  • slayernine - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - link

    I'm looking at this from the perspective of a budget gamer. I realize that the average Joe who just surfs the web doesn't give a crap about crossfire or gaming performance.

    What I'm saying is that without breaking the bank you can get significantly improved performance with AMD's new dual graphics (hybrid crossfire, Asymmetric Crossfire, whatever else people want to call it) Also note that some games see this benefit more than others so it depends what you play.

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